weather, mortality and celluloid

Sadly, a great, nearly unknown, film icon passed away Monday. My good friend Lucy’s grandfather was one of the most prevalent character actors of his day, appearing in something like 300 movies and many TV shows (from It’s a Wonderful Life to The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes remake, though my first knowledge of him was as the judge of the murder trial in Soap) as, generally, a crotchety, officious man of the judge/lawyer/taxman vein. I am still always startled when I see him in one of his always brief appearances in a movie I didn’t know he was in (he claims to have suffered the same shocks). When I had the pleasure of meeting him, I found that he was also a man of great character, someone whose use of the word “dame” seemed completely natural and who proudly spoke his opinion on everything from “actors who fancy themselves directors” to having to pay to watch baseball. He was a dryly witted, classic, old fashioned kind of guy. It seems he lived a good long (quite long) life and had a peaceful death (insomuch…). So I bid a fond farewell to Charles Lane.

For anyone who is interested, the New York Times has a rather nice Obituary

Onward though… None of these movies feature the late Mister Lane, but since I watched them, here they are.

We watched From Here to Eternity. Now from when I’ve seen it before, I recall it being slow to start, but eventually picking up. Well, I would say that the first part still stands but it doesn’t pick up much. Though I must give it credit for Burt Lancaster’s stellar starring work and for its role in restarting Sinatra’s career (leading to the best part of that career). Aside from that, I can do without it. This is the story of the new guy in the company, stationed in Hawaii prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. It stars Monty Clift who I hold little feelings for… In this, he is an obnoxious bore. A transferred soldier who sticks to his beliefs and refuses to do the one thing that would help him fit in. The movie focuses on the lengths the guys will go to in an attempt to get him to box for the Company! But it is also the tale of two troublesome solders, one a charming eager drunk (who I imagine is what my pops was like in the service) and the other a brooding uneager drunk, their sergeant, some girls and the troubles they have. Sadly, we have the superbit edition. I don’t know if the picture looks great or what, but the packaging is ugly, the static menus are ugly and there are no special features. So skip that, I say.

On to better things. I watched Beowulf and Grendel (the dvd that I settled on in that last trip to Target). Generally I would recommended it as a period action movie. Though it has been many many years since I last read Beowulf, so I don’t know how close it sticks to the general story, it is a nice movie. Beautiful scenery (Iceland), nice costuming, and heck, it is one of those rare Viking movies! The only real trouble with it is that the Vikings are all a bunch of Brits who curse a blue streak with their thick accents, making it seem like you are out to the pub for the night. It may sound like a minor complaint, but the endless stream of modern cursing really seems out of place. Imagine Aragorn calling someone a bitch in Lord of the Rings and you’ll know what I mean. Aside from that, there is the story.

In that sad era when Christianity began its spread through northern Europe, a troll is slain and his son who witnessed the killing comes to wreak revenge. Beowulf and his band of sleepless Geats come to the rescue, only to be played with and teased by the troll Grendel, who has no gripe with any except those who have wronged him. Grendel, while sort of a silly character, reminds one of Leatherface, in his childlike spirit and savagery. He is also seemingly unstoppable and very, very strong. As the Danes fear of this troll mounts, they begin converting to Christianity, thanks to the promises of a crazy wandering priest who talks of safety and heaven. But most of the movie is the Geats spending the days searching for him and the nights in the longhouse waiting for his knocks (or, um something else) upon the door. It is not high in action, but it is nice to see a movie like this not being done in some flashy Hollywood blockbuster special effects vein, but it still took me about 45 minutes to get into. Sadly though, after another 45 minutes, it fades to mawkish melodrama at the end.

Beowulf by Boat

finally, a movie with a longboat…

 

Vikings in pursuit

and vikings!

And then, in nothing like the vein of Aragorn and those overblown Lord of the Rings movies, we sat down to watch Peter Jackson’s best film, Heavenly Creatures (if you dissent in the name of Braindead/Deadalive, I won’t challenge you on it). Based on a famous New Zealand crime, this film tells the story of two teenage girls whose close friendship becomes, say, a bit too close for their parents taste. Pauline is a shy, reclusive girl from a working class family, Juliet is a more sophisticated worldly girl whose father is a wealthy and respected rector and physicist. She fancies herself a novelist (in fact, in real life she becomes Anne Perry) and the two of them construct an elaborate fantasy world that they try to live within. It is an engrossing story of a friendship that grows without limits and also an escapist shared fantasy that they will go to extreme lengths to keep intact. The movie is very well acted, wonderfully shot, well written, well directed, and the fantasy segments are brilliant in their vision! It keeps fairly close to the actual events, with Pauline’s actual diaries providing what narration there is, and it is filmed in a wonderful little city (very similar to the setting for Braindead/Deadalive).

Those Bloody girls

Help! Mother has tripped!

Then in more reality, yesterday it hit about the old 102 degrees outside. Luckily I had no real reason to go leave the apartment so I spent well under 1 minute outside between dog walkings at 9am and 9 pm. So that was good. It did start getting hot in the old home at about 5pm. But I still feel lucky for missing the direct assault! Something that’s always bothered me… regardless of the reputation for clouds and rain the Pacific Northwest has, summer is really lame! July and August can be unbearably hot and we can easily go 60 days with out any precipitation during that period. Though is it agonizing and sad, I do find that as the years wear on, I am more able to bear with it. Though I still like to complain, think of it as my own little raindance


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