Category Archives: video

Follow up to Dave Itzkoff’s NYT column about his 4 year old and home video, “Yellow Submarine & Me” .


Follow up to Dave Itzkoff’s NYT column about his 4 year old and home video, “Yellow Submarine & Me”  .

(I posted this as a comment on his greeting on Redit. Never been signed up on Redit before. I couldn’t send a message on Twitter and the letters section for the article was closed. I liked what he wrote, I hope he enjoys this additional info.)

Hi Dave, I’m Bill Abbott and I greatly enjoyed your NYT piece about “Yellow Submarine“. My kid, now 22, was also a big fan at that age. Great stuff! Same kid prefers “Help!” to “Hard Day’s Night”. Admittedly, “Help!” has more tigers, and the four attached home front doors leading to one room, with John’s bed below floor level. How I wanted one of those! Same kid offered a Nina Simone song as “what’s going through my mind now” this afternoon. I have no complaints.

Not long after “Yellow Submarine“, we were lucky enough to have another pre-schooler loan us a copy of “My Neighbor Totoro“. We didn’t know the film, didn’t know Miyazaki or Studio Ghibli. But we learned in a hurry! VERY kid friendly, and (spoiler) their mom is in the hospital but gets better! No Hollywood Movie disease! Totoro? You’ll meet the neighbor. You’ll be happy you did.

Then my brother loaned us a VHS of “The Way Things Go“. Its a 31 minuite Rube Goldberg machine made of industrial and consumer junk, in a disused factory setting. One thing knocks into a second, which tips a third, whick pulls a string, which releases a weight that falls on the end of a folded, partially inflated, vinyl boat, which unfolds, starting a tire rolling up (!) a ladder, which hits a second tire, starting it, and then a third, and a forth… you get the idea. Eventually the rhythms of the events , repetitions and variaions become identifyable, and after that, you start seeing the pauses where they had to reload the camera, every 3 minutes to 3:30 or so. I’ve probably seen it 100 times by now. When it ends, the delighted child says, “Again!” So always leave enough time to watch it twice.

Around age 5 or so, the family across the street loaned us a copy of “Spy Kids 2“. There were 3 “Spy Kids” movies, by Robert Rodriguez, and now there’s a fourth. We started with “Spy Kids 2”, because that’s what our neighbors loaned us, and they were right! Like “Night At The Museum 2“, “Spy Kids 2” explains nothing. There are characters. They have relationships. It will be come clear as it goes along. And there aren’t 30 seconds wasted in either film. “Spy Kids 2” has the great cast (Alan Cumming, Teri Hatcher, Cheech Marin, Danny Trejo, Tony Shalhoub.) of the first film, adding Ricardo Montalban and Holland Taylor as the Kids grandparents, on their mother’s side, a second Spy family, mom, dad, sister, brother, and Steve Beucimi as the mad scientist hiding in the volcano on the invisible island because he’s afraid of the creatures he’s created. Half to himself, he wonders “…if God hides in Heaven because He’s Afraid of what He created.”

“Spy Kids” explains everything, how the Kids parents (Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino) work for the OSS, and the kid’s Uncle Machete built the tree house next to their house. You get more explanation about the Cumming and Shalhoub characters. Then truey odd stuff happens, big adventures, and it winds up ok. Takes a while, but OK. That’s nice but its not the one to start with.

Spy Kids 3” involves video games and Sylvester Stalone, not as successful in my opinion. ßtart with “2”, then watch “1”. Be happy.

If you liked “Totoro” then “Kiki’s Delivery Service” is a good second helping.

If you like “The Way Things Go“, there are two follow-ups, “Rendezvous“, “C’était un rendez-vous”, by Claude LeLouch, offers an 8 and a half minute, completely illegal, drive through Paris starting at about 5:30 am, so a man can meet his wife at Sacré-Cœur Basilica A “rendezvous”. They embrace in the headlights of his car. The whole thing is one shot, from the front of the car. What you see is the streets. The stop lights (they are red, the driver doesn’t even lift their right foot). Pidgeons. An early dog-walker, a trash truck. The route includes the courtyard of the Louve, because you used to be able to drive through it.

A second follow-up to “The Way Things Go” is “Rivers and Tides. Andy Goldsworthy Working With Time“. It starts with Goldsworthy up before the sun, in Newfoundland. He has a little cup of water and some icicles, which he breaks into short pieces with angled ends. He is using the water to glue them to a rock, then build a loop that goes out, curves, and returns to the rock. With one loop in place, he goes to the other end of the rock and makes tne next loop, higher. And back and forth. When he’s done, he steps back to take a photograph, and thats when the sun rises. The whole icicle “sewn” back and forth “through” the rock lights up like a Neon lamp. Like Steve Martin’s gag “arrow through the head”.

I had admired Goldsworthy’s work on exhibit around the Bay Area, and in books like “Hand To Earth”, but in the movie, you see an imperinant, temporal side of what he does. He builds something between the low tide and high tide mark, and the water rises and inundates it. He pins together bracken with thorns, and the little puffs of a light wind wrench it appart. All the rest of the film consists of wathching Goldsworthy go out into the wild world, make something with what he finds, take a picture, and leave it. And film of projects he did in the past. He narrates everything. Not every project succeeds. There’s a pinecone-ish shape he likes to build with stones, and he’s trying on a rocky shingle beach, and he hasn’t figured out how to use the rock. It keeps falling. Be talks about it while he works.

Another project is just jaw dropping. He’s drawn to the meandering shape of an old river on a nearly level plain, big loops that will be come oxbows, etc. He draws one in light snow on a frozen stream. He is offered a  wall in a gallery, and he builds a meander on it, using a soft, porus, material, and soaks it with water. Then he covers the whole wall with mud. So its a uniform, hand-smoothed, wall, entirely made of mud. And he lets it dry. Well, part of it dries quickly, there’s no water source under it. But part dries slowly, stays dark, and when it does, eventually dry, its immediately aparent where the meander is because the mud  that dried quickly has one characteristic set of cracking and the mud that dried slowly has a different looking cracking, and the two couldn’t be clearer in their difference. Although both are dried mud, the same dried mud. You can see the shape he wanted to show. How cool is that?

*Fortunate* Motorcyclist survives driving off cliff


http://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2017/08/11/motorcycle-plunges-off-cliff-santa-monica-mountains-california-orig-trnd-lab.cnn/video/playlists/caught-on-camera/

My comments to CNN:

Cliff-diving motorcyclist Matthew Murray, 27, passes a “25 MPH” advisory sign in the 12th second of CNN’s video clip. This is in the 2nd run through of the crash video. In the 15th second he’s going 68 MPH as he starts to lean into the turn. He’s still going more than 50 MPH as he slides off the pavement and onto the dirt. Text on the screen says something to the effect that he “was following the turn when he thinks his steering locked up”. The video shows no such thing. He was going too fast, and could not turn sharply enough to follow the turn. He started at more than 2.5 times the advised speed. He left the pavement at 2 times the advised speed. His speed “locked” his path, not his steering.

Get the an accurate map of the curve, the size and tread pattern of the motorcycle tires and a description of the motorcycle (make, model, horsepower, brakes,weight-as-crashed) and rider (weight). Give to “Mythbusters”. Have them duplicate the failure, during deceleration, then do a binary search for the steady speed at which a motorcycle on those tires, at that weight, could follow that turn. Braking uses traction, does that change maximum speed?. Find the entry speed, before braking, that would allow the bike to make the turn. Put a GoPro on the bike for comparison pictures, and a second one showing where the front tire touches the road.

Saxaphone Soup – Mama Vita plays Silverbells


This absolutely delights me and while it has NOTHING to do with building model airplanes I sincerely hope you enjoy it. Outstanding ability appears in many contexts, and the important lesson is that its not the tools. Its NEVER the tools.

50 books every geek should read- from Monster.com


Ok, lets see: I’ve read 16 of these, gave up on another and have 2 in-progress.

I think there are a few good books missing:

1) “The C Programming Language” – Kernighan and Ritche. Not only a great book about programming, especially for beginners, it also shows how clear a programming text can be, how little needs to be said, and how to spiral around the same problems with increasingly capable and complicated programs.

2) “The C++ Programming Language” – Stroustrup. By comparison to C, a much thicker book, containing K&R’s language and a whole lot more, for practical coding and for object oriented techniques.

3) “The Codebreakers” – Herman Kahn A huge book and one that ends in the era where crypto was still a government issue, mostly. But a great history, and clear proof that no cypher system, or code book, is 100% unbreakable.

4) “Seizing the Enigma” – most complete discussion of BREAKING Enigma I’ve seen so far. There are any number of good lessons here, starting with, a small, motivated, team can accomplish what is considered impossible. Never treat the opposition with contempt. Define your requirements as well as you can, do what you can to satisfy them, pay attention to what actually happens.

The actual analytic technique to break Enigma was cooked up by two Polish intelligence officers who could see how the wind was blowing in the late 1930s. When the Germans invaded, they escaped with their method and presented it to the French. The French passed it on to the British before they collapsed. The technique wouldn’t do for rapid recovery of plain text from a well operated system but it could break in by brute force, with some time, and it could also rapidly exploit any laxness in technique by the cypher users. Whereas the Germans believed that Enigma was essentially unbreakable and never seriously looked for its weaknesses, or their own in using it.

Code and cipher trade-craft was good in the Kriegsmarine, so-so in the Wehrmacht and lousy in the Luftwaffe, oddly echoing Hitler’s complaint that he had a Christian Navy, a Reactionary Army and only one National Socialist (Nazi) armed force, the Luftwaffe. The Brits mounted a frontal assault on Luftwaffe Enigma traffic and got what they needed because of bad practices by the users. With the Wehrmacht they got enough to combine with conventional intelligence, what the Soviets gave them from “Lucy”, from the Italians sending cables to each other, etc., to get the job done. The Kriegsmarine used Enigma intelligently, so that frontal assaults hit a blank wall. Fortune gave the Brits the keys, the initial rotor position for each message, occasionally, and they knew what they were missing, so they made it their business to GET the keys, through espionage, Soviet salvage of a sunken German ship, the capture of a shipboard weather station in the North Atlantic, the US Navy’s capture of U-505. Every six months when the key changed, they had to get the new one and did, EACH TIME. And tight security at the Allied end allowed the Germans, all of them, to ignore any suspicion that their cyphers and codes were less than 100% secure. They had no “Red Team”s, or even someone looking at the pattern of Allied luck in finding lone U boats, bombing the right place at the right time, etc. Convinced of their own superiority, like the Japanese, they caught “victory disease” and when the tide turned, retained a confidence that events did NOT justify. Lucky for us.

“Snow Crash,” Neal Stephenson
“Neuromancer,” William Gibson
“I, Robot,” Isaac Asimov  <———- 1
“Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” Douglas Adams  <———– 2
“Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” Philip K. Dick  <————– 3
“Ender’s Game,” Orson Scott Card
“The Time Machine,” H.G. Wells  <————– 4
“Microserfs,” Doug Coupland  <————— 5
“Flatland,” Edwin A. Abbott  <——- tried, couldn’t get into it. Should try again I suppose
“1984,” George Orwell  <—————- 6
“Brave New World,” Aldous Huxley  <————— 7
“iCon,” Jeffrey S. Young and William L. Simon
“iWoz,” Steve Wozniak and Gina Smith
“Hard Drive: Bill Gates and the Making of the Microsoft Empire,” Jim Erickson
“The Visual Display of Quantitative Information,” Edward Tufte  <——————- 8
“Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability,” Steve Krug
“The Non-Designer’s Design Book,” Robin Williams
“Tog on Interface,” Bruce Tognazzini  <—————– 9
“User Interface Design for Programmers,” Joel Spolsky
“Revolution in The Valley: The Insanely Great Story of How the Mac Was Made,” Andy Hertzfeld
“The Soul of a New Machine,” Tracy Kidder  <——————- 10
“Where Wizards Stay Up Late,” Hafner and Lyon
“Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age,” Michael A. Hiltzik
“The Cuckoo’s Egg,” Cliff Stoll  <—————- 11
“The Perfect Thing: How the iPod Shuffles Commerce, Culture, and Coolness,” Steven Levy
“Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time,” Dava Sobel  <– 12
“The Code Book,” Simon Singh
“Cryptonomicon,” Neal Stephenson
“Crypto,” Steven Levy
“The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master,” Andrew Hunt, David Thomas
“Code Complete: A Practical Handbook of Software Construction,” Steve McConnell  <—— working on it
“Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software,” Erich Gamma, Richard Helm, Ralph Johnson, John M. Vlissides  <— working on it
“Dreaming in Code,” Scott Rosenberg
“The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering,” Frederick P. Brooks  <———- 13
“Beautiful Code: Leading Programmers Explain How They Think,” Andy Oram
“Cathedral and the Bazaar,” Eric S. Raymond
“The Long Tail,” Chris Anderson
“The Future of Ideas,” Lawrence Lessig
“On Intelligence,” Jeff Hawkins
“In the Beginning was the Command Line,” Neal Stephenson
“Code: Version 2.0,” Lawrence Lessig
“The Wisdom of Crowds,” James Surowiecki
“The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology,” Ray Kurzweil
“Gödel, Escher, Bach,” Douglas Hofstadter  <——— 14
“Gut Feelings,” Gerd Gigerenzer
“A Brief History of Time,” Stephen Hawking  <————- 15
“Hackers and Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age,” Paul Graham
“The Evolution of Useful Things,” Henry Petroski  <————– 16
“Getting Things Done,” David Allen
“Upgrade Your Life: The Lifehacker Guide to Working Smarter, Faster, Better,” Gina Trapani

“Gut Feelings,” Gerd Gigerenzer

The comedy that I really enjoyed in my formative years


I’m going to start this as a list and link it out to the people whose humor inspired me and soothed my teen-age years, when I wasn’t just playing music as loud as I could manage…

Bill Cosby. I loved his early records- Noah, the chicken heart that ate Philidelphia.. a funny, funny, man. I totally loved  “I Spy” too.

Cheech and Chong. All of “Big Bambu” was great but “Dave’s Not Here” remains a relevant cultural touchstone. Its the beginning of any honest talk about smoking dope, as my people say. Yes, I’ve told it, as best I remember, to my son. It sums up a reality that goes with the post-detox Robin Williams’ masterpiece deconstruction of alcohol- “The point of alcohol is to make English  your second g*&@#)(@+d language!”  Say it, brother Williams!

Bob Newhart. From the Button Down Mind album to that wacky show with Daryl and his other brother Daryl,  And to stay on theme, you can throw in his Sir Walter Raliegh phone call about drinking the hot bean juice with some of the burning leaves every morning…

The Duck’s Breath Mystery Theatre.  Ah, so much to choose from here- the Mr. Science routines on NPR, their “Gonad The Barbarian, a man on the edge of thought”, which 30+ years later STILL provides me with chuckles and some great wise-ass lines (“You speak squeek bear?” “I was raised by squeek bears, in the wilderness”). The Drag Aggies spiel. The “Household Appliances” song. The “Ronald McDonald” song… A friend of mine was in the same apartments as at least some of DBMT at one point and they were apparently kinda obnoxious neighbors- loud, coming and going at all hours, about what you’d expect. How many MS and PhD students were delighted to say, “I have a <whatever degree>, <pause> In Science!” when their diplomas were awarded? There must have been a good 10 years where that would be THE thing to say to your friends…

The Flying Karamazov Brothers… another bunch with boundless talent. Maybe Penn and Teller invented their deconstruction schtick independantly, but the FKBs need to explain how everything worked was pretty amazing, even in the 1970s. The words, the music and the juggling all worked together, with a real delight in language, physical acumen and finding a place for the 2, then 3, then 4 and sometimes 5 truely diverse individuals.  And their musical accompanists, the Kamikaze Ground Crew, added another bunch of colorful people and interesting ideas.

George Carlin. Gawd. The philosopher prince. Not JUST for the 7 words, not JUST for any particular bit, but for the strength and clear eyes he brought to the whole business. Funny was only one part of  it, and he had some serious staying power. He remains a national treasure.

Chris Rock. No, I don’t approve of a lot of what he says about women, some of his opinions are reprehensiblle, but some of his bits are deadly accurate.. He’s not really about making nice comfort zones on “racial”, cultural and economic issues.  Rock gets laughs out of material that could be written for people far more conservative than his actual audience. If the Republicans weren’t an aging, mostly white-male outfit of hypocrites, they’d be a natural audience for some of Rock’s hard truths. Cosby, Chappel and plenty of others too.  There are plenty of people who delight in pushing the buttons of the stereotypical liberal unconscious…  just as there are people who delight in pushing the buttons on the stereotypical conservative unconscious. Both are endless opportunities for humor.  The brittle hypocrisy of the Hanity/Coulter/Limbaugh noise machine can’t be better demonstrated  than by their obvious lack of humor. Narrow, mean, vindictive, controlling people are seldom much good at comedy….

Roseanne Barr. Look, before its pathology came to echo that of my own family of origin, I thought the Cosby Show was great. Finally- the real world up on the little screen. Then I realized that part of my positive reaction was to the just-like-my-family father competing with son dynamic… ick! And then I saw Roseanne… dang, she and Mr. Goodman were the best romantic couple since Morticia and Gomez Adams.   I think the Roseanne episode where the older daughter writes a poem about her mom and the school orchestra plays the worst recorded version of Pachobel’s Canon may be the greatest 30 minutes of human actors doing comedy on TV……. Again- dang, what an ACCUTE observer! And how lovely the ensemble cast’s work. The time the boy child turned out to have a box of Barbie doll heads under his bed- NEVER explained, just like in real life :^)

And I DID see the “Night Court” episode where they went to the Markie Post characters home and saw all the character’s Prince Charles and Lady Diana stuff….  Night Court was pretty funny too!

I don’t expect anyone will read this, much less reply, but It feels good to give recognition where it belongs!

Bill

Ihttp://dbmt.blogspot.com/2009/06/fire-this-blog.html#links

Great nerdy films: The Way Things Go, Rivers and Tides, Rendezvous


The Way Things Go – Fichelli and Wiess’ finest moment, so far.

Probably the most demanded “Play It Again!” film of all time. It has its own Wikipedia page, and the Honda Cog ad was found to violate Fichelli and Wiess’ copyright of the image of tires bumping into each other and rolling uphill….See it too, but see the original first. Repeatedly. With a child, age 5-105…

Product Details The Way Things Go 100 feet of physical interactions, chemical reactions, and precisely crafted chaos worthy of Rube Goldberg or Alfred Hitchcock – a discussion starter for …

icarusfilms.com/cat97/t-z/the_way_.html – Cached – Similar –

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Way_Things_Go Trailer: http://www.tcfilm.ch/pop_lauf1e.htm

http://www.amazon.co/Way-Things-Go/dp/B00005UW7W/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1253212612&sr=8-1

Retail $18, used from $9.13… Amazing Chain Reaction – The Way Things Go 4 min 34 sec – Jan 15, 2007 – Rated 4.6 out of 5.0 TO BUY THE DVD of the complete 30 minutes of this chain reaction called The Way Things Go go here: firstrunfeatures.com IN THIS SCENE: Fire is … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U82eWptFxSs – Related videos – And Here’s Cog: Results include your SearchWiki notes for Honda Cog. Share these notes Copy and paste this link into an email or IM: See a preview of the shared page 1.

Honda Accord Cog Commercial 2 min 1 sec – Mar 3, 2006 – Rated 4.7 out of 5.0 High res Quicktime file (original commercial). video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6006084025483872237 – Related videos – 2. The Making Of “Honda – Cog” 4 min 4 sec – Oct 4, 2006 – Rated 5.0 out of 5.0 The Making of Honda’s “Cog” commercial (Honda Accord)

video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-960793573142648647 – Related videos – 3. Cog (advert) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Cog is a British television and cinema advertisement launched by Honda in 2003 to promote ….. Honda ‘cog’ ad at centre of rip-off debate over 1987 film, … Sequence – Production – Release and reception – Legacy

A n d W h i l e W e A r e O n e T h e S u b j e c t . . . . Product Details Rivers & Tides ~ Andy Goldsworthy working with time. (DVD – Sep 28, 2004) Buy new: $26.95 $14.49 42 Used & new from $11.52 Watch It Now:  4.5 out of 5 stars (103) DVD:

If you don’t know Andy Goldworthy’s art, I think you’re in for a treat. Also QUITE child-friendly. HIs basic brief is to go out into the world and make something from what he finds there. Then he photographs is, and then lets it return to what it was. Some of his installation pieces in galleries have been stacks of slate, some have been album covers for Tori Amos’ early records. Once he made a collection of snow balls with various contents, stored the, and the put them out in the gallery to melt and reveal their content. Its all about using what’s actually there, but also all about time and how impermanent the world is. Nothing we see, not the rocks, not the mountains, not even the sea, will last for ever. Ok, ok, and the point is???? Ok. The first piece in this film is filmed before dawn, in Newfoundland. Goldworthy is out with a little bowl of water, and he’s collected a bunch of carrot-sized icicles, and he’s breaking them into segments and using the water to stick them back together to make an arc that starts and ends on the side of a big rock down by the ocean- like a letter C stuck to the rock as if: / C| / then the camera pulls back and you can see he’s made a series of these, like the old arrow-though the head gag, a series of loops on both sides of the rock

…….L/ \

…..C/….. \D

C/………. \D

so it looks like the icicle is threaded back and forth through the rock and the at the top it turns and goes up a couple of feet straight up. Nice. He’s got gloves but he’s working with bare fingers because he gets better control of the ice pieces that way. It looks COLD. Just as he’s about to take the picture, the sun comes up, its been twilight as he’s been working, and the sunlight falls on the icicle pieces and they turn on with the golden light as if they’re neon tubes or something like that… completely unexpected.

I find this charming, and it may not be the best piece in the film. Maybe the failures, the stack of rocks that keeps collapsing, the screen of sticks pinned together with thorns that a tiny breeze destroys, are the best. Good lesson for kids- some ideas don’t work out- give it your best, and if it isn’t going to happen, do something else. Its like going back 50,000 years to when art and engineering and science were more or less the same thing… What happens to the gallery wall he covers with mud is so cool I’m not going to reveal it. Suffice to say, its cool.

A n d N o w F o r S o m e t h i n g T h a t F i t s R i g h t I n . . . Product Details Rendezvous (DVD – Feb 20, 2003) Buy new: $29.95 $26.99 5 Used & new from $24.95  4.5 out of 5 stars (38) DVD: http://www.amazon.com/Rendezvous-Claude-Lelouch/dp/B000CFL6DS/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1253213838&sr=8-5 Another really good one in my personal collection is Rendezvous, an inexcusable but wonderful 9 minute drive across Paris, at about 5;30am, in a Ferrari with a camera fastened to the hood. The driver, never identified by director Claude Le Leouch, assuming it wasn’t him, doesn’t even lift has he blows the red lights down the approach to the Arc de Triumph. Then a quick jaunt to the Louvre, turn north and through the various districts (1st to 9th to 18th I believe) and ends up at the Sacre Coeur, where Le Louch steps into the headlights of the car and embraces his wife. A Rendezvous.

To quote one review on Amazon: “…nearly 30 years ago I saw the film on 35mm, and it was so intense, that the memory of it has never left me. It’s like watching Leo Kottke in full flight on his 12-string; you see it, you hear it, but nonetheless your mind refuses to accept that it’s possible. Buy it. Buy it now. And while you wait for it to arrive, practice holding your breath for 9 minutes, as you’ll need that ability….. ”

Another reviewer notes: “…No streets were closed, for Lelouch was unable to obtain a permit…. …Upon showing the film in public for the first time, Lelouch was arrested…” Reckless driving of course… and he was convicted, although he has always maintained it was a professional driver… whom he has never named. The sound is simply the car, tires, street noises, pigeons, garbage trucks, etc. There’s nothing quite like it, and probably never will be.

And when all else fails: http://www.theexplodingwhale.com/

Movies seen- w/ Abby, w/Jean


We just saw:

Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince. Nice, very, very, nice. Much as J. K. Rowling did herself proud in writing the books and bringing off the sprawling yarn and its many loose ends, so now yet another director picks up with mostly the same actors and makes a VERY compact and effective movie. Its a keeper, no doubt. The three principals are maturing as actors as they grow taller, Maggie Smith and Alan Rickman would have stolen any NORMAL movie, that they don’t says much about the focus of the script writers and directors of this epic industry. They’ll be sorry when its over, I can tell you that. The brief appearance of the now-married (in the movie, in the Movie!) Tonks and Professor Lupin is nice, and the scenery, the world outside the cloister of Hogwart’s, is just beautiful to look at. At one point The Hogwarts’ Express rolls along tracks through a autumn gold land dotted by a thousand ponds, lakes, streams. Another scene depends on raging seas against cliffs out of a nightmare. I can’t tell how  much of this is digital and how much literal, but I’m not complaining…

Recently we’ve also seen:

The 2nd Transformers movie, Abby loved it. Really. A lot. Still talking about it a week, two weeks, later. Value for money, there.

Me, perhaps not so much. The human interactions don’t make any more sense than the robot interactions (Can’t tell a Decepticon from an Autobot? You’re not alone…) One of the bad robots disguises itself as a very attractive young woman and then throws herself (itself?) at Shia LeBouef’s character. I have nothing but respect and admiration for attractive young women but this bit and the key point between SLB’s character and Megan (?) Fox, that SLB, recent highschool graduate won’t tell Ms. Fox’s character that he loves her , don’t seem aligned with a special effects spectacle derived from a cartoon and licensed product gold mine aimed at 6-9 year olds.

Up in 3D. we all thought it was terrific fun. Sad at the beginning, less so than Finding Nemo, but its no accident that Pixar can have sadder and more touching things happen in their animated features than any other animated studio, with the possible exception of Studio Ghibli (H. Miyazaki) in Japan. Perhaps Pixar will made a bad movie, someday, this one isn’t it.

Lovely, unexpected depth in the characters and the story. The whole concept of taking the little house hemmed in by the big city and floating it away is wonderful. The trick of the dog’s thoughts being rendered into speech is as funny here as in The Far Side- Abby and I are still breaking suddenly and looking to one side while saying “squirrel”…

Coraline in 3D. What a great movie! For sure wierd, very wonderful. and appealing. The apparently wish-fulfilling mother in The Other Side sets off all kinds of alarm bells from the word go. And the cat and neighborhood boy are terrific foils for Coraline. Not to mention her real mother and father, and all their messy difficulties.

Milk. Wow. “I’m Harvey Milk and I’m hear to recruit you!” boy oh boy can Sean Penn put across a character, and the supporting cast are superb. Directing tight, script crisp and emotionally satsfying. A truely great movie.

“Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day” – Frances McDormand in an overwhemling sweet and happy story. Many adventures, Amy Adams’  astonished, round, eyes and a happy ending that only gets telegraphed at the very end.  Shirley Henderson (Moaning Myrtle) has a meaty and unsympathetic character,  Ciarán Hinds  is a treasure.

Tropic Thunder. Wow again! A surprising comedy-drama. Laughs are deadly, well aimed, lighting up conventions found in far too many places. The panda bit is howlingly funny, in a very, very, dark way, and Tom Cruise shows why we bother paying attention to him- his performance is simply jaw-dropping and would have overwhelmed a lesser movie. (The strength and sure-touch of the this film are reminders of how good a movie can be. Even turned up to 11, Jack Black, well cast and with a real part that matches his talent, can’t steal more than a scene or two. The material and the rest of the cast are that strong.) Ben Stiller really has a lock on funny characters who aren’t actually likable, but remain sympathetic. Robert Downey Jr’s, “dude pretending to be another dude, who’s pretending to be another dude” (or however that goes) is even further over the top than Cruise. Its like fireworks- once the fuse it lit, everyone’s committed. Jean and I saw this by ourselves and really enjoyed it, and after talking it over, let Benjamin see it on-demand at home. The beginning is gorey-er than he was comfortable with and we’d forgotten sexual nature of one of Jack Black’s character’s drug-withdrawal-crazed rants. We were embarrassed, but it didn’t last long. This is a real “R” for violence and strong language, folks. So wait until your 12 year old turns 13, perhaps, but this one’s a keeper, for sure. Just as good, maybe better, the second time I saw it.

Night At The Museum II – Battle of the Smithsonian. A sequel which basicly wrote itself – the primary characters are known, complexity is turned down, slapstick turned up and everyitng is what you’d expect and more. The bad bad guy’s dismissal of Darth Vader (or someone wearing a Darth costume) is wonderfully realized and puts that particular icon in its place quite firmly. I must agree with the review in one national print media which noted that all the skill and attention devoted to special effects are good but what most fathers will remember of Movie Magic ™ is Amy Adams’ painted-on pants.

Ghost Town Another one Jean and I saw by ourselves and a delight, a terrific showcase for Ricky Gervais, a wonderfully wacky premise and a full measure of both romance and comedy. Gervais is less off-putting than his breakthrough role in the UK “The Office”but he’s still mining the awkward and not easy to like formula. Dr. Pinkus is not a bad person, a bit prickly, a bit odd, but not a bad person. But he’s complicated and dropping him into something MORE complicated plays to his strengths. – he has that Fred Astare thing going,, he makes it all look SO easy.