Monday, September 01, 2014

¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Lara Pulver!

Born September 1, 1980.

She is one of the best reasons to watch Stephen Moffat's Sherlock and I'm quite sure that she will appear in equally memorable TV shows in the future. Though not necessarily while she is wearing the same outfit that she wears in the above photo.

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Quote of the Week

My Latin roots are very strong. All my life, because I'm blonde and blue-eyed, people who aren't Hispanic can't believe I am. And people who are Hispanic always think I'm not, because I don't look like them. Being Latin is part of who I am and I bring that part to every role.
--Cameron Diaz

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Cameron Diaz!

AKA Cameron Michelle Diaz.

Born August 30, 1972.

She is an American actress whose father was of Cuban and Spanish descent and whose mother was of German, Scotch-Irish and English descent. She started out as a model when she was in her teens, then made her movie debut in the 1994 film The Mask. She has since made a lot of movies including My Best Friend's Wedding, The Holiday, The Box and The Green Hornet, and she is pretty much close to being Hollywood's ideal of the All-American Girl -- which, of course, I should find ironic because of her ethnic background.

It is hard for me to believe that she is already 42 years old...

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¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Joan Blondell!

AKA Rose Joan Blondell.

Born August 30, 1906. Died December 25, 1979.

She was one of my favorite actresses in the Busby Berkeley films and she was very memorable in a lot of films that were not made by Busby Berkeley. I am sorry her career was not more successful but at least she is still remembered -- even though most members of my generation nowadays probably know her more from her supporting role in the 1978 film Grease than from her starring roles in many an old movie.

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The Jane Austen Book Club Deserves More Than a Quick Glance

One of the film critics who reviewed the 2007 movie The Jane Austen Book Club expressed concern that it might be dumbing down the books of Jane Austen. Granted, I am not really sure what dumbing down means in a world where director Paul Verhoeven's not-exactly-as-highbrow-as-the-original versions of Hitchcock and Heinlein regularly receive critical praise and the most commonly read author by most literate English-speaking adults on the Net seems to be not Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway, Leo Tolstoy or even John Steinbeck but rather J. K. Rowling. I will, however, admit that I liked this movie despite my not being a big fan of Jane Austen and that it actually made me more interested in reading her books than the usual sermons about my duty to read great books.

Then again, I have found that the surest way to kill one's interest in reading a particular book is to treat the act of reading it like a holy act of obligation. After all, no one particularly likes reading a book because he or she has to read it; instead, even the most intellectual among us tend to gravitate toward books that we want to read. No doubt this is a habit that drives literary critics up the wall but then most writers whose work is worth reading don't necessarily write for literary critics; they read for people.

Anyway, I was not happy about every plot twist in this movie. Moreover, when I read the original novel soon after seeing the movie, I found more than a few of the movie's embellishments on the original plot to be a bit disappointing. Even some of the "improvements" left a bit to be desired. As nice as it was to see actor Jimmy Smits on the big screen again, I could have done without another version of the old "unfaithful Latino husband" stereotype. Indeed, I found it a bit ironic that the movie not only switched the ethnic backgrounds of two main characters but also played down the bilingualism of those two characters and their daughter. Even the movie's attempts to show the universal appeal of Ms. Austen's books by including in the storyline the type of people (for example, gays, Asians, Hispanics) who are not normally associated with Jane Austen left me feeling more than a little sorry for members of the one minority group associated with Southern California that was consciously left out of the movie.

Then again I did like the way literary science fiction got treated in a respectful way for once and how the movie avoided the usual jokes about Star Trek fans and Star Wars aficionados. Given some of the recent developments in actress Maria Bello's personal life, I found the movie's focus on her character's failure to marry to be a bit ironic if not unintentionally humorous but at least that character received a more respectful treatment from the script than most middle-aged female movie characters normally receive nowadays. I even liked the way the movie depicted the act of reading as a pleasurable activity -- though given my status as a hardcore reader, I am understandably biased.

The Jane Austen Book Club is not exactly a movie I would recommend for everyone but it was not a movie that made me sorry to have seen it. Since I can't say that about every movie I have seen as of late, I would like to think that constitutes a bit of a compliment right there.

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Movie Poster of the Week

And to think... school here in Dallas did not start until just this week!

Wow! The title character of this movie must have been a very busy person.

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Cuento de Mi Id

“The Second Time”

“I’m sorry to do this,” I said, “but the moment can’t be put off any longer.”

The old man looked at me from the depths of his cell. “They asked for me?”

“No, but the State can’t be put off any longer. I have orders to carry out the sentence immediately and -- well -- orders are orders.”

I unlocked the cell door and led the old man out. He went along slowly but uncomplainingly. As we got to the courtyard, he looked around in puzzlement.

“Last time there was a crowd,” he said. “A big crowd.”

“My superiors want you to be executed in private,” I said. “They do not want another martyr to the cause.”

“In that case,” he said, “you should let me go.”

“I’m sorry. I can not. You’re much too dangerous for us to keep alive.”

“Too dangerous, huh?” The old man smiled.

“Of course. The world is very unstable nowadays. All it needs is one more fanatic to send it over the edge and plunge it into World War III. We can’t have that.”

“Have you no tolerance for a man with strong beliefs?”

“Sure, if he keeps them to himself. But when he starts gathering crowds around him and trying to convert others to his viewpoint... he’s a troublemaker.”

“Your world doesn’t seem to have much room for strong personalities.”

“Of course it does. We just can’t afford chaos.”

“I see,” said the old man. “And a man like me…would start chaos.”

“Of course.”

“You don’t really believe that.”

“I believe what I’m told to believe.”

“Then I pity you.”

Something about the old man got to me. If I were in his place, I would be scared to death, but the old man did not flinch an eyelash. I knew he must be trembling inside at the thought of his imminent death, yet he did not show it. Perhaps he was gripped by self-doubt about the validity of the cause he espoused and he didn’t want to show it. Yes, that was it.

If so, he didn’t say so. He just stood there silently, daring me to speak.

Finally he spoke. “All the healings I did... I suppose they don’t mean anything?”

“There was no reliable witnesses to any of them, “ I said. “Therefore, there were no healings.”

“What about the patients?”

“Either con-men or fools. In either case, hardly very convincing.”

“What about the dead man I resurrected?”

“Another phony miracle. And just as well, considering the population explosion.”

“You’re quite cynical for a young man. Surely you believe such things can happen.”

“I would not know. I have never seen them happen.”

The old man sighed. “Your world sounds like a sad one, Sergeant. Surely you must believe in something.”

“Sure, I do,” I said. “I believe in God.”

The old man laughed.

I glared at him. “Did I say something funny, old man?”

The old man fell silent.

“If I did, I wish you’d say so,” I said, “so that an old soldier like me can get in on the joke.”

The old man sighed.

“You wouldn’t understand,” he said.

He walked brusquely towards the end of the courtyard and turned towards me.

“Finish it,” he said.

I frowned. Something about the old man made me uneasy. He was not acting the way I had expected him to act.

Moreover, there was an air of familiarity about him -- as if he reminded me of an old family friend or a favorite uncle. Impossible, I thought. None of my family or friends would be caught dead associating with the type of scum the old man has associated with. Yet he talked to me as if he had known me all my life. As if I had known him long before he had been assigned to my prison.

Perhaps he was a fanatic, I thought. That would explain his reaction. In his mind, he was dying for his cause. Never mind if it was the right one. At least in his mind, he was doing something for the sake of whatever it was he believed in.

As for the air of familiarity, that could be explained too. People like him thrived on making converts wherever they went. No matter how unlikely the place or how unlikely the convert. And how better to make such converts than to feign friendship in even the most hostile environment.

I smiled when I realized this. Seen in that light, the old man no longer seemed so impressive.

“Turn around and face the wall,” I said.

He did so.

A couple of shots from my revolver and it was done.

Good, I thought, as I summoned some guards for burial detail. The old man was finished. One more would-be revolutionary had bitten the dust.

I started to turn around, then remembered to cross myself. As my fingers brushed across my crucifix, I suddenly seized it and brought it before my face.

It was at that moment that I finally realized where I had seen the old man’s face before.

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Movie Quote of the Week

You don't need a tongue to have a voice.
--Frances Bay, The Pit and the Pendulum (1991)

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TV Quote of the Week

I'm not so sure I want a revolution going on in my ear.
--Lindsay Wagner, The Bionic Woman (The First Series), "Kill Oscar"

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Iconos de Televisión (Summer I)

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

R.I.P. Richard Attenborough

English actor, director and film producer Richard Attenborough -- best known for his acting role in the 1993 film Jurassic Park and the two Academy Awards he won as producer and director of the 1982 film Gandhi -- welcomed his last visitor to Jurassic Park on August 24 at age 90.

He will be missed.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Comic Book Image of the Week

That's funny. She doesn't look like Eva Green.

In fact, the lady in the above drawing does not look that much like a white woman at all, especially given the angle from which she is drawn. I don't know whether or not that is intentional. After all, Sin City creator Frank Miller has not been shy about drawing people of color in the past. Yet he usually is not so ambiguous in his creation of such characters either. So could he be trying to tell us something by making Sin City resident Ava Lord out to be a black femme fatale? Or am I just seeing things?

After all, dark-skinned minorities are more often than not absent from most classical examples of the film noir that inspired Frank Miller's Sin City. Even Raymond Chandler's novel Farewell, My Lovely -- which made little effort to downplay the fact that its hero's office was located in a poor black neighborhood and that its first major conflict involved a white gangster throwing his weight around in a black-run tavern -- was considerably whitewashed when it was adapted for the movies and renamed Murder, My Sweet.

Then again, you don't exactly have to be a rocket scientist to guess why Frank Miller would not want his fans to instantly perceive Ava Lord as a black woman. After all, if there is anything more politically incorrect than a unrepentant femme fatale who brags about herself being evil, it's a black femme fatale who does the same thing. Yet one of Frank Miller's characters in one of the other chapters of Sin City is a black prostitute and yet another is a female Japanese assassin so it is not like he's above drawing nonwhite criminals.

I guess only Frank Miller knows for sure which race Ava Lord is supposed to be and so far he's not telling. And since director Robert Rodriguez has chosen to cast a white actress in the part, I suppose that should settle the question.

And yet I can't help but wonder what difference it would make if Ava Lord were black. Or Hispanic. Or Asian. Ideally, it should make no difference but then we don't live in an ideal world.

Then again one could argue that dark-skinned actresses have enough problems without being cast as evil women. So it should be all right to leave those roles for white people. After all, no one objected too much when the producers of the Broadway production of Miss Saigon chose to cast a white guy as a biracial and half-Asian pimp...

Oh, wait. They did.

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Summer Books

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Quote of the Week

If Mormons like not my plays, let them write their own. If the Irish hate my Dublin stories, let them rent typewriters. If teachers and grammar school editors find my jawbreaker sentences shatter their mushmilk teeth, let them eat stale cake dunked in weak tea of their own ungodly manufacture. If the Chicano intellectuals wish to re-cut my "Wonderful Ice Cream Suit" so it shapes "Zoot," may the belt unravel and the pants fall.
--Ray Bradbury, "Coda" from Fahrenheit 451

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Summer Movies

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