the fatal mistake

FargoI went out to a theater yet again, this time to see a movie I’ve been wanting to see for a good while, No Country for Old Men. The story of a feller who stumbles upon the recent bloodbath of a drug deal gone wrong and wanders away with a satchel filled with money. While this would seem a blessing to most people, he of course, has to make the standard old mistake of returning to the scene of the crime (even though it wasn’t his crime, it is still always a bad idea). This bad idea leads, as one would expect, to some bad characters tracking him down to get their money back. As one might expect of someone who ends up holding a bag like this, he takes no shorts when it comes to keeping it in his hands, even risking his life and the life of his wife. It’s funny what people will do to keep possession of something that they don’t have any right to have.

His flight through the unpleasant scenery of Texas (as seen in the previously covered Three Burials but without the pretty cinematography), leaves a trail of death behind him, as he is being, oh too closely followed but a relentless killing machine. “Chigurh” is this remorseless man’s name, played by Javier Bardem who does a relentlessly good job as the villain and the chief character of this. Sadly, Chigurh’s weapon (or shtick, should I say) is a bit contrived for a movie, maybe more suitable to being read, but he still does a good job with what he’s given.. Josh Brolin is quite good as our foolish protagonist Llewelyn Moss. It also stars Tommy Lee Jones, who does a fine job, though not as great as in Three Burials.

While I like McCarthy’s books, this is the one book that I haven’t had an interest in reading, and while I love the Coen Brothers, after seeing this movie I wouldn’t expect the reaction that it is getting… I mean it’s a good movie, certainly better than the lion’s share of what comes out of Hollywood these days, with some nice drama, plenty of violence, an fun story and some good casting, but the characters aren’t that interesting and the story was fairly predictable. I would still recommend it, though, for people who like quiet dramas with maybe some helpings of violence in them. I don’t know if I am being overly harsh due to all the crazy Oscar action it got. I mean Atonement is the only other movie nominated for any sort of Oscar this year that I have seen, so I don’t know the competition and I don’t have much (any) respect for the Oscar’s anyway, but I am quite surprised at all the accolades this movie is receiving. in the last year or so it does seem like everyone and their dog has become a fan of anything with Cormac’s name on it, so maybe it’s just part of his current personality cult. Fame which is well-deserved, but it is one of those movies (like say, Platoon), that I have had too much of its fantasticness thrown in my face beforehand.

Though looking over the list of about 200 “wide-release” films of 2007 on Wikipedia, I guess I’ve only seen 8 of them, and No Country for Old Men is certainly one of the top three of those.



the moral of the story is…

Following one of the rare movie recommendations that I get, I flixed The Plot Against Harry. Which I, of course, kept calling “The Problem With Harry”. It is a sadly overlooked film. Made in 1969, seemingly it got no chance at distribution for decades and even IMDB lists it as a 1989 movie. It’s billed as a comedy, but not in the standard hollywood sense. At the Pat Travers quote says on the front of the case “Hypnotically funny, uproariously witty”. Well, it’s not exactly hypnotical or uproarious in my eyes, but it is certainly a comedy of the more quiet and witty form, but it is also feels like a low-key and non-violent version of The Long Good Friday.

 

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At the beginning, things seem pretty good for Harry Plotnick. He gets out of the slammer after serving a nine month sentance and he leaves in style, as his driver picks him up in his Cadillac limousine (with 2 phones!) and has a wad of cash and payment book for him. But upon progressing, it seems that business went down when Harry went away.

 

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He quickly learns that he seems to have lost a number of his employees to the competition, which troubles him, and which he sets out to rectify. Then, after he runs a car off the road as payback for them cutting him off, things get worse. The car happens to contain his ex-wife, ex-brother in law, his daughter (who he hasn’t seen in 20 years) and her husband and daughter. Sometimes, reacquainting oneself with family isn’t the best route to follow for anyone involved, especially if you happen to be a hood. Which Harry is. Being a successful bookie sent up the river and now on parole is rarely a boon to ones family.  His involvement with this family leads them to want him back inside and he gets subpoenaed by a congressional committee! As everything falls apart, he decides to go straight (though he really has no choice), towards which he goes on a radio show and joins “the Temple”…

 

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Watching Harry (played quite well by Martin Priest) schlep his way through the collapse of his criminal career is the point here. It is mildly touching, as he doesn’t seem concerned and the lack of violence leaves a rather civilized feel to the movie.

 

We also watched Micki and Maude. Yes, the point to On Demand is that you can watch crap that it would never occur to you to rent. This movie, when it first came out in 1984, was my first date movie! And I hadn’t seen it since. An odd little romantic comedy (well, it feels like one, though it’s not particularly funny) from, yes, Blake Edwards featuring Dudley Moore as a married man who, in the midst of strife with is wife over he wanting to start a family and her wanting to focus on her career, he begins have an affair with, yes, Amy Irving. Of course, to make matters worse (as as Caitlin might say, all too predictable) both of these women get pregnant. His path follows a the standard “man with a mistress” concept, only he actually goes along with his promises in an odd fashion. What is interesting about this movie is that he expresses absolutely no guilt about having two pregnant women and lying to them both continually. He seems to feel that it is his right to have both children and be a dual father. But both Dudley and Amy are quite charming, as is, of course, his boss played by Richard Mulligan, who is his best friend and conscience.



trying to walk a straight line, on sour mash and cheap wine…

I wouldn’t say watched it… But I did manage to glimpse some of tonight’s Oscars. I guess I don’t watch them often, as the wife seemed surprised when I pondered why the new Daily Show guy was hosting, as I thought that Billy Crystal hosted the show every year.

Regardless, this may have been the first year that I thought that no crap had been picked for Best Picture nominees. All of the picks this year were actually movies that I would want to see. And it was fun to see the success of No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood. But in unrelated news…

 

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gaze into the fist of dread

 

I’ve been thinking lately about The Quiet Earth. A great film from New Zealand that has been terribly overlooked in the last 20 years. From what I can remember, in 1986ish it had a brief “arthouse” release in the states and then a little vhs printing and that was it, until its US DVD release a year and a half ago. A great and quiet film about a science experiment gone terribly wrong, in that it removes nearly every person on earth. It is an interesting and compelling film about what one might do if they were the last person on earth, and how three really can be a crowd. But it also seems (at least to a paranoid soul like myself) to be a meditation on the dangers of science. Well, on the dangers inherent in utilizing our existing technology to the fullest. As Einstein once said, “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity”.

I think about it whenever I hear about the idea of setting off powerful bombs underground on fault lines, in the hopes of using those as a preemptive measure against potential major earthquakes, but I also thought about it this week when I read this article at National Geographic about the search for the ridiculously (and inaccurately) named “god particle”, At The Heart Of All Matter. Obviously, I don’t think that anything terrible will happen, but still, reading paragraphs like this:

At four locations the beams will converge, sending the particles crashing into each other at nearly the speed of light. If all goes right, matter will be transformed by the violent collisions into wads of energy, which will in turn condense back into various intriguing types of particles, some of them never seen before. That’s the essence of experimental particle physics: You smash stuff together and see what other stuff comes out.

Does make me wonder if research may take that one final wrong step one of these days.



two faced and two fisted

This week I finally I got in a viewing of, ah yes, one of the great classic action films (and the last great John Woo/Chow Yun Fat film before they began trying to cross the seas to Hollywood)… Hard Boiled! Though things would soon be different (the next year Woo made “hard target” with johnclaudevandamme), this is classic Woo/Fat…Filled with trademark action including the famous “shooting while sliding” scene.

 

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Of course, that scene is just a part of the tremendous carnival of gun carnage that starts this movie off with a bang, the famous teahouse massacre. There are no “doves in the chapel” scenes as in some of their other great works, but a lot of the standards are upheld: endless gunfights, slow motion jumping/falling/shooting/explosions, stacks of innocent victims and lots of shooting, lots and lots of shooting (to paraphrase Van Damme). We follow along as a jazz playing undercover agent named Tequila goes after Johnny Wong, a big arms dealer. He has the help of a double agent played by Tony Leung who plays three different sides here. They follow the standard plan utilizing lots of crazily choreographed combat scenes that fill over an hour of fantastically overboard gunfights to take the baddies down.

 

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Woo also works to give us our fill of not only gunfire, but also lots of bodies flying through the air (and through windows), explosions and double-crossing all of which culminates with the half hour plus gunfight at the hospital that rounds things up, with many more explosions, more slaughter of innocents (including automatic weapons fire used against hospital patients) and much more shooting action a lot of which is in the always entertaining “double fisted shooting” style.

 

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Hard Boiled is a true icon of gun violence and I dare you to try and keep track of the body count here.

 

FargoAlso we recently watched Fargo. The story of a foolish man whose scheme to extract money from his father-in-law by staging a kidnapping and collecting the ransom fails in the most terrible of fashions. William H Macy is brilliant in this, and Steve Buscemi does his standard great work as one of the kidnappers. It’s not one of my favorite Coen Brothers movies, but it is certainly a reliable bit of fun! It is fun to watch and intriguing and it is quite harsh in its violence, coming across as a very-black comedy. And then there is the second plot-line, which sees Francis McDormand as a small town police officer who is dragged into this when the kidnappers get pulled over on a rural road and end up gunning down three people. The characters there add a nice pleasent level of charm to the film (offsetting the rest of the cast, none of whom are charming at all) and is great fun with lots of the sidetracks (yes, and those accents) that really make this movie.



nazi dentist, tie me to a chair…

It was an exciting Sunday movie day, after Coffy, we watched a couple of nice thrillers which are always a good way to pass a day at home. Plus, I’d been wanting to see both of these for quite a while. We started off with a great one, Marathon Man. For those who don’t remember this story, based on an also great William Goldman novel, it’s a intriguing story about a graduate student who gets a surprise visit from his brother, and then everything going to hell. Dustin Hoffman is the naive student, the late, great Roy Schieder is his “businessman” brother and Laurence Olivier is the elderly evil Nazi Doctor Christian Szell.

 

Marathon Man

 

See, Doctor Szell is one of those “Odessa” type Nazis who fled to South America after the war. Since then, he has been involved in some financial goings-on that involve some government forces and his brother Klaus, up in New York City. Things get shaky for Dr. Szell though, once his brother dies in an automobile altercation he sets off by yelling “Juden” at an irate motorist. Szell feels the needs to go to New York City, which seems to be a dangerous place to be an infamous Nazi doctor who worked in a Death Camp.

 

Marathon Man

 

But the plot gets thicker, Roy Scheider is actually some kind of secret agent in Europe who is also involved somehow with this Nazi and he heads back to New York City, where he visits his brother and then is promptly murdered by Szell. At this point, all sorts of people decide that his brother knows something and try to extract the information from him. Hoffman, of course, knows nothing about any of it, but he is in for a heck of an education.

 

Marathon Man

 

While the second half of the move is certainly the most exciting portion, as a top-rate thriller with dental torture, lies and betrayals, chases, gun fire and all sorts of action, I personally prefer the first half, as I am rather impartial towards Hoffman, but I quite like Schieder (and his character), so once he leaves the scene, the movie seems a little less interesting. But it is all in all a great movie, quite thrilling and Dustin Hoffman plays the “naive guy who is forced to pull his head out of the ground and face reality” character quite convincingly. And honestly, and maybe sadly, towards the end I started feeling pity for Dr. Szell. Yes, he was a terrible man who did (well, still does, it would seem) terrible things to people, but he was also just a greedy and alone old man, who took a great risk to satisfy that greed. I know, it doesn’t sound like a sympathetic situation, but there was something so desperate about him that I couldn’t help it.

 

Eye of the NeedleTo keep the day thrilling, and to keep with the “wanted Nazi” theme, we also watched Eye of The Needle, which was one of my favorites when I was a teenager. It didn’t seem quite as thrilling now, but I still do like it and it has some good tension in the last half. Donald Sutherland is Der Nagel, a Nazi spy working amidst the British military as the preparations are being made for the invasion of europe. We follow him for a while as he goes about his business, but then it starts to fall apart and he becomes a fugitive, right as Berlin orders him to meet with a u-boat and return home. Of course all sorts of things go wrong with his attempt at rendezvousing with the U-boat, and he ends up shipwrecked on an island with a population of 4. Once he gets here is where the movie really comes into its own, as the island features a young unfulfilled wife with a bitter and unpleasant husband who is wheel-chair bound, and a radio-set that would be just perfect for him to try and contact his submarine… As one would expect from a good thriller, one thing leads to another and things really start to heat up, in a variety of ways.



you wanna spit on me and make me crawl?

I watched Coffy today! Always an entertaining way to spend an hour and a half, as it is a great AIP classic and an exciting Pam Grier ‘sploitation movie! Filled with all of that great 70’s Jack Hill stuff: gratuitous nudity, gun play, beatings from guys in ski-masks, pimps, dealers, cops on the take, a bunch of high-class hookers in a food fight… And it’s all thrown together in a moralistic personal revenge movie! Pam plays Miss Coffin, a nurse whose younger sister got involved in the drug scene and it ended her up in the hospital. Of course, for this, Coffy goes on a revenge spree that takes her from the street dealers to the plush condo of King George (the big pimp around town) and beyond. When she sets off on this path, so has no idea the heights to which her vengeance needs to go to make things right. And along on this trip she involves her ex-boyfriend, a good cop named Carter, and her politically powerful lover Brunswick… And it doesn’t turn out well for either of them. But she knows no bounds to what she’ll say or do to accomplish this task, starting right off the bat with the grisly double murder of the small time dealers who supplied her sister with junk.

 

Coffee with Shotgun

 

She can gets away with this because she’ll do anything she has to and because no one can resist her charms, not even good old Sid Haig, whose character Omar’s weakness for her is the final mistake the bad guys make. But there are lots of fun characters, and I even felt a bit sorry for King George, who is a fun and charming character, as generally are those stereotyped 70’s pimps, but his memorable death scene is quite unsettling, since he didn’t seem to be all that bad for a pimp/dealer and was set up by conniving old Coffy!

 

Coffy with King George

 

But Pam is great! Coffy is a perfect Grier role, tempestuous, focussed, ruthless, quite an eyeful and yet a caring and emotional character.  She kicks a#% all over the place, being quite comfortable under the covers, or with her fingers around a broken bottle or on the trigger of a shotgun. And the soundtrack by Roy Ayers is a great piece of old 70’s film funk. Elinor started dancing to it as soon as the opening credits started rolling. The trouble with these movies is that you can’t watch just one!

 

Coffy with pistol

 



flogging the not-dead-yet horse

Well, since it’s been almost half a year since I last addressed this subject (back in August in okay, sure… but what if?) a couple of things have happened today to inspire me to bring up yet again (this makes the 6th time, I think) what will, one day, turn into a great big health care issue… Those darned cancer causing cell phones! Though I thought that last the post (on the ten minutes of cell phone use that it takes to start potentially dangerous cell division in ones brain) would be enough to get the world to kick its cell phone habit, it seems not. Just now Slashdot linked to an article at InformationWeek with the blunt title of Cell Phone Use Linked To Increased Cancer Risk. While the results expressed in the article aren’t that dramatic (not as much as last time), I just wonder how many times little bits of evidence like this need to crop up before really start questioning those devices on a wide scale…

What really set me off is that right before stumbling on this article, I read a bit in the local paper about a family who hired a well thought of contractor to remove the lead paint from the exterior of their old house. The method in which he did so left all three of their children permanently brain damaged! Which just goes to show that just because worrying about some things might make you feel paranoid, that doesn’t mean that there is nothing to worry about. Even little things can have harrowing and tragic long term effects. Especially in our dear little children, whose bodies are still developing and who need for us to make decisions for them that are the right decisions, no matter how hard those decisions may seem.

And my little girl certainly finds the family cell phone very appealing. I am look forward to the day we we can get rid of it…



no, not that castro

The Times of Harvey MilkYes, I do occasionally watch movies still! Case in point? Tonight we watched The Times of Harvey Milk. A documentary about Harvey Milk, the gay rights movement of the 1970’s, his successful candidacy for San Francisco city council (becoming they say, the first openly gay male elected official in the United States) and the sudden and tragic end to that experience. The movie is pretty interesting, lots of interviews with people who knew him and were well familiar with the struggles that gays and other minorities faced in the city. It seems to really have been about the time that San Francisco was becoming a famous magnet for gay population, which elicited a mixed response from the population. The movie sort of sums up the quickly expanding gay scene in San Francisco and how Milk’s political activism made him a sort of lightening rod for it. The death of Milk and Mayor Moscone at the hands of former councilman Dan White was a terrible event for San Fransisco, coming right on the heels of the Jonestown Massacre. A lot of the population became rather mournful about things, that changed after White was sentenced! The light punishment put upon him, the success of his famous Twinkie defense and his “sad and touching” confession led a great deal of rightful anger from the community.

Thinking about the verdict reminds one that “the law” is set up to protect and serve society, not to protect and serve people. So someone like White, a middle-class white male seeking to clean up what he thought were people who were dangerous to the city… while he may have violated the letter of the law, I’m sure that there were many who thought that his actions where within the spirit of the law.

Its hard to believe that all this sort of stuff was a mere thirty years ago. Heck, he won his successful bid for office a mere three months after my first trip to San Fransisco!



it had to happen sometime…

In the midst of all of this hoo-ha about biofuels and electric cars, there is an eye-opening, yet strangely not surprising article at The BBC about a man who had invented a concept car that runs on compressed air, the Aircar! Well, why not, I would think. Of course, for long voyages it requires some fuel (at about 120 miles per gallon), but for tooting about town, nothing but air. It seems like a perfectly reasonable idea though, but is it one that would fly here, if it was given the chance? Maybe we’ll get to find out!

 

The Aircar

The Aircar

 

Of course, the plan is for it to be made by Tata Motors and available only in India, but maybe it will succeed and spread. It seems certainly like a step in the right direction. Plus, it will be even more fuel efficient the “the worlds cheapest car”, the 50mpg(?), $2,500 Nano, also available in India from Tata motors.

 

The Tata Nano

The Tata Nano

 

They might even be safe enough and roadworthy on our streets, if some people would stop driving those driving those giant Hot Wheels cars around that make the roads more dangerous for everyone.



today’s thoughts on evil…

No, this isn’t a post about Mike Huckabee (enough of politics for the moment), instead it’s just some musings on music… I was into trying out some “new” stuff this week and what really jumped out at me was something that I’ve had for a number of years, which I got from a co-worker. I recall that I listened to it back then and liked it, but the few songs that I had got lost in the morass of music I have floating around here… The band is Anaal Nathrakh and while I only have a couple of songs, I’m going to have to get some more! The songs I have are all from the album “Codex Necro” and they are all really good, though I especially liked When Humanity is Cancer. The songs have elements of black metal, death metal, Ministry-style industrial and some great demonic and undead voices. Highly recommended.

 

Codex Necro

Codex Necro

 

Then another high point, as I tend to like what Black Metal I can find from Central/South America, I gave a try to Columbia’s Inquisition (though sadly it seems that they may live in Washington now…). Great stuff! Creepy, evil and slow. I really like the laid back vocal style, it is sinister and evil, but more like evil talking than growling or screaming. A little odd, but nice. So far I would highly recommend “Invoking the Majestic Throne of Satan” and, especially, “Magnificent Glorification of Lucifer” which contains certainly the funnest song that I’ve heard today, Crush the Jewish Prophet! Really great vocals, listen to it here:

 

Invoking the Majestic Throne of Satan

Invoking the Majestic Throne of Satan

 

Magnificent Glorification of Lucifer

Magnificent Glorification of Lucifer

 

On a less excellent note, I don’t normally listen to USBM and I have again been reminded why. I got some Kult ov Azazel and I’ve had mixed impressions. While they are American, they are from Florida, which seems to be the place to be from if you are going to be a good American metal band, and their music is pretty good (I especially like the album “Triumph of Fire”) but the vocals… I just can’t abide. Now don’t get me wrong they have some good growling, but their main vocals have that good ol’ USA “hardcore” style screaming… And I just can’t do it. It’s one of the “metal” things that really doesn’t interest me. So that’s too bad. I’ll try some more to see if it grows on me, but Anaal and Inquisition may be enough finds for one day.



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