Category Archives: Movies

Prehistoric Critters

I don’t remember why I asked for a DVD of The Cave of Forgotten Dreams from the library.  I had to get it through InterLibrary Loan so it took awhile.  I have a vague memory of seeing something recently about cave art so that is probably it, but I’m not sure I’ll ever remember for sure.

It was captivating to see the cave art (from the Chauvet Cave in southern France) – the public is not allowed in the caves so it felt a little like getting away with something although the scientists and camera crew did have permission.

The film got weird in a few places, a little disconnected and then at the end it got REALLY weird.  In a “postscript”, the film introduces a nuclear power near the caves and then continues to show the crocodiles who have been added to the warm waters of the plant.  Not only that, but some albino crocodiles became the final focus with the film clearly suggesting that they are mutants from radiated water.  This, of course, captured my interest in a big way.  First off, they weren’t crocodiles, they were alligators – classic u-shaped alligator snouts.  But more importantly, why in heaven’s sake would a nuclear power plant build a crocodile farm?

Of course all my questions were answered when I actually looked up at the screen just in time to see “Written, Directed and Narrated by Werner Herzog”.  I don’t know a lot about Herzog but I have seen enough comments over the years to know that he doesn’t use the same definition of “truth” that I do.  This made it incredibly easy to fact-check the crocodile farm story.  The power plant did NOT build the croc farm; it was built by two crocodile enthusiasts.  They are close to the cave and they do use the water from the nuclear power plant but the water is consistently tested and has never shown any radioactivity.  And the albinos?  Imported from a croc farm in the Southern U.S.; they were albino before they even reached the French waters.  Not radioactive mutants.  None of this really explains the purpose of the postscript of the film, but it was interesting research.

The most noteworthy fact I found is that the French croc farm is not the only place on the planet where crocodiles are benefitting from nuclear waters.  Apparently 25% of the crocodiles in the U.S. thrive among the cooling canals at Turkey Point Nuclear Plant south of Miami.  They are protected, having been encouraged there since the discovery of the first nest back in the 70s.  Fascinating.

Have you ever held a baby alligator or crocodile in your hands?  Snake?  Tarantula?  Anything?

Nostalgia

I’m not sure if it’s a pandemic thing but during the last year, I’ve had a greater yearning for tv shows and movies that I haven’t seen for years/decades. 

It started with two movies starring Gene Wilder as Cash Carter: Murder in a Small Town and The Lady in Question.  Gene plays a theatre director who helps the local police solve crimes.  Even though I’ve read that he was kind of a stinker in real life, I adore him on the screen.

Then there were both of the older Death on the Niles, one from the 70s with Peter Ustinov and the David Suchet version.  This is my absolute favorite Agatha Christie and both these versions are pretty true to the book.

Next up came The Girl From Uncle with Stephanie Powers.  It’s very dated but I did love it at the time and am always glad when there is a woman in a leading role, especially where spy/detective stories are concerned.

I’ve looked for years for The Scarecrow.  I hardly remember it except for the song and the shots of Patrick McGoohan with his Scarecrow mask.  It was a short Disney series but for some reason it has stuck in my memory.

And as soon as I started thinking about Patrick McGoohan, I started thinking about The Three Lives of Thomasina.  I talked my parents into taking me to see this three times while it was at the local move theatre.  In addition to the cat and Patrick McGoohan (I had a thing for him early on), I loved the “witch” who lived outside the town who cured the cat.

The latest of my obsessions is Flambards.  It played on PBS in 1980 – I was a young married and I still remember the haunting musical score.  I only saw it that once, but I loved the story of a young girl coming of age in turn of the century (20th) England.  I didn’t realize for many years that it was based on a trilogy of books by K.M. Peyton; I have just recently read the first one.

I searched for all of these movies/shows and didn’t have much luck (David Suchet’s Nile and the first episode of Flambards were available on the internet for a bit).  And I didn’t have much luck with interlibrary loan either – a lot of libraries don’t really want to lend out their DVDs; they show as available but then I get a “sorry” email.  I’m still waiting to hear about Flambards, but for all the others, I eventually went online and purchased them one by one.  This may not seem too remarkable but purchasing DVDs hasn’t been something I do very often and it’s hard not to feel like I’ve been behaving fiscally irresponsible purchasing so many over the course of a year.  But I have truly enjoyed them (over and over again I admit).  I have a friend who weighs purchases by how often they are used – she calls this calculation PPU (price per use) – the more often something is used, the cheaper it gets in her eyes.  By this calculation, I’m practically saving money!

Anything you’ve been nostalgic about lately?

In Peril

I took some strategically placed personal days between Christmas and New Years; combined with the paid holidays from my company, I was off for eleven days straight.  It was a very low-key holiday with not much going on so it’s not surprising that I watched a lot of tv movies.

Diversity in movies isn’t high on my list of priorities but I did watch a bigger variety than usual, including several films that could be considered “thrillers” – Die Hard, Murder at 1600, Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom, North by Northwest, several Tarzan movies and pretty much every Japanese monster movie ever made. 

You wouldn’t think all of these movies would have much in common but you’d be wrong.  The one thing they all had in common was screaming/squealing female characters.  In scenes of danger or violence, the women all scream or squeal.  The men in these scenes?  Silent as the grave (except for the sound of fists smacking flesh).  Even in Murder at 1600, which has a very strong female lead (Diane Lane), in the two scenes which qualify, while she doesn’t scream, she makes grunts and exclamations while the male lead (Wesley Snipes) is silent.   I will admit that a couple of times Bruce Willis did grunt a bit in Die Hard but when you consider the near-mortal injuries he sustained, you’d think he’d make a bit more noise.

Having never been in any situation even remotely like the ones in these films, I don’t want to speculate as to whether or not I would be a screamer or a squealer.  However, based on the fact that language fit for a longshoreman regularly pops out of my mouth almost automatically when I drop something, spill something or even just stub my toe, I’m guessing I might be making noise of some kind!

Do you have any “Pavlovian” responses?

We’re Not Bleeding

I have a babysitting gig tonight.

I was doing a quick scroll on Facebook (that’s about all I can handle on FB) and noticed my neighbor two doors up looking for a last-minute sitter since the scheduled sitter has come down sick.  It’s my neighbors anniversary and apparently the reservations have been made for months.  This is a newish neighbor; they moved in last May in the middle of pandemic and I don’t know them terribly well, but I thought “what the heck… I don’t have any plans on Friday night” and volunteered. 

The last time I did any child-minding was two Easters ago.  As part of the most over-engineered-egg-hunt in history, adults go out and hide the eggs for one assigned child (13 kids 13 and under).  Normally I am part of the egg-hiding crowd but that year there was snow on the ground and I was the lone voice of reason that maybe we should do something different.  So I rebelled and stayed with the kids in the house while all the other adults traipsed out.  Big jokes were made about whether I could handle this.  I told all the kids that as long as there was no bleeding, we would be fine.  The kids thought this was very funny and it’s still a running joke; I expect to hear that no one is bleeding on Thanksgiving.,

My neighbor is not a baker so I thought I might take some cookie dough to their house and bake cookies with the girls.  Or maybe we could make caramel popcorn to have if we watch tv.  Other than that no plans; I’m assuming from their ages (5 and 8) that they will be in bed before their folks get home, so a good book is on the docket a well.  YA thinks I’m in for a hard evening despite me reminding her that I was HER babysitter for years and she’s not bleeding.

Any advice for tonight?

Jumping In

Al the discussion about gardening on Mars and The Martian by Andy Weir made me think.  If I were sure I could get back, would I want to try Mars?  And better yet, if I could beam to Mars and back, instead of spending more than a year on a spaceship each way, would I want to try Mars?  I might, since my biggest issue is the travel part.  And the getting home part.

By now, of course, I’m pretty far down Fantasy Road and I found myself thinking about whether I would want to change places with any other movie character, or tv character or character in a book. 

Again, part of my decision is based on the absolutely certainy that I am not putting my life in danger and I would be able to get back home.  Kinda like the holodeck in Star Trek where you just say “computer, end program” and the door to the ship’s hallways opens right up.

That being said, I can think of LOTS of characters I’d like to be for a week or so.  Scarlett O’Hara from Gone w/ the Wind, Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird, Ren-Marie from any of the Three Pines mysteries, Frodo from Lord of the Rings, Lawrence from any of the Temeraire stories (except Australia – that one stunk)…. I could go on and on.  Of course there are a lot of stories I prefer from a reading distance – pretty much anything during WWII and Vietnam, anything where the character is scared/threatened/blackmailed through the book or movie. Anything that is too gory or gruesome.  And if it’s a book I really didn’t like then I definitely don’t need to swap with those characters ever.

So what about you?  Any character you’d like to be for a week?

The Mighty Wurlitzer

Every now and then I am surprised by the new and different things I stumble upon.  I’ve lived in the Twin Cities since 1980 and while I would never presume to know all there is to know about Minneapolis/St. Paul, I like to think I’m in the know on a lot of what is here.

In August a friend/neighbor asked me to teach him how to make pesto.  Kind of a tempest in a teapot – a quick internet search will show you dozens of recipes and “how to” videos – but it wasn’t an imposition, so I went up and showed him how.  As a thank you he asked if I had ever been to the Heights Theatre and when I said “no”, he insisted that we go to one of their special shows.  Apparently every month they do a screening of a vintage movie on their big screen which is preceded by the playing of their “Mighty Wurlitzer”. 

The vintage movie on Monday night was Singin’ in the Rain.  My friend has been to the theatre many times, so bowing to his experience we sat in the front row, just off to the right.  It turns out that this is the best vantage point to watch the Wurlitzer player (and not a bad seat for the movie itself).  In addition, my friend knows everyone who works there, so I got a great tutorial about the organ from one of the engineers, including all kinds of photos of the pipes and instruments behind the scenes.  Suffice it to say I had no clue about how extensive a set-up a big Wurlitzer has.

I’ve never seen Singin in the Rain on the big screen and it was amazing. It made me a little sad to think about how thoroughly our society has taken to the small screen – phones, tv, ipads, laptops.  Even most movie theatres have cut down screen size to make room for more.  Made me think back to when I saw Star Trek: Wrath of Khan on the massive screen at the now-defunct Cooper.  The opening shot of stars and space took my breath away.  Even without the Wurlitzer experience, I may have to keep going to the Heights to enjoy films on a really big screen!

What’s the last thing you saw on a big screen?

Disaster!

Today is the anniversary of the Wall Street Crash in 1929 that started the Great Depression. My great grandmother had invested in some Texas oil company stock and lost a good bit of money. My parents would often talk about the closing of the banks. It was a huge disaster for them and really influenced the trajectory of their lives.

I have never been a great fan of disaster movies. I just don’t like the suspense. I think the worst one I ever saw was a fairly modern one in which the magnetic poles changed position, and the North Pole was somewhere around Minneapolis, and all the oceans flooded dry land, exposing new dry land, and anyone who survived was on this one ship which contained survivors and all that remained of Western Civilization. I have no idea how or why I came to be watching it. I was most tolerant of disaster movies when I was in high school. The Poseidon Adventure comes to mind.

What are your favorite or least favorite disaster movies? Which movies to do think are real disasters? How did your family fare in the Great Depression? Why do you think that disasters are such popular fodder for entertainment?

Witness

Not nearly as any books get recorded on CD these days as are recorded to Audiobooks that can be downloaded.  So every now and then, even though I have quite an impressive waiting list at the library, I find myself without a CD in the car (I know, horrors, right?) l When this happens I just peruse the CD shelves at my local library.  This is how I found Witness for the Prosecution by Agatha Christie.

I’ve said here before that I read all of Agatha Christie’s books when I was in high school.  I need to amend that; I read all of Agatha Christie’s novels in high school.  And of course high school was a long time ago so when I first watched the movie version of Witness, I didn’t realize that it wasn’t one of her novels.  It’s one of her short stories. 

As I often enjoy books more than the movies made from them, when I pulled the CD off the shelf I was wondering how this dynamic would play out.  I adore the Witness for the Prosecution movie made in 1957 with Charles Laughton, Elsa Lancaster, Trevor Howard and Marlene Dietrich.  Great acting, good story, nice denouement and fabulous courtroom scenes.

If I’d had my wits about me I would have made the leap that a short story would need fleshing out to make a full movie.  But  I don’t always have my wits about me, so I was surprised to find that the movie had taken “fleshed out” to new levels.  The Charles Laughton and Else Lancaster characters and all their action and dialog were complete embellishments as was about half of the courtroom scenes.  And the short story ending was a little more open-ended than the movie.

So I’m sure you’re all saying “VS will never watch this movie again.  She’s outraged that Hollywood would take such liberties with one of her favorite authors.”  It’s what I thought I would be saying about now.  But I’m not.  The movie does not mess with the actual story – it’s completely intact – the additional characters, dialog and scenes actually support the story.  Apparently Agatha Christie did not mind the additions and, of course, the movie was released to international acclaim.

The rest of the stories are fascinating, very unlike her novels.  No suspicious deaths, no big long list of suspects with motives and opportunities.  But great stories that capture the imagination.  I’m about half way through the CDs and am manufacturing reasons to get in the car right now, so I can keep listening. 

Have you ever had to give testimony in court? Or been on a jury?

He Said She Said

I spent an hour or so at Urgent Care yesterday (not a big deal – just wanted to be reassured that my self care was OK and to get a tetanus booster.

While waiting I noticed a woman go in and out of the UC door a few times; she was wearing a Darth Vader smock.  Long gone are the days when everybody is required to wear white!  When it turned out that she was the nurse who was going to rewrap my hand and give me my shot, I was elated.  I told her how much I like her smock and she told me about her other Leia smock.  We traded our favorite quotes from Star Wars.  Since she is a Darth fan, hers is “I find your lack of faith disturbing.”   I like that one but I do gravitate to Yoda “ Do.  Or do not.  There is no try.”

On the way home I was thinking about this encounter (which was really the highlight of my day) and how many times I use quotes from my favorite movies.

  • “On the side.” When Harry Met Sally
  • “Badges? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges.”  Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  • “You know, assholes.” Blazing Saddles
  • “Candygram for Mongo.” Blazing Saddles (You’d be surprised how often you can make this work.)
  • “You overestimate both of us.” People Will Talk
  • “Snap out of it.” Moonstruck
  • “Be afraid. Be very afraid.”  The Fly
  • “There will be blood tonight.” Princess Bride
  • “We are men of action. Lies do not become us.”  Princess Bride  (Note: I say this to myself.  Not aloud.)
  • “You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.” Princess Bride   (Again, never said outloud.  And I say it to myself with Mandy Patinkin’s accent.)
  • “Now they’re practical.” Romancing the Stone
  • “Not exactly firing on all thrusters.” Star Trek IV
  • “Fun fun fun til her/your daddy takes the T-Bird away.” (yes, I know this a song not a movie, but, what the heck, it’s my blog post…..)

Any quotes from movies (or tv or book or songs) that you find yourself using in every life?

 

 

 

Movie Wars

You all know I adore my mom.  And for the most part, we do quite well when we spend time together but the 9 days I spent in St. Louis did stretch our patience a few times. The place where we have the most friction is the television.  I’m happy to leave the tv off most of the time but Nonny has habits that she doesn’t want to relinquish.  This starts in the morning as she likes to watch the news.  I prefer my news in short, concentrated bursts and would really just like to read my news online.  Both the tragedy of the falling condo and the Bill Cosby reversal were in the news while I was there and both stories got re-hashed and re-hashed.  I was working in the morning so pretty much tried to tune it out but it was difficult.

The evenings caused more tension.  Nonny likes the Hallmark movies, especially the romances and the holiday films.  And I’m sure I’m not giving any of you news when I say that I detest the Hallmark Christmas movies (which are playing 24/7 beginning two weeks ago and through July).  This is not a secret to Nonny but despite my saying so more than once, she filed this fact away.  After a couple of nights we decided to switch back and forth.  First I would pick a movie, then she would pick a movie.  You’d think we’d both be adult enough for this solution, wouldn’t you?

She didn’t like Ant-Man and the Wasp at all.  I thought she might because the Ant-Man movies are much lighter than some of the other Marvel universe movies.  I was wrong.  She had trouble following the storyline and got impatient pretty quickly.  Then she chose one of her Christmas movies, although I know she’d already seen it because she recounted the plot to me in the first 10 minutes.  I pretty much ignored the movie, but she kept muting the tv during the commercials to “talk about it”.  I was more testy than I should have been.

I chose the old Woman in White with Alexis Smith, Eleanor Parker and Gig Young.  How could this go wrong?  Well, the thought the Sydney Greenstreet character was too creepy and complained that she just didn’t like movies where the bad guys held so much sway over the good guys.  She got quite crabby.  But not as crabby as I got when she chose another Christmas movie.  I will admit that I pouted and decided it was a good time to do laundry; that took me out of the condo (laundry machines are across the hall) several times.  Unfortunately she was convinced that I needed to hear the song at the end of the movie and called me to come back to the living room.  Twice. 

Luckily I found How to Marry a Millionaire with Lauren Bacall, Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable – this turned out to finally be something we could agree on.  It was funny (with great costumes) and since Nonny had seen it before, she already knew the plot line.  It was nice to have something we both enjoyed as our last movie of my trip.  I’m not sure what would have happened if I had stayed in St. Louis longer.  Is there such a thing as bad-movie-induced-matricide?

What’s the worst movie or tv show you’ve been subjected to lately?