Week Three: From Broadway to the Big Screen

You may have noticed that the movie industry likes to get it’s stories from other places.  Novels, plays, musicals… although now Broadway Musicals are being made from movies so I guess turn about it fair play.

It was a bit of a jumble from time to time.  Stars from Broadway thought they should have the opportunity to continue their starring roles on the silver screen but movie moguls wanted to hedge their bets with stars… even if they couldn’t sing.  Which is why Julie Andrew wasn’t allowed to reprise her role of Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady.  Audrey Hepburn took the role but the singing was dubbed by Marni Nixon (who dubbed the singing in The King and I and West Side Story as well).  Rex Harrison got to keep his role but not Julie.

Musicals started to fall out of favor in the 1960s even when some musicals made bank at the box office the cost of the flops (Camelot,Hello Dolly!, Sweet Charity, Doctor Dolittle, Man of La Mancha, and Mame) caused studios to rethink how many musicals they were willing to make.

The 1970s through 90s saw a smattering of musicals.  Some successful (Annie and Little Shop of Horrors) and some not so successful (The Wiz).

And now we are in a new age of musicals with Chicago, Dreamgirls, Mamma Mia!, etc.

But let’s go back to the good old days when Broadway Musicals were made into bright, showy, spellbinding movies.

And now for this week’s film list.

1. Damn Yankees (1958)
2. Oliver (1968)
3. Annie (1982)
4. A Chorus Line (1985)

Bonus films
5. Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
6. Cabaret (1972)
7. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966)

Discussion Questions –

1 – Do you think musicals are good escapist fun or totally out of touch?
2 – Does it matter if the actor is singing their own songs or not?
3 – Do you prefer musical numbers that move the plot forward or show-stoppers that have nothing to do with the plot and are just song and dance-tastic?

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Week Two: Beware the Machines

The first general purpose computers date back to the early 1800s.  I’m not making that up.  (And here’s another little piece of trivia.  The first computer programmer was a woman; Ada Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron.)  For the last 2 hundred plus years they have just been getting smaller and faster.

With any new discovery comes a certain level of fear.  Fear of the unknown, fear of personal obsolescence which is linked in a way to a fear of our own mortality.  The emotional response that machines don’t die, but we do is just that… emotional.  I mean how many times do you end up replacing your cell phone?  Built in obsolescence is the reality of machinery but we still hold an innate fear of the machines.  Beyond that there is the fact that as we make thinking machines we are attempting in some small way to act as God.  Robotics could be seen to be a modern equivalent to Frankenstein’s monster.  In computers we face our fears both rational and emotional.

Even though these films span such a vast amount of time there are still similar themes of alienation, of us and them, of finding and possibly losing our purpose or our place in our personal sphere, in society and in life itself.

And now for this week’s film list.

1. Fritz Lang’s Metropolis
2. Logan’s Run
3. Blade Runner
4. The Matrix

Bonus films
5. The Terminator
6. Ghost in the Shell
7. War Games

Discussion Questions –

1 – What similarities do the films share as relates to personal identity?
2 – What are the differences?  Do these differences  relate more to the era in which the film was made or in the story itself?
3 – Is it easier to fear the machine or the creator of the machine?

Week One: Hitchcock, Alfred – Director and Producer

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Hitchcock

Some see Hitchcock as a genius.  His vision is very strong, he likes his themes and he works with them very well.  I fall into this camp.

There are others who see his work as repetitive and derivative.

One of the most difficult things to do when watching older films for the first time is to release some of the biases that you bring from modern cinema.  Works may feel familiar because they have been worked and reworked to death over the years but you must remember that some of these movies are the first time these themes and plots were ever shown.

Everything had to start somewhere.  So while watching these movies try to do so with fresh eyes.  Don’t judge anything based on a feeling that it’s dated or the cinematography isn’t what you see in the movie theater today.

Just watch it.  See it for the first time.

And without further ado… this week’s film list.

1. Rebecca
2. Rear Window
3. Stage Fright

Bonus films
4. The Lady Vanishes
5. The 39 Steps
6. The Birds
7. To Catch A Thief

Discussion Questions –

1 – What about each of these films make them “Hitchcock” films?
2 – What changes, if any, would you make to these films for them to play well to a modern audience?
3 – Would you watch more Hitchcock films?  Why or why not?

film club

April 26, 2012

For some reason I was nominated to start a film club of sorts by some friends.

This is what happens when you hang out with young people who don’t recognize your pop culture references.  If you make enough reference that they don’t get, at some point you will be asked to make a list.

Instead of a list, I started a weekly film club with mandatory and optional films.  I even come up with discussion questions.

It started with just 3 people and now it’s up to 6.

So I figured I’d put them up on the blog.  Put it out there in the universe.

See where it goes.

Okay – look for the next post.  Once the current 3 “episodes” are up then they will go up once a week.

night

I preface this saying that I actually give preference to cars when I am a pedestrian at cross walks.  And for the most part I totally obey cross walk signals even when no one is around.  Although that’s mostly because I am in no rush to get anywhere.

So given this information, I am not exactly the person that a UCPD officer should turn to at around 8am and ask about giving out tickets to J-walkers across Bancroft Avenue in front of UC Berkeley.

He asked me if he should start giving out tickets and instead of saying NO which is the logical response I went a step further and said that if he’s going to do it then he needs to make sure that it’s consistent.  Which means constant surveillance and monitored at more than just that cross walk.  Because if you only give out tickets at that cross walk and only some of the time then it’s not really enforcement.  It’s you being a jerk.

And that’s not what the police are supposed to be about.  They have to know that, right?  That their actions become interpreted signals of their greater belief system and morality.

So no, don’t just give out tickets because someone breaks a rule that you have never enforced.  If you want to enforce a rule that’s fine but you need to be consistent.

It’s like parenting.

right?

Or maybe I’ve got this all wrong.

Could go either way, really.

night

I had the library transfer a copy of The Knowland Retribution to the Central branch.  And I finished it this weekend.

I thought it was a good book.  Very well written and I understood the characters, their motivations and their arcs.

One tiny problem.  Basis of the central conflict…. massive e coli outbreak from tainted meat.

Yeah – I’m going to be a little more careful about where I get a burger for a little while.

Sometimes you wish you just hadn’t read that.

Otherwise, a very good book.  I think I might pick up the next one in the series.

night

fleece socks!

March 4, 2012

Since I now know how to use my magnificent serger…

Today I decided to go ahead and make some fleece socks.  The last batch ended in failure but I had a new pattern that I had faith in…

So with scraps from other fleece projects I made these…

I like them both.  The top ones have a flat lock seam and the bottom ones I did a rolled hem on the outside of the sock.

Too bad it’s basically summer here in the Bay.  Oh well, I’m sure I’ll get to use them at some point and honestly I really like how they turned out.

night