Saturday movie #5

Eye of the Needle
Eye of the Needle

Tonight the Oscars will be given out to people in the film industry by people in the film industry. Let us hope that no one gets a broken arm from patting themselves on the back. In honor of the Academy Awards I am writing about a movie that got no nominations for an Oscar. It seems fitting.

Yesterday I watched “Eye of the Needle,” which is a 1981 film based on Ken Follett’s 1978 novel. The novel was originally titled “Storm Island,” scene of much of the action. And there is a lot of action in the movie.

The basic plot is about a German spy, played by Donald Sutherland, during World War II. He has information about the D-Day invasion that he is trying to get out of England and into the hands of Adolph Hitler. Along the way he meets a married British woman, played by Kate Nelligan, on Storm Island.

I only have two minor complaints about the movie. 1) For me the story seems to move too quickly. I’m pretty sure that is was written and cut that way to keep the excitement level high, so I shouldn’t complain…I suppose. But a more moderately paced movie would have suited me better. 2) Donald Sutherland’s English accent didn’t ring true to me. I’m sure his accent was better than any I could do, and it was consistent throughout the movie, but it struck me as false. Maybe I’ve seen him in too many other movies where he wasn’t using an accent.

Offsetting my quibbles was the fact that one of the most minor roles in the movie, Squadron Leader Blenkinsop, was played by one of my favorite actors, Bill Nighy. I almost didn’t recognize him. He was credited as the last actor in order of appearance. At least he got a credit.

I like thrillers, and this movie was certainly thrilling. There is no air of inevitability in the way the movie ends, even though we know how the war ended. I recommend that you find a copy of the movie and watch it…unless you are 13 or younger.

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How I spent my Saturday

Everything looks good on a day like this
Everything looks good on a day like this

To me, everything looks good on a bright, sunny day when it feels like spring is almost here. Let’s ignore the fact that we have a winter weather advisory for tomorrow. Now I didn’t take this picture on Saturday, but rather it was one of a few I took Sunday morning. Let me explain why, despite my plans, I didn’t get out to do any serious picture-taking or movie watching on Saturday.

I didn’t sleep well Friday night/Saturday morning. Indeed, I woke up around 2:30 a.m. and couldn’t fall back asleep. Finally I decided to watch the end of a television show that I had recorded earlier in the week. Then I watched another. Finally I was tired enough to sleep again around 5, and as a result I ended up sleeping much later than normal. That started me behind.

My grandson Mason was swimming in the high school sectional on Saturday and I planned on attending. I was told that the meet would start at 11 a.m. and would last for two or three hours. I had planned on going out to take some pictures before the meet, but I slept so late that I decided to take pictures after the meet instead. Then I got a somewhat confounding text from Mason’s mother saying that Mason had told her the meet didn’t start until 12 noon, but the official notice she had said that it started a nine a.m. What? Knowing that Mason isn’t always a detail person, I decided to go to the site of the meet early. I always prefer to be early rather than late.

When I went to my car to leave I saw that I had one flat tire and another that was low on air. Luckily, we have a small air compressor that we use in just such emergencies. I inflated both tires and got on the road. I arrived at the high school around 10:45. Based on the paucity of cars in the parking lot I knew that the meet hadn’t started yet. So I sat in my car, listening to music and getting caught up on what people had been complaining about on Twitter.

People started arriving around 11:15, so I departed the car and entered the school. I strolled through the hallway, admiring all of the swimming and diving trophies on display. As I passed by the entrance to the pool area I heard an announcer announcing results from diving competition. Ah! That would explain the 9 a.m. start time on the official notice. Then I came across Mason and one of his friends as they were entering the building. He seemed surprised to see me. He told me that the swimming would be starting at noon.

I strolled around a bit longer and then went in to find a seat. I watched some young men who were still practicing their dives. Each of them had the same routine of wiping themselves down with a wet towel before they dived. What is that about? Then swim teams came out and started to swim warm-ups before the actual meet started. I checked the time and saw that it was 12:10. They were getting a late start.

Trina arrived and told me that the meet wasn’t going to start until 1 p.m. What? She said that we were lucky that the girl’s team meet had been the previous weekend, or that we would be there much later. Hmm.

Half way through the swimming, which seemed to be going pretty quickly, they took a break and brought out the divers whom I had been watching earlier. It seemed that they had narrowed the divers down to eight finalists earlier, and not they were having those divers do their final round. Some of the dives were good, some were not so good. I thought that some of the judges might have been dozing when I saw some of the scores they awarded, but I’m not an expert in diving. Eventually the diving ended, the scores were tallied, and the ribbons were awarded. Then pictures were taken; divers gave wet hugs to their parents and honeys; and the swimming was ready to begin again.

And so the meet continued. By the time it was completed and I had driven home (I was too tired to go in search of good picture or three) it was between 5 and 5:30. I hadn’t eaten at the meet, so I had a sandwich and planned on eating a very late dinner. Maybe now would be the time to watch a movie to write about…or to take a nap.

You might wonder why I would watch the movie now rather than later in the evening. The answer was simple, IU and Purdue were playing their only regularly scheduled basketball game of the season Saturday night, and I was not going to miss watching it on TV. I had already decided to skip having dinner with some people because they planned on dining out shortly before the game was supposed to start. That was when the original game time was supposed to be 7 p.m. They later changed the start time to 8:30 p.m. So now was the time to pick a movie to watch.

Then I got a text from Cindy, who was with the dinner group, asking me to come to the restaurant since the game had a later start. I thought it over and decided to go back out, rather than stay home and be comfortable. I drove to the restaurant, joined them, and sat drinking water while they dined. My sandwich had been filling.

That’s why I didn’t watch a movie on Saturday. Oh, and IU beat Purdue to make the evening a total success.

Saturday…er…make that Sunday movie #4

Dodge City
Dodge City

There is a reason that I don’t have a movie from Saturday to write about I didn’t watch any movies on Saturday, so I’m making up for it on Sunday. In my next post I’ll explain why I didn’t watch any movies on Saturday. Today’s movie is “Dodge City” starring Errol Flynn and the lovely Olivia de Havilland.

Like most movies set in the historical American west, there is very little historical fact in the movie. But it is still a movie worth watching. Westerns are often used as morality plays, and good usually wins out in the end. I grew up watching these movies on television when I was very young. That’s why I am such a good person, I suppose. Do I hear sniggering in the balcony?

The movie was directed by Michael Curtiz who also directed Flynn and de Havilland in “The Adventures of Robin Hood” and “Captain Blood.” They also starred together in five other movies, many of which I like very much. I was surprised to learn later in my life that they weren’t married to each other. Of the two, I believe that de Havilland was the better actor. Or maybe I was just enthralled with her good looks. I can be shallow that way.

Also in the movie was Alan Hale, frequent sidekick to Flynn and father to The Skipper on “Gilligan’s Island.” Bruce Cabot played the villain and Victor Jory was his main henchman. Ann Sheridan was the singer and dancer in the saloon. Ward Bond also had a small role in the movie. I had forgotten that.

I had also forgotten that the temperance meeting that Alan Hale’s character attended was put on by the Pure Prairie League. And yes, that was the inspiration of the name for the Country Western group.

I’ve read that “Dodge City” inspired Mel Brook’s “Blazing Saddles.” I suppose that could be correct. I just know that I enjoy watching the film every couple of years. It made for a fun Sunday afternoon.

I hope to be back on my Saturday movie write-up next week.

If I could I would

Summer picture for a winter day
Summer picture for a winter day

I haven’t taken many pictures recently, so I went back into my files and found this one that I took last August. I like it well enough that it is not the wallpaper on my PC.

***

This post started out as something very different from what you are now reading. The title has changed because the original one no longer fits. You may not want the background, but I’m giving it to you anyway.

I was watching a television news/opinion (heavy on the opinion) morning show last Friday. One of the topics was how the Republican Presidential candidates were handling the issue of Donald Trump’s use of salty language. At that point the female host started making fun of one of the candidates criticism of Mr. Trump. I gave in to temptation and sent her a Tweet decrying her criticism.

I wasn’t saying that the candidate who spoke up about Mr. Trump’s churlish language wasn’t being sanctimonious; he probably was. What irritated me was that the female host evidently thought that Trump’s rude language was alright, and that people who criticized it were being childish. And I thought, “Really?”

That is when I started to write another rant about the coarsening of our society. I wrote about the lack of civility, and the increase of crude language, and I went on and on. I felt a little better when I finished, but not as much as I had thought I would. That’s when it occurred to me that whatever I wrote and posted about this issue would make not an iota of difference. And I realized that it was OK that it wouldn’t make a difference.

I am aware that society changes over time, and standards of decency is one of the things that change. Maybe it really is progress. I may not be happy with the changes that occur; generally older people tend to resist change. But I can live with the changes. I’ll just grumble about the changes and go on. And I’ll try to not bore you with things that I can’t change.  (Did you notice that I used the word ‘change’ in all but one of the sentences in this paragraph?)

I’m not blogging in order to tilt at windmills. Of course I wish that what I rant about will change a mind or two, but I don’t live to hear “Well done! I’m changing my ways.” I’m not that silly. No, in fact, I blog, for the most part, to entertain people who read me. I’ll try to do better and not be morose as I watch society slide into the morass of tasteless triviality. It’s progress after all. Smile!

 

Saturday movie #3

The Company You Keep
The Company You Keep

For those of you who have long memories, I mentioned this week’s movie in a post back in December of 2013. I believe I devoted a few sentences to it then. I’ll write more today.

The Company You Keep is based on a novel by Neil Gordon. The story is set in the mid 2000’s and involves former members of the Weather Underground. I don’t want to go into too much detail, because, you know, spoilers. I am not a fan of spoilers, no matter how old the book or movie might be. Shia LeBeouf’s character is not one of the former members of the Underground, but is rather, a career hungry reporter. I did want to make that clear.

I should probably tell you that I read the novel a number of years before the movie came out, and I loved it. For me it captured the spirit of the late 60’s and early 70’s. The movie tried, and in some respects succeeded in capturing it as well. But a movie doesn’t have the time to spend on that sort of background.

The movie casting was excellent. I was particularly impressed with Susan Sarandon’s portrayal of Sharon Solarz and Julie Christie as Mimi Lurie. Nick Nolte and Richard Jenkins were also very good. I hate to admit it, but I was bothered by Robert Redford. As director and one of the producers, I understand why he cast himself as the lead. But I have to say that I thought he looked too old for the part. It could be that his makeup seemed uneven in the course of the film. In some cases it looked as if he was wearing too much makeup, and in other scenes he looked totally washed out. I am not knocking his acting skills. If it weren’t for the way he appeared, he could totally sell the part.

But that aside, I really like this movie. I would recommend it to anyone. I like the novel better, but the movie is fine.

***

Big Brother or Coincidence? Last week’s movie was The Big Fix, remember? When I checked my email this morning, I found a recommendation from Amazon.com to purchase the book that the movie was based upon. Now, I doubt that Amazon’s recommendation algorithm reads Classical Gasbagbut I’ll be checking their recommendations closer in the future.

Saturday movie #2

The Big Fix
The Big Fix

As Cindy’s friends gathered to play cards last night, I settled in to watch my Saturday night movie pick, The Big Fix, starring Richard Dreyfus and Bonnie Bedelia. This is a mystery and Dreyfus plays the Private Investigator, Moses Wine. It was released in 1978. Yes, I like older movies. You had better get used to it.

In the movie, Wine is brought in to investigate a political smear campaign, but it quickly adds in a search for missing people, a terrorist plot and a murder investigation. While the action takes place in the present, the 1970’s, there are many roots back in the politically and socially turbulent 1960’s. That is definitely my cup of tea.

There are many humorous elements in the movie. I particularly liked Wine taking his son’s on his investigations because he had custody at the time. Also his communist aunt Sonya was a real treat.

Some elements of older films can be jarring. The clothing style sensibilities of the 1970’s are always cringe-worthy to me. The fact that in this movie John Lithgow had long brown hair as well as a beard and mustache surprised me. I didn’t recognize Lithgow until I heard his voice. I guess it had been so long since I saw the movie that I forgot he was even in the cast.

I wouldn’t go so far as to classify this as a great movie, but for me it was a satisfying movie. I’ll try to not wait so long between screenings in the future.

***

If you are wondering why I watched this movie rather than the Republican Presidential Debate, it is simple. I knew that all of the over the top statements would be on the morning news. I also went through much of the live tweeting from the debate. I don’t think that I missed anything of value to my decision making.

Customer Service

Interesting house
Interesting house

I was driving around the north side of Lafayette a few days ago, looking for a good picture. You may not agree, but I like the looks of this house. I wouldn’t want to live in it, but I like the looks of it.

***

I’ve had to deal with on-line customer service a couple of times this week. Eventually the results were positive, but not before some trials.

Earlier this week I paid for, downloaded and used a software package. I tried it out, and after a couple of stumbles was able to use it satisfactorily. I was pleased. When I went to use it the following day there was a pop-up on the screen that said the license had expired. That was strange. I had bought the software around twenty-four hours earlier and the license had already expired? This was a job for Customer Service, guardian of the software oppressed.

So I went to the website where I purchased the software and found where I could contact the company’s Customer Service electronicallyI filled in the required information, adding my order number which they surprisingly didn’t request, and filled in the text box with the strange message that I had received in the pop-up. I dutifully hit send and sat back to await their apology and fix. About ten minutes later I received an email stating that I had received an automatic response with a Ticket ID and a promise to get back to me when they had researched my problem…the problem with the software, not my other innumerable problems.

I waited at the laptop, doing other things, for about half an hour but didn’t hear back. I gave up for a bit and shut the laptop down. I came back two hours later and powered up the laptop. There were no further emails. I started the software program. The pop-up came back saying the license had expired. I sighed. I gave up on it for the day.

The following day I checked again, but there was no response from the company. I started the software, but there was no pop-up. The software worked without a hitch. I am pleased that whatever the problem was had been resolved, but I was intrigued that Customer Service did not contact me to take credit for the fix.

That brings me to yesterday and my interactions with the cable company’s Customer Service. Cindy and I spent part of yesterday morning with a tax accountant. I normally do our taxes, but last year Cindy started her own business and wanted to use a professional. I got it. So, during our meeting he asked how much we pay for Internet use. I didn’t know because it is bundled with our cable and home security. Cindy promised that we would get back with him that afternoon. That meant that I would get the information and pass it on to Cindy so that she could give it to him. I get it. To each his or her own field of expertise.

When I first got home I looked at the most recent bill to see what the breakout was. Well, the bill doesn’t show that info, just the total of the bundle plus other add-ons such as “additional cable charges,” and “cable modem rental,” and “taxes and surcharges.” It didn’t help. So I looked at the bill for a phone number under the Contact information. There was a toll-free number and I dialed it. I got a recording that asked for my patience while they checked to see if I was eligible for a spectacular free offer. I only needed to answer one question; how old was I? I answered and immediately was sent to another automated recording that breathlessly told me about an offer that I easily refused, but instead of moving me on to a Customer Service representative, I was taken to another offer. When I refused that offer I was taken to a third offer, this time for Dish Network. Since Dish Network is the cable company’s biggest competitor around here, I was pretty sure that I was never going to speak to Customer ServiceSo I hung up and went to the company website where I got into the Customer Service live chat room.

I started the chat by explaining that I wanted to know the breakout of the bundled charges, specifically how much the Internet charges were. I was joined in the chat by ‘analyst Cristine.’ That may or may not have been the analyst’s real name. I had visions of burly convict in a prison boiler room, answering questions and stealing social security numbers so that he can file false tax returns for a refund.

‘Analyst Cristine’ asked me to tell her how she could help me. I retyped my question in the text box, trying to be as clear as possible as to what I wanted. ‘Analyst Cristine’ thanked me and asked me to give her a few minutes to research the answer. I said “of course.” She thanked me again and then went silent. A few minutes later the screen showed that she was typing, but then she wasn’t, and then she was again, but then she stopped, and then she finished and sent me her response. What ‘analyst Christine’ sent was the same information that appears on our monthly bill, just the bundled total.

I used the text box to send “So you can’t tell me how much I pay on the individual components of the bundle?”

‘Analyst Cristine’ sent back that she would see if she could find that information. She asked me to be patient while she looked. I said, “of course.” She thanked me again and went silent. A few minutes later the screen showed that she was typing, but then she wasn’t, and then she was again, but then she stopped, and then she finished and sent me this query. “Your bundle includes home security, right?” I was pretty sure that I had mentioned that in my initial question, but I simply said yes. ‘Analyst Cristine’ Thanked me and asked for a few more minutes to research. While I nervously envisaged ‘analyst Cristine’ using the time to file a false tax return, I simply replied that I understood. She thanked me again and went silent.

After another five minutes or so, ‘analyst Cristine’ triumphantly returned to tell me how much the cable portion of our bundle cost each month. I wasn’t totally impressed with that information since I had repeatedly asked for the Internet portion, but it sufficed. I sent back that I knew how much the home security portion cost (I had found the installation paperwork) and that I could do the math for the rest of it.

‘Analyst Cristine’ asked if I had any other questions. I had spent forty-five minutes in the chat room already, so I said “No, but thanks for asking.” It never hurts to be polite, especially when chatting with burly convicts.