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Posts tagged Cinema and Television

The King’s Speech

Just watched this. Most moving, the friendship between two men and the transformative possibilities within that bond. Favorite line, Lionel: the prince must know what goes on between his brain and his mouth. Bertie: You haven’t known many princes have you? Or something like that. A brilliant evocation of a world about which I know little, between the wars Britain.

Sweet, Honest, Funny, Heartbreaking

65  bar steady 29.75  2mph NW dew-point 62  Summer night

First Quarter of the Thunder Moon

Peanut butter.  Never thought of it as a problem food, but it seems to have entered that category for me.  Makes my tummy hurt.  Darn it.

The slippery slope of cell phone life.  Tonight I entered the phone numbers of all the Woolly Mammoths into my cell phone.  They are the first non-family numbers.  Each day I draw closer and closer to becoming a cell phone user.  Since it has not yet become the electronic leash I did not want, I don’t mind, but I have this sneaking suspicion that as it becomes more of a common place in my life, it will move in that direction.

Watched Stranger Than Fiction over the last two days.  This is a trippy movie.  It is meta-fiction, a story about fiction intruding on reality and fiction in turn altering reality.  If you’ve seen it, you’ll know what I mean.  Like Existenz, which I mentioned a couple of days ago, it plays with epistemology and, in a strange (trippy) way with ontology.  The Truman Show, even the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Vanilla sky dance on the same floor.  Will Ferrel was brilliant, I thought he gave an Oscar worthy performance, sweet, honest, funny, heartbreaking.

The Night After

74  bar steady  29.73  0mph ENE dew-point 56  Summer night, too warm

Waxing Crescent of the Thunder Moon

This is the night after the fourth of July.  No bangs, pops, whistles, booms, showers of color, whirling fountains.  No patriotic music or patriotic festivals on the TV.  A night whose character takes its shape from the night it is not.

When I thought of this earlier, it made me reflect on all those night afters.   Each have their unique caste.  The night after Labor Day school begins for many, the serious, get-to-it season commences.  The night after Halloween the candy gets eaten or dumped, the costumes stowed, the lights taken down.  The Celts have begun their new year.  The night after Thanksgiving many of us groan and roll around on the bed or the couch, one too many turkey legs or dollops of mash potatoes or pieces of pecan pie still harbored somewhere in the digestive track.  The night after Christmas Santa has returned to the North Pole (where will he go if the ice melts?), no more presents and no more anticipation.  The night after Hanukkah the menorah goes back to it usual spot, the family gatherings end.  The night after New Year’s we settle into the next year, the hangover finished, the streamers and screamers and auld lang syne all put away until next year.

In each case we leave the sacred or festive time and return to what the Catholics call ordinary time, a phrase I love.  The value of ordinary time comes from the leavening, the spice that holidays bring to it.  On the night after the frisson between ordinary time and the festive, sacred time of holiday is at its most poignant, the memory still fresh, yet the moment has passed.  So, happy night after the fourth of July.  I hope the sense of patriotism embraced by the revolutionary generation seeped a little bit more into your bones.

While exercising today, I finished Lust,Caution by Ang Lee.  This film pushes boundaries like Brokeback Mountain, sexual boundaries and the question of love ignited in impossible situations.  It is a brave film, both for the director and for the two lead characters.  The context is the Japanese occupation of China.  Most of the film takes place in occupied Shanghai.  The struggle between the resistance and the Japanese, which forms the overall storyline, portrays the complex choices people make in situations that test loyalties at their core.

The technical skills in Asian cinema–Chinese, Japanese, Taiwanese, Hong Kong, Korean, Singaporean, Thai–has developed over many years.  We are now beginning to see films that push into the east/west osmotic filter from both directions.  This is a rich and interesting time for cinema from Asia and I feel lucky to participate.

Miles and Miles of Flat Sameness

66  bar steady 29.92 0mph N dew-point 58  Summer night

Waning Crescent of the Flower Moon

The drive into the MIA this afternoon was the first time I’d driven any distance since the long trip to Alabama.

Sheila gave a walking lecture on the African check out tours.  She showed pieces in Egypt, then the Nok figure, the Ife Shrine head, the Benin head.  She spoke briefly about the linguist’s staff, the kente cloth, the elephant tusk and the leopard. It was a usual well-informed presentation.  Sheila knows the African collection in some depth.  She tried to provide so-called Pan African ideas, but I didn’t find any of them unique to Africa.

Africa, like Asia and North America, is a land mass, not a cultural designation.  It has, like Asia and North America, a bewildering variety of indigenous peoples, colonial adventures, global corporate interests and all this mixed now in the stew of politics referred to as developing nations.  Seeking for identifiers by continent,  across Africa, for example, is like seeking for unity across Asia or North America.  It is a category mistake.  Continents do not have cultures, people do.  To maintain that somehow Algiers and Tunisia share a common cultural underlayment with, say, the Zulu or the Ashante or the Tutu or the Masai attempts to shoe horn disparate peoples in a too tight continental shoe.

Kate and I watched There Will Be Blood tonight.  This is a powerful movie with mythic overtones.  The push for oil, the mania required to build an oil company or a church, the violence of men competing for power and money and the interlocutor of the barren land combine in a peak at the roots of contemporary American society.

Much of the filming was done near Marfa, Texas.  Marfa is the location of Donald Judd’s open air show places.  It is a unique town, a place a reporter for the Ft. Stockton newspaper told me is “Taos fifty years ago.”  She didn’t see this as a good thing.

The land in the movie is bleak.  Until my trip to Imperial, Texas a few years ago to see our land I hadn’t understood why people would say West Texas and shake their head.  It is mesquite, sand and rattle snakes.  In a few places, for a time, there was oil and natural gas.  There is a stark beauty to it, a beauty similar to the high plains, miles and miles of flat sameness, broken at the horizon by low mountains and foot hills.

More garden work tomorrow.  Get the red car, too.  The heads were delayed at the machine shop.

An Instant Classic

63  bar steep rise 29.64 6mph N dew-point 58  Summer night

Last Quarter of the Flower Moon

As always, the movies come later up here above 694, inside the pick-up section of the Minneapolis metro.  Tonight it was “No Country For Old Men.”  This movie is an instant classic according to many reviews.

Talk about an oxymoron.  An instant classic.  That’s where the frisson is, yes, but I have a suspicion that just beyond the irony of such a juxtaposition lies a realm in which critics believe in their capacity to know a classic when they see one, even if it has only six months of theatre runs under its belt.  I don’t believe in such a capacity; but, I do believe it is of the nature of criticism to imagine its existence.

This is a fine movie.  It has a story line that takes you by misdirection.  As the movie unwinds into its fullness, the obvious assumption is that it is a mystery, a how will they catch him yarn.  Anton Chigurh and his compressed air weapon, used in stock-yards for killing live stock, cuts a wide lane of violence down the center of the screen.  The opening scene shows the remains of a drug deal that has killed at least eight people.

The plot seems to follow the results of this shoot out when it really follows Sheriff Bell, Sheriff of Terrel County in west Texas.  His story is a meditation on aging and on the violent criminal action that follows in the wake of the international drug trade.   He is an intelligent, compassionate man bewildered by crime he no longer understands.  In the final scene, which took me by surprise, he recount two dreams about his father.

A classic?  Hell, I don’t know.  I’m not even sure the movies that film historians claim are classics are classics.  I feel more confident in defining literary classics.  There I feel I know one when I see one.  With movies?  Difficult.  Casablanca?  Yes.  Singing in the Rain?  No.  Wizard of Oz?  Maybe.  Birds?  No.  Why?  Too sleepy to explain.  This movie a classic?  Probably not.  But it is a damned fine movie anyhow.

Sugar Cream Pie, Cornbread, Grits and Barbecue

Finished the movie Gettysburg.  Sad, tragic.  A battle in a war with few true winners.  The Great Courses lectures on the American Revolution and the Civil War came a few days ago and they will occupy the bulk of my listening on the way to Maxwell AFB and back. 

As I’ve written here before, summer is the season of American history and culture for me.  It starts off with Memorial Day  and the Indianapolis 500.  Reaches a high point on July 4th, then slowly winds down toward Labor Day when my inner scholar turns more toward the arts, philosophy and religion.  The activist in me this year will work with Sierra Club to steer local and national races in a way more compatible with a healthy earth for a healthy humanity.

Joseph’s commissioning ceremony fits in well with my American season.  I’m sure it will brim over with American traditions.  The south itself carries a special part of American history and his completion of OTS in the south seems somehow appropriate.  I enjoy traveling there and look forward to sugar cream pie, cornbread, grits and barbecue.

Ancientrails will continue on the road.  It may be spotty depending on the availability of wireless connections, but we’ll see.  I’ll write each day as I do now and I’ll post when I can.  At some point soon I’ll write the first posting from south of the Mason-Dixon line.  Ya’ll come.  Ya’ hear?

Sad Movies Always Make Me Cry

60  bar steady 29.59  0mph NNW dewpoint 59  Beltane, night

              Waxing Crescent of the Flower Moon

What a beauty.  This crescent moon, nearing the first quarter, has two stars above it, one low toward the horn and the other on a thirty degree angle further away.  Rain scrubbed the sky clean tonight, so they sparkle.  We only to look to the moon and the stars to find ample inspiration.  Do we need another layer, a human interpretation of the wonder we feel when we see the great star road?  I’m not so sure anymore.

The list of movies I haven’t seen that others have a long time ago included Dances With Wolves until tonight.  Not many movies make me cry, but the closing scenes when Dances With Wolves and Stands With A Fist leave the winter village did.  Especially moving to me was Wind in the Hair crying from the cliff top, “Dances With Wolves, do you hear me?  Do you know that I will always be your friend?” 

When the soldiers killed Dances With Wolves’ horse and then his wolf companion, I also cried.  The wolf’s loyalty and love repayed with death.  These two incidents capture so much of the casual violence that American culture legitmates.  Once again, I cringed at the harsh lessons of the frontier. 

Weeding tomorrow.  Oh, boy.  Also, I get to do some chainsaw pruning.  We lost a main branch off one of our Amur Maples.  They have a tendency to fragility so it didn’t surprise me. 

Sensuality Awakened in a Hindu Temple

47  bar steep rise 30.04 6mph N dew-point 38  Beltane

            Waning Gibbous Hare Moon

There are frost warnings not 75 miles north of us.  Frost.  On Memorial Day.  OMG.

Kate came home after a busy holiday clinic, today and yesterday were both very busy.  I cooked walleye, pasta with morels I found in our woods with a sauce Kate made earlier and asparagus.  We ate it while watching Passage to India.  This is an old movie, so you probably saw it long before I did, but it’s a stunner visually.  David Lean and Merchant Ivory, goes without saying.  The plot worked well in exposing the basic contradictions in the colonial exploitation of India by the British Raj.  The major plot point, however, an incident in the caves of Marabara still eludes me. 

It seems that Adela, played by Judy Davis, awakened to her sensuality while visiting a Hindu temple in ruins.  It seems further that her on again/off again marriage to the City Magistrate created a level of cognitive dissonance with this awakened sensuality.   It all came to a head when she fled a wonderful day organized by a Muslim doctor.  She made an accusation of attempted rape, or, was manipulated into making one.  Then she recanted.  Puzzling.

Kate’s off to bed.  I plan to finish Lush Life by Richard Price tonight.  A wonderful novel in many ways, though it is so thick in its content that I become weary of it and need a rest.  It is a tour de force of urban conflict, parsed out on the shockwaves of a brutal murder on the lower east side.  If you want to read a genuine American voice on a quintessential American topic, I recommend it.

No writing by me yesterday or today on Superior Wolf.  In a bit of a general funk, the dream surfacing some of it.  Not sure where it’s going, doesn’t seem so oppressive tonight.


56  bar steady 29.85  9mph N dewpoint 31  Beltane  sunny

               First Quarter of the Hare Moon

3 hours at the museum today answering questions, instigating conversations about Chinese bronzes.  It was a fun time with children and adults, variously interested.  I set out at the beginning, before people started showing up, to learn the vessel shapes.  I looked at the shape, memorized the name and then scanned the collection for examples.  I kept that up until I’d been through all the vessel shapes.  While doing it, it struck me that it would be useful to put these shapes and their names into SuperMemo.  A perfect fit.

I did go through the Supermemo cycle this morning while waiting for the steamroom to heat up.  It will take awhile to become facile with it, but once I do, it will become an important part of my learning environment.

Finished Last of the Mohicans.  I love costume dramas, especially early American and this one hits the bullseye on all fronts.  It has stimulated me to order the whole Deerslayer series, five novels. 

Electra Glide in Blue

48  bar steady 29.71 0mph SW dewpoint 47 Beltane   raining

                Waxing Crescent of the Hare Moon

Kate and I watched Electra Glide in Blue.  I’d never seen this 1973 movie, though I’ve heard about it.  In a strange way it captured the spirit of those times with more clarity and authenticity than any I’ve seen including Easy Rider.  It is a comedy and a tragedy.  I read one review that called Robert Blake’s role an anti-hero.  Yes.  But a bit more than that.  He stuck to his dream, lived his life according to his own understandings and died for kindness.  Recommended.

So.  The garden has come up and claimed priority in my life.  The spade, the spading fork and a bottle of water and I’m there.  Still more work to do, but, as I’ve learned more and more gardening has become easier.  I can now take care of several garden plots where in times past just a couple would have occupied all my time.  The land and the plants give back so much more than they take.  If only we, as a species, could learn this valuable lesson.

No new word on Gabe or on Joseph.  My sister’s dissertation has begun its final path toward completion.  It may take awhile yet, but she’ll get there, I’m confident. 

A good week.

October 2018
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