Category Archives: Film

Inside Llewyn Davis

Llewyn Davis, it seems to me, thinks that there’s a purity to music and he’s trying to harness it. As I lie here reading an interview with the Coens, I continue to think about what they meant to say about the age-old uneasy relationship between art and commerce. There’s also a subtext of death and abortion in the movie that I think must be significant somehow, though I’m not sure I’ve quite figured it out. Is it reaching, I wonder, to think that Llewyn might view his desired career path as his child?

In what I think is the best scene, Llewyn apparently aces an important audition, giving what seems to me to be a perfect performance of a song that happens to be about a woman who asks repeatedly for an abortion in order to save her life.

When he’s finished with this poignant, heartfelt performance, there’s a long pause before the callous verdict comes in: “I don’t see a lot of money here.”

Llewyn seems to realize at around this point that, like Queen Jane of the song he’s just sung, it’s him or the music.

It’s difficult for me not to think of a musician I like a great deal named Ron Sexsmith. He’s led a long career, writing many excellent songs, the best of which only a handful of people will ever hear. Of course. He’s got no real gimmick (unless naked sincerity is a gimmick), he’s not especially handsome, and he doesn’t growl out vapid love songs.

Anyway, he’s got a song that seems fitting here called “This Song”: “Brought a song into this world / Just a melody with words / It trembles here before my eyes / How can this song survive? / I brought it to the tower of gold / In my coat of many holes / I came unarmed; they’ve all got knives / How can this song survive? …”

Colbert and Sci-Fi v. Fantasy

So, I’m tempted to think that the reason I feel some apathy toward fantasy is how easy stories like Game of Thrones and LOTR make it for writers to use magic as a deus ex machina. Of course, the same could be said of Star Trek and “technobabble.” So, why is it easier for me to forgive Star Trek? Well, for one, I think it’s more fruitful to converse about technobabble. You can actually talk about real science when you’re talking about why Treknobabble is pseudoscientific.

So, why do I prefer Star Trek to Dr. Who? Well, for one, Dr. Who doesn’t give us a homo sapiens that has overcome its pettiness. Star Trek — to my delight — explores the possibility of what comes after Sagan’s, “If we do not destroy ourselves, we will one day venture to the stars.” It seems to me that the Doctor performs a similar capacity to the Vulcans: overseer of the humans. They’re both waiting with their fingers crossed to see if we continue surviving each new genocide, pandemic, or other crisis and continue evolving (intellectually if not biologically) to eventually become spacefaring. (Also, the critical attitude of the Vulcans toward humans seems much more realistic to me than the avuncular attitude of the Doctor toward us.)

That’s infinitely more interesting to me than the idea of constant, secret alien visitation on earth by hostile aliens that require earth to be saved by other kindly aliens. This is essentially the idea of Transformers as well and how cool would it be if the Transformers did what Picard and company do? (Not cool at all if all you want to see is hot robot-on-robot carnage! But, that was well-covered in the first Transformers movie!)

Another thing about fantasy: why are so many important characters in Game of Thrones and LOTR humanoid? This seems forgivable to me with respect to Star Trek because the original series probably lacked funding for advanced effects and make-up. Humanoid aliens were just more practical to make and act. Game of Thrones and LOTR were books, though. Books don’t have budget constraints, right?

And, why, why, why must fantasy take place in a magical corollary to the Dark Ages? Actually, an answer occurred to me as I was typing the question: it may have been in the Dark Ages that magical thinking most flourished.

Sweet Potatoes and Lentils

So, here’s a recipe that appears to’ve originated with Alicia “Alisha” Silverstone. I found Silverstone’s original recipe and it did not include kale. Big mistake! However, in her recipe, she uses broth for precooking the onions instead of sautéing them. Might be good if you want to make it even less fatty. (I used a mixture of olive oil and vegetable oil myself.)

Also, I would recommend slow-cooking some lentils beforehand, especially if you’re like me and you don’t like to babysit legumes and don’t want to worry about the sodium or .

After consuming only seven large bowls of this, I was able to race the fastest animal, walk along the longest path, and hold the hottest substance. I also wrote this great new song: “I’m strong as a quail ‘cause I eats me [sic] kale.”

INGREDIENTS
2 Tbsp safflower oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 small tomatoes, diced
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1 1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
Pinch of sea salt
2-3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
7 cups vegetable broth
1 cup brown lentils
1 cup baby spinach or kale

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat and saute onion for about 2 minutes, until soft.
  2. Stir in tomatoes and ginger, cooking an addition 3 minutes.
  3. Stir in turmeric, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cayenne and salt and cook for 2 minutes, tasting to make sure its to your liking.
  4. Add the sweet potatoes, broth and lentils.
  5. Bring soup to a boil then reduce heat and cover, allowing to simmer for about 30 minutes.
  6. Add spinach (or kale) and simmer for an additional 10 minutes.
A recent study shows that canned food doesn’t lead to increased BPA in the blood:

TEEGUARDEN: So for bisphenol-A, for example, you may be exposed to relatively large amounts in the diet. But what matters most, is how much of the bioactive form actually reaches your blood and your tissues.

HAMIILTON: Teeguarden studied 20 men and women who spent a day on a diet loaded with BPA, from canned foods and juice in plastic containers. He wanted to know whether there is a lot of bioactive BPA in the blood of people who ingest large amounts of the chemical.

TEEGUARDEN: What we found was, no, there is not. At least if it is, it’s present in amounts that are below our limit of detection, which in this case was point three parts per billion.

HAMIILTON: Some studies that have found much, much higher levels of BPA in the blood. And that’s really surprising, Teeguarden says. The reason is that to get levels that high from food, a person would have to ingest hundreds or thousands of times more BPA than the typical American gets in their diet.

TEEGUARDEN: So the question is: Where did that bioactive bisphenol-A come from?

HAMIILTON: Teeguarden says one very real possibility is that it got into the blood accidentally after samples were drawn.

Excerpt from the Documentary Whore’s Glory

still from the documentary Whore's Glory

I had nine customers today. All nine were really fine. They were perfect gentleman with me. It always depends on the man’s family. If he comes from a good family, he has good manners; if he comes from a bad family, he has bad manners. … But it depends on my behavior too. If I treat him badly, he treats me badly. If a girl behaves badly, she gets a bad reputation quickly. … If I lose a customer, then his friends stop coming too. I treat my customers right so they keep coming back. Otherwise, I would be left with nothing. A customer would come once and then never again.

Pretty Maids All in a Row

Today, while watching the first episode of the second season of Californication, I noticed one of the characters refer to several lines of cocaine as “pretty little maids all in a row.”

Naturally, I thought of the Joe Walsh-penned classic “Pretty Maids All in a Row” and, naturally, I then went on a ‘Net hunt for cocaine slang with which I’m unfamiliar. (In fact, this includes all cocaine slang beyond the word “blow.”)

In my hunt, I discovered this:
.

Yes, it’s John Landis talking about a movie I didn’t know existed.

So, anyway, I kept looking around, but, if anybody else has called lines of cocaine “pretty maids in a row,” they sadly either tucked it into some secret place on the ‘Net or, worse, did not even bother to put it on the ‘Net.

Perhaps some wise person will find this post someday and explain the reference in Californication. Maybe there’s a commentary track out there where somebody talks about it. Maybe somebody remembers an interview with Joe Walsh where he touches on this important matter. Maybe it’s the first time cocaine and Joe Walsh have ever been connected. Except, of course, that the album Hotel California was itself based on the often drug-fueled excesses of certain Californians. (And, of course, Walsh has spoken publicly about his past drug addiction.)

The Lady Eve

This movie is about a “scientist” who falls for a grifter.

There are some nice moments, like when Barbara Stanwyck’s character seduces Henry Fonda’s character on a swanky cruise:

This is a roughly 4-minute scene and it’s easy to imagine impressionable men of any era falling under Stanwyck’s spell.

The premise involves Fonda’s character repeatedly falling (yes, both literally and figuratively) for Stanwyck’s, echoing devices in at least two other movies: Random Harvest and Vertigo.

Unfortunately, unless one has a fondness for the actors, it’s difficult to see what more this one has to offer. The “comedy” consists primarily of Henry Fonda tripping over things or having various foods and beverages dumped on him.

Yes, here he is, slipping in mud. Yes, he is a grown man. He has supposedly spent time in many wilderness settings. Presumably, he has stepped in mud before.

Here is Eugene Pallette, portraying Fonda’s father, acting “comedically” (i.e., like a young child with moderate mental retardation):

He’s hungry, you see, and so he must violently slam these metal lids together and against the table repeatedly in order to let his servants know that he is hungry.

As a final insult, the only science the movie attempts, it doesn’t even bother to get right. In this example, Fonda’s character asks a servant if the servant has seen an escaped snake. The servant says that he happily hasn’t and the camera then, of course, pans down to his feet, one of which has a snake coiled around it, completing a gag that I imagine must’ve seemed very sophisticated to Pleistocene primates:

Jonathan Crowe, a fellow film aficionado (who also happens to be a snake aficionado) writes the following:

[O]nce Pike has returned home, he asks his butler whether he’s seen a Crotalus colubrinus. (“With pink spots,” Muggsy adds.) “I rejoice to say that I have not, sir,” the butler replies, walking away — with what appears to be a Corn Snake (Elaphe guttata) wrapped around his ankle. Crotalus colubrinus is not only imaginary, it’s an oxymoron if you know your Linnaean binomials.

[source]

Now, as it happens that I do not know my Linnaean binomials, I visited a site where one can look up such things. There, I found that crotalus is a genus name meaning “clapper” that is used for venomous pit vipers and colubrinus means “snake-like.” I’m not sure why this is an oxymoron. I am hopeful, however, that some herpetologist will stumble across this essay someday and explain it.

Mystery Movie Capture

The scene from which this image was taken was filmed using an Arri Alexa camera with either a Zeiss Ultra Prime or Fujinon Alura lens.

This filmmaker frequently courts controversy and seems to have undertaken this project partly to do so again. If a curious viewer happens to find a version other than the edited one (perhaps via YouTube’s streaming service), it will be evident why the “climactic” scene contains so many cuts. It is interesting to see the MPAA rating’s board tested with such aberrant sexual material that, in fact, contains no actual nudity.

Give up? Here is the answer.

Killing Them Softly: Discussion

Clifton  I thought Killing Them Softly had more going on than just “it’s every man for himself out there.” I wasn’t that crazy about it, but I do otherwise agree with this person’s take.

 


Josh  Yeah, it wasn’t too hard to pick up the less-than-subtle undertones with the constant insertion of snippets of political commentary. Surely Dominik didn’t need the hammer to make his point. I was also surprised to read that it was set in New Orleans? I don’t remember picking that up at any point in the story.


Clifton  I actually didn’t think that Dominik made his point too clumsily because I didn’t feel that I fully understood the purpose of the political stuff. Also, outside of Suebsaeng’s review in Mother Jones, I haven’t found another reviewer who has satisfactorily explained the symbolic or allegorical elements.

When it was over, I felt like I had missed something. Assuming allegory myself, I tried to reason through what the different figures might have represented. Was Driver the corporations? If so, who was the government? It makes sense to me now for Mickey to represent a lack of regulation in the markets. His criminal friends just “let it go” when he dumbly fesses up to his caper. This leads to a “meltdown” in the underworld.

That means that Johnny (“Squirrel”), Frankie (the Bostonian), and Russell (the Aussie) maybe represent the chaos that accompanies laissezfaireism.
Continue reading Killing Them Softly: Discussion