Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Very Spidey Christmas

Paul sent this along.

I can only imagine how this would have gone for 5 year-old me. Mind would have been blown...


Wonder Woman, Christmas and a little B&E

Wonder Woman loves Christmas.  Enough to break into your house to make sure you have a lovely holiday.


Friday, December 21, 2012

Signal Watch Watches: Heathers (1988)

Yup.  The little movie about teenagers murdering each other and rolling in the media's late 80's obsession with teenage suicide like a pile of autumn leaves.

It is, of course, impossible to imagine anyone bankrolling this movie any time after about 2000 A.D., and it's entirely likely the receipt of this script to a studio in this day and age would mean FBI alerts and investigations.  Still, there was a time when a guy in a trenchcoat pulling a .357 out of his pocket and firing blanks in the faces of two burly jocks in the high school cafeteria was considered hilarious.

sometimes I still miss VHS as a format

I consider myself privileged to have experienced high school in an era before metal detectors, clear plastic backpacks, helicopter parents, "Teen Mom", 24/7 News Cycle angst. and a celebration of popularity on each and every teen-oriented show on TV.  I did not avoid blaming metal bands for the ills of society, and the phrase "juvenile delinquency" still carried some cachet before we decided, en masse, to pretend that all kids are special snowflakes.  And this movie is a product of the era around when I entered grades 9-12.

It's fair to say that the film hasn't aged well, even as it continues to look like the jokes told out back of high schools all across America where moody teens tried not to get caught smoking, the shadow of a decade of dead bodies in public schools looms over the movie and - in its way - doesn't exactly presage actual violence, but doesn't resort to blaming video games, gay marriage and name-a-pundit's-personal-poison, and rather looks at the ecosystem somehow we pretend to not know was there, when high school is, really, the last common denominator of a shared experience for the vast majority of Americans.  

It's also gratifying to see "nerds" and "geeks" in a movie from an era before the idea was co-opted.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Happy Birthday, Audrey Totter!


December 20th is the 95th Birthday of actress Audrey Totter!  I suppose that makes the timing of this post Audrey Totter-Day Eve.

Ms. Totter starred in a terrific run of films, and had one of her breakout appearances as a source of temptation for the always terrific John Garfield in The Postman Always Rings Twice.  Ms. Totter's character caused a bit of jealousy in Lana Turner.  People, if you can give Lana Turner a moment of pause, clearly you're a force to be reckoned with.

The first movie I saw in which Ms. Totter got top billing was The Set-Up, and it's an absolutely terrific bit of acting under the direction of Robert Wise, but I'd also point you toward Tension, which is a terrific example of noir (and also has Cyd Charisse and Richard Basehart!).  In this one, Totter blows everyone else on screen right out of the frame.   I'd also recommend The Unsuspected to see her alongside Claude Rains and playing a wide range in a single film.

That's sort of what I think of now when I consider Ms. Totter's films.  She wasn't a character actor, and in all of her movies, she manages to do what better actors pull off - and that's too completely fill the character in a unique way and disappear into the role, but still retain the ability to make you notice them.  Her roles in Man or Gun and Tension couldn't be more different, but she's terrific in both movies.

In the 50's, Ms. Totter began working in both film and television, she starred in series like Cimarron City and Medical Center, and retired from the screen with her final televised appearance in 1984 on Murder, She Wrote.

Today, Ms. Totter is still living in Southern California, and through a terrific series of internet blips by way of Jenifer, on Sunday morning I received a video in my email that made my year.   The video is of Audrey Totter sending Jenifer and me best wishes.  The video absolutely blew my mind.  It's like someone you watch at the movies turning to the screen and saying, "Oh, hello, Ryan."

Special thanks to Ms. Totter's granddaughter, voice artist, Eden Totter.  (Eden is super-great, by the way.)


Happy Birthday, Ms. Totter!  We wish you the best on your birthday and will be spending the holiday break catching up on some of your movies we haven't yet seen.



PS.  If you ever want to know what it would be like to be a detective in the presence of Audrey Totter, I highly recommend the experimental first-person movie, Lady in the Lake, based on the Raymond Chandler novel.



On the Event of JimD's 37th


To JimD, as he turns 37.

Signal Watch Watches: A Bullet for Joey (1955)

I considered listing this one as a noir, but it's more or less really a 1950's G-Man thiller mixing gangsters, fifth columnists, monkeys and Audrey Totter.

The movie opens on Montreal (?) where an organ grinder and monkey wait outside a building at McGill University where they snap picks of an unsuspecting French-Canadian scientist from a camera hidden in the hurdy-gurdy.  A cop spots the iffy organ grinder, and gets straight-up murdered by the oddly dated stereotype.

Turns out our organ grinder is a Fifth Columnist gathering info on a physicist, and then it gets complicated.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Audrey Totter is delivering Christmas Joy


I stole this pic from Jenifer's twitter account.  I figured that in the spirit of the season, she'd want to share.

Here we see Audrey Totter atop some sort of motorcycle/ moped be-decked for the season and lugging around a sack full of toys she is, I assume, redistributing rather than showing off or hoarding.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Dang, there's a lot of "Scrooge" movies

Like most folks in US/ Canada/ England and other parts of the Dickens-reading world, I'm a fan of Dickens' shortest and most-on-the-nose work, A Christmas Carol.

On Sunday evening one of my favorite movie versions, the 1984 A Christmas Carol starring George C. Scott, was on AMC.  It was a good era for special effects, before things went crazy with CG and filmmakers knew how to work within their limitations but had made art out of editing, shadows, light and fog machines.  As Scrooge, George C. Scott doesn't come off as goofy or immediately redeemable, but he does appear human - the smiles at Fezziwig's made all the more meaningful as they crack the ossified grimace, or the realization of what is coming as he witnesses his own future.

Technology Convo: The Lenovo Yoga

I am supposed to be talking about the Lenovo Yoga this evening, a computer I purchased last weekend as my Dell laptop decides to eat itself from within and I make a transition to new hardware before all is lost.

Steven reviewed his Chromebook, a computer I looked at long and hard before making a different and more expensive decision.  That said, Steven bought his Chromebook for a development box, something I heard was do-able just Saturday night.

I'm looking at Chromebook as a solution for Jamie for next year sometime, and I think it will meet all of her needs - except for figuring out how she can manage iTunes.  So if anyone wants to jump into this discussion, please help me out.

But this is about the Lenovo Yoga, the Windows 8 machine I picked up that's part tablet, part laptop.

Windows 8

I'm a longtime Windows user, and the quirks of Windows are so seamless to my everyday existence that they're usually fairly transparent to me.  You probably read that Windows 8 has been redesigned for the tablet, but that's not altogether true.  Windows has created an interface for the tablet with brightly colored "tiles".  And, sorry, it's mostly intuitive.  If you can use an iPhone or Android phone, this isn't any better or worse.  I also expect that the "tiles" will become more customizable over time, but they work just fine for now, and whether you hold the tablet in landscape or portrait, it's all pretty easy to use.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

On Officiating the Wedding of Friends

There are moments in your life that, no matter how clear and ready you tried to be, nothing is as real as the moment when it is actually happening.

On Saturday, around 4:10 PM, I looked at my friend Julia, just absolutely radiant in her wedding dress, and Bill looking sharp in his suit, and the 80-people out in the white chairs on the lawn, and I realized I had the microphone and the script to the wedding and, holy smokes, I'm marrying my two good friends.  Me.  This is happening.

There's no part of the story about how it went wrong.  It went off without a hitch.  The dinner was even really good, and normally wedding dinners are the thing you swallow and pretend to like because, oh my gosh, this place isn't cheap...  but in our case, it was all excellent.  And Bill is a Belgian Ale snob, so you couldn't say one thing negative about the beer selection.

Eventually, Jamie and I even cut a rug on the dance floor.