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.

Saturday movie and other stuff

Absence of Malice
Absence of Malice

More about this movie further down the page.

I received a notification from WordPress that I’ve begun my fourth year with Classical Gasbag. I knew that it was about time for that anniversary to roll around. Knowing that, I made my annual change to the header picture. I also changed the title font. Did you notice? I would guess that it didn’t grab your eye. I may change the theme later if I get bored. But for now, those are the cosmetic changes.

This year I also plan on at least one post per week that will feature a movie that I watch on Saturday. Ever since Cindy started playing cards with her friends every Saturday night, I have been watching movies because…well for various reasons. I have a large collection of movies on DVD, and our local library is also well stocked.

Don’t expect an in-depth analysis of the movie. I am no critic. I’ll probably just stick to things such as my background with the movie, who the stars are, and if I like the movie or not. If I can come up with some clever graphical representation I’ll use that as well, but stars and thumbs have already been taken. I’ll accept any ideas that you may have.

Last night I pulled out my DVD of Absence of Malice. The movie was released in 1981, and, in my opinion was one of the best that year. It didn’t win any Oscars, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t deserve a couple. The stars were Paul Newman and Sally Fields, with a strong supporting cast. This was the first movie where I noticed Bob Balaban; it was probably the way he played with rubber bands. Wilford Brimley also put in a fine, though short,  performance. I didn’t see it in the theater, but I watched it as soon as it came to cable, back in my bachelor days living in the upstairs of a house in Auburn.

The plot of the story is basically how a leaked story to the press by a prosecutor can affect a man’s life and the lives of those around him. But the movie is more than that. It gives insight into the way some news people make decisions and react to the consequences. Even more, it is a study in the differences between perceptions and truth. That’s something we all need to be reminded of. Remember, don’t mistake the map for the terrain.

Now I didn’t really give anything away about the actual story, I hope, so find a copy of the movie if you haven’t seen it already or watch it again if it has been awhile since you’ve seen it. Wilford Brimley’s performance near the end of the movie is worth the price of admission or rental or whatever/however you pay.

Feel free to tell me about your reactions to the movie.

#10 of 501: Charade

Charade
Charade

I’ll bet that you thought that Cindy and I had given up on watching movies from the book 501 Must-See Movies. I had pretty much given up as well. But the other night I was able to convince Cindy to watch something other than a British murder mystery. I love them too; but I also like a little variety, leavened with a hearty dose regularity, in my life. I don’t do tacos every Tuesday, but I do watch an episode of Pie In The Sky with my lunch on most Mondays.

Sorry about that digression. We watched another favorite from my youth, Charade. The stars are Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. Having Walter Matthau, James Coburn, George Kennedy and others in the film didn’t hurt. It was released in 1963, and I remember going to see the film when I was in high school. Those were innocent years when the characters had to explain what the CIA was, and soon enough after WWII that the plot was plausible.

The screenplay by Peter Stone is a melange of comedy, mystery, suspense, and love story. Most of the comedic heavy lifting goes to Grant, who was a master, but Matthau’s character also had some brilliant moments. I don’t want to give too much away, but if you saw the 2002 movie The Truth About Charlie you know how Charade ends. My own taste prefers Cary Grant to Mark Wahlberg and Audrey Hepburn to Thandie Newton, but I’m a geezer.

I read that Charade started as a screenplay that Peter Stone couldn’t sell, so he adapted it to a novel. Once it was in novel form and selling, he was able to sell the screenplay. When I was younger I never bothered to check the writing credits on films, so when I read the novel I remember thinking that the movie had been very faithful to the book. Now I know that it was the other way around.

OK. Ten down and four hundred ninety-one to go.

Movies, a magazine, and a book

copenhagen
Copenhagen

Saturday evening is my time to watch movies. Cindy always plays cards with her friends, and there is seldom anything worth watching on regular TV with the exception of an occasional IU basketball game. I started watching early yesterday because Cindy went in and worked before her card game. First up was Diamonds Are Forever, the 7th James Bond movie (not counting the, in my opinion, execrable Casino Royale from 1967), starring Sean Connery. From there I went to the Inspector Morse mystery, The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn. starring John Thaw. Finally I watched a DVD that I had borrowed from our county library, Copenhagen.

Copenhagen is a movie based on a play by Michael Frayn. I believe that it can be found on YouTube, but I like the DVD because it has a section that explains the historical background. Oh, I should tell you that I highly recommend this play. I want to think about it for a while, and then go back and watch it again…probably more than once. I know that while watching it last night I only caught a lot of the surface meaning. It is denser than that.

When I finished watching it I was ready to sit and think deep thoughts. But, I’m not really a deep thinker so instead I read the Bob Dylan interview in AARP Magazine. The article was ostensibly to cover his newest album which contains ten songs from the great American songbook. I shan’t be purchasing that album. I know the songs, and I know Dylan’s voice. It is possible that I would enjoy some of the music, but it doesn’t seem likely.

From that article I went back to reading the autobiography, Who Am I by Pete Townshend. The book is part of the reading challenge that I have set for myself this year (more on that in a soon-to-be post). His humility seems almost as faked as mine is. I mean, can a person (me, not him) who writes about what they did in one evening pretend to be humble?

Movies I didn’t see

I want to stay in bed
I want to stay in bed

Yes, I know I should get out of bed and go in search of a picture; but it is so warm and comfortable under the covers. If I were bright I would find a way to remove the reflection of the flash that is in the window; but I don’t want to get out of bed to work on it. Besides, it was the blue in the sky that caught my attention. I’m staying in bed for a little while longer.

***

In the past I’ve told you about books that were advertised in catalogues that I receive in the mail. The other day I opened the mailbox and found a catalogue of DVDs for sale. Some of the movies look quite interesting. Here are a few that caught my eye.

If I spoke Spanish I would be tempted to buy a copy of Las Mujer Murcielago. According to the as copy, this movie is about “A mad scientist (who) is bent on creating a race of superhumans, and only with the glands of wrestlers can he hope to achieve his evil plan. With wrestlers turning up dead all over Acapulco, the mysterious yet voluptuous crime fighter Batwoman is called in to save the city.” Perhaps if I purchase this amazing sounding movie, Cindy will translate the dialogue for me. I wonder if Batman puts in a cameo appearance?

Then there is the classic Girl Boss Revenge. It is described as follows. “A car loaded with delinquent girls is headed to reform school when it crashes and the girls escape to freedom. The girl boss Komasa and her friends seek refuge in Osaka’s hardcore gang territory, only to become currency in a brutal gang transaction. Now, the girls are out for revenge.” I never would have guessed that the girls wouldn’t be safely delivered to reform school. What a surprise! Thank goodness there are English subtitles. Cindy can’t translate Japanese.

One of the more intriguing movies appears to be Blondes Have More Guns“A scarf, a chainsaw, and a mysterious blonde are the only clues to a growing number of stiffs (and not all of them are dead bodies). To solve the case, the police turn to trigger-happy Harry Bates, his partner Dick Smoker, and his faithful dog (who seems to be a guy in a dog suit).” I wonder who wrote the screenplay?

I don’t know how I managed to miss seeing these movies when they were first released. Maybe it was because the first two were released in other countries. I have no excuse for missing Blondes Have More Guns. The library doesn’t have any of these titles in their collection, so I can’t borrow them. I would order these DVDs, but unfortunately I have put myself on a strict budget. I can only sigh and whimper, “If only…”

Vacation – Day 9

The High Roller
The High Roller

Michelle and Lee were both able to take the day off, so they left Wyatt with a sitter and spent adult time with us. We drove to their home, and from there we went to a French restaurant for lunch. The food was excellent, and so was the conversation. I think that they enjoyed speaking in more than very simple declarative sentences outside of their work environments. Everything gets boiled down when speaking to a one-year old.

From there we went to see the movie November Man. They took us to a luxury theater where there are assigned seats that are recliners, and they sell beer and wine among the concessions. I must admit that I could get spoiled. As to the movie, we all enjoyed it. I seemed to be the only one who knew that the movie was based on a novel that was part of a series written by Bill Granger. I had read the books many years ago. The movie was based on the seventh novel, There Are No Spies. I’ll never understand why movie producers insist on taking a series of books and making the movies out of sequence. It upsets my innate sense of order. I suppose that points out the fact that I am a linear thinker. If I weren’t I would be posting about our vacation in a scattergun manner. And of course I wonder if they make a movie from the first book, what will it be called, because the book’s title is The November Man.

From the movie we went to ride on The High Roller. It is billed as the world’s highest observation wheel. At 550 feet, it is up there. I took a number of pictures from the cabin, but most of them have reflections in the windows, so I chose to use this picture from the LINQ promenade after our ride. I enjoyed the ride, but I suspect the views are more spectacular after dark. That is reflected in the change of ticket price between day and night.

We wandered along the promenade, window shopping and observing the people. There is a real cross-section of people living in and visiting Las Vegas. We saw hippies, dippies, chippies, people of all sexual persuasions, as well as a number of straight arrows. It was just like home, only it seemed…moreso.

We stopped at a restaurant for a light dinner. I have been eating good food on this trip, but I think the summer salad I had in that restaurant was my favorite meal of the trip. The avocado in that salad had the best texture and flavor of any in my experience, and the vinaigrette was the perfect complement to the greens and fruit.

Cindy and I had planned to leave Las Vegas the following morning, but we had enjoyed our time with the kids so much, we decided to stay another day. You’ll hear about that in tomorrow’s post.