Monday, November 13, 2017

Thoughts on Kenneth Branagh's Murder on the Orient Express

I attended an opening night screening of Kenneth Branagh’s new film adaptation of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express.  The following day I screened Sidney Lumet’s 1974 film adaptation.  On the third day I went and saw the Branagh version a second time, followed by a viewing of The David Suchet starring TV adaptation.  A couple of weeks before the Films release I read the book, or rather Kenneth Branagh read me the book, what a nice chap.  I have read snippets of several reviews and the people I attended screenings of the new film with had different opinions of the film then I did.  This is a film that by the time it ended I had laughed and I had cried.  When we met out in the lobby I was shocked at the reactions of some of my fellow moviegoers. After hearing their thoughts I wondered what theatre they had wandered into, as some seem to have seen a different film than I had. The most disappointing reaction was my brother who didn’t think it was very well made film, and thought it was very surfacey and  he didn’t like the campy aspect of it. I noticed no camp other than perhaps the size of Poirot’s mustache but more on that later. The most fulfilling reaction was my Daughter Savannah who said it was really good!  She is a typical Millennial, not a reader, not prone to sitting through movies in general, let alone a period film, and she had no knowledge of the source novel or indeed the character of Poirot going in. I love the film, It is my favorite adaptation of the book.  I loved Kenneth Branagh’s Take on the character of Hercule Poirot.

First of all let me address the character of Poirot.  I would not say that Branagh is my favorite Poirot, nor would I say he isn’t.  I have been watching David Suchet play Poirot for more than half my life.  In 2013 Suchet ended a 24 year run of playing Agatha Christie’s most famous creation when he filmed the final adaptation, becoming the only actor to have filmed the entire Poirot cannon. When I read Poirot Stories I picture Suchet, not only does he do an excellent job, but he has also had the good fortune to portray the character for nearly a quarter of a century.  Is it any wonder that he should seem to be Poirot?  At this point even if his performance wasn’t a faithful one, we would all still see it as Poirot.  Of course it is a very faithful interpretation and that is largely responsible for it’s longevity and it’s universal acknowledgement as the definitive portrayal. I do not think that Branagh is going to replace Suchet in my mind as Poirot.  But just as I have enjoyed various actors in the roll of Sherlock Holmes, there is room in my heart for more than one Poirot.  I feel that Jeremy Brett’s portrayal of Holmes is the most faithful, Basil Rathbone, was my first Holmes, but there have also been other actors; Benedict Cumberbatch, Robert Downey Jr., Peter Cushing, Ian Richardson, Christopher Plummer, Nicholas Rowe, Ian McKellen all gave enjoyable performances in the roll.  

Within our Friday night group, my Mother didn’t like Branagh in the roll she thought he was too masculine.  I think she is having the same issue that many will have, in that Suchet is so ingrained in her mind as Poirot, that unless someone tried to play Suchet, playing Poirot, it wouldn’t work for her.  In her mind Suchet was Poirot, she really wasn’t open to another take on the character.  Branagh’s version remains faithful to the core character as created by Christie.  There are changes, he is more active for example.  He does not go anywhere near the action hero take on the character that Downey Jr. did with Sherlock Holmes.  But he does give chase, he does defend himself.  This is not true to the Suchet version of the character, I cannot speak to Christie’s character as I have not read all of the books and stories yet, and honestly a detail like that I might forget over time.  In Suchet’s episodes I can recall Poirot shrinking from violence, this may be accurate to the story it is adapted from. But the character as written is a former policeman, one would assume, that he would when he was younger be able to at least defend himself.  Branagh’s physicality is kept to a minimum. There are two scenes once Poirot is on the train, where something that you might consider action oriented occurs, neither of these are in the book, Neither of them really alters the plot of the book though, and they both serve a purpose.  They add drama and flavor and tell us things about the characters. I imagine they are also there to liven the film up, add a little burst of energy.  The reality of the modern film business is that you need to make a film that people will be entertained at and that will feel exciting.  I don’t feel they went overboard in that regard at all, but it is certainly a change from the book.  

I think that Suchet’s Portrayal is the most faithful to Christie’s text, but I also believe that like all great characters Poirot is open to some interpretation, that a film is an adaptation and in order to breathe it has to become it’s own thing.  There are things like the color of his hair, which Christie maintains is black, hinting to the fact that he dyes it to maintain the color, a nod to his vanity and fastidiousness, a core characteristic.  Branagh has decided not to stick with that, he allows the gray in his hair and moustache.  And you know what, that’s OK.  Unless you are a Poirot die hard who cannot allow any variation from the text to exist, you probably wouldn’t even know that was one of his quirks.  He has plenty of quirks, and Branagh chooses some to display and others not to bother with, but he is recognizably Poirot. Some might say that is too big a detail, his hair always being black, to the extent that it’s obvious he is so vain that he dyes it is too critical a detail to leave out.  Well I would argue that the most recognizable physical attribute of Poirot is his Mustache.  A Poirot without a mustache would it smell as sweet? I answer no! A Poirot without a mustache is not a Poirot, it is like the donut without the sprinkles, it will not digest.

If one wanted to get hardcore, wouldn’t we disparage the hell out of Suchet for his mustache then?  Branagh’s which people seem to have a hard time with is more faithful.  After seeing the 1974 version Agatha Christie said she was disappointed with the mustache Finney wore, she had described Poirot’s mustache as one of the finest in England, and used the word “Enormous” to describe it at times, and then Finney had this puny little thing.  Well if Finney’s mustache was inadequate, than suchet’s is even more inadequate as it is smaller than Finney’s.  But the point isn’t that Suchet’s mustache isn’t as faithful, it’s that each actor who takes on the roll needs to have some leeway to make it their own.  Suchet did it so effectively that people now think that his mustache is accurate and Branagh’s is a wild and ridiculous exaggeration. The “fact” is simply not true, it is like the FOX news.  Following the person who has played the roll for so long that they have become synonymous with it is a challenge.  You must still play the same character but you must find your own take on it.  You choose to demphasize or ignore certain elements, but highlight or emphasize others.  Branagh plays up the OCD angle a bit more than Suchet (in a single story, obviously Suchet played the character 70 times, over his career he played up every aspect more than Branagh could in one film.) He also adds a depth that Suchet conveyed at times, but this felt like a more soulful Poirot than I was used too.  One other comment about the mustache, it is big, but it seems bigger in stills than it feels as you watch the film, the point of it is that people will take him less seriously and underestimate him, thus making him more effective a detective. The character is supposed to appear ridiculous, at least to the unsuspecting characters who encounter him.

Purists will rail against changes from the novel, the two actionish scenes being the obvious complaints, but honestly I do not see how it changes the destination, it just adds some twists, ups the stakes, adds some thrills. Valid additions when making a film that you hope will be popular and sell tickets while entertaining audiences. Others will complain that Branagh changed a character from white to Black and also made him a Dr. rather than a soldier.  Well the Suchet Film also changed the character of the Dr., In the book and the 1974 film he is not a suspect just a Dr on board from a different carriage.  In both Suchet and Branagh’s version the Dr, is combined in as one of the suspects thus eliminating a role. There is a large cast of characters, this is a clever way to condense that number.  Also the characters race, allowed for some other comments that were not in the book but added something positive to the film.  A way to up the diversity, and hopefully make it more accessible to a wider audience. While we are on the subject of the 1974 film, it garnered 6 Academy Award Nominations, having seen it I have only one question… Why?  After hearing some criticisms of the Branagh film, I want to go back to those people and say watch Lumet's lauded version.  1st you wanna criticize Poirot’s, Finney seems confused whether he is playing Hercule Poirot or Richard III.  2nd I heard the criticism that there were too many establishing shots or outside shots, one, I didn’t think that, two at least they were gorgeous shots.  Lumet’s version as you watch the scenery out the window looks like rural England in a snowless winter.  3rd flat and uncinematic I heard, well Lumet’s seemed completely by the book to me.  It’s boring, it’s drab, I found it hard to watch.  Suchet’s version was very good, a well produced episode. But the critics seem to be saying my remake Lumet’s masterpiece...maybe so someone under the age of 50 could watch it and enjoy it.  I found it appallingly bad.

Cinematically I again loved the new version. I thought the establishing shots were beautiful. I felt the shots throughout, of the train either racing through or stranded in the mountains, giving a sense of how cut off from civilization they were, the isolation and the rugged terrain.  Establishing visually, that walking out or expecting help in a matter of hours wasn’t possible. I found it well paced, opening with a terrific conclusion to a case, also establishing the keys to Poirot’s character, the OCD, and the weariness of this man, who finds the imperfections of the world hard to live with. A couple of shots stick out as interesting and effective cinematic choices.  The discovery of the murder is shot from a bird's eye view, I loved the long take, showing Poirot take charge, I liked the fact that it focused on the characters reactions and did not show the crime scene immediately.  To me the reactions of the group discovering the body was more interesting than showing us the victim. I also very much enjoyed the long tracking shots outside the train following characters as they walked through the train, it gave a sense of the geography, and presented a lot of information in an interesting way.

I thought the shot composition was wonderful, there is a scene where Poirot is in his compartment and he has a monologue, the framing and the performance reminded me of Branagh’s Hamlet.  I have to admit this is probably his best film performance since Hamlet.  I came out of the film feeling he should be nominated for best actor.  That will never happen, but in my opinion it should.  I found his performance riveting.  There is between two people at times a perfect understanding. Sometimes you find someone with whom you have a connection where the communication they are sending comes in clear and without any distortion.  I believe that my admiration for Kenneth Branagh comes from that connection. What he sends out in his performances and in his direction is at the perfect frequency for my brain.  Our brains must communicate in very similar ways.  I believe that happens from time to time whether it is an artist or a interpersonal relationship, some people are just tuned to the same frequency as we are, when we find those people, special connections are made, in the case of artists it’s a one way connection, but those people because they communicate their art to us so perfectly, are the ones that become our favorites.  They are also probably the ones people stalk, because the don’t have have the ability to realize it’s a matter of communicating on the same frequency rather than a special personal connection.

Overall I couldn’t be more pleased with the film.  I thought it remained faithful to the plot of the novel, while still taking some steps into new and fresh territory, which for a veteran of the tale and its adaptations allowed it to remain fresh and engaging.  It isn’t a slavishly faithful adaptation but it also doesn’t rewrite the plot.  There is no point in making a new adaptation if you are going to use the same script as an earlier version, alternately there is also no point in adapting Murder on the Orient Express if you plan to change the ending, then call it something else.  I think it does exactly what you’d want from a new adaptation, Some new twists and turns to keep you on your toes and off balance while ultimately staying faithful to the Novel.  Likewise with Branagh’s portrayal of Poirot. Ultimately you will recognize him as Poirot, again what is the point of another adaptation if Branagh were to merely try and copy Suchet.  It is vital that he create a distinct and yet in spirit truthful interpretation, a fresh take that reinvigorates the character, and for me he did. Box office returns look promising, critical reaction is on the low side and of the 9 people, including myself that I personally know who saw it, we are 5 thumbs up and 4 thumbs down.  It will depend on the box office ultimately, but I would love to have a new Poirot film from Branagh grace the screen every two or three years.  I think the difference in interpretation, the sticker shock if you will, will lessen with more exposure and become embraced for what it brings not what it doesn’t.  

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


Last night was hard, and this morning when the results of the Presidential election between Clinton and Trump was there to greet me I felt defeated.  I was flashing back to the 2000 election and then the 2004 election, after which I turned away for the most part from politics and even current events.  The 2000 election there is no point in going into, We were all shocked and angry and frustrated and on the edge of our seats, it was a circus, it was crazy.  A very controversial decision was finally made and we accepted and moved forward.  In 2004 I was flabbergasted at my fellow Americans.  I watched Bush talk, and he not a very smart guy.  Kerry seemed to know what he was talking about, sounded intelligent and seemed inline with my thinking.  I mean, to me watching the two men talk there was no question, who was smarter and who had ideas and plans that made sense.  I thought it was a slam dunk.  How could anybody vote for a guy who couldn't speak using words of more than two syllables.  And then he won again, and I felt he wasn't the problem, the people were the problem. They don't want to look at facts.

Say what you want about Bill Clinton, but when he left office the Country was in good shape.  You don't have to agree with him or like him and I'm sure there are things you hated that he did.  But in measurable things like the Economy, the unemployment rates, the Deficit, we were in much better shape than when he took office.  So what did the country do? they voted the other ticket. After 8 years of Bush we were in a horrible place, and you know that's true.  No one in this country was looking forward to the long road back from Bush.   After 8 years of Obama, we are in a much better place than we were when he took office, in the measurable things.  You might hate Obamacare or Black people, but in the measurable things we are doing well.  Our Country is back on track to being great again.  So what did we do? we voted the other ticket again.  Why?  To get rid of Obamacare?  as long as you can keep your health insurance premiums down, it's alright if you end up unemployed and lose your house right?  As long as your Premiums are lowered, it's OK if other people don't have health insurance?  Because having a large portion of the population who don't have insurance and thus cannot afford to pay their Dr. bills, leaving hospitals and clinics to absorb those costs and pass them onto everyone else in the form of $50 boxes of Kleenex, that doesn't affect the cost of health insurance down the road.

So I feel that the issue is with Americans in general.  Too many of them don't like facts.  They elected W. because he sounded dumb, like they are.  They voted for Trump ...Why?  If you could drop everyone back into the world eight years ago, remind them of what their fears and worries were, what they were facing in terms of employment, debt, housing.  and then bring them back to today and have them look around at their lives in the two time periods, most would have to say that life is better now. The problems they are so angry about, this white male anger, what is it about?  Obamacare?  if so that's one thing.  You want to throw the Employment rate and the economy out with Obamacare and the bathwater? You know what white male anger is?  It's whining.  The most privileged group in our society is angry why?  I don't know I'm asking.  You know what the reasons are going to be, either thinly veiled prejudices, whether racial, sexual, gender based, or religious. Or what most of us would term First world problems. I pay too much in taxes I couldn't even afford a third snowmobile this year.  My insurance premiums are so high I had to start drinking just a 6 pack a night instead of a 12 pack.  Other people are getting welfare money to buy clothes and I have to work and buy my own clothes.

That's the one that's the most childish and representative of what is opposite to my way of thinking.  "Other people are getting"  "they are getting this...." "Why do they get that?" "they don't deserve to have those!"  Because here's what I believe, The only time you should be looking at what other people have, is to make sure they have enough.  I understand taking care of you and your family first.  But it is selfish and self centered to think you can take things away from others so that you have more.  "
All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."? This idea that you deserve things more than others, that you are entitled to more than others. That is one of the issues at the heart of this white male anger. 

After this last election I am tempted to turn my back on Politic again, and try and just wait out the storm.  But I don't think that's the answer.  Look I'm never going to run for office, and I'm sure I'm not going to be the one to convert anyone's way of thinking in the next election.  But I think I need to try and understand the other side better.  But that's a hard thing to do.  We have some core differences in beliefs from what I can see.  My biggest problem with Republicans is what I see as their hypocrisy.  For me one of the main beliefs of the Republicans is that Government should be small, basically government should stay out of peoples business, it is there to provide infrastructure, military, create and enforce laws. run the country but not the citizens.  I'm sure I'll hear if I'm way off on that.  But what they seem to want to do is tell everyone else what they can do. Whether it's what they can do with their bodies, who they can love, Who they can marry, who they can worship.  That to me seems like a paradox.  The party that doesn't want government overseeing anything more than it has too should be able to tell people those things?  Really it's the arrogance that they have the right to tell others what to do.  That they are right and others are wrong!  

They get all up in arms if there is talk of better gun control laws in the wake of innocent children being killed.  "Government does not have the right to tell me what kind of guns I own or how many!"  But the guy who says that also thinks the government should have the right to say who you can marry.  Marriage is meant to share love, it's meant to be a commitment to loving and being with another person.  Guns are meant to kill things (sometimes legitimate things, and sometimes not). Which one do you think Government should have a say in?  I don't think they have any business in peoples interpersonal relationships and personal commitments.  I do think they should have a say in what type of guns people own, who owns them, and how they get them.  

The other big single issue that seems to make people vote one way or another is Abortion.  It's hard for me as a man to feel that I really have any right to tell a woman what she can do with her body.  I will never have an abortion. I don't have the equipment.  I'll never face that decision on the personal internal level that a woman does.  When my girlfriend and then future second wife got pregnant, we decided to have the baby and get married. I don't remember even considering an abortion. If my third wife (I told you I'd never run for office) got pregnant tomorrow, I think we would have a conversation about it. I think I would ultimately desire having the child and maybe my wife would too.  But it is her body, and ultimately the final decision is hers.  It's her body, it's her life, she is in her 40's now there could be medical risks because of her age or other health issues she has.  For me, I don't think I would choose to have an abortion for a baby that we created together as a couple in a loving relationship.  If she were raped, and was pregnant, I think I would be much more open to it, but again it is her body it is her life.  I may be her husband but I do not get to make that kind of decision for her, nor should the government.  I get that we all have different beliefs on when life begins.  But you don't get to force your beliefs on other people.  You have your beliefs, have em all day and all night, knock yourself out with your beliefs.  And you sure have the right to share your beliefs. But you don't have the right to overrule others beliefs with your own, you do not have the right to force your beliefs on anyone else, not your Life beliefs, not your religious beliefs or your sexual orientation beliefs.  

And that's where we hit a brick wall isn't it.  There a group, maybe 30 to 50 % of those who voted for Trump (it's a guess, don't bother trying to fact check it, I'm trying to guesstimate) Who Believe, and will never ever change in that belief, that everyone should belief what they do and there should be laws to make it so.  Most of them probably also believe that the Bible (which I think is a valuable book) is fact, every word of it, every period, every comma.  They seem not to realize that it is a book that has been through many changes over the years, many interpretations, many editorial additions and deletions. I'm not going to attempt to go through it here, here's a link to the Wikipedia link on the bible, . it's interesting and informative and I know Wikipedia isn't infallible, but even if some of the details are off, you can get the gist of how every period and every comma has been manipulated.  So the arrogance of someone who grew up in the backwoods of Missouri to say that the version of the bible their church uses is the one and only and is true fact, is not only  arrogant but highly unlikely, you know from a common sense point of view.  I mean what are the odds that the version of the bible being used in the Second Day of Holy Forgiveness Church in Bumblebee Arkansas is the one true word of God?  Isn't it more likely it's the version used by the Vatican in Rome?  But isn't there something in history about the Church frequently abusing their powers in olden days to  get money and power and keep people under their thumb.  You know back in the days when all the bibles were in Latin and only the clergy could read Latin and they hand copied the bibles...and maybe added stuff that worked in their favor and didn't actually come from God himself.  My point is, the Bible is a good book, it's a good book to use to teach your children about your beliefs, it's a good book to use as a moral guide for living life. It's a good book for use in worshiping your God. Guess that's why they call it The Good Book.  But remember in america we have the right to worship in our own ways to our own Gods and follow our own religions.

It's late, and I don't think I made a lot of sense here, at least not in terms of trying to understand.  But it's day one of the Apocalypse (just kidding) and I'm going to keep trying.  The next post will hopefully have less attack and more thought.  I'd love to hear from people who voted for Trump, not about how wrong I am about this or that, but, like I said above,  
The most privileged group in our society is angry why?  please post a comment if you have a real answer to that.  I really am looking for insight into why almost half the voters voted for Trump.  If it's because you didn't want to vote for Hillary, don't comment I got that down, it's noted.  I want to know why Trump not why not Hillary.  Because I look and listen to him and I hear hate and fear mongoring, which is a great way to trick someone into doing something you want them to do, make them afraid not too.  Doesn't have to be real or true, just make them afraid stir up their hate, tell them it's ok to hate the other, I do too, vote for me and we'll show em!!!!  Did you fall for that?  I know some of you did, but what about the rest.  Let me know.  And I'll keep trying to understand and let go of some of my own knee jerk reactions.  

But I'll tell you what, I'm seeing posts from friends on facebook today , from Iowa, from Maple Grove, about some really scary, really mean, behavior from Trump supporters towards children and women.  This is what we were saying was the danger of allowing someone who espoused those sentiments to run the country, behavior is modeled from the top down. You won the election, good for you, how do Trump supporters celebrate?  They go out and commit hate crimes.  Weird that the Hillary supporters are having trouble coming together to heal the country. You won the election have some grace a dignity, try offering us a hand rather than running around like a bunch of Klansmen.  Someone said to me now you know how I felt the last 8 years.  Man that comment is a whole new level of deluded.  So were you worried for the last 8 years that people were going to be mistreated, harmed and abused?  Were you worried that your rights would be revoked?  Were you worried that what tiny semblance or morality and Family values that still existed in this country would be wiped out?  People feel threatened physically by the climate this President has created.  A woman in Iowa was run off the road and approached with a can of lighter fluid and a lighter because she had a Hillary sticker on her car.  The approached yelling Dyke, Faggot, and shouting GO TRUMP.  In Maple Grove, black kids were faced with "Fuck Niggers" "Trump Train Written on their lockers.  From Fargo a Mexican exchange student doesn't feel safe at school today because he was taunted with remarks like "what are you gonna do when the wall goes up?" Why do people think this is OK now?  Why are children behaving like this?  Because you just elected a man who uses this type of rhetoric all the time and did so on television for your kids to see.  You voted for him, you told them this is OK.  Tell me again how much you love Jesus?  How you are the party of family values? How we should all do what you say because you know best.  

I'm tired, I'm going to bed, I'm sharing with you, share with me.  But don't just say "Democrates wha wha wha "  explain the above?  help me see that you have reasons that make sense and explain this

Friday, March 13, 2015


I've been listening to Cat Stevens today and his music is really connecting to me, particularly Father and Son. It seems to me it's about that point in a parent child relationship where it becomes harder and harder to communicate. The Father is trying to tell the son what he knows of life, and the son is doing what all children must do, be independent. The father tries to speak about putting things in perspective, the son feels everything so keenly and rawly and needs to act, to be.

I'm a father of three, two boys and a girl. People overhear conversations I have with the kids on the phone or hear about what we are doing or see posts on facebook, and they say you are a great Dad. Well I'm not a great Dad. I'm too hard on all of them, I don't know any other way to be. I see them doing things wrong or making bad decisions or taking the easy way out and I try and correct it. I try and point out what they are doing wrong. Why you shouldn't stay up until 3:00 AM texting friends on a school night, why you need to keep track of your things, why you need to put the cap on the toothpaste, why when you spill something you need to clean it up, why you need to hang up your towel, why you need to take an interest in people, why you need to communicate your feelings. I do these things to the degree that even I think I'm a Dick sometimes. But I don't know any other way. When I see my kids hurting I need to say "What's wrong?" When I see my kids being irresponsible I need to say "Hey! come back and do that right".

So All that is what it is, it's not even what I've been thinking about. All I can say about that is I don't know how not to say "Put the lid back on the peanut butter". I don't know how not to ask "What are you doing in your room when you say you are doing hoomework, since you haven't actually done any homework?" I do think, that it's doing things like that though, that keep them from opening up to me about other things. I know that even if that weren't the case there are things that we all want to communicate to our kids but they will never be able to hear. It was like that when we were them. When I was the age of my oldest I was working full time, had a drivers license, a serious (way too) girlfriend, was involved in groups and activities at school. I vaguely remember my Dad saying something along the lines of "Just relax, take it easy.You're still young, that's your fault, There's so much you have to know." I think I heard him say that , but I can't be sure because I couldn't really hear him, I think he might have been too old to be heard.

So what do I want to tell them that they can't hear. I want to tell them and have them understand, really understand, that I love them. That I'm hard on them because I'm afraid, I'm afraid of what happens to them when I'm not there anymore. I want to tell them that they need to take things seriously, they need to do their work, they need to learn how to do the things they don't want to do. I want them to understand that the work you do allows you to do the fun things you want to do. Work is not something you do when you get bored of all the fun stuff. The work is what you do, and then when it's done, you do what gives you joy. I want to tell them that the luckiest people in the world are the ones that love their work, but that to get to that point you have to do work. If you think you would love teaching sign language, then you need to learn sign language. You also have to get a teaching degree so you know how to teach sign language to someone, and someone will pay you to do it. That means taking the time to get decent grades in school and going to college. And that's where doing the things you don't want to do, so that you can then do the things you want to do, comes in. If there is a certain type of life you want to have, then you need to find out what it takes to have that life, and do the work to get there.

I want to tell them that they should try and be one of those lucky people who do what they love. But they have to realize that they need to make a plan for that to happen. If you don't want to spend your life in a cubicle doing something you have little interest in. Then figure out what you want to do and how to do that. It will not happen to you, you have to make it happen. You have to make a plan, you have to execute the plan, you have to invest yourself in the plan. If you do, you can do anything. If you don't, you end up just doing something. You have to do these things now while you are young or you spend the rest of your life playing catchup or trying to get the time or energy to follow through on what you wanted to do. You are only young once, which means you should enjoy it, but it's also the only time you ever get when you don't have to provide for yourself, someone else will, allowing you the time to focus on your future. "For you will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not".

I want to tell them that even though it seems like I don't get it, I do. I know it's hard to start your homework, I know it's more fun to watch a movie, play a game, talk to a friend then it is to do your assignments. I know Math is stupid and that doing dishes sucks. when you get older, math is still stupid, but you need to be able to balance your checkbook and it comes in handy for that, and doing dishes still sucks, but you need clean dishes to eat off of. There are things you can do to get over the inability to do these things. The hardest but most important is to just condition yourself to do them. When dinner is done get up and do your dishes, that way it's done and you don't let it slip into a insurmountable pile of dirty dishes. When you get home from school do your homework, don't leave it until the end of the night when you are tired and tempted to lie and say it's all done rather than deal with it. When you get up in the morning jump in the shower and brush your teeth, make it a habit, then you are ready for whatever comes. Make rules for yourself and hold yourself too them. I will read at least one book a month to educate myself expand my understanding of my fellow man and for enjoyment. I will brush my teeth every night at bedtime. I will not go to bed with homework that is due the next day undone. all of these things will make your life smoother less stressful and ultimately happier.

Take control of your life, your time, whether it's something you have to do or something you want to do. If you have to do it, just get it done. If you've got free time, do something you want to do, don't waste it being bored or flicking through your iwhatever. you want to play a video game play a video game. you want to watch a TV show, watch the TV show you want to see, don't flip channels, there is always something on but don't just watch something, watch what you WANT to watch. If what you want to watch isn't on, read a book, ride a bike, talk to a friend, do a puzzle, write a play, make a movie. It's as important to use your free time wisely, as it is your work time.

Finally remember that I do Love you

"I was once like you are now, and I know that it's not easy"

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Word on Woody

Please read the linked article written by Robert Weide the maker of Woody Allen: A Documentary which aired on american Masters on PBS in 2012

So the thing that bothers me is I just clicked on a link on our company homepage that has Yahoo news links, this one was titled Why Stars Work With Woody.   It contains this line “The charges of abuse first came to light during divorce hearings between Allen and Mia Farrow in 1992.”  Which we know isn’t true as they were never married, but this is in a news story!!   Shouldn’t someone writing a news story on this subject know at least as much as I do about it?  And use facts?

After reading the attached article yesterday there is no doubt in my mind that we don’t know what really happened.   And it certainly reinforced my feeling that there is plenty to question and give you pause about.   Unfortunately the “newspapers” just put out headlines and 80% of people believe it, 10% of the others believe where there is smoke there may be fire.   After reading the entire article yesterday I think it’s fair to say that there is as good a chance that he did  not do this as there is he did.  I’d even lean to the side of saying it seems more likely he didn’t, but I’m a fan and can’t imagine him doing that, so I have to take that into account.  I've also witnessed people so bitter from divorce that they would have considered making these types of allegations to hurt their ex.   Many people will just say they can't imagine Mia Farrow doing that, well I can't imagine Woody doing what he is accused of, but one of them did it.  The point is we don't know, and I don't think the headlines that are out there are giving an unbiased view to people.   I think most people who read the attached article will come away with a lot of information they didn't know, and it will not seem so black and white to them anymore.

Even the genuinely creepy issue of Soon-Yi seems a little less creepy once you have some of those facts laid out.   A lot of assumptions I had were corrected or clarified.  Still the age difference whether it’s Woody and Soon-Yi or Mia and Sinatra, is just weird to me, but it does happen a lot.   I think what happens to a lot of people is they see that relationship and say well obviously he did this to Dylan.  But there really is no correlation between an older man wanting to have a relationship with a 19 year old woman and wanting to have one with a child.   Most men will find a 19 year old woman attractive sexually, but find a 7 year old completely unrelated to those thoughts.   That line of thinking seems like logic to a lot of people on the surface, but it's the same type of thinking that says a homosexual is probably also a pedophile.  there is zero correlation.

I don't think I can really add anything to the excellent essay linked above, like that author I don't know what really happened.  the point is no one outside Woody Allen and Mia Farrow do.  I wanted to post this in hopes that more people we see this article and realize there are more than just the mainstream headlines. If Woody did the things he is accused of that's terrible, if he didn't what is being done to him now and has hung over him for the last two decades is terrible.   Either way someone has done something Terrible to Dylan.  

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Day the Movies Died

1942 -2013
The Balcony is closed, but we will feel you with us at the movies
Roger Ebert's death is a loss to me, an incalculable loss.  He was one of my heroes, but also, I have now lost another link to my past. I rarely think of Roger without thinking of my Dad.  My earliest memories of Roger are of watching Sneak Previews with my Dad in the basement of  our house.  We loved to watch the show through the years, and while we liked both Siskel and Ebert, we both preferred Ebert.  I think we tended to agree with his opinions more, plus, in a way it seemed like if you blurred your eyes he might be my Dad, if Dad shaved off the mustache. 

I think the reason we connected with Ebert is that we watched movies in a way similar to the way he did.  We watched them first with our hearts and then with our minds.  Roger said "Your Intellect may be confused, but your emotions will never lie to you."    My first response to a film, and the most important, is my emotional response.  There are films I love which I know are not great films, but they illicit an emotional response which I cannot deny, they are my favorites.  Likewise there are films that I can view and recognize that they are accomplishments but that do not connect on an emotional level.  Those may be great movies, but they will never be favorites.  Ebert recognized that film was an emotional art form, and viewed films through that lens, as did Dad and I.  Anyone who has watched more than four films with me knows that I cry at the movies.  Anyone who has watched iCarly with me knows I cry at that too, but that's off topic.  Dad was the same, maybe not as acutely affected as I am but it got dusty during plenty of screenings for him as well.

I love film, It is important to me.  That love started with my Dad and was enhanced and validated by Roger Ebert.  Later in college my love was placed into context and rounded out by Ted Larson, my college Professor, Mentor, Friend, Surrogate father, and the Headmaster of Weld Hall.  There are certainly filmmakers that have inspired me with their works, and friends who have shared a love of films, but it has to be said that these three men had the greatest impact on me and my love of cinema.  Ted also watched Siskel and Ebert, and while I can't honestly say I remember for sure, I think he was a Rogerite as well.  All three of these men were at least for a fair amount of their existence overweight, is that significant?  probably not, other than a life in front of the movies is a somewhat sedentary life.  But Ebert turned that around in the last decade or so of his life, and that is another way in which he continues to inspire. 

Ted died 13 years ago, my father  almost Nine years ago, now the last great film lover is gone as well.  But I also lost a hero, not just an influence.  There are two writer's I admire most, who's advice on writing I cherish and hold up as ideals. Who's strategies and work ethics I try and impart to my son.  Roger Ebert and Stephen King.  They are both prolific writers, because they are doing what they love.  They realized that writers write, they don't sit looking at an empty page they start writing.  I think it was Ebert but it could have been King, they are so similar in their advice, who said (I'm paraphrasing) The muse visits during the act of creation, not before.  I have always found both of them to be motivational and inspiring as writers.  Roger Ebert posted his last blog entry the day before he died.  In that entry he pointed out that the last year of his life had been his most prolific as a writer.  He didn't retire when he got sick he used his work to find a new lease on life.  A way to communicate  and stay social after the loss of his voice.  A man who took a hit that would knock most people out and found a way to not only stay on his feet but grow taller. 
Every time I read one of Roger's reviews, blogs or essays I would think of either Ted or my Dad and wonder what they would make of it.   Now I will not have those moments anymore.  As I come across fewer and fewer occasions when I read a piece of Eberts', I know that I will think back on these men less and less.  It feels as though with the last of them gone, I now must finally mourn, not just these fine fellows, but the passing of the birth of my love for film.  That little piece of them that Ebert kept alive has now departed with him, as they all proceed into the Undiscover'd country.

While I have lost that link to my past I am also aware that Roger Ebert's influence on me is also part of my future.  For we are all but continuations of our pasts, the sum of our previous experiences.  He was with me when I began to love movies and while he is now gone, that passion he inspired and the example he has set will continue and always be a part of me.  He is gone, and there will be no new Writings to be read, but what he has left behind will remain as it does with all great writers.  I know that I will return often to what he has left behind and continue to find inspiration there.  But it is vital that we not see this only as an ending, for what Roger believed in is not gone he has merely passed the job of sharing it onto us.  I will try and follow his example and write more.   I will try and live a good life full of empathy and understanding.  I will share the importance of and my love of movies with my children.  Because film is art, and art is important.  There is a quote from the film, and I assume the play Shadowlands that says "we Read to know we are not alone."  I've always felt this applied to films as well, We watch films to know that we are not alone.  Sadly the theatre seems less crowded today.

Together again

Friday, October 12, 2012

14 Days of Halloween: A Veiwers schedule

In honor of Monster Month here is a reccomended viewing schedule for the tqwo weeks leading up to Halloween. It's basically 3 movies anight with four films on saturday's.

I'd love to hear if anyone actually attempts it.

Give yourself a 1 point for every film you watch during the 14 days, Two for each film you watch on the day assigned, three points for each film if you watch the entire nigths schedule on the correct night. And of course 1,258 points if you follow the entire schedule without missing a single day.

Oct. 18th:
City of the Dead
The blair witch Project

 Oct. 19:
Night of the Living Dead
28 Days Later
28 weeks Later

Oct. 20:
Scream 2
Scream 3
Scream 4

Oct. 21:
Scream of Fear

Oct. 22:
Night of the Demon
The Devils Backbone
Let the Right One In

Oct. 23:
The Thing From another world
Invasion of the body Snatchers

Oct. 24:
Black sunday
The Pit and the Pendulum
Sleepy Hollow

Oct. 25:
The Haunting
The Others
The Orphanage

Oct. 26:
Rosemary's Baby
Angel Heart
The Excorcist

Oct. 27:
The Bride of Frankenstein
The wolfman (1941)
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

Oct. 28:
The Horror Of  Dracula
The Curse of Frankenstein
The curse of the Werewolf

Oct. 29:
Bram Stoker's Dracula
Mary shelly's Frankenstein
The wolfman (2010)

Oct. 30:
Salem's Lot (1979)
The Shining

Oct. 31: Halloween
Halloween II
Halloween H20

Friday, October 5, 2012

Giallo to Slasher

The Last two entries have revolved around the Horror films that I grew up with or read about as a child. The films that laid the groundwork for what I must admit is now something of a love of the genre. This time I’d like to talk about The next area of horror which my increasing appetite led me too. Reading magazine articles and internet searches on horror films led me to the films of Mario Bava, particularly Black Sunday (1960). Black Sunday led me to the Italian Giallo style horror films. These foreign films led me back again to the American slasher films of the late 70’s and 80’s through basically today.

BLACK SUNDAY Bava’s Black Sunday is a very stylized and visually captivating film. Black Sunday is inundated with shots and sequences that stick with you. It’s a black and white tale of Vampires and witchcraft. The story takes second place to the visual style and atmosphere of the film, much like the Hammer films. I was really surprised when I first saw Black Sunday that there was this Masterwork of Horror visuals, which I was completely unaware of. I began to explore Bava’s other works. He has made several very good horror films dealing with supernatural elements such as Black Sabbath and Kill Baby Kill. He is also credited with beginning the Italian style of horror film called Giallo. The Giallo tradition of horror films (background of which I owe my education to various internet searches and Wikipedia) actually began as a tradition of cheap book editions of murder mysteries with yellow covers. In the early 60’s Italian filmmakers began making murder films in a very stylized manner, with masked killers and very extreme and dramatic deaths. There are many components to the Giallo style which I will not go into, I recommend the Wikipedia entry to anyone interested in learning more about the Giallo tradition in depth. Reported to be the first Giallo film is Bava’s The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963). Bava later established more of the genre’s conventions with Blood and Black Lace (1964). This is the film where the masked killer with a sharp knife and black gloves becomes a staple of the Giallo. This then in turns leads us to The masked Slasher films of the US in the 70’s and 80’s. Halloween being the most iconic and brilliant example.

BLOOD AND BLACK LACE Here is where I must take a step back and explain how all of these things come together for me personally. I’ve written of my love for the old Universal Monster movies and the progression to Hammer/Poe Pictures. Things might have stopped there but in May of 1998 my son Alex was born, I didn’t know it then, but Monsters would play a huge part in his early years, and resurrect my then dormant love of horror. Alex became fascinated with the Universal Movie Monsters just as I had only at an even earlier age. We had many of the films on laserdisc but his obsession with them led to purchasing as many of the films on DVD as we could find for one of our many long road trips when he was younger. His fascination with the films and toys all led me to a renewed interest as well. As he got older we started to check out the Hammer films, they had color and blood but it was OK because it was “Hammer blood”. The other thing we had to watch out for in those days as we explored horror films was "poppy outies!"  Those are the moments when something pops out and startles you, Alex didn’t like those then, he does now and teases me for screaming when they happen. As he got older we started watching the films that I had always been too afraid to watch. He, like me, seems to enjoy watching things in order and so we watched the Scream films, and the Nightmare on Elm Street films and the Friday the 13th films, and the mother of all Horror Series for me, The Halloween series.

As I look over the progression it seems to me that Halloween is the evolution of the Italian Giallo films and the Monster series films combined. In Halloween, We have the masked killer with the knife going around and killing people in very dramatic and theatrical staging. We also have the Series element where from film to film we pick up where the last film left off, like the Old Universal Monster cycle of films. On top of that Michael Myers, is the scariest movie monster of them all. I don’t know why it is , but just thinking about that mask scares the hell out of me. What I like about those films is that he is not supernatural. He has an almost supernatural ability to take a licking and keep on ticking, but technically he’s human, his prey have a chance. This is not the case with the Jason films of the Freddy Krueger films, and thus they get less scary and more ridiculous as they go on. I don’t really care for watching some maniac kill a bunch of teenagers (Friday the 13th Part Whatever), I am interested in good battling evil (Halloween). I’m not interested in seeing more and more blood and gross out special effects (A Nightmare on Elmstreet 3) I am interested in Horror Visuals, that draw upon shadows and darkness frightening imagery and suspense (Halloween). I like there to be a mystery at the heart of the horror, some motive, no matter how far fetched and that is what Halloween also took from the giallo films. That’s also why I enjoy the Scream series so much. There is a real life flesh and blood human being behind it all, the heroes have a chance, we care for the heroes, they survive and continue throughout the series and we are thus invested in them as actual characters not just fodder for the killer. Anytime I plan to rewatch the Halloween series, just thinking about it is scares me. Michael Myers really is horror personified for me.