Coronaviraschooling: Day 8

So every day of this last week, their first at home because of the coronavirus lockdown, the boys and I (and sometimes my beautiful wife) have taken a poem and hand-copied it to keep up with our handwriting and to talk about poetry. We started with “If” by Rudyward Kipling, and apparently it’s a thing now because I’ve seen it on a couple different blogs (here and here this very week). I was going to have them do “The Gods of Copybook Headings”, but it’s pretty long–“If” took the slowest writer an hour (complaining included).

So we did a couple of shorter poems–a sonnet by Edna St. Vincent Millay, “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost, “Ozymandias” by Shelley on Friday.

Continuing the theme of Romantic poets writing about ancient Asian things, yesterday we went with “Kubla Khan” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge:

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
    Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round;
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail:
And mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean;
And ’mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!
    The shadow of the dome of pleasure
    Floated midway on the waves;
    Where was heard the mingled measure
    From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!

    A damsel with a dulcimer
    In a vision once I saw:
    It was an Abyssinian maid
    And on her dulcimer she played,
    Singing of Mount Abora.
    Could I revive within me
    Her symphony and song,
    To such a deep delight ’twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

After about an hour (including complaining), we finished. We talked about the rhyme scheme, the meter, and the way the poet uses strange contractions to make meter. I mentioned that Coleridge is best known for writing the Iron Maiden song “Rime of the Ancient Mariner“.

And then we watched the film version of the poem.

I told my beautiful wife I had just picked it up. Wherein “just” in this case means three years ago.

My wife and youngest son watched the whole thing with me; the oldest son wandered off, and when he returned, he asked what was happening, as though it was making real sense between the Olivia Newton-John numbers. We told him it would have made more sense if he hadn’t missed the animated interlude in the middle. Which was not true, but.

Today, I think we will continue our mythology unit with the 1980 Clash of the Titans.

Confession: I did select “Kubla Khan” just so we would get to watch the movie thereafter. There, I said it.

Coronaviraschooling, Day 1

Today, we had a unit on Sophocles and Aeschylus.

As I have mentioned before, in the days before cable and the Internet, you really had a limited selection of things to watch, and we watched Hercules and Hercules Unchained on Saturday and Sunday afternoons along with a whole host of peplum. Although I remember the Sinbad movies as well, but it looks like those were not products of the 1960s but the 1970s. And a whole bunch of Zorro.

I like recapturing those Saturday and Sunday afternoons when I find a film like this one at some yard sale or another and watching it, sometimes with my boys (who don’t mind the old films so much since I’ve inured them to it with viewings of old films like The Iron Mask and National Velvet).

And then I do a little research and learn tidbits of trivia (“research” means I read the Wikipedia entry for Steve Reeves) and learned Internet truths like he was the highest paid actor in the world in his day and that he was considered for the roles of Doctor No and The Man With No Name.

Neat stuff.

But, clearly, I am not watching the old films as fast as I thought I would at the beginning of last year. Perhaps the coronacation will allow me to catch up a bit.

Awaiting the Friar Verdict

Spenser Confidential review – Mark Wahlberg crash lands on Netflix:

caper called Spenser Confidential, is the kind of film that evaporates as it’s being watched, destined never to be thought of again. It’s regrettable given those involved, from director Peter Berg, who has worked with Wahlberg four times before, including on 2016’s criminally underseen Deepwater Horizon, to writer Brian Helgeland, who won an Oscar for his LA Confidential script before getting nominated for Mystic River. It’s also a story based around a much-loved private eye created by Robert B Parker, one who provided inspiration to crime authors such as Dennis Lehane and Harlan Coben. But it would take a master sleuth to detect any of that pedigree in the finished product.

Robert Urich is still my Spenser. I’ve seen the Joe Mantegna television movies and don’t remember hating them, but, as I mentioned, the Spenser: For Hire television series turned me onto the Spenser books in the first place.

Which means the progression for this IP was television series > books. And I liked both as their own things.

I don’t have Netflix, so I’ll have to wait for Friar to weigh in on it. It sounds like they’ve made some, erm, changes. But they’ve got a native Boston speaker to do it.

UPDATE: The wait is over.

Spotting the Movie Mistake

GREAT SCOTT! Back To The Future stars Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd have heartwarming reunion for ‘poker night’:

BACK to the Future stars Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd first captured imaginations on screen in Back To The Future in 1985.

And the much-loved stars – who played Marty McFly and Doc Brown respectively – were reunited 35 years later on Wednesday.

Fox, 58, and 81-year-old Lloyd posed for a picture at the annual charity poker tournament organised by Fox.

Can someone tell me what might be misleading about this photo and caption?

Continue reading “Spotting the Movie Mistake”

Eight Years Later,

In 2012, I posted a list of the top 100 movies of the year and made a quiz of it, identifying which I had seen.

Back then, the total was two.

Eight years on, the total is now five as I have seen The Dark Knight Rises, Ted, and John Carter.

Looking over the list, I might make out another dozen that I would be interested in seeing in the next decade, assuming that the DVDs are still available on the 2 for $1 shelf at the local video store. And that I end up going back to the video store regularly before it finally converts to a full-time CBD distributor and eventually closes.

Military Scientists Make The Sword and The Sorcerer Prototype A Reality

US air forces in Syria use rare Hellfire missile to kill two targets:

The projectile used in the attack in Atmeh is believed to be a rare Hellfire missile known as the AGM-114R9X — which instead of a traditional warhead, has sword-like blades that protrude out of it, according The Warzone.

Video of the field trials below:

If it were lasers, you know I’d have gone with Real Genius.

The Source of That Thing Daddy Always Says (IX)

In the mornings, I have a couple (or six) cups of coffee. But sometime in the mid-morning, I have decided I’ve had enough, and I switch to water. I lay up a dozen or so liters of sparkling or mineral water per week, generally Mountain Valley but Perrier if I don’t get to the southeast corner of Springfield, where Lucky’s Market looks to be the only place stocking Mountain Valley these days.

I have taken to calling the sparkling water Fizzy Bubbly with a mock Israeli accent. Because that’s how Adam Sandler says it in Don’t Mess With The Zohan.

Here, the woman who plays Sandler’s love interest offers him one.

I know, I know, it’s dubbed in German, but you can hear it named. Watch the clip now, because sometime soon the Copyright Patrols will recognize it as “protected” material even in German.

I watched the film again earlier this year because my oldest son has been on a Sandler kick, and I wasn’t sure whether this film was appropriate for young people.

Spoiler alert: Oh, but no.

But when my boys see it, sometime after they turn 21, they will recognize the source of my nickname for sparkling water.

Spoiler Alert: Nah, Brah

When some unrelated research leads you to an article about a long-awaited event.

Which, five years on, still hasn’t happened. The project (or a project) remains in development. Which means I can recycle this post in five years.

Although, who knows? Stranger things have happened. They did finally make a Parker movie (well, two, if you count Payback). But not a series of films.

One wonders if these older properties have enough of a movie-going fan base to make them worthwhile.

Speaking of 80s Movies

Since we were just talking about 80s movies, I saw this image on Facebook and thought it would make a good quiz:

I won’t bother to type them all out because I am lazy, but allow me to identify the ones I have not seen and why.

  • Friday the 13th: I think in my slasher movie days, which is to say in the days when my friends wanted to see slasher movies or my friend’s father wanted to watch slasher movies so he rented a couple for us when we slept over at his house, that I might have missed the first in the series although I caught most of the middle of the first ten.
  • Steel Magnolias because it’s a chick flick and no chick I’ve been with since the 1980s has insisted upon watching it with me.
  • Raging Bull which is more of a 70s film according to zeitgeist, ainna? At any rate, I just haven’t come across it cheaply at a book sale or anything.
  • Broadcast News because it looked kinda preachy, and I haven’t sought it out.
  • Mystic Pizza. See above comment about Steel Magnolias.
  • Flashdance. A dancing movie. To be honest, I’ve not seen Footloose either. I guess I dodge movies that look to be dancing movies that were made after, what, 1960?

That’s six movies I’ve not seen out of 36, which is 30 of 36 or 83%.

Not bad since the ones I mentioned are chick flicks and whatnot.

I’ve seen Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Weird Science, and Die Hard within the last year. I’m hoping to see The Goonies and Top Gun with my children soon. A couple others on the list I’ll consider revisiting. A couple, like The Evil Dead and Heathers I’ll probably never need to see again. Of the ones I have not seen, Flashdance and Raging Bull are most likely and Friday the 13th is the most likely to not.

Babylon Bee Apparently Didn’t See Juwana Mann

Babylon Bee: Promising New Prospect Lebronna James Expected To Dominate WNBA.

Clearly, the youngsters over there missed the 2002 film Juwanna Mann.

Which I saw in the theater because I’m a big Miguel A. Núñez, Jr., fan.

Well, I remembered him from the television show Tour of Duty anyway.

Oh, the movies I took my beautiful wife to in the theater back in the day.

She drew the line at A Night at the Roxbury, though.

Country Stars in the Movies

I’ve talked about how old football players in movies, and as I was just thinking about Jerry Reed’s role in The Waterboy, and I thought about what country stars made pretty good names for themselves in films.

I mean, we do have Jerry Reed, of course, who played major characters in The Waterboy and the Smokey and the Bandit movies (all three), but his other roles seem smaller and on television. So if the threshold is five, Jerry Reed isn’t on the list.

Dwight Yoakum, in addition to singing songs that stick with one, was in a plethora of movies as a major character, including Sling Blade, Panic Room, and many more. So he would be on the list.

Kenny Rogers was in a number of television movies based on his songs, notably The Gambler (series) and Coward of the County. But does television movies count?

George Strait, stretching himself in playing a country singer in Pure Country is not.

Nor is Trace Adkins, known at Nogglestead mostly for An American Carol where he played a minor role, although he has an ouevre that is growing.

Johnny Cash was in a number of television roles, but they were bit parts.

Dolly Parton was in 9 to 5, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Rhinestone, and Steel Magnolias. And she’s been on television a bunch. Does that count? She’d certainly be above some of the others on the list.

Reba had a successful television show and appeared in a couple of films. Should we call her a television or movie star on the basis of her credits?

Of course, Kris Kristofferson is at the top of the list. He has been in A Star Is Born, Blade (the series), Payback, and so much more. He’s probably the patron saint of country stars who became movie stars.

So who am I missing? Who from country music has moved into movies and had success playing roles other than bit roles and other than himself/herself?

What MAME Cabinet Is He Playing?

A story at Hollywood in Toto claims ‘The Last Starfighter’ – Still the Best Video Game Movie, and I cannot argue with the premise as I have logically proven The Last Starfighter is better than Star Wars.

However, I cannot trust any of the authors facts or assertions since he says:

Some helpful exposition clearly explains how the arcade game [The Last Starfighter] works (it’s one of those fun shoot-em-ups with multiple joysticks, a la “Centipede”).

Sweet peas and chicks, Centipede is played with a track ball and fire button.

But I guess not everyone has the advantage of a local arcade with original machines so one could actually have played the game in the last seven months.

Know Your Rips

It’s easy to get confused if you’re me. If you’re not, you probably won’t know either of these guys, so you won’t confuse them.

Rip Torn,
star of Dodge Ball and Men in Black
Rip Taylor,
star of Wayne’s World 2 and a bunch of things I haven’t seen

Only one of them is R.I.P. now, and strangely, it’s Rip Torn, who was the older of the two, although Rip Taylor seemed old in the 1980s.

Not Mentioned: The Other

Kim du Toit links to a story on SFGate with the provocative title Sex is disappearing from the big screen, and it’s making movies less pleasurable.

And it poses an interesting theory:

We know why. With the onset of internet porn, viewers looking for vicarious thrills had instant access to a cheap, private universe of polymorphous gratification. While Hollywood embraced a business model centered around wholesome baby-boomer nostalgia and PG-13 franchises, cable television and streaming services found their own niche, engaging in “Game of Thrones”-like one-up-manship in violence, profanity – and sex.

I’m pretty sure I’ve posited my theory before, but in case I haven’t: You know why Hollywood doesn’t put sex scenes in movies any more or even the formerly obligatory woman’s bare chest in comedies?

Overseas markets.

The cultures or gatekeepers of culture in other parts of the world don’t want that. So nobody gets it.

Like Kim, I’m not really mourning the loss.

I wonder if the gloss over the other cultures’ censors was intentional or thoughtless.

You Can See That Again

So last night, as I was lying in bed trying to go to sleep, my mind continued to whirl in strange directions instead of calming down.

So I started trying to recall films that I saw in the theater more than once.

I suspect it’s because of an exchange I had with a sixteen year old in martial arts class earlier in the evening. We’re working on a self-defense against choking that involves binding the arms and pushing down on the attacker’s neck, and I told him he needed to stretch me out when defending, to straighten his arms, and that I didn’t mind because it made me taller. “I’ll look like E.T. by the end of the night. Hey, have you guys seen this really old movie, E.T.?” Alluding to the latest incarnation of Spider-Man (Remember, gentle reader, the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man, gentle reader, debuted before my training partner was born). I think the young people enjoy it when I “get down” verbally, don’t you?

At any rate, I had E.T. on the brain, and I remembered I’d seen it twice in the theatres. Once with family friends, and once with a guy who dated my mother a couple of times and eventually opted for a woman on the next block in the housing projects–he and his kids and my sainted mother and her kids went to see it in the van that was eventually seen down Florist Avenue a lot.

So I started enumerating films I’ve seen twice in the theater.

  • E.T.

    I guess I told this story above.

  • Star Wars

    Although I did not see this in the theater in 1977, I saw it a couple of times on its re-release in the 1990s. In retrospect, I went to a lot of movies those days and could even see one a couple of times to make a statement.

  • The Empire Strikes Back

    When my sainted mother was in rehab, my father took my brother and I to see this in the theaters on a Sunday evening after we visited her. But we got there late and missed the entire Hoth section of the film, so I would not see that until I saw it on video. I saw this movie the second time when it was re-released in the 1990s, which means it’s the longest time between viewings in the theater (so far).

  • Return of the Jedi

    I would have to have seen this in the theater in its first run and also in the release. Wouldn’t I?

  • The Bodyguard

    This film came out when I was at college and was establishing my identity as a stoic. So this film really fell into my wheelhouse.

  • The Fugitive

    Ibid. I saw this film in the theater with my Milwaukee friends and with some of the college writing kids, including one of my college crushes, when the university showed in in the campus cinema. As we walked out, she whirled to me and said, “You like Gerard.” Well, yeah.

  • The Truman Show

    The most recent entry on this list is from the late 1990s. The place where I worked, my first IT / office job, often left movie passes for employees by the coffee pot, and I grabbed a couple for this. I went with a friend, and then I took my fiancée. The movie really creeped me out as paranoid fiction often does, and although I have it on video, I haven’t watched it in a while. Not only do I go infrequently to movies, but I rarely get to watch videos, either. Although playoff hockey has made me comfortable watching the television for hours at a time in the evening, so perhaps I’ll get more in during the summer.

I came up with as many as I composed this post as I did last night before falling asleep, which should probably be a lesson to me when falling asleep: Just go to sleep, you’re not thinking very well anyway.

So what else might have made this list? I’ve seen Blade Runner in a revival one-night-only showing. Only once?

Films most likely to join these in the future are also things I might see in revivals such as The Maltese Falcon or The Big Sleep or something. I don’t really see myself in the position where I watch a film multiple times in the theater again.

On The Count of Monte Cristo

Book coverWell, it should come full circle: I finished the book last month after having read the comic book adaptation last year sometime, and I was going to run through Villages at Monte Crist again this weekend, so I sat down to watch the 2002 film again (the first time I’ve seen it since seeing it in the theatre in 2002).

Of course, since I just read the book, I had a keen awareness of how the book was compressed. As I mentioned in my review, the long novel really was like a trilogy, with the first part being the unjust arrest and confinement of Edmond Dantès, the middle part is the things that go on during his confinement amongst the other players along with the beginnings of his plots, and the third is the culmination of his plots and his thoughts of whether his revenge is right or not.

The film covers the first part of the book, abbreviated, along with the third, really abbreviated. You can contrast the liberties the film takes with the original storyline, which are many. Alright, it’s about fitting it into a film, so I can see that.

However: As a film, the second half, where the Count of Monte Cristo emerges, saves young Albert from the thieves and is introduced into Paris to seek his abbreviated revenge against Danglars, Villefort, and Fernand Mondego. Which he does with a single plot involving the theft of a shipment of gold.

Which is not like the book at all.

Of course, one cannot judge a two hour film adapted from a one thousand page novel. One should test how the movie hangs on its own.

It’s paced fast enough, and, again, I like the first part, but the last half moves too quickly, really, to have depth (although it has action).

Alterations to the novel’s plot in service of the film treatment are forgiven for the most part, as they tighten the plot for a shorter treatment.

So it’s good enough to watch again, which I probably will with my boys this summer.

A Triple F Musical Throwdown

Harold Faltermeyer was quite the instrumentalist for movie soundtracks in the 1980s, including two from that movie that had a Saturday Night Live alum portraying the title character, an investigator who assumes various comic roles as part of his investigation.

I’m talking about Fletch, of course.

I’m talking about Axel Foley, of course.

I prefer the former due to racism, of course. Also, because it is a little more than the synth progressions of the “Axel F Theme”.

It also made me start enumerating the films where a Saturday Night Live alum starred as a wise-cracking cop or investigator. Between the Fletch and Beverly Hills Cop movies, we’re already up to five. Throw in Taxi, and we’re up to six. Surely there are more, which I’ll give far too much thought and investigation to.

On On the Beach

Book coverWell, I didn’t get to watch this film on the first try, but I did get to watch it after my triathlon class ended.

For those of you unfamiliar with the premise, it’s a film from 1959 where, after a nuclear war, an American submarine comes to Melbourne, Australia, where people are trying to carry on even though the scientists are pretty sure that the fallout will eventually reach Australia and kill them all.

The captain of the submarine, played by Gregory Peck, doesn’t like to think that his family in the states is dead. The Australian navy places a young officer, played by Anthony Perkins, as a liaison with the American forces, and he introduces Gregory Peck to a local drunk played by Ava Gardner. They start to have feelings for each other, but it’s complicated.

The Australian admirality receives a radio signal, so it sends the sub and its crew to the coast of California to investigate, which gives the sub crew a chance to view the empty coastlines and cities. Unfortunately, it’s not a remnant of civilization. So the sub returns to Australia, and everyone dies.

Well, the film ends with the sub heading back to America because the crew wants to die at home, but, man, it’s a heckuva downer of a film.

As you might know, gentle reader, Gregory Peck is not high on my list of favorite lead actors from the era, and Ava Gardner is not high on my list of actresses, either. However, the film does have Fred Astaire in it, so that’s a bonus.

A downer of a film, for sure, and anti-nuke agitprop. Not something to watch when you want to watch something entertaining, but if you fancy yourself a film buff, you might want to watch it for completeness.

I Wonder Why The North Side Mindflayers Trivia Team Keeps Me Around

So we have this cat, and I like to proclaim often, “You’re a menace!”

He doesn’t look like much of a menace in this action photo, but he really is. He has the nickname “Foot” which is short for “Underfoot.” He likes to walk ahead of me and stop suddenly to turn to look to see if I’m going. And when I say “Walk ahead of me,” I mean inches ahead of me. He’s also prone to appearing in the kitchen when I’m cooking, and if I start downstairs (and hence towards his food dishes) before him, he will come bowling down the stairs after me, often striking me in the back of the legs as I’m descending. When I say “Bowling,” I mean like a bowling ball. He is, after all, nineteen pounds of cat who thinks affection involves biting the hand that pets him and lying across the pillow in the middle of the night and grooming me while I’m sleeping. And then biting me.

Of course, I call all the cats menaces in the spirit of J. Jonah Jameson.

So recently I started to tell him, “Don’t Be A Menace.”

You know, like the movie.

But then I realized I couldn’t remember the name of the movie, a film that came out in 1996 and which I’ve never actually seen, but which has the words/shortened title on the movie poster.

I had to look it up.

Don’t Be A Menace To South Central While Drinking Your Juice In The Hood.

Which I now tell the cat all the time, and which means I’ll probably retain that bit of information in case it shows up on a trivia night.

Yes, I do talk an awful lot to my cats. But I have been a remote worker for over a decade. I have to talk to someone.