RSSCategory: Movies


| March 31, 2012 | 0 Comments

Groucho in Duck Soup

I thoroughly enjoyed Dick Cavett’s review of two re-issued books on Groucho Marx, a man I idolize.  I wish I had the time to read the books, but, for now, the review will have to suffice.  Here’s an excerpt that describes Groucho well:

Woody Allen has said that of the greats, Groucho had the richest number of gifts. He could sing, dance and act, and beyond those fairly common gifts, when you add the distinctive voice, faultless instinct for wording, genius wit, hilarious physical movement, rich supply of expressions and physical “takes” — and the list goes on — it arguably adds up to the most supremely gifted comedian of our time.

The pinnacle of my Groucho obsession was reached in my twenties when there was a double bill of Marx Brothers movies playing at the Kenmore Square theater in Boston.  It was Horsefeathers and Duck Soup, the 3rd and 4th Marx Brothers movies made in the early 1930’s.  I went all three nights of the run and watch both movies each night.

Those were the days.


Movie Review – The Way

| January 2, 2012 | 0 Comments

Martin Sheen is known to be a devout Catholic.  I describe myself and an observant Catholic who aspires to be devout.  So, I went to see Sheen’s new movie, which was written and directed by Sheen’s son, Emelio Estevez, with certain expectation and  some concerns.  My expectations were that it would be a religious movie, since it centers on a pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago.  I’d never heard of this apparently well know trail along which pilgrims have traveled for hundreds of years.  It is described in the movie in fairly mystical, but not religious, terms.  My concern was that the religious aspect of the movie would be depicted in a smarmy, emotional way.  I imagined this as a bit of a proselytizing project of Sheen, which was supported by the fact that Sheen and his son appeared at Catholic University last year on their promotional tour.  Frankly, I enjoy watching Martin Sheen, but I have seen him in roles that are a bit over the top. Continue Reading

Jean Shepard

| December 28, 2011 | 0 Comments

Jean Sheperd

David Fagen is a co-founders of one of my favorite rock bands, Steely Dan.  His music is unique, honest and intelligent and has borne the test of time.  I never get bored when I’m listening to Steely Dan and continue to discover new things in the music.

Fagen brings that honesty and intelligence to a remembrance of Jean Shepard in Slate Magazine, of the man who create A Christmas Story, a relatively recent entrant into the genre of classic Christmas movies.  Fagen essentially reviews Shepard’s entire career, most of which was spent on late night radio where he simply told stories.  He also had a short run on PBS narrating off beat documentaries.

Like Fagen, as a child, I loved listening to Shepard in a darkened bedroom, with the sound on the radio turned low.  If you’ve seen the movie, you know the voice, since he is the narrator.  He had a magnificent voice, soothing and a bit subversive.  Fagen describes it as “cozy, yet abounding with jest.” Continue Reading


| February 18, 2010 | 0 Comments

I saw the movie Avatar and liked it a lot.  Of course, it is visually dazzling.  Despite the hype, it lives up to expectations in the 3D viewing.  You very quickly forget you’re watch 3D and just become immersed in the movie or, more specifically, in the planet Pandora.

I haven’t read a lot of reviews of Avatar, but, just through scanning, I have some familiarity with various issues and controversies surrounding the film.  So, I’ll just touch upon my view on a couple of them.

The plot, while very satisfying, is also very familiar.  If you go to the effort, you can pretty much figure out everything that’s going to happen in the movie after the first few minutes.  My advice is, don’t go to the effort.  It’s more fun.  Let your “willing suspension of disbelief” take over.

The religious overtones of the movie are interesting.  I’ve heard some Christians have criticized the movie as a paean to pantheism, which, in their minds, is barely one step up from atheism.  I disagree. Pantheism is the believe that everything is God and God is impersonal and inscrutable.  In this movie, the deity, while inscrutable, does actually seems to intervene in nature when asked to do so by the Na’Vi, much like Christians believe their God does.  If anything, contrary to the Hollywood stereotype, I thought the movie showed a great respect for religion.

One aspect of the movie, however, confirms the Hollywood stereotype of the “self-hating American.”  The movie clearly depicts American-type characters as the bad guys.  It’s no mystery why this movie is so popular in China. People wait for hours there to get in to see it. It can really be seen as an allegory on Western imperialism.  The top military bad guy is a caricature of the ugly American.  And the civilian businessman is even worse, since he clearly knows what they are doing is wrong and is too timid to stop it.  Of course, even Director James Cameron succumbs to American movie stereotypes, since the hero is also a white American male who saves the seemingly powerless natives.  And, while the religion does not contradict Christianity, in my view, it does seem more Eastern than Western, which would also appeal to Chinese sensibilities.

So, the plot, while predictable, is deep enough to generate controversy and discussion. That’s good.  But it’s not about the plot.  It’s about the visuals, which are stunning.  You can truly understand why this movie took ten years to make.  While I didn’t even know it was in the making until it came out, it was worth the wait.