My To Be Watched List

TBR, i.e. To Be Read lists of books is a hashtag and a meme. They’re also real lists. Since there’s been a publishing industry, readers have had lists of books they want to read. Getting those all read is another matter. Ah, Time, why do you speed by so?

I haven’t seen this yet, but there should be TBW (i.e. To Be Watched or TBS, To Be Seen) Lists. Here’s mine. I’m posting this so I can throw away the miscellaneous scraps of paper I’ve collected in the last few weeks.

1. Like Someone in Love

2. A Kid with a Bike

3. The Petrified Forest

4. Public Enemy

5. The Silence of Lorna

6. The Son, a.k.a. Le Fils

7. Half the Picture

What films are on your list To Be Watched?

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Weekend Coffee Share

wordswag_15073188796611453091488Weekend Coffee Share is a time for us to take a break out of our lives and enjoy some time catching up with friends (old and new)!

Grab a cup of coffee and share with us! What’s been going on in your life? What are your weekend plans? Is there a topic you’ve just been ruminating on that you want to talk about?

If we were having coffee, I’d ask you what’s new with you and then, I’d tell you about the wonderful exhibit of Gilded Age portraits I saw at the Drieshaus Museum (and about which I’ll soon blog). I went there with a friend who’d never been to the Drieshaus. She loved it as I expected and we’ll soon go back.

I’d tell you about the rather weird and captivating documentary I saw called, The Wolfpack. I came to really care about these boys and their mother who were imprisoned more or less by their irrational father. I won’t soon forget the film and how it illustrates the curative powers of creativity. 

I’d urge you to get and read C.S. Lewis’ The Silent Planet, which I’m reading for my online bookclub. His writing is wonderful and inspires (or kicks me) to improve my own work.

I’d lament that last week I didn’t get to write much. I went downtown twice to meet with friends and on Friday did some research into 19th century Christmas stories for children. Wednesday I went downtown to meet friends, i.e. network. I learned about how a student committed suicide at the Hefei program Clark U runs and how differently the Chinese responded. They silenced any talk of the matter. They didn’t have any memorial service. The boy had jumped from the 10th story where the teachers worked. We’re trained to be open, talk and share to heal the living. Through back channels my friend learned of the suicide. When he mentioned that he wasn’t sure if he had the student, his Chinese colleague sent him a photo of the boy. He expected the attachment would be a snapshot of him alive, not a picture of him splattered on the pavement, which is what he received. Yes, cultures do differ dramatically.

Oh, I’d say that I thought my interview went fine, though as usual, when I reviewed my performance I thought of ways it could go better. I won’t hear for another week at least and so am continuing to job hunt. I am getting job hunting fatigue, but what can you do.

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The Wolfpack

Thanks to Sharon for bringing this unique documentary to my attention. Directed by Crystal Moselle, The Wolfpack (2015)shows a family consisting of six brothers, their parents and their sister who live in New York. The parents met when the mother went backpacking in South America. She shared his dislike for materialism and were married.

The sad and curious thing about this family is that the father became a control freak and would lock the wife and children in the apartment. He believed it was for security, but actually I saw it as a form of control. They could only go outside when the father permitted it and he apparently went with them so no one could escape. One year they were allowed out 9 years and another they weren’t taken outside at all.

The film focuses on the older brothers. The mother was certified by the state to homeschool the kids and they all spoke articulately and politely. The father had wanted 10 children as his dream of heading a tribe, but seven was the limit (biologically) for the mother. The father didn’t work; the father explained that he didn’t believe in work. I wondered what he did when he was out of the house for hours and hours. They family lived on welfare. The father dreamt of moving to Scandinavia, where the welfare was even better, but that never materialized.

The compelling thing about the documentary is how creative the boys were. To stave off boredom and keep sane, they watched the 5000+ DVDs that their dad had collected and then they’d copy the scripts and act out the films. They made clever props. It’s a good thing there were so many kids or they wouldn’t have enough actors.

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Red Beard

 

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Red Beard performs surgery as Yasumot o looks on

I had imagined the premise of Kurosawa’s Red Beard (1965) incorrectly for years. I assumed it was some samurai film with lots of sword fights so I never bothered with it. Then when I listened to the commentary on The Lower Depths, I realized that it was a drama. I had to right this wrong so I picked up the DVD at the library.

Set in 19th century Japan, Red Beard isn’t just about the curmudgeon older doctor so nicknamed, it’s equally about young Dr. Yasumoto, who has just finished medical school and arrives Red Beard’s clinic. Yasumoto is not happy about working in a clinic that serves the poorest of the poor. He had his heart set on treating high status samurai. Surely, this is a mistake the arrogant, obstinate  young doctor believes.

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Yasumoto (Kayama) and Red Beard (Mifune) with director A. Kurosawa

Yasumoto refuses to put on the clinic uniform or to abide by any of the clinic rules. He’s horrified by the outward appearance of the poor. He almost gets killed when he flouts a rule about avoiding the hut in the back where a deranged, wealthy woman is housed. All the while Red Beard is gruff, wise and patient. He sees so much more than Yasumoto can.

I loved Red Beard’s gruff ways. He was gentle with the patients who needed it, but tough with those who were foolish. He was wise in dealing with Yasumoto, allowing the young doctor to figure life out on his own and smiling when he finally donned his uniform and took on treating the poor of his own accord.

The plot twists and turns. Sometimes Red Beard is the focus, often Yasumoto, or a poor girl who’s rescued from a brothel. So many characters are given the spotlight and they all deserve it. The film has an emotional depth on par with The Human Condition, and one that few films bother to attempt. Kurosawa doesn’t beat you over the head with a message, but he does make you muse on how you should be kinder or more compassionate, how you should stretch beyond your comfort zone. It’s a film I could watch again and again. I’m so glad my misconception was dispelled. Red Beard is a treasure.

 

The Kennel Murder

With William Powell of The Thin Man movies, I was looking for a suave, witty detective story. If The Thin Man is an A movie, The Kennel Murder is a C+.

The film opens with detective Philo Vance, played by Powell, at a dog show where his dog loses. At the show there’s a rich man, Archer Coe, with plenty of enemies. His niece resents his control over her, his cook, who’s Chinese, resents his Coe for selling his collection of ancient Chinese porcelain, his secretary resents Coe for forbidding him to marry his niece, his lover’s been cut off after a jealous Coe finds her with an Italian lover, who was supposed to buy the Chinese porcelain collection . . . . No one seems to like Coe.

When Coe is found dead in his bedroom with the door locked, the inept, comical police sergeant assumes it’s a suicide. But Vance doesn’t buy it. When Coe’s hapless brother’s found murdered, murder is suspected, but who did it?

Powell is clever and stands head and shoulders above the police force who all provide comic relief. It’s an entertaining movie but not as witty as The Thin Man films and better 1930s films. With Myrna Loy, Powell had an equal to engage with; here he was the lonely brain. The other characters were stereotypes; and there are some flaws in the murder.

So I’ve seen better films and wouldn’t recommend this strongly, but The Kennel Murder did entertain.

New Year’s Resolutions

Last year I resolved to watch one old movie a week and I defined “old” as made before 1960. I had no idea how many great films I would discover through this resolution. I discovered lots of great movies from America, Japan, England, Italy and France. I saw great films I knew I should see, but never made time for. I did allow myself 4 weeks “off” but I think I saw at least 49 old films. Chaplin, Lloyd, Sacha Guitry, Mizuguchi, were just some of the directors whose work I saw for the first time.

So I’m going to continue this resolution with a couple tweaks. There were plenty of good films in the 60s and 70s so in 2015, I will watch movies made prior to 1980 and I’ll watch at least 2 a month.

Part of the reason for the decrease is that I plan to return to watching Lynda.com videos to upgrade my photography, software and other professional skills. I think I can manage watching three short videos a week for that goal.

I made my movie resolution because my Act One friend, Janet doesn’t believe in health related resolutions because you should eat well and exercise anyway and the January resolutions tend not to work so at some point you just postpone action till the next year. (Janet resolves to make time for lunch with a friend once a week so she doesn’t lose touch with people. I do believe fun, but easily postponed resolutions actually work.) In spite of Janet’s wise belief, I hope to regularly lift weights to tone my arms. So I’ll do that a minimum of three times a week.

I might start a Facebook page for anyone interested in the “Old Movie” Challenge.

What do you plan to change for 2015?

The Story of a Cheat

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The Story of a Cheat (1936) is a delightful comedy by Sacha Guitry, whom I’d never have discovered if it weren’t for my New Year’s resolution to watch old movies. In T he Story of a Cheat, Guitry plays a suave man who falls into one incident after another where he winds up stealing or conning someone. As a boy, he stole some money from his father’s shop. He got caught and was forbidden to eat the mushrooms served for dinner. As all his relations get poisoned, he lucked out and thus the confusion over whether honesty is the best policy ensues. No matter how bad things get, there’s always some silver lining and this hero winds up doing alright – as long as he’s dishonest. Whenever he’s honest, he gets in trouble.

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It’s a fun, entertaining French film told almost entirely through flashback and voice over. Big no-no’s for movies, but this does work. The Criterion Collection provides a nice essay on Guitry’s career.