Saturday, January 21, 2012

Noir Watch (Noir City Edition): Dark Passage and The House on Telegraph Hill

Friday evening I attended the opening night of the tenth edition of the Noir City film festival, hosted by Eddie Muller, the Czar of Noir.

We attended the reception ahead of the show, which was a real kick.  Lots of folks in approximations of period attire.  You can see myself and J__Swift below.  

a very vintagey reception at The Castro

I had seen Dark Passage (1947) twice before, and hadn't particularly loved it the first time, liked it much more on the second, and loved it on the big screen on this go round.  The movie takes the risk of starting from the protagonist's POV, literally, and that part of the movie goes on for a bit, which is why I think I was a bit turned off the first time I watched the movie.  It seemed like a stunt, but on the big screen versus the 27" TV I watched it on the first time, it really, really works.

A Noiry Night

Noir City X is in full swing. The Festival opened this evening with the video below, a loving clip show of some great movies.

Great stuff.

This evening I met the great Eddie Muller and got to see two fantastic movies, Dark Passage and The House on Telegraph Hill. More on those later, I suppose.

Anyway, a terrific night out with J__Swift and her pal, Morgan. Hope things are well with you.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Dark Vacation

Well, on Thursday I am off to San Francisco for the 2012 Noir City Fest.  I'll be in San Francisco from Thursday afternoon until Monday morning.

I expect if you want to see me whilst I am in the Bay Area, you'll know how to track me down.

The schedule is pretty packed, but I do plan to write up all the movies one way or another as part of Movie Watch 2012.

Thursday night I'm actually headed for Riff-Trax Live with Dug, K and J__Swift.  Possibly MikeF and Rus.  We'll see.

Despite living in the town with the Austin Film Festival, SXSW, Fantastic Fest and more, I've never bothered with a film festival, so this is all new to me.  Mostly I wonder about how well my back can handle sitting in movie-theater seats this many hours.

between you and me, I hope this doesn't happen to me while I'm there

Jenifer (our J__Swift) has arranged a special EXTREMELY AWESOME/ SUPER NOIR event for me on Sunday that I'm keeping under my hat until I can post photos.

I got some hints on FaceBook about places to eat, etc...  we'll see if I can pull that off given our crammed schedule, but I appreciate the hints.

So, no idea what the next few days will hold, blog-wise.

Jamie on UFC

On what happens if we leave the TV on Fox Sports Southwest after the basketball game:

Jamie:  See...  I don't even know why you'd watch wrestling.
Me:  That's not wrestling.
Jamie:  It's two guys rolling around on the ground holding each other.  What is it...?  Hugging?
Me:  That's Mixed Martial Arts.
Jamie:  Its two grown dudes hugging.
Me:  I don't even know if that's Mixed Martial Arts.  Its "Ultimate Fighting."  Its for guys who were good at exactly one thing in high school and it wasn't math.
Jamie:  Hugging?

and scene.

Lack of posting is like a SOPA Blackout Sympathy thing

So it seems we are going for a bit of a blackout to draw attention to the SOPA Bill.  If you don't know what this is about, Google it, check it out on Wikipedia, or read up on it at BoingBoing.

In Blackest Night, people.

You're on your own til Thursday.  Contact your representatives.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Signal Watch Reads: Feynman

A few months ago Jim Ottaviani visited Austin during the promotional tour of his graphic novel, Feynman, a biographical sketch of famed physicist Richard Feynman.  It turns out that Jim's day job is in the field of digital libraries, and he had a sort of informal chat at the library, where it turned out he knew two of my colleagues from graduate school.

Its a small world, but I wouldn't want to paint it.*

A few things:  

1)  I struggled mightily in high school physics and stuck with geology as much as possible in college when asked to to take science (rocks!).  My investigations into modern physics (stuff they were not teaching at my high school) have been mostly catch-as-catch can through television specials, reading articles online and this, my third comic book on physics in any way, shape or form.  I know some basic principles, I know some names, I understand that light behaves like a wave and a particle, and aside from that, I sort of stop and start with what everyone who has ever owned more than one Pink Floyd album knows about Schroedinger's Cat.  And, as I understand it, what we consider the point of the experiment is incorrect.

2)  I don't pretend like I had ever heard of Richard Feynman before this book hit the shelves.  The pop-culture aspect of science also eludes me, and so I had not read any of Mr. Feynman's books or sat about urbanely quoting the man over coffee served in a small and delicate cup.  

3)  I have a hard time remembering the basic fundamentals of physics.  Every time I return to the material, that part of my brain re-engages, and neurons re-fire, but its not something I think about very often.  Its sort of how I wrote down what the Higgs-Boson is just so I had a place to go look it up every time I needed to know while reading an article on the LHC.

My hat if off to Jim Ottaviani for his handling and structure of a book that could have been an horrendous mess.  The book is really 85% biography, 15% physics lesson in order to explain why Feynman matters to Sally Q. Reader.  As he states in the afterword, I had no doubt that Ottaviani had done his research enough to both understand and not judge the man particularly one way or another, and to internalize what Feynman was on about enough to share it with an audience as clueless about physics as myself.

Movie Watch 2012: Annie Get Your Gun

As biography, the splashy Irving Berlin musical Annie Get Your Gun is, charitably, less than accurate.  But that's not really the point of Annie Get Your Gun, so if that's what you were looking for, you may want to move on.

To be honest, I thought I'd seen this movie as a kid, but I now believe what I was watching was Calamity Jane featuring Doris Day, so that's going to be somewhere in my queue.

The movie is a bright, colorful MGM spectacular from 1950.  Annie is played by Betty Hutton, in her defining role as the Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show sharpshooter of legendary skill.  Howard Keel, in an early part, plays Frank Butler (he'd show up a few years later in Calamity Jane as Buffalo Bill, just to add confusion), a fellow sharpshooter and the man of Annie's dreams.  The performances are hokey and broad, but this isn't exactly A Streetcar Named Desire, so much as a sweet story in service of big show tunes.  The "Get Your Gun" of the title is, of course, not literal, and drives the feather-light story.

Take a minute today

Sunday, January 15, 2012

This is one of my favorite stories from 2011 (which aired originally in 2007)

I am a regular listener of This American Life and I also pitch them a few bucks every once in a while. They're public radio. Its how it works these days.

Last year I heard this story, and I just realized I'd never linked to it, and I'd never shared it, but its one of best stories I enjoyed last year in any medium. It has everything, and its not all that long.

What blew my mind was that I was just on the This American Life site and noticed they're selling t-shirts (which will not fit me, and tell me the entire audience for TAL is comprised of the spindly little nebbishes and hipsters in tight t-shirts I always supposed comprised the listening audience).

So, listen to the story, and then go buy the shirt. Do not reverse the order of these steps or it will ruin everything.

Movie Watch 2012: Comanche Station

PaulT and I journeyed to The Alamo Drafthouse on 6th street for the occasionally-occurring* Alamo Cinema Club.  Both Paul I really dig this experience.  Its a bit like the better bits of film school, but with no quiz.

Tonight's screening was Comanche Station featuring Randolph Scott and directed by Budd Boetticher.

As was much discussed post-screening, Comanche Station feels very much like the transition between old school westerns and the coming Spaghetti Western or grittier Western ushered in by the likes of Sam Peckinpah.  While somewhat coded, the movie suggests some of the harsher realities of the frontier, and partially due to the era portrayed and material its working with, doesn't fit neatly into modern molds of dealing with how the west was settled.

Mostly, its a story about a frontiersman who barters a trade for an anglo woman captured by Comanches.  At a closed trading post, they meet up with a sly character from Cody's past who can ride along with them to provide protection, but who is also a threat to both Cody and the woman he's transporting back to her home.

In many ways, its a movie about assumptions versus reality with the characters.  And it works.  The narrative is clockwork tight, the cast small and the feeling of distrust among the members of the party is poisonous.

Anyhow, a lot was said about the work of Budd Boetticher, an independent producer operating just outside the studio system, and I'm curious to see his other westerns (all featuring Randolph Scott).

*its like movie geek Brigadoon