Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Essential Cinema - 30

2010: The Year We Make Contact

Roy Scheider
John Lithgow
Helen Mirren
Bob Balaban
Keir Dullea
Douglas Rain

Peter Hyams

Arthur C. Clarke
Peter Hyams

Peter Hyams

A joint Russian / U.S. mission returns to Jupiter to try and determine what happened to the first mission sent there 9 years earlier. The fate of the first mission is unknown and the mysteries it was sent to solve remain unanswered.

Wrapping up the loose ends and learning to overcome our differences in order to work together. There are things in the universe much larger than the petty differences that divide us. A wake up call for humanity to stop fighting and play nice.

First of all, you can't talk about this film without discussing the film that came before it. Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" is a landmark in cinema. It redefined the concept of science fiction and pushed the envelope of film making way past its limits. In that regard, this film does not measure up. It cant, but it is a worthy effort.

I always heard that you had to read the book to really understand "2001: A Space Odyssey". After seeing it 4 or 5 times, I finally read the book and they were right. What I thought I knew about the first film finally came into sharp focus after reading Arthur C. Clarke's book. Clarke went on to write several follow up books to "2001: A Space Odyssey". This film is based on one of those books.

This film is a bit dated because, like the original, the future didn't turn out the way we thought it would. As the film opens, the Soviet Union and the United States are on the brink of war. Something that never happened with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the late 90s. I recall being disappointed when Pan-American Airlines went out of business, because one of my dreams of seeing a real spaceliner with the Pan-Am logo from the first film was never going to be realized. Such was the power of the vision that Kubrick gave us with "2001: A Space Odyssey".

The premise of this film is logical. We go back to figure out what happened to Astronaut Bowman and the HAL-9000, not to mention figuring out what the huge monolith was. The story telling and the visuals are all up to par in this film, although the film is a bit more formulaic as opposed to the stark and calculating story telling of "2001: A Space Odyssey".

In the end, the astronauts get to witness the act of cosmic reproduction on a planetary scale and in so doing, learn that we are very small in relation to the big picture. So small in fact, that they understand we are just parasites in a vast living universe. This film tends to serve as a reminder, that on an evolutionary scale, we are only at the beginning and have long, long way to go.

This film is a part of my LaserDisc Collection which can be viewed here.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Collection Complete

(click the link)

I have completed the cataloging project for my LaserDisc collection.

I will be tweaking the catalog with descriptions and covers over the next couple of weeks but all the essential information is there.

If you want to see some films reviewed or you just want to be impressed with my awesome taste in Cinema, check it out.

Tribute To The Problem Solvers

He Must Have Found It

I have written before about the art of Geocaching. This is the other side of the coin.

While I have hunted down and found about 50 gecaches in my caching career, I also have two caches that I have hidden for others to find. One is very close to your house and the other is in a mountain preseve on the other side of town.

The one near our house is very easy to find, the other one is called "Peoria Poetry" and takes some hiking and problem solving skills to figure out.

When I first placed this cache over two years ago, I put a bunch of trinkets in it. One of them was a small disposable camera that I picked up at Walgreens for $5. The cache instructions requested that the folks take a picture of themselves and place the camera back in the cache. I thought it would be a neat experiment.

Fast forward to 2008. The cache was getting old and I thought it was about time for some maintenance on it. I hiked to it and found it was still there. I replaced it with a new container and hiked out with the old one. When going through the old cache's contents, I found the camera with a few shots still left on it.

I assumed that the film was probably bad at this point. The cache had been in the widlerness for over 2 years in temperatures that ranged from 110 degrees to below zero. But out of curiousity, I took it to be developed just to see if anything was on it. I was suprised by what I found.

The film is a little faded but still in good shape. If you click the title to this blog or click on this link you can see the rogues gallery of folks that have actually found this cache over the past two years.

All of these folks had to hike over a mile through a mountain preserve to find this cache, not to mention solve some problems along the way. Most of them seem pretty happy that they figured it out.

These are people that go out and try to figure out their world. They are the problem solvers and thinkers. They are our hope for the future.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Amazing Application

What Have We Gotten Ourselves Into?

The wife and I applied for the next season of 'The Amazing Race'.

If you don't know what that is, click the link above to check out their webpage. It is a reality television show where couples have to race around the world and learn not to kill each other as you struggle to ask for directions in Mumbai or scale cliffs in Iceland.

What were we thinking!?

The application itself is almost as difficult as any leg of the race. It isn't advertised much in the media and there is a very brief window of opportunity to submit it. If you haven't done so already, you are out of luck. The application needs to be completed and sent in by now to be considered.

The process includes filling out a LENGTHY questionaire (13 pages), that asks some pretty probing questions about you and your partner.

Then you have to make a 3 minute video explaining why you want to be on the race. The video needs to be labeled a certain way to be considered.

Then you need a 'current' picture of you and your partner. Thank goodness I had my last Polaroid with some film left in it. A group photo at arms length did the trick.

Then there was the issue of the passports. Can't go globetrotting without one these days. Se we had to fill out the passport applications, go to Kinko's for PassPort photos, go back to Kinko's for more Passport Photos (besides immigration, The Amazing Race wanted a set as well).

When we got the passport office, we found that my Birth Cerfiticate wasn't 'official', so we had to run to my mothers house and dig out the real copy and then run back to the passport office to submit all the passport paperwork. We needed receipts from the passport office to show proof that we had applied for passports to include in The Amazing Race application packet.

We did all this in under 4 days. I think we should get a consolation prize just for making the effort. Maybe a weekend in a shack near Barstow courtesy of Travelocity?

Now we wait to hear if we make it to the first interview round. We probably won't, but at least we know what it is like to make the effort, and we finally got around to getting our passports.

We are currently neck and neck with Kathy and her sister over at The Junk Drawer. If we were to both make it onto the race, hell just might freeze over. We would be entertaining to watch, that is for sure.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Essential Cinema - 29

Great Expectations

John Mills
Tony Wager
Valerie Hobson
Jean Simmons
Bernard Miles
Francis L. Sullivan
Finlay Currie
Martita Hunt
Alec Guinness
Ivor Barnard
Freda Jackson
Eileen Erskine
George Hayes

David Lean

Charles Dickens (novel)
Anthony Havelock-Allan (adaptation)

Guy Green

A poor orphan is given the chance to become an English Gentlemen by an anonymous patron in Victorian England. Along the way he discovers how the deeds of his past have shaped his future.

No good deed goes un-noticed, and good character and devotion have their merits in the end. Sometime we chart our own course in life and other times it is charted for us.

I am a big fan of David Lean's work. Along with Stanley Kubrick, Robert Wise, Federico Fellini and Steven Spielberg, they have taken the art of film making to new levels. This is the reason that I wanted to see this film. An early work of Lean's with Charles Dickens as the inspiration. I was not disappointed.

As I started watching this film, all of the Lean trademarks started to shine through even at this early stage of his career. The beautiful cinematography, the framing of the character, the pacing were all there. After the first 10 minutes I was hooked on this film and couldn't stop watching it.

The characters are classical Dickens, eccentric and quirky. The look of the film is a dream-like 18th Century England where some of the scenes of London look as though they were from a Disney film. Each of the actors gives a strong performances. The best performance is turned in by Francis L. Sullivan as Mr. Jaggers, the puppet master attorney that is entrusted with overseeing Pips transformation from country bumpkin to high society gentlemen.

I didn't realize it until I was reading the credits that the character of Mr. Pocket is played by a very young Alec Guinness. The actor that portrayed Colonel Nickelson on "Bridge on the River Kawi", King Fisal in "Laurence of Arabia" and Obi-Wan Kenobi in "Star Wars", is a young man of 20 and is just recognizable in this film.

There is little to detract from this film, with the exception of a few scenes that are thrown in to appease the Dicken's purist. These scenes serve to highlight quirky and odd ball characters in the Dicken's universe, but do little to move the plot forward. Over all a very good film that was much better than I expected, with engaging characters and a plot that will keep you guessing until the very end.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Essential Cinema - 28


Nastassja Kinski
Peter Firth
Leigh Lawson
John Collin
Rosemary Martin
Carolyn Pickles
Richard Pearson
David Markham
Pascale de Boysson
Suzanna Hamilton

Roman Polanski

GĂ©rard Brach
Roman Polanski
John Brownjohn

Ghislain Cloquet
Geoffrey Unsworth


A poor girl in late 1800s England is used and abused in her search for love, affection and devotion.


True love is an allusive thing and the rules and morals of an upper class society makes some men into real jerks. Sometimes following your heart can be a difficult road with a lot of dead ends and pitfalls.

I watched this film back in college when it first came out. I was a fan of Roman Polanski's work and this was his first film after 'Chinatown' which is one of my all time favorites. I recall that this was a long (almost 3 hours) film that was very slow and beautifully shot. Since I was more interested in car chases and explosion in my youth, I didn't recall this as being a very good film.

Since age tempers a lot of our youthful interests, the second viewing of this film was a much different experience. This is a slow film but it has to be. Life was much more methodical and personal in the rural countryside of Victorian England. The script and acting are very intimate and you really get to know the characters as the story unfolds on the screen. The subtle tone of this film is amazing and the level of detail actually makes you believe you are in 1890s England.

The two lead characters played by Nastassja Kinski (Tess) and Peter Firth (Angel) do an exceptional job. Kinski's character is extremely shy and withdrawn. Firth is also engaging in his subtle portrayal of a preachers son trying to find the meaning of life. It is obvious from watching the film that Polanski was infatuated with Nastassja Kinski. He lingers on her in many shots and for good reason. She portrays the perfect heroine; virginal, pure and very beautiful.

The cinematography in this film is even more beautiful the second time around. The surreal scene of a fox hunt emerging from the mist in front of Tess as she walks down a deserted country road is mesmerizing on several levels. The end scene at Stonehenge with the rising sun casting long shadows as the final credits roll is truly breathtaking. There are countless other scenes like this that give the film and almost dream-like quality.

In the end the viewer feels sorry for Tess as she is led away. She is more a victim of circumstance and the callousness of others than of her own doing. But the world of rural Victorian England was not a nice place, especially if you were poor, naive and very beautiful.

Thursday, May 8, 2008


"MY" Final Passion

I won't be posting much for the next couple of days. I am working on a project that is taking a bit of my time away from writing. As I had mentioned in some previous posts, I am changing the focus of my Essential Cinema series to my collection of LaserDiscs. In order to do so, I have been going through the whole collection and cataloging them.

My collection is being archived and updated at a website devoted to lunatics like me that devote themselves to projects of by-gone eras. If you want to check out the status of my collection you can click the logo above to look over it. I should have it completed within the next 10 days or so. I am still reviewing some of these films as I write this and the next installment will be along about the time that the collection archive is complete.

If anyone has a fancy to see any specific film reviewed, drop me a comment or an e-mail. Currently, I have about 220 LaserDiscs in the collection and it seems to be getting bigger every day.

In the meantime, this has given me cause to pause and consider a blog that I wrote about such lunatic devotion a few years ago. This won't be my Final Passion, but it will probably be one of them.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Essential Cinema - 27

49th Parallel

Richard George
Eric Portman
Raymond Lovell
Niall MacGinnis
Peter Moore
John Chandos
Basil Appleby
Laurence Olivier
Glynis Johns
Leslie Howard

Michael Powell

Emeric Pressburger
Rodney Ackland

Freddie Young

A shipwrecked U-boat crew hikes across Canada during 1941 in an attempt to make it back to the Fatherland.

Differences in ideology and lifestyle are contrasted by a band of Nazis and the down-home plains-folk they encounter as the Germans try and escape across North America. A propaganda film that is meant to show the differences between democracy and dictatorship.

At first, I didn't know what to make of this film. It started a bit slow and didn't really seem to have a focus. Add to this, the early appearance of Laurence Oliver as a French-Canadian trapper who was a bit on the irritating side. This may have been accurate, since I haven't met many French-Canadian trappers. For all I know, they may indeed by pompous, arrogant jerks.

After the first half hour of the film, it settles down into a 'journey' film about the Nazis and all the people they meet along the way. Each encounter is meant to show the differences in the ideology between the two nationalities. With each successive encounter, the Nazis are whittled down by desertion, capture or death.

The more the film went on, the more comical the Nazis became. At almost every encounter the Germans took the opportunity to glorify the master plans of Der Fuhrer. After every fiery speech glorifying the Nazi ideal they are met with blank stares from the locals who see them as mindless robots that have no clue about the the world they find themselves in.

The film is an early tour-de-force for some great talent. Laurence Oliver is young and a bit too edgy in his role as the trapper. Leslie Howard (after his stint as Ashley Wilkes in Gone With The Wind) is engaging as the odd ball writer living in the woods and studying indians. I didn't realize it until I was reading the credits, but the young girl on the Huterite farm is a very young Glynis Johns (I had a crush on her as a kid). Raymond Massey is out of his usual character as an AWOL Canadian soldier. The cinematography is by Freddie Young, who went on to Oscar fame in some of the classic Hollywood films of the 1950s. Last but not least is a score by Raugh Van Williams.

In the end, this is a morality tale meant to show Canadians what they were fighting for in WWII. Some of the cinematography is beautiful and the acting is entertaining if not somewhat over done in places. The title to the film refers to the border between the United States and Canada. At the end of the film, the remaining Nazis try to escape into the United States (which had not yet entered the war). Needless to say, the United States saves the day but not in the way you might expect. This was an entertaining film that left me smiling but its message might be lost on the younger viewers of today.

Friday, May 2, 2008

The Human Billboard

(What are you worth?)

Product placement is the watch word today. Advertising is everywhere. Watch an old movie from the 1940s or 1950s. You can't tell what brand of scotch they are drinking or who made the cigarettes they are smoking. The world was generic back then. Everything was from the Mom and Pop corner drug store and the fresh veggies were straight off the farm.

Now everything is marketed. Product placement and envy sell the goods. It isn't how good they are but how they are packaged.

There is a business to advertising, so much so, that the act of advertising itself has become a way of making money.

The concept of becoming a human billboard is now commonplace. I see people advertising beer, automobiles, clothing and musicans on a daily basis. The images are emblazoned on their shirts, sweaters, hats and shoes. Isn't it idiocy to pay someone else so you can advertise for them? Are we value-less to the point where we will give ourselves away to aid someone else in making a profit?

Michael Jorden and Tiger Woods are paid millions to wear clothes and drive cars from various manufactuers. Why is it that we are lead to beleive that for us to wear those same clothes or use those same tools we have to PAY for them.

If Tiger Woods gets $10 million dollars to wear the Nike logo on his shirt, then I am owed at least $55 a year to wear it (after all I can't drive a ball 400 yards like Tiger, but I am pretty darn smart). So why are most folks willing to PAY Nike $45 to wear one of their shirts? Why do I pay $40 to wear a hat with the Lotus logo on it? I give their dealer thousands of dollars a year to maintain my car. You would think that they would PAY ME to advertise for them. Isn't this like giving the mugger a baseball bat to beat you up with while he is robbing you?

The concept that there are legions of people out there (most of them young and impressionable) that are willing to pay money so they can emulate their idols sort of approaches mass insanity. From now on I am wearing all black or all white.....and maybe a plaid or a paisley once in a while........and I will still be wearing that Lotus hat........curse my spinelss ego!!!