Thursday, May 26, 2011

Documentaries about making movies

I really like shows about making movies. Not just movies about making movies, but documentaries where they show how it's done. I'm not so interested in the special effects part, but that nitty gritty stuff. I've run across a few that I have in my Netflix queue. These are general ones, not dealing with an individual person, but the craft as a whole. If you know of any others, please, let me know about them. If you don't have Netflix, join here: Try Netflix for FREE! Get unlimited movies instantly streaming right to your TV.

Tales from the Script is about screenwriters. I've watched this one and it's pretty good. Available on Netflix instant or DVD.

The Cutting Edge - The Magic of Movie Editing is about the often unappreciated art of editing a movie. A book I recently read on Hollywood Anecdotestalked about the importance of editing and how that can completely change the pace and reception of a picture. Available from Netflix DVD.

Visions of Light: The Art of Cinematography is about the person most responible for the look of the film (sometimes even more than the director) the cinematographer or director of photography. Available from Netflix DVD.

Lastly, is one that deals with after-the-fact: film criticism, which I love. For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism. Not available from Netflix yet.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Are YOU Middle Class?

I had thought we were middle class, till I read this. We earn less than the low dollar amount and have a six-person family.

For the 50 percent of families in the middle of the scale, household income ranges from $51,000 to $123,000 for a typical four-person, two-parent family. The median is about $81,000.
Granted we live in a small town, but our house is two and a half times less than this and we could have had our house paid off in 5 years:
For two-parent families, the typical home is worth about $231,000, accounting for $17,600 in mortgage payments and other costs per year.
Our 1998 minivan was paid off a long time ago.
...the typical family spends about $12,400 per year on two medium-sized sedans or the equivalent, with a new-car value of $45,000.
This could be why we are below average:
In 76 percent of two-parent families, both parents work.
And this is just disturbing:
What's your top priority? In a 2008 poll by the Pew Research Center, it wasn't healthy kids, a strong marriage or a great career; 68 percent of respondents said it was free time.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Federal Budget in Perspective

I suppose you've all seen this, but just in case:

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Luther Movie Review

How refreshing to see a movie where following the Bible and a love for Christ are shown without irony or humor. Or a “look at these strange creatures” detached feeling. Or a hip “ain’t God cool” vibe. Luther is just a straight story about one of the most significant lives in history.

Joseph Fiennes is Martin Luther. We first see him panicking in a thunderstorm and vowing to become a monk if he lives. He becomes a brilliant but guilt-ridden monk. He is sent to Rome on some business and sees that Rome has become "a circus" as a couple of different characters say. Then other events take place that send Luther toward his rebellion against abuses in the Catholic Church which the Church, needing money, will not admit are abuses. To be fair, there are those in the Church hoping for reform, but many of them consider Luther to be going too far in his criticisms. Things begin to spin out of control as people begin to believe they are oppressed politically as well as spiritually. Luther must live with the consequences of his writings and actions. One wonders, if Luther hadn't been away for a year in the castle, could he have prevented the Peasant Revolt?

The viewer gets a vague sense of the dangers individuals faced making choices, but probably there is no way to adequately show how much risk there was to every word or move for some. One does get a sense of the confusion and difficulty faced by those in power.

The movie moves pretty quickly and it’s hard to get a sense of the time passing. Luther spent almost a year in Wartburg Castle, but that is not understood just by watching the movie. I guess Martin Luther deserves an HBO miniseries like John Adams.

Peter Ustinov is fantastic as Fredrick the Wise. Frankly, I wish the movie had been made 30 years ago with Ustinov as Luther.

For some background on Luther, read Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Lutherby Roland Bainton or just the Wiki article.

Luther (the film) is not as great as A Man For All Seasons, but not many films are. However, it is very well done and certainly worth your time.

Luther, directed by Eric Till, written by Camille Thomasson and Bart Gavigan, starring Joseph Fiennes, Jonathan Firth, Peter Ustinov. 123 minutes. 2003.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Burn After Reading Movie Review

Joel and Ethan Coen have an unusual and dark view of the world that they brilliantly project through a variety of genres. And they use much more swearing than is really necessary. In fact Burn After Reading is rated R for “pervasive language” among other things. I’ll talk a little more about that later.

Osborn Cox (John Malkovich) is an analyst working for the CIA who gets demoted so he quits. He decides to write a memoir. His cheating wife (Tilda Swinson) decides to divorce him and the lawyer tells her to get all his financial information. She copies his files including his memoirs. When the disk is found in the ladies locker room at a gym called Hardbodies, Chad (a hilarious Brad Pitt) thinks he’s found some top secret documents worth some “reward” money. He and Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand), who wants several body sculpting surgeries, decide to try for the money. Cox is a jerk however, and instead of just telling them they don’t have anything, he causes them to think they have something really important and valuable. Somehow George Clooney figures into all this, first as the man Mrs. Cox is cheating with, then he is with Linda. It all gets tangled up Coen Brothers style and there is no “happily-ever-after.”

Why do the Coens find excessive swearing so invigorating? John Malkovich basically spends the movie saying “WTF?” Only he doesn’t abbreviate. However, Malkovich does a fantastic job of being a jerk and the swearing seems like something his character actually would say, not something forced into the script for humor or shock like Pappy O’Daniel in O Brother, Where Art Thou?. Basically everyone in this movie is a moron, but that could be expected as it’s in Washington, D.C. Burn After Reading is slow paced and not the best Coen Brothers movie, but it is funny and a fully enjoyable black comedy if that’s your thing.

There, now I’ve written a review of a Coen Brothers movie without using the word “quirky” other than in this sentence, of course.

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Friday, January 09, 2009

Valkyrie Movie Review

Valkyrie Directed by Bryan Singer, written by Christopher McQuarrie & Nathan Alexander. Starring Tom Cruise, Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson. 2008. PG-13 120 minutes.

Valkyrie is a good World War II movie and fits well with the many World War II movies made in the 1960s and 1970s. It’s not a “great” Oscar-bait type movie, but Singer tells the story well and the acting is superb.

The story of Valkyrie is about the famous assassination attempt on Hitler by members of his own high command. Previously, I had known that there was a bomb in a briefcase that got placed too far under a table and only slightly wounded Hitler, but I did not know all the story around it and how it went farther than just an assassination attempt, but also a coordinated attempt to take over the government. There are quite a few important men involved in the coup and it is far from a neat single-minded group. However, they consider the cause to be greater than anything, even endangering their own families.

Tom Cruise plays Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg who was seriously injured in North Africa and could have sat out the war in a comfortable position in Berlin. Instead, he becomes a “traitor,” as he willing calls himself, to save the honor of his beloved Germany. Country above party or current leader. They also show von Stauffenberg as the committed Roman Catholic that he was.

Tom Cruise is a Movie Star. And I say that as someone who isn’t really a Tom Cruise fan. He holds the screen anytime he is on, his charisma captivates you. But, he is a good enough actor to sink into the roll and not overwhelm it, as several top actors/actresses of the 1970s have taken to doing. Many of the other actors show the complexity and conflicts of their characters.

Valkyrie is rated PG-13, but except for one word could have been PG. Patton has more swearing and The Guns of Navarone has more violence. My 13-year old son wanted to go, but I don’t trust the ratings system. After seeing it, I should have taken him, in fact, my 10-year old will probably watch Valkarie when it comes out on video.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Gilda Movie Review

Gilda, directed by Charles Vidor, written by E.A. Ellington (story) Marion Parsonnet (screenplay) Jo Eisinger (adaptation) Ben Hecht uncredited. Starring Rita Hayworth, Glenn Ford, and George Macready. 1946, 110 minutes.

If you want to see some fantastic acting, watch Gilda. Rita Hayworth is simply fantastic. Flirtatious, vindictive, scared, fearless, and flirtatious. Did I mention flirtatious? She has one of the best introduction scenes in this movie of any actress ever. Her face is vivid with emotion. Glenn Ford is as good as ever. I’ve only recently come to realize just how good an actor Ford is and why he was such a big star in the 1940s and 1950s. If you need to catch up on some of his movies, watch 3:10 to Yuma, and The Big Heat (See my review of the Big Heat).

Gilda is about one woman and two men, much like Casablanca, but different. Ballin Mundson (George Macready) runs an illegal gambling house (like Casablanca!) in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford) is his right hand man. When Ballin goes out of town once, he comes back with a wife, Gilda (Rita Hayworth). Johnny and Gilda have a history (like Casablanca!) and Ballin is suspicious. Johnny and Gilda love and hate each other tremendously. Johnny does his best to stay loyal to his boss and see that Gilda does also. Three broken people in such a tight grouping makes for explosive emotions. It doesn’t help when illegal activities are also part of the scene.

Rita Hayworth is smoldering, smoking, simmering, and sensuous. In addition, there is some great dialog, which is always appreciated. Gilda: "If I'd been a ranch, they would have named me The Bar None." -- Johnny Farrell: "Doesn't it bother you at all that you're married?" Gilda: "What I want to know is, does it bother you?" -- While Gilda is dancing with an Argentine, he asks where she comes from, she says "America." He replies, "Isn’t this America?" South America is of course part of America. She smiles and says "I mean New York." Yes folks, New York is America, even in the 1940s.

The DVD has been beautifully transferred and looks fabulous. The sound quality is also exceptional for a 1940s Film Noir. The bonus features includes a short history of Rita Hayworth’s film career that ends very abruptly. I highly recommend Gilda.
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