Monday, May 16, 2016

Every 1970s Movie Reviewed

This website I'm linking to is so good I hardly know where to start. The name nails it well - Every70sMovie. Every day writer-filmmaker Peter Hanson posts a review of a 1970s movie, a task he's been at since October 2010.

So yes, big. And an incredibly wide range of theatrical and TV movies are here. Random sample One:

The Devil's Widow (1970)
Only movie directed by actor Roddy McDowell, starring Ava Gardner and Ian McShane
Based on a Scottish myth, "The film begins at the sprawling Scottish estate of Michaela Cazaret (Gardner), a middle-aged woman of unclear national origin who populates her castle and its grounds with swinging young people."





Sample Two:
(this is one of my favorite 70s movies by far)

The Last of Sheila
written by actor Anthony Perkins and Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim, but this is no musical. The story is that Perkins and Sondheim and friends were game lovers, played many scavenger hunts, and this murder mystery movie grew from that. It's got a fantastic cast - James Coburn, James Mason, Raquel Welch, Dyan Cannon, and more rich-and-idle characters who find out too late they are all soon to be victims of revenge
Hanson calls it a "jet-set caper movie.


Not even the tip of the iceberg of this site, which also lists movies by title and a giant list of names of all the players. Just go read and get lost for a while.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Come See "Alice In Wonderland" at LMU

As previously mentioned, offline living has kept me away from posting, however I do want to share some of that offline life -

The following pictures are from the current show I've directed, "Alice In Wonderland", for Lincoln Memorial University. There are three shows left, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday all at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $10 at the door, $5 with a reservation by calling 423-869-6203.

I am so honored to be working for LMU and with these students and staff - so much talent and hard work is consistently visible. 





Monday, March 07, 2016

Where's My Cup of Joe?


Apologies again, Dear Reader and Humble Blog, for an extended absence. It's a dual whammy from being very busy working and utterly stunned by the depth of stupid in the political world.

Truly does any comment actually need to be made about the idiocy on display daily from Republican candidates and office holders who have yet to strike the bottom in their relentless effort to grind all governing to a halt?

Either you know what's up or you've not paid attention and gone dogmatically drunk along with the delusions.

Here, from October last year, my views on the state o' politics

"And the talking is being done by notably unqualified candidates here in the ol' U.S. of A, the sort of talking that cliched tin-pot dictators might spew from tiny podiums and dressed in over-decorated, ill-fitting military uniforms.Such candidates as Trump, Cruz, Carson, Fiorina, Rubio, Bush, and even whole rosters of state GOP candidates are the folks doing such talking today. It's pretty awful to hear and see.
On the Left, Hilary Clinton, even if elected will instantly be tarred with the 'unconstitutional presidency', as these talkers have labeled President Obama. And that would extend the current Insta-Rage crowd's fervor to even more unacceptable and unsustainable behaviors.
And there's Bernie Sanders, who has, for his career, been neither a Republican or a Democrat ...a pretty good indication he's probably the smartest guy in this particular political room of Potentials."


Things haven't changed much, so why repeat myself ad nausueum? 

So there's that.


And yes, I have been busy in offline world creating imaginary worlds - directing and producing plays as Artistic Director for Morristown's Theatre Guild and as directing plays as Artistic Director at Lincoln Memorial University. I am beyond thankful to be so busy. The process of group collaborations for the shows I do is likely why I maintain a very positive outlook on our world today. See, people from all walks of life get together, work together and create something unique and special worth sharing.

Currently I'm helping produce a stage version of "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" as a schools program for some 1000-plus students and I am directing what I know will be an amazing version of "Alice In Wonderland" at LMU where Wonderland is of a Steampunk reality (or surreality) See, I am a very fortunate person to have such opportunities.

All that being said, I will step up the postings since politically the nation is in the grips of some dangerous folk and it seems more and more voices of reason are required.

I'm here for you - not to point out the obvious - to give volume to those voices.

Here, let me share this (and I encourage you to check out KnoxViews often) - it indicates how any voice other than one is being ignored in Tennessee.

"Tennessee Legislature  'Honored' as 'Most Conservative' at CPAC"

Also, read Tom Humphrey to stay up to speed on the Tennessee political landscape:

Marsha Blackburn as Trump's V.P.?





Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Hateful 8: American Politics 2016


The Hateful Eight will eventually be classified as one of director Tarantino's most outspoken political movies (even more than the one where his characters kill Hitler, which is more Grindhouse than political).

Like the sprawling views of the American political landscape in 2016, Tarantino goes as big as the camera allows, in 70 mm, and within the frame the characters are all deeply paranoid about one another, they all feel stuck, alone, confined, they have hidden agendas which have devastating consequences, and there's the visceral hatreds about race and then there's this letter from President Lincoln which is a herald for legitimacy and high-minded democracy. And much of what is rolled out - from characters to plot points - are all rather sketchy on the truth. It's like a pack of arguing Facebook commenters trapped in a room.

Women are bashed even more just for being in the conversation, worse if they speak. The way she is treated, the effort made by each of the characters to describe themselves via their roles in the social order, aren't really made to create comfort in viewers - the opposite in fact - we question everyone too. The status quo is up for grabs, a newer America is emerging.

Walter Goggins' character Mannix is, as he describes it, the one person in the group who is moving with the changing times and seeking his own answers:

" ... if you look at the course of that dialogue and the way he constructed that scene and how Mannix leans in and pulls back, he gets extremely aggressive and extremely passive. Mannix ends it with this vitriolic, defensive posture for his father and the institutions for the South and what the South stands for, and then Marquis pulls out his gun and Mannix says, “[Puts on the character’s voice] Oh, no, no, no, you got me talking politics.”
---
"Mannix is constantly shifting. He’s a real interesting guy in an arrested state of development, and you feel that in the stage coach. Everything that comes out of his mouth, at least for me, is regurgitating a worldview he got from his father and the people around him. None of those thoughts are his own, because he’s not a man; he doesn’t have the ability to think for himself until later in the movie. It all starts in that carriage scene, man.

(One non-political realization from the movie - almost each time two people speak together, someone is gonna get killed.And even if not, that possibility haunts one-on-one conversation.)

Oh and no one really emerges well from the political swamp they are in - not much to be solved locked into this particular space and time, everyone is asking the wrong questions or not enough of the right ones.

It's a pretty damning social commentary. told like a Western yarn spun round the campfire.And yet, ever the cultural compiler in cinema, Tarantino also builds this tale through the tropes of a Mystery, a sort of Locked Room whodunnit. And that too underpins the political commentary - so many unknowns when living in such a paranoid world.

Here's a fascinating roundtable talk with Tarantino, Ridley Scott, David O. Russell, and other top directors talking about filmmaking - great stuff.

Here's a terrific interview with Jennifer Jason Leigh on DP/30's YouTube page, and he's got more with the whole cast.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

TN Rep. Holt Fights Feds, Backs Militia Takeover

I don't know that I ever heard of Tennessee State Rep. Andy Holt prior to his being fined for a.) operating without a permit while b.) illegally dumping nearly a million gallons of pig poop into public waterways from his pig farm operations. Fined $177,000 by the EPA which he refuses to pay a few months later, now Rep. Holt is taking his fight against the federal government into high gear.

On Monday, he tweeted a question to the armed militants who have taken control of a federal bird sanctuary in Oregon "#bundymilitia Where can I send support to your effort?"

And today he sent a letter to President Obama, saying "take your gun control and shove it" and concluding with another hashtag  "#MolonLabe" which is Latin for "come and take it", apparently he feels the President wants to send Federal agents to take away any guns he might have.

It wasn't long after reading about the above events, I recalled I had heard of Rep. Holt before - back when somehow he convinced the state legislature of pass a resolution inviting Right Wing talk show firebrand Sean Hannity to come to Tennessee to live. I found among my bookmarked pages this gem from the Nashville Scene from last February:

"And last month, when throngs of women chanted in the Capitol hallways over women's reproductive rights, the adamant anti-abortion Republican scribbled and carried around a sign that read, "I love women ... and their babies."

Monday, January 04, 2016

Laurie Anderson's Concert for Dogs and Return to Knoxville

2016 is bringing back one of my favorite people to Knoxville, artist Laurie Anderson, part of another impressive lineup at the Big Ears music festival March 31st to April 2nd. She and Phillip Glass will perform their most recent collaboration.

Anderson has the most unique, wide-eyed wonder and wisdom in her words and music and now film. Tonight in Times Square as part of a public arts series Midnight Moment, a 3-minute shortened version of her highly acclaimed new documentary "Heart of A Dog" will be spread all across the towering Times Square screens. And just prior to this screening, Anderson will perform a concert for dogs - I love this sentence from this NYTimes piece:

"Dogs and their owners are invited to sit on the red steps of Duffy Square while she performs music that, to passers-by in Times Square, may not sound like much because of the low frequency."

Yes, dogs are invited. Such a show (her 2nd actually) has such whimsy, and stands so far out away from what others do. I prefer to also imagine the dogs will likely be very pleased, unlike cats who would probably go online and start a twitter backlash about it.

Her movie features her dog of course, and also the dog's death, and that of her husband Lou Reed, and essentially deals with how we deal and do not deal with death and grief, and also life and love.

A fascinating interview with her in studio q is here and is well worth the listen.

Here's a trailer for her film.



Friday, December 11, 2015

It's Christmas So -- Guns!



The words "gun control" are all around us this holiday season, but the real debate here is about reducing massacres of innocent folks by heavily armed villains. But getting past the easy slogans about weapons is tough - that's why slogans work.

New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik tackles and exposes the many factual, real errors in the prevailing slogans in this essay. Some excerpts: (And be sure to read my NOTE below) --

"Gun laws solve nothing because terrorists, whether in Paris or San Bernardino, aren’t the sort of people who care about or obey them.This might properly be restated as follows: if a pickpocket steals your wallet on the bus, repeal the laws against pickpockets. If terrorists and criminals do still get guns, despite existing gun laws, there is no reason to have gun laws at all. But the goal of good social legislation is not to create impermeable dams that will stop every possible bad behavior; it is to put obstacles in their way. The imperfection of a system of restraints is an argument about the imperfection of all human systems. It is not an argument against restraints. What’s more, the special insight of recent criminology is to show that low walls work nearly as well as high ones, and are obviously much easier to build. Making any crime harder usually makes it much harder. If the terrorists in San Bernardino had had to work as hard at building guns as they did at building bombs, perhaps the guns would have worked as badly as the bombs did."
---
"There are already so many guns in circulation in the United States, and their owners are so determined to keep them, that introducing limits would have no practical effect. ... Piecemeal social reform tends to be slow, but it tends to be successful. (Many manageable middle-range changes, from ammunition control to “smarter” and more secure guns, have been suggested as passable paths to gun sanity.) One need look only at the history of smoking or of car safety to see that this is so. Cancer caused by cigarettes and deaths caused by traffic fatalities, which were once fixed and ubiquitous features of American life, have been vastly reduced by gradual reform."
---
"Even if gun control were a good thing, the Second Amendment renders its achievement impossible.  ... Does anyone believe that Madison and Mason, stumbling into the first-grade classroom where modern assault weaponry had blown apart twenty six-year-olds and six of their terrified caretakers, would then say, “Well, too bad—but, yes, that’sexactly what we meant by the right of the people to keep and bear arms”?"

NOTE: Whether guns or other ills which bring problems, I'm on the side of seeking solutions rather than giving up on any useful resolution. Problems have solutions. I endorse the right to keep and bear arms - it is a basic right. Reducing mass murder is the goal, as is public safety. Whipping up hysteria and rage at the mere thought of discussing this issue, framing such discussion as open warfare, is dangerous and pointless. We don't live in a cartoon. 

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Haslam Joins Ranks of The Frightened


Compassion leaves you vulnerable.

Civil War leaves you vulnerable.

Freedom leaves you vulnerable.

Terror leaves you vulnerable.

Trust leaves you vulnerable.

Fear leaves you vulnerable

When I read how poor billionaire Governor Bill Haslam joined ranks with terrified Republican Governors, politicians, and other frightened Americans  to slam the door on refugees,I mourned a little for the loss of courage and the rise of cowardice. 

Had these Governor's sincerely wanted to insure the security of our nation and our states, they could and should have engaged in detailed discussions with the federal officials involved. But they sought first the news cameras. Fanning fear, claiming prudence, it was a carefully staged PR attack on the Obama administration, a political attack in an election cycle. 

Worse, they announced to everyone around the world one clear fact - They are very scared.

They did not all stand up to cry Never Again or Don't Tread On Me. They've slammed shut the windows and will hide inside. Unified in their stand that opposing the Obama administration is more important than life or liberty or the pursuit of happiness.

Cowardice is a loaded word for these folks,I know. But the abandonment of the values of courage leaves only cowardice.


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Confederates Fail Again in Greene County.

The previous post has a follow-up, and it's actually good news.

20 of 21 Greene County Commissioners rejected completely a proposal from one commissioner, Jame Randolph, to install a Confederate flag on the county's courthouse. Just like the way residents rejected secession during the Civil War 150 years ago.

Previously, as I said, this is idiotic on many levels, especially Randolph's ludicrous claim he was motivated by some fealty to history. But we all know what history that flag represents.

Randolph says he knew the resolution would fail and that he won't try to introduce it again - so the question remains: What was the point of his effort? Was it merely to attract and agitate a specific part of the population, to organize them and alert them to .... what?

The Greene County press should ask that question but they won't.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Confederate Ignorance in Greene County

It's pretty clear the Greene County Commissioners who think flying a Confederate flag is historically vital have zero knowledge of the history of their own county and of East Tennessee.



Since History proves these officials utterly wrong - then what is the real reason behind their desire to fly a flag of the county's enemies?

Mega-Insta-Political Analysis

Let's do a little political talking about all the political talking.

And the talking is being done by notably unqualified candidates here in the ol' U.S. of A, the sort of talking that cliched tin-pot dictators might spew from tiny podiums and dressed in over-decorated, ill-fitting military uniforms.Such candidates as Trump, Cruz, Carson, Fiorina, Rubio, Bush, and even whole rosters of state GOP candidates are the folks doing such talking today. It's pretty awful to hear and see.

I recently watched the Burns Civil War documentary and the talk is mighty similar to the fairly unhinged generals and officers delirious with battlefield fever. The talk is most notable for it's hostility, whatever issue is laid before them, or indifference. It is anti-everything that reeks of the 21st century.

On the Left, Hilary Clinton, even if elected will instantly be tarred with the 'unconstitutional presidency', as these talkers have labeled President Obama. And that would extend the current Insta-Rage crowd's fervor to even more unacceptable and unsustainable behaviors.

And there's Bernie Sanders, who has, for his career, been neither a Republican or a Democrat ...a pretty good indication he's probably the smartest guy in this particular political room of Potentials.

Sanders is perhaps the reason  why Trump is standing out as the Top Potential - to frame what is the real battle in 2016: wages and wealth. They're easy to cast in opposing views on wages and wealth to hit the gut-punch level most voters require.


Friday, August 28, 2015

A Decade of Writing on the Web

I've been so busy I missed my own blog birthday - 10 years are done and I'm now on Year 11. Yay me.

Obviously The Regular Reader knows the posts here have been intermittent in the last year or so, but that's changing as a few new adventures are compelling me to become more prolific here. Details on that will follow very soon.

When I began this page, the Web was exploding with blogs, and many of those are now kaput. I am not kaput. That noisy proliferation has now turned into a far more vast cacophony of voices and images which get Tweeted and Pinterested and Instagrammed and Facebooked and far more names of platforms being created. I'm a long-form writer who abhors brevity. Except when I don't.

And still, our world is only just inside the doorway of what is possible with the Internet. If the Internet is the New Alphabet then we've only gotten 3 or 4 letters figured out. More is to be discovered and the new combinations possible are far too large to even imagine ... so far.

When I was a wee boy, knowing down in my bones that I wanted to be a writer, I think I saw a Writer as a process that ended with being a Good Writer Who Writes. Now these many years later, I see it's a process of creation that never ends.

What's been the best writing here? The most popular? 

The Google stats say "Dr. Evil Running Congress?" has been the most viewed post, with over 22,000 views is Most Popular, but that's likely because the image I used of Dr. Evil became a hot listing via image searches using Google. Also popular, pretty much all posts about Frightmare Manor, the haunted attraction located just down the street, have been huge hits on the Web. And they are getting ready to open up again for 2015.

I have various favorites, but here are two posts that I rank as my own best.

First, "Martian", a rumination on the planet Mars and the robots we've placed there. It's from the very first weeks of publishing, and I really like it. In fact, other than movies, I've probably written the most about my fascination with our universe, our solar system and how we do and do not explore it.

My next favorite is also from the early days, "Would You Like To Hear Some Stories?", a post prompted by my sister-in-law and the very real and astonishing experiences of her family during World War 2 and how the posting of those events led to the discovery after many decades of what happened to Katherine's mother's cousin, revealed in the comments of that post.