Showing posts with label actual history. Show all posts
Showing posts with label actual history. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

In a Time of Virus: Days With No Meaning

I'm not writing these posts so much for all of us going through this *now*.   When this is over, I'd like to remember what...  happened.  Because, like any trauma, we're going to collectively want to block this out.  And what there is to remember will be so vague and weird, and our timelines will be skewed.

We all kind of laugh about how days lose all meaning in that period between Christmas and New Year.  At least once a day, someone will ask "what day is it?" and sometimes you may have to think about it.  With nowhere to be, no one looking for you and the weekends looking like a weekday, it takes no time at all.  And while we have weekends, when you're looking at the same walls and people, days do sort of lose their meaning.  Last week on Friday, I had to be told at least once it wasn't Thursday.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

War Watch: 1917 (2020)


Watched:  01/11/2020
Format:  Alamo Slaughter Lane
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's

If you are planning to see this, see it in the theater.  That is all.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Balloon Watch: The Aeronauts (2019)



Watched:  01/02/2020
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's

This movie never states that it's based on real events - but once it's underway, it's very specific to the point where I finally had to check to see if the character portrayed by Eddie Redmayne in the film existed.  Spoiler - He did!

But.  Half of this movie is real and half is made up, and I am just, honestly, confused why they made this choice - except that I basically get the decision from an optics, casting and audience standpoint.  The film swaps out one of the two people who made the real-life trip with a fictional female balloon pilot (Felicity Jones) who is overcoming serious and dramatic baggage tied to ballooning.  All of which is made up.  Even as she performs feats to save their lives that the real pilot was forced to do.  But here, it's someone else.

But, again, the scientist in the film was real and really did go up in a balloon, but with a less-surprising male balloonist.

I honestly have no idea what I just watched, is what I guess I'm saying.  I've read articles that are more reflective of my "yes, I understand why they did it, but..." perspective, and others that are really surprisingly blase about "facts" and "what occurred" and seem to think that's some old fashioned thinking and casually suggest if you are questioning the choice, you are both racist and sexist.

Look - I get that "based on a true story" movies change facts all the time, combine people into single characters, etc... - and, honestly, it's part of why I often avoid Hollywood's interpretation of history.  But they generally don't swap out one of two main characters with a completely fictional person.

So - I have no idea what I just watched.  It was okay.  But I tend to think history is hard enough to get a grip on without making up fictional characters in their lives as seemingly major players.  So, next time you ask me if I've seen a movie based on a true story and I kinda shrug and say "nope".  You now know why.

I watched this just before Togo, which was also based on true events and changed quite a bit, but the basic facts were generally adhered to. 


Monday, January 6, 2020

101 Years Gone - Theodore Roosevelt


"The old lion is dead."
- cable from Archie Roosevelt to his brothers serving in Europe, 01/06/1919

Theodore Roosevelt passed on January 6, 1919.  He was only 60 years old.

The passing of the famously active and robust Roosevelt could be attributed to a few things.  That bullet he famously took before he gave a speech actually did harm him and left him with ailments that worsened over time.  His tour of the Amazon had left him with malaria and took much of the wind from his sails.  The man of action who had made his reputation in the Spanish-American War, and who believed the manliest thing one could do was go fight in a war, took a post-presidential tour of Europe which forewarned him of the coming conflict and the scale at which is would occur.  When the US finally entered the fray, he encouraged his sons to enlist.  When he and Edith lost Quentin Roosevelt in air-to-air combat in July of 1918, it's said TR began to slide.

TR died before he could once again run for president, which he was, of course, considering.  And which I think would have altered his legacy, win or lose.  We never really saw a feeble TR, and the memory of the uncompromising figure TR was becoming as he aged is mostly forgotten, mixed with the blustery figure of his younger days.  Still, he'd surprised the world at every turn since his youth, so who is to say what an octogenarian Roosevelt might have looked like?

The candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long, and he'd defied death since his childhood as an asthmatic prone to long spells of sickness, been shot at, survived disease and exotic and dangerous adventuring.  Blinded in one eye while boxing (during middle age) and regularly found ways to engage with life in ways I can scarcely imagine.  At only 60, his life and legacy produced more door-stop-heavy books than most anyone in US History. 

If all of us are contradictions, this is one more area where TR lived larger than life.  And I won't dwell on it here - but he did leave a fascinating legacy and history in the multitudes he contained.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Sayles Watch: Matewan (1987)


Watched:  11/02/2019
Format:  Criterion BluRay
Viewing:  4th, I believe
Decade:  1980's

Back in the go-go 1990's, I stumbled across John Sayles, as one was want to do if in film school at the time.  People would name drop him as he had a rep as the same guy who wrote Piranha, Alligator, The Howling and other more mainstream flicks, but was basically funding his ability to also write and direct independent film.  It's something he still does (apparently), but given the number of times I've heard his name or seen it online or in print the past twenty years, he's fallen away from film-nerd discussion, I suppose - which makes me really wonder who else we've forgotten.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Hitch Watch: The Wrong Man (1956)



Watched:  08/21/2019
Format: TCM on DVR
Viewing: First
Decade:  1950's

I had no idea what this movie was about prior to giving it a watch, so real quick:

Directed by none other than Alfred Hitchcock, this is based on a true story (apparently?) of a musician who goes to his insurance company to see if he can take out on a loan his wife's life insurance for some dental work, only to be identified by the clerks as the man who committed two robberies of the company in the prior 9 months or so.  The police pick him up, assuring him that if he didn't do it, there's nothing to worry about, but in a line-up, he's identified by multiple witnesses (the robber also hit a few stores) and even his handwriting sample seems to match.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

In the wake of two mass shootings

This weekend saw two mass shootings.

You don't need for me to tell you why those shootings happened, or describe the tragedy of what occurred and what was taken from families, friends and communities. Or that it didn't always used to be this way.

But it sure is now.

The pair of shootings seemed to have stemmed from the politics of the shooters, one far right, the other far left, each running to extremes.  At some point those divergent points of view seem so far apart they, in fact, curve back toward the same point.  (Look, the El Paso shooter left a manifesto and was taken into custody, and is far less of a mystery to me than the misogynist antifa fan in Ohio who was dead within a minute of opening fire.  But "making sense" is not usually something I associate with mass murder).    It leaves us with some common traits between the shooters, not the least of which is the ability of anyone off the street to arm themselves like they're storming Baghdad and pop off if they're having a bad day and feel misunderstood.

I'm tired of men who can't handle their shit or that life wasn't what they expected turning their self-loathing on others, their shame metastasizing into a need to prove their place in the world with juvenile fits and the tools of a soldier.

Once again, a lot of politicians made bland statements, the media conglomerates handled it within their brand standards, and the paid spokespeople took to cable.  Horrified and mourning people were treated like exotic animals on safari by national news.

I had a whole lot more written, but I deleted it.  I'm just done.  This is impossible to write.

We're exhausted.  Exhausted from knowing something could be done and, for some reason, won't be.  And exhausted because every time you open your mouth about how obvious it is that this situation is insane, there's someone there who cares more about middle-school debate club needling and badly reading a single sentence than they care about piles of dead people.  And there's no other way of looking at it anymore.

I'm tired of knowing people want to run for office and tell people how to live who don't care if the people they're supposed to represent live at all.

We can do better, if we want to.  But I don't see anyone who wants to do better, and I can't begin to understand why.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Apollo 11 - 50th Anniversary and PBS's "American Experience: Chasing the Moon"



The past couple of weeks marked the 50th anniversary of the first manned lunar landing, thanks to the crew of Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.  Plus, the might of NASA, contractors to NASA, government bureaucrats, politicians and, us, the voting and tax-paying public.

From July 16th to July 24th, 1969, three brave people hurled through the void of space, two walked the face of an alien landscape, and then all returned, safely, to Earth.  All of this just sixty-six years after the Kitty Hawk Flyer took to the sky and 27 years after the first V2 rocket.  The scope of progress and achievement during this window was unprecedented in human history as two nations threw down the gauntlet to see who could place a boot onto lunar soil. 

Monday, July 22, 2019

NASA Legend Christopher Kraft Merges With The Infinite



If you ever get a chance, read up on the amazing history of NASA.  It's fascinating today to see some of the unknown stories of the agency's history come to the fore in recent years, bringing to the fore luminaries like Margaret Hamilton and Katherine Johnson.  One name we did grow up with was Christopher Kraft.

Truly, no one was more "there at the beginning" than Kraft, who had been a NACA employee before the creation of NASA, and who helped build and shape NASA from the inside up.

Kraft served as Flight Director at NASA during Mercury and Gemini and as a manager of flight operations during Apollo.  Kraft's attention to detail and leadership were key to keeping all the moving parts together before, during and after each mission, keeping people alive as they hurled through space in experimental machines strapped to ballistic missiles.

He would go on to run the Manned Spacecraft Center into the early 80's, when he retired from NASA.  In the 1990's, he participated in a review of the shuttle program and published an autobiography in 2001.

Mr. Kraft passed this week at the age of 95, having pushed humanity higher, further and farther than anyone ever dreamed.  He deserves to be remembered alongside the astronauts and heroes who, themselves, went into space and those new legends of engineering, math and science.  The role he took on wasn't the one with the personal glory (although his name did become quite well known), but without the Christopher Krafts out there, you don't get the Apollo missions, either.

A statement from NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on Kraft's passing.




Tuesday, July 9, 2019

A Picture Tour of Locations from "Anatomy of a Murder" - my vacation pics from the U.P. - Part 2


The week of the 4th of July, I was in Michigan's Upper Peninsula to visit some old family stomping grounds.  The Marquette/ Ishpeming/ Negaunee area is where my mom's people landed after arriving from Finland.  My grandfather worked in iron ore mines for forty years while my grandmother cleaned houses and other odd jobs.  And, when my mom arrived as a surprise when they were in their 40's, then raised the sparkplug that is the lady we call "Mom".

This area is also the setting for the novel Anatomy of a Murder.  When Otto Preminger decided to adapt the book circa 1958, he brought the entire production up to this remote area.




You can read more about it in Part 1 of this photo tour.

A Picture Tour of Locations from "Anatomy of a Murder" - my vacation pics from the U.P. - Part 1



This year marks the 60th anniversary of the release of Otto Preminger's Anatomy of a Murder.  If you've never seen it, it's a terrific film and holds up far better than you'd expect considering the changing mores, attitudes, laws and and more since 1959.  In some ways, it's covering territory we seem to cover over and over as a society and may be more relevant now than ever.  A legal drama, it should be a bit out of my wheelhouse, but instead it's been one of my favorite films since college.

Starring Jimmy Stewart, it has a terrific cast of well-known and lesser known actors.  Eve Arden, a very young George C. Scott, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzarra, Arthur O'Connell, and Kathryn Grant (a University of Texas alumnus and, at the time, just married to Bing Crosby).  And, a bit bizarre for the time and place, Duke Ellington.

The movie, however, was based on a novel written by Robert Traver.  Traver was the pen name for attorney John Voelker, who lived in Ishpeming, Michigan and served as the city prosecutor, ran for other public office and was generally highly involved in public life in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Friday, June 28, 2019

WWII Watch: Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)



Watched:  06/25/2019
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's

A fascinating oddball of a movie - part epic, part recreation, part disaster film, part meditation on the futility of war, Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) is an all-star retelling the of the real life events leading up to, and a recreation of, the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Originally this was supposed to be two separate movies, one Japanese and one American.  And it almost is - the Japanese parts were directed by Japanese directors (Kurosawa was notoriously fired off the film!), and the American parts: an American director.  I can only wonder how that would have worked in practice, perhaps better.  Both sections reflect the mistakes made along the way - failure of diplomacy, duplicitous use of diplomatic formalities, bureaucratic loggerheads, etc...  Each section reflects back the stance of the home country on what happened at Pearl Harbor in tone and approach, which can make for something of a split-personality to the film that doesn't always work, but probably informs the viewer in 2019 what was felt a generation after the war.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Way TL;DR - Tracking Superheroes from Source-of-Shame to $2 Billion Dollars in 2 Weeks



The kids today will never *quite* appreciate what Marvel pulled off, starting with Iron Man and continuing on with this week's mega-release of Avengers: Endgame.  But, more than that, they'll never really understand what it was like to go from an era where you'd stay home on a Friday night to see a TV movie of the week starring David Hasslehoff as Nick Fury.  Truly, any crumb of a glimpse of a live-action version of the comics you enjoyed was like a signal beamed from weirdo space and invading the lowest-common-denominator normalcy of broadcast TV.  Any cinematic appearance of anything even superhero adjacent was a reason to trek to the movies (a habit I am just now breaking, pretty unsuccessfully).

These days every basic jerk out there tries to claim nerd status for just *liking* something other than sports and *admitting* they have something they enjoy (heads up!  you cannot be a wine-nerd.  You can be a vintner, wine enthusiast, sommelier or lush.  Pick one.  But a "wine nerd" is not a thing.).   But in an era before Bryan Singer turned the X-Men into a box office smash, and the internet gave us hidey-holes into which we all disappeared and Watchmen made the 100 Greatest Novels Since 1923 list...   comics were for children.  Or for nerds, losers, the mentally slow, the emotionally damaged, perverts and delinquents.

Movies might come out based on graphic novels or comics, and sometimes that source was acknowledged - but I grew up in the 1980's, and my comics habit made the adults around me visibly nervous.*  Parents, teachers, etc... knew to be disapproving and angry about musical selections (thanks, Tipper!), but comics?  What were we even doing?

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Noir Watch: Border Incident (1949)


Watched:  04/08/2019
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's

...so...

We've essentially not only just *not* made any progress on how we deal with our border with our Southern neighbor since the release of this film in 1949, but we're now actively and intentionally worse about how all of this works.

Border Incident (1949) follows law enforcement working together from both the Mexican and American governments, seeking not to punish the braceros crossing illegally so much as to stop the exploitation and criminal behavior of the coyotes, who use the undocumented status of their victims to exploit them for terribly low wages, awful living conditions and potentially violent treatment.

Monday, April 1, 2019

The Dropout - Podcast and ABC 20/20 feature



I'll be honest - after watching the Netflix doc The Inventor, I'm still stuck on the saga of Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes.

At Maxwell's recommendation, I turned to a multi-part podcast called The Dropout to see what wasn't in the Netflix doc, which seemed to just raise questions without ever really providing answers.  Produced by ABC news, The Dropout covers much of the same territory and the same figures, gets more on-the-record interviews, details more of what occurred, giving specific stories, certainly revealing points that I'm surprised the Netflix doc left out, and generally does a good job of building a solid case for what - at least transactionally - happened at Theranos.

But... I'm still baffled by how this even got started in the first place.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Doc Watch: Apollo 11 (2019)


Watched:  03/17/2019
Format:  Alamo South Lamar
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's

This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 spaceflight, during which Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins reached the moon and during which Armstrong and Aldrin became the first humans to ever walk the surface of our satellite.

This evening, JuanD, Jamie and I hit the local cinema to take in the spectacle that is Apollo 11 (2019), and if you can tear yourself away from whatever new shows got dumped on Hulu and Netflix on Friday, I'm going to go ahead and recommend you give this movie a go.

Monday, February 18, 2019

President's Day Profile: Millard Fillmore (#13)


Believe it or not, that is not a time-lost Alec Baldwin.  That is the 13th President of the United States of America, Millard Fillmore.

I know pretty much nothing about Fillmore other than that he existed, and I guessed he was a Whig, and, indeed, he was.  But that guess was based on my impression that he seemed old-timey.

So, what should we know about President Fillmore?

Friday, February 15, 2019

Post-War Watch: The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)


Watched:  02/12/2019
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing: second
Decade:  1940's


The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) rightfully won accolades and awards upon its release, telling the story of three returning GI's in terms that try not to gloss over the hardships and adjustments those who went to war in WWII must make as they come home and attempt to re-enter civilian life.  Perhaps as much or more importantly, the movie doesn't ignore the adjustments and expectations of those who were safe at home, including arcs for the folks who didn't go, for whom life was not on pause as their loved ones - or even former coworkers - disappeared for a few years. 

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Relevant Watch: All the President's Men (1976)


Watched:  02/09/2019
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  third
Decade:  1970's (obvs)


It's too hard to unpack both the film All the President's Men (1976) and the actual events of the Watergate scandal without writing a full treastise, so I won't.  But in 2019, the events of this movie have both an echo that sounds all too familiar, but one which it is difficult to believe would actually register with at least half the voting population.  If the movie is *about* anything, it's showing how goddamn hard it is to build a newspaper story that will stick, the near-impossible job of the press, and, of course, the responsibility of the press in a free and open democratic society, something this blogger firmly believes in.