Archive for the ‘Film’ Category

Do I Feel Lucky?

July 30, 2009 Leave a comment


I haven’t posted a Ted Rall cartoon in over three weeks, so maybe I can get away with posting one again. His latest is above.

Um, do I need to explain anything? You see, there’s Skip Gates. And Sgt. James Crowley of the Cambridge Police Department. You know them. And there’s this famous movie, Dirty Harry, with Clint Eastwood as Harry Callahan. In the movie, well, see for yourself in the clip below. The key lines start at 1’35”, but the entire clip is useful for context.

iPhone phaser

July 13, 2009 Leave a comment


It’s lame. Real lame. In writing about the movie, I stumbled on it and decided to download it. It doesn’t do much. I can aim my iPhone at people, push STUN or KILL, and have the iPhone make phaser firing sounds. There’s a two-person game. I need to wait for Gail to get home so she can download it and we can try it out, but my expectations are low.

Categories: Computing, Film

Star Trek

July 13, 2009 Leave a comment


We saw Star Trek on Saturday. We don’t go to movies very often. This was the first one in months. And we don’t always agree on what we want to see. But we agreed on this, and we enjoyed it.

I enjoyed seeing our favorite characters introduced, one by one, in their youths. The back stories were well done, and it was good fun seeing the first appearance of some distinctive saying or behavior of each character. I would happily see them all again, boldly going where no one has gone before, and the sooner the better.

On the other hand, the time travel aspect of the story was completely incomprehensible. Time travel necessarily introduces paradoxes, but I don’t know when I’ve seen them handled so poorly, or so carelessly, or with so little concern for making any attempt at logical coherence. The pity is that nothing in the story required a time travel component, in contrast for example to the Terminator movies, whose plots depend entirely on time travel. As far as I can tell, the only possible reason to introduce time travel is to provide a means to have Leonard Nimoy appear as Old Spock. Better to do without his character, or to give him a cameo as another character.

Well, no one asked me. Maybe next time we can dispense with such silliness. It marred an otherwise excellent movie.

Categories: Film

Lost Tribes Video

April 4, 2009 Leave a comment

Embedded above is a video by Andy and Carolyn London. Their description: “The latest short film from London Squared Productions. Urban Anthropologists, Andy and Carolyn London interview some of New York City’s more overlooked citizens.” And they call it Lost Tribes of New York City. Those of you familiar with Nick Park’s fabulous Creature Comforts videos will recognize the genre. (And if you’re not familiar with Creature Comforts, rent the DVD immediately. There’s a 5-minute short from 1989 in which he interviews zoo animals and then a series of TV shows from 2003 on British television. A US version aired briefly last year. You can get a DVD of the 2003 series along with the original short.)

Instead of animals, the London video has … well, see for yourself. It’s just three minutes. (HT: Andrew Sullivan.)

Categories: Film, Society

Downfall of Grammar

February 24, 2009 Leave a comment

Perhaps you are familiar with the web craze of recent months in which English subtitles are put on a particular scene from the 2004 German-Austrian film Downfall (nominated for the best foreign language film Oscar). The movie is about Hitler’s final days and the scene has Hitler exploding in anger at his staff. You can read more about the craze, for instance, here.

Above is one example that was featured in a post by Mark Liberman at the Language Log blog today. At issue is the phony grammar rule that one can’t end a sentence with a preposition. You can read more about the rule and previous discussions of it in Liberman’s post and its references. But first, enjoy the video.

Categories: Culture, Film, Language

Dr. Strangelove/Cheney

January 20, 2009 Leave a comment

In my last post, I described how Bush’s departure reminded me of Nixon’s more unorthodox (and equally welcome) departure in August 1974. I enjoyed reading this afternoon, in a post on the blog of The New Yorker’s Rick Hertzberg, about a connection his colleague Nick Paumgarten made between Dick Cheney and Dr. Strangelove. The two have much in common, but the relevant connection here is the wheelchair. As Hertzberg describes, New Yorker staff members were watching the inaugural activities mostly in silence, but “when Dick Cheney and his wheelchair filled the screen, a voice spoke up from the back of the room: ‘Mein Führer! I can walk!’ Kudos, please, to Nick Paumgarten for his instant recall of a great—and apt—moment in cinema history.” If you need to review the moment, see the video above.

Books, Movies, TV

January 19, 2009 Leave a comment
Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire

I’ve posted many times recently about the Naipaul biography I finished two Saturdays ago, and then a couple of days ago about the book on Vietnam and McGeorge Bundy. I’m in the midst of three other non-fiction books: the history of the Byzantine Empire that I’ve also written about, the recent bestseller on traffic that I started just after Christmas, and a short book about the history of Daylight Saving Time that Joel read when he was home and left for me. But I decided it’s time for some fiction. Which leads me to an aside.

One of the larger figures in the Naipaul biography was his longtime editor Diana Athill, now 91. By chance, just last week her second memoir, Somewhere Towards the End, was reviewed in the NYT. Having edited Updike, Mailer and many others as well as Naipaul, Athill knows a thing or two about fiction. Yet, when I read the review, I was stopped by this passage:

I was surprised that this longtime fiction editor has declared that she has “gone off novels.”

Why? She no longer feels the need to parse the intricacies of human relationships and love affairs, “but I do still want to be fed facts, to be given material which extends the region in which my mind can wander.”

I’m not there yet. I think I’m not anyway, but then again, I haven’t read a novel in months. What I have read, this morning, is
Read more…

Categories: Books, Film, Television

Corinthian Leather

January 14, 2009 Leave a comment

Ricardo Montalban’s death today brings back many memories: Fantasy Island, The Wrath of Khan, but perhaps most compelling, the Chrysler ads of the 1970s. The NYT obituary notes: “As the celebrity spokesman for mid-1970s models of the Chrysler Cordoba, Montalban unwittingly opened himself up to endless imitation when he described the car’s optional seats as being ‘available in soft, Corinthian leather.'”

If you have never seen the Cordoba ad, or wish to refresh your memory, see the youtube video of it above. Or go to the blog post about International Corinthian Leather Day, which has the ad with cleaner audio.

Categories: Culture, Film, Television

My New Flip Mino HD

November 27, 2008 Leave a comment

Last March, David Pogue reviewed the Flip Ultra, a tiny digital camcorder, in his weekly New York Times technology column. I had somehow missed the news of the original Flip’s arrival a year earlier, so I read with interest how it had already taken 13% of the camcorder market, despite its limited features. What it had going for it was simplicity and size. As Pogue wrote, “the Flip has been reduced to the purest essence of video capture. You turn it on, and it’s ready to start filming in two seconds. You press the red button once to record (press hard — it’s a little balky) and once to stop. You press Play to review the video, and the Trash button to delete a clip. There it is: the entire user’s manual.” And to transfer the video to your computer, you just flip out the USB jack and plug the whole thing in.

We bought two camcorders over the years, used each for a few months, and then lost interest. Bringing them on trips was a pain. Bringing them anywhere was a pain. The first one pre-dated computer editing software. We bought the second when Apple’s first iMovie program was released and I tried doing some editing on our Mac, but lost interest. I dare not calculate the cost per minute of the films we made on the second one. But this Flip didn’t sound so great either.

Then last Thursday Pogue reviewed the Flip Mino HD and he really got my attention. Simple, modestly priced ($230 list), small, lightweight, easy to use, easy to upload the video, and high quality video at that. The biggest drawback was lack of an image stabilizer. (Which reminds me, another reason I stopped filming with our second camcorder is that watching the results made me seasick.) But it was so convenient, so light, that I could imagine carrying it everywhere and making good use of it. So Sunday I ordered from Amazon (10% off) and yesterday I got it.

Flip Mino HD

Flip Mino HD

I have nothing to show yet, but I expect to be adding video to my blog posts soon. I set up a youtube account after dinner last night and posted the first video I made, just to make sure everything was working, which it was. (The video has since been removed. It was stupid.) Then we went to the airport to pick up Joel, who got in late last night from Boston. I filmed him walking towards the security exit, through the exit, towards us, stopping two feet away, then ordering me to shut it off.

Stay tuned. High def video will be coming your way soon at this station.

Categories: Film, Technology

The Game

November 22, 2008 Leave a comment
Pete Varney catching the winning 2-point conversion

Pete Varney catching the winning 2-point conversion

In an hour, the 2008 enactment of The Game will begin. (The Game refers to the annual season-ending football matchup between Harvard and Yale.) I’m paying more attention to The Game this year than usual, both because I learned that it will be televised on the cable channel Versus and because of recent publicity surrounding the movie Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 that opened Wednesday in New York. The title, of course, refers to the headline in the student paper the Harvard Crimson– as famous as the game itself — that appeared two days after Harvard’s great victory of November 23, 1968.

Why the strange headline? Read more…

Categories: Film, Sports