truth or consequences…

ReligulousI wanted to finish off the recent spate of documentaries with the high point of the series… One that we’ve been wanting to see ever since it came out. Of course I am speaking of Religulous! This movie is Bill Maher’s attempt to understand how people of faith can be people of faith (basically). In it he goes around the world to ask various people of faith to ask them how/why they believe the things that they do. Though he is focused on people who follow the various Abrahamic religions, the ground that he covers is quite wide-ranging. It includes: a trucker’s chapel (yes, at a truck stop), a holy land amusement park in Florida, a mosque in Jerusalem, a Moslem gay bar, an orthodox rabbi, some ex-Mormon’s in Salt Lake City, the Vatican and a U.S. congressman!

He makes it quite clear to these folks that he doesn’t for a minute believe that any of it is true and that he is just dying to know why it is that they do. This tact leads to quite a varied group of responses, though except for one of the “worshipers” at the truck stop, most of them do earnestly try to explain the foundations of their faith. These responses vary from interesting (in a somewhat startling fashion), entertaining, befuddling and downright insulting and scary (in the case of the congressman when he suggests that if it weren’t for the ten commandments that people might not have come to the conclusion that it is bad to kill each other).

Some of the most outstanding bits are the earnest attempts at explanation from the fellow who portrays Jesus at the amusement park, the woman at the amusement park who says that when Armageddon comes she’ll be flying through the sky on a big white horse, the bit about it being a miracle if it starts raining when you want it to and, my favorite, the priests at the Vatican who don’t seem to think that anything in the bible is meant literally.

While you could say that he is trying to be objective, I think that in a situation like this you can only be so objective… For a person not-of-faith to have a conversation with someone who is of-faith about their beliefs can be interesting, but having those conversations with dozens of people who all firmly believe in ultimate truths that contradict the other peoples ultimate truths, well, I think you would have to take most of they people say with a big grain of salt. Of course, as Maher has to have a point that isn’t just his opinion but also of greater import, he covers the dangers of faith… Specifically the danger inherent in people who actually want the end of the world to arrive because they believe that something better will come for them after that. Not really the safest way to think considering what kinds of weaponry modern civilization has at its disposal… Even if it were true, it still wouldn’t be a good thing for anyone whose belief system didn’t happen to be the correct one.

reality bits

Taking advantage of the Netflix and streaming, we had a nice week of so of documentary watching. Of course, as we streamed them, their were some that we couldn’t get to much into and so felt quite free to halt. The ones that we completed though, consisted primary of these…

The King of KongThe King of Kong. Man, I’d been wanting to see this for a long. Time! The story of Billy Mitchell, the fellow who got the Donkey Kong world record (among many others) in the early 1980’s and another fellows recent attempt to defeat that record. Donkey Kong was one of the first games that I was “good” at (until that fateful day at the Red Robin on Burnside when punk-ass Jon beat me and I moved onto other games), so it was fun to watch this story… It was also somewhat gratifying to have them especially cover the difficulty of the Third Elevators as that level was my fatal downfall. What becomes somewhat surprising is the politics and cliquishness of the scene. The same major player have been around since the old days (including the fellow who is in charge of official records keeping) and they don’t seem to take to well towards new comers trying to unseat the champ.

CrawfordCrawford. Uff. Man. The story of what happens to a small Texas town when the Governor of Texas decides to by a ranch in the town as he makes his play for President. I found that theme to not be as interesting as it was to listen to the things that these people have to say in general. Primarily non-analytical pro-government, pro-military, pro-god, anti-peace… I am always torn in that way that I do (or at least want to) appreciated the reputation of genuineness and community spirit shown by small town America, but also mortified by what they sometimes say in their attempts at honesty. I would almost rather that they behave in decent ways that are dishonest to themselves then have them believe that we can go and bomb all to hell any foreign country that we want for no legitimate reason. All in all, somewhat disturbing. In the few high-point’s to this town are a thoughtful teacher who tries to teach her students to think about things and be somewhat analytical and one youth who really does try to understand the truth and express it. By the end of the movie, neither of them are living in Crawford anymore…

Welcome to MacintoshWelcome to Macintosh. Now this is a good Macintosh documentary! Way better than that terrible Macheads that we watched a while back! It is a history of Apple, of the Macintosh and its development and of the followers of the mac. Covering Apple’s successes and missteps with interest and sincerity, it also has some good speakers, including Guy Kawasaki(!), Apple engineers, bloggers and a lot of people who were around Apple and the Mac in the old days. The filmmakers are obviously big fans of Apple and though they are strongly supportive of Steve and though they wisely tie the success of Apple to his vison, personality and his person itself, they aren’t blindly mired within his halo effect… Though some of the people interview in the movie are.

Forgiving Dr MengeleForgiving Dr Mengele. This was an interesting and enlightening story. Forgiving Dr Mengele is the story of a woman who had been a prisoner in Auschwitz. Her and her sister where twins so they we, um, enlisted to be some of Doctor Mengele’s experimental subjects for his genetic testing. The women, now elderly, has decided that to continue on with her life she needs to put it behind her and forgive Dr Mengele. Not because his actions should be forgiven, but because she doesn’t want to spend the rest of her life under that cloud. Of course her decision is not taken well by a good portion of the Jewish community. There are some interesting other side trips… In one she starts a holocaust museum in the little town that she lives in and goes about educating the local school children and, two, she takes a trip to visit Palestinians. I thought that was most interesting as they primarily wanted to talk about the harm that has been done to them by the state of Israel, and she was really quite disinterested in hearing anything about that.

Following SeanFollowing Sean was alright. The story of a fellow who lived in the Haight area right at the peak of the hippie thing who befriended a smart four year old hippie boy who lived upstairs. At one point, he asked the kid some questions in front of a camera and Sean mentioned some things about drug use and other hippie stuff. When the filmmaker originally released that footage way backl when, he got famous and his movie got acclaim and criticism. Now, many years later, he decides to go back to San Francisco to see what all of those folks from old days are up to. It really didn’t spark much interest in me and the results of his quest aren’t particularly surprising or compelling.

the age of miracles and wonders is not past

Little DorritEasily one of the movie watching high-points of the year, Little Dorrit is a rags to riches story, and a riches to rags story. It is also a story of betrayal and secrets, but most of all it is the story of a young lady who is involved with everything going on, but aware of little of it. This young lady was born into the Marshalsea debtors prison, daughter to the Lord of the Marshalsea, and sister to both a conniving dancer and an irresponsible gadabout. Unlike the rest of her family, Amy Dorritt is a good soul who gallantly perseveres through her life taking care of her aging father. That is, until the charming Arthur Clennam appears on the scene. Arthur is a man returned from abroad where his father has died and he now comes to England bring that news to his mother. His mother, of course, is a dour and bitter woman who, in prime Dicken’s fashion, holds a secret that may involve wealth, paternity and lies. A secret that will involve a wide and intriguing cast of characters.

In fact, with these characters this was one of the best Dicken’s miniseries that I’ve seen, and one of the best historical dramas period. Little Dorrit has a great cast of characters, a great cast and an intricate and nasty plot.

Little Dorrit

As the plot advances, we find an evilly murderous Frenchman approach the secretive old lady… Of her secrets, he may know too much and will let nothing and no one prevent his hidden agenda. But the lady is attended by a loyal old servant who will strive to protect her and it is obvious from the start of their relationship that nothing good at alkl will come from it.

Little Dorrit

On the other side of the tracks, we have the Dorrit’s immersed in their poverty, arrogance and sinful ways, even though they are attended by the kind father and son team who man the door of the debtor’s prison. OPnce outside those doors, not all are so kind! The poor out there are lorded over by an evil landlord… Who hides his true self behind a grandfatherly and generous veneer, but lashes out at his tenants through his brutish rent collector. All of these people become immerssed in the drama that unfolds.

Little Dorrit

Around all of these questionable folks and their greedy activities, are two who are so good of heart and deed that one can barely stand the foulness that people attempt to perpetuate upon them… And there is also a love that may rise or fall, depending on whether or not the people involved ever realize that the love is even there.

it’s smiling at me…

Ah yes, the Christmas time is here again and we have been doing our Christmas mostes this year. Including, of course, some movies. This is really the first year that Elinor can really enjoy some of the classics from my youth (which, of course, I would rather have her enjoy than the ones that have been put out most recently. Of course, I am speaking of the Rankin/Bass specials! The ones that we have watched this time around are Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus is Coming to Town. Now, rightfully, Elinor really appreciates Rudolph, which I also think is the best of the bunch (probably one of the best Christmas specials of them all, right up there with A Charlie brown Christmas). Not only is there the endearing story of Rudolph trying to fit in, but we also follow Hermey the poor little elf who wants to be a dentist, Yukon Cornelius seeking his Silver and Gold and the great and scary Abominable Snow Man, all who are seeking happiness. Yes it is a corny story of trying to fit in, but it is really great! The Rankin/Bass stop-motion characters and environment are just great to watch… But the high-light is, of course, the Island of Misfit Toys and their rad King Moonracer! Even though the Abominable Snow Man scared Elinor a bit (oh, those teeth), this one is highly recommended!

Santa Claus is Coming to Town, on the other hand, doesn’t really strike my fancy. Yes, it is the origin of Burgermeister Meisterburger, but as “the story of Santa Claus” I don’t really by it. In fact, I don’t see why anyone would need to tell the story of Santa Claus, just let him be. Plus, he is rather obnoxious of a character in this one.

Without Elinor (as in, more adult entertainment) we again watched the George C Scott version of A Christmas Carol. I find this to be a quite good version. Though I don’t find Scott to be the most convincing scrooge, he is a fine actor and he is sufficiently blustery to pull it off acceptably. But the other actor to watch this for tis the great David Warner (of Time after Time and Time Bandits) as Bob Crachit. The Tiny Tim character though, I found rather too annoying.

And finally, tonight we watched A Christmas Story. This one always confused me. It came out when I was a teenager, and one who had no interest in Christmas movies, so I don’t think I realized that it was newly released. I never got around to seeing it and until a couple of years ago I had always thought that it actually dated from the 50’s or 60’s! Anyway, the good old story of a little boy who wants nothing in the world more than to get a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas It is quite fun and whimsical and stars Darren McGavin (the Night Stalker!) and a lamp that looks like a reject for the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Plus, I think we can all relate to it. I certainly did have a Red Ryder BB Gun and I did hit myself in the face at least once with a ricochet… Though I neither lost an eye or broke my glasses and it didn’t hurt nearly as much as what I did to me thumb with it.

i shot her… i shot her dead… i thought you said you stabbed her?

Henry: Portrait of a Serial KillerThough we had recently watched a true crime special on Henry Lee Lucas, it was being spurred on by my curiosity to finally looking up the sample that God and Texas used to start off their song “Shit House” that led us to finally sit down to watch Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. I have vivid memories of this playing at Cinema 21 when it came out back in the 80’s and thinking “I most certainly must see that movie!”. Cut to 20+ years later and I still had never gotten around to it. Well, now I have. Hmm.

Though it does include some scenes that could easily be considered disturbing (most notably the home invasion scene), what was most evident to me watching it was that it was rather dull. Of course, as one wouldn’t expect to like any of these characters or find the plot particularly engaging, I wasn’t expecting to be blown away by it, but still… I started to have a rather hard time paying attention.

Henry is a semi-fictional (probably primarily fictional, I imagine) account of the story of Henry Lee Lucas, Ottis Toole and Ottis’ teenage niece. As Henry ended up confessing to hundreds (if not thousands) of murders, it is safe to say that everything that he said was rather suspect. What wasn’t though is that he and Ottis had no qualms about killing people. Anyway, Henry grows up harshly (honestly, it seems, the son of a prostitute mother and a legless father), kills his mother, kills a bunch of other people, befriends the cretinous weirdo Ottis, hooks up with Ottis’ niece, kills more people and then ends up dying in prison, having his death sentance (being rather famously the ONLY death sentance) commuted by Gov. George W Bush (can that man really do absolutely no right?).

The movie takes place primarily in the apartment that they share and in the dark streets around it. There are scenes of potentially great violence, but most of it is kept offscreen and there are lots of flashbacks of violence… Leaving it to be graphically violent without really showing much in the way of graphic violence. It has a very “low-budget/Indie” feel to it and the characters range between tiring (Ottis), irritating (Becky) and boring (Henry). But I guess that after all of these years it is good to have finally seen it! I won’t have to bother again.

Back to the good stuff though! The aforementioned sample (which is better as a sample in a song than as dialogue in a movie) :

One night, it was my 14th birthday. She was drunk, and we had an argument… She hit me with a whiskey bottle… I shot her… I shot her dead.

I thought you said you stabbed her?

Oh yeah…

And the song Shit House, is one of the best tracks on God and Texas’ awesome (though not as awesome as the three albums that followed) debut album, Industry Standard.

God and Texas Industry Standard

no binging, just purging…

I have just realized that today is the one year anniversary of my arrival in Vermont! While that has certainly been a big change in many ways that I won’t get into here, one change that is quite relevant to this blog is the effect that it has had on this blog! While obviously it has not been abandoned, I have been much more selective in which movies I mention. No, I haven’t changed the direction of the blog (every movie that I watch is still destined for its moment here), but I have been quite untimely and brief with some of them. Of course, that has been evidenced by the multiple posts that just briefly cover a number of movies. Now, in the brief break between semesters at school, I need to play a little catch-up!

There are some movies out there that I watched as much as a year ago that still have not surfaced here and before my memories of them fade completely, here is a list of some of the unblogged of the last year, just to clean my plate:

Barry LyndonBarry Lyndon is another of those Kubrick films that I had somehow never managed to see. It was quite actually good and I was quite impressed with the production, especially the apparent lack of any lighting aside from sunlight and whatever people would have had in their homes in those days. An epic of sorts, in that it deals with 18th century royalty, wars and is three hours long. But also, not really… The main character, Redmond Barry, is a young man of little means who sets off on his own after fleeing a love sparked duel with a man of property. Of course, he is beset upon by rouges and becomes truly a man of nothing, yet a man who is intent on becoming a man with something. So he follows a determined quest to become a gentleman of means (as his lack of means is what led to his early failure in love). The character himself is an interesting one. or isn’t as the case may be. Redmond Barry is dry and cardboard, he in an uninteresting, uninspiring, shallow and selfish man. His few moments of true feeling are quite rare amidst his years of mean behavior.He is a very unlikable anti-hero, but one who is surrounded by a great tale, and a great film.

LifeforceLifeforce. Sigh, I so want to like this movie! I mean, how can you go wrong with a Sci-Fi “bring the alien vampires back to Earth” story, especially when the lead alien vampire is a hottie who spends nearly her entire time on camera walking around stark naked?! It is somewhat worthwhile to watch her trot around in her birthday suit devouring all who stand in her way, but in essence it is a bunch of crappy actors in about the dumbest looking space ship that you’ve ever seen followed by some bad special effects in an office park. The beginning has some of the worst done (and most blatant) “Alien wanna-be” scenes ever filmed, so it starts off looking like a college project remake of Alien, but then we come back to earth and the movie starts to feel like a bad Italian film from the 70’s. Not a winner, not at all. And I know that isn’t much of a surprise coming from the hallowed halls of Golan Globus… But with both Tobe Hooper and the mighty Dan O’bannon, on board, I would hope for some light in this dank tunnel.

Oh yeah and, we also watched:

Once Upon a Time in the Midlands: A pretty funny and dramatic English family story where Robert Carlyle again plays a character that you had best avoid.

Good Night and Good Luck: A smart and serious film about the Edward R Murrow, Joseph McCarthy, the Red Scare and the possible failings of the media.

Deliverance: Fantastic. What else can I say? One of the best films ever.

Jackie Brown: Easily the best film Tarantino ever made. And not only because it stars Pam Grier! It also has a great story, a great script, tremendous performances by Robert Forster, and Samuel L Jackson and what is (so far as I know) De Niro’s last great performance.

Pete Seeger: The Power of Song: A great music documentary! I have never been a big fan of Pete’s, mainly only familiar with him from being a big fan of Woody and Cisco, but this made me give him some serious thought. This is a really good documentary. Not only the story of Seeger and his tremendous role in music and freedom of expression, but also of the folk music revival in general. Pete is a swell, caring and intelligent old feller and one whose role in music and politics should be known by all.

The Jerk: Indescribable! The greatest comedy of all time and the first of two grand parings that Steve Martin had with (be still now…) Bernadette Peters! Includes a story of rags to riches to rags to riches, philosophical musings on what items people truly need, the origin of the thermos song, and, of course, Bernadette Peters!

Danny the Dog: okay, so the third time through it has the same problems as before… Mixing an action film with a sappy love/family story is never a winning combination. And then to have it be hand to hand action rather then gun play? Well, I’m sure you are thinking, “Why even bother?”. True, true… But it’s true title (Danny the Dog, not that dull Americanized “Unleashed”) is great and, well, it stars Bob Hoskins! That should be enough. He is, as one would expect, arrogant, fantastic and cruel… The crime boss that we would all want to be.

Doctor Dolittle: One of my favorites from when I was a kid (it was released the year I was born, in fact, and I doubt I’d seen it for 30 years) and Elinor really liked it! Rex Harrison stars in this musical story of a crazy British chap who can talk to the animals and who sets off across the sea in search of the Giant Pink Sea Snail. It also features an unexpected appearance from the great Geoffrey Holder!

A Hard Day’s Night: A bunch of Beatles antics. This always serves to remind me why, if I had to pick a favorite Beatle, that would be Ringo.

Mars Attacks!: Ha! Still great! While Jack Nicholson’s two roles are great, and the cameo from Tom Jones is untouchable, those f’n aliens and their insane voices are still the coolest and funniest things ever created by mankind. Sadly, it is still marred by the lamest twist ending I have ever seen in any film. Aside from that? Flawless!

Star Wars: Empire of Dreams: The official documentary on the making of the first (aka, the real) Star Wars trilogy. It is fascinating, really good, really took me back to being 9-10 again and inspired me to just want to watch the movies over again!

Event Horizon: Still great and one of my favorite newer Sci-Fi movies… And scary! I got a new disc of this (the old one was fake widescreen) and so I had to watch it. Watch it I did, and enjoy it I did.

Grosse Pointe Blank: yet another entertaining John Cusack movie that we like. The story of a hit man who has gone back to his home town during his high school reunion when work comes calling.. In a number of different directions.

Lost in Translation: A great movie, same thoughts as previous viewings

Amelie: See above.

Love Actually: Yes, well… While I dislike chick-flicks as much as the next person, I must admit that the British ones are actually pretty charming. Case in point, Love Actually. A terribly intertwined story of drama, love, betrayal and comedy… Starring some great ones, Alan Rickman, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson and Martin Freeman, which almost offsets the constant casting of the unbearable Hugh (blech) Grant. Luckily, Hugh Grant is offset by the horrifyingly fantastic appearances of Bill Nighy as the washed-up rocker Billy Mack!

School of Rock: Still pretty entertaining.

Alien: Yes.

Death at a Funeral: A funny and tense movie about, well, a death at a funeral. Pretty damn entertaining and stars the great Matthew Macfadyen in his first of three film appearances for us this year.

Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life: Sigh. From the brilliance of the Crimson Permanent Assurance to the brilliance of Death Comes to Dinner… And all wonderful points in between. Nice.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army: The entertaining second installment in the Hellboy canon. Again, I could do without the relationship/love story parts, but the action is pretty fun and the creatures are a delight, sort of a blending of the creatures from Pan’s Labyrinth with some rather Lovecraftian notions.

Happy Birthday to Me: A crappy 80’s horror movie.

Motel Hell: A crappy 80’s horror movie

Grease. Always entertaining.


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