Friday, June 27, 2008

Essential Cinema - 34

(Portequese with English Subtitles)

Bye Bye Brazil

José Wilker
Betty Faria
Fábio Júnior
Zaira Zambelli
Príncipe Nabor

Carlos Diegues

Carlos Diegues
Leopoldo Serran

Lauro Escorel

SYNOPSIS: A small band of circus performers drift through the hinterlands of 1970s Brazil looking for opportunity and freedom.

CONCEPT IN RELATION TO THE VIEWER: Escaping your everyday life and throwing caution to the wind to chase your dreams. Only to find out that your dreams aren't what you thought and that there is a big difference between lust and love.

This is an interesting film on several levels. It shows a part of the world that is quickly disappearing. The idea that you can run off into undeveloped country and live off your wits and the kindness / stupidity of others is quickly fading in modern society. That wasn't the case in 1970s Brazil where the vast interior was full or opportunity and little else.

In this film a young man and his pregnant wife flee the poverty of rural Brazil to join the CARNIVAL ROLIDEI, a rag-tag group consisting of a charasmatic con man, his dancer / prostiute girlfriend and a mute strong-man. They travel the dirt roads of Brazil, seeking peasents that are easily entertained by their simple tricks and lusty burleaque shows. Along the way, the young man and his wife come to question their fidelity and their expectations about life and one another.

The film is shot on location and the performances are very good. There is a surreal quality to the imagery that owes a tip of the hat to Federico Fellini. There is also something about the Porteguese langauge that is very lyrical, especially the title song that is heard throughout the film and over the end credits.

The underlying message is that freedom is not an easy thing to find. Escaping from the trappings of modern society, escaping from the trappings of your own lifestyle and the escape from the ones you love is almost impossible. None of these characters wants to be tied down, but they are tied to the desires that are at their core. They all learn from each other in the end.

This film reminds me why I have the desire to take off and see new lands where I have never been and be amazed at the unknown that I have never seen, and why in the end, I always return to my home, where I feel safe.

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

Clicking on the "Essential Cinema" title will take you to the Internet Movie Database entry for this film.

Clicking here will take you to a listing of all the "Essential Cinema" reviews in my Blog.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Long 'Electronic' Arm Of The Law

Laws? What Laws?

Meet Jennifer. She is a typical resident of Phoenix, Arizona. Vapid, Selfish, Ignorant and fast as a bat out of hell.

Since many of you don't live here in the arid and hot desert southwest, you won't know about the concept of "Speed Cameras". Since we have more cars than we know what to do with around here and not nearly enough police officers to chase them all down, we have chosen the cheaper more effective route of putting up automated-unmanned speed radar cameras on most of our freeways around town.

If they catch you going over the speed limit, they take your picture and a speeding ticket is sent to the registered owner of the car based on the license plate number. What the state didn't realize at the time was just how many people were actually speeding. Not to mention the flaw in the logic, that if you loan your car to your neighbor and they drive like Mario Andretti and get flashed doing 110mph, YOU get the ticket. It is a wonderful system.

Espeically when Jennifer comes to town. Jennifer needs a bit of therapy in my opinion, or at least a stint in one of our lovely jails. The article from the Arizona Republic newspaper is attached below. Clicking on the title will take you to the papers webpage.

Way to Go Jennifer!

SCOTTSDALE - Photo enforcement cameras on Scottsdale's Loop 101 captured a woman speeding 22 times before officers arrested her, state officials said Tuesday.

Jennifer Bitton, 24, of Las Vegas, was arrested by Arizona Department of Public Safety officers Friday on suspicion of criminal speeding, reckless driving and endangerment.

During a 45-day period starting in May, the woman was captured by photo enforcement cameras on Loop 101 in Scottsdale 22 times, with her top speed at 92 mph, DPS officials said.

Bitton was living in the Valley temporarily when officers arrested her at her parent's north Scottsdale home, officials said.

“Photo enforcement exists to help slow people down, thereby ensuring the safety of everyone on the road,” DPS Director Roger Vanderpool said in a statement. “Sadly, some drivers have no regard for the safety of others as they continue to recklessly speed.”

During four months in 2006, a Chandler woman racked up more than 70 speeding tickets on Scottsdale's Loop 101.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Its MY Day Off!!!

When Photo Chemicals meet Paint Stripper

I love my wife. Gotta love her since she puts up with me and all my quirks (and vice versa). She is creative, compassionate, caring, knows how to cook a minute steak and actually grins when I make bachelor food and pretends to enjoy eating it.

Over the course of our marriage we have learned to give and take and have made a lot of adjustments. We both have a lot of "projects". She tends to work on the house which usually involves painting things. Well, actually painting everything. In my wife's world 'beige' is a naughty word. So when she has a day off, she is usually priming, painting, stripping or something related to it.

In my world, I am usually in the garage underneath my car, or doing some woodworking, developing film or working on the lawn / garden. It is safe to say that our two worlds are mutually exclusive.

When these two worlds overlap, it is sort of like matter and anti-matter colliding. Stripping paint does not go well with developing film, and removing light fixtures to paint around them is not conducive to tracking down an electrical problem in the Lotus.

I am a long time civil servant, which means I get about 4 days off a month (hey, I have earned it!). My wife works for a very good employer that values her employees more than making money (I used to work for an employer like that back in the 70s!) and she usually gets one day off a week. So we have come to the conclusion that we should NEVER take the same day off. When we do, the matter and anti-matter collide and it is not pretty. My wife does her thing on her day off, I do mine on my day off and never the two shall met.

If you see a bright flash or feel the earth rumble there is a 50/50 chance that it is an earthquake or my wife and I have scheduled the same day off to work on projects.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Essential Cinema - 33

A River Runs Through It

Craig Sheffer
Brad Pitt
Tom Skerritt
Brenda Blethyn
Emily Lloyd

Robert Redford

Norman Maclean (story)
Richard Friedenberg (screenplay)

Philippe Rousselot

The story of two brothers is told in narrative flashback. The film is set in Montana at the turn of the century. It explores the bonds that tie their family together and the differences that drive them apart against the backdrop of a beautiful landscape.

Understanding what binds us to one another and understanding how seemingly simple things are the glue that cement our relationships to one another even as we chart different courses in our lives.

This is a film that I had seen before and I wanted to watch it again to see if it was still as good as I remembered it. It is a good film, although it is very subtle and introspective. This was one of Robert Redford's first attempts at movie making from behind the camera. He does not appear on screen but does lend his voice as the narrator.

Without giving too much away, this is a film about fly fishing. Not the art of fishing itself, but how a common, shared experience brings people together regardless of how much they grow apart. In this film, the two brothers grow into men of different temperaments and ideals. However, both of them share the same life long passion that was taught to them by their father.

This passion is the unseen thread that holds the family together. Many families have this type of thread but it can take different forms. The mother driving her daughter to figure-skating practice week after week which eventually stretches into years. The father and son that tinker on their 57 Chevy for decades in the garage. The things that seem meaningless at first, but when looked back upon, create a continuity that makes us who we are at our core.

This film is exceptional in many ways. As a period piece, it makes the viewer long to live in rural Montana before World War I. Tom Skerritt as the father and the young Brad Pitt as his younger son give exceptional performances. I found the older son played by Craig Sheffer to be a bit emotionless and repressed. His love affair with the home town girl appears a bit forced at times and does not appear to move the plot forward much.

In the end, the eldest son stands along in the river where so much was learned and you can sense his anguish at what he has lost during the course of his life. The final lines of the film pretty much sum it up. "In the end, all things run together into one, and a river runs through it. And if you listen to the waters you can hear their voices.......I am haunted by waters." All in all, a beautiful film that makes us pause at the end and think about what is really important.

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

Clicking on the "Essential Cinema" title will take you to the Internet Movie Database entry for this film.

Clicking here will take you to a listing of all the "Essential Cinema" reviews in my Blog.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Black "Velvet"

Are you a benevolent deity, or a vengeful wraith?

We got to play god this week. While trying to save gas and be more socially responsible, my wife decided to bite the bullet and take the bus to work. While waiting for the bus near a busy downtown intersection, she saw this little fellow shivering in the bushes.

With semi-trucks rolling by just 10 feet away and the temperature soaring to over 100 degrees this time of year, it was a no brainer that this 10 week old was not long for this world. Being the 'cat person that she is, she promptly called me on her cell phone and had me come and get her so we could take the kitten to the vet, and eventually to our home.

Holding this little kitten in the palm of your hand is a humbling experience. At first she was pretty much out of it. Dehydrated, confused, scared, pick a bad physical or mental state and she probably fell into any of the categories. Her experiences with the world up to the day we found her hadn't been too pleasant.

So here are these frightened little green eyes looking up at you and wondering, "Whats next?", and you realize just how powerful we can be and what an awesome responsibility it is. We could give her life or we could cast her away. She really didn't have any say in the matter. Her only lifeline was compassion. Without it she would be dead.

She was lucky that day. My wife has compassion to spare and she was in the right place at the right time.

We like to think that almost any intelligent being would have some degree of compassion, but the sad truth is many don't. Murderous pedophiles, abusive parents that abandon their children, terrorist that drive explosive laden trucks into hotels, none of these people have any compassion. For them, the world is an awful place where they fight for scraps of food, think only of satisfying their needs and murdering for their god. Any one of these people would have tossed the kitten away as a distraction.

After resting in her own private air-conditioned room, getting some medication and food, the kitten is now starting to explore her new world. She is curious and purring and after the initial shock of being taken in by strangers, she never wants to be left alone. She is wide eyed and innocent and appears to know no fear. In a word, I guess she is as pure as you can get in this world.

There is a warm feeling that you get when you are someones benevolent deity. Saving something and giving it hope and security is a very powerful thing. I am starting to believe that we have so many problems in this world because many people are never taught to do this.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Two Types

I Think He Is Pro-Active, I'd Give Him A Buck

I don't know how many times I have related these axioms to my family and friends, so I thought it was time to write them down. Once I am dead and gone, I won't be able to pass them on, so hopefully the internet will let them live on indefinitely. (yeah, right)

Despite all the schooling and learning I have done throughout my life there have been some key concepts that all my instructors have left out. These are the concepts that I had to learn for myself. I suppose we all do. Writing them down just doesn’t have the same impact.

"There Are Two Types Of People In This World". How many times have we heard this in some form or another?

I was almost in my 30s before this concept started to sink in. The concept is figuring out the two types of people and learning how to spot them. Because let's face it, people are sneaky. They don't want you to know what type they are. It would give you an advantage and that just isn't fare.

The classic 'type' test, is the old psychologist question, "Is the glass filled half way to the top, Half Empty or Half Full?" Based on your answer, your personality could be categorized as either optimistic (half full) or pessimistic (half empty). While we can't ask everyone we meet this question, we can learn to be more observant of those around us and look for the clues.

Here are some of the 'categories' that I have come up with over the years to define the "Two Types" of people:

Positive People / Negative People:
Positive people tend to be happy and independent. Negative people tend to do a lot of complaining and also tend to seek out each other and find comfort in each other's misery.

Proactive People / Inactive People:
Proactive folks tend to be problem solvers and thinkers. Inactive folks tend to expect others to do things for them and usually come across as being somewhat 'needy'.

Optimistic People / Pessimistic People:
Optimists are usually looking forward to the possibilities that a new day or a new challenge brings. Pessimists usually look backward at the negatives and project them into the future. An Optimist looks at the sunrise and thinks what a beautiful day! The Pessimist remembers that yesterday sucked, and so will today.

Conscientious People / Inconsiderate People:
Conscientious folks tend to be aware of their surroundings and their environment and understand the impact they have on it. Inconsiderate people see the world as theirs and do whatever they want. They do not see the relationship that there actions (or inactions) have on others.

Questioning People / Habit People:
These are folks that look for a better ways to do things and question what they are told. Then there are the people who do things repetitively and never question why or how they do what they do. The Questioners want to design the grand scheme and solve the problems, the Habit People want to work on the assembly line.

Open People / Repressed People:
Open people admit their flaws and misgivings and try to come to terms with them on an ongoing basis. Repressed people tend to be in denial about what has happened to them which often manifests extreme behavior such as depression, alcoholism and abuse.

This can best be summed up by a co-worker I once had. Every day she would come to work and for the first 2 hours she would go from office to office complaining about what an awful place it was to work in. Then at 10am, she would take her cigarette break, go to the bathroom and then go shopping for 2 hours and have lunch. At 2pm, she returned to the office to answer a few phone calls and then go home.

I eventually learned that the opposite of her behavior was to try and find some 'little' thing in the office that I could do better every day. The concept being, that after a few months my job would be better and more enjoyable. I was right. My job got better and I got promoted. The ex-coworker is on her 5th job since then and she is still complaining.

So the next time you get a new neighbor or they hire someone new at your office, apply the following questions to them after a few weeks. Based on your answers you will know if you should avoid them or not.

Positive / Proactive / Optimistic / Conscientious
/ Questioning and Open


Negative / Inactive / Pessimistic / Inconsiderate / Habitual / Repressed

Monday, June 9, 2008

Essential Cinema - 32

Dirty Harry

Clint Eastwood
Harry Guardino
Reni Santoni
John Vernon
Andrew Robinson
John Larch
John Mitchum

Don Siegel

Harry Julian Fink
Rita M. Fink
Dean Riesner

Bruce Surtees

A San Francisco Police Investigator hunts down a psychotic serial killer in the 1970s.

Sometimes you have to break the rules in order to do the right thing. Dealing with the endless red tape that comes from living and working in a bloated and spineless bureaucracy. Coming to terms with the frustrations that we all must face at some point in our lives.

This film is iconic. It set the standard for the 'new' cop/buddy films that were to follow it like a stampede. Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, L.A. Confidential and a slew of others owe their origins to this film. This film solidified Clint Eastwood as a major presence in Hollywood.

This is a film that we have all seen (probably numerous times). It has been a staple of television and cable for years. However, the version I watched on Laserdisc was the uncut original film that I don't believe is seen much these days. This film is easily censored and shortened in order to make more time for commercials and to fit into a 2 hour time slot. After watching this version, there were scenes that I don't recall having seen in the past. Scenes that don't add to the plot, but do flush out the character of Harry Callahan more and make him more complex than I remembered.

In this original version, Harry has a lot of inner demons and is not a nice guy. He is bigoted in a very politically incorrect way. There are racial slurs and references to ethnic stereotypes all through the film. There is also a lot of casual nudity in the background which is something that censors and advertises eagerly cut out to get this film on public television.

Along with "Bullitt" (Steve McQueen's police drama, also set in San Francisco), this film redefined the role of the police from angelic and efficient protector of the populace to the anti-hero where the rogue cop fights not only crime but his own department to get the job done.

Several things stand out in this film. First of all is the wonderful melding of Lalo Schifrin's musical score with John Surtee's camera work. They bring an intimate sense of voyeurism and hip-ness to 1970 San Francisco. Going back to when I first saw this film, I have always been impressed by Scorpio (the serial killer in the film) played by Andrew Robinson. Even at the age of 10 I was curious why he didn't get an Oscar nomination. He scared the bejesus out of me and still does.

As with anything successful (Rocky, Die Hard, Rambo), this film spawned 4 follow-up works all staring Clint Eastwood. The later films are somewhat curious after seeing the first film. At the end of "Dirty Harry", Harry Callahan, throws away his badge and as he has hinted all throughout the film, gives up his life as a police officer. Having disobeyed the police commissioner, the mayor and his supervisor, it seems unlikely that they would have kept him on the force. But then again, box office receipts are a powerful motivator.

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

Clicking on the "Essential Cinema" title will take you to the Internet Movie Database entry for this film.

Clicking here will take you to a listing of all the "Essential Cinema" reviews in my Blog.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Essential Cinema - 31

The Misfits

Clark Gable
Marilyn Monroe
Montgomery Clift
Thelma Ritter
Eli Wallach

John Huston

Arthur Miller

Russell Metty

Four direction-less drifters meet up in Reno, Nevada. They wander the desert in search of freedom and eventually redefine their expectations.

Coming to terms with who we are and what we want out of life. Admitting to our inner demons and casting them out into the light of day.

What do you get when you take a great director, the greatest playwright of his generation and three of the hottest stars in Hollywood? You get this film. The last film of Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe.

It is difficult to describe this film. It is definitely worth watching, but explaining what it is to someone that has not seen it is almost impossible. Like previous films I have reviewed that were intimate character studies (Night of the Iguana and L'avventura), there really is no 'arch' in this film. There is no beginning, middle and conclusion.

These are troubled individuals before the advent of counseling and therapy. Lord knows, each of them would be on a psychiatrists couch for decades. But in the early 1960s, the wide open spaces of Nevada is the couch and the characters must counsel each other.

It is no secret that Arthur Miller penned this screenplay for this wife, Marylin Monroe. The acting in the film is excellent. I mean really good. Marilyn Monroe was no bimbo. She knew how to act and her character borders between virginal, ditzy and very intense. Clift and Gable are exceptional as the aging cowboys trying to make a living without resorting to 'wages'. The young Eli Wallach is intense and cocky as the recently widowed ex-army pilot on the rebound.

All the men are vying for the affections of Monroe's character. She stumbles into their midst and breaths a breath of fresh air into their meandering lives, like smelling salts to a drowsy patient. But she has her demons as well and together they must all sort things out, but it isn't an easy road. In the end, some of the cast 'get it' and move on, but their fate is left up to the viewer.

Time changes our views of some films. I saw this film a long time ago when I was younger. Back then, I went into a film expecting to see certain things, and my opinion of the film was based on what I hoped to see. Now, I go into a viewing trying to figure out what the director was trying to tell me and looking for the subtle things that youth don't tend to look for. In that regard, this film is a treasure trove of content with metaphor and symbolism in almost every scene. The last of which is Monroe's final line on screen, "How do you find your way home in the dark?" You will have to see this film to figure that one out.

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

Clicking on the "Essential Cinema" title will take you to the Internet Movie Database entry for this film.

Clicking here will take you to a listing of all the "Essential Cinema" reviews in my Blog.