Ben Kingsley

At NPR, Rachel Martin interviews the great Ben Kingsley about portraying Adolf Eichmann in the new film Operation Finale.

Martin: You are remarkably able to...humanize him feels so trite and it's not the right word, but portray him in a multi-dimensional way. He is so very ordinary at this point in his life. He's living outside Buenos Aires with his wife, he takes the bus to work every day. How did you strike that balance between the man who was and the man who is, when we meet him?

Kingsley: Well, Rachel, you used the word humanize, and it's interesting that in fact I did not humanize him. The tragedy is that these men and women were part of a national movement that mobilized their military, their ideology, their culture, their language, their engineering, to annihilate as many of Europe's Jews as they could. But these people — however difficult it might be for us to swallow — were human beings, and to play them as a two-dimensional comic strip villain or a run-of-the-mill-"baddie" would be to do a terrible disservice to history and the memory of those that they murdered. For the years of extermination between 1933 and 1945, it was men and women who did this. It was not my duty to humanize anything because tragically, it's already human.

The greatest, most tragic error we could now make is to dismiss Nazis as two-dimensional villains, or to consign the Holocaust to an increasingly distant corner of history. Because the Nazis were human, just as human as we are today — quick to blame others for our own shortcomings, especially those who lack the power to defend themselves against the majority. Until we take full responsibility for our own lives, and fully respect the lives of others, the Holocaust will probably happen again. In fact, on a lesser scale it already has - in Bosnia, Rwanda, Myanmar and too many other places.

August 29, 2018 in Film, History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Quote

“My philosophy of life is that I’m living every moment intensely, as if it were the last moment. I don’t think of what I did before or what I’m going to do. I think of what I’m doing right now.” - Omar Sharif (1932-2015)

July 11, 2015 in Film | Permalink | Comments (0)

All hail Pottersville!

I devoutly love It's A Wonderful Life (after double-digit viewings, I still tear up when George Bailey runs down the middle of the street, shouting "Merry Christmas!" to everyone he sees; the tone-deaf singing of "Auld Lang Syne" by Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed at the end makes me smile, not cringe; etc.) and yet I still can't help admire the contrarian view of Gary Kamiya, who hilariously argues for the roaring iniquity of Pottersville over the soporific Bedford Falls.
The gauzy Currier-and-Ives veil Capra drapes over Bedford Falls has prevented viewers from grasping what a tiresome and, frankly, toxic environment it is. When Marx penned his immortal words about "the idiocy of rural life," he probably had Bedford Falls in mind.
His interpretations of Bert the cabbie and Nick the bartender are particularly sharp.

(Via Boing Boing.)

November 27, 2012 in Film | Permalink | Comments (0)

Mockingbird, illustrated

Mockingbird

Absolutely lovely: David Stone Martin's illustrations for the Reader's Digest Condensed Books edition of To Kill A Mockingbird. The film adaptation has long been one of my favorites, but for some reason I didn't first read the book until just a few years ago, but I loved that as well. Maddie read the book for her homeschooling earlier this year, and loved it, which prompted the three of us watched the restored version of the film on USA, which was really great. What a wonderful family moment.

June 22, 2012 in Books, Film | Permalink | Comments (3)

Just this side of awesome.

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Stanley Kubrick's marked-up copy of Stephen King's The Shining, filled with the director's notes and comments. How fascinating it would be to read through this, not just for King's original but for Kubrick's reactions, which undoubtedly influenced his making of the film version.

(Via Condalmo).

May 28, 2012 in Books, Film | Permalink | Comments (1)

One Sentence Movie Review: The Adjustment Bureau (2011)

Adjustmentbureau

Not even the most predetermined fate can withstand the strongest will.

Moderately enjoyable flick that reminded me of Inception but with a much simpler plot. Julie had to explain various aspects of Inception to me for an hour after that movie ended - no such trouble here. Matt Damon is appealingly charismatic, as always.

As always, thanks to Kevin Smokler for the one-sentence concept.

July 5, 2011 in Film | Permalink | Comments (0)

Julie and I make our cinematic debut.



Critics will probably dismiss this as digressive and emotionally overwrought, but I think it captures our artistic vision extremely well.

November 16, 2008 in Film, Personal | Permalink | Comments (2)

Paul Newman

One of the true giants of acting has passed on. Others can and will do a much better job of expounding on Paul Newman's career than I'm capable of, so I'll just pass along this personal tidbit of my own. I used to play quite a bit of pool (more formally, "pocket billiards"), so much so that my first date with Julie took place at the Cue Club, an upscale but now-closed pool hall in Chicago. Whenever I played pool and found myself in one of those effortless grooves where it seems like you can't miss a shot, I would glide around the table after each made shot, sizing up the next one. And whenever I did so, I always thought of Newman's lines from The Hustler, as his character Eddie Felson watches in awe and marvels at the legendary Minnesota Fats (played by the equally incomparable Jackie Gleason):

Jeez, that old fat man. Look at the way he moves. Like a dancer...And them fingers, them chubby fingers. And that stroke. It's like he's, uh, like he's playing a violin or something.

And though nobody will ever call me Minnesota Fats - I've weighed around 155 pounds for twenty years now, so at best I'd be Illinois Slim - I've always thought of those lines when I'm shooting pool in one of those rare grooves.

Farewell, Mr. Newman.

September 28, 2008 in Film | Permalink | Comments (0)

One Sentence Movie Reviews: There Will Be Blood (2007)

Blood

There Will Be Blood (2007): Trust no one, for no one is exactly who they seem to be.


Notes: This was a very impressive and thought-provoking (not to mention dark and quite grim) film that explores ambition, greed, family bonds and isolation. Gorgeous cinematography, a haunting musical score and a riveting performance by Daniel Day-Lewis make this one of the better films I've seen in quite some time. Julie and I are both looking forward to reading Oil!, the Upton Sinclair novel on which the film was based, although I realize that the novel has much more of an epic sweep with a broad cast of characters than just the film, which focused squarely on Daniel Plainview.

(Thanks to Kevin Smokler for the "one sentence movie review" concept.)

September 9, 2008 in Film | Permalink | Comments (0)

Book-to-film

At The Morning News, Robert Birnbaum comes up with a list of great books made into great films. Check it out. While I'll preface my comments by saying that neither my book-reading or film-viewing careers are particularly comprehensive, here are the books-to-film on Birnbaum's list that I've either read or seen, or both.

Read and Seen: Grapes of Wrath, The Maltese Falcon, To Kill a Mockingbird

Read Only: The Scarlet Letter, The Long Goodbye, Catch-22, The 25th Hour

Seen Only: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Random thoughts:
+ Wow - I had no idea about Catch-22. And I've always been a fan of Alan Arkin. I'll have to search this one out.
+ I just so happen to be reading The Long Goodbye at the moment, and I'm having a very hard time picturing Elliott Gould as Marlowe.
+ To Kill a Mockingbird is definitely my top book/film pairing. The film still gives me goosebumps.
+ Ed Norton is one of my favorite actors, but I thought so little of the book of The 25th Hour that I doubt I'll ever bother with the film.
+ Birnbaum must not be a fan of Ian McEwan, because Atonement is one of the best books I've ever read, and a pretty damned good film, too.

August 14, 2008 in Books, Film | Permalink | Comments (2)

One Sentence Movie Reviews: Atonement (2007)

Atonement

Atonement (2007): Sometimes even the smallest of misunderstandings create consequences that can never be fixed.

Notes: Excellent film adaption of Ian McEwan's masterful novel, with characters and settings gorgeously depicted almost exactly as I imagined them from the book. McEwan's multi-layered first section, which showed the same events from multiple points of view (which was critical for showing Briony's youthful misinterpretation of things she saw), is faithfully recreated, with its repetition revelatory rather than cumbersome. Although financial constraints forced the filmmakers to omit McEwan's harrowing scene of soldiers retreating along the single road to Dunkirk, the film's vision of the encampment at Dunkirk itself is sufficiently horrific to get McEwan's point across. And the conclusion imparts Briony's guilt and final atonement just beautifully. A top-notch film.

(Thanks to Kevin Smokler for the "one sentence movie review" concept.)

June 16, 2008 in Books, Film | Permalink | Comments (0)

One Sentence Movie Reviews: Tin Men (1987)

Tinmen

Tin Men (1987): The arrival of age and career don't necessarily bring happiness and security.

Notes: Barry Levinson follows up his excellent Diner with another film set in early 1960s Baltimore, this time with star power (Richard Dreyfuss and Danny Devito) instead of the earlier film's younger, relative unknowns. In the later film it's as if the Diner guys were shifted ahead a generation, while staying in the same place and time - they gain careers and marriages and houses-with-mortgages while staying insecure, unsatisfied, unable to communicate with women and generally unahappy. Devito is wonderful here in all his typical tightly-wound comic fury (the scene where he prays in front of the salad bar is absolutely priceless) but Dreyfuss' lothario-turned-romantic doesn't quite click. The conclusion is also a bit flat and anticlimatic, bringing an unsatisfying end to what promised to be a very fine film.

(Thanks to Kevin Smokler for the "one sentence movie review" concept.)

January 12, 2008 in Film | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekend Multimedia

Film trailer for Horton Hears a Who!. As much as I loved the Seuss story, however, after viewing this I'm only modestly intrigued. As the father of a seven-year-old with an extensive DVD collection, most of these animated movies - especially the animal ones - are starting to look the same. I'm hoping the film retains enough of Dr. Seuss' original verse to distinguish it from the burgeoning crowd.

(Via Coudal.)

December 15, 2007 in Film | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekend Multimedia

Film trailer for Persepolis, which looks quite good. The book was one of my wife's favorites of the last several years, and I enjoyed it as well. Marjane Satrapi is a co-director of the film, so this isn't just some cheap Hollywood ripoff, but likely a genuine work of art.

And the trailer for Chicago 10. "Free speech died here," indeed.

Okay, this isn't really multimedia, but I'm passing it along anyway: a new biography of the great Elliott Smith, by Autumn de Wilde. (Then again, reading this book will undoubtedly inspire you to listen to Smith's music, so in a way this is a multimedia item.) There's another Smith bio already out there that I've been contemplating buying for a while now, from an online remainder shop, but it's only had mixed reviews and is written from an outsider perspective. De Wilde, by contrast, had access to Smith's friends and family, and will undoubtedly present a much fuller portrait of the man. And get this: the book also includes "a live CD of unreleased solo acoustic performances." Be still my heart.

November 17, 2007 in Film, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

The more things change...

Undoubtedly prompted by the Hollywood writers' strike, MovieMaker has republished, online, David Geffner's excellent piece on Jim Thompson's lost years as a Hollywood screenwriter, which originally appeared in the magazine's December 1996 issue. Clearly, writers getting screwed over by the studios is nothing new, and likely even predated Thompson, and will undoubtedly continue indefinitely - unless writers fight back for what they deserve.

Support the WGA!

November 14, 2007 in Books, Film | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekend Multimedia

On Sound Opinions, Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis dissect one of rock's greatest albums (and one of my favorites), the Replacements' Let It Be. The dynamic duo discusses the album with Jim Walsh, Minneapolis scenester and author of The Replacements: All Over But the Shouting. The segment starts at the 20:00 mark of the broadcast. (But shame on you, radio producers, for deleting the word "boner" from the repeated references to the song "Gary's Got a Boner." It's a legitimate word, meaning "a clumsy or stupid mistake." Well, that's one of the definitions, anyway.)

Lest we forget: Nirvana covering Leadbelly's "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?", from the legendary MTV Unplugged broadcast, which is finally being released on DVD. I didn't see this for the first time until years after Cobain's death. At the very end of the song, when Cobain sings "shiver" the final time, he opens his eyes with a look that seemed so vacant and lost that I remember sitting there stunned, saying "My god, he was gone already." What an incredibly powerful moment. Cobain was a truly great and singular artist, and his death was a loss for all of us.

Trailers for the documentaries King Corn and Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten. Both look fascinating - then again, I'd find Joe Strummer reading his grocery list to be fascinating. (Via Coudal.)

October 13, 2007 in Film, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Into the Wild

Wow. Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild, a fantastic book which is one of my absolute all-time favorites, has now been made into a film by Sean Penn. Here's the trailer. It looks terrific, and I'm really looking forward to seeing it. (While I'll allow Mr. Penn a great deal of artistic latitude in bringing Krakauer's story to film, I urgently hope he resisted the urge to give it a happy ending, which would be a betrayal to Chris McCandless' legacy.)

(Via Coudal.)

August 7, 2007 in Books, Film | Permalink | Comments (1)

Happy Birthday, Bugs!

A happy 67th to my first anti-hero hero.

It was on this day in 1940 that Bugs Bunny made his debut in a short animated film called A Wild Hare. Bugs Bunny was designed to be the epitome of cool, modeled on Groucho Marx, with a carrot rather than a cigar. He is never fazed by what the world throws at him. He nonchalantly chews on his carrot in the face of all his enemies, speaking in a Brooklyn accent. A Wild Hare, which premiered on this day, told the story of Elmer Fudd's attempt to hunt rabbits, only to have Bugs Bunny thwart him at every turn. Bugs Bunny's first line in the cartoon, when he meets Elmer Fudd, is, "What's up, doc?" It was a phrase that one of the writers remembered people saying where he grew up in Texas. It got such a big laugh in the theaters that the writers decided to make it a catchphrase.

How this item made it into "The Writer's Almanac" is completely lost on me but, given my lifelong reverence for Mr. Bunny, I'm not at all complaining.

July 27, 2007 in Film, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Atoning for Atonement

Now that I've finally started to read Atonement (thus giving my wife one less reason to doubt my literary taste and/or sanity), I can finally pass along this link that I've been sitting on for the last few weeks: the trailer for the film adaptation of McEwan's acclaimed novel. Looks great -- both the film and the book.

(Via Coudal.)

May 1, 2007 in Books, Film | Permalink | Comments (1)

One Sentence Movie Reviews: The Ice Harvest (2005)

Iceharvest_1

The Ice Harvest (2005): "Indeed, there is no perfect crime."

Notes: John Cusack agains pulls off an engaging noir, the second "comic noir" of his I'm aware of (after Gross Pointe Blank) and the third noir overall (the third is The Grifters, which I don't remember as being comic). He does the regular-guy-in-over-his-head-in-scam bit quite well, but Billy Bob Thornton's performance is only decent, Randy Quaid isn't nearly menacing enough, and Connie Nielsen's attempt at femme fatale allure is laughably wooden. Still, an enjoyable film overall, mostly due to Cusack's considerable talents.

(Thanks to Kevin Smokler for the "one sentence movie review" concept.)

March 7, 2007 in Film | Permalink | Comments (0)

Story to Film

Way cool: independent filmmaker Richard Skrip has created an 11-minute short film, "Blue Jeans and Black Leather", which is based on the short story of the same name by Steve McDermott (who published my first short story, at Storyglossia). Quietly riveting stuff--and the original story is even better.

Incidentally, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the film's opening scene was shot in my hometown of Joliet, just outside of the old Joliet Penitentiary. I ride past the old prison twice a day on the train to and from work. As far as prisons go, it's a beauty.

September 21, 2006 in Books, Film, Joliet | Permalink | Comments (0)

Film Trailer Archive Destroys Office Productivity Worldwide

Or at least it's doing so for me. This wonderfully exhaustive trove of film trailers old and new has most of my favorites:

Diner
Dr. Strangelove
Duck Soup
Local Hero
The Manchurian Candidate
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
On the Waterfront
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Ragtime
Rear Window
Rebel Without a Cause
To Kill a Mockingbird

Most, that is, but not all: not included is my favorite Clint Eastwood flick, High Plains Drifter.

(Via Coudal.)

June 27, 2006 in Film | Permalink | Comments (0)

Errol Morris on Truth

Renowned filmmaker Errol Morris (The Fog of War, The Thin Blue Line) has some fascinating observations about fiction versus nonfiction (as well as varying ways of presenting nonfiction in documentary films) in the April issue of The Believer:

Does style guarantee truth? Does printing something in the New York Times guarantee its truth? Because it appears in a certain paper in a certain font, a certain look, can we just say that because of that fact, it's true? A lot of people do think that way. It's interesting that the New York Times has had a font facelift. It's now all Cheltenham. All the time. No more Latin Extra Condensed. No more Century Bold Italic. Just Cheltenham. Maybe people were worried. I'm not sure about what. But maybe they were worried. Maybe the mixture of fonts looked less truthful.

The use of Cheltenham in the New York Times doesn't guarantee the truthfulness of the reporting. Presumably, Jayson Blair also used Cheltenham. By the way, I also have a theory about why the National Enquirer is more reliable than the New York Times:

Elizabeth Taylor can sue; the Kurds can't.

April 25, 2004 in Current Affairs, Film | Permalink | Comments (0)