Saturday, April 18, 2009

Camera Obscura - Top 10 Movie Characters

I found a movie question on the Cinebeats blog which is almost impossible for me to answer -- maybe you can answer it easier than I -- Name your Top Ten Film Characters. Her choices are perfectly eclectic. My brain hurts from trying to make decisions on this one. It is mighty complex given my love of all things cinematic from so many decades of films to consider.

As with naming Top Ten Favorite movies, I can not do it. I could name Top Tens in many genres, but it's tough to do otherwise. Still, I am going to give the character list a shot. Please add your lists of favorites in the comments if you wish, or blog about them and link here - I'm tagging these bloggers to try out this rather tough assignment - Newscoma, Aunt B., R. Neal and Cathy at Domestic Psychology.

These are in no order of ranks, just Ten Characters I really enjoy. (And there will be a preponderance of Tough Guys and Girls.)

Bishop Pike - William Holden in "The Wild Bunch" plays the lead role of the deadly gang of outlaws in this amazing movie. He barks orders like a general, but still is able to make the character very human and very tired, worn away and somewhat lost. He's one of Peckinpah's doomed legions, and one of the best.

Tequila - Chow Yun Fat in "Hard Boiled" plays a police detective nicknamed Tequila. He is the first of the now ever-present sideways leaping shooting movie archetypes. What makes Tequila stand out is a sense of wit and the fact that the man will do anything to save babies during a shootout in a hospital. Think a mix of Bogart, Dirty Harry and Alan Alda in MASH.

Beatrix Kiddo - Created by actress Uma Thurman and director Quentin Tarantino in the two "Kill Bill" movies, she may well be the toughest female character ever on film. And she is a character so steeped in movie history and costumes yet still emerges unique. She's like Barbara Stanwyck in a kung-fu film.

Victoria Chateris - Gene Tierney in "The Shanghai Gesture" is probably my favorite femme fatale in all of noir cinema. This was the first movie I ever saw with her, and she is an awful person and quite vulnerable and sexy as sexy can be. No other female character really ever stood her ground opposite actor Walter Huston ever before and no one else ever could. She'd eat your favorite female soap star alive and you too for even daring to challenge her.

President Merkin Muffley - Peter Sellers in "Dr. Strangelove, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb" also plays two other parts in this movie, but with just a few scenes and lines, his president is the epitome of the modern American president. Deeply unaware of reality, polite and gullible. His phone conversation with the Soviet Premier is sheer genius. Perhaps only Will Ferrell's one-man show of former President George W. Bush is the equal.

Thomas - David Hemmings in "Blow-Up" sees himself as the guru of pop culture, the coolest of the cool, an Artist with a capital A. One of director Antonioni's most fascinating creations, he goes thru the post-modern maze of identity to discover he is the manipulated and not the manipulator. It's unforgettable stuff which lingers with you for days.

James Bond - Sean Connery is the only actor who could have made the first movie work, could have made the franchise of films last for decades, and turn a pulp action story into a worldwide sensation. A snob of brutal strengths and casual living, he's famous for being the right man for the worst jobs - jobs we as the audience never get tired of seeing and never get tired of imagining. Sherlock Holmes meets Hugh Hefner.

Major Motoko Kusanagi - The fictional cyborg from the anime and manga series "Ghost In The Shell" makes the list after much puzzling over trying to decide which robotic/cyborg character to include on this list. I had considered Hal 9000, and R2D2, but had to leave them off in favor of the Major since I have never tired of watching each and every movie and TV episode repeatedly. She heads the squad from the police Section 9, is a brilliant detective in both the physical and metaphysical realms. Sort of like sci-fi Phil Marlowe of the future in female cyborg form. The stories are addictive, fascinating and all held together by the character of the Major. What? I can include animation and cyborgs on this list. Voiced by actress Atsuko Tanaka, I am constantly eager to know more about the character and hungry for her adventures.

Frankenstein's Monster - Boris Karloff in the 1931 horror tale "Frankenstein" makes the list, As a hard core horror fan, it was almost too easy to pick my favorite monster. Vastly different from the articulate creature from Mary Shelly's novel, the character made by filmmakers and Karloff comes to vivid life and expresses so much with never a word being spoken by the creature (in the first film, at least). The way Karloff uses his hands alone makes him the best monster ever - one that still has traces of the human trapped in monstrous flesh.

Ferris Bueller - Matthew Broderick in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" demands that the journey of life be enjoyed not just endured. Wise beyond his years, the trickster of suburbia cautions his friends in the movie "
-Ism's in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an -ism, he should believe in himself." Sound advice in the 21st century. And his appeal is wide, or as the school secretary says, "Oh, he's very popular Ed. The sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, waistoids, dweebies, dickheads - they all adore him. They think he's a righteous dude."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Edible Business Cards via Crooked Brains

An amazing collection of creative and innovative ideas including edible business cards, umbrella art, green walls and vertical gardens, incredibly cool designs for ice cubes, and art made from cassette tapes, such as:

All that and much, much more at Crooked Brains.

A Daily Awakening of Your Own Personal Tea Bag

I drink some tea each day. I also do something each day to celebrate my sense of freedom as an American. Maybe that something is just as simple as writing and publishing on the Internet, maybe it is deciding not to watch TV but to read a book instead, or share some bit of music or information with friends or strangers which might alter how that person views the world, themselves or just how they view me.

So even though some folks today are waking up to the world of troubles which the majority of Americans already knew existed and voted to change last year, hey, I'm glad you are awake.

Now that you are awake, though, be sure you fight against letting your sleep overtake you again. Try coffee instead of tea. Now that you have the concept of freedom, use it every day - find out what your city councils, mayors, county legislators, state and federal officials are doing in your name.

Tune out the highly paid media entertainers who compete for advertising dollars with contests and kooky novelty acts, found in such places as network programs or cable news shows or newspapers or blogs or Twitter feeds. I mean, you are certainly free to view the world through only one perspective, or you can choose to take a bit more responsibility for yourself and your country and exercise your own ability to seek fair and balanced news and information. Or you can sit on the couch and wait for someone to bring it to you all pre-chewed and easy to swallow.

You might want to actually investigate all those nagging feelings which made you wake up - it is so easy now to dig into histories old and new thanks to the Internet, to learn the meanings of words, to discover who is providing influences on government, what life is like for people not born in your county or your country, and you'll discover the struggle of freedom is a daily battle fought all over the world.

Yes indeed, our nation was founded on revolutionary ideas - and sometimes we make more of those kinds of leaps: allowing women to hold jobs and to vote is a relatively new and world-changing concept, just as the concept of equal rights for all challenges the world.

And even if your think and ponder as hard and as painfully as you can - sometimes you will still be wrong. Sometimes you will be right. Sometimes, there are simply no answers and you have to hold off on emotional judgments and just wait and think some more.

I can share one sure thing I have discovered - if someone tells you that they do indeed have all the answers they are probably just selling something, sort of like human spam-bots constantly pushing amazing deals under your computer door. Now if that sounds like I might be selling something too, well in a way I am - I am pushing ideas, ones that might make you have some new ones of your own.

I know, I know, an awakening is a difficult time. Everything comes at you all at once. Don't panic. It is true that some ideas can take away your freedom, but other ideas make freedom grow. Be a patient gardener. And have a cup of tea - or a cup of Joe - and you'll probably be okay.

We're open all night here, just like it says on the masthead. We can talk about movies or funny stories or whatever is on your mind. Take deep breaths, try to relax, and celebrate your freedom every day.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Phantom Mists Dazzle Conservatives

Conservatives swing away at phantoms and fears like a punch-drunk fighter which sure seems more like a ploy of distractions, a sideshow of a sideshow of a sideshow.

The same poll found that 61% of Americans believe the income taxes they paid this year are "fair."

This certainly isn't the kind of public opinion landscape Republicans were hoping for. In order for conservative talking points on the economy to be effective, Americans have to believe the current tax rates are never "about right" and anything but "fair." Broad satisfaction with taxes leaves Republicans with very little else to say.

Indeed, the semi-official slogan of the Tea Baggers' events tomorrow is "T.E.A.: Taxed Enough Already." It was hard enough to make this argument shortly after the president signed the largest middle-class tax cut in history; it's even harder in light of poll results like these."

Which Conservatives protested real, actual, verified fraud and abuse like the time in 2006 when a single government agency shelled out $2 billion in fraud and waste, including nearly $70,000 worth of dog booties? Or that the same agency could not verify if 63% of its purchases were even received?

It is simply easier to manufacture and battle phantoms than do the actual work to correct a broken economy, or on how to make health care more affordable, or to foster a culture of honesty in business and government.