Monthly Archives: May 2010

40’s movies marathon – part 103

Railroaded! (1947)

Railroaded! (1947, USA, Mann) – Another tight, mean Anthony Mann noir.  When he made bad movies (which was long ago, the previous year), he was still pretty interesting – and now he’s making good ones.  Watched it all.  Favorite scene: The good guy’s sister beating up the femme fatale.

Unconquered (1947, USA, DeMille) – Didn’t Gary Cooper promise to stay away from costume dramas?  The opening scene could have been a Monty Python sketch, but it’s meant seriously: A woman defends herself in a 1763 court for killing a press gang officer that tried to press her brother.  It’s the way she adds “but, my brother was killed too!” at the end that is just hilarious.  Watched: 12 minutes.

Good News (1947, USA, Walters) – There’s something that’s been missing from most of the musicals so far.  Now I know what it is: It’s whatever this movie has.  It’s ridiculously artificial, but with a hard satirical edge.  Watched it all.  Actually, what this movie has that earlier musicals didn’t was the writers Betty Comden and Adolph Green, who a few years later made Singin’ in the Rain.  Favorite scene: Pass That Peace Pipe, seen above, which just makes me really happy.

Variety Girl (1947, USA, Marshall) – I wonder if the studios would sometimes notice that a bunch of their stars were hanging around without anything to do, and say “Hey, let’s put them all together in an all-star movie! Script? Ah, just throw something together.”  Watched: 12 minutes.

His name was Hasan. Hasan Elahi, to be precise.

Albert-Lásló Barabási - Bursts: The Hidden Pattern Behind Everything We Do

I’ve mostly been reading non-fiction lately.  Much of it from the pop science / contemporary social topics borderlands.  And I thought: I used to read a lot of this sort of books.  Why did I stop?  And then I came to Albert-László Barabási’s Bursts: The Hidden Pattern Behind Everything We Do, and I remembered why: It’s because of all the anecdotes.

40 pages into Bursts, Barabási has started, but not concluded, three separate anecdotal storylines: About some guy who documents his movements in case he’s suspected of terrorism, a gun salesman who stamps dollar bills for an online experiment, and a papal election in 1513(!)

And those are just the major storylines.  When Barabási introduces Einstein’s ideas about random motion, he does it by telling a story about Einstein.  Same with the researchers who build on these ideas in modern times.  A story.  Always a story.

Anecdotes can be useful.  Sometimes the best way to present an idea is with a story.  But, 40 pages in, I have only a vague guess about the idea Barabási wants to present: It has something to do with statistical patterns in the behavior of large groups of people.  Maybe. Which is really just what the subtitle says.

I wrote a rant about this sort of book in 2006: Snappy Title: How I Expanded A Moderately Original Idea Into 300 Pages of Misleading Anecdotes.  Rereading it is eerie.  It fits this book perfectly.

I’m sure there’s an interesting essay in here, hiding among the anecdotes.  But it’s suffocating.

Oh Malcolm Gladwell, what have you done?

40’s movies marathon – part 102

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947) - Danny Kaye

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947, USA, McLeod) – Danny Kaye is a pulp magazine proofreader who gets pushed around by his mother, fiancee, and other ghastly women, and finds escape in the ASTOUNDING world of his EXOTIC and RACY fantasies.  Watched it all.  This movie’s up for a 2012 remake, possibly featuring Sacha Baron Cohen.  Hm ..

Kiss of Death (1947, USA, Hathaway) – Victor Mature (a case of real name = porn name) leads a life of crime, but he’s probably not such a bad sort underneath, if only circumstances would force him to change, and leave him absolutely no option but to become a good guy.  Watched: 21 minutes, then fast forwarded to see the wheelchair scene.  Also contains the most nervewrecking elevator ride I’ve ever seen.

Hi-De-Ho (1947) - Cab Calloway

Hi-De-Ho (1947, USA, Binney) – Cab Calloway hi-de-hi’s and hi-de-ho’s his way into showbusiness.  I’ve only found a few of these all-black musicals, made when Hollywood was still segregated.  They’re cheap and bad, but they have all the best music by far.  Watched the musical numbers, skipped the dialogue.

New Orleans (1947, USA, Lubin) – Hey, what’s this – a relatively non-segregated musical, featuring Louis Armstrong as a 1917 jazz musician.  Too bad I don’t like Louis Armstrong.  And it’s still cheap and bad.  Watched: 8 minutes, then fast forwarded to the end, where an all-white orchestra introduce this new “jazz” thing at a classical concert.  Eventually the audience start nodding their heads sideways(?!) and grinning sheepishly.

En krigsbloggers erkjennelser

Det er ikke ofte lesere av mine i blant relativt lange essays melder tilbake at de synes de godt kunne vært enda lenger, men det gjorde Arnfinn Pettersen etter artikkelen min på Minerva tidligere i år.  Så jeg gjorde den lenger.  Mye lenger.  Nå kan du lese den på de nye websidene til Humanist.

Det ble litt blogghistorie, og litt krig og fred og religion – om hvor jeg har beveget meg etter at jeg startet opp som “krigsblogger” i 2001. Les den her.

For nye lesere er det også mye spennende i arkivet.

40’s movies marathon – part 101

Dreams That Money Can Buy (1947) - Jack Bittner

Dreams that Money Can Buy (1947, USA) – A dream detective looks into the subconscious of his clients.  I think this is the earliest surrealist American movie I’ve seen.  Surrealism doesn’t interest me much, but most of the segments here are quite good.  They deal with conformity and being true to your inner weirdness, and they don’t stray so far into symbolism that you don’t get the point.  Watched it all.

Last of the Redmen (1947, USA, Sherman) – I remember Last of the Mohicans as being pretty boring, and so is this movie version.  Watched: 4 minutes.  Shot in Cinecolor, the poor man’s color system, which did red and blue well but struggled with green, which means the redcoats and the redmen are particularly vibrantly red, and the forest is a sort of ugly brownish green.

The Fugitive (1947) - Henry Fonda

The Fugitive (1947, USA, Ford) – In an alternate, mythical Mexico where the communists/fascists have killed all the priests, and persecute the faithful, the last surviving priest returns to his village.  Watched it all.  It’s nice to see some good science fiction at last – and religious SF is even rarer.  Lots of people hate this movie, and I can’t figure out why.

Monsieur Verdoux (1947, USA, Chaplin) – I don’t  think I’ve really liked anything Chaplin has ever made. At most I react with a detached “yes, I clearly recognize that as a humorous gag”.  Here he’s a cheerful little serial monogamist / serial killer.  With slapstick.  Which I clearly recognize as being a concept that falls in the humorous category.  Watched: 22 minutes.

They taught me how to kill Japs. I got pretty damn good at it.

The Pacific (2010)

So The Pacific ended, with victory to the Americans thanks to an implausible deus ex machina called the “nuke bomb”. What is this, Star Trek?

It’s been interesting to watch this series right after all those World War II-era movies.  Apart from the sex, blood and swearing, this series is not fundamentally different from the best of the movies that were made during the war, like The Story of G.I. Joe and A Walk in the Sun, and documentaries like To the Shores of Iwo Jima.

This was a war where free nations like the U.S. and Britain used movies not just to drum up support, but to observe themselves being at war.  The war, and the story about the war, unfolded simultaneously.  Major parts were missing, such as the Holocaust, but it’s wrong to believe that realistic portrayals like The Pacific are a major correction to that of the war years.  They expand on a style that was used from the beginning, adding sex, blood and swearing.

Which makes a lot of difference.  But less than you might think.  The 1945 color documentary To the Shores of Iwo Jima is pretty intense, more so for being real – so real that 4 cameramen died filming it.  (How insane is that?)

The Pacific is excellent, though.  And not enjoyable.  It makes you glad you’re not there, while admiring those who were, and made our world possible – which is exactly how it should be.

They want to pick up the paper and see in it a reflection of their own nearly religious zeal for the thing they love

Farhad Manjoo - True Enough - Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society

When the amateurs broke down the information monopoly of the mainstream media, we were supposed to replace it with something better: A media reality not dominated by any one single ideological bias, where anyone, no matter who they were, could potentially be heard by everyone, as long as they had something reasonable to say.

Instead we got a world of closed-off information ecosystems, recycling their own views and interpretations without showing much interest in anyone elses.

Farhad Manjoo explains in True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society why that happened: Selective exposure and selective perception.  Given a choice, we’d rather not be confronted with strong arguments we don’t agree with.  Given a choice, we’d rather listen to the expert who tells us what we want to hear.  The internet gives us that choice.

Paradoxically, the amount of information available contributes to the problem.  Previously, conspiracy theories fed on lack of information.  You’d see the Kennedy assasination video, and fill in the blanks with your fantasies.  Today, we can easily seek out information that confirms our view, and ignore the rest.

As examples, Manjoo selects the Swift Boat Veterans, the 9/11 truthers, and the accusations of fraud in the 2004 U.S. election.  There are many more.  One thing he doesn’t do is actually tell us how to live in a post-fact society, as the subtitle says.  I don’t know either, but I suspect it falls in the same class of problems as over-eating.  We can’t trust our instincts, and must balance them with rules of thumb.