Friday, June 1, 2012

And Happy Birthday to Matty Mangum

Happy birthday, man.

I know you hate my blog and think comics are stupid, but we heart you, anyway.

Tomorrow we will get you a pony ride.

Happy Birthday to Marilyn Monroe

Today is the birthday of Norma Jeane Mortenson, who would go on to create an image of sexually charged glamour in American cinema and related media around 60 years ago, something that we're still not sure what to do with today.

Like everybody else who first learned Marilyn Monroe's biography from a maudlin Elton John tune, I cannot help but see her as a tragic figure.  Doubly so as, according to a number of sources, Monroe was also a bit of a genius, just one who knew that wasn't what the cameras or the public believed or wanted, and managed to play a role quite often in her public life.  It's only in seeing the surprising number of photos that surface with Mornoe with a book in her hands, or the fact that one of her choices of a man to marry was Arthur Miller*, that the image of the head tilted back with the open mouth smile becomes a put-on and the other Monroe comes into focus.  But maybe that's why Monroe continues to be discussed when Jayne Mansfield (and, in her way, Mamie Van Doren) have disappeared into pop cultural ephemera most people can't pick out of a line-up.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Signal Watch Watches: Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

It'd been a good long while since I'd seen Bonnie and Clyde (1967), the Warren Beatty & Faye Dunaway starring film loosely retelling the story of the very real life depression-era gang that cut a path through the central united states, from Texas to Iowa.

It's a great piece of filmmaking and one of those movies that both said quite a bit about the time of its release and manages to act one of the points of demarcation between filmmaking that had preceded it and what was to come as the 70's roared into cinemas.

I've talked before about how much I love Gun Crazy (1950),* and its not hard to see a bit of mashing of the facts around the Bonnie & Clyde case and the spirit and plotting of Gun Crazy in this movie.  But, of course, unlike the 1950 film, Bonnie and Clyde is one of the earlier adopters of obvious violence on screen, not shying away from putting bullets in the faces of bankers or showing Faye Dunaway getting riddled with bullets (I'd say spoiler, but if you don't know what happens to Bonnie and Clyde, you guys need to seriously start watching more TV).  It's also beautifully shot, well edited and the audio of the film presages a lot of what I think you'll hear in films to come as the mix attempts for naturalism, blending in the wind of the plains, a score that's semi-regional and period.

No News is Good News?

You know what I'm a sucker for?  The news.

You know what I haven't seen in the past 10 years?

There's an article on Yahoo! News (your place for breaking info on the Olsen Twins' fashion faux pas) about CNN as a Zombie news network.  

The conclusion:
And it may be that CNN's legendary objectivity is part of the problem. The network has always prided itself on covering the news with an even hand, but more partisan networks like Fox News and MSNBC have stolen away viewers by taking sides in the growing culture war and offering strong opinions with a conservative or liberal slant. CNN may win on journalistic integrity, but they're losing on passion.
Well, not for me and certainly not for anyone I talk to.  I may slant left, but I won't watch MSNBC because I don't need the news spun to me so that I'll nod like a muppet meeting the celebrity guest when Rachel Maddow comes on to tell me how smart we all are for agreeing with her.  

No, I quit watching CNN because they quit airing the news.  We all know that.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Summer TV: Sherlock & Star Trek

The shows I do watch are ended for the season, or wrapping up.  There are only a few episodes left of Season 5 of Mad Men (and last week's episode made me sad), Mythbusters carries on destroying everything in the name of science - even when its clear that Jamie and Adam are not really invested anymore, Parks & Rec has called it a day for 2012, and I've not seen a new American Experience since April, I think.

So its time for me to try to catch up!


You guys have recommended Sherlock to me a few times, and so last night I finally watched the pilot on Netflix.  And then tonight I watched the second episode.

Y'all, that was pretty good, right?  I mean, I'm not wrong on this?

hello.  We're British.

Signal Watch Watches: Ramona and Beezus (2010)

As a child of a teacher with her Masters in Reading Education, we never wanted for books around the house.  I had my favorites, and I read a lot of the Beverly Cleary books featuring the neighborhood of kids of Klickitat Street, with Henry Huggins, Beezus & Ramona (and Henry's dog, Ribsy*).

It's been a long, long time since I read the series, probably closer to 30 years than 20, and so my memory is a bit hazy.  Still, I was amazed at how many scenes and references from of the books came back to me when I found Ramona and Beezus on the HBO in-demand options, and once the movie started rolling.  From the "kitty-kat Q" to the proper way to crack a hardboiled egg (a technique I still employ from time to time), to the employment problems of Mr. Quimby.

I believe this is the edition of the book I had.  Beezus was such a square.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Westward, Ho! Allison B and Chris Roberson flee Austin

In a day or two Allison B and Chris Roberson pack up and depart Austin for the untamed wilderness that is Portland, Oregon, where they will most certainly be eaten by a bear.

I shall miss their hospitality, and Austin in poorer for their departure.  It is an odd thing to find oneself in the company of a writer you truly enjoy and respect first, and then get to make their acquaintance as a family unit living in the same town.

Here's to a great family as they set off on an all new adventure.

Portland, be nice to these folks.   They're all right.   And please find them decent tacos.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Signal Watch Watches: King Kong (1933)

I was in high school before I got to see King Kong (1933) in its entirety, and I've probably seen it almost a dozen times since.  Before that I had seen both the 1976 version of King Kong with Jessica Lange and the almost forgotten King Kong Lives (1986) in the theater.

Memorial Day: American Women

On this Memorial Day, I thought maybe I'd take a minute to remember the many women who've also served in and in conjunction with the US Armed Forces.

I'm not clear on how women are currently deployed in the US Military, but in our recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there can be no question that those anywhere in the theater are at risk.  Nor can you bypass the sacrifice many have made just to serve.

Its hard to ignore the contributions of women in World War II, be it the WACS, the WAVES, the women who took jobs in factories building machinery or the women who carefully managed a country under rationing and who planted victory gardens.

Korea and Vietnam saw women serving in an increased capacity as medical staff.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Like A Doll's Eyes - Quint's Monologue

As we head toward Memorial Day, a day of remembering our fallen soldiers here in the US, and as we cross the threshold into summer (at least here below the the Mason-Dixon Line), I am already pondering not if, but when, I will watch Jaws this summer.

I can't remember the last time I saw a movie with a monologue, a real monologue, included.  I don't suppose the kids these days would sit for a full two or three minutes of somebody just, you know, talking, without pulling out their cell phones and texting away.  But this is from an era of filmmaking that wasn't entirely about avoiding risk, perhaps the only serious era where this occurred at the studios.

No matter how many time I watch it, Robert Shaw's speech about the sinking of the Indianapolis still hits me.  Its a terrific bit of film writing and an amazing performance to match, all carried by the extremely young Steven Spielberg behind the camera.

The sinking of the Indianapolis as described by Shaw's character Quint was all too real, the details of which had only been released to the public in the few years previous to when Jaws hit theaters, and not many had heard the story.

Clearly the speech sets the motivation for Quint, that its far more than about the $10,000 plus expenses, and it gives the film's primordial man vs. nature premise a bent that supersedes Brody's duty and Hooper's scientific curiosity.  And, in many ways, despite tying the film to World War II, it also manages to decouple the film from a 70's creature movie, placing it alongside Melville as a seafaring journey, a sort of tale of revenge against the very sea that gives the character meaning.

Memorial Day isn't just about car sales or a day off.

1100 men went in the water, 316 men come out.  The sharks took the rest.  June the 29th, 1945.