Monday, April 30, 2012


I got my 50th Follower a couple of days ago.  As Sally Field famously said in her acceptance speech for her second Oscar, “I want to say ‘Thank you’ to you. […]  And I can't deny the fact that you like me … right now … you like me!  Thank you.”

Actually…Sally?  Can you come here a second?

(One of the most misquoted quotes in film history, by the way – she never says “You like me!  You really do!”  It’s right there with “Play it again Sam” and “Do you feel lucky”.  The difference here is that it was a real speech.)

I would have reached this milestone sooner, but a few months ago I had one Follower who joined and then removed themselves a couple days later.  I felt like doing the Robin Williams routine from one of his comedy shows (Live at the Met, I think).  He saw someone in the audience get up and start to walk out.  He cried out, “Wait!  Come back!  I can be funnier.  I promise!”

My guess is that I either wrote something that offended this person, or because I had not yet had a chance to check out their blog and become a Follower they cut me off.  It was okay; I only cried myself to sleep for the first few nights.

While 50 isn’t that big a number compared to most blogs I follow, I honestly never thought I’d have anywhere near that many.  I’m not on any social media, so I don’t attract any attention that way.  People find my posts either by following links that other bloggers put up (many thanks!), or because my comments on other blogs attract their attention enough to check out what else I have written.  I actually get a lot more traffic from Google searches than I expected, but I don’t know that I’ve picked up too many Followers from it.

Anyway, my thanks to everyone who takes to time to read my thoughts on movies and other topics.  I appreciate it.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Hike – Shore Path

Looking towards Bar Island on The Shore Path
Some folks like getting away from all the people on the streets of downtown Bar Harbor by taking a walk along The Shore Path.  This path has existed for more than 130 years so that “genteel folks” could enjoy themselves.  This post describes a loop that will also take you through the main street of Bar Harbor (which most everyone walks anyway.)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Movie – House of Flying Daggers (2004)

After the success of his 2002 film Hero director Zhang Yimou returned to the wuxia genre to make House of Flying Daggers.  This movie is set several hundred years later than Hero, specifically in the 9th century during the decline of the Tang Dynasty.  While Hero was overlooked by the Academy for a Cinematography nomination, House of Flying Daggers was not.  It was the only Oscar nomination the film received, though.  This time around Zhang’s movie has just as much intrigue and plotting as in Hero, but he adds a romantic component.  The result is a film that may go in directions that you are not expecting.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Movie – Hero (2002)

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon had opened the door for big budget, well done martial arts dramas.  In my opinion the 2002 film Hero perfected them.  First, it is one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen.  How this did not even receive an Oscar nomination for Cinematography, let alone win, is beyond me.  Second it has universal themes of heroism and sacrifice that will resonate with most everyone who watches it.  Finally, it is directed by the most respected Chinese film director there is – Zhang Yimou.  The result is the best martial arts film I have ever seen.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Movie – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (CTHD) was a landmark martial arts film in many ways.  Prior to 2000 most people in the U.S. thought of that genre as badly dubbed, poorly plotted, “chopsocky” films with cheesy sound effects.  This was due to all the inexpensive films of this nature that made up a lot of weekend TV programming.  CTHD is about as far from that as you can get.  It was the first martial arts film ever nominated for a Best Picture Oscar (and this was back when only five films could be nominated).  In fact, it received a total of 10 nominations – the most ever for a foreign language film.  It won four of them, including wins for Cinematography, Score, and Art Direction.  No foreign language film has ever won Best Picture, but in my opinion this should have been the one to do it.  While Gladiator was an entertaining film, CTHD was the better of the two.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Movies Where Ballet Dancers Kick Ass

“She does 95% of her [fighting] stunts herself, which was important to me because I could do long takes of her.  She’s a dancer and therefore we were able to train her in ways other action heroes simply cannot do, including this kick coming up.  The stunt coordinator came to me and said, ‘She can kick a guy in the head, behind her, around a pole.’” – Joss Whedon discussing actress and former ballerina Summer Glau in his commentary for his 2005 movie Serenity

I don’t know about you, but ballet dancers are not the first people I think of when the phrase “kicking ass” is mentioned.  (Just look at the street gangs in the opening of 1961’s West Side Story, for instance.)  However, a few of them have found a home in movies where they get to play action heroes or villains.  In these cases, their ability to learn complex series of fighting exchanges, and to move their bodies in ways most people cannot, serves them well.

One woman in particular has used her skills in several movies.  That actress is Zhang Ziyi.  She has appeared in three movies that I will be reviewing – Hero (2002), House of Flying Daggers, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.  She also appeared in Rush Hour 2, but I won’t be reviewing that.

Another actress who I know started out as a ballerina is Summer Glau.  She is referenced in the quote at the top of this post.  I have a link to my Serenity review below.

As for the men, the two most famous that made the transition to acting are Mikhail Baryshnikov and Alexander Godunov.  I have not seen any movie of Baryshnikov’s where he really gets to do a big action scene.  Godunov does get to play a major villain in Die Hard.  He has a big fight with Bruce Willis (or at least Willis’ stunt double).  I have a link to my Die Hard review below.

As I post the new reviews, I will come back and post the links to them here:

Serenity (previously posted)

On to the reviews…

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Hike – Acadia Mountain, Flying Mountain, Man O’War Brook, Somes Sound, Valley Cove

Somes Sound from the summit of Acadia Mountain
The east side of Mount Desert Island is the part that most people think of in regards to Acadia National Park.  The west side, or the “quiet side” as some people call it, provides a number of opportunities for hiking in the park, and without the crowds that can sometimes be a part of the popular hikes to the east.

This post describes a traverse of Acadia Mountain, a side trip to Man O’War Brook, a hike along the edge of Somes Sound on the Valley Cove Trail, and a traverse of Flying Mountain.  Although I usually do loop hikes back to my vehicle, I did not on this one.  I will explain below.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Movie – Room in Rome (2010)

Room in Rome is an intriguing story of one night in the lives of two women who have just met.  It is based on the 2005 Chilean film En la cama, but it is really a same-sex version of Before Sunrise (1995), albeit one that is more sensual.  The film received four Goya Award nominations (the “Spanish Oscars”) for Best Actress (Elena Anaya), Best New Actress (Natasha Yarovenko), Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Song (the wonderful “Loving Strangers”).  I had this film in my Netflix Instant queue for months, but never got around to seeing it.  I figured it was some quickie, softcore film.  When I finally watched it about a month ago I found out that I had been very wrong. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Movie – Desert Hearts (1985)

Desert Hearts was the first film I ever saw that showed a lesbian relationship as something other than perverse or unhappy.  Instead, it treated the romance with just as much respect as male/female romances in other movies.  Nowadays this might not seem like much, but back in the 1980s it was a huge deal.  The result of this treatment was much praise for the director and actresses, and a moving story for the viewer.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Movie – Show Me Love (aka Fucking Amal) (1998)

Show Me Love is a Swedish coming of age film.  It is the story of two very different teenage girls.  It’s also a really sweet story of first love.  The film ended up being the most popular Swedish film of that year.  It was also critically acclaimed, winning four Guldbagge Awards (the “Swedish Oscars”) for Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Actress jointly shared by the two leads.  It won awards from several other countries, too, although it did not receive an Academy Award nomination, perhaps because of controversy over its title.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Movie – Bound (1996)

Back in the 1990s the Wachowski Brothers (now the Wachowskis) had this movie idea about a man trapped in a virtual reality.  While the studio was intrigued by the concept, the film would be expensive and there was no way they were going to give that kind of budget to first-time filmmakers.  To show that they were not amateurs they took a page from the Coen Brothers’ manual and wrote and directed the relatively inexpensive noir/thriller Bound.  The film was critically praised and this enabled them to make the film they really wanted to do – The Matrix (1999).  The thing is, Bound is a great movie in its own right.  I still hope the two revisit this genre at some point.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Movie – Out at the Wedding (2007)

Ever get caught in a lie and then tell a bigger lie to get out of it?  Ever get caught in that one, and tell an even bigger one?  Perhaps not, but the thing with screwball comedies is that they intentionally go over the top setting up comedic situations.  Out at the Wedding is one such comedy.  I laughed quite a bit at this movie.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Movie – Kissing Jessica Stein (2001)

The movie Kissing Jessica Stein asks the question, “Can a bi-curious, bohemian, arty woman and a neurotic, uptight, straight woman find love with each other in today’s world?”  The answer may or may not be “yes”, but either way it’s going to be a bumpy ride.  The film is a romantic comedy with some dramatic elements.  It features two appealing performances from the lead actresses, who also co-wrote the film.

Jennifer Westfeldt (Jessica Stein) and Heather Juergensen (Helen Cooper) decided that since they couldn’t get any great roles in other people’s productions they should write their own.  They first did a play titled Lipschtick and this ended up becoming the movie Kissing Jessica Stein.  At the time the film came out the two were celebrated as a female version of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, who had famously done the same thing with Good Will Hunting.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Girl Meets Girl Movies

“I support same sex marriage only if both chicks are really hot.” – Bumper sticker

The topic of this category may conjure up images of some sleazy, zero budget film with porn actresses badly overacting to cheesy music.  The fact is, there is just as much variety in this genre of movies as there is in traditional “boy meets girl” films.

There are romantic comedies (Kissing Jessica Stein), regular comedies (It’s in the Water), pretending to be straight comedies (Better Than Chocolate), pretending to be gay comedies (Out at the Wedding), romance (Desert Hearts, Imagine Me & You, High Art), noir/thriller (Bound), young love (Show Me Love), passion (Room in Rome), forbidden love (Loving Annabelle), drama (When Night is Falling), action spoofs (D.E.B.S), biographies (Gia), coming of age (Foxfire, Lost and Delirious), Oscar winning performances (Monster, Boys Don’t Cry), culture clash (I Can’t Think Straight, Nina’s Heavenly Delights), sports movies (Personal Best), farce (The Sex Monster), science fiction (The Baby Formula), costume dramas (Tipping the Velvet), love triangles (Gray Matters), family dramas (Saving Face), finding your way in life (The Gymnast), foreign (Water Lilies), independent (Making Maya), classic “softcore” – tame by today’s standards (1968’s Therese & Isabelle), and period dramas (The World Unseen).

In addition, the stereotype of the kind of man who watches them is some loner who’s very glad the remote control can be operated with one hand.  To come clean about myself…wait, let me rephrase that – to speak honestly about myself, do I sometimes find a sex scene between two women to be a turn on?  Yes.  Of course, I can say the exact same thing about sex scenes between men and women.  Some are good (1992’s The Lover), some are bad (I Heart Huckabees), and most are just there. 

The thing is, the majority of the films I named above have nothing more explicit in them than what could be shown on broadcast TV.  And for those who are thinking, “You can say what you want, but that’s an awful lot of ‘lesbian movies’ you’ve seen Chip” – there are 31 films listed above.  Let’s say I’ve seen another 19 that I don’t remember just to make a total (50) that’s easy to work with.  I’ve seen somewhere north of 5,000 films, so the number of movies with a lesbian storyline that I’ve watched is less than 1% of the total.

Finally, the other attitude I read a lot is that these films are just male fantasies because they have women in them that are too beautiful to be believable as lesbians.  This always makes me laugh.  It reveals so much about the people making these statements.  First, it shows that they assume that lesbians are not supposed to be attractive, perhaps because if they don’t have a man to try to impress then why bother getting all dolled up.  Second, it shows that they are clueless about their own hypocrisy.  Think of any boy meets girl movie you’ve seen (other than Harold and Maude).  I’ll bet the boy and girl were damn good looking.  The fact is, pretty much every person who is in romantic storylines in movies is great looking whether they are male or female, gay or straight.  Third, who says only males want to see beautiful women?  Lesbians aren’t attracted to them, too?

I will review a subset of the films I mentioned above.  I was listing that many just to illustrate the variety of them that exists.  As I post the reviews, I will come back and post the links to them here:

Friday, April 13, 2012

Hike – South Bubble, Bubble Rock, North Bubble, Conner’s Nubble, Eagle Lake

The Bubbles rising over Jordan Pond
The Bubbles are perhaps the two most photographed mountains in Acadia National Park.  Everyone seems to stop at the Jordan Pond House and when they walk down in back of it the two mountains dominate the view across Jordan Pond.  Some people hike to the top of the nearer one from this point, but there is a better way to do it. 

This post describes a loop hike up to Bubble Rock and the summit of South Bubble, then a traverse of North Bubble, then a traverse of Connor’s Nubble, then a walk along the shore of Eagle Lake, then finally a loop back to the start.  This is a hike that can be split into multiple pieces so that you can make it a length that is comfortable for you.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Why Hike?

Here are a few reasons [pictures found on the Web]:

For those folks who started following my blog in the last several months, you have seen only movie reviews, with occasional book reviews or humor posts.  Since becoming a LAMB I’ve concentrated on movies.  Prior to this, though, I also had done weekly posts on hiking trails, especially ones found in Acadia National Park in Maine.  Now that spring is here, these posts are starting to show up as being read again.  Because of this, I am going to start including new posts that give people tips on hiking trails again.  In these posts I will include photos and sometimes videos I have taken.  Like movies and books, I only write reviews for hiking trails that I have personally experienced.

I have the good fortune to live only a few hours away from one of the most popular national parks in the U.S. (Acadia National Park).  In addition, the state of Maine in general has a lot of activities geared towards the outdoors, and hiking is prominent among them.  Volunteers have built several hundred miles of trails around the state, and, of course, the most famous U.S. trail of all – the Appalachian Trail – comes to its end in Maine.  With both oceans and mountains only a couple hours away from each other, the range of choices for hikers in Maine is great.

I’m going to do a hiking post right after this, then move into my next movie category – Girl Meets Girl.  Watch for future posts on hiking as the weather continues to warm up.

In the meantime, if you are curious you can read a sample hiking post here:

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Movie – An Inconvenient Truth (2006)

Back in the late 1980s and 1990s I had a subscription to Discover – a science magazine.  One of the occasional contributing writers was a Senator named Al Gore.  Prior to this the only thing I knew about him was that he had let his wife run a Senate “investigation” into objectionable (to her) lyrics in music.  Needless to say, the fact that the man actually had a good mind for science, and knew of its importance to our future, did a lot to restore my bad opinion of him.  I can’t honestly remember if any of his articles focused on global warming, but it would not surprise me.  Watching the documentary An Inconvenient Truth reminded me of how focused on science Gore had been before becoming the Vice-President of the United States in 1992.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Movie – Dangerous Beauty (aka The Honest Courtesan aka A Destiny of Her Own (1998)

The movie Dangerous Beauty is based on the biography The Honest Courtesan by Margaret Rosenthal.  It tells the life story of Veronica Franco, a woman who lived in Venice in the latter half of the 16th century.  Franco was a very accomplished woman, being a top courtesan, political player, renowned wit, great beauty, socially charitable person, favorite of many men including King Henry III of France, and author of two books of poetry around the time Shakespeare was first starting to put quill to parchment.  As you may expect, such a woman would also gather her share of enemies.  The movie is an effectively told tale about this woman and her life.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Humor – Easter Guests

I hope you all had a happy Easter.  I hosted my extended family at my house for Easter dinner.  Here are some pictures:



The last guests being prompted to go home:

(Just kidding.)

I’m lucky.  My family did the dishes and helped me pick up some.  They also left well before it got dark, and no police had to be called out to my house.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Movie – Top Hat (1935)

Top Hat is usually considered the best of the ten Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movies (although I prefer 1936’s Swing Time.)  Top Hat has the two of them at the peak of their popularity, in the first movie written specifically for them, and with songs written by Irving Berlin.  As you can imagine, the result is a very entertaining movie.  It was nominated for four Oscars, including Best Picture.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Movie – Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961)

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea was a big budget disaster flick written, directed, and produced by Irwin Allen.  Allen specialized in these kinds of movies (The Towering Inferno, The Poseidon Adventure, etc.)  He was sort of the Roland Emmerich (The Day After Tomorrow, Godzilla, 2012, etc.) of his day.  At first I had some fun being amused at the outdated machinery and some bad science, but after a while I found myself caught up in the story.  I ended up liking the film and it made me curious about the TV show that spun off from it.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Movie – Marilyn Hotchkiss’ Ballroom Dancing & Charm School (2005)

I’ll be honest; despite the cast in it, I don’t remember ever hearing about this film until I went searching for movies with “charm” in the title.  It’s based on the 1990 short film of the same name by writer/director Randall Miller (Bottle Shock).  Miller is once again at the helm for the full length movie.  I’m glad that I did end up watching it.  It has a combination of drama and whimsy that works much of the time. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Movie – Strange Days (1995)

Strange Days is a near-future science fiction movie that didn’t get a lot of notice at the time it was released, even though it was written by James Cameron and starred Ralph Fiennes who was coming off his Oscar nomination for Schindler’s List.  It was directed by Cameron’s ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow.  After her Best Director Oscar win for The Hurt Locker people started re-discovering some of her earlier films, including this one.  In my opinion, Strange Days is the best film Bigelow made prior to The Hurt Locker, although I’d listen to the Near Dark (1987) fans who might disagree with me.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Movie – Downfall (2004)

Downfall is a German film based on two books that recounted the last days of Adolph Hitler – Inside Hitler’s Bunker: The Last Days of the Third Reich by Joachim Fest and Until the Final Hour: Hitler’s Last Secretary by Traudl Junge.  It is the latter that gives us the best look because it is the personal account of a woman who was actually there.  There is a level of personal connection we make with the character of Traudl in the film since we know that in some ways this is her story, too.  The result is a strongly dramatic, sometimes riveting look at the downfall of Hitler and the Nazis.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Movie – Up (2009)

The movie Up is only the second animated movie to ever be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar (the first was 1991’s Beauty and the Beast).  Up was one of the first to receive a nomination for Best Original Screenplay.  It ended up losing to The Hurt Locker in both categories.  It did win two Oscars: one for Best Animated Film and one for Best Score.  Up is a really beautiful film, not just in regards to the animation, but in regards to the story, too.  It has a mostly silent opening 10 minutes showing the life of the main character and his wife, from the time they are children, to the time that the wife passes away.  This sequence is very moving and is the finest opening to an animated film that I have ever seen.  The rest of the film is just as good.  This is a truly wonderful film.