Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
6000 on Bookshops as Amazon showrooms
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Most recent entries
- Wedding photography (4): Preparations
- Bookshops as Amazon showrooms
- Reflections on a strange coincidence involving an Android app and a malfunctioning bus stop sign
- Feynman Diagrams on the Feynman van
- Rothko Toast
- Wedding photography (3): Technology as sculpture
- And another posting from my smartphone
- Posted from my new smartphone
- Google Nexus 4 photos
- Wedding photography (2): Signs
- Wedding photography (1): The superbness of the weather
- A Fleet Street lunch
- So painters also used to “take” pictures
- Funniest run out ever?
- Shadow photography
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Category archive: Movies
Yesterday, I lived my life, but I am determined, having started, to finish telling you about last Thursday.
So, okay, I have now arrived at Westminster Tube Station.
Most tube stations consist of lots of underground tubes, not just for the trains but also for the people. Westminster Tube Station is different.
In its original form, it was a regular tube station, made entirely out of tubes. But then they built Portcullis House across the road from Big Ben and Parliament, the one with the giant chimneys on top, where MPs now have vast new quantities of office space to wreak their havoc. Many think powerful MPs are a good thing, because they will “hold the executive to account” better, but what they mostly now do is nag the executive to bite off more and more unchewable activity, and complain if the executive ever doesn’t.
While they were building Portcullis House, they combined that with doing a total rebuild of the tube station right underneath it.
And this time around, instead of grubbing about in the ground like moles, they just dug a huge, huge hole, like they do when building any other new building. Just deeper.
As a result, the process of getting from station entrance to train, or from train to train (what with the station now being an interchange between the District and Circle Line, and the newer Jubilee Line - which is the one I was taking), is as dramatic and theatrical as battling through a regular tube station is grim and demeaning and demoralising. At Westminster Tube, you now go up and down inside a huge open space, like a department store with no stuff in it, and grey rather than all spangly and coloured. I love it, even though it has a decidedly fascist feel to it, maybe even because it has a decidedly fascist feel to it. At least its stylish fascism, rather than just lumpy and cloddish. But mainly, I think I love it because it is so different from a regular tube station.
While there last Thursday, I only took one shot, namely this:
Had I known I was on a Blogged Odyssey, I would have taken many more shots, of all that dramatic open space with science fictiony structure in among it, supporting the building above and the escalators within, but on Thursday all I thought I was doing was taking the tube. I would have taken shots like the ones here. Someone really should set a movie gun fight in this place, don’t you think? Perhaps they already have.
As for my picture above, it puzzled me for a while. At first I thought the right-way-round Westminster tube sign was some kind of double reflection, but there is only one sheet of glass involved, so it can’t be that. In the end I cracked it, metaphorically speaking. The Westminster tube sign is where it seems to be, but how it looks is confused by the reflection of the wall behind me. It looks like the sign is projected onto the wall. In fact, the wall behind me is projected onto the sign. To the left, you can see the regular wall that the tube sign is actually attached to.
That white circular thing behind me, actually a fire hose I think, looks like a full moon.
Once again, I fear most may not care. But photographed reflections are a thing of mine.
Overheard while channel surfing last night:
Her, trying to persuade him to carry on with the romance: “Do you believe in fate?”
Her: “Neither do I. You see. This was meant to be.”
This is from the movie Wedding Daze. One of those unregarded little movies which only gets two stars in the Radio Times, but which I think is a bit better than that.
Think about it: What’s the best way to make sure there is only goodwill out there towards Muslims?
That’s right: Kill all the bad Muslims.
It’s the way that he combines hate-the-hateful speech with everyone-live-in-harmony speech that makes it so funny, right speak with left speak. Reminds me of that great speech for the defence in Animal House.
This evening I attended the ASI blogger bash, and one of the speakers, Harry Cole, said something along the lines of: Lefties are better at comedy than the Right.. Which I suspect is a lot truer of Britain than it is of the USA. Closely related to that observation is that in Britain, as was also discussed, we are years away from anything resembling a British version of the Tea Party. The British Right, in other words, is not in tune with the Zeitgeist, or even any major slab of the Zeitgeist, the way the USA Right is in the USA. And even there, it may just be a temporary consequence of the Obama phenomenon,, which is a huge attempt to turn the USA into something entirely different. Europe, basically. When that attempt gets switched off, whenever that happens, the Tea Party may die with it. By which I mean either go home or else turn entirely into dull old regular politics.
LATER: Further illustration of the same proposition. When Cleese was funny, he was, if not Left, then at least anti-Right. Now that he’s not funny, he’s Right.
I am continuing to read Leo McKinstry’s book about the mighty Avro Lancaster, and of course I continue to track the cricket in Australia, where England have been suffering a characteristic one-day anticlimax following Ashes success.
So I was rather charmed to encounter, in the Lancaster book, this quote (p. 263) from an interview with one Norman Boorer, a draughtsman who worked with Barnes Wallis, the inventor of the famous bouncing bomb, which was used to destroy two big dams in Germany in May 1943:
Wallis had studied old naval cannonball techniques, where the bomb was fired on a low trajectory and bounced, giving it more range. In his experimental work, he also found that backspin would allow it to bounce two or three more times. George Edwards, who was working closely with Wallis, was a very good cricketer - he could probably have been a county cricketer if he had not been a designer. He was a fine spin bowler and he explained that if you spin it backwards it will shoot and if you spin it forwards it will dig in. There was the other point that when the bomb hit the dam, if it were spinning backwards, it would hug the face and roll down, whereas if it were spinning forwards there was a chance it would climb up over the top of the dam.
So there we are. Cricket won the war.
Bomber Harris was a virulent opponent of the dams raid, as he was of anyone or anything which, in his eyes, diverted anyone or anything from the job of flattening German cities and slaughtering German civilians. Even after it had succeeded, he remained a sceptic. Too bad he wasn’t similarly sceptical about his own obsession with winning the entire war only with his own preferred sort of bombing raids.
I am delighted that McKinstry’s Lancaster has a chapter about the dams raid, having long wanted to learn whatever might have been patriotically wrong about the famous film they made about it, which I first saw when I was a mere boy, and which was based on this book by Paul Brickhill, which I first read when I was a mere boy. It would seem that Brickhill’s telling of the story is pretty much right.
Came across this photo, here, having been sent there to read something else that I’ve forgotten about. Let’s backtrack and see. Yes, apparently I was reading this, for some bizarre reason or other. Plus, rootling through these photos also got me paying some attention to aqueducts. So anyway, the photo (slightly flattened):
A chance for the New York Post to get in a dig at the Israelis for being horrid to the Palestinians:
The fishermen go out every morning hoping that they will be allowed to go out to sea, but Israeli navy forces rarely allow them to leave the shallow waters.
Because after all, under no circumstances whatsoever could “fishermen” possibly be doubling up as anything else.
So, also a chance for me to link back to a posting here about how my attitude to Israel is one of unconditional positive regard.
But putting all that to one side, nice photo.
Someone asked what the new mainframe looks like. It looks like this:
On the front, big black rectangular nothingness, like the Monolith in 2001. The Monolith, unlike Dawkins, is sort of a God, because it taught that monkey how to make a space ship by throwing a bone into the air.
But the nothingness at the front of my new mainframe is more prosaic than that. It is a big plastic door, which you open when you want to play a CD or a DVD or something. Besides which, I conjecture that many geeks have computers which they refer to as The Monolith. Dawkins, not so many. Dawkins it remains.
Some months ago I began reading The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross, which is a blow by blow account of twentieth century classical music. Reading and greatly enjoying.
Trouble is, it’s a very big book, even in paperback, which makes it not-ideal for carrying around London, travelling being one of the main ways I read books. (No internet to distract.) So, despite liking this book a lot, I now realise that I stopped reading it and that I switched to a succession of other equally enticing volumes that were not so big. I am only now back with it, having resumed at a time when I was at home, but de-internetted by new computer turmoil.
On page 317, Ross says something I have long thought, but never myself put into written down words, or even said out loud very much:
Hollywood may have been hazardous territory for composers, but they at least felt wanted there, as they never did in American concert halls. The shift to talkies had created a mania for continuous sound. Just as actors in screwball comedies had to talk a mile a minute, composers were called upon to underline every gesture and emphasize every emotion. An actress could hardly serve a cup of coffee without having fifty Max Steiner strings swoop in to assist her. ("What that awful music does,” Bette Davis once said to Gore Vidal, “is erase the actor’s performance, note by note.")
Well said, Bette.
But things improved. Ross continues:
Early movie scores had a purely illustrative function, which composers called “Mickey-Mousing”: if a British frigate sails into the frame, “Rule, Britannia” plays. Later, composers introduced techniques of musical distancing and irony, along the lines of Sergei Eisenstein’s counterpointing of image and sound. Music could be used to reveal a hidden psychological subtext, ...
Indeed. There then follows an admiring description of the music written for The Grapes of Wrath by Aaron Copland. Very influential, says Ross.
This soundtrack-composer-usurping-the-actors style of movie music only completely died out in the sixties and seventies, when they started using pop music for soundtracks, music with an insistent beat of its own which is quite unable to supply this kind of detailed and non-rhythmic “help” for actors. What a relief that was. Suddenly the actors were revealed as able to act perfectly well without such help. Every so often, I watch an old movie on the telly, starring someone like Doris Day, and suddenly we are back with that awful oh-look-she’s-adjusting-her-hat, she’s-a-bit-sad, ooh-now-Rock-Hudson-has-just-cheered-her-up style of movie musical accompaniment. I realise now that Doris Day was perhaps not a completely god-awful film actress with all the subtlety of a container ship trying to win a round-the-harbour speedboat race. It was just that the people writing, directing, editing and musically accompanying Doris Day’s performances were all tasteless idiots.
Another reason I am now reading The Rest is Noise is that I recently attended a lecture given by Ross at the British Library. The lecture rather outstayed its welcome, for me. Ross had about twenty interesting minutes worth of stuff to say about descending base lines as a way of signalling sorrowfulness in sorrowful songs, but took an hour to say it. Nevertheless, the point was a good one and there were many delightful musical illustrations, my favourite being when he played “Hit the Road Jack”.
Afterwards, having already read and liked some of the earlier Alex Ross book, I bought a signed copy of the latest one. But, not having finished reading the previous book, I wanted to do that first.
No welcomes outstayed in either of these books, or not so far. Almost every page of them contains stuff just as worthy of blogvertisement as the above bit that I happened to choose. And if, when you are reading a book, you fancy a break, you can have one. Lectures happen in lecture time. Books can be read in your own time.
If you share my fondness for high tech, high up, ruthlessly functional clutter, which looks great simply because that is how it needs to be, rather than because any “designers” were allowed near the thing in its formative stages (the inverted commas being because these things are of course designed in the true sense), then I recommend the Arecibo Radio Telescope, which is in Puerto Rico. I especially like this photo, of which this is a mere excerpt:
The photos here are also excellent, and there, commenter “Ailis” supplies that vital piece of info that you are definitely wondering about:
Another interesting bit of trivia: The telescope was used in the James Bond, Goldeneye movie and of course in Contact.
No, that’s two bits of trivia, the second being superfluous.
Many days ago, Instapundit linked to a piece by Paulina Porizkova about aging. I remember Paulina Porizkova as the leading lady in one of my favourite not very good but I like it movies, Her Alibi. Apparently, though, she is not an actress who got married and gave it up. She is, or was, a “supermodel”, or as we used to say, a model.
Instapundit only linked to Ms Porizkova because in a list of “beautiful and strong and powerful women in their 40 and 50’s” she includes “although I hate to include her”: Sarah Palin. But I don’t care about that. What I think is that this is good writing:
When you’re used to one sort of treatment, it’s really hard to get demoted, even if that new treatment is still better than the average. Boohoo. I know. My life sucks. Now, I don’t actually know the exact cut-off age where beautiful ceases and “must have-once-been-beautiful” begins. It’s true it’s not forty-five. I can still get attention when I try really hard, even if it’s greatly reduced. But would I ever have dreamed that I would miss the time I couldn’t walk past a construction site unmolested? These days when someone whistles at me, it’s mostly a bike messenger about to mow me down.
In the sentence “My life sucks” above, it originally had an “is” between life and sucks, but I removed it.
If you follow the Her Alibi link above, you learn that Porizkova was awarded a Golden Raspberry for her performance in this movie, which perhaps explains her return to supermodelling. But I thought she was very good.
Driver swerves to miss cat, hits vet clinic
Seriously, what are the punctuation rules for headlines? And if I find I don’t like those rules, what do I think that they should be? I suspect my answer is: dashes. Only dashes may be used. And quote marks provided there are dots before the closing quotes.
When I wrote the above paragraph, I was also watching a dreary television play based on a poem, the kind of thing where they get charismatic actors in (Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson on this occasion) to rescue it, and to provide an audience. And it definitely affected my mood.
It was about a drunken self-pitying failed writer (now slaving away as an editor for a small publishing company) and the woman who had wisely abandoned him but had unwisely come back to see him again. It was presumably autobiographical. At one point Rickman was up on the roof, and I hoped he might either jump off or fall off, and die, dramatically, interestingly. But all he did was stagger back downstairs to find that Emma Thompson had, wisely, gone. (They had been having lunch.)
If only Bruce Willis had been on the roof as well ...
There will be no highlights of this winter’s Ashes on terrestrial TV according to a report in the Daily Mail.
The newspaper claims no terrestrial broadcaster responded to the tender document offering free-to-air rights because of strict limitations on the time they would be allowed to air any highlights package. It was expected the tender, sent out by IMG earlier this year, would attract interest from the BBC or Channel 5.
However, both broadcasters said scheduling restrictions put them off making any bid. The terms are believed to have stated no highlights could be shown before 10pm, a delay of almost a day, and they could not overlap with any of Sky’s live transmissions, which usually start at around 11.30pm, giving a very small window for them to be shown.
Woody Allen muses on the lies made up by the mainstream media:
For some reason, the press wanted to say bad things about her. I don’t know if they had something against the Sarkozys, or it was a better way to sell papers. But the fabrications were so wild and so completely fake, and I wondered to myself, Is this what happens with Afghanistan and the economy and matters of real significance? This is a trivial matter. That’s a longwinded answer to your question: I was not prepared for the amount of press that was attached to the picture because of Madame Sarkozy.
Madame Sarkozy has a small part in Allen’s latest movie.
As with so many Allen pronouncements, you suspect him of being more like those newspapers he denounces than like the innocent he presents himself as. Why on earth did he cast Madame Sarkozy if not to stoke up a little media heat? Did he expect only sweetness and light? Surely not.
Plus, he makes it sound like this is the first time this thought has occurred to him. But this cannot possibly be the first time the media have told lies, or what Allen considered to be lies, given all that furore when he married his adopted daughter.
Earlier in the interview, Allen says he never looks at his earlier movies. He also says that as you get older you don’t learn anything. Might those two sentiments perhaps be connected? My opinion of Allen is that he makes mostly rather patchily average movies, or worse, but that quite a few of the scenes in his movies are outstanding. Perhaps if he had forced himself to watch his earlier work a bit more, he might have worked out how to make first-rate movies, or at least have given himself a better chance of accomplishing that.
Still, a few great scenes is better than most movie-makers ever manage. And in the age of DVDs and YouTube, rather than mere cinemas or nationwide unrecordable telly, we can all wallow in our favourite scenes to our heart’s content if we want to, and skip the rest.
Much the same applies to blogging, does it not? Few of us can be great bloggers. Most of us can at least reasonably hope to manage quite a few great postings.
Today, I saw, on the side of a bus, and I immediately realised that here was a great opportunity for a flat graphic for this blog, this:
And since that graphic has put me in the mood for more graphic flattery, let me add what it also said on the bus, just below the bit I have showed you, namely the title of the movie, which is this:
Which I found here, where I also found a horizontal line of pictures, in the form of the cast:
Two thoughts. One, I’ve thought for years that all these tough old git guys should get together and make a team movie. And second, consider the non-participants. Two spring to mind: Van Damme, and that one who was in Under Siege whose name temporarily escapes me, which is such a great movie that I didn’t think it silly even though he was the star of it. I’m guessing that Van Damme still reckons he still has a few more real tough guy movies in him, of the sort with only one tough guy in them, so doesn’t want to admit to being expendable. And I’m further guessing that the Under Siege guy thinks it is all beneath his dignity. What is that guy’s name. (I know, Google. But I’m not really asking.)
Jason Statham is interesting. I’m guessing he has no problem admitting that he regards the old guys as revered role models, and has no problem being in the same movie with them. Quite the opposite. I’ve got a lot of time for Jason Statham. It can’t be easy turning yourself from Jason Statham into, if you get my meaning, Jason Statham. Yet Jason Statham accomplished this. Impressive.
If Under Siege Man does think this movie beneath him, this could be a big miscalculation, because I have high hopes it. For starters, Stallone is the lead writer and mastermind, and given that Stallone wasn’t just in Rocky, but he also wrote and masterminded Rocky, we can be certain that his off-screen IQ is way higher than his IQ on screen. And the comic opportunities inherent in this assemblage of action acting talent are considerable.
Of course, it could just be that they all hate Under Siege Man, and he wasn’t asked. You get the feeling watching Under Siege Man’s other movies that he may actually take all that oriental philosophy nonsense he spouts seriously. If that’s the case that would make him intolerable company. You would only spend time with him if you had to, like if you needed the money. But that could all be quite wrong. Maybe he just couldn’t fit it in.
It’s good to see Schwarzenegger back doing what he does best, what with him having totally failed to sort out the Californian state budget.
Who is Terry Crews? It turns out he’s the replacement for “50 Cent”. Presumably Mr Semi-Dollar was the original replacement for Wesley Snipes.
Eric Roberts looks rather out of place, so he must be the villain, or the person they are all trying to rescue, or something similarly important to the plot but off to the side of things.
Seriously, I think this could well turn into one of those great movies that is slammed senseless by “the critics”, but which the public likes and then refuses to forget about and which eventually turns into a classic. And after twenty years, “the critics” are all pretending that they really liked it all along, when the truth is that half of them have by then been replaced by former members of the public, who of course loved it, and they dare not continue with their stupid carping.
ADDENDUM: Obvious question I forgot to ask about this, based on something I’ve only just realised: Is Bruce Willis in this or not? On the internet, he’s not involved. On the bus, he is. Strange. Could it be that the internet is inaccurate? No, that can’t be possible. Yet, I think, on this occasion, it has really happened.
The blog posting (linked to from here) is entitled Exploitation Movie Posters 1939 - 1960. But why exactly are these movies referred to as “Exploitation” movies? Who is being exploited? And in what way is Apocalypse Now any less exploitative than the movies advertised in these particular posters?
I suppose the notion being got at is that it is our desire for pure and utterly undiluted entertainment, with no morally lofty excuse attached, to do with being educated, uplifted, improved, that is being “exploited”. Our baser instincts are being played to. Our ids are being massaged, while our egos look down, aghast.
Being a libertarian, I am particularly wary of the word “exploitation”, blurring as it does, often deliberately, the boundary between being used in a way that you consent to (often enthusiastically) and being used (often outrageously) in a way that you do not consent to. Dare to favour the first and you get accused of favouring the second. Which is a difficult trick to combat if you don’t realise what the trick is.
Putting the point about ids and egos in the language of consent, to talk of “exploitation” movies is to suggest that while our base appetites “consent” to watch movies like these, we ourselves do not. We are at the mercy of our appetites, who are co-opted by our “exploiters”. Our appetites betray us, enslave us even. But controlling our base appetites, if that’s what we decide they are, is for us to do for ourselves.
Personally I don’t think that there is anything wrong about enjoying Cat-Women of the Moon.
From a comment by me on this about the Battle of Britain, the movie, and the thing itself. JP’s posting went up a couple of days ago so not many will read it there. Or here, of course. But this bit was worth a further airing, I hope you agree:
I recently saw a TV documentary about the amazing Polish 303 Squadron, and I think they flew Hurricanes. If so, interesting. This strongly suggests that a great pilot in a good aircraft is way better than a poor pilot (as too many under-trained BoB Brits were, alas) in a great aircraft.
The Poles were given a big nod in the Battle of Britain movie, but were presented as Keystone Pilots - brave, enthusiastic, ignorant of the virtues of radio silence, and liable to be mistaken for Germans if shot down and captured by south of England farming yokels with pitchforks, ho ho. Barry Foster, who played their Squadron Leader in the movie, treated them as badly behaved children whom he was obliged to indulge.
The TV show I saw said they were true Top Guns, the best of the best. At first their desk-bound British Wing Commander (station commander?) didn’t believe their claims. So he got into a plane and went up to see for himself. When he got back, he said: F**k me (or the 1940 equivalent) it’s true, they really are as good as they say they are. I.e. the best in the RAF at that time.
But at least they got a semi-respectful mention in that movie. No Poles were allowed to march in the London victory parade of 1945. None. So the TV documentary said. The Government didn’t want to upset Stalin.
Actually it was 1946. According to Wikipedia:
The Soviet controlled but now internationally recognised government of Poland was invited to send a delegation to the London parade and, according to Hector McNeil, the British Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and the The Times newspaper, promised to send a delegation. The Polish government stated that its army, air force and navy would be represented.
After British newspapers and public figures put pressure on their government to include the Polish Armed Forces in the West, the RAF’s Polish veterans were invited, but, according to some sources, refused to attend out of solidarity with those who had been omitted.
Britain’s Labour government argued that the invitation to the RAF’s Polish veterans was not being extended to other Polish armed forces in the West as a necessary compromise due to the political circumstances of the day. Britain’s Conservative opposition criticised the decision, and spoke of British “shame”. According to one source, Labour Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin apologized to General Anders about the affair.
So, not a blanket refusal to all Poles, assuming that is right. A little more complicated, and a little less dishonourable.