Sunday, February 28, 2010

From a review of the film "North Face" by Roger Ebert

The movies have long been convinced themselves that any story can be improved by adding a romance. Not true. Any story can be improved by leaving out as much as you reasonably can.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

From "August" by Bruno Schulz

IN JULY my father went to take the waters and left me, with my mother and elder brother, a prey to the blinding white heat of the summer days. Dizzy with light, we dipped into that enormous book of holidays, its pages blazing with sunshine and scented with the sweet melting pulp of golden pears. 
On those luminous mornings Adela returned from the market, like Pomona emerging from the flames of day, spilling from her basket the colourful beauty of the sun-the shiny pink cherries full of juice under their transparent skins, the mysterious black morellos that smelled so much better than they tasted; apricots in whose golden pulp lay the core of long afternoons. And next to that pure poetry of fruit, she unloaded sides of meat with their keyboard of ribs swollen with energy and strength, and seaweeds of vegetables like dead octopuses and squids-the raw material of meals with a yet undefined taste, the vegetative and terrestrial ingredients of dinner, exuding a wild and rustic smell. 
The dark first floor apartment of the house in Market Square was shot through each day by the naked heat of summer: the silence of the shimmering streaks of air, the squares of brightness dreaming their intense dreams on the floor; the sound of a barrel-organ rising from the deepest golden vein of day; two or three bars of a chorus, played on a distant piano over and over again, melting in the sun on the white pavement, lost in the fire of high noon.

"Benjamin Franklin - A Life" by Loren Goodman

From "Famous Americans" by Loren Goodman

This is nature at its most breathtaking . . . serene yet magnificent.

From "The Only Traffic Signal on the Reservation Doesn't Flash Red Anymore" by Sherman Alexie"

"Go ahead," Adrian said. "Pull the trigger." I held a pistol to my temple. I was sober but wished I was drunk enough to pull the trigger.

"Go for it," Adrian said. "You chickenshit."

While I still held that pistol to my temple, I used my other hand to flip Adrian off. Then I made a fist with my third hand to gather a little bit of courage or stupidity, and wiped sweat from my forehead with my fourth hand.

"Here," Adrian said. "Give me the damn thing."

Adrian took the pistol, put the barrel in his mouth, smiled around the metal, and pulled the trigger. Then he cussed wildly, laughed, and spit out the BB.

"Are you dead yet?" I asked.

"Nope," he said. "Not yet. Give me another beer."

"Hey, we don't drink no more, remember? How about a Diet Pepsi?"

"That's right, enit? I forgot. Give me a Pepsi."

Adrian and I sat on the porch and watched the reservation. Nothing happened. From our chairs made rockers by unsteady legs, we could see that the only traffic signal on the reservation had stopped working.

"Hey, Victor," Adrian asked. "Now when did that thing quit flashing?"

"Don't know," I said.

It was summer. Hot. But we kept our shirts on to hide our beer bellies and chicken pock scars. At least, I wanted to hide my beer belly. I was a former basketball star fallen out of shape. It's always kind of sad when that happens. There's nothing more unattractive than a vain man, and that goes double for a Indian man.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Children of Men

The only movie I've ever seen that had a subplot of a character's feet.

Monday, February 22, 2010

"For All Mankind" a film by Al Reinert

This film is one of the best writing lessons out there.

Available @ the library.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Excerpt from "How Things Were Done In Odessa" by Isaac Babel

“ ‘The police end where Benya begins,’ levelheaded people answered, but Tartakovsky wouldn’t calm down, and to his amazement saw a red automobile with a music box for a horn playing the first march from the opera I Pagliacci on Seredinskaya Square. In broad daylight the car raced over to the little house in which Aunt Pesya lived. Its wheels thundered, it spat smoke, gleamed brassily, reeked of gasoline, and honked arias on its horn. A man jumped out of the automobile and went into the kitchen where little Aunt Pesya was writhing on the earthen floor. Yid-and-a-Half was sitting on a chair waving his arms. ‘You ugly hooligan!’ he shouted, when he saw the man. ‘You damn bandit, may the earth spit you out! A nice style you’ve picked for yourself, going around murdering live people!’ ”

Monday, February 15, 2010

The New Yorker


Monday, February 8, 2010

The Criterion Contraption

The Urban Wilderness

Last paragraph from: "My Kind of Utmost Tender" by Zach Vickers

What Admin Gwynn does is she grabs my Dynamo!® tie and pulls me close. I can smell her herbal shampoo and minty blemish cream. Someone’s trying to relocate my guts with a pitchfork. My numbing toes curl. My lifegiver, patient. She puts her mouth to the side of my head. Her nose whistling, like a sunrise. Her hot generous breath, like a fever over my pink packing peanut ear I considerately meet halfway to offer her. Here in the parking lot. Tears assembling, preparing their bussed flank. Her: Let me take care of you.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

#1 from "The Screwtape Letters" by C.S. Lewis


I note what you say about guiding your patient's reading and taking care that he sees a good deal of his materialist friend. But are you not being a trifle naif? It sounds as if you supposed that argument was the way to keep him out of the Enemy's clutches. That might have been so if he had lived a few centuries earlier. At that time the humans still knew pretty well when a thing was proved and when it was not; and if it was proved they really believed it. They still connected thinking with doing and were prepared to alter their way of life as the result of a chain of reasoning. But what with the weekly press and other such weapons, we have largely altered that. Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to having a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. He doesn't think of doctrines as primarily "true" or "false," but as "academic" or "practical," "outworn" or "contemporary," "conventional" or "ruthless." Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church. Don't waste time trying to make him think that materialism is true! Make him think it is strong or stark or courageous—that it is the philosophy of the future. That's the sort of thing he cares about.

The trouble about argument is that it moves the whole struggle onto the Enemy's own ground. He can argue too; whereas in really practical propaganda of the kind I am suggesting He has been shown for centuries to be greatly the inferior of Our Father Below. By the very act of arguing you awake the patient's reason; and once it is awake, who can foresee the result! Even if a particular train of thought can be twisted so as to end in our favour, you will find that you have been strengthening in your patient the fatal habit of attending to universal issues and withdrawing his attention from the stream of immediate sense experiences. Your business is to fix his attention on the stream. Teach him to call it "real life" and don't let him ask what he means by "real."

Remember, he is not, like you, a pure spirit. Never having been a human (oh, that abominable advantage of the Enemy's!) you don't realise how enslaved they are to the pressure of the ordinary. I once had a patient, a sound atheist, who used to read in the British Museum. One day, as he sat reading, I saw a train of thought in his mind beginning to go the wrong way. The Enemy, of course, was at his elbow in a moment. Before I knew where I was I saw my twenty years' work beginning to totter. If I had lost my head and begun to attempt a defence by argument, I should have been undone. But I was not such a fool. I struck instantly at the part of the man which I had best under my control, and suggested that it was just about time he had some lunch. The Enemy presumably made the counter-suggestion (you know how one can never quite overhear what He says to them?) that this was more important than lunch. At least I think that must have been His line, for when I said, "Quite. In fact much too important to tackle at the end of a morning," the patient brightened up considerably; and by the time I had added "Much better come back after lunch and go into it with a fresh mind," he was already halfway to the door. Once he was in the street the battle was won. I showed him a newsboy shouting the midday paper, and a No. 73 bus going past, and before he reached the bottom of the steps I had got into him an unalterable conviction that, whatever odd ideas might come into a man's head when he was shut up alone with his books, a healthy dose of "real life" (by which he meant the bus and the newsboy) was enough to show him that all "that sort of thing" just couldn't be true. He knew he'd had a narrow escape, and in later years was fond of talking about "that inarticulate sense for actuality which is our ultimate safe guard against the aberrations of mere logic." He is now safe in Our Father's house.

You begin to see the point? Thanks to processes which we set at work in them centuries ago, they find it all but impossible to believe in the unfamiliar while the familiar is before their eyes. Keep pressing home on him the ordinariness of things. Above all, do not attempt to use science (I mean, the real sciences) as a defence against Christianity. They will positively encourage him to think about realities he can't touch and see. There have been sad cases among the modern physicists. If he must dabble in science, keep him on economics and sociology; don't let him get away from that invaluable "real life." But the best of all is to let him read no science but to give him a grand general idea that he knows it all and that everything he happens to have picked up in casual talk and reading is "the results of modern investigation." Do remember you are there to fuddle him. From the way some of you young fiends talk, anyone would suppose it was our job to teach!

Your affectionate uncle



Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Review of the film "Jaws" by Roger Ebert

"A bomb is under the table, and it explodes: That is surprise," said Hitchcock. "The bomb is under the table but it does not explode: That is suspense." Spielberg leaves the shark under the table for most of the movie. And many of its manifestations in the later part of the film are at second hand: We don't see the shark but the results of his actions. The payoff is one of the most effective thrillers ever made.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Excerpt from: "Why Are Movies So Bad? Or, The Numbers" by Pauline Kael

The movies have been so rank the last couple of years that when I see people lining up to buy tickets I sometimes think that the movies aren’t drawing an audience—they’re inheriting an audience. People just want to go to a movie. They’re stung repeatedly, yet their desire for a good movie—for any movie—is so strong that all over the country they keep lining up. “There’s one God for all creation, but there must be a separate God for the movies,” a producer said. “How else can you explain their survival?” An atmosphere of hope develops before a big picture’s release, and even after your friends tell you how bad it is, you can’t quite believe it until you see for yourself. The lines (and the grosses) tell us only that people are going to the movies—not that they’re having a good time. Financially, the industry is healthy, so among the people at the top there seems to be little recognition of what miserable shape movies are in. They think the grosses are proof that people are happy with what they’re getting, just as TV executives think that the programs with the highest ratings are what TV viewers want, rather than what they settle for. (A number of the new movie executives come from TV.) These new executives don’t necessarily see many movies themselves, and they rarely go to a theatre. If for the last couple of years Hollywood couldn’t seem to do anything right, it isn’t that it was just a stretch of bad luck—it’s the result of recent developments within the industry. And in all probability it will get worse, not better. There have been few recent American movies worth lining up for—last year there was chiefly The Black Stallion, and this year there is The Empire Strikes Back. The first was made under the aegis of Francis Ford Coppola; the second was financed by George Lucas, using his profits from Star Wars as a guarantee to obtain bank loans. One can say with fair confidence that neither The Black Stallionnor The Empire Strikes Back could have been made with such care for visual richness and imaginations if it had been done under studio control. Even small films on traditional subjects are difficult to get financed at a studio if there are no parts for stars in them; Peter Yates, the director of Breaking Away—a graceful, unpredictable comedy that pleases and satisfies audiences—took the project to one studio after another for almost six years before he could get the backing for it.

From a review of the film "Apollo 13" by Roger Ebert

When I was a kid, they used to predict that by the year 2000, you'd be able to go to the moon. Nobody ever thought to predict that you'd be able to, but nobody would bother.

From a review of the film "North" by Roger Ebert

I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it.