June 2009 Archives



Spent a little time pulling vines this morning. Was feeling all proud of myself, and then I got inside and saw this:
What the hell bit me

That's a bite the size of a chicken egg on my forehead. And here I was feeling all pleased about the relatively low mosquito threat: normally by this time of the summer, after an hour outside I would be swarmed by them, bites all over. This morning I only had one bite on my arm, and (I thought) one particularly itchy one on my forehead. I thought having the goats clear all that brush, and then cleaning up junk around the yard, must have removed the mosquitoes' breeding ground.

Well it obviously wasn't a mosquito; what the hell was it? What makes a bite that big? Whatever it was, I'm sure it's gone. I would definitely have noticed another bite like that.

the fortune cookie

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June 13 movie: The Fortune Cookie. Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau's first movie! Lemmon plays a sports reporter who gets knocked down during a game, and Matthau is his sleazy brother in law who convinces him to fake a serious injury. There are a lot of funny moments. One that stands out for me is near the end. I don't want to give it away, so I'll just say it's about getting the killer shot.
"What's your exposure?"
"I'm wide open."
"Okay, stop it down to f4. And check your focus!"

Trust me, it's funny.

the african queen


June 11 movie: The African Queen. I really love this movie. With almost the entire movie taking place between only two characters, it stands on the strength of the acting. Bogart and Hepburn both knock it out of the park. The characters they create are so vivid and real. There's a standout moment where they're yelling at each other about who's going to take a risk, and Hepburn suddenly stops and says "We're having our first argument." She genuinely sounds startled by the novelty of it, like someone who just realized they are having their first lover's quarrel -- ever. Like she's stricken by disagreeing with him, and at the same time wanting to savor this new experience.

49th parallel

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June 11 movie: 49th Parallel. Really interesting war movie by Michael Powell about a crew of Nazis who come over on a submarine and end up in Canada. Made during the time after the war had begun, before the US had gotten involved. And I have to say, here in the US we have this jingoistic idea that Europe was helpless against the Nazis until we rode in and saved the day for them. And certainly, the American contribution to the Allies was invaluable. But I think we tend to forget that we stayed out of the war until we were forced in, and we also forget that our neighbors to the north got into the war much sooner. (Actually I don't know enough about Canadian history to know if they were compelled to treat an attack on the UK as an attack against themselves. Still, the Canadians did join WWII years before we did.)

So anyway, this movie is about a crew of five Germans who get separated from their sub and stranded on Canadian soil. The purpose of the movie is to reach out to isolationists in the US and encourage pro-war sentiment. Though they do a good job of softpedaling the message, and (mostly) keeping the movie from getting too preachy. Most of the movie is a sort of travelogue as the Nazis make their way across Canada. It's structurally interesting because the Germans are the one constant in the movie: the Canadian characters pass in and out of the movie as the Germans move on across the country. The Germans mostly seem like decent guys who happen to be on the wrong side, except the one officer is a Nazi true believer.

There are a few stars: Laurence Olivier, Leslie Howard and Raymond Massey all play Canadians who interact with the Germans. My favorite actor was Niall MacGinniss as a German whose encounter with a simple religious community (similar to the Mennonites) makes him question his purpose in being there.

Spoilerish comments behind a cut.

star trek

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June 10 movie: Star Trek. This was great! So good I burst into spontaneous applause at the end. They did such a good job of capturing the spirit of the original series. Great action, really fun, and when it was stupid (let's have a brawl on the bridge! In front of MPs who will just stand there! Now I'm declaring myself Captain!) it was stupid in exactly the same way as Classic Trek. All the actors did a good job of bringing the original characters back to life, without relying on cheap mimicry. And when they did vary the characters, for instance Scotty seemed much more comic, it was a good change I thought.

We saw it with our old friend Charles and his partner Zac, who are big Star Trek fans. Afterwards they filled us in on the references we'd missed -- for instance the thing about the Admiral's beagle, we never watched Enterprise so that went completely over our heads.

This movie made me excited about Star Trek again for the first time since ... well since the best years of Next Generation. I actually found myself wondering how long it will take them to come out with another movie, and wanting them to hurry up so I can see it. Well done!

the big heat

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June 8 movie: The Big Heat. They must have been doing Fritz Lang day on TCM because I recorded & watched three of his movies in rapid succession. This was maybe the most famous of the three & probably also the most well-made. Really intense drama about a cop (Glenn Ford) seeking revenge against the gangsters who killed his wife. It's interesting because Ford is a "good guy" who's completely unsympathetic. He's relentless and courageous, and also self-righteous, needlessly violent, careless of the feelings and even the lives of others, in fact not caring about anything except his vendetta.

Sometimes when the main character is so, ah, complicated, I end up thinking "what, am I supposed to sympathize with that asshole?" and turning it off in disgust. I couldn't take my eyes off The Big Heat. Which had at least as much to do with Lee Marvin, the main gangster, and Gloria Grahame, his girlfriend. Marvin and Grahame have a white-hot intensity. Both turn in extraordinary performances. There's a scene of violence between them (spoiler: he throws a pot of boiling coffee in her face) that was so extreme I could have sworn it happened on camera, even though it didn't.

I highly recommend this movie if you like crime dramas, antiheroes, and good acting.

r.i.p. michael jackson

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I'm going to put the sad, scary, lonely human freak out of my mind and remember Michael Jackson the way I first saw him:

Rest in peace, Michael. I doubt you had much peace in life.

We had a lovely dinner tonight, wrapped up with some excitement at the end. A few times during the meal we had heard a motorcycle outside, revving loudly. Really, really LOUD. So loud we'd have to stop talking until it was done. Then five minutes or so later, it would start back up again.

Apparently the outdoor diners didn't care for having their meal ruined by some asshole on a Harley. And one of them yelled at the biker, "is this the first time you've ever been on a bike?" Well the biker didn't like that, so he yelled back "Is this the first time you've ever had a meal?" and started revving again. Then the diner started screaming "Get out of here asshole, we don't want you here!" and threw ice at the biker. At which point the biker picked up one of those real estate newsletter stands and threw it at the diner. No one was hurt; everyone at that table got wine all over themselves and a planter was smashed.

We were inside when all this was happening; all we heard was the Harley revving, then the screaming, and Georg could see out the window and saw the newsletter stand flying through the air. When we left there was a strange sort of stalemate: all the outdoor diners had come inside and were sort of milling around, and the bikers were just standing there outside, revving their engines a little, not aggressively like before. No one seemed to be doing anything. A bystander filled in the details for us while we were walking away.

One of the bystanders, an older gentleman riding on one of those Hoveround things, said "people like that give the good bikers a bad name." Later I wondered about the outdoor diners: that one guy had arguably started the fight, but there were five tables out there and they all had to flee in the middle of their meals. Did the restaurant comp them? It's funny because I had been really bummed out that we couldn't get a table outside. And then it turned out to be lucky for us.

In any case, the moral for today is: Don't throw things at a guy on a Harley. Even if he's acting like a dick.

the blue gardenia

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June 8 movie: The Blue Gardenia. Fritz Lang again, this time a noirish drama about a young woman (Anne Baxter) implicated in a murder and trying to clear herself. It sounds grim, especially since she was defending herself against attempted rape. Believe it or not, the tone here is lighter than most noir.

I watched the movie because Nat King Cole appears, singing the title song at a nightclub of the same name. There's an overhead mirror behind him to show his hands on the piano. I read on IMDB that he must have forgotten that, because he plays a totally different arrangement than the music we hear (the single version he recorded at another time). I don't know enough about piano to recognize the music just by watching the pianist, so I wouldn't know. There is a bit of unintentional hilarity in the same scene: apparently the Blue Gardenia is sort of a tiki bar, and Baxter's date, trying to get her drunk so she won't resist later, plies her with a tropical drink called a Pearl Diver. It's one of those big fou-fou drinks with all kinds of garnishes sticking out the top. Baxter cooes, "Ooh, it's strong!" and then the two of them both stop talking and lock eyes in an intense look -- while sucking Pearl Divers through their straws. They look idiotic. All I could think of was my old friend Charles telling me that no one looks cool drinking through a straw.

Charles had tons of handy little bits of advice (like "Don't ever squint with your mouth open, it makes you look like a moron") which I still remember today. His best advice ever was how to adjust to driving an automatic car, when you've used to stick shift. To wit: "Remember everything you learned about driving? Well forget all of it. All you have to know is the left pedal means stop and the right pedal means go". It sounds crazy but the first few years I was driving, if I ever had to drive an automatic I found that advice incredibly helpful. I would find my left foot thumping on the floor for a clutch that wasn't there, and if I felt at all disoriented or confused I would just think "left pedal, stop; right pedal, go" and then I'd be okay.

escape from fort bravo

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June 8 movie: Escape from Fort Bravo. Western starring William Holden as a son of a bitch running a Union prison camp, and John Forsythe as a Confederate soldier who tries to escape with help from Eleanor Parker. There's a great exchange from late in the movie: "Why did you run off the horses?" "If you'd ever been pinned down in the desert with a dead horse, you'd know."

hangmen also die

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June 8 movie: Hangmen Also Die. Fritz Lang movie about Czech resistance against the Nazis. Brian Donlevy plays Reinhard Heydrich's assassin, and Anna Lee is the Czech woman who doesn't even know him but helps him escape. (She didn't know he was an assassin, just that he was in trouble.) The Gestapo find out she was involved and her father Walter Brennan is taken hostage, along with hundreds of Czechs.

It's a compelling movie, intense and intensely violent. Particularly difficult to watch is a scene in which a Gestapo officer tortures an old woman. The Nazis in this movie might have been a touch cartoony, or maybe a lot. But come on: the movie was made in 1943 by Lang and Bertolt Brecht, both of whom had fled Nazi Germany. I think they had a right.

hollow triumph / the scar

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June 6 movie: Hollow Triumph / The Scar. I'm not sure exactly what the deal is with the title of this movie. TCM called it Hollow Triumph but the opening credits called it The Scar. In any case, it's a noir starring Paul Henreid in a dual role. He plays a smart, talented man who could have made something of himself, but chose a life of petty crime instead. While hiding out from the local mob, he discovers a respectable doctor who is a doppleganger of himself and resolves to use the doctor's identity to conceal himself.

It's a nice little movie, well plotted and engaging. Strains credulity a bit, but not the worst I've ever seen by a longshot. There are some interesting questions about whether the people in your life really know you at all, and a nice irony in Henreid's character trying to scam his way into the life he could have had on his own merit. The scar of the title is a scar on the face of the doctor, which the gangster must recreate on his own face.

Supergee just linked to a horribly offensive liquor ad campaign, so I have to counter with my new favorite ad campaign, which to my surprise is for alcohol: The Most Interesting Man in the World. Most beer ads suck, and I don't even drink beer. These ads, I love.

In each ad the Most Interesting Man in the World goes on adventures, usually in evening clothes, excels at unusual sports, and rescues animals. They're like something out of an early 60s movie, like Clark Gable, Sean Connery, Ricardo Montalban and James Coburn rolled into one. Last night I saw another in the series. "He can disarm you with a look. Or his hands. Either way."

[ETA: Eat Me Daily has links to all the ads, plus a bunch of bon mots from the Most Interesting Man. My favorite is on bar nuts: "See those nuts? They are there to make us thirsty. While I don't like being coerced, in this case I shall make an exception."]

June 6 movie: Nat King Cole Soundies and Telescriptions. A collection of soundies (performance videos from the 1940s) featuring the King Cole Trio. A few of them were actually a bit later, and showed the Trio playing along with Cole's string-heavy hits like "Too Young" and "Mona Lisa." Mostly it was the early, jazzier songs which I like best.

machine gun mccain

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June 6 movie: Machine Gun McCain. Italian mob movie -- by which I mean, a mob movie made by Italians -- starring John Cassavetes, Britt Eckland, Peter Falk and Gena Rowlands. The movie is flawed in some ways. Like for instance, Cassavetes and Eckland have crossed the mob, and are on the run, so what do they do? Go back to LA and walk into his old friend's place in broad daylight? Good idea! But I can't dislike this movie because the acting by Cassavetes and Rowland is so good, and the movie as a whole has such great style. Eckland wears this one dress to the casino that just blew my mind. I spent the whole scene trying to figure out how the dress was constructed. In truth, I'm complaining about the movie now but I really got into it at the time. I think Machine Gun McCain is going to be the standard by which I measure all other mob movies.

the wrong box

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June 1 movie: The Wrong Box. This is a wonderful, hilarious, deeply misanthropic movie starring Ralph Richardson, Michael Caine, Peter Sellers, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. It's kind of a "who's who" of 60s British comedy.

duck soup

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June 1 movie: Duck Soup. This is one of those movies that I've seen so many times that I have nothing to say about it. Except, how does it make me laugh every time? I know all the jokes, have seen them all over and over, and still I laugh out loud.

action in the north atlantic

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May 30 movie: Action in the North Atlantic. Enjoyable wartime drama about the Merchant Marines. Like maybe wartime movies, it's largely a propaganda piece, which is not a complaint: it was interesting to see a movie about the Merchant Marines. I particularly liked the scene where they join a convoy, and sailors from all over the world call out to greet them in a variety of languages. Starred Humphrey Bogart and Raymond Massey, and also Alan Hale!

(Warning: A kitten dies in the first five minutes of the movie, when their first ship is sunk. At least it doesn't happen on camera.)

duke ellington in hollywood

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May 30 movie: Duke Ellington in Hollywood. This was a series of clips of Duke Ellington. They weren't identified very well but it stands to reason that these were movies Ellington appeared in. Mostly performance videos though there were a couple of clips of him acting as well. The biggest surprise was a couple of songs Ellington did with vocals by Mae West. I wish I had thought to rip those while I had the DVD.

the mambo kings

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May 30 movie: The Mambo Kings. Drama starring Antonio Banderas and Armande Assante as Cuban brothers/musicians who move to the US in the 1950s. In my opinion the music was much better than the movie. The excellent music is a good reason to watch the movie: Tito Puente and Celia Cruz both perform. Also Desi Arnaz Jr. plays his father, who gives the brothers their big break. The movie does a terrific job of mixing old and new footage: they insert Banderas and Assante into the I Love Lucy show, and in the very beginning there's a musical number in a Cuban nightclub that I think I recognized from a 50s movie. On An Island With You maybe?

kelly's heroes

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May 29 movie: Kelly's Heroes. Soldiers find out about a cache of gold bars in enemy territory and set out to steal it. Sound familiar? Sound like, maybe, Three Kings? Yeah. Three Kings must have been, um, "inspired by" Kelly's Heroes, and I'm kind of surprised I never heard about the earlier movie when Three Kings came out.

In some ways they're not actually that similar -- Three Kings is much more political, and Kelly's Heroes is much more cynical. Let that sink in a minute. Kelly's Heroes is more cynical. Much more cynical. There's that whole redemptive thing at the end of Three Kings which doesn't happen at all in Kelly's Heroes.

Kelly's Heroes stars a whole bunch of people. Notably Clint Eastwood, Telly Savalas, Don Rickles (being surprisingly not annoying), and Donald Sutherland as a hippie. In the Army, in WWII! A hippie whose CO died, so he and his whole platoon tuned in, turned on and dropped out. They lie around their tank letting their hair grow and listening to sitar music. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense, then again the movie never takes it self too seriously. It's basically a heist movie set in the war, not a war movie. Though there is one excellent battle scene (the one in the minefield) that could have been in any serious war movie.

I have so many movies to write up that if I don't have much to say, I'm going to put a whole day's movies in one post. Like

May 28 movies: Broadway Melody of 1940, Dancing Lady and Damsel in Distress. Three Fred Astaire movies without Ginger Rogers. Of the three, Broadway Melody of 1940 is by far the best. Costars Eleanor Powell, a superlative dancer. She and Astaire don't have any romantic chemistry; the pleasure of watching them together is seeing two masters share their mutual talent. Seriously, in 1940 Astaire and Powell were probably the two best dancers in the movies. It's a crying shame they only made one movie together.

Dancing Lady is Astaire's first movie and he's basically a specialty act. He's called by his own name and he shows up, "dances" with Joan Crawford twice, and that's it. The movie is really about Crawford struggling to succeed as the star of Broadway producer Clark Gable's new show. And there's a romantic triangle with Crawford, Gable and Franchot Tone. On the plus side, one of Astaire's two "dance" numbers (I use quotes because he isn't allowed to dance much, so as not to show up Crawford) is about beer and he wears lederhosen. On the negative side, the stage crew are played by Ted Healy and His Stooges, aka the first incarnation of the Three Stooges. I loathe the Three Stooges. I suppose if you liked them, that would be a plus for this movie.

Damsel in Distress. Another Astaire movie with a costar who can't dance. This time it's Joan Fontaine, who can't sing either. Astaire and Fontaine don't spend a lot of time together, and it ends up feeling more like a solo effort for Astaire. George Burns and Gracie Allen make good costars. I'm not crazy about the "ha ha you're stupid" gags which are the backbone of Burns & Allen's comedy, but they have a couple of good dance numbers with Astaire. Georg read somewhere that Burns & Allen had to audition for Astaire, and so they had an old vaudeville friend of theirs choreograph a dance for them. And Astaire liked the number so much that he wrote it into the movie. It's the dance they do with hand brooms. Astaire also has a couple of terrific solo dances: one in the street to "A Foggy Day," and one that blew me away where he dances and plays the drums at the same times. I've read that Astaire was accomplished at several musical instruments, and whenever you see him play an instrument in a movie, it's really him playing.

the dragon murder case

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May 27 movie: The Dragon Murder Case. First I watched the best Philo Vance movie, then the worst.* This one starred Warren William as Vance. They really seemed to be phoning it in by this point. The worst part is that the DVR conked out right before the end of the movie and I never found out who did it. They were all standing in front of a pool and William was about to explain the convoluted whodunit, then the DVR froze, and when it finally rebooted William and Eugene Pallette were cracking jokes, roll credits. Dang!

*worst among the 4 I've seen. There may be another that's worse, and if so, I have no desire to find out.

the kennel murder case

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May 27 movie: The Kennel Murder Case. Apparently there were a lot of series of detective/mystery movies. The Thin Man, the Saint, Mr. Moto, and Philo Vance to name a few. This was the best of the Philo Vance movies, at least the ones I've seen. It starred William Powell and was (sort of) set at a high society dog show. Hmm. William Powell, detective movie, high society, and dogs? That would never work.

May 26 movies: It Happened One Night and There Goes My Heart. These movies are very, very similar. There Goes My Heart was made several years later, and isn't as well known, so I'm assuming it was a knock-off of the more successful It Happened One Night. Both are well worth watching as far as I'm concerned. I watched them back to back during a marathon work session.

Speaking of which, someone asked me recently how I find time to watch so many movies. Well, for one thing, I don't watch a lot of regular TV. I follow a couple of Bravo reality shows, and of course the Daily Show and Colbert. But I don't watch sitcoms, weekly dramas, TV news, talk shows, etc. If I'm watching television it's almost always TCM.

Also, when I work at home I divide my work in two categories: the kind that requires my full attention and the kind that doesn't. Work that requires my whole brain would be programming, detailed graphic work, anything that I have to think about or pay close attention. Work that doesn't would be moving data from one place to another, setting up the weekly newsletter, any kind of routine task that takes more time than brain power. I'll often put a movie on to keep myself company while doing that kind of work. I used to listen to podcasts while working, and maybe someday I'll get tired of movies and go back to podcasts.

the dawn patrol

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May 26 movie: The Dawn Patrol. This year for Memorial Day TCM did a special on WWI movies. They had a guy from a WWI museum to introduce the movie. The guy was interesting but he mostly talked about the accuracy of the weapons, uniforms and airplanes. H did not have much to say about the movie as a movie.

Anyway The Dawn Patrol is a wonderful movie. I've seen it several times and it never gets tired. It was made between the wars, it's about a group of British biplane pilots who laugh in the face of death. Laugh, I tell you! And drink a lot. Stars Errol Flynn and David Niven as the hotshot pilots, and Basil Rathbone as their commander, who is tortured about having to send other men to their deaths, often in impossible conditions, when he'd rather be out there himself.

The Dawn Patrol includes 3 cast members who were also in The Adventures of Robin Hood, made in the same year: Flynn, Rathbone and Melville Cooper, who played the Sheriff of Nottingham.

how y'all?

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So I haven't posted in a while. Which you might or might not have noticed. I had a big deadline that took up pretty much every waking minute until a few days ago. (and pleased to report that everything went well, no major glitches.) Then I needed a couple of days to recover, rest and catch up on other work. And now here we are.

Today I was fending off a cold, watched movies and slept and did the last two weeks' crossword puzzles, and only did a little bit of work. I think it's telling that given the clue "Thou S _ _ _ _ " I immediately thought "Thou Swell," and when that turned out to be wrong I could not for the life of me figure out what else it could be. (the real answer? Thou Shalt.)

Speaking of movies and catching up, time to write up some movies!

May 26 movie: Dean Martin: Memories Are Made of This. Not a movie so much as a series of performances, mostly from Martin's TV show. There was one funny one where Martin couldn't get the mic stand fully extended. He alternated between stooping over and holding the (heavy, I assume) mic up, and pulling frantically on the mic stand whenever he wasn't singing.

the dirty dozen

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May 25 movie: The Dirty Dozen. I did not intend to watch this, but I happened to turn it on a few minutes in and I got sucked in. It's a great movie. Exciting, well-made, great cast. It's cynical, and gets pretty dark at the end there. Which is not unusual for war movies made in the late 60s.

a walk in the sun

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May 24 movie: A Walk in the Sun. This was an excellent movie about the invasion of Sicily, directed by Lewis Milestone who also directed All Quiet on the Western Front. Starred Dana Andrews and a great ensemble including Sterling Holloway, Lloyd Bridges, Richard Conte (was in The Godfather and the original Ocean's Eleven) and Norman Lloyd. He plays a curt tough guy who will surprise you if you remember him as the kindly old doctor on St. Elsewhere, not so much if you know him as the villain in Saboteur.

It's rare to see an ensemble war movie without the usual cast of stereotypes: no plucky ethnic guy, no Texas hayseed who becomes best friends with the Chicago hustler, no "I'm getting too old for this shit" career man, etc etc. The characters all seem very real and, what's the word. Underwritten? They just seem like people, not types with a capital T. The movie was very spare, with good use of locations. There's a beautiful shot that the director uses a couple of times, of the camera panning along a ditch or trench while the men jump down into the trench one by one.

I'm really glad I got to see this. My only complaint was the first reel had not been well restored & the night scenes were so blurry they were a little hard to watch. The image cleared up at some point and from then on was no hindrance to enjoying the movie.

a step and a half forward


In the past couple of days New Hampshire legalized gay marriage, and Nevada legalized "civil domestic partnerships" between any two people, regardless of gender.

In both states the decision came from the legislature, not the courts. (I believe the New Hampshire governor signed the new law, and in Nevada the state legislature overrode a veto.) Which is great because it severely undercuts the claim from the right that marriage equality is the result of "activist courts" going against "the will of the people." Oh, I'm sure there are wingers out there wailing about how true democracy is only reflected in a referendum. Well guess what, we live in a republic. Representative democracy, right? That thing conservatives are so fond of when it goes their way? I have to live with all kinds of laws I don't personally like, and so do they.

I've been wondering a couple of things: first, how active are the Las Vegas and Reno tourism industries in pushing for marriage equality? I bet legalizing gay marriage in a state with no residency requirement would be a real shot in the economic arm, at a time when they could use a boost, judging by the insanely low hotel deals they keeping emailing us about.

Second, given the option of either marriage or domestic partnership, how many straights will choose domestic partnership? It seems like there are a lot of people out there who aren't crazy about the word "marriage" and all the baggage it entails, and do it anyway because of all the legal protections it affords. If there's a simple, straightforward way to get all those legal protections without the marriage, I wonder how many straight couples will skip the marriage part.

Wouldn't it be funny if, after all that screaming about "protecting the sanctity of marriage," whatever that even means, the end result was to weaken straight marriage by making it seem like just one option out of many. Or would the right-wingers say that having fewer marriages makes the institution stronger, if the only people doing it are those who really want to? Somehow I don't think they would say that. Though it's hard to keep track sometimes.

destination tokyo

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May 24 movie: Destination Tokyo. Cary Grant and John Garfield star in this movie about a submarine crew on an advance mission to Tokyo before the Doolittle Raid. Also stars Alan Hale! As the ship's cook, named (no joke) Cookie.


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May 23 movie: Battleground. This is a terrific war movie about the Battle of the Bulge, with a big ensemble cast including standouts Van Johnson, John Hodiak, George Murphy, and Ricardo Montalban. The day after watching it we ran into Spacegrrl and her (space) guy, and they had just been watching Band of Brothers, which as it turns out was about the exact same thing as this movie!


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May 22 movie: Rebecca. I never get tired of this movie. This time I realized that the main character has no name! How did I never notice that before? All they ever call her is "the second Mrs. de Winter." I also read about the differences between the book and the movie (spoilers behind a cut):

greenwich village

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May 21 movie: Greenwich Village. Very silly movie which I watched for Carmen Miranda. It was part of the Latinos in film series TCM did last month. The movie is set in the Edwardian era and she does a great version of "I'm Just Wild About Harry." There's another number where she wears black opera gloves with magenta palms, which must be seen to be believed. They looked like Chairman Kaga would have worn them.

I've recently started reading a blog called No Longer Quivering. Two women who left the Quiverfull* movement use the blog to tell their stories, explain what happened to them, how they got into the movement in the first place, what it was like, how they finally got out, and the problems they face now, from large (one of the two authors lost custody of her children) to relatively small (learning how to express personal likes and dislikes again, after needing permission for every decision for so long).

As a lifelong atheist who grew up in a secular family, these are obviously not issues that will ever affect me personally. Still, it's a compelling read. The authors are both good writers, telling powerful stories with honesty, sometimes anger and sometimes even humor. If you've ever wondered what extreme fundamentalist Christianity is about, wanted to understand it better than just writing the whole thing off as "they're crazy and/or evil," I highly recommend this blog. It's been an eye-opener to follow the story and learn why patriarchal religious movements like Quiverfull are so conducive to, downright encouraging of abuse. And also how an intelligent woman with the best of intentions could gradually fall into an abusive situation, even participate in the abuse of herself and her children, and why it was so difficult to leave. (Hint: being told by everyone you know that God will punish you for eternity if you do anything to stop the abuse had something to do with it.)

One of the two authors was something of a poster child for the Quiverfull movement before she left it. My favorite series on the blog is where she reprints articles she wrote before, for homeschooling magazines or whatnot, then dissects them, explaining what was really going on at the time and what all the "code words" really meant. The title of the series: "Vyckie's Tour de Crap."

*Quiverfull is an evangelical Christian movement which promotes an extreme patriarchy, demands total female submission and encourages families to have as many children as possible. The name comes from a Bible verse which says "happy is the man who has his quiver full of [children]."

May 21 movie: Fats Waller: This Joint is Jumping. Documentary about Fats Waller includes interviews with a couple of people, memories from Waller's son (who looked uncannily like his father), and lots of performance footage. Exactly what I wanted to see.

bell, book and candle

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May 20 movie: Bell, Book and Candle. I think I've finally gotten over my reaction to this movie. I used to always love it a half hour in, and then hate it by the end. Well, I still don't love the ending, but I don't hate it anymore.

too hot to handle

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May 19 movie: Too Hot to Handle. Fun comedy starring Clark Gable and Walter Pidgeon as rival war correspondents, neither too scrupulous to fake their footage or steal it from each other. They fight over private pilot Myrna Loy and eventually cooperate to help her find her missing brother.

There's a really offensive sequence near the end where they all go to South America and Gable tricks a native population into making him their voodoo king or something. It involves him wearing a mask, jumping up and down and yelling "ooga booga." The movie was great up to that point.

when ladies meet

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May 19 movie: When Ladies Meet. I've love the Joan Crawford remake of this, and had no idea it was a remake! The original starred Myrna Loy in the part later played by Joan Crawford, also Robert Montgomery instead of Robert Taylor, Ann Harding (Greer Garson), Frank Morgan (Herbert Marshall) and Alice Brady (Spring Byington). The remake is less awkwardly stagey: in the original everything happens in one room, until they move to another room where everything happens, people walk in and out of doors all the time, that sort of thing. In just about every other way the original is the superior movie. Especially Myrna Loy instead of Joan Crawford. She makes the character so much more believable and sympathetic. Crawford's version is a selfish, deluded fool who is enabled by everyone around her. Loy's is a woman who realizes she's been selfish and deluded, and makes good. Much more satisfying.


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May 18 movie: Penthouse. Myrna Loy and Warner Baxter costar in a crime/mystery movie, made just before Loy became a huge star in the The Thin Man. It's one of those movies where everything is glamorous, even when it should be rough and seedy. People wear evening clothes all the time and trade quips over champagne cocktails. I really enjoyed this and would watch it again anytime.

walk softly, stranger

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May 16 movie: Walk Softly, Stranger. This late 40s crime movie/romantic drama reunites Joseph Cotten and Alida Valli of The Third Man. The movie isn't great, and isn't bad either. Worth watching to see Cotten and Valli together again.

the anderson tapes

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May 16 movie: The Anderson Tapes. Caper movie starring Sean Connery, with a great ensemble including Dyan Cannon, Martin Balsam, Alan King, Garret Morris, Christopher Walken in his first movie and Margaret Hamilton in her last.

The heist is intercut with government surveillance of Connery. I understand that was a key element of the book it was based on, but it drags the movie down. I think they should have focused on the caper -- which is very well done fun and exciting -- and dropped the surveillance. Then again, if they did that they wouldn't have had a title anymore.

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