Saturday, August 11, 2012

No Words, Except Maybe "Breathtaking"

Carlo Rambaldi 1925-2012

Carlo Rambaldi, the special effects artist who designed ET and created the mechanical head-effects for Alien, died yesterday at the age of 86. I just have to acknowledge his passing. He gave me some seminal creatures that happened to appear when I was going through my obsession with special effects and creatures.

Carmen Carrera

Can't get enough.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Frankly, There Aren't Enough Muppet Documentaries

The Muppet Mindset has an interview up with Dave LaMattina and Chad Walker, who are trying to raise money to complete I Am Big Bird, a documentary about veteran Muppeteer Carroll Spinney. They've got a Kickstarter campaign active to raise the completion funds; you should check it out, they're offering some amazing things depending on how much of a donation you make. What I wouldn't give to have the money to make the donation that gets you dinner with Carroll himself!

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Bob Hoskins Announces His Retirement

I'm sorry to hear this. After being diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease last fall, Hoskins has decided to retire from acting. He's one of my all time favorite actors, just tremendously talented. I wish him and his family all the best in what's going to be a trying time. So, so sorry to hear this.

A Jane Birkin (and Family) Appreciation Post

My pictures folder is filling up with Jane, so here's a new appreciation post.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

Also known as that movie that's on every Christmas that I always mean to watch but never get around to. I guess I was in the right mood for a nice, warm movie from the 1940s, so I sat and was completely charmed and enveloped by this movie. Bing Crosby stars as a priest who comes to help renew a church that's failing and in debt. He brings the community closer together and saves the church and generally what you'd expect in a movie like this, but it's very well-made and easy to like. Crosby's quite good. I think I'll watch it again this Christmas along with the sequel, The Bells of St. Mary's, which I've never seen. ****

Toothless, oddly spiteful, overlong sex farce with confused sexual attitudes that ultimately reinforces that even progressive women just really want the safe and wise domination of a man? Must be the 1960s. This adaptation of Helen Gurley Brown's book (bizarrely adapted for the screen by Joseph Heller, of all people) is too broad to be satirical and too sexist to be revolutionary; this is another one of those flicks that seems to say "Sure, girls, we'll let you have a little fun being independent and career-minded, but the end game is still the same." Smarmy as hell, though Natalie Wood is quite good as the sex therapist whom everyone wants to prove is a virgin who knows nothing about sex because they feel threatened by her radical ideas that, like, chicks are people. Tony Curtis plays the sleazy men's magazine reporter trying to expose her. No points for guessing whether he falls in love with her. This movie somehow magnanimously allows that there are smart women who want to have their own agency while still asserting that those women still must want men to take care of them and make the big decisions; just try to be a little grateful about it, huh? ** Criminal waste of Henry Fonda and Lauren Bacall.

Barbara Stanwyck stars as a mousy librarian who spends all her money on a life-changing trip to Havana. There, she meets and falls in love with an ambitious lawyer played by Adolphe Menjou. This is the kind of movie that could only have been made before the Code, because it deals with complex things like ethics and personal motivations instead of giving every decision over to uptight morality. Menjou is married, but Stanwyck offers to be his mistress. Menjou's sense of morality is actually shown to be detrimental to everyone's happiness and incompatible with what he really wants, which is to be with Stanwyck. He has a child with her, adopts the child legally, and keeps her on as his mistress while she works at a newspaper for Ralph Bellamy, whose crusade in life is to expose Menjou as a corrupt politician using his wife's fortune to further himself. Again and again, Stanwyck makes destructive decisions to protect Menjou, sacrificing everything to save him and rejecting every offer to end the charade once and for all. It's surprisingly complex, especially compared to some of director Frank Capra's more popular work. Well-acted, especially in the playful scenes where the two are falling in love, without that post-Code formality, before the melodrama sets in. The makeup, however, is terrible. This is one of those flicks that takes place over decades and yet somehow always seems like it's 1932; the old age make-up starts to get ghoulish, especially on Ralph Bellamy; by the time his hair turns white and he reaches old age, the heavy make-up on his cheekbones makes him look like he should be standing in for Karloff. ***

A masterpiece. I'm not even going to try to do better than Roger Ebert on this one. He says everything I wanted to say about this film, and much more eloquently. Go read his entry on it. ****

Excellent, beautifully-shot DisneyNature film about a pride of lions and a family of cheetahs and what it takes for them to survive. I found it wonderfully absorbing and just amazing to look at. I know there's always debate over whether filmmakers take reality and shape it into a narrative rather than just showing us what happens, to which the answer of course is "no fucking shit." I don't really care about that; we understand most things as narratives, and if they want to put up dramatic music every time the rival lion comes on the screen, well, we're rooting for the ones we've already gotten to know, anyway, aren't we? It's easily as manipulative as your average propaganda movie. It's also entertaining and captures some amazing imagery. ****

Monday, August 06, 2012

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Song of the Week: "Somebody to Love"

I have never actually had Queen in this spot before, which is odd because they're just about my favorite band. Mainly because you couldn't embed Queen videos for a lot of years; I guess someone at Hollywood Records finally figured out that you can't steal any content by making them embeddable. (Check the library, guys: it's still in there!) So, since I can, here's my favorite Queen song, from 1976.

Fingers Crossed for the Curiosity

The Curiosity lands on Mars tonight, and then we'll have almost 15 minutes of breathless waiting to find out if it actually landed as opposed to, say, crashing. I'm incredibly excited about this and can't wait to see what happens!

Here's a great Cracked article about the whole thing that is as enthusiastic as I am about the possibilities.