“American Sniper”

Just saw American Sniper.

You know what? Just go ahead and nominate everybody: Bradley, Clint, even Sienna. Particularly Sienna. Honest, self did not recognize her at all. In the movie she’s thin and colt-ish and might even be a stand-in for Michelle Monaghan. It’s the best self has ever seen her.

SPOILER ALERT!

Oh Clint. She hates your movies generally. They’ve been mostly “message” movies, in the past decade. This one was good, though. She’s so glad the movie included the manner of Kyle’s eventual demise. Mother of all ironies.

Self’s favorite line in the movie was uttered by a bit actor (The same tall dude who’s a colleague of Simon Baker in The Mentalist, the one who’s having a relationship with the sexy redhead. For the life of her, self can’t remember his name). Here’s the line (There is profanity — ha!)

Right side. Damn. Legend. FUCK.

That’s because Kyle just took out an enemy sniper and gave away the SEAL’s position, and the back-up units are still 20 minutes away. Can you imagine if the commander had instead said something like:

You gave away our position, meathead!

or

You’re going to be court-martialed for this! I don’t care if you’re a so-called ‘legend’.

or

You went against a direct order! You think you have all the answers?

And who is that guy who plays a buddy of Kyle’s in the SEAL unit? With his helmet on, he’s a dead ringer for a young Peter Sarsgaard. With his helmet off, not so much. But self loved his insouciant affect.

And Bradley. What can self say? He deserved that Oscar nomination, man! Self was skeptical when it was first announced he’d be playing the lead role, but — that focus! That intensity! That reluctance to “emote”!

She doesn’t have a TV in Mendocino. Alas, she wishes she could camp out in someone’s living room for the night.

BTW, self caught the preview for Mad Max: Fury Road. Hardy, Theron, Hoult. Oh, self can hardly wait.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

“Mockingjay, Part 1” — Redwood City Century 20, 4th Sunday in November (2014)

What self will say about the third (or penultimate) installment in the Hunger Games franchise is that it is very fleet. Hardly a wasted word or line of dialogue anywhere. Kudos, Director Francis Lawrence. You are genius.

All the important parts are there. To wit:

  • The Pearl (BTW, not a single reviewer from any of the major dailies mentioned this. If you don’t mention the pearl, you don’t really “get” Read the rest of this entry »

Dien Bien Phu, May 1954

Self is tackling her back issues of The Economist with great gusto.  Today, she got through three.

The 12 October 2013 issue has an obituary of General Nguyen Giap, the man who won the battle of Dien Bien Phu, a great watershed which marked the end of French colonial rule in Vietnam.  The general died Oct. 4.  He was 102.

There was a war movie made of this battle, starring Mel Gibson (Self finally remembered the name of the movie:  “We Are Soldiers.”)  In that movie, self remembers the warren of tunnels the Vietnamese had built, and a small man who seemed to be a general (though his uniform was just as plain as that of an ordinary soldier) telling his men:  “We will grab the enemy by the belt buckle, and pull him close.”  (This line was delivered in Vietnamese, with subtitles.  Which added greatly to the power of the scene. Self remembers being so stunned by that line that she never forgot it.  Even though, at the time she saw the movie, she knew very little about the battle itself.)

The Economist describes the battle strategy thus:

This victory had been a long time in the making.  The French had fortified the valley, in northwest Tonkin on the border with Laos, so he had taken his troops into the mountains that encircled it.  The French thought the hills impassable:  craggy, forested, foggy, riddled with caves.  General Giap recalled the words of his hero Bonaparte, whose battle plans he was sketching out with chalk when he was still at the Lycée in Hue:  “If a goat can get through, so can a man; if a man can get through, so can a battalion.”  Slowly, stealthily, in single file, 55,000 men took up positions there, supplied by 260,000 coolies with baskets, 20,000 bicycles and 11,800 bamboo rafts.  Artillery was carried up in sections.  From this eyrie, trenches and tunnels were dug down until they almost touched the French.  The enemy never stood a chance.

General Giap’s heroes were Bonaparte (audace, surprise), Lawrence of Arabia, and Mao Zedong, especially Mao’s “three-stage doctrine of warfare (guerrilla tactics, stalemate, offensive warfare).”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Episode 4, “Parade’s End”

Self knows that Tuesday is Justified night.  But there’s still an hour to go, so she asked The Man to find her another episode of Parade’s End.

Since she’s already seen Episode 4, he expected self to want to watch Episode 5.

Ixnay!  Episode 5 is the last and concluding episode!  Give her Episode 4 again.  It is just so delightful.  Among other things, in Episode 4, Benedict Cumberbatch gets to flash a wee bit of naked chest.  And a very nice chest it is, indeed!

Second, there is such bloody wicked dialogue, from first to last.  Ah, those British and their stiff upper lips!  So indispensable while under aerial bombardment!

Self particularly loves the shelling of the barracks.  Private Morgan salutes, then falls Read the rest of this entry »

Excitements: 2nd Friday of March (2013)

The Man has gotten self hooked —  hooked, self says! —  to watching episodes of “Parade’s End”, the Tom Stoppard BBC2 adaptation, back to back, instead of self’s avowed preference for waiting patiently for the weekly installments.

We are now on Episode 4.

Lovely, lovely!

In this episode, we see Mrs. Sylvia T setting the entire British Army on its head over her insistence on seeing her husband, who is serving in Rouen.  Self doesn’t know why her heart breaks every time Rebecca Hall’s (as Mrs Sylvia T) lips curl.

You dolt! self finds herself yelling at the TV.  The “dolt” is of course Cumberbatch/Tietjens.  Cancha see your wife is just expiring with love for you? 

But of course, how could self forget, Tietjens is British!  As such, he must wallow in misery.  That is, until he gets blown up by an incendiary!  And Sylvia and that Blonde Suffragette must then suffer with wan memories of the “noblest man they have ever known”!  Parade’s End shares much with other British depictions of the misunderstood but heroic cuckold, like The Painted Veil.  Or The Scarlet Pimpernel  Accch!  How self laps up these noble British tropes!

In between, we are treated to scenes of great jollity, such as Our Man Tietjens getting so worked up that he immediately sits himself down to —  compose a sonnet!  His adjutant says he can translate said sonnet into Latin “in two minutes.”

Tietjens finally manages to steal away to meet his wife.  Alas!  She’s being pestered by a young buck.  Sylvia, looking about, catches sight of her husband and exclaims: “There’s Christopher!  He’s seen us!  Damn his chivalry!”

“Oh, he might hit me!” says the would-be paramour, ducking his head.

“He’s a gentleman, he doesn’t hit girls like you!” scoffs Mrs. T.

BWAH HA HA HA!!!

“He’s Jesus Christ of the chivalry” or some such.  More to the point:  “Does Christopher have a girl in this town?”

“Too much of a stick, doesn’t even go to Madame Suzette’s,” responds Girlie Officer.

There is also one very hot almost-sex scene between Mr. and Mrs. Unfortunately, just at the moment when Tietjens grabs his wife and seems about to perform his Manly Duty, two would-be paramours come knocking on Mrs. T’s door and interrupt the proceedings.  Damn them!  Self thought she was about to witness the first Benedict Cumberbatch Sex Scene EVER!

Lah-de-da, lah-de-da!  Among other stellar developments, this afternoon self wandered into Books, Inc. and was slayed, simply slayed upon encountering, in the Mysteries section:

At Books, Inc. today, self's eyes were forcibly drawn to a shelf which happened to display:  xxxxx !!!

Raylan!  Elmore Leonard’s favorite fictional creation!  That’s a very nice still of Timothy Olyphant, right there.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Kathryn Bigelow, by Way of Salon.com

If Kathryn Bigelow never did anything else, for the rest of her life, she would still go down in history as the woman who made two of the best war movies of our time.

Since self is such a maven for lists, she decides to list all the war movies of recent memory that made the deepest impression on her.  They include:

  • Black Book, directed by Paul Verhoeven
  • Henry V, directed by Kenneth Branagh
  • Kagemusha, directed by Akira Kurosawa
  • Platoon, directed by Oliver Stone
  • Schindler’s List, directed by Steven Spielberg
  • The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, directed by Mark Herman
  • The Deer Hunter, directed by Michael Cimino
  • The Last of the Mohicans, directed by Michael Mann
  • Three Kings, directed by David O. Russell

All of the movies in the above list were directed by men, so Bigelow’s achievement is huge.  HUGE.

Salon.com movie critic Andrew O’Hehir selected Zero Dark Thirty as one of the best movies of 2012.  Apparently, there’s a controversy over the torture scenes, something to do with a State Department denial that torture was ever used to extract information that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden.

O’Hehir posted today about the New York Film Critics Circle’s annual dinner with Hollywood celebs.  Bigelow was one of the invited speakers, and O’Hehir quotes her as saying she was “grateful to be in a room of people who understand that depiction is not endorsement, and if it was, no artist could ever portray inhumane practices.”  Very well put, in self’s humble opinion.

But there’s more:

“As for her unwillingness to discuss her specific intentions, she joked, we had to remember that she came from the visual art world, where the goal is always to obfuscate rather than explain.”

Wow, she is eloquent, isn’t she?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Memorial Day: Reading “War, Literature and the Arts”

This past weekend, the History Channel showed a number of war documentaries.   Yesterday, self finally got to watch Clint Eastwood’s Letters From Iwo Jima.  She had refused to see it when it was showing in theaters, out of some vague, unfocused sense of loyalty to the husband, whose grandfather, a brigadier general in the Philippine Army, was taken from his family by the Japanese and never returned.

But, darn if she didn’t find herself so absolutely moved by the film.  In fact, she told the husband, she was more affected by that movie than she was by Saving Private Ryan.

Self is on the War, Literature & the Arts e-mail list, and this evening there was a message in her “in” box about a new post.  So she eagerly went to read it, and it was absolutely fascinating.  James Moad II, who edits the blog, used to teach in the Air Force Academy.  Self thinks he is very brave.  He writes, “Of course, war is not moral, and maybe that’s the tragedy of it all for those who have to fight.”

He recounts a time when he was still teaching in the Air Force Academy, and he got a call from a concerned parent whose daughter was experiencing nightmares after reading one of the books Moad had assigned in his War Literature course.  The book was called Tiger Force and dealt with American atrocities in Vietnam.  Self has read quite extensively about American atrocities in Vietnam, and can certainly see why a young person might suffer nightmares after readings like that, but Moad reminds his readers that the student was enrolled in a Military Academy, after all.

Moad (in passsing) mentions “the anger of Odysseus upon his return home in The Odyssey” (which reminds self very much of the anger of returning Vietnam War veterans, whose sacrifices went largely un-recognized), and about Plato’s The Cave (“about how focusing on moral certainty can keep us from seeing reality”) and it’s just a really great essay, which reminds self that she took son and Niece G on a tour of Corregidor when they were about seven or eight years old.  That was a great tour.  The guide seemed to speak with such passion about the events of a long-ago time.  The tour ends at a memorial, on a bluff overlooking the sea.  And what self remembers most clearly were that there were a few very old American veterans on the tour.  At that memorial, they all broke off to stand singly, and stared out at the sea, and some were visibly weeping.

And self thinks that every returning Filipino must be required to take this tour.  But why leave out the rest?  Let’s just say, every Filipino who is in high school or college in the Philippines, must be required by their schools to take the Corregidor tour.  If Israel can require its citizens to spend time on a kibbutz (or the Israeli army), certainly the Philippine government can require its people to honor the sacrifices made on Corregidor.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The Last Photographs of Chris Hendros, Pulitzer Prize-winning Photojournalist, Dead at 41/ & Something From The Sheila Variations

Here’s a link to The Atlantic, which posted the final photographs of Chris Hendros, 41.  Hendros and his fellow photojournalist Tim Hetherington (who worked with Sebastian Junger on the documentary “Restrepo”), also 41, were killed in Libya a few days ago.

*     *     *     *     *

The Sheila Variations has a very interesting post on the history of the Library of Congress.  Read it, here.

Summer of 2010 (So Far)

Summer of 2010 Is:

  • The summer of crazy Mel
  • The summer of heat and crazy hand-watering of the garden and much wringing of the hands over fuschia
  • The summer of soccer (Go, Spain!  Go, Octopus!)
  • The summer of Read the rest of this entry »

Still Reading Paul Fussell: A Chapter About Poppies

On this Fourth of July, self is still reading Paul Fussell.

Oh, she did a little writing, of course (added a paragraph to putative novel-in-progress which, if she can only finish it will, self hopes, be grreat!  Or, if not great, at least make her a ton of money!)

She also watched a little of the Redwood City Parade:  beautiful chestnut horses with the stars and stripes painted on their rumps!  Awful stink of horse manure!  The Leland Stanford, Jr. University Marching Band (Crazy as always!  Luuved the guy with the floppy pink bunny ears!  Just loved him!).  New this year:  The Sheriff of Redwood City got to ride on his own float.  Or, at least, self doesn’t remember him doing that last year.  Then, hubby and self walked to City Pub and had excellent cold pints of Hefeweizen and plates of fried calamari and crab cakes.  Everything was so excellent and self got a little sleepy.

On the walk back to the car, we passed an exhibit of antique cars.  Next to one of the cars was a donation box for the Wounded Warriors Project.  Self was happy to plunk down a couple of dollars.  In fact, she wishes she could have plunked down a $20, but all she had in her wallet at that moment was $5.

After getting home, self still had to water (for it is very veeery hot!).  And then she took a break from watering to continue reading Paul Fussell.  She doesn’t know yet if he is genius or just eccentric (OK, maybe he is genius), but now she’s on a chapter where he talks about flowers and the importance of flower imagery to all (good) war literature.

For instance, the rose, especially the red rose, is terribly iconic in English literature.  But poppies are, too, as witness their proliferation in writings about Flanders fields.  But the poppies cannot be California poppies —  that is, they cannot be “orange or yellow.”  For a poppy to be considered a true “Flanders poppy,” its flowers have to be a “bright scarlet.”  Or something to that effect.

So now self is trying to remember “Restrepo” (great war documentary she saw with hubby yesterday) and trying to re-capture the imagery.  Well, granted, there are not too many flowers in the cinematography for that movie.  There are a lot of shots of dry brown hills, and later, there is snow.  So perhaps snow is emblematic of something.  In fact, if self remembers correctly, one of the platoon gets killed in the snow?

But, back to the flowers of World War I.  In a book about World War I, The Challenge of the Dead (Fussell describes it as “sentimental, elegiac”), the author, Stephen Graham, “produces a book of 176 pages without once noticing a poppy, although he chooses to notice plenty of other indigenous flowers, including roses and cornflowers.  We can guess that he omits poppies because their tradition is not one he wants to evoke in his book, the point of which is that survivors should now imitate the sacrifice of the soldiers, who in turn were imitating the sacrifice of Christ.  There is something about poppies that is too pagan, ironic, and hedonistic for his purposes.”

!!@@##

Hoooly hot-popcorn analysis!  Care to run that by self again?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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