Monthly Archives: January 2007

The Greatest Movies of All Time — Revisited

Sean Means over at the Trib reports that the American Film Institute is sending out ballots to various film-industry and scholar types so it can update its list of the 100 Greatest Movies of All Time. Hard to believe it’s already been ten years since the first list came out… refer to yesterday’s post about the future being right around the corner and how did it get here so quickly?

In any event, this repolling is intended to take into consideration the movies made in the ten years since the original AFI list came out. Means included the nominees in his post, which I’ll now reprint here, along with this question for the reader: [Do these] movie[s] belong with the classics?


The Future’s Nearly Here

So, I was at The Girlfriend’s house the other night, idly flipping through the various cable-TV offerings after she’d gone to bed, when I stumbled upon Back to the Future II. And as I was watching Marty McFly running around trying to change history (again!), it occurred to me that the future depicted in this film — the year 2015 — is only eight years away. Eight… years. That’s nothing. That’s less than the lifespan of an overweight house cat.

There are times when I can’t believe I’ve gotten so damn old, or that it happened so damn fast. Somebody had better be working on inventing me a flying Delorean, dammit.


Which Science Fiction Author Am I?

It’s time for a silly Internet quiz! Today, the question is, “Which science fiction author am I?” And the answer is:

I am:

Arthur C. Clarke

Well known for nonfiction science writing and for early promotion of the effort toward space travel, his fiction was often grand and visionary.

Which science fiction writer are you?


I enjoyed a lot of Clarke’s work in my younger days, so I’m satisfied with this. The really amusing thing is, I haven’t actually attempted to write any science fiction in a good 15 or 20 years. I like to read the stuff, but was never much good at creating it…


A Final Word from 1939, and Some Thoughts

Writing a few days ago about old buildings reminded me of something I read recently. It’s yet another passage from the book 1939: The Lost World of the Fair:

Now I’ve always been fascinated with the world my parents grew up in, I mean the actual look & feel of it, because the change between that time and this seems so uncannily large, as if five centuries had passed and not five decades… I have always wanted so badly to feel what that time was like — because of a strange belief I suppose I was born with — that if, somehow, I could feel an era before I was born, the scales would fall from my eyes & and I would then be able to feel my own life, grasp what it is really like, the way you can grasp time after the fact, when it is all over…

–author David Gelernter, speaking through a fictional character’s diary in 1939

That quote doesn’t entirely capture my own reasons for being fascinated by the artifacts of the past — a big part of the appeal for me is simple aesthetics; I just plain like all that old stuff — but it does begin to get at the yearning I seem to feel when I’m around those artifacts. I really would like to experience what the world was like for my parents and grandparents, to know not just how things looked, but how they smelled and sounded, how mundane daily tasks were accomplished. I’ve always enjoyed historical stories, and stories about time travel and immortal characters, and I think that yearning to have first-hand experience of another time might be partly why.

Shifting gears a bit, I’d like to offer a few thoughts on the book I quoted above. I meant to do a proper review when I finished it a few weeks ago, but as with so many of the entries I plan to do for for this silly blog, the time slipped away from me and I never got around to it.


The Best of the Week

As you may have heard, the Oscar nominations for 2006 were announced this week. I have little to say about them because, to be honest, I’ve only seen one of the movies that turns up in any of the major categories, Martin Scorsese’s The Departed. (For the record, I thought it was a good movie, driven by strong performances from Leo DiCaprio and Matt Damon, but not an exceptional movie. It’s really starting to look like Goodfellas was Scorsese’s masterpiece and he’ll never again achieve quite that same level of perfection.)

However, I thought maybe I could contribute to award season with a couple honors of my own invention, gleaned from this week’s online activities. Here we go:

Best Subject Line on an Unsolicited “Spam” E-Mail: “Mean-spirited Gonad,” received 1/25/06.

I wouldn’t want to run into one of those in a dark alley, that’s for sure!

Best Title on a Blog Entry Written by Someone Else: Bush to Seek Gas Relief.

If you just rolled your eyes, follow that link, pay attention to the photo that accompanies the blog entry, and then tell me that the scatological reading of the title is a coincidence.

That is all. Actually, it’s probably too much. But hey it’s late and I’m feeling a little punchy…


Century-old Russian Photos — in Color!

Since I discovered it a few months back, has become one of my favorite daily ‘net habits. While the photos and videos posted there are sometimes banal or even just plain stupid, they are just as often hauntingly beautiful glimpses of an alien world. Today’s entry is especially fascinating: a collection of color photographs taken around the year 1910. The photographer, a chap named Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii, came up with a technique of shooting multiple exposures of the same scene through colored filters. When the monochrome pictures were projected over the top of each other, the color of the scene was reconstructed with startlingly realistic accuracy. Nowadays, his images can be easily recombined with digital imaging, and the results look like stills from Doctor Zhivago. But they’re not… they’re time capsules of people and places that predate the communist revolution that transformed the old Russian Empire into the USSR. Amazing stuff, well worth your time. I especially like these folks


Kneel Before Brigham, Er, Zod…

According to local film critic Sean Means, there’s a new movie coming out in May that uses the infamous Mountain Meadows Massacre as a backdrop for a “romantic drama.” The MMM, if you don’t know, is the historical event that the LDS Church wishes everyone would just forget about. The short version is that in September 1857, a wagon train of settlers bound for the west coast was attacked as it passed through Utah by a group of men variously described as Paiute Indians, Mormons dressed as Indians, or a mixture of both. Most of the settlers, some 120 men, women, and older children, were killed; a handful of younger kids survived, apparently spared by the attackers. The big question that has always swirled at the heart of this incident is, was the attack carried out independently or on orders from the Church? Needless to say, it’s a touchy subject in these parts, and has given rise to all kinds of conspiracy theories involving secret Mormon vigilante groups and official cover-ups.

All of which should make for an interesting (not to mention controversial) movie. But the thing that really caught my eye was the casting of Terence Stamp as Brigham Young. Yes, that’s right, General Zod himself will be playing Brother Brigham, the most famous leader of the Mormon Church and the founder of Salt Lake City. There’s no word on whether Stamp will be crushing hands or shooting laser beams from his eyes, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he does. Because, you know, he’s Zod. It just won’t be right if he doesn’t heat-vision something…

(The title of the movie, incidentally, is September Dawn. I’ve found no official website for it, but its IMDB entry has already garnered one angry comment denouncing it as inaccurate and biased against the Church. There is no indication that the commenter has actually seen the movie in question, but then that’s how it usually goes whenever the MMM comes up. As I said, it’s a touchy subject.)