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Monday, August 25, 2008

Kenji, Not Benji

While some clever folks are aware of Akira Kurosawa, (even barenaked ladies for that matter **), one of Japan's greatest film directors, and some might even be aware of Hiroshi Inagaki, or maybe even Masaki Kobayashi, not many folks in the western world have a clue about Kenji Mizoguchi is, so let's try and fix that. Yesterday - August 24, is the anniversary of his death. He died in 1956, back when Chevy made the coolest cars on the planet, not the Japanese. Sorry for the twisted irony, let's get back on topic. Kenji came from very humble beginnings. OK, he was really poor, unlike some most of his peers, he really had to work like a dog to even get a chance to make a film. I admire that kind of tenacity and the understanding and love of the poor is beautifully on display in a terrific Mizoguchi film called Ugetsu. Or as it is sometimes called, Ugetsu - the Tales of a Pale and Mysterious Moon after the Rain. Now what the origami does that mean? I am not going to try and unravel all the sublime pretense of Japanese flower arrangement, you Ikebana furniture Feng Shui - just do me a favor and watch the movie Ugetsu. It is really cool and it is worth your time.

** Barenaked Ladies, Week Song - Like Kurosawa I make mad films Okay I dont make films...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Seems Like Old Times

Well, just 40 years ago today - August 20, 1968 - the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia to do what it could to squelch democracy. Wow, seems like old times huh, with the recent activities in Georgia. Oddly enough, Stalin was from Georgia, but I am not sure he was a fan of the Braves, since they were in Milwaukee at the time (or was it Boston... hmmm). In any event, check out this old newreel of the 1968 invasion, and cheer for the people's response - which was to tell them to get the heck outta Prague. Time for a Pilsner Urquell.

We hope to update the database shortly to include one of our favorite movies - Night of the Hunter starring Robert Mitchum and Shelley Winters. Till then, you can watch it on the blog below. Like his role in Cape Fear, Robert Mitchum can be really really creepy. Don't you think? Check it out.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Free the Air Waves

Today we ran across a site called, sponsored by google, that was trying to do something that will perhaps be impossible, but hey - it is worth a shot anyway. Why impossible? Well in case you grew up in the dark - the corporate powers that be... control the world. Yes - money does make the world go round, and it goes around with a little cha-ching as it crosses zero. Big Dog will be fed, and we will pay our little monthly stipend to keep big dog happy. In this case, the big dog is all the big ISPs, telcos and cable companies selling you internet service. And Google of course has a self interest in all this, but oh my - they are up front about it. A nice change. Thank you. The air waves in question are known as white space - which are the broadcast bands between stations on an analog TV. You know - imagine you have no cable and are using an antennae (been there, done that). In Charlotte NC, there's a channel 3, and a channel 9 for instance. And no channel between 3 and 9... just the fuzz. Google is trying to have the US Gov't free up the white space so people can get free broadband, which is especially needed in the rural places not served by big dog. Also, you get a cool video with a girl named Minnie who does her best to explain it all to us non propeller heads. So if we end up getting broadband for free - can we thank Minnie the Moocher?

The whole situation reminded me of the great Nicola Tesla, who created the little convenience that brings electricity into our homes and businesses, called alternating current, or AC if you like. Edison, which all kids think is the big cheese was a slacker compared to Tesla, who was seen as pretty whacko in his day, but over time his work has had profound effects on modern society. Anyway - Tesla sold his AC idea to Westinghouse, which beat out Edison's DC (direct current) and the modern electrical grid soon became a reality. But too bad for Tesla, the market crash decimated Westinghouse, who told Tesla they couldn't pay his royalties. And what did Nicola do? He gave us AC anyway and died nearly penniless. So next time you turn on and power up... give Mr. Tesla a nod of thanks.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Max Kolby - August 14

Max Kolbe died on August 14, 1941. Max lived a very good life, but he is remembered mostly for the heroic nature of how he died. He was a Catholic priest sent to Auschwitz by the Nazis for trying to secretly hide several thousand Jews. Being a Catholic priest was reason enough to get sent to the camps - so Max's "crime" was even more severe. A Catholic priest trying to harbor Jews made him a huge target. A double whammy as far as the Nazis were concerned.

A prisoner had escaped from his cell block and so, someone had to be punished. A prisoner was randomly chosen to die by starvation for this transgression. Max said - take me instead. Unlike the man who was selected, Max had no family. His story is quite remarkable and by all means, learn more about Maximilian Kolbe.

In honor of Max Kolbe, we recommend two movies. First - Escape from Sobibor starring Alan Arkin and Rutger Hauer. Sobibor was a concentration camp in Poland and unfortunately, not enough people have ever heard of what transpired there. It is an amazing movie about one of the greatest prisoner escapes in WWII. Just watch it. It's an A+ film of a heroic story, just like Max Kolbe's life. Second - we suggest Roberto Rossellini's Open City, which is another powerful World War II story, this time set in Rome. In this movie, Aldo Fabrizi plays a heroic Catholic priest. It also stars Anna Magnani.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Bedazzled, Part Two

A while back, we provided a short commentary on the film Bedazzled, starring Dudley Moore, Peter Cook, and Raquel Welch but felt it was worth providing a little information on this movie because it is quite entertaining, and also a film most folks have never seen. In 1966, Raquel Welch became very famous from the success in the cult classic, One Million Years BC, and she was also terrific in Fantastic Voyage, (where they shrink some people to inject them into a body to perform a delicate operation on an important diplomat. That films also stars Stephen Boyd, Donald Pleasance, and Edmond O'Brien, but i digress). Anyway in 1967, she played one of the seven deadly sins, (yep, Lust :~), and well, she was built for this role.

I have always been a HUGE fan of British humor, and Bedazzled is just dripping irony and biting sarcastic social commentary. While it is very funny and light, it is also very thought provoking, especially the part where Peter Cook, as Satan explains that he is doing God's will, by being Satan, since God needs a devil to tempt people so they can have the tests in life that build character.

Bedazzled was directed by the legendary Stanley Donen, whose credits include Charade, The Pajama Game, Singing in the Rain, and Royal Wedding. Donen also direct Indiscreet (Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant) and Funny Face (Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire). So what are you waiting for? Go check out Bedazzled and see for yourself if it a great movie. I think it is.