Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Movie recommendations of 2008

The best movies aren't always the most interesting recommendations. Here are some movies I saw this year that, though flawed, will surprise, shock and entertain:

The Masque of the Red Death (1964). The harmonics of decadence and purity.

The Wizard of Gore (2007). Blood, guts and style.

Kill Buljo (2007). Possibly Norway's first comedy, (but I don't know if the humor translates.)

Berlin, Symphony of a Great City (1927). A silent vision of machines and buildings.

The Old Dark House (1932). It was a dark and stormy night.

Danger: Diabolik (1968). Is this more awesome, or more silly? Yes.

Altered States (1980). Science meets hallucinogens.

All of these movies work better if you read nothing about them beforehand. Do you trust me?


Naughty etymology

Today's lesson in word history comes from the Wordsworth Dictionary of Obscenity and Taboo:

BUGGER [..] Derived from the Latin Bulgarus, meaning "Bulgarian", this word was originally applied to a group of Bulgarian heretics who were falsely accused of sodomy in the Middle Ages.

CUNT [..] Until the Middle Ages, parts of the body and bodily functions were accepted as commonplace facts of life, and the names for them were used as freely as any other word. Any part of the body which was unusually large or small, or unusually coloured, or otherwise remarkable, was likely to provide a convenient nickname or surname for its owner. So it is that we find recorded women's names such as Gunoka Cuntles (1219) and Bele Wydecunthe (1328), and men's names such as Godwin Clawecuncte (1066), Simon Sitbithecunte (1167), John Fillecunt (1246) and Robert Clevecunt (1302). In the City of London there was, in 1230, a street called Gropecuntlane.

MERKIN. A pubic wig. These items stille exist, although they are not so much in demand as they were in previous centuries. They were especially popular when the usual treatment for venereal disease involved shaving off the pubic hair.

FLYING PASTY. Excrement wrapped in paper and thrown over a neighbour's wall. This expression, first recorded around 1790, has largely fallen into disuse along with the particular form of antisocial behavior associated with it.

HUSSY [..] The word is actually a corruption of housewife, and the change of meaning has presumably come about because of too much gossip about brazen young housewives.


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

30's movies marathon - part 8

The Black Cat (1934, USA) - Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi lock horns on a World War battle site, making only laughable obeisance to Poe. The story is a mess, but it's dark and ambitious, and merges war horrors with occult evil in a unique way. Watched it all.

Mystery Liner (1934, USA) - There is a ship, on which there presumably is a mystery. Utter crap. Watched: 6 minutes, then fast-forwarded to see what the mystery is. Couldn't find it, they talk and talk right through to the end.

The House of Rothschild (1934, USA) - The five Rothschild brothers cause the defeat of Napoleon and save the Jews of Europe. Preposterously prettified historical drama, but it's correct in the outline, and works well as a heroic movie. I especially liked the financial intrigue. Watched it all.

It Happened One Night (1934, USA) - Spoiled and willful-yet-vulnerable beauty hitchhikes through the country with annoying-yet-charming rogue who looks like Clark Gable, thus giving birth to the wacky romantic comedy. Watched it all.

Tarzan and His Mate (1934, USA) - Ah, Africa, where Europeans are Europeans, the natives are either restless or part of the scenery, and animals can be wrestled to death. Retard ape-man Tarzan and his bimbo girlfriend must deal with a pair of explorers searching for ivory. It's all very stupid but it's hard to look away, especially since Maureen O'Sullivan is so hot. Watched: 55 minutes.

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

30's movies marathon - part 7

Will this marathon never end? Hopefully not!

Little Women (1933, USA) - Now this is Hollywood magic. Grand, funny, lively, (and too sweet and uplifting, but ..) Starring Terry Jones as Aunt March, and Katharine Hepburn as Katharine Hepburn. Watched it all.

Queen Christina (1933, USA) - Costume dramas like to place modern ideas in the mouths of historical characters. In the case of Queen Christina, peaceful daughter of Sweden's war-king Gustav II Adolf, this is actually somewhat justified. The movie feels like an amateur theatre production, but at least it gave me an excuse to read about a fascinating person. Watched: 23 minutes.

Ekstase (1933, Czechoslovakia) - A bride and groom enter a room. They walk around a bit. This goes on for ten minutes. Why?! Watched: 10 minutes, then skipped to the end, where the movie has somehow transformed into a celebration of semi-nude agricultural workers.

She Done Him Wrong (1933, USA) - Mae West was one of the causes of the Hays Code. But apart from her swaggering, oh'ing and wisecracking, this movie is pretty stupid. Watched: 18 minutes.

Las Hurdes: Land Without Bread (1932, Spain) - Apparently, this is a slightly off-key documentary about life and poverty in deepest, darkest Spain. Actually, (says Jeffrey Ruoff), it is a satirical commentary on anthropological expeditions and travelogues, a black comedy that merges genuine images of poverty with an exaggerated yet dispassionate voiceover and inappropriate music. (Wow!)

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

That histrionic gift by which such men impersonate the feelings of their followers

Fyren ligner litt på Jonas Gahr Støre??
When you trace back the history of spin, PR and propaganda, the threads converge on Walter Lippmann's 1922 Public Opinion, one of the great and dangerous books of political philosophy. Lippmann argued that people are unable to gain an accurate picture of the world they live in. Pure democracy therefore doesn't work, and society needs the guidance of benevolent experts.

80 years later we know that expert rule doesn't work, but Lippmann's challenge to the fundaments of democracy remains unanswered. I sure don't know how. Everything he says is correct. The best I can do is "well it seems to work anyway".

Lippmann's analysis of how people form opinions, and how this process may be manipulated, inspired Edward Bernays to create the PR industry. Edward Bernays inspired Goebbels, but Goebbels could just have skipped the middleman: Public Opinion contains all the building blocks of a theory of mass manipulation.

I'm too hard on Lippmann. He wanted government experts to protect us from manipulation. But it was implicit in his distrust of democracy and individual judgment that, to do that, the government must itself manipulate. And Public Opinion told it exactly how.

Today the book is mostly forgotten, but its ideas permeate every aspect of our lives. They're there in every political statement, every advertisement, every press release. We live in the world Lippmann describes, and more so because only the wrong people listened to his ideas. Read Public Opinion yourself to restore the balance.

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Conformity under the symbol

"When political parties or newspapers declare for Americanism, Progressivism, Law and Order, Justice, Humanity, they hope to amalgamate the emotion of conflicting factions which they would surely divide if, instead of these symbols, they were invited to discuss a specific program. For when a coalition around the symbol has been effected, feeling flows toward conformity under the symbol rather than toward critical scrutiny of the measures. .. [These symbols] do not stand for specific ideas, but for a sort of truce or junction between ideas. They are like a strategic railroad center where many roads converge regardless of their ultimate origin or their ultimate destination. But he who captures the symbols by which public feeling is for the moment contained, controls by that much the approaches of public policy. And as long as a particular symbol has the power of coalition, ambitious factions will fight for possession.


As you ascend the hierarchy in order to include more and more factions you may for a time preserve the emotional connection though you lose the intellectual. But even the emotion becomes thinner. As you go further away from experience, you go higher into generalization or subtlety. As you go up in the balloon you throw more and more concrete objects overboard, and when you have reached the top with some phrase like Rights of Humanity or the World Made Safe for Democracy, you see far and wide, but you see very little."
- Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion (1922)


Bookish new year observations

- Compared to what I used to blog about, writing about books and movies is clearly a bad economic decision. But book bloggers sleep better. (This is not true, but it ought to be.)

- No I don't believe in e-books. Paper books are a near-perfect invention. People who read little won't see the point of e-books, and people who read a lot will soon find that stacks of paper books are less stressful than 500 unread e-books on a flashcard. (This is a Prediction, and is utterly worthless.)

- I do believe in downloadable audio books. Audio books allow us to read when we walk and stand, and we don't have to concentrate so much. That makes them a useful invention. (This is not a Prediction, it is already happening, but you should probably be skeptical all the same.)

- I almost never read bad books any more. Am I doing something wrong? Maybe I don't explore enough.

- I rarely read Norwegian books either. I figure that since we subsidize the authors to write them and the libraries to buy them, I should also get paid to read them. (*ba-dum-dum-ching*)

- The previous statement was bigoted. I promise to do better in 2009. (Maybe we can discuss payment later?)

- Suggested new-year's resolution for fellow book-lovers: Adopt a forgotten book. Go into a second-hand bookstore and imagine all the books as wet and starving kittens. All they want is a warm bookcase to spend your life in.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Floor lobsters are the result of a corrupt environment

Back in Steve Aylett's world, reality has been distilled into an essence of pure absurdity. Sentences twist like snakes, stuffed with impossible and frightening ideas. Characters talk ominous gibberish. Reading changes from a leisure to a struggle with a madman.

The story of Only an Alligator, the first Accomplice book, goes like this: Barny Juno finds an alligator in a tunnel and adopts it. The alligator belongs to a demon called Sweeney, whose elaborate scheme to get it back involves turning Barny into an object of hate in a mayoral election.

Barny loves all the winged and stepping animals on the earth, but he eats trolls when he's nervous - small, real, live trolls, which is a disadvantage in job interviews. His dog Help wears mascara, (nobody knows why). His friend Gregor, often mistaken for Barnys pig servant, struggles with a sexual attraction to dinosaurs. Another friend once had a chrysalis for a head, but the spider-like creature that grew there has now left him.

The mayor's office is infested with lobsters, which local people think of as an insect.

The city newspaper is called The Blank Stare.

Every page of Only an Alligator is littered with absurd and disturbing jokes, but the absurdity is coherent. Steve Aylett calls himself a satirist, and complains that his readers don't get it. I think he's arrogant. But I love his books. They challenge me to a wrestling match, words vs mind. And they usually win.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Uutholdelig er det iallefall

Min nære, personlige bekjente (vi har iallefall muligens hilst) Magne Opus har fått lagt ut et rungende oppgjør med norsk offentlighets uutholdelige letthet, et nådestøt mot Harry-mennesket, osv., i Meland konsernet bloggen, som av uforståelige grunner har tolket det hele som en julehilsen.

The realities of a multi-ethnic society in the Century of the Fruitbat

I prefer these covers to the original ones
Feet of Clay is the 19th of Terry Pratchett's 36 Discworld novels. Many series begin good and get worse. The Discworld series began okay, swerved wildly for a couple of years, before settling on a plateu of consistently good, where they have stayed up to this day.

The early novels were parodies of fantasy conventions. (Ankh-Morpork is based on Fritz Leiber's Lankhmar.) They were funny, but not very funny. The joke wouldn't have lasted for 36 novels.

Terry Pratchett found his voice when he moved the comedy into the background, and infused his stories with ideas from philosophy and science. In the process he's been turning Ankh-Morpork from a dark and medieval cesspool into an enlightened and modern cesspool, one concept at a time.

A Discworld novel doesn't surprise. They're safe, even predictable. People who praise them as imaginative miss the point: That is precisely what they're not. Pratchett writes wisdom literature in the guise of light comedy. Wisdom is a subtler form of common sense. It doesn't shock, it lifts. This works when you have something actually worth saying, and Pratchett does.

Oh, I didn't leave room to say what Feet of Clay is about. Oh well: It's a City Watch novel. It has Vetinari in it. Wikipedia sums up its motifs as: "Robots, golem mythology, atheism, race relations, heraldry, slavery and serfdom", a good description.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

From all of me to all of you

Some Disney character that's only popular in Scandinavia
I like to give books as presents, to the frustration of everyone I know. Who has time to read?! I would also like to give some books to you, the readers, but I don't know who you are. So I've adressed these gifts more generally, and then you can pick whichever tag fits. You must buy (or steal) the book yourself.

To a political pundit: Nixonland, by Rick Perlstein

To a mumorpeger-playing alpha geek: Halting State, by Charles Stross

To someone who needs to quit whining: The Discourses of Epictetus

To someone who has lost faith in fantasy novels: The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss

To myself at 10: The Adventures of Endill Swift, by Stuart McDonald

To myself at 16: Callahan's Crosstime Saloon, by Spider Robinson

To someone who takes things too lightly: Shikasta, by Doris Lessing

To someone who takes things too seriously: Tales of the Dying Earth, by Jack Vance

To someone interested in early 20th century Europe: The Pyat Quartet, by Michael Moorcock

To someone rather clever: Slaughtermatic, by Steve Aylett

To a teenage rebel (or someone you want to make into one): Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow

To the discerning short story reader: The Golden Apples of the Sun, by Ray Bradbury

Happy annual celebration of the Jesus child deity!


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Here he lyes in the certainty of the moft glorious refurrection

In Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, a toddler, escaped from an assassin sent to murder his family, finds safety in a graveyard. He grows up among the dead and the undead, with ghosts as parents, a vampire guardian, and a witch as friend. Beneath the graveyard lie older evils, and in the outside world the assassin is still searching.

It's a children's book, and, like all good children's books, it works even better as an adult's book.

Some people believe you should protect kids from the morbid, because it will scar their fragile minds. These people have clearly forgotten what it was like. Morbid books take kids seriously, they don't lie.

Gaiman's novels sometimes feel too neatly plotted. Events fit precisely together, like the output of a plot machine. Anansi Boys had that problem. The Graveyard Book has some of it, especially when the main plot is wrapped up. What works best here is the mood and the theme: The graveyard and the boy.

The movie version of Coraline, Gaiman's previous children's book, is due out in February. If it does well, The Graveyard Book is visual and short enough to make a natural followup. (But please leave American Gods alone.)


Monday, December 22, 2008

Each man worships himself

Joe Abercrombie's The Blade Itself, book one of The First Law, is a fine yarn. It's not stupid, and it doesn't make me cringe. That's good.

Fantasy attracts many bad authors, and undiscerning readers who help those authors stay in business. With this debut novel, Abercrombie isn't yet one of the good authors, but he's headed in the right direction.

The anti-hero of The Blade Itself is Logen, a Northern Barbarian. There's also a Southern Barbarian, a wizard (complete w/harassed apprentice), a torturer, and a conceited fencer from a Decadent Civilization. The usual. But it's not stupid. Sword & sorcery is like westerns: A familiar scenery you can write good or bad characters into. These are good characters.

The mood is irreverent and brutal. There are worrying hints of an Epic storyline in the following two books, but I think Abercrombie will manage. The First Law is not going to be great, but I'll settle for smart and enjoyable.


An idea about the internet

The internet is to the city as the city is to the small town, and the small town to the countryside.

In functionality: It's larger, faster, more anonymous, more specialized, more complex. Some new things become possible, some old things difficult.

In scariness: Isolation, predators, freaks, Angry Internet People. Uncaring and lawless. Too large, too fast.

In attitude: A mixture of arrogance and nostalgia towards the simpler life. In response, resentment and envy. "How quaint and charming!" vs "Who do they think they are?"

A city person goes out in the country to relax, and dream of leaving it all behind for a more authentic and natural life. An internet person finds the same quiet in the city when their gadgets are turned off. They dream of leaving them off forever, to live the authentic urban life.

Attempts to live these dreams will probably lead to boredom, possibly to happiness.

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

30's movies marathon - part 6

I'm no Angel (1933, USA) - Flimsy shreds of plot wrapped around a luscious body of nudge-nudge one-liners. Watched it all. But why does Mae West remind me of Bugs Bunny? This needs further investigation!

Picture Snatcher
(1933, USA) - Donald Duck employment story with James Cagney as the rogue who becomes the star photographer of a disreputable newspaper, beating his arrogant competitors to the scoop by being willing to go further than anyone else. Not good, but it's hard to hate Cagney (or Donald). Watched: 40 minutes.

Zéro de Counduite (1933, France) - Boarding school dramedy. Am I watching these wrong? Maybe it's a cultural barrier. The movie doesn't seem bad, I just don't care. Watched: 15 minutes.

Sagebrush Trail
(1933, USA) - There was a time in Hollywood when even the worst westerns were fairly good. 1933 wasn't it. Still new to acting, John Wayne stares and smiles like some tourist who's been let in on the set. Watched: 13 minutes.

The Invisible Man (1933, USA) - A visually challenged scientist is driven to madness and terrorism by the prying eyes of peculiar British villagers. They won't even let him lock his own room! It's no wonder he gets angry (and drives trains off the tracks etc.) Watched it all.

Ladies They Talk About (1933, USA) - Swaggering bank robber Barbara Stanwyck manipulates a naive preacher. Watched it all. IMDB reviewers say the plot is stupid, but apart from the lenient prison conditions it's actually smart and well written.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

With apologies to Master K'ung

At fifteen, I had my mind bent on learning.

At thirty, I stood firm.

To be continued.

The cryptic suits that mark Northampton's deck: Flames, Churches, Heads, and Dogs

Alan Moore has also written a novel. It wasn't enough for him to be the world's greatest comic book writer? He must put authors to shame as well?

Yes. Yes, he must.

The stories in Voice of the Fire span 6000 years, but only a small geographical area. It's sort of a mystical history of Northampton, told by odd and abnormal people: a retarded boy, a sociopath, a decapitated head, a witch, two madmen. The stories are unconnected, except through common themes such as cripples, detached heads, people burned alive, and the magic attached to the place itself. The events of one story become the legends of the next, echoing through dreams and visions. And the final narrator is Alan Moore himself, another odd and abnormal Northampton resident.

Moore doesn't make it easy for us. The first story is written in a strange, but consistent, grammar, so that every sentence is a riddle. As in, 50 pages of "Fire's black bout of he's eyes. Fire's blood on of he's horns." First-time readers of Alan Moore will give up, and should first get to know him through his comics. (No, the movie versions don't count.) Fans will know that it's worth it, because Alan Moore is a genius.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

But with RyanAir instead of longboats

This is a stupid green hatI went to Dublin this weekend to expand my social network at Google's European headquarters. This is to prepare for the day when they turn Evil. With one friend (so far) on the inside, I, for one, will now welcome our new Google overlords.

The Irish, I learned, have two written languages, which are English and Gaelic. They have one spoken language, but I'm not sure what it is. This is the first of many stupid jokes in this post. Here's another:

The Irish drive on the wrong side of the road, and it might KILL YOU. Okay, that wasn't so funny.

When you visit a friend in Ireland, they will force you to drink Guinness. Even if you don't like Guinness. They will then take you to visit the Guiness museum, where there's a floor for each of the six reasons why Guinness is THE MOST AWESOME BEER IN THE WORLD. One of the reasons is their founder, Arthur Guinness. The founder of Guinness is THE MOST AWESOME FOUNDER IN THE WORLD.

While you're there, you can laugh at all the tourists, who paid 15 euro for what's essentially an hour long infomercial. Stupid tourists!

You'll also be taken to the Temple Bar area, which has the most authentic fake Irish pubs in the world. They play Irish folk music. Who plays Irish folk music?!

My tip: Visit the Kilmainhaim Gaol. It's history the way we all love it, cruel and unfair.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

To celebrate the sun's gallant efforts to survive

Jack Vance's Dying Earth novels are set in the last years of the Sun's life, when technology has given way to (or become) magic.

The series begins on a dark romantic note with The Dying Earth (1950). Earth's remaining people live a capricious fairy tale existence, subject to wizards, monsters, and random cruelty. One moment you're happily torturing some unlucky traveller. The next you've had your eyes gouged out for use in an art project.

With The Eyes of the Overworld (1966) and Cugel's Saga (1983), Vance turns the end into light farce, which suits it better. The protagonist is Cugel the Clever, a trickster who travels the world in search of revenge. The joke is on everyone, both Cugel and the people he cheats, robs, or accidentally causes the brutal death of. Everyone is a fool or a crook, and deserve whatever they get. At least Cugel thinks so.

The satire in Rhialto the Marvellous (1984) is more subtle, and less funny. At one point, thousands of youths are preserved in capsules, to awaken in an expected Golden Age a hundred centuries later. As the time of awakening approaches they're discovered by cannibals, who treat them as a convenient source of freshly preserved meat. Yum!

Vance's characters find little to admire in the end-times. Nations, fads and True Religions (And We Mean It This Time) have come and gone for aeons, but people remain the same. What then is there left to believe in? Vance's attitude is that when everything is past, everything is farce.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

30's movies marathon - part 5

Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933, USA) - Song, dance, witticisms and a flimsy plot about show business. Hey, this formula might have future! (Multiple female leads who talk about other things than men: Not so much of a future.) Watched it all.

Shanghai Express (1932, USA) - Marlene Dietrich is all decadent on the Beijing-Shanghai train, which carries its all-white passengers through some tedious little civil war or whatever. Ah, the golden age of cinema. Watched: 19 minutes.

Freaks (1932, USA) - Good idea: Cast a movie with misshapen humans, pretend you're doing it to educate the world about their plight. Bad idea: Make it really really boring. (This has been another Good idea / Bad idea). Watched: 14 minutes.

Der Sieg des Glaubens (1933, Germany) - Leni Riefenstahl's clumsy precursor to Triumf des Willes. Makes marching in a Nazi rally look not at all fun. Watched: 30 minutes. IMDB reviewers say you shouldn't downrate a film just because it's Evil.

Bureau of Missing Persons (1933, USA) - Violent cop learns manners from the kind, public spirited folks at the Bureau of Missing Persons. Could be the pilot of a modern family-friendly cop show. Watched: 19 minutes.

20 000 Years in Sing Sing (1933, USA) - Prototype of the uplifting prison drama. With Spencer Tracy as the tough guy who isn't so bad after all. All he needs is a bit of Loving Discipline from the wise and fatherly prison warden. Written by the warden of Sing Sing. Watched it all.

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Can't resist the strange attraction

Covers. Whee!

Therion - Summer Night City

Umbra Et Imago - Rock Me Amadeus

Laibach - Life is Life

Doro - Breaking the Law

Jim Carrey - Somebody to Love

Inspired by Radio Goethe.


Saturday, December 6, 2008

On the positive side, this meta post doesn't use a certain word that begins with m

Some blogger named Arianna Huffington went on the Daily Show this week to explain what "blogging" is, (it's not just for cat pictures any more!)

"Blogging is not about perfectionism. Blogging is about intimacy, immediacy and transparency."

Yes, that's what blogging is about, and that's why blogs are so bad. Here's my philosophy:

- Blogging, like all writing, should be motivated by perfectionism. What you write doesn't have to be important, and it doesn't have to be perfect, but it should be as good as you can make it. If not, what's the point? Where's your pride? If your hobby is to paint or sing or play sports, you try your best. Trying hard and getting better is what makes it fun. Why should writing be different?

- Intimacy should be used sparingly. If you're always intimate, you become just a reality star, but with fewer onlookers. Intimacy works, but it might be bad for you. Use it for the few parts of your life that are genuinely interesting or exceptional.

- What happens right now is overrated. Write about things before everybody notice them, or after everybody has forgotten them. If it's happening now, you're either too late or too early.

- In short, blogging should be a performance. Make it a good one.

Arianna's advice is good for frightened newcomers. When you want someone to sing for the first time, you encourage them. Tell them nobody's going to laugh. But when they're no longer afraid, you tell them how to get better.

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Friday, December 5, 2008

30's movies marathon - part 4

The Most Dangerous Game (1932, USA) - A hunter of big game runs his yacht across a reef of Dramatic Irony, and becomes himself the hunted on a mad Cossack's island. Contrived and badly acted, but gets points for making the quintessential Star Trek episode 30 years ahead of time.

The Island of Lost Souls (1932, USA). Good Island of Dr. Moreau, starring .. The Panther Woman?? Yes that's what the credits say. Anyway the manimals rebel and chant "Law no more!", thus making some point or other.

La Chienne (1931, France) - Introduced by a puppet, who mocks the conventions of filmmaking. Watched: 18 minutes. IMDB reviewers say that with this movie, French cinema enters the pathway to genius..

The Public Enemy (1931, USA) - Gangster childhood! Starring James Cagney, as an unconvincing teenager. Remember, kids, selling beer isn't cool.

Le Bonheur (1934, France) - Surreal allegory about happiness. Impressive, whatever. Watched: 10 minutes.

White Zombie (1932, USA) - Ooh .. I had forgotten that zombies came from voodoo! But I prefer the kind that eats brrrraaaiiiinnnsss. This movie is terrrriiiiibbbllleeeee. Okay, I'll stop now. Watched: 10 minutesssss.

The Big Trail (1930, USA) - Westerns got better over the years. Watched: 6 minutes.

Taxi (1932, USA) - Cab drivers can be gangstahs too! Yes, but I'm tired of gangster movies. Even if this one's got a yiddish-speaking James Cagney. Watched: 9 minutes.

Flight Commander (1930, USA) - Won the Oscar for best writing, which is a mystery I don't care to explore. Watched: 11 minutes.

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Hårfjott Balletak vender tilbake!

Hårfjott Balletak, politikkbloggsfærens fryktløse tastaturhamrer, har våknet til live igjen, i en gjestekommentar hos Meland Konsernet.

Balletak ble sist (og først) sett i Nordstafett i 2006. (Nordstafett var noe bloggere drev med i 2006.)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Fuck you and the horse you rode in on

Joe Straczynski is one of the best scriptwriters in television. There's been a golden age of television this decade, but Straczynski was years ahead of it, with the ca 100 episodes he wrote for Babylon 5 in the 1990's. Nobody since has come close. Babylon 5 was a freak accident, where Straczynski was given the kind of creative control that is normally reserved for authors. The music, the actors, - the writing. Near perfect. An accident.

Now Straczynski has written his first movie, Changeling, which by Mysterious Means I've managed to see. (Angeline Jolie and Clint Eastwood are also involved somehow, but who cares?) I'm not fully pleased. Changeling is too subdued, especially at first. The story is realistic - a boy is kidnapped, the police screws up and sends the mother the wrong kid back, and when she complains they commit her to a psychiatric institution for being a nuisance. Realistic, oh yes. But it isn't played in a believable way. Jeffrey Donovan plays the cop like his con roles in Burn Notice, light-weight. They should have filmed and cast this more like Carnivale.

Later it gets better, even quite good, and there are several Straczynski moments, (fans will know what I mean). And people in Hollywood seem to have liked it, and have given Straczynski more major movies to write. Good for him. I can't evaluate this just as a movie. This is my hero's big chance. He will never surpass Babylon 5, but maybe he'll get the recognition he deserves.