Wednesday, November 30, 2011

For your consideration — "If there were no Internet, Hedy Lamarr would have to invent it" edition

Photo by Art Streiber
Fast Company: The Vision Thing — How Marty Scorsese risked it all and lived to risk again in Hollywood.

Slate: The Return of Silent CinemaThe Artist isn't the only movie harkening back to the time before talkies.

Slate: The Real Movies Behind the Magical Hugo

The Film Stage: 10 Classic Films You Must Watch Before Seeing Martin Scorsese's 'Hugo'

The Daily Beast: Good Actors, Bad Movies, and the Oscars — In this year's unpredictable Academy Awards race, one trend has emerged: excellent performances in so-so films. Richard Rushfield has had enough:
Ultimately, great performances are not about acting as a self-involved exercise unto itself, but about creating great, rich, unforgettable characters. And if a film has a great, rich, unforgettable character at its heart, audiences will forgive it a galaxy of sins. But if the film is forgettable, how unforgettable can the performance be? In recent years, Oscar has bestowed its favors for various reasons—some political, some artistic—on performances in a collection of films that were almost erased from the public imagination while they were still on the screen: The Reader, La Vie en Rose, Walk the Line, Crazy Heart, and Capote, to name a few. Despite the alleged brilliance at their hearts, the films have managed to be forgotten. Perhaps that is a judgment Oscar should consider the next time it rewards good work in a failed project.

Indiewire: The 10 Biggest Surprises of the Spirit Award Nominations

Indiewire: Images From Ridley Scott's 'Prometheus' Comic-Con Footage Leak — Hints that Scott's hush-hush project, set for a June 2012 release, will look sensational whether or not it really is an Alien prequel. Update: /Film — High-Res Images From Ridley Scott's 'Prometheus'

NPR: 'Most Beautiful Woman' By Day, Inventor By Night — A new book by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes sets out to rewrite America's memory of Lamarr. Hedy's Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, The Most Beautiful Woman in the World, chronicles her life and the inventive side that is not often mentioned.

Also: I enjoyed the new two-part PBS American Masters entry, Robert Weide's Woody Allen: A Documentary. I disagree with calling it "definitive" — it has conspicuous gaps and the depth of penetration of a drink coaster — but it's still a well-made introduction to a course in Woody Allen 101 and I was pleased to see Allen onscreen as our docent. It's available for free viewing online. (It may be rights-restricted to in the United States.)

The Guardian: Frank Miller and the rise of cryptofascist Hollywood — Fans were shocked when Batman writer Frank Miller furiously attacked the Occupy movement. They shouldn't have been, says Rick Moody – he was just voicing Hollywood's unspoken values.

In a related piece, here's David Brin's Roll over, Frank Miller: or why the Occupy Wall Street kids are better than #$%! Spartans

Slate: The Guide to the Making of Movies — Five notable magazine stories about the film industry, from loony directors to phenomenal flops.

TPM: Right-Wing Freak-Out: Children's Movies Pushing Liberal Agenda — It's simple, really. Happy Feet has the word "happy" right there in the title, and there are few things right-wingers find more threatening than others' happiness.

How to be a Retronaut: New York, 1940s, by Stanley Kubrick — "Kubrick's striking black and white images of 1940s New York City — which were often shot on the sly, his camera concealed in a paper bag with a hole in it — hint at the dark beauty and psychological drama of his later creative output."

The Daily Beast: Confronting The Apocalypse — Andrew Sullivan rounds up some thoughtful responses to Lars Von Trier's Melancholia, which I too think of as half of a double-feature with Malick's Tree of Life. "...It’s what Malick was getting at in Life: Every human—like every dinosaur millions of years ago—is here for a brief time and then gone, terminated by a rogue asteroid, a wartime bullet, a freak accident or a wayward planet called Melancholia."

The Atlantic: The Johnny Depp 'Thin Man' Reboot Is on Its Third Writer. For a little background, here's a "green light" announcement from The Guardian last May. My question: Who could possibly play Nora without leaving us pining for Myrna Loy? Don't screw this up or I'll personally shoot you five times in tabloids.

Well, the new John Carter trailer sure looks sensational. The screenplay is by Andrew Stanton, who also wrote Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, Wall-E, and Toy Story 3. I'm not crazy about what I see here of the character of John Carter. He seems too much the Hollywood-standard bronze brute, which isn't at all like Edgar Rice Burroughs' original Southern gentleman. However, Stanton says he is a big fan of the novel and that the movie "feels like the book." Here's hoping.

Making a movie? Need medical and scientific antique props and set decor? Who ya gonna call? These guys.

'Manos' in HD: Why I’m Saving 'Manos: The Hands of Fate' — Earlier this year Ben Solovey found the original 16mm workprint of Manos: The Hands of Fate, one of the most famous culty bad horror movies this side of Plan 9 from Outer Space. This site documents his quest to rescue and preserve the film from the bottomless dumpster of obscurity. Why? I'm not certain. But I salute his diligence.

Tor: Your New Baby Needs This Star Trek Book — If you're wondering the best way to reinforce the concept of opposites to the toddler in your life, the Star Trek Book of Opposites is here to help.

The Onion: Next Tarantino Movie An Homage To Beloved Tarantino Movies Of Director's Youth

Bouncing off my recent teeth-gnashing at Anonymous: Who wrote Shakespeare? As usual, Monty Python's Eric Idle has the last word.

Added without comment (via Huffington Post):

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Stephen Colbert interviews Neil deGrasse Tyson

The Kimberley Academy in Montclair, New Jersey hosted a fascinating, one-hour chat between Neil DeGrasse Tyson — Hayden Planetarium director, TV science host, and all-round good guy — with Stephen Colbert in a rare, out-of-character appearance.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The dream factory

Today after we woke up, I brought Elizabeth her cup of coffee in bed as I do every morning. Lying there between sips, we shared the dreams we'd been having the moment the alarm clock went off.

For Elizabeth, we were having dinner with Johnny Depp in New Orleans.

As for me, we were dining in a restaurant/bar here in Seattle. Miranda July was sitting by herself at a table across the room. I approached her, said hello, and she invited us to join her. After some chat about each other's work, she invited me to join her on her next production, both as an actor and behind the scenes. (In the dream I told her that her recent film The Future didn't entirely work for me, but apparently this was no obstacle. She was pleasant throughout.)

What fed our respective dreams were two things, I think:
  1. Seeing and utterly adoring Martin Scorsese's Hugo this weekend. (I'll post about that later.) During the closing credits we noticed that the movie was produced by Johnny Depp, and during the film Elizabeth noticed that the actor playing Django Reinhardt (Emil Lager) looked a lot like young Johnny Depp, which she thought was okay indeed.
  2. Before switching off the light, Elizabeth had been reading Fantastic Women: 18 Tales of the Surreal and the Sublime from Tin House. I saw Miranda July's name on the cover for her new story "Oranges." I like her short stories.

Now I'm wondering what dreams we'll wake up to tomorrow. Maybe I can talk her into going out to dinner tonight (obviously dining well must be involved), followed by a showing of My Week with Marilyn....

Screw CGI, no. 8: Ice finger of death

BBC: Frozen Planet, 'Brinicle' ice finger of death from Dan Droopy on Vimeo.

BBC Nature answers the obvious question: "What the...?"
The temperature of this sinking brine, which was well below 0C, caused the water to freeze in an icy sheath around it. Where the so-called "brinicle" met the sea bed, a web of ice formed that froze everything it touched, including sea urchins and starfish.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Friday, November 25, 2011

"I'm looking at the gun ... Here's the great moment of the sweat running down ... His eyes are popping ..."

Arnold Schwarzenegger illuminates the nuances of Total Recall in a DVD commentary that synopsizes the obvious:

Gabe at Videogum snarks:
How is Arnold Schwarzenegger not recording DVD commentary for all of the movies? Now that we know what a DVD commentary track can actually BE, who on Earth wants to hear what Wes Anderson has to say?

I am sympatico with Brent Rose when he adds:
I've gotta say, this is something I really miss about DVDs. I'd say about 90% of the movies I watch at home these days are streamed. Streaming movies are fantastically convenient, but we lose something that was one of the first big advantages DVDs had over VHS tapes: extras. I love extras. In a streaming-only world, the commentary you hear in the video above would never exist, and that, my friends, would be a tragedy.

Via Andrew Sullivan, Reddit, and The Daily What

Monday, November 21, 2011

My blushes, Watson! (no. 2)

Recently I mentioned that soon you may find me doing some vintage Sherlock Holmes movie blogging here in coordination with the release of the newest Robert Downey Jr. film. Beating me to the punch, Stuart Kelly in The Scotsman (och aye) gave another nice press nod to my own Sherlock Holmes story, "The Case of the Detective's Smile," in his article The Immortal Sherlock Holmes. He slightly misremembered the story's title, apparently, but hey. I'll take PR wherever I can get it.

Although I've sold other fiction that I wish would garner as much attention as that one, I'd be a cad to complain about "Detective's Smile" being far and away my most popular fiction byline thus far.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pic pick: "It comes in pints?"

Just an ordinary little pub we wandered into while visiting London and Oxford this past September:

And now I'm off to San Francisco again for several days. Probably no posts until I get back. Cheers!

Monday, November 14, 2011

For your consideration — "Not written by the Earl of Oxford" edition

Critic David Bordwell on Dante's cheerful purgatorio — Occasioned by a New York retrospective of director Joe Dante's films, including a marathon screening of his pop-culty mashup The Movie Orgy, Bordwell elegantly reflects on Dante's body of work. "Dante, impresario of the comic grotesque, finds his inspiration in popular culture, the more wacko and inept the better. The comedy may come from childhood silliness, the grotesque from childhood fears. They say we baby boomers will always be just big kids, and Dante accepts this with a grin and a darkly cheerful eye." Film Preservation - Another fine mess — A thorough four-part look at a difficult but necessary curatorial artistry. "How could movies like these, so widely seen for so long, be at risk of disappearing forever in first-class quality copies? Because they were too popular. Too many prints and negatives wore out, is the simple answer."

As a somewhat more than armchair Shakespeare buff with teeth-gnashingly strong opinions about the moronic, counterfactual "authorship controversy" recently given the thud of a movie it deserves in Roland Emmerich's Anonymous, I have considered blogging about it at Open the Pod Bay Doors, HAL. But I fear such a post would devolve into a spittle-flecked Hulk-smash rant (on the Internet?! No way!) on the "Oxfordians'" logical fallacies and their absurd Creation Science/Birther/Moon Hoax-style pseudo-intellectualism. So instead I heartily recommend more clear-headed authorities such as Holger Syme (start here), Paul Edmonson, Ron Rosenbaum, and Bardfilm's KJ.

indiewire: Director & Actress Rie Rasmussen Says Quentin Tarantino's 'Django Unchained' Will "Revolutionize" Hollywood

Slate: William Monahan picks his Top 5 British Crime and Suspense Films from the ’60s and ’70s. David Haglund on When Pauline Kael Was Wrong.

Filmicability: Here's a charming and expansive retrospective on Charles Schulz at the movies.

Having seen and been equivocatingly enthralled by Von Trier's bleak yet beautiful newest, Melancholia, I've been curious to read a review of the film from someone with first-hand experience with depression. Dean Treadway at Filmicability rewards my quest here.

Ferdy on Films: Marilyn Ferdinand, one of the more thoughtful and interesting movie bloggers going, also helps me see Melancholia more clearly.

indiewire: Lars Von Trier Confronts Depression Head On In The Grim 'Melancholia'

io9: Planetary Collisions and Other Disasters: Lars von Trier’s Crackpocalyptic Melancholia —  "But Melancholia doesn't give us disaster porn — instead, it gives us disaster erotica."

NYT: A.O. Scott on Melancholia. Pat Ryan on The Prince, The Showgirl, And the Stray Strap, a bit of historical context ahead of My Week With Marilyn, which is high on my See It list.

The Guardian writers' My Favourite Film series, plus readers' comments.

Thirteen movie poster trends that are here to stay and what they say about their movies

Mythical Monkey — Buster Keaton, Samuel Beckett And Film. Waiting for Godot with a flat hat on. Also Happy Birthday, Louise Brooks. (Also see my own Alternate universe movies: "The Public Enemy" with Louise Brooks instead of Jean Harlow.)

io9: First Early Reviews of Looper, the Time Travel Movie That Could Be One of 2012’s Best Films and Why is Buckaroo Banzai such an enduring classic? (Because wherever it goes, there we are.)

Variety and, within hours, all over the geekiverse: "Harry Potter" director David Yates is teaming up with the BBC to turn its iconic sci-fi TV series "Doctor Who" into a bigscreen franchise. As a fan of Doctor Who, old and new, from way back, I remain dubious until I hear more directly from the Beeb. Still, io9's Charlie Jane Anders, whose opinions I've learned to respect on such things, is optimistic.

The Mary Sue: Toy Short Story Shows Us The Island of Abandoned Happy Meal Toys

The Girl With the White Parasol: Citizen Kane Takes the Stand - "The reason I watch films is so that I can find those moments of beauty, whether they come from a Technicolor image or from the throb in an actor's voice or from a string chorus. That's why I named my blog, 'The Girl with the White Parasol.' That's why I love film. And that's why I love Citizen Kane."

Music: Oscar Peterson
Near at hand: Yellow Submarine figures

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Screw CGI, no. 7: Stunning Space Station time-lapse

The Earth at night, as seen by astronauts on board the International Space Station. The video is amazing, eerie, humbling, and jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Watch it full-screen.

More info here.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

How Kai understands "The Hound of the Baskervilles"

Earlier this week Elizabeth got a yen to watch the 1959 Hammer production of The Hound of the Baskervilles starring Peter Cushing (as Sherlock Holmes), André Morell, and Christopher Lee. Thinking that I might do some Sherlockian blogging here ahead of the release of the new Robert Downey Jr. movie, I acceded with pleasure.

As usual, our dog Kai, a 90-pound Mostly Malamute, joined us in the movie room for the showing.

Afterward, Elizabeth mused about how Kai might interpret the story's famous climax through his own perspective and nature. She suggested it might go something like this:

Baskerville: "Help! It's a terrible great evil hell-hound come to kill me!"

Hound: "It's a human! I can get petted!"

Baskerville (running): "I must escape from this giant, evil creature!"

Hound (jumping up and knocking him over): "Stop! Rub my tummy!"

Baskerville: "Help! Arrgh! My heart!"

Hound: "Finally, I can lick your face. Oh human, I adore you. Here, I'll lie on your chest to get closer. I love you, human!"

Baskerville: "Hellllllp!"

Suddenly the villain Holmes, knowing nothing about dogs, appears and shoots the good boy instead of giving him a reasonable command such as "Off" or "Down" or "Greet." He doesn't even offer an ever-present pocket treat.

To Kai, it's one of the great cinematic canine tragedies.

Monday, November 7, 2011

"Sci-Fi Savant" — Now beaming to a nightstand near you

I've been a fan and regular reader of Glenn Erickson's DVD Savant column for going on ten years now. The habit started when I was a new staffer at DVD Journal and my editor there recommended Glenn's articles and commentary as an example of good new work by someone who knows what he's talking about and how to talk about it.

So I visited the site and knew right away that here was someone I wanted to be like. I wanted to be that smart when it comes to movies — new movies and (especially) those from earlier decades and social eras; famous classics as well as rarities as obscure as Grant Williams at the end of The Incredible Shrinking Man. And I wanted to write like him, with that authoritative yet personable style, that relaxed and unforced sense of humor, and that way of making you think about — not just react to — movies and move-making in new ways.

I discovered that he's also an astute film historian and a contributor for Turner Classic Movies and is a go-to expert on Film Noir. His day job as a film and video editor has earned him an Emmy nomination. Glenn produced the restoration of the original "lost" ending to the Cold War sci-fi noir classic Kiss Me Deadly. Early in his career he worked behind the scenes on two Spielberg films, 1941 and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. His coolness quotient just kept going up.

The Gulliver-like head of Glenn Erickson, summer 1977.
That stretch of road some months later.
Were I to rummage through my own pieces of film journalism from those early days, I know I'd spot myself aping Glenn's tone and style and cine-smarts, or at least trying to. But it worked. His was a bar to reach for and reading his stuff made me do mine better.

Plus, it turned out that he's just a hell of a nice guy. An erudite film buff who can write and a gentleman to boot.

Somewhere during all that, Glenn and I became friends. Well, in that Internet way at least. For years we've been emailing each other links and jokes and pictures and mutual appreciation of each other's work. When I was a producer-writer for, my first "get" was Glenn as a weekly contributor there. Our correspondence has continued to the point where I feel comfortable calling him a "friend" even though we haven't yet actually met in person. Next time I get down to L.A. or he makes it north to Seattle, we'll finally clink glasses in 3D space.

And twice a week his DVD Savant column remains a never-miss destination for me.

All that throat-clearing is by way of full disclosure. For this post isn't just a personal reminiscence. I'm here to beat the drum for Glenn's new book, Sci-Fi Savant (Wildside Press) and I acknowledge that I'm not exactly an unbiased critic when I say you should click over to Amazon right now and buy a copy before you leave Open the Pod Bay Doors, HAL.

This "classic sci-fi review reader" collects his thoughts on 116 science fiction movies. It presents an entertaining thumbnail history of the genre in chronological order, from Fritz Lang's seminal Metropolis (up to date with the most recent restoration) through to Pixar's Wall-E and James Cameron's Avatar (where Glenn recognizes its cinema precursors as broader and deeper than just the obvious Dances With Wolves).

In between he covers decades of science fiction milestones (e.g., Things to Come, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Forbidden Planet, 2001: A Space Odyssey), not to mention some worthy millstones (rubber-monster and exploitation fare such as Gorgo, Attack of the Crab Monsters, The Brain from Planet Arous, and Teenage Caveman). He treats grade-A major studio releases and B- to Z-grade giant-muto-slime-bug flicks as illustrative segments of the same continuum, as cultural snapshots that reveal as much about us in the audience as about whoever it was behind the camera.

He gives fresh perspectives to big-deal classics that have been written about to death over the years. For instance, his pieces on Robert Wise's The Day the Earth Stood Still, Don Siegel's Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, and Cameron's Avatar have refocused the way I view those films and those filmmakers.

Meanwhile he waves the flag for under-appreciated masterworks such as Val Guest's Enemy From Space, a.k.a. Quatermass 2, from Hammer Films in 1957. 

Cosmic Journey, USSR, 1936
His scope ranges beyond Hollywood and British titles to also provide perhaps our first exposure to films such as Abel Gance's "delirious misfire" of 1930, the apocalyptic epic La fin du monde (The End of the World); the startlingly sophisticated and almost wholly undocumented early Soviet moon adventure Kosmitcheskiy reys (Cosmic Journey); the East German/Polish Der Schweigende Stern (First Spaceship on Venus); and the extraordinary Czech space odyssey Ikarie XB 1.

"Catching up with Ikarie and and other Eastern Bloc films made during the Cold War," Glenn says in his thoughtful Introduction, "is like discovering a new wing in a favorite museum."

Red Planet Mars
Glenn also pokes around under a film's hood to see what sociological and ideological contexts, what themes and anxieties might be humming under the surface: anti-Communism, anti-Capitalism, religious revivalism, xenophobia, social paranoia.... Not surprisingly, the often boldly message-making films of the Atomic Age/Cold War 1950s receive hefty attention. Harry Horner (father of composer James Horner) raised that bar to opium-dream heights in 1952 with his debut, Red Planet Mars, "a pro-Christian anti-Communist melodrama, a politically radical film that advocates conversion of the United States to a Christian theocracy." In 1962, The Creation of the Humanoids may have been too talky and exposition-laden for anyone's good, but what it had to say about the humanity of its humanoid robot "Clickers" anticipated the deeper themes that later ran through Blade Runner.

He also reminds us that more modern films aren't immune to their own unspoken assumptions that, like the arrow in the FedEx logo, become unmissable once they're pointed out by someone paying attention. His pages on RoboCop and Starship Troopers, films I have dismissed with a disparaging wave of my hand, inspire me to give them a close rewatch for possible reappraisal.

This book is a casual sample platter, not an end-all or definitive final word on the subject. A conversational, non-academic read such as this should only be so thick, so editorial adjudication led to some omissions I'd love to see here just to get Glenn's take on them — e.g., Slaughterhouse Five, Sleeper, Brazil, Alien, 12 Monkeys, The Matrix, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Primer, and Moon. Of course, I can get all those and hundreds more at Glenn's site, plus enough farther-reaching articles and essays to fill a couple dozen books this size.

Besides, any arguable gaps are more than offset by the new material written exclusively for Sci-Fi Savant, and especially the chapters that have introduced me to films I'd previously never known about (and I'm no neophyte in this territory). I'm talking about the BBC's documentary-like post-nuke extrapolation The War Game from 1965; the Czech doomsday drama Konec srpna v Hotelu Ozon (The End of August at the Hotel Ozone); Gorath, Ishiro Honda's Japanese angle on the apocalyptic "worlds in collision" scenario; and the Film Board of Canada's 1990 short animated To Be ("a gem of a film, a philosphic wonder in miniature").

That said, the "anti-2001" German agitprop film Der große Verhau (The Big Mess) from 1970 sounds so unwatchable I wonder if it's really worth the page space.

The President's Analyst
And I was pleased to find some familiar but less obvious choices, titles that aren't usually tagged with the label "science fiction" even though that's exactly what they are. Of these, regular readers here already know two of my favorites, The Man in the White Suit with Alec Guinness and The President’s Analyst with James Coburn, a couple of excellent films that fans of science fiction may not ordinarily consider but should.

Glenn deploys his sense of humor with a light touch. Good thing, too, because as he states in his Introduction, as with any genre "the overall appeal of sci-fi can't be judged by its finest works alone." So he takes several dips into some of the, let us say, less artistically sophisticated movies that represent the field. Even here, though, Glenn refreshingly doesn't resort to easy snark and insult humor. He is no fan of Mystery Science Theater spitball-shooting, so even when his opinion of a given movie is less than laudatory, his professional regard for the artisans and working stiffs behind the scenes never stoops to petty mockery. That's not to say he isn't averse to a nip from the sarcasm bottle now and then. Re Irwin Allen's Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea:
"Director Allen shows his opinion of [Barbara] Eden's acting talent by saving his only non-eye level, non-boring interior shot for a CinemaScope close-up of Eden's derrière gyrating to goldbrick Frankie Avalon's trumpet music. Eden's off-screen husband Michael Ansara wanders about cradling a puppy and mumbling deranged prophecies about the end of the world. The annoying radio announcer with the Jersey accent is none other than our producer Irwin, saving a buck." 
My favorite, though, is an isolated pullquote spoofing the colorful terminology we hear exclaimed in David Lynch's Dune: "For surely he IS the Cuisinart Hat Rack!"

Other points of interest include extended essays on 1953's Invaders from Mars ("a personal fascination since childhood") and the three-hour original European cut of Wim Wenders' 1991 Until the End of the World. His write-up on George Pal's The Time Machine takes a side-step into an aspect of the source novel that has nothing to do with the film, but it's an interesting digression nonetheless, one that has made me rethink and appreciate anew H.G. Wells' cleverness in his original story. I like that Glenn opened the fence wide enough to include Walt Disney in Space and Beyond, a three-hour collection of Tomorrowland-themed television "infotainment" programs that from 1955-59 sold America on the vision of space travel as a new Manifest Destiny.

For readers watching at home (which means pretty much all of us) entries also add information about their respective DVD or Blu-ray viewing options. As "DVD Savant" since the 1990s, Glenn has been championing movies' presentation on home video, so here he provides info on transfer quality, commentary tracks, featured extras, and so on as relevant. It's a handy addendum when it comes to avoiding inferior bargain-bin public domain DVD editions, or as a reference source for buffing up your own home cinema library.

While I'm placing Sci-Fi Savant on the shelf as a worthy companion to Bill Warren's essential Keep Watching the Skies! American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties and Phil Hardy's The Overlook Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction, Glenn's less formalized approach to the subject appeals to the casual movie-watcher as well as the already-bitten aficionado. Plus it has the advantage of being significantly cheaper than those coffee-table-crunchers and quite a bit easier to read in bed.

My only plaint is that the overall text could have used one more pass under an editor's eye to clear out the occasional typos and other infelicitous line-level mechanics. I'm a stickler for that sort of thing. (Insert Annie Hall quote: "...because I'm anal." Annie: "That's a polite word for what you are.")

Now, what was it I recommended way up there? Oh, yes — click over to Amazon right now and buy a copy.

Music: Philip Glass
Near at hand: Kai sleeping by my office door

Friday, November 4, 2011

I approve of your taste in 1960s movies, Senator

According to my Sitemeter stats, about an hour ago as I type this, someone landed on my feature post about the Blake Edwards/Peter Sellers movie The Party by Googling up claudine longet ted kennedy.

Who's taking time during an undoubtedly busy work day to blogsurf the movie's waifish songstress and her connection with the late Senator Kennedy?* Sitemeter tells me it was someone from domain name (U.S. Government) / ISP: U.S. Senate Sergeant at Arms.

Better yet, whoever it was (the actual current Senate Sergeant at Arms?) clicked through to my Fantastic Voyage post and then out-clicked on this image of Raquel Welch.

And apparently D.C. federal employees use Microsoft WinNT with Internet Explorer 8.0.

* Actually, there was a marginal but historically interesting connection between them.

Screw CGI, no. 6: Chilean volcano ash cloud lightning

From National Geographic's Pictures We Love: Best of October:

Photograph by Ricardo Mohr, My Shot

Remember the scene from the Radiers of the Lost Ark when the ark is opened? Or an apocalyptic vision out of Hellboy or some "End Times" thriller?  This isn't that, but I'd believe it if it was. Instead, it's something far cooler...

A cloud of lightning-topped ash rises toward a starry sky during the June eruption of southern Chile's Puyehue-Cordón Caulle volcano complex in a picture submitted to My Shot in October. The summer eruption grounded flights in Chile and neighboring Argentina.

This month officials began evacuating people from the immediate vicinity of the Hudson Volcano, 470 miles (756 kilometers) south of Puyehue-Cordón Caulle, according to the Associated Press. Recent releases of steam and ash from the volcano have had authorities in Chile and Argentina on high alert, AP reports.

According to National Geographic, these little-understood "dirty thunderstorms" may get sparked up when "rock fragments, ash, and ice particles in the plume collide to produce static charges — just as ice particles collide to create charge in regular thunderstorms."

Utterly wowed by this image and what it depicts, I plugged the keywords Chile ash cloud lightning volcano into Google Images and got my mind wow-ified a bunch more:

National Geographic

National Geographic

NASA / Astronomy Picture of the Day

National Geographic

The News Tribune
Hat tip: Boing Boing

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tim Burton montage

I tend to run hot-and-cold when it comes to Tim Burton, though I confess to a certain affinity for his sense of fantastical "vision," or whatever that je ne sais something quoi is he displays when he's at the top of his game.

This supercut by 17-year-old (!) Kees van Dijkhuisen — who has put together nine other supercuts for filmmakers such as Michel Gondry, Wes Anderson, David Fincher, Ridley Scott, and Pixar — is a two-minute celebration of Burton as one of Hollywood's more distinctively expressive filmmakers, one whose personal stamp is unmistakable. I would have liked more Ed Wood and a bit less of the emo rush, though it's a fine piece of work from young Kees.

[the films of] Tim Burton from Kees van Dijkhuizen jr. on Vimeo.

Also, recently on these pages: Tim Burton's "Vincent"