Saturday, January 30, 2016

Caine Watch: The Ipcress File (1965)

The Ipcress File (1965) is one of those movies you see mentioned a lot, especially in conjunction with the name "Michael Caine", but I'd never actually seen it, myself.  Just as Bond movies were taking off, Bond producer Harry Saltzman decided to launch a competitor to Bond's sexy, sly cartoonish spy adventure and gave us a spy somewhere between Bond and George Smiley.*  His world is not about bureaucracies being very sneaky against each other, nor is Harry Palmer going to drive a high end sports car with a smoke screen and rockets, either.

What really stood out for me, though, was that Harry Palmer - at least in this film (and he's in 3-5 films, depending on how you count them) - feels like a very real sort of person in comparison to James Bond.  Chalk this up to Michael Caine's talents or a very clever script, but Harry Palmer is a semi-ne'er-do-well who is happy having a government check, finds all this easier than working for a living, and is riding out this "spy" gig he's got going on until the gravy train runs out.  In the meantime, he peeps on people and doesn't particularly care for the rest of the rubbish paperwork.

Until he's changed offices and put on a real assignment.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Challenger - 30 Years On

(Back, L-R) Mission Specialist Ellison S. Onizuka, Teacher-in-Space participant Sharon Christa McAuliffe, Payload Specialist Greg Jarvis and mission specialist Judy Resnick. (Front, L-R) Pilot Mike Smith, commander Dick Scobee and mission specialist Ron McNair. (Photo by NASA/Getty Images)

Today is the 30th anniversary of the Challenger Disaster.

You're going to see a lot of stories out there from those of us who were kids when the Challenger exploded.  As much as 9/11, the Challenger Disaster sticks out there for a lot of us privileged suburban kids, not just as our first exposure to real-life horror and an event that dominated the public consciousness for a week, but - I'd argue - possibly the turning point that ended an era of American Enterprise and Exploration that well preceded the space race, but had its roots in Lewis and Clark.

For Gen X'er's who saw space exploration as maybe the only thing the government did that we found of interest (aside from getting the mail), the next decade became a constant argument against accountants and weak-knee'd politicos that NASA was worth it, even as the military budget continued to balloon with stealth fighters, bunker busters and all sorts of innovative ways of killing people.

This mission was as important as any during the shuttle era, a practice that seemed so routine by the time I was 10 (having started just five years before) that, like the Apollo missions, eventually the public wasn't dropping everything to watch a launch.  The idea had become - it was too difficult to become an astronaut, and that meant folks were growing detached.  So, some superhumans got to go - what did that mean for us?

To get us paying attention, NASA recruited a public school teacher, Christa McAuliffe, a citizen with no flight experience, to give a window of the "everyman" into space travel.

What we've been up to

We've been neck-deep in TV when we've been home, so not a lot of movie-watching.  Didn't even finish the film I started tonight.

So, a bit of what we've been up to which might be relevant here:

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Abe Vigoda Merges With The Infinite. Or, the Infinite Merges With Abe Vigoda.

I know.  None of us believed it actually possible, but Abe Vigoda has passed.

Most famous for his roles in The Godfather and the TV series Barney Miller, where he played Fish, a cop who acted exactly how you'd expect a cop who looked like Abe Vigoda to behave - Vigoda somehow became pretty famous and well-loved.  Almost all of his other roles since Barney Miller were more or less "holy @#$%, is that Abe Vigoda?" when he'd walk on screen.  He also kept invading the sets of late night talk shows for a while in the 90's.

I'll miss Vigoda.  It was always nice to know he was out there being Abe Vigoda, a role no one else will be able to fill.

Monday, January 25, 2016

X-Files is Back For Some Reason!

Look, I'm not made of stone.  I started tuning into The X-Files in 1993 when it was schedule adjacent to the short lived series The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. (a show canceled way, way too soon).   And, yeah, I dug that shortish FBI agent and her skeptical ways and off-the-rack pantsuits.

I was also into aliens and real-life UFO conspiracy stuff at the time.  Skeptical, but this was an era before YouTube or 10,000 cable channels - a state of things that meant, eventually, this dude got a platform on the @#$%ing History Channel

But, again, in 1993, access to those videos you'd see written about in books and articles were hard to come by, so why not at least entertain the notion?

And, again, Special Agent Dr. Dana Scully in sensible shoes.

In short, The X-Files was the first TV show I ever watched first run in prime time with any dedication, at least as an adult.  Otherwise, I guess you could say I'd had strong feelings about The Dukes of Hazzard when I was 6.

The Nephew

The Nephew has been sick the past week or so, and so I have not been trying to weasel my way into a visit.  He needs his rest no matter how much I'd like to come over and stare at him.

My brother posted these pics, and you're just going to have to suffer through them because I haven't seen the nipper in a while.

Raylan: Explorer of tubes

showing proper concern that this guy is responsible for half his genes

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Bond Watch: Thunderball (1965)

this poster does a surprisingly good job of summing up the movie

This was the one Bond movie that, even during the 7th grade sprint of renting Bond movies back to back all summer, somehow I never picked up.  I don't know why.  It's possible it was checked out.  Even stranger, I always assumed I'd run into it on cable or at the Paramount during the summer, but it never showed, or I never came across it.

So, here in 2016, I finally watched the movie.

Unfortunately for me, I had triple-checked the plot of Thunderball (1965) over the years to make sure I really hadn't seen it, and - yes, that movies absolutely was the one where the guy crashes a Vulcan with two atomic bombs into the ocean near The Bahamas and ends with a wicked underwater fight.

Don't worry.  If I had that spoiled for me over and over and still enjoyed the movie, you'll be fine.