Friday, August 30, 2013

Movie – Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

What praise can be given to Lawrence of Arabia that has not already been spoken many times over?  What words can be written about both a movie and a man whose histories are both inextricably linked and also clouded in questions of reality vs. fiction?  To be clear, the film Lawrence of Arabia is epic, and even that’s a bit of an understatement.  While I know of at least one person for whom “epic” is a four letter word, I am using it in the most positive way.  I could joke, “Look up ‘epic’ in the dictionary and they will have a picture of Peter O’Toole as Lawrence.”  Instead, I will be completely serious when I write the following sentences.  I have seen all 85 films that have won the Academy Award for Best Picture – from Wings (1927) to Casablanca (1943) to The Godfather (1972) to Schindler’s List (1993) to Argo (2012).  If I were ever to be put in the “gun to your head, gotta pick only one as the best of the best” situation, then my choice would be Lawrence of Arabia as the greatest of all 85 Best Picture Oscar winners.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Today is the 50th Anniversary of MLK’s I Have a Dream Speech

Most people have heard clips from the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s I Have a Dream Speech that was delivered August 28, 1963 in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.  In fact, I’m willing to bet that these clips are the only things many people know about this event.  Have you ever heard the entire speech?  If not, I’ve included it in this post.  Are you aware that there was much more going on that day than this speech?  To be fair, it’s not surprising that Dr. King’s words overshadowed everything else about this march.  After all, it is, with Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, one of the two greatest speeches in American history.  There’s a lot more about this event that should not be forgotten, though.  And I’ve got two names for you: A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin.

Many people might be thinking “who?” and that is a little sad, but it is also a testament to the impact King’s speech had on the general public.  It’s sad because Randolph and Rustin were two early leaders in the Civil Rights movement who planned a march on Washington back in 1941 to protest the fact that blacks were being prevented from getting jobs in the defense industry.  President Franklin Roosevelt met with them before the march and agreed to issue an executive order declaring that all defense industry jobs be desegregated for the duration of WWII.  When the war ended Randolph was instrumental in getting President Harry Truman to desegregate the armed forces in 1948.
A. Philip Randolph
Randolph had been involved in politics and movements early on in his life.  He was the President of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters – the first black workers union.  His concerns were primarily job opportunities for blacks.  Rustin was a bit more “radical”.  In addition to wanting civil rights for blacks, he also fought for gay rights, something very close to his heart since he was gay himself.

By 1963 President John Kennedy had presented a Civil Rights bill to Congress for debate.  In support of that bill Randolph and Rustin organized another march on Washington and this time it was carried out.  The thing is, it was as much or more concerned with the economy as it was civil rights.  The official name of it was the March for Jobs and Freedom.  Dr. King was not the only speaker there that day; in fact, he was the tenth and final speaker.  A. Philip Randolph gave the opening speech and it was about the lack of job opportunities.  Other speakers such as Walter Reuther, president of the United Auto Workers; Joachim Prinz, president of the American Jewish Congress; and Roy Wilkins, leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People followed.

Bayard Rustin
By the time Dr. King came to the podium the prior speakers had more than covered the topics about the economic concerns of the march, so Dr. King concentrated on the Freedom portion of it.  And it is probably a good thing that no one had to give a speech after him since his skills as an orator were among the best ever heard.  With a series of rising and falling pitches in his voice he leads the crowd to his powerful conclusion – the aforementioned clips that are all that many know of this entire event.

Here is the entire 17 minute speech of Dr. King’s that I promised.  While you listen to it just don’t forget that if it were not for the efforts of people like A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin, this speech, as we know it today, would not exist.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Movie – Tuck Everlasting (2002)

Tuck Everlasting is based on the award winning 1975 Natalie Babbitt children’s novel of the same name.  (I’m not using the term “young adult” since that now conjures visions of sparkly vampires and shirtless werewolves.)  I’m a little hesitant to discuss the central premise of the story since it is kept a secret from the main character for about half the film, yet all the marketing for the movie, and heck, even the title, pretty much lay it out for the viewer.  And the opening of the movie also makes clear what is special about the Tuck family.  So, I will be discussing it in the paragraphs below so you can see if this family film is one you might want to watch.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Movie – Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is based on the Pulitzer Prize winning Tennessee Williams play of the same name.  It had first appeared as a Broadway play directed by Elia Kazan (On the Waterfront) and starring Ben Gazzara as Brick and Barbara Bel Geddes as Maggie the Cat.  When it came time to make the film, Kazan passed on it despite already having done two other Williams adaptations – A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and Baby Doll (1956).  Instead, Richard Brooks adapted and directed it.  The two main roles were cast with Paul Newman as Brick and Elizabeth Taylor as Maggie the Cat.  The result was six Oscar nominations, including the “big five” of Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay.  It did not win a single Academy Award, though.  It was beaten out by Gigi in multiple categories, Newman lost to David Niven in Separate Tables, and Taylor lost to Susan Hayward in I Want to Live.  I’ve seen all five Best Picture nominees for that year (Auntie Mame, The Defiant Ones, and Separate Tables were the other three) and I feel that Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was definitely the best film of the five.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Great Eyes

“He has his father’s eyes.” – Roman Castevet, Rosemary’s Baby

Pretty much every actor or actress that is attractive (which is most of them) has nice eyes.  That’s just a given.  Some performers, though, stand out for their eyes even within this sea of attractiveness.  Some even became famous precisely because of their eyes.  This category is designed to select some films that I would recommend that have these performers in them.

Now “great” doesn’t always have to mean “beautiful”; it just means that they catch your attention and hold it.  I’ve included a couple of actors that were very well known for their unique eyes.  Don’t worry, though, ladies (and some gentlemen).  Even though I am a poor judge of what makes a man attractive, I think I’ve got some examples for you in this category that will satisfy.  In fact, here’s Paul Newman for you right now.
His eyes are at the top of the picture, folks.

I’ve decided to go with a set of very well known films alternated with some that are more obscure, but still worth your time.  I’ve placed close-ups of the performers’ eyes below.  You’ll probably recognize some of them.  And no, none are Yoda; I only used real people. 

As I review the films I will come back and tell you who they are, along with adding links to their movies that I reviewed.

Paul Newman (top) and Elizabeth Taylor

Alexis Bledel

Peter O'Toole

Sheetal Sheth (top) and Lisa Ray

Marty Feldman

Kate Bosworth

Jack Elam

Charlotte Ayanna
The Insatiable (2007) – posted April 22, 2013

Ray Liotta
Something Wild (1986) – posted July 5, 2013

On to the reviews…

Monday, August 19, 2013

Can You Offer Me Advice Regarding Self-Publishing?

Do you have recent experience with self-publishing a book?  I published a genealogy in 1999, but I did it via a bricks and mortar publisher who contracted with a printer.  The landscape has changed greatly since then.  I am looking to publish a 15 year Supplement to it and I have been doing research into self-publishing.  My concern is that there seems to be a wide disparity in the services offered and the quality of the end product.

Have you recently (say, the last couple of years) self-published a book of any kind?  Can you offer me tips on who you used, what went well, what didn’t go well, and/or what you wish you had known before you started?

I’ve looked at, which is a subsidiary of Amazon.  The benefits are that they can literally print a single book on demand, which is perfect for the very small market there will be for this genealogy supplement.  People could also order direct from Amazon instead of from me, which also means I would not need to buy a bunch of copies I might never sell.  The downside is that I’ve seen a number of posts on CreateSpace’s boards from people saying that the print and binding quality of the books was sometimes substandard.  That’s not good for a genealogy reference book that is supposed to last long enough to be handed down to the next generation.

I’ve also looked at  They require a minimum print run of 25 copies (still far better than the 250 I had to buy in 1999).  They do offer more than just paperback bindings, though.  I like the idea of better bindings, but don’t relish being where I was in 1999 with having to buy the inventory up front and then hope to sell it.  Also, Instant Publisher has no message boards so I do not know if there have been any questions with the quality of their product.  They do have a bunch of glowing testimonials, of course, but these usually do not tell the whole story.

Have you tried either of these companies?  If not, have you had an experience that would make you either recommend I try someone else, or caution me to avoid someone else?

Thanks in advance for any tips you can offer.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Book and Movie – Kick-Ass 2 (2013)

First things first: Kick-Ass 2 is definitely a step down from the first film, but at the same time it is nowhere near being the crime against humanity that some film critics are trying to make it out to be.  Most of them hated the first one, too.  Roger Ebert, for instance, gave the original 1 out of 4 stars and referred to it as “reprehensible”.  He’s not around to review the sequel, of course, but I’m betting he’d dislike it just as much.  Personally, Kick-Ass was one of my Top 10 films of 2010. (You can read my review of it here.)  The thing to take from all of this is if you want to see Kick-Ass 2 then see it.  If you loved the first one like I did just don’t go into this one expecting it to have the same impact.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Movie – U-571 (2000)

U-571 is the final submarine movie I am going to recommend.  It is a WWII thriller about an attempt to steal the Germans’ Enigma coding machine off a disabled U-boat.  It is not a film you watch for historical accuracy, but for the tension and thrills as events unfold.  It has many of the things you might expect from a sub movie: sonar pings, cat and mouse games with surface ships, depth charges, leaks, having to do dives that are too deep, etc.  What makes this movie a little different is that there are additional challenges in that the submarine the characters are on is unfamiliar to them, and it is badly damaged.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Movie – Innerspace (1987)

In my last post I reviewed the 1966 adventure film Fantastic Voyage, which had a small submarine and crew being miniaturized and injected into the body of a man.  (You can read that review here.)  Now imagine the same concept, but played for comedy.  What if a miniaturized sub and gung ho test pilot were injected into a random hypochondriac who can’t get anyone to believe that he is feeling weird things and hearing voices?  What if that hypochondriac is played by the master of the nervous twitch Martin Short?  And what if he has to try to thwart a criminal organization intent on getting the miniaturization technology?  The result is the 1987 film Innerspace - a shut your brain off and just enjoy the zaniness kind of movie.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Book and Movie – Fantastic Voyage (1966)

How can you have a submarine movie when there is no body of water for the sub to travel in?  When the medium the sub navigates in is an actual body, of course.  Fantastic Voyage features the concept of miniaturizing a small submarine and injecting it into a man’s body so that the crew can perform a life-saving surgery.  You may be thinking, “Hold on, are you talking about that Martin Short comedy with Dennis Quaid?”  The answer is no, not yet.  That is the 1987 movie Innerspace, which was a comedic take on the idea.  You can read my review of that film here.  No, Fantastic Voyage is a serious adventure film, full of Cold War intrigue, thrills, death-defying adventures, and enough real biological knowledge that parts of it were used for years afterwards to demonstrate to students some concepts of human biology.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Movie – Run Silent, Run Deep (1958)

In my prior review of Crimson Tide (1995) – which you can read here – I wrote that it was closer to Run Silent, Run Deep than to other submarine movies it was trying to emulate.  Crimson Tide featured Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington as a Captain and XO of a submarine who clash with each other.  In Run Silent, Run Deep it is Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster – two people who certainly know how to command the screen.  Now imagine having both of them in the same movie, sometimes opposed to each other and you get an idea of why Run Silent, Run Deep is an entertaining movie.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Movie – Crimson Tide (1995)

Crimson Tide was the first major submarine movie to be released after the huge success of The Hunt for Red October (1990).  You can read my review of that film here.  It was obvious that Producers Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson were hoping to capitalize on the success of that earlier film.  The first clue is the title.  Yes, it ties in with the name of the submarine, the U.S.S. Alabama, since the University of Alabama’s sports teams are named the “crimson tide”, but the fact that the title was very similar to Red October’s was probably the biggest reason they went with it.  The second clue was the marketing.  Notice anything familiar about it?  

The thing is, Crimson Tide was far closer to submarine movie Run Silent, Run Deep (1958) than to The Hunt for Red October.  Where Run Silent, Run Deep had a clash between veteran Captain Clark Gable and Executive Officer Burt Lancaster, Crimson Tide casts Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington in those roles.  The result (for both films – see my next post for my review of Run Silent, Run Deep) is a movie whose best reason for watching is these two huge personalities battling each other for command.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Movie – Operation Petticoat (1959)

When most people hear “submarine movie” they probably think of intense war films, edge of your seat tension, battle scenes, etc.  Not all films in this genre have been ultra-serious, though.  Now and then people have decided to have a little fun with the situations that could arise on a submarine.  For instance, what would happen if some nurses had to seek safe passage onboard a submarine during WWII?  Imagine the funny issues that could arise.  Operation Petticoat tackled that story and as a reward it received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay.  It was also the first big film of director Blake Edwards' career.