Film: (DVD) Casablanca Michael Curtiz, 1942A few weeks ago I was startled to learn that our kids had never actually seen this film, though they had, of course, seen lots of references to it. I got the two-disc DVD version for George for Christmas to complete their education.
It has been quite a while since the last (of many) times I've seen this film, and it was a treat to watch it in a nice clean DVD transfer on our 35 inch Sony tube.
I think this has to be the best movie of all time.
eBook: Tales from Deadwood Mike Jameson, 2005I bought this on impulse, 'cause I like the HBO Deadwood series so much, but it was rather disappointing.
Film: (DVD) The Woman Next Door Françl;ois Truffaut, 1981Françl;ois Truffaut, Gerard Depardieu and Fanny Ardant...how could you go wrong? Well it turns out you can. Depardieu and Ardant are fine, but Truffaut was not at the top of his game when he made this film. Amazingly banal cinematography, even a couple of those iris fadeouts that I thought went out when talkies came in.
A rather gloomy tale of two couples who live next door to one another, but unknown to their spouses, Depardieu's character and Ardant's had had a hot love affair 8 years previously. Now they're both married to other people, each with a young son. Things go from good to bad to worse.
This is a very primitive DVD, no menus, no options. English subtitles are non-switchable, built into the image as if the DVD had been copied from a VHS tape.
Film: (DVD) Signs M. Night Shyamalan, 2002Will I never learn? Much as I like science fiction books, Hollywood only very rarely makes a decent science fiction film. I had thought this might be one, but it turns out to be a run-of-the mill monster/horror job, with an obnoxious Christian religious message thrown in.
The story is a corny alien invasion plot, linked to crop circles, which are supposed to be guides for the aliens to tell them where to land. The aliens are here to kill humans and carry off their bodies for some unexplained reason.
It turns out that they are, like the Wicked Witch of the West, highly allergic to water...if it touches them it causes them to burn up. Given their intolerance for water, why would they pick our watery planet to invade? What will they do with the human bodies, which are, after all, mostly water?
What a stupid movie. Many thumbs down.
I've put up more images from the 2005 Cambridge Christmas Revels...click here!
Christmas Revels Photos
Film: (DVD) My Blue Heaven Herbert Ross, 1990A very silly comedy, with Steve Martin and Rick Moranis cast against type: Martin as an Sicilian-American Mafiosio, Moranis as an FBI agent. Lots of chuckles, very pleasant light entertainment.
Film: (DVD) Stella Dallas King Vidor, 1937Barbara Stanwyck won the Best Actress Oscar for this sentimental tearjerker. She played a social climbing daughter of a Massachusetts mill-working family who marries Steven Dallas, a wealthy and socially prominent man. After she bears him a daughter, he gets a great job offer in New York, but for unexplained reasons, Stella is not willing to follow him there, so they separate, shipping the daughter back and forth by train (lots of railroad interior shots in this one.)
As they drift apart, Steven takes up with a former flame, a socially prominent widow with two sons.
Stella wants only the best for her daughter, but discovers that she is an embarrassment to her, due to her lower class upbringing, so she selflessly encourages her husband to divorce her, marry the widow, and take custody of the daughter so she can have the upper class life that Stella has always envied.
The daughter is too loyal to go along with this, so Stella has to pretend she is eager to get rid of her. The closing scene has Stella spying on the daughter's wedding through the window, while she stands on the sidewalk, unrecognized in the rain.
Stanwyck is good in this but most of the supporting actors are extremely hammy and over the top. Standards of film acting have changed mightily since 1937.
Went for an actual ride today for the first time in about a month. I was pretty much off the bike for the last three weeks of December due to Revels, and the weather hasn't been too cooperative, nothing but commuting and a couple of 3 milers. Today I rode the Raleigh International out to Weston and Wellesley, just under 15 miles, but given the state of my legs, that was enough, especially with the somewhat hilly route.
Listened to Bruckner's 7th on the iPod, Kurt Masur's BSO performance from last Saturday. Good performances, first time I've had the opportunity to listen to it.
Film: (DVD) Ed TV Ron Howard, 1999An amusing comedy in which a struggling TV channell comes up with the gimmick of following a single person 24/7 in live TV. The gimmick is a bit reminiscent of The Truman Show.
Film: (DVD) The Leatherwood God William Dean Howells, 1916This novel is set in frontier Ohio in the late 1820s. It is the story of a self-proclaimed "god" charlatan, based on an actual historical series of events.
Its chief interest is the depiction of life on the frontier in the early 19th century. Howells himself was born in this area not too long after the events of the novel, so he depicts the realities of day-to-day log-cabin life with real authority.
Film: (DVD) What's Up, Doc? Peter Bogdanovich, 1972A classic screwball comedy starring Barbra Streisand. Quite funny, with a great comedy chase sequence through the streets of San Francisco. Good fun.
Concert: Boston Celtic Music FestivalFriend and neighbor Sean Smith invited us to hear his new band, Triple Play this morning. Turned out they were sharing the bill with Lady and the Pants, a family brand Cello, Violin and Guitar, a family who Tova and I had previously performed with in Revels.
It was an excellent, very lively show.
Concert: Boston Symphony Orchestra Dawe, Schumann, Berlioz; James Levine, conductorThis excellent concert began with the premiere of The Flourishing Arts of Jonathan Dawe, a work that didn't knock me out on first hearing, but maybe it'll grow on me after I've heard it a few more times.
Then came a barn-burning performance of Schumann's Symphony #4, and they finished up with a blazing rendition of the Symphonie Fantastique. This was a great concert.
Film: (DVD) Taking Sides István Szabó, 2001Harvey Keitel is great in this very serious film, dealing with the postwar de-nazification in Germany, specifically the great conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler. Excellent production values, a great re-creation of war-torn Berlin.
Film: (DVD) 13 Going on 30 Gary Winnick, 2004I only ordered this from Netflix because I like Jennifer Garner. It's a female version of Big only not as good. Our protagonist at 13 wishes she was 30, and gets her wish. Unlike Big, she doesn't just appear in the same time in an older body. Instead she is transported from her 1987 self to the year 2004, where she has a complete history she cannot remember. She has become the editor of her favorit fashion magazine, has a fabulous apartment, fabulous wardrobe, basically everything she had dreamt of at 13. As the film unfolds, however, it develops that she has not been a good person, has no friends and many enemies as a result. The film could not be more predictable. Not recommended.
Film: (DVD) Secretary Steven Shainberg, 2002I got this because I like James Spader in Boston Legal. He plays a weird attorney in this film too, only a rather darker version. This is basically a sado-masochistic boy-spanks-girl love story. Netflix seems to think it's a comedy, but I thought it was just weird.
Princess Ida Sing-throughThis was an informal sing-through at M.I.T. I had the "role" of Guron, one of the brave but stupid brothers of Princess Ida. It was fun, though this is about my least favorite Gilbert & Sullivan operetta.
At the supermarket checkout, I saw this hilarious book title:
eBook: The Secret History of the Pink Carnation Lauren Willig, 2006A very favorable review in the Boston Globe induced me to buy this, thinking it was a historical novel of the Napoleonic Wars. I suppose it is, but it's basically a "bodice ripper" and I didn't much like it (though it did have a few nice sex scenes.) The basic plot is "Lois Lane loves Superman but despises Clark Kent." The title is a take-off of The Scarlet Pimpernel.
The three-week layoff from cycling during the Christmas Revels has left my legs much weaker than usual. Today I did a 22.6 mile ride out to Dover on the International, my longest ride of the year. Felt good. I listened to last night's BSO/Levine broadcast of the Missa Solemnis on my iPod. I wish there was an instrumental version of this, or that I didn't understand the Latin. It's wonderful music if you can get past the religious claptrap text.
Film: (DVD) Always Steven Spielberg, 1989This might well be the worst film Spielberg ever made. A silly ghost story, mawkish to the extreme.
The West Wing, R.I.P.I'm seriously bummed to learn that The West Wing has been cancelled, this is one of my all-time favorite TV series. I'll particularly miss Alison Janney's "C.J. Clegg."
Film: (DVD) The Aristocrats Paul Provenza, 2005100 comedians tell their variations on the same scatological joke...it's the singer, not the song. Pretty funny, but maybe takes itself a bit too seriously.
Film: (DVD) Astérix et Obelix contre Cæsar Claude ZidiGérard Depardieu plays Obelix in this excellent adaptation. This DVD was in French only, but I was able to follow it pretty well, though I'm sure I missed most of the puns. I read the book but that was over 15 years ago. I found the Romans' accents harder to understand than the Gauls'.
Last week it was The West Wing, now NBC has cancelled The Book of Daniel. Will the number 3 network continue canceling all of their best shows? Can Conan O'Brien be far behind?
Film: (DVD) Notorious Alfred Hitchcock, 1946Lets see...Hitchcock, Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant, script by Ben Hecht...how could you go wrong? The answer is lousy writing. A very disappointing film, a major waste of talent. The dialogue seems completely phony from beginning to end.
Had a nice ride out to Water Row in Sudbury, rode the International, a bit over 27 miles. Listened to one of my fave operas, Smetana's The Bartered Bride on the iPod.
Film: (DVD) Notting Hill Roger Michell, 1999A charming romantic comedy with Julia Roberts basically playing herself, and Hugh Flynn as proprietor of a failing London bookshop. Roberts is a bit wooden, but that works OK. I liked it.
eBook: 1634 The Ram Rebellion Eric Flint and Virginia de Marce, 2006Baen Books offers what they call "Advance Reader Copies" of some of their books, sort of like getting to read the galleys of a book that has not been quite polished to final form. That's what this was. I'm a huge fan of the 1632 series by Eric Flint. This is the latest of the batch. Parts of it rather dragged, I'm afraid, but maybe this will be corrected in the officially published edition. This one deals with a peasant rebellion in Thuringia and Franconia, partly inspired by a series of "humorous" tales about a troublesome ram belonging to one of the Grantville residents. These tales are in the book, but are not all that entertaining.
Revels Sing at Doyle'sOff to Jamaica Plain for another Revels Pub Sing, good fun as always. I led the crowd in Passant par Paris, a French halyard chanty.
George Emlen leads the Singing
Just heard that Tova has been accepted into a doctoral program at M.I.T. with a Presidential Scholar Fellowship! I'm floating on air!
eBook: The Garotters Willam Dean Howells, 1885This short play is a very droll farce, a sequel to The Elevator. Quite hilarious.
Concert: Boston Symphony Orchestra Mahler Symphony #6, Bernard Haitink, conductorA fabulous performance of a great work. We had tickets for the Saturday concert, but had to exchange them for the Friday concert due to a conflict.
eBook: The Princess Diaries Meg CabotI don't recall how this "young adult" novel found its way onto my Clié, I don't recall buying it...maybe it was some kind of special freebie offer a while back. Anyway, after finishing The Garotters I was looking for something else to read and found this. I must admit I rather enjoyed it! It's the story of the 14 year old daughter of a bohemian single mother, who suddenly finds that she is the only living heir to the throne of a small Monaco-like principality. It was a lot of fun, even if it is below my grade level...
Religion Run AmokWell, they're at it again. The combination of religion and the lynch-mob effect has caused riots in several countries, directed against...the Danes, of all people! Hard to believe that people can get so nuts that they burn embassies over a silly cartoon!+----------------------------------------------------------+ | Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when | | they do it from religious conviction. -- Blaise Pascal | +----------------------------------------------------------+
eBook: Something New P. G. Wodehouse, 1915A charming Wodehouse farce dealing with the theft of a valuable scarab from an English stately home. Most of the characters are Americans, and much of the language is American too, so I suspect that this book was "Americanized" much as with the Harry Potter books (...Philosopher's Stone -> Sorcerer's Stone...)
No Jeeves and Wooster in this one, but good fun anyway.
Wolfgang's VaultThis morning I heard about this fabulous site on NPR. Rock promoter Bill Graham had a collection of recordings of 35,000 concerts from mid 1960s on through the '80s, and this site streams selections from them. If you like baby-boomer music, this site is not to be missed!
Concert: Boston Symphony Orchestra Beethoven; James Levine, conductor; Jonathan Bliss, Piano; Miriam Fried, Violin; Ralph Kirschbaum, Cello.This was a super all-Beethoven concert, starting with the rarely played Symphony #2, then the Triple Concerto, finishing up with a blazing performance of the Symphony #7.
This was not part of our regular series, we had exchanged tickets due to a conflict, and so we were not in our usual second balcony seats. Instead, we were on the floor, 3rd row, left of center just in front of the first violin section. This was an interesting change of vantage. The balance was, of course, off, with the first violins predominating, but this was made up for to some extent by the more precise differentiation of lines resulting from being so close.
The seats were pretty good for the symphonies, but turned out to be nearly ideal for the concerto. We were sitting about 3 or 4 meters from the soloists. It was a lot of fun to watch them as well as to listen to them. Kirschbaum often sang along silently in the orchestra parts, and Fried was very physical in her bright red dress. I didn't have a good view of Bliss at the piano, but whenever he had a long solo passage, Fried, his mother, had her face light up with a charming mommy grin.
All in all, a wonderful concert.
Film: (DVD) Finian's Rainbow Francis Ford Coppola, 1968Fred Astaire and Petula Clark star in this film adaptation of the classic (but highly politically incorrect) musical. It's too bad about the libretto of this show, 'cause it's got some really great songs.
Astaire and Clark do well with the acting, but Clark's singing style doesn't work well for the musical numbers.
To IndianapolisFlew out to Indianapolis to speak to the Central Indiana Bicycle Association, second year in a row I've done this. This year I used visual aids, viz. a slide show run from my iPod!
To ChicagoFlew from Indianapolis to Chicago to visit my sister and brother-in-law for a few days, always a pleasure.
Film: (DVD) Bad(der) Santa Terry Zwigoff, 2003I usually like Billy Bob Thornton, but this unfunny comedy left me cold.
Art Institute of ChicagoVisited the Girodet exhibit, classic French kitsch.
Film: (DVD) Crash Paul Haggis, 2005Pretty good, though a bit too much of the deus-ex-machina.
Film: (DVD) Wallace & Gromit - The Curse of the Were-Rabbit Steve Box, Nick Park, 2005This animated cartoon had its moments, but they were too few and far between.
Book: Paper! Memory Lois McMaster Bujold 1996This was the only one of the Miles Vorkosigan books that I hadn't read, the only one not available in electronic form. It's as good as the others, even in the inconvenient format. (Good airplane reading, though because it's exempt from the idiotic rules against using electronic devices in flight.)
eBook: Time Patrol Poul Anderson, 1991 (1960)I'm a sucker for time-travel stories, and these are pretty good ones by one of the better second-string "golden age" science fiction writers. This is a collection of 8 short stories, some dating back to the 1950s, plus a novella, The Sorrow of Odin the Goth.
The stories are great fun, set in a wide range of different eras. I particularly liked the description of the break-through of the straits of Gibraltar, and the subsequent filling of the Mediterranean.
The novella was my least favorite part, it was too hard to keep track of the different characters and time scale as it jumped back and forth among various times in the gradual decline of the Roman Empire.
Film: (DVD) The Barbarian Invasions (Les Invasions Barbares) Denys Arcand, 2003This was a rather fun film from Québec. The protagonist is a professor dying of cancer. His estranged son gathers all of his old friends together for a grand send-off. The film is somewhat reminiscent of The Big Chill. It is among other things an indictment of the Canadian health care system, and the general decline of society. Quite funny in parts.
Film: (HBO) Mrs. HarrisThe Jean Harris/Herman Tarnower murder scandal. Sure looks like he had it coming. Pretty good film.
Film: (DVD) The Man Who Fell to Earth Nicolas Roeg, 1976Very sloooow-moving artsy-fartsy science fiction film, somewhat redeemed by a few good nude scenes. Why is it that there's so much good science fiction in book form, and so few decent science fiction films?
|November-December, 1998||April-May, 1975|
|Books reviewed on this page:|
|Time Patrol||Poul Anderson||2/23/06|
|Memory||Lois McMaster Bujold||2/19/06|
|The Princess Diaries||Meg Cabot||2/4/06|
|1634 The Ram Rebellion||Eric Flint and Virginia de Marce||2/1/06|
|The Garotters||William Dean Howells||2/3/06|
|The Leatherwood God||William Dean Howells||1/12/06|
|The Secret History of the Pink Carnation||Lauren Willig||1/22/06|
|Tales From Deadwood||Mike Jameson||1/5/06|
|Films reviewed on this page:|
|Always||January 22, 2006|
|The Aristocrats||January 25, 2006|
|Astérix et Obelix contre Cæsar||26 Janvier 2006|
|Bad(der) Santa||February 16, 2006|
|The Barbarian Invasions (Les Invasions Barbares)||February 24, 2006|
|Casablanca||January 2, 2006|
|Crash||February 17, 2006|
|Ed TV||January 11, 2006|
|Finian's Rainbow||February 14, 2006|
|The Man Who Fell to Earth||February 27, 2006|
|My Blue Heaven||January 8, 2006|
|Mrs. Harris||February 25, 2006|
|Notorious||January 27, 2006|
|Notting Hill||January 28, 2006|
|Secretary||January 19, 2006|
|Signs||January 6, 2006|
|Stella Dallas||January 9, 2006|
|Taking Sides||January 16, 2006|
|13 Going On 30||January 18, 2006|
|Wallace and Gromit||February 18, 2006|
|What's Up, Doc?||January 13, 2006|
|The Woman Next Door||January 5, 2006|
|Music reviewed on this page:|
|February 2, 2006||Revels Pub Sing||Doyle's, Jamaica Plain|
|January 21, 2006||M.I.T.G.A.S.P||Gilbert & Sullivan: Princess Ida Sing Through|
|January 6, 2006||BCM Festival-Lady and the Pants, Triple Play|
|November 29, 2002||Lorraine Bracco||The Graduate|
|November 23, 2001||Helen Mirren, Ian McKelln||The Dance of Death-August Strindberg|
|September 30, 2000||Tova/Black Box Theatre, Cornell University||The Maids-Jean Genet|
|May 30, 2000||Kelsey Grammer/Colonial Theatre||Macbeth|
|May 26, 2000||The Huntington Theatre Co.||King Hedley II|
|September 3, 1999||The Publick Theatre||Nine|
|August 21, 1999||Orange Tree Theatre, Ithaca, N.Y.||Sonata|
|August 13, 1999||Firehouse Theatre, Ithaca, N.Y.||Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it All For You|
|May 22-29||Newton South/North High Schools||Richard III|
|December 18, 1998||Newton North High School||The Bone Violin, May F lies|
|November 12, 1998||Newton North High School||To Kill a Mockingbird|
|November 21-24, 2007||Plantation, Florida|
|September 25-28, 2007||Las Vegas, Nevada|
|August 18-25, 2007||Truro, Cape Cod, Massachusetts|
|November 22-26, 2006||Plantation, Florida|
|September 25-28, 2006||Las Vegas (Interbike)|
|June 10-20, 2006||Santa Cruz, California|
|May 5-7, 2006||Aurora, Indiana|
|November 23, 2005||Plantation, Florida|
|September 26-29, 2005||Interbike, Las Vegas, Nevada|
|August 26-28, 2005||'Bentride 2005, Bath, N.Y.|
|July 21-24, 2005||Family Reunion, Saratoga Springs, N.Y.|
|April 29, 2005||Cirque de Cyclisme, Greensboro, N.C.|
|February 16, 2005||Indianapolis|
|November 24, 2004||Plantation, Florida|
|October 8, 2004||Santa Cruz, California|
|October 4, 2004||Las Vegas, Nevada|
|June 8, 2004||France, England|
|December 22, 2003||Halifax, Nova Scotia|
|November 27, 2003||Florida|
|October 31, 2003||Potomac, Maryland|
|October 10, 2003||Las Vegas, Nevada|
|September 21, 2003||New York, N.Y.|
|November 27-30, 2002||New York, N.Y.|
|October 8-13, 2002||Evanston, Illinois|
|October 4-8, 2002||Las Vegas, Nevada|
|July 3-9, 2002||Canso, Nova Scotia|
|May 24-27, 2002||Long Island, New York|
|November 21-24, 2001||New York City|
|October 16-19, 2001||Cape Cod, Massachusetts|
|September 29-October 3, 2001||Las Vegas, Nevada (Interbike Show)|
|June 16-23, 2001||Nags Head, North Carolina|
|October 5-14, 2000||Evanston, Illinois|
|September 30-October 2, 2000||Ithaca, New York|
|June 22-25, 2000||Urbanna, Virginia|
|October 7-13, 1999||Chicago/Evanston, Illinois|
|August 19-28, 1999||Ithaca, New York|
|August 12-13, 1999||Ithaca, New York|
|July 23-25, 1999||Bridgeton, Maine|
|November 25-28, 1998||Fort Lauderdale, Florida|
|1975||England, Belgium, Yugoslavia, Turkey|
Last Updated: by Harriet Fell