Media Weather

Cooler weather

Clouds rolled in yesterday and brought cooler weather. Thankfully. It’s still quite warm and humid, but I won’t risk collapse just walking to the mailbox.

I have made good use of this enforced at home time, though. Spending a little time here adding yet another modification to my WordPress installation; a little time there working on the Redland RDF wrapper in Visual Studio.

I’ve also been catching up on all these movies I’m getting through Netflix, though we don’t get as many movies a week as we could. For instance, we don’t sit down immediately and watch a movie when it comes in; sometimes I’ll skip movies for a couple of nights, and my roommate might wait for the weekend. But we’ve both found the service to be a good value, and we’re happy with it.

It’s changed, too. To compete with the new movie service from Blockbuster and Walmart, Netflix is now offering an option that allows you to have five or eight movies out at a time, rather than three. I’m trying to imagine why a person would need to have eight movies out at once. But then, I don’t understand someone who has a thousand feeds in their aggregator either.

Anyway, back to the movies. This week I watched Timeline, Mystic River, The Last Samurai, and the Fog of War.

Timeline wasn’t bad, but was somewhat predictable. The kind of movie you can watch while you’re coding.

The acting in Mystic River was very good, especially Sean Penn; but there was something about the movie that didn’t click with me. I didn’t think it did a good job connecting the events in the past with the events in the present time. It’s as if the past events were incorporated just to add an element of angst to the movie – hip pedophile movie moments.

I’ve never cared for movies that introduce elements and then don’t tie them together intelligently. It just didn’t happen with Mystic River, numerous awards or not. However, I liked the actors, and they played Charlestown dwellers to a tee.

Turning to The Last Sumurai. This movie has some very pretty scenery, and impressive scenes, but what’s with Tom Cruise and the poses? On the ship, pose. Teaching the Japanese, pose. Not just Cruise – the whole movie seemed posed somehow, starting with the Samurai kneeling on the hill and the breathless pause before the word “….honor”.

I found myself soon tired of the scenes that seem to be contrived, to pull every last ounce of Honor from each. The whole movie could be summed up as follows:

Man captured by enemy becomes one with his captors through a shared sense of Honor, and joins his new brothers in a fight where the odds are all against them.

Why must movies always use extraordinary characters to demonstrate honor? If Cruise starred as a teacher, and those in battle, plain farmers, I think I would have appreciated the movie more.

I was somewhat surprised at my reaction; after all, the movie is very popular. Perhaps I’m just not in the mood for Tom Cruise. Or perhaps it’s really just a dude flick. (Notice I refrained from a more colorful description that would have involved a word representing males that rhymed with ‘flick’. I hope you all appreciate my delicacy of mind.)

If I wasn’t overly enamored of The Last Samurai, I found The Fog of War to be a fascinating documentary. However, I’m saving my discussion of it for Sunday’s American Street essay.


If only I weren’t lost in translation

Though I couldn’t take pictures of the storm when I was looking at it from the parking lot last Monday, I did try to take some photos of it when I got home. However, when I started to take the pictures, my camera began emitting this high pitched whistle, just like the sound things make in the movies before they explode in a loud and dangerous manner.

Rather than tossing the camera through the air and diving into a ditch, I whipped off the battery cover and removed the battery. Not as dramatic, but not as hard on the camera. What caused the noise, I don’t know, but I hesitate to put that one battery back in.

The editor of Missouri Life is sending me a copy of the magazine featuring my photos and also arranging payment to me – payment! money! – and this forms the start for my new camera fund. I am going to buy a Nikon D70 because a) I like Nikon optics and quality; and b) I have several lens that will work with the D70. In the meantime, words will do until I have my new camera or feel brave enough to put the battery back into my old one.

However, it may be a time before I have the new camera because I have become very frugal of late, cutting our fripperies right and left in esthetic abandon. I am indulging in just one splurge–a monthly subscription to Netflix. Thanks to it, I’ve managed to finally see Big Fish, Lost in Translation, Seabiscuit and several other less than memorable films. That and my library, my computer and the Internet, a small drive in the car and a long hike, and above all, my whistling camera, and I am content.

I thought that Seabiscuit was charming, but a little predictable. I really liked Big Fish – I loved the tall tales and the actors and the narrative and the end, and thought it was a very good film. But Lost in Translation, now that was a fine movie. Since I am probably the last person to have seen it, nothing I can say about the movie should be spoiler, but be forewarned.

People have said the movie was about these two strangers who find each other, and not about them being in Japan, but I have to disagree: Japan forms a third character, the straight man the other actors play against.

The premise behind the movie is two people alienated from their surroundings who happen to find each other. Not only are they alienated in the environment in which they find themselves in Japan – a country with a different culture and language– we learn over time they are also alienated from those who love them: the young woman can’t connect with her husband and his hollywood lifestyle; the aging actor looks at spilled color samples, trying to understand which is burgundy among all the pinks.

If the movie had taken place on a beach in Oregon or some such thing, all we would have seen was two dissatisfied people who can’t seem to find contentment with their very good lives. Instead, by putting this movie in Japan, the lack of connection both experience originates first from an external source; an impression lasting long enough, and being familiar enough, for the audience to get to know and even like both of the main characters. Rather than two spoiled people who refuse to be content with their lives, we meet two people who are lost, lonely even in the midst of friends and family and admirers, and the bright neon lights.

I’ve heard people condemn the movie for stereotyping, but the impressions I received of people in Japan from this movie are that they are gracious, charming, friendly, patient, and have wonderful senses of humor. I wouldn’t mind it if people stereotyped Americans that way.

No, rather than crude stereotyping, what we’re given is a look at Bob and Charlotte’s perceptions of their surroundings. What we see through their eyes is what they expected to see, and what astonished them to see. The ordinary is invisible.

There were so many scenes I loved in Lost In Translation. I loved the scene with the prostitute and the nylons, and thought I would choke I was laughing so hard. I also enjoyed the hospital scene with the two ladies laughing politely behind their hands in the background at Bob’s non-conversation with the older Japanese person; or when Charlotte was exploring and Bob was riding in the Taxi through the streets – and the quiet elegance found within these visually exploding scenes.

In the end, when Bob runs up to Charlotte and they hold each other and he whispers something in her ear, and we don’t know what it is–what a perfect ending. What a marvelous ending. I would save all my pennies to go to Japan if only I could have a moment, one single moment of that ending.

I was thinking about this movie last week when I sat in the dark looking out the window at the storm, too late in an evening or too early in a morning. I found myself wondering: if I were feeling lost and alienated, what words would I want to hear whispered in my ear?

I also thought that I would rather be lost in translation than lost in Hoboken, New Jersey. And if I were lost in Hoboken, New Jersey, I wondered if I could find a way to blame it on the Japanese.


I’ll be seeing you

Unfortunately, all of these shows have been lost to time and Flash no longer being supported.

One song, three different singers, and three different Flash movies, all made by yours truly – you’ve been warned. I got a wee bit carried away with the zoom. Click on the photo to take you to launch page. Then click on the photo in this page to launch the Flash movie. Note to modem users–take up knitting. Movie sizes are approx 1.5M each.

Dame Vera Lynne was known as the Forces Sweetheart during World War II. Though better known in her native Britain, her song Auf Wiederseh’n Sweetheart was the first UK-based recording to top the charts in the United States. She was appointed DBE (Dame Commander of the British Empire) in 1975.

Dame Lynne’s lovely, and slightly dramatic version of “I’ll Be Seeing You” comes with the flourishes that were very popular with romantic songs in the 1930’s, and into the early 40’s.

This is a modern recording of “I’ll Be Seeing You” by Bobbi Carrey. Carrey has a most unusual past–a degree in romance languages, a Master’s in Visual Studies, an MBA, 15 years working in the financial industry, including four years as VP at Fidelity Investments, a professor at Harvard, and a photographer. Then she bagged it all a couple of years ago and became a cabaret singer. Wow. That’s all I can is…wow.

This song is from Carrey’s first CD, Between The Wars, featuring music popular between the two World Wars. I wasn’t sure about Carrey’s voice at first – it seemed too sweet, and a bit light for one of these old ballads. But after listening to it a couple of times, I could visualize a young girl, sitting at her porch at night, thinking of her distant love and singing to the Moon. It is another variation on the song, and one that does work. But it was helped by the instrumentals, and the extraordinary song arrangement.

This song has, in my opinion, an almost perfect arrangement. The clarinet playing is just right, perfect, and segues into the ballad with wonderfully delicate precision.

Not all the songs on the CD worked–Carrey just doesn’t, at this time, have the type of voice for many of the songs of that era (not enough raw energy or depth of personality in her voice). However, given time, and with maturity, if the she and her collaborators continue to create other arrangements such as “I’ll Be Seeing You”, they could become something very special. It’s worth the cost of the CD for this song, alone.

If Dame Vera Lynne was the Forces Sweatheart for the British, Jo Stafford was The Girl Back Home for the American troops. She was one of the top female singers during World War II, known for her romantic ballads.

She started her career singing with her sisters, than with a group known as the Piped Pipers, staying with them until going solo in 1944.

This version of “I’ll be Seeing You” is sung with little embellishment, and a relatively simple, though traditional orchestration characteristic of ballads during the mid to late 1940’s. It is a true, and enduring, classic.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a copy of Billie Holiday’s version of the song online, or you’d have four flash shows.

I’ll be seeing you
In all the old familiar places
That this heart of mine embraces
All day through.

In that small cafe;
The park across the way;
The children’s carousel;
The chestnut trees;
The wishin’ well.

I’ll be seeing you
In every lovely summer’s day;
In every thing that’s light and gay.
I’ll always think of you that way.

I’ll find you
In the morning sun
And when the night is new.
I’ll be looking at the moon,
But I’ll be seeing you.

lyrics by Irving Kahal, music by Sammy Fain