Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Obit watch: September 11, 2014.

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

Colonel Bernard F. Fisher (USAF – ret) passed away on August 16th, though his death does not appear to have been widely reported until today.

Col. Fisher (he was a major at the time) received the Medal of Honor for pulling off one of the greatest rescue missions in the history of the Vietnam War.

(I swear that I read this story in Reader’s Digest when I was a child, maybe as a “Drama In Real Life”.)

The paper of record does not seem to have deigned to note the passing of Richard “Jaws” Kiel, but the LATimes and the A/V Club have.

Edited to add: now the NYT gets around to it.

Obit watch: August 13, 2014.

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

Lauren Bacall. NYT. LAT. A/V Club.

Robin Williams.

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

Lawrence. Popehat I. Popehat II. NYT. LAT. A/V Club. Incomparable “Bonus Track”.

Edited to add: The Bloggess.

Somehow this seems appropriate:

Edited to add 2: Cracked. Damn.

So when I hear some naive soul say, “Wow, how could a wacky guy like [insert famous dead comedian here] just [insert method of early self-destruction here]? He was always joking around and having a great time!” my only response is a blank stare.
That’s honestly the equivalent of, “How can that cow be dead? She had to be healthy, because these hamburgers we made from her are delicious!”

Obit (sort of) watch: August 1, 2014.

Friday, August 1st, 2014

There’s a nice story in today’s NYT. And I wonder why I’m reading it there, rather than in the Statesman.

Background: Gary Lavergne wrote what is widely considered the definitive book on Charles Whitman, A Sniper in the Tower: The Charles Whitman Murders.

Claire Wilson was one of Whitman’s victims. She was walking with her boyfriend, Thomas Eckman, when Whitman shot her in the belly. He then shot and killed Eckman. Ms. Wilson survived, but she was eight months pregnant; Whitman’s bullet killed the baby.

Ms. Wilson (now Ms. Jones) got in touch with Mr. Lavergne after the book was published (he was unable to find her previously) and they became friends. Sometime later, Mr. Lavergne began researching a question, and found the answer last year.

In November 2013, he was preparing the materials from his most recent work, “Before Brown,” a history of Heman Marion Sweatt’s efforts to integrate the university beginning in the 1940s. Mr. Lavergne revisited a database of nearly 23,000 graves at Austin Memorial Park Cemetery, where Theophilus S. Painter, the university president of that era, is buried.

The end result is that Ms. Jones now knows where her baby was buried. And the grave has a headstone, paid for by Mr. Lavergne.

Pretty much everyone has acknowledged this, but: Dick Smith. A/V Club.

Obit watch: July 29, 2014.

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

James Shigeta passed away yesterday. I wasn’t sure if I was going to note this, but the A/V Club ran an excellent obit for him that I believe deserves attention.

He was the lead in the film version of “Flower Drum Song”. If you look at his IMDB page, he had bit parts in basically everything during the 1970′s: the original “Mission: Impossible”, “Rockford”, “SWAT”, “Kung Fu”, “Emergency”, “Ironside”, the original “Hawaii 5-0″, etc.

He was perhaps best known (at least to my brother) as Joseph Takagi in the first “Die Hard”.

Also, the NYT is reporting the passing of Theodore VanKirk, the last surviving crew member of the Enola Gay.

Obit watch: July 22, 2014.

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

Novelist Thomas Berger.

For those who may not be aware, Berger’s most famous book was the Western Little Big Man, which in turn became the basis for the Dustin Hoffman movie.

Happy Bastille Day, everyone!

Monday, July 14th, 2014

The Good, the Bad, and the Obit Watch for June 25, 2014.

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Even though it has been widely reported (and I had a busy morning), I can’t let Eli Wallach pass without notice.

NYT. LAT. A/V Club.

This brought a smile to my face:

He graduated from Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn and attended the University of Texas at Austin (“because the tuition was $30 a year,” he once said), where he also learned to ride horses — a skill he would put to good use in westerns.

Edited to add: According to (I know, I know) Wikipedia, he graduated in 1936 with a history degree. Assuming he started in 1932, $30 then is about $520 now. If I’m reading this chart right, a history major today would be paying $4,673 a semester if they were a Texas resident.

Not that I’m grinding an axe or anything…

Hooray for Bollywood!

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

I haven’t paid much attention to Nate Silver or, but this story (by way of the Y Combinator Twitter) pushes a couple of buttons.

What’s the worst movie ever, according to IMDB? Not “Exterminator City“, Lawrence. IMDB’s bottom ranked movie is something called “Gunday“, which David Goldenberg describes as “a pretty silly, over-the-top Bollywood action flick about gun couriers that features a love triangle and lots of comical misunderstandings typical to the genre“.

Is it that bad? 1.4 bad? Worse than “The Hottie and the Nottie” bad?

“Gunday,” which came out of the huge Bollywood studio Yash Raj Films in February, isn’t that bad. There are a few large plot holes and unconvincing character motivations, but the dance sequences are top-notch, the costumes are fun, and Irrfan Khan’s portrayal of a world-weary policeman is as good as his fans have come to expect. In India, it’s the top-grossing February movie in Bollywood history. The New York Times’ Rachel Saltz ended her review of “Gunday” by calling it “downright enjoyable.” gave it three out of four stars. Variety called it “a boisterous and entertaining period crime drama.”

(The review was written by Danny Bowes, for what it may be worth.)

So, if mainstream critics don’t think “Gunday” is so bad, how did it end up at the bottom of the IMDB rankings?

One word: crowd-sourcing.

Two words: Gonojagoron Moncho.

What? Gonojagoron Moncho is a “Bangladeshi nationalist movement” (the name translates to “National Awakening Stage”) that got very offended by “Gunday”. Specifically, they object to “Gunday”‘s depiction of the “Bangladesh Liberation War”:

On Twitter, activists used the hashtag #GundayHumiliatedHistoryOfBangladesh to get the word out about the protests and to ask supporters to bury the film on IMDb. (By using a quarter of their character allotment on the hashtag alone, though, there wasn’t much room for the activists to elaborate.) Facebook groups were formed specifically to encourage irate Bangladeshis and others to down-vote the movie. (A sample call to action: “If you’re a Bangladeshi and care enough to not let some Indian crappy movie distort our history of independence, let’s unite and boycott this movie!!!”)

So “Gunday”‘s low ranking is the result of a concerted political campaign, not because it actually is a crappy movie. And what does IMDB say about this?

“Our approach is not to focus on individual titles or incidents, but to analyze this behavior whenever it occurs and to apply any new learnings to strengthen our voting mechanism, so that the resulting improvements affect all titles/votes in our system rather than just the ones specifically affected by these isolated situations.”

Random notes: May 1, 2014.

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

Hooray, hooray, the first of May!

Happy Victims of Communism Day, everyone.

My first encounter with Bob Hoskins wasn’t “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” or “Super Mario Brothers”. I encountered him through Siskel, Ebert, and a low-budget crime film that nearly didn’t get a theatrical release:

I’m going to have to watch that again, soon. (The Criterion edition is out of print, but Amazon has two in stock. Just saying.)

NYT. LAT. A/V Club.

Also among the dead: Al Feldstein, who made Mad what it was in the 1960s and 1970s.

He hired many of the writers and artists whose work became Mad trademarks. Among them were Don Martin, whose cartoons featuring bizarre human figures and distinctive sound effects — Katoong! Sklortch! Zazik! — immortalized the eccentric and the screwy; Antonio Prohias, whose “Spy vs. Spy” was a sendup of the international politics of the Cold War; Dave Berg, whose “The Lighter Side of …” made gentle, arch fun of middlebrow behavior; Mort Drucker, whose caricatures satirized movies like Woody Allen’s “Hannah and Her Sisters” (“Henna and Her Sickos” in Mad’s retelling); and George Woodbridge, who illustrated a Mad signature article, written by Tom Koch: a prescient 1965 satire of college sports, criticizing their elitism and advocating the creation of a game that could be played by everyone. It was called 43-Man Squamish, “played on a five-sided field called a Flutney.” Position players, each equipped with a hooked stick called a frullip, included deep brooders, inside and outside grouches, overblats, underblats, quarter-frummerts, half-frummerts a full-frummert and a dummy.

Random notes: April 8, 2014.

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

For the historical record, your Mickey Rooney obit roundup: NYT. LAT. A/V Club.

The author Peter Matthiessen has also passed away after an illness. The only work of Matthiessen’s that I’ve read so far is In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, which made a strong impression on me at the time. Further, I say not, as I’d sound too much like TJIC. Anyway: A/V Club. NYT. NYT Magazine article published shortly before Matthiessen’s death.

Thanks to “That Guy” for providing a Houston Press link with more details about the Damian Mandola story. There’s also an update in the Statesman: Austin Eater has a story which links to the Statesman, so this may let you get around the paywall.

…security researchers say that in most cases, attackers hardly need to go to such lengths when the management software of all sorts of devices connects directly to corporate networks. Heating and cooling providers can now monitor and adjust office temperatures remotely, and vending machine suppliers can see when their clients are out of Diet Cokes and Cheetos. Those vendors often don’t have the same security standards as their clients, but for business reasons they are allowed behind the firewall that protects a network.
Security experts say vendors are tempting targets for hackers because they tend to run older systems, like Microsoft’s Windows XP software. Also, security experts say these seemingly innocuous devices — videoconference equipment, thermostats, vending machines and printers — often are delivered with the security settings switched off by default. Once hackers have found a way in, the devices offer them a place to hide in plain sight.

Heh. Heh. Heh. (Also: remember some jerk saying “Titles like ‘Restaurant IT Guy’ or ‘SysAdmin for Daniel’ are going to become a thing, if they aren’t already.”? I didn’t even think about the “Hey, let’s put malware on the server for that Chinese place that everyone orders from! That’ll give us a back door into the Federal Reserve!” scenario.)

Al Sharpton: FBI informant.

Obit watch: March 5, 2014.

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

Noted French film director Alain Resnais. LAT. NYT.

Dr. Sherwin B. Nuland, perhaps most famous for his book How We Die. I haven’t read that, but I did read (and was extremely impressed by) Doctors: The Biography of Medicine.