Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Random notes: March 6, 2015.

Friday, March 6th, 2015

Pigeon King International sold breeding pairs of pigeons to farmers with a guarantee to buy back their offspring at fixed prices for 10 years. Initially, Galbraith told farmers that the birds were high-end racing pigeons and that he planned to sell the offspring to the lucrative markets that support the sport overseas. Later, Galbraith changed his story, telling farmers that the birds were part of his trailblazing plan to elevate pigeon meat, known as squab, from a fringe delicacy in North America into the next ubiquitous chicken. But in the end, “they were neither,” the prosecutor said; Galbraith never sold a single pigeon for sport or meat. He seemed to have merely taken the young birds he bought from Pigeon King International farmers and resold them, as breeding pairs, to other Pigeon King International farmers, shuttling pigeons from one barn to another. And this meant continually recruiting new investors so he would have the cash to buy the pigeons his existing investors produced every month. When Galbraith’s scheme finally fell apart, Pigeon King International had almost a thousand breeders under contract in five Canadian provinces and 20 U.S. states. He’d taken nearly $42 million from farmers and walked away from obligations to buy back $356 million worth of their baby birds, ruining many of those investors. A forensic accountant determined that signing up enough new pigeon breeders to pay off those contracts would have dug him into an even deeper, $1.5 billion hole.

Speaking of fringe delicacies, your yearly slideshow of rodeo food from the HouChron is here. The deep-fried bacon-wrapped Reese’s peanut butter cup sounds interesting, but it looks a little small; I have to wonder what the value proposition is. Deep-fried Nutella also intrigues me, as does deep-fried pecan pie.

Obit watch, continued: Albert Maysles, noted documentary filmmaker. A/V Club.

Confession: I have a fair number of Maysles’ films on Criterion DVDs. I tried to watch “Grey Gardens”: I got about 10 minutes into it and just couldn’t watch any more. I’m not exactly sure why, but there was something about it that just made me extremely uncomfortable…

Random notes: February 23, 2015.

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Am I understanding things correctly? They made a movie out of “Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law“? And it won Best Picture?

Ackquille Pollard is a rising young rapper under the name Bobby Shmurda. Mr. Pollard’s rap career has been temporarily sidetracked:

Mr. Pollard was arrested for what city prosecutors said was his role as the “driving force” and “organizing figure” behind the street gang known as GS9, an offshoot of the Crips. In one incident just a month before he was signed, prosecutors said, Mr. Pollard shot at his brother, shattering glass at a Brooklyn barbershop. He faces up to 25 years in prison for conspiracy, reckless endangerment and gun possession; others charged, including Mr. Pollard’s childhood friends, face more serious accusations, including second-degree murder.

Mr. Pollard is being held on $2 million bail. And he’s upset that his record label hasn’t bailed him out.

But as rap has become more corporate, that kind of aid is unusual. Matthew Middleton, Mr. Pollard’s entertainment lawyer, said that while Epic is not obligated to cover bail or legal fees for Mr. Pollard, the artist expected more support, financial and emotional, especially after the label’s spirited pursuit of the rapper made them business partners.

“These companies for years have capitalized and made millions and millions of dollars from kids in the inner city portraying their plight to the rest of the world,” Mr. Middleton said. “To take advantage of that and exploit it from a business standpoint and then turn your back is disingenuous, to say the least.”

Obit watch: Herman Rosenblat. Mr. Rosenblat was a Holocaust survivor who wrote a memoir of his experiences. In that memoir, he told a story about a girl who threw an apple over the fence to him while he was in a concentration camp; later, after he moved to the United States, he met the girl again and married her.

This was, of course, a great story. Mr. Rosenblat made “Oprah” twice, got a book deal, and there were plans to turn his story into a movie.

And sadly, it turned out that Mr. Rosenblat completely invented the story about the girl and the apple. The book was never published and the movie was never made.

There is an Indian actor named Amitabh Bachchan. He’s apparently not well known in the United States, but he’s hugely popular in India. “He has appeared in more than 150 Bollywood films and served as a longtime host of the country’s wildly popular version of ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?'” according to the LAT. He also had a small part in the 2013 “Gatsby”.

And because of that small part, a group of Sikhs in the United States are claiming Mr. Bachchan is subject to US jurisdiction.

The group has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. making the improbable argument that Bachchan’s work with a U.S. film company gives American courts the ability to hold him responsible for the massacre of thousands of Sikhs in India three decades ago. The group alleges that the actor, now 72, made statements that incited a violent mob.

More:

The suit hinges on the Alien Tort Statute, which in recent years has become the center of a debate over whether American courts can and should be the arbiter of human rights abuses committed elsewhere in the world by non-U.S. citizens. The 1789 law, which was passed by the first Congress and initially used in cases of piracy and stolen goods, states that federal courts shall have jurisdiction over wrongs “committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.”

It seems unlikely this will work, at least according to the LAT: the Supreme Court has restricted the ability of plaintiffs to pursue claims under the Alien Tort Statute, and they are also likely to have issues accomplishing service on the defendant.

One Wisconsin suit was dismissed after it became clear the process server hired by the group mistakenly served another Sikh man with a long white beard and turban, not the chief minister of the state of Punjab. Hospital security and Secret Service agents proved a hurdle in serving another Indian politician at a New York cancer treatment facility. A case against Manmohan Singh, India’s prime minister at the time of the suit, was thrown out after the U.S. State Department stepped in to declare to the court that Singh was entitled to immunity as a head of state.

On at least one occasion, the group resorted to offering a $10,000 reward for anyone who could successfully serve the lawsuit on Punjab’s chief minister.

Obit watch: January 22, 2015.

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

John Bayley, literary critic and husband of Iris Murdoch. Bayley wrote Elegy for Iris about his life with Murdoch and her decline from Alzheimer’s disease.

Alan J. Hirschfield, former president of Columbia Pictures.

Hirschfield was the studio president during the David Begelman affair, and is one of the central figures in David McClintick’s excellent book Indecent Exposure.

Obit watch: January 12, 2015.

Monday, January 12th, 2015

Robert Stone, noted novelist (“Dog Soldiers”, “A Flag For Sunrise”).

Anita Ekberg.

Enough said.

Obit watch: December 31, 2014.

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

I’ve seen coverage of this elsewhere, but I wanted to note it here.

Christine Cavanaugh, noted voice actress, passed away on the 22nd, though her death wasn’t widely reported until yesterday. Her major credits included the voice of “Babe” in the first movie, the voice of Marty Sherman on “The Critic”, and the voice of Dexter in “Dexter’s Laboratory”.

ETA: A/V Club.

More obit watch.

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

The LAT is reporting the death of Luise Rainer at the age of 104.

I’d never heard of Ms. Rainer until I read her obit, but she’s one of those interesting Hollywood stories. She started out acting on the stage in Germany, was signed by MGM and came to Hollywood in 1935, won two consecutive Academy Awards (Best Actress, 1936, “The Great Ziegfeld”, and Best Actress, 1937, “The Good Earth”)…

…and then pretty much disappeared from Hollywood.

Rainer, however, didn’t like the trappings of being a movie star. She refused to wear make-up or glamorous clothes and demanded a say in what roles she would play, which didn’t go over well with dominating Mayer. She disparaged Hollywood people, finding them more interested in clothes than in important issues of the day. Her friends included composers George Gershwin and Arnold Schoenberg, writer Thomas Mann and architect Richard Neutra — not exactly a Hollywood crowd. She struggled to find roles that were worthy of her talent.

She was unhappily married to Clifford Odets for a time.

Edited to add: Very nice McFadden obit from the NYT.

Obit watch: December 24, 2014.

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

Lawrence forwarded this really nice appreciation of Margot Adler, who passed away in July. Awful lot of dust in the room today.

(No, really. I’ve been sneezing my ass off the past couple of days.)

A/V Club obit for Joseph Sargent, who I mentioned yesterday. Also: NYT.

I missed this over the weekend: former Houston mayor Bob Lanier.

Finally, one I missed until late yesterday: Billie Whitelaw. You may know her as the nanny in the original “The Omen”, but she was very famous in England. She may have been best known as Samuel Beckett’s muse and collaborator:

She accepted his artistic vision without always understanding its explicitly rendered ambiguities. They read his plays together, discussing not their meaning but the most minuscule elements of the text — the pauses and sighs and guttural sounds as well as the words, the inflections demanded by the language, and his need, as she said in interviews, to remove the acting from the performance. “Flat, no emotion, no color,” he would often caution her, she said.

Obit watch: December 23, 2014.

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

Yesterday was a bad day for the Joes.

Joe Cocker: LAT. NYT. A/V Club.

This is the only story I’ve found so far, but prolific television and movie director Joseph Sargent also died yesterday. Among his credits: the original “Taking of Pelham 123″ and “The Marcus-Nelson Murders” (the pilot for “Kojak”).

Notes on film, 2014.

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

The latest batch of movies added to the Library of Congress National Film Registry has been announced.

Quick takes:

  • There’s a good representation of historical stuff on here; I’m interested in seeing “Bert Williams Lime Kiln Club Field Day” and “The Dragon Painter”.
  • Also a good representation of horror, with “Rosemary’s Baby” and the 1953 “House of Wax”.
  • “Ruggles of Red Gap” sounds like a whole lot of fun. I’d love to see that, too.
  • You know, I liked “The Big Lebowski” okay when I saw it. I still think it’s a good movie, and I often quote lines from it, but I really don’t get what seems to be the passionate worship of it. In terms of just Coen Brothers films, I think “True Grit”, “No Country For Old Men”, “Fargo”, and “Miller’s Crossing” are all better movies. (“Fargo” is already on the list, of course.)
  • I kind of want to see “Down Argentine Way” for one reason: Carmen Miranda. Same with “The Gang’s All Here”. Maybe we should have a Carmen Miranda movie night one night. (If we do, I’ll try to let everyone know in advance. You might even say I’ll give folks a Miranda warning.)
  • Yes, I will be here all week. Try the veal and remember to tip your waitress.
  • I’d also really like to see “Rio Bravo” and “Little Big Man”. I saw parts of the latter on TV when I was a child, but I’ve never seen either one start to finish.
  • Other things I’d like to see: “Unmasked”, “The Power And The Glory”.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Friday, December 12th, 2014

Carolyn Hax 2014 Hootenanny of Holiday Horrors. (The good stuff starts about halfway down.)

My brother turned to me and said in a rather flat tone, “No standards today. If they are alive at the end of it, we win.”

The Dissolve’s “Worst films of 2014″.

Obit watch: November 20, 2014.

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

I wanted to wait until the media had a chance to do fuller roundups of Mike Nichols and his career.

NYT. LAT. The Dissolve.

Man, what a career.

TMQ Watch: November 11, 2014.

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

This week’s TMQ, after the jump…

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