Wednesday, June 28, 2006

One, Two, Three - More praise for Billy Wilder

One, Two, Three (1961) is just one example of the excellent films of Billy Wilder. A lively comedy of delight and perfection, it is a quick, bumpy ride bedeviled with obstacles. James Cagney is MacNamara, a headstrong Coca-Cola executive striving for promotion. He is constantly managing and reacting to everything and everyone around him, all of which has the potential to ruin his aspirations. Using his sharp, rapid-fire speech to cut through the confusion, he directs the narrative with decisive force.

MacNamara creates additional problems for himself through a very personal relationship with his secretary. When his wife becomes suspicious, he works overtime to put out the fires at home. His imminent promotion is nearly derailed when Pamela is added onto MacNamara’s roster of duties. She absconds from his watch, runs off and gets married to a communist activist. It’s up to MacNamara to put the best polish on the whole situation before her parents arrive to meet their new son in law.

Otto, Pamela’s beau, is a unique challenge to the controlling businessman, as they are equally strong willed in their opposing convictions. Otto’s youth and enthusiasm create an energized counterpoint to MacNamara’s skill and experience. Any film is improved when actors become unclothed, and much to the audience’s benefit, Mr. Wilder makes excellent use of the handsome Horst Buchholz.

As the story is set primarily in the office of an international corporation, politics becomes a part of the problem. Wilder’s political commentary brings a weight and realism to the story, yet the characters’ dialogue is light and carefree. The conflicts of political opinions seem both deadly serious and insignificant. Stereotypes are played with and against. Wit and mischievous innuendo bring a refreshing mood of cool openness into the environment. However, the American Spirit is a strong presence throughout the film as Captain MacNamara steers the ship.

Billy Wilder made fantastic films. His well-crafted scripts bubble with sparkling humor and clever conversation, and bring out the best in the actors and actresses. Exceptional musical scoring and well-paced editing bring a near flawless perfection to the production. His movies age well with time, so many generations to come will surely enjoy the excitement and amusement of his work.

Finknottle needs your support

He's running for President of the Advice Columnists' Union on a platform of open contempt for advice columnist readers. Will it work? And can he sustain the three column week he's set himself up for?

The mail bag is getting a wee bit low. Finknottle needs your questions to keep the little wheel in his brain squeaking. Be sure to email them to jeph43 "at" or comment in one of the threads. Client/doctor confidentiality will not be honored.

Frederic Remington: painter of soldiers

The first painting is not particularly impressive on its technical merits, but the subject matter is interesting. Imagine such a scene today. Arresting a deserter. No doubt, the cameras would be out and the pieces sympathetic to the deserting soldier would be flooding the papers from coast to coast. Columnists would be demanding what is so horribly wrong with our military establishment that this fellow felt compelled to go AWOL?

Arresting the Deserter (1885)

This portrait of The Trooper, like some of the Indian portraits, is directly linked to our collective image of a cavalry officer – charging, full of confidence.

The Trooper (1892)

The Advance takes the portrait of the Trooper one step further, so far as action is concerned. The man in the lead appears to be the same officer. Does anything sit more erect in the saddle that a U.S. cavalry officer?

The Advance (1898)

This next picture, again, could’ve come directly from a John Ford picture. Some things are worth fighting for. In this case: water.

Fight for the Water Hole (1903)

This final picture looks like a Canadian Mountie, not a U.S. soldier, but regardless, he’s still done a bang up job getting his man.

Single Handed (1912)

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

You just quit thinkin', Butch, that's not what your good at!

Butch Cassidy - self whacker?

A new play is saying that Butch and Sundance did not go out in a blaze of glory ala the 1969 classic, but rather, killed themselves while surrounded by Bolivian cops and armed townspeople:

"God is witness that we did what was possible to find a new life," says Sundance. "Butch. I'm hurting. It's bad. Butch. Help me please," he says.

"I will help you," says Cassidy, picking up his gun and holding it to Sundance's forehead. "God bless you, kid."

He shoots his partner and anxiously cries, "It's too late." Cassidy then shoots himself through the forehead.

Presumably, that would mean Butch didn’t live out his years up in the Pacific Northwest.

I assume that if the movie was made in the 70s, this would have been the ending.

(cat-Butch and cat-kid picture from here)

Frederic Remington: painter of naturals

As Rob mentioned on the previous Remington post, Remington is one of the few big artists whose work can be enjoyed first hand by an Okie. When I think of Commanches, Apaches, Cheyenne, etc., his work definitely springs to mind.

Pretty Mother of the Night (1880s)

His use of day for night paint was extraordinary.

Cheyenne Scouts Partrolling the Big Timber of the North Canadian, Oklahoma (1889)

Radisson and Groseilliers (1905)

A beautiful dusk to go with this picture that tells a little story:

Coming to the Call (1905)

And, of course, the eco-friendly forms of communication:

Apache Fire Signal (1908)

Monday, June 26, 2006

The wheels are turning over at the Lobe

Finknottle has his Monday morning shot in the arm up and ready for viewing pleasure.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Frederic Remington: pencil, pen & ink artist extraordinaire

Take a gander at the gander pull. Remington knows how to show men out west at play. This drawing could almost fit right in to John Ford's cavalry trilogy - the camaraderie and spirit are there, just change the hills in the background to plateaus and you're in business.

The Gander Pull (1888?)

And just check out the skill!

Remington knows how to frame a picture and has a great sense of depth - much like John Ford. Plus, he can create dust out of pen and ink:

In the Desert (1888)

A Troop Picket Line (1901)

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Thing from Another World, X The Unknown, The Day The Earth Stood Still

Three black and white sci fi films with lots of military men from the fifties. X from 1956, and the others both 1951. I mixed them up. Every time an alien creature would appear, I would stop the movie and switch to another.

However, after watching all three opening credits, I would have preferred to play them all at once on three separate screens. They are all 80-90 minutes long. Lacking this ability, I continued with shuffling them on my one screen.

Right away I noticed that in The Thing, actors are stepping on each other’s lines, or, speaking over each other. The attitude is very casual, loose, and a little lazy perhaps, as if a lot of filming was done in one take. The dialogue in The Day, by contrast, is sharp, precise and clear.

X reminded me of an idea I had a while ago, to make a sci fi movie with no special effects. Have all of the actors reacting to things offscreen. X did have some special effects here and there, but they are very quick. Mostly you have people examining something and then screaming.

In The Day, lots of stock footage is used, or, a lot of things happened that could be from stock footage. Operators working switchboards, newspaper presses rolling, people in foreign lands listening to radio broadcasts. I would really like to see a sci fi movie with no special effects, any suggestions are welcome.

Sometimes there are long periods before a creature will make another appearance. So I changed the rules so that I would switch movies every time a military guy read some official correspondence about the situation. In all three films, it is refreshing to see the military forces stocked with youthful, handsome men.

Unfortunately that leaves the women with the “Hey, What’s Going On Here?” roles.

It is very interesting to observe the decreased level of security depicted in the films, from the view of our current time. The potentially dangerous site of the appearance of the alien is surrounded with a flimsy structure, in one case, a rope on sticks, and only one or two low ranking soldiers are sent to guard it. They hang out, thinking that nothing will happen but eventually something does happen and the men are easily knocked out. Whoever is the first to report something as suspicious, he is dismissed right away and told that he just imagined it.

Radioactivity was popular at the time. Geiger counters were hot. People were just learning about what all that meant. One scientist describes uranium as ‘mud’. How do you kill mud? What do you do if this radioactive mud becomes ‘smart’ and takes on a lifeforce of its own? Among the scientists, it was nice to have at least one guy say that the idea was ‘rubbish’. Aren’t those higher elements metals anyways, not just dirt.

Radioactivity was created at the same time as Theremin music. In a strange way, they were meant to go together. By far the best thing in any of the films is the fantastic music of Bernard Herrmann. I would think it a great movie night to have a trio of movies all with Bernard Hermann scores, and play them all at the same time.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Another close shave from Pukediddle

Finknottle meets his deadline again - or I should say his Assistant meets it for him. He seems a little unfocused to be giving our readers counsel and this latest effort seems to be done in haste - perhaps just for some tobacco money. When your advice columnist is preoccupied with getting more ale before addressing someone else's problem - well, that should ring the alarm bells.

I don't know...this is a little too much cat for me

The pictures with the catfish and chicken are quite charming. (via Geisha Asobi)

Close enough...Print!

CBS doesn't know the difference between a Japanese flag and Chinese flag. Then they got the proportion of the flag to the moon all wrong. And isn't the shadow from the flag going in the opposite way as the source of light? Where are the fact checkers? (via Instapundit)

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Ice Station Zebra

Have you heard of it? Directed by John Sturges 1968, with Rock Hudson and Ernest Borgnine.

Most of the movie happens on a submarine, but before the MGM Lion roars, the film is preceded with a musical overture, accompanied by the big all caps word OVERTURE written across the screen. Maybe this created undue excitement and high expectations. The well designed stage sets do create a good sense of the close confinements inside a submarine. So Rock Hudson gets in this submarine with a lot of goodlooking guys in army and navy outfits, they even get wet, but at no time do they ever take off their shirts, and we never get a chance to see any good backside shots of Hudson. Instead, the plot involves someone supposedly sabotaging the submarine because it is trying to rescue some people or something. But then there is an INTERMISSION, with Intermission Music, and then, there is an ENTR'ACTE, with Music for that, too. I began to get excited again. But not only was there no skin in this movie there weren't any musical numbers, either. I don't know what to make of it. Rock Hudson is weird.

Here's a shout out to our freedom homies on the other side of the earth

As Koizumi announces the pullout of 600 Japanese troops from Iraq, we should toast the valuable work and sacrifice they've invested in Iraq. I move that we make Japan an honorary member of the anglosphere, with all the membership benefits that might include.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Finkpoodle has returned

We found him trapped somewhere in the last 500 years - his snuff box was empty and, quite frankly, he looked a little scared. The smell was quite bad. He's returned to fulfilling his obligation for Liverputty, but we're not entirely sure when he might be able to assist others with their issues. As always, if you have questions for Finknottle, email them to me. Eventually, he'll get to it, though at this rate, perhaps for the enjoyment of your grandchildren.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Thomas Cole - Take 3

Sunrise in the Catskill Mountains (1826)

Sunny Morning on the Hudson River (1827)

The Gardens of the Van Rensselaer Manor House (1840)

Friday, June 16, 2006

Finknottle misses second deadline in a week

Since fulfilling his contractual obligations on Monday, Augustus Finknottle seems to have absconded from his post and has not emerged from hiding in order to adhere to the agreed posting schedule of MWF. Efforts to contact Finknottle have failed, though he has apparently charged large sums to the business account from overseas. Rest assured that we have men on the case and once retrieved, our columnist will be back dispensing advice.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Rat Park, a study of addiction

The rat colony was built to examine Alexander's hypothesis that drug addiction is a myth and that continued drug use, particularly the use of heroin, is largely the product of unhappiness, not neurophysiological compulsion. Alexander hypothesized that the addiction to morphine commonly observed in laboratory rats exposed to it is attributable to the conditions in which they are normally kept, and not to any addictive property of the drug itself.

Better surroundings, Alexander believed, would reduce or eliminate the apparent dependence. To test his hypothesis, he built Rat Park. It was 200 times the square footage of a standard laboratory cage. There was companionship, with 16–20 rats of both sexes in residence, an abundance of food, empty tins for burrowing, balls and wheels for play, a special space for mating, shavings for nesting, and a private place for giving birth. The results of the experiment appeared to support Alexander's hypothesis. The control group housed in the usual laboratory conditions consumed up to 20 times more morphine than the rats in Rat Park, and even those already addicted weaned themselves off the drug once moved there. They wanted to play, eat, and mate, Alexander concluded, not be anesthetized. "Nothing that we tried," he wrote, "instilled a strong appetite for morphine or produced anything that looked like addiction in rats that were housed in a reasonably normal environment."

Rat Park shows, he believes, that the "belief in drug-induced addiction, at least with respect to heroin and cocaine, has no status as empirical science, although it has not been disproven. It is believed for some reason other than its empirical support." Chemicals do not cause addiction "in the way that the measles virus causes a rash of red spots".

The US economy isn't the only one kicking butt

Japan's economy grew better than expected (3.1%) for the first quarter.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Finknottle makes his Monday deadline

I'm glad to see my advice columnist put the snuff down long enough to answer his mailbag. Watch him rat out his readers and give them tips on whores.

Monkey Video Roundup

This monkey looks like a vaudeville comedian, sorta walks like George Burns.

A monkey, at one with the trees, messes with tigers

Monkey vs dog.

Cowmonkey - complete with local news commentary. The monkey riding the dog was always a highlight of the rodeo for me - especially with the little hat and little chaps.

Monkey hits soldier. Give a monkey an opportunity and he'll use it gosh darnit.

Self-sufficient monkey.

Swimming monkey.

Your daily dose of sarcasm

Tim Blair shoots fish in a barrel. But seriously, when discussing these political gatherings, I think you should always throw in a benchmark for perspective. Something, for instance, like the kind of numbers that attend your average car show in Detroit.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

More Thomas Cole

because it cooks in five minutes and is ready to post. He's just such a swell landscape artist. Anyone who can paint distance (not just perspective) is topnotch in my book

Morning Mist Rising, Plymouth, New Hampshire (1830)

Mt. Etna (1842)

Mr. Cole has a ruin-fetish, but then again, so do I

Aqueduct Near Rome (1842)

And when necessary, he can get Middle Earth on your ass:

Expulsion from the Garden of Eden (1828)

Expulsion - Moon and Firelight (1828)

Monkeys like to mess with with things

Google video

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Thomas Cole - The Course of the Empire

A five panel chronology from 1836 (more here) . Click to enlarge

The Savage State

The Arcadian or Pastoral State

The Consummation



Thursday, June 08, 2006

Sword exhibit to open in Japanese art museum

This looks like a really kick-ass sword exhibit & the story is a nice overview of the Japanese blade. My experience at looking at a real samurai sword is that you can literally stare into the smooth steel finish. One can easily see how it was a warrior's soul.

Finknottle addresses his mail bag

How to keep your wife and mistress separately pacified? How to defeat your enemy? What to do about cat spray? The long awaited answers are over at the Frontal Lobe.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Indiana Jones, Double Suicide, The Jerk

It was interesting to watch the Indiana Jones movies, as I remember Raiders of the Lost Ark was one of the early films from my youth that truly left an impression. The opening sequence, Indiana’s taking of the statue riveted me to my seat. During some of the softer scenes with the girl, I thought about leaving the theater to look at another screen. Then something would happen that caught back up into it. The final scene, the opening of the Ark, could truly be described as wicked. Raiders of the Lost Ark is great, Harrison Ford is hot.

Temple of Doom lost it on me though. The girl in this one was not good or necessary comic relief. The opening sequence of this one, at the table in the lounge, had me questioning everything from the start. Everyone recognizes and knows Indiana Jones. Why would the villain bring the antidote along with the poison? Why did Indiana bring along the girl? The story seemed much more like the typical cartoon novella, and a lot of it fell flat for me, but having Mr. Ford on the screen brought me back into it.

I was in disbelief with the cure for Indy’s final challenge, escaping from the temple after having a potion poured down his throat, making him possessed. Somehow Indy’s sidekick figured it would be the touch of a torch, which would snap him out if it. A bipolar set, these two films make an interesting pair.

Then most enjoyable to see a youthful Steve Martin doing his thing in The Jerk. Quite well done, Mr. Martin, much like Mr. Ford, is an enchanting presence on the screen. A scene in a bathroom, with Steve taking a bubble bath in the tub, seemed shockingly realistic, as they actually had a tub full of hot water and soapy foam, Steve was glistening with sweat. We get to see more of him when he runs outside wearing only a dog. He cuts a nice figure for a comedian.

Double Suicide, which I was not at all familiar with, is now one of my favorites. It is a film that I would want to watch from time to time. A complex situation dramatized purely and simply, it captures storytelling in a most beautiful way. The minimalist images are of the same intensity as any modern photography. The characters are well spoken. The music used throughout is excellent, I would very much enjoy an audio recording of it, it has an attitude John Cage would appreciate, I think. I would for sure add this title to my own personal library. Another Japanese title I liked very much is Blind Beast.

The author appreciates the opportunity to have a variety of new movies on hand to view, and pleads that this commentary may provide meek compensation for the privilege.

Liverputty's new advice columnist

Oprah had Dr. Phil, so it's only fitting that Liverputty has Augustus Finknottle - a fellow skilled in the art of dispensing sound and unsound advice. Soon, there will be a method to forward your "issues" and "problems" directly to Augustus so that he may address them. Be sure to make the new advice webpage, The Frontal Lobe, (linked to the right) part of your routine stops in cyberspace.

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Dull Vinci Code

I had a hard time generating the wherewithal to post a comment or two about the Dull Vinci Code. What follows is not an academic argument, per se, or even a plebeian review, but the mind-thoughts of a bored audience member who is 15% glad he saw the picture, but 85% regretful of time lost that would have been better spent collecting stamps.

The opening scene immediately disabled my suspension of disbelief. Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), an esteemed something or other of symbology – the half-baked science of…symbology?... is speaking to an auditorium full of students. He flashes images up on a giant screen and asks the audience to guess what each one is so that he can show them that they are all wrong. And the audience participates!? I mean, what the hell?

And who knew the Holy Grail was Rosebud? I did - about halfway through the movie. So did most everyone in the audience. Why? Because the movie came out and said so. Yet, at the end of the picture, the same information was revealed as if it was not already known. If I was rating this picture with eyerolls, it would get a perfect 5 out of 5. Such was the movie: a jumbled mess where clues are scattered like bird shot, not in a way that invites the audience to make their own deductions/conclusions, but to lead them like sheep to the next scene – and the film didn’t bother to think more than a scene ahead or a scene behind.

Still, I did learn a little something.

The Louvre has a major graffiti problem. Renegade secret brotherhoods are going around at night marking up classic art with cryptic messages that can be seen in black light – and the penmanship ain’t pretty. Luckily, I'd brought my secret decoder ring.

About twenty minutes into the movie I took out my ticket stub and rearranged the letters and found that the Truth was in the men’s restroom, somewhere underneath the center urinal marked “American Standard”. I left the auditorium, grabbed a stanchion from the lobby and made haste to the men’s room. I had a hell of a time busting through the floor with the stanchion. Apparently, this wasn’t the shoddy work of the Masons that you see in so many movies, and though I hammered away, I couldn’t penetrate the floor. As hard as the floor was, it wasn't as hard as the manager, who didn't understand my explanation and left me little recourse but to return to the theater and watch the rest of the feature.

By the 35 minute mark the movie had so many surveillance devices in it that I was hoping the Super Secret Brotherhood of Exterminators would intervene and spray Paris down with some virtual DDT. Was I watching Dull Vinci Code or Mission Impossible to Understand 6?

For the folks worried that this huff and puff poses any sort of threat to the pillars of our Christian faith, your wasting your time. As Obi Wan once said: “This little one is not worth the effort.” I’m tempted to describe, in detail, all the fascinating characters – but I’m at a loss to find them. There’s Silas, the insanely pale acolyte with anger issues, whom I would hitherto call the Darth Monk, except that there won’t be a hitherto. Oh well, he was almost interesting. Jesus’ great grand (to the x power) daughter? Not hot enough, says this believer. Her legs were toothpicks, not shapely or round like you'd expect from the Son of God's non existent offspring. I'm looking for someone who's divinely hot. She may’ve been fine in Amelie (which I never saw), but if her character is the descendent of Christ…well, not only does the movie negate Christianity, but it negates evolution as well.

I’ve no malice against Opie or Buffy Wilson, but it would be a shame if this movie bombed for any other reason than disinterest.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Strangest video game controllers

I must admit that I've never been able to get into video games ever since they did away with the joy stick - so even the nintendo control thingy looks bizarre to me. The train control actually looked instructional.

For Shatner completists