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Ed Waffle

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Everything posted by Ed Waffle

  1. Having finally seen this movie... I thought that Ang Lee and the screenwriters made it clear--Jack wanted the two of them to get a ranch together, a "cow/calf" operation. Ennis, flashing back on what happened to two old men who lived together on a ranch--one of them was beaten to death and sexually disfigured, even though both of them were "tough old birds"--didn't see a risk. He saw a sure thing, that he, Jack or both of them would be literally killed by their neighbors. Ennis couldn't see anything else happening. A few notes: Economics reared its ugly head a few times. The first was when Joe Aguirre (masterfully and repellently played by Randy Quaid) tells Jack that there won't be any work for him this year, having seen Jack and Ennis playing slap and tickle the year before. Aguirre makes it clear that the reason Jack won't be hired is that they were letting the dogs take care of the sheep while they "stemmed the rose(?)". I got the impression that the result would have been the same no matter what they had been doing, since it caused economic loss for him. Aguirre, of course, is written and played as a completely disgusting individual who gets worse every time he appears. One of the main reasons that Alma didn't leave Ennis would have been economic--one got the impression (at least this one did) that she finally ended the marriage only after finding someone to take care of her and her family. Being a divorcee with two young daughters and a job at the local supermarket would have been worse than continuing to be married to a man who she knew didn't love her--or at least loved someone else a lot more than he did her. A third instance has been remarked on already, the class differences between Jack and Ennis. Jack seems to have a middle class background--at least his family owned a ranch--and married the daughter of a wealthy equipment dealer. He was comfortable with the wider world and the possibilities that existed there, including quick trips to the border to pay for sex. Ennis, during the last meeting with Jack, tells him that he hasn't been anywhere--makes it sound as if he hasn't been out of the county in Wyoming where he was born--and doesn't make enough money to take care of his family (or to move them out of the apartment over the laundry). He is almost peasant-like in his inability to see anything beyond the next day. "Brokeback Mountain" is a terrific movie. I love Ang Lee and have seen everything he has done several times--besides, of course this one. I rented "Pushing Hands" to watch again tonight. Even his "failures" (The Hulk) are full of wonderful scenes and great filmmaking and the movies that work, like "Brokeback", The Wedding Banquet", "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" (although CTHD is by no means as good as it seemed to many people in the U.S. when it first arrived) may well become classics.
  2. Both Richard Bernstein and Frank Hernandez have sung Papageno although not recently and Bernstein's voice is probably too dark for the role now. We have seen them here in Motown in a few roles. Both of them move on stage very well--we have seen Bernstein as Figaro and as Belcore on "Elixir of Love", both of which required some very dance like movement. Belcore especially--he danced and strutted on a table while recruiting Nemorino into his regiment. Hernandez, as Ping in "Turandot" was all over the place and even though by no means a small man he moved very gracefully. There are probably a number of "bari-hunks" who could carry off some well thought out dance steps for Papageno--he generally has to flap his arms and hop about anyway.
  3. Helene: First of all, thanks for a wonderful review of the ENO "Butterfly". It shows up a lot on the regional opera stage--Puccini is easy to sell and sets are always available for rental--and it is far from my favorite work. This sounds like a performance well worth seeing and hearing The Godall Ring is excellent. I have "The Valkyrie" and "The Twilight of the Gods" from the set and probably listen to them as often as any other Ring sets. Norman Bailey as Wotan appears on the cover of "The Valkyrie" in costume--very shiny armor, huge helmet with a cresent pointing upwards on top, a spear that looks to be about twelve feet long. The cast is uniformly good--especially Bailey, Albert Remedios and Rita Hunter, and the ENO orchestra really responded to Godall. Besides the ENO the only other company that has a regular opera season in English--either as originally written or in translation is the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. Unfortunately their season runs from late May to late June when it is already brutally hot and humid.
  4. King had a very good career at the Met and was a star in Germany. I knew his voice only through recordings--he was terrific in all the big dramatic tenor roles. He once sang the Emporer in "Die Frau ohne Schatten" on one night and then Calaf in "Turandot" the following night when Franco Corelli. Those who were there say that his Emporer was outstanding--in a cast that included Leonie Rysanek, Christa Ludwig and Irene Dalis--and his Calaf was quite good. Listening to King as Siegmund in "Die Valkure" with Rysanek and Gerd Nienstedt from Beyreuth, Karl Bohm, 1973 as I type this. Quite a voice.
  5. Young Frankenstein, After Hours and almost any comedy with Teri Garr, at least when she is onscreen Kung Fu Hustle—Steven Chow at his best Airplane—shockingly funny when it came out and can’t be blamed for the raft of lame imitators, including its own sequels--hasn’t aged very well Dr. Strangelove –Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room. A Night at the Opera --There ain't no Sanity Claus. To Be or Not To Be —1942 with Jack Benny and Carole Lombard
  6. Just finished Out by Natsuo Kirino. This is her first book to be translated into English and it is quite amazing. A novel about life on the lower rungs of Japanese society--the female protagonists all work the night shift in a factory assembling boxed lunches--that depicts the daily grind of working class women in Japan and the criminal happenstance that allows some of them to get out of it. Reading War Trash a novel by Ha Jin. It is a novel set in a South Korean POW camp in 1950 and depicts the plight of members of the People's Liberation Army who were taken prisoner in the South. Ha Jin's earlier novels have won a stack of awards--he writes in vivid and beautiful English, much like another favorite of mine who learned this language as an adult, Joseph Conrad. Started Atonement by Ian McEwan, for no other reason than I thought I should read something by him. It is certainly well written but I am having trouble connecting with the characters--I keep thinking of characters from Jane Austen and the Brontes as I read it. Re-reading The Great Code: The Bible as Literature Northrup Frye's book on the cultural importance of the Old and New Testaments. One of the many books that I love and which I read again every five years or so.
  7. Pulp Fiction Might be the most overrated movie of the 1990's although it certainly has plenty of competition for that title. Citizen Kane Seems to be on most top ten lists but I don't think it is even the best movie the Orson Welles made. Singin' in the Rain On my top ten list except for every minute in which Debbie Reynolds is on the screen. Million Dollar Baby It isn't a good boxing movie--of which there are very few--or a good melodrama. I agree with canbelto that the only good thing about it is Morgan Freeman, for whom portraying God was not that much of a stretch. Shawshank Redemption A good movie but not that good.
  8. dirac wrote: I am shocked to think that the ultra-perfect Ilsa Laszlo would be found in the arms of another man! ;-> Actually I had never really thougt of it, taking that part of the movie at face value. But it would certainly be the way that most adults would act, especially under the excrutiating stress of the characters in Casablanca.
  9. Estelle-- I think that Chungking Express is a terrific movie--I have sent a few comments I did on it for a Hong Kong review site to your email address. In the Mood for Love sold fewer tickets in the USA than in France, where if won the Cesar award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2001. Even "art house" films have to open with a bang, which this movie did not.
  10. Rick and Ilsa are unbelievably noble in renouncing their former status as lovers in "Casablanca", but the movie is so wonderful that the audience believes it. You kind of know in advance that Joe Bradley and the Princess will not become lovers, if for no other reason than Joe is played by Gregory Peck who seems always to do the right (or at least proper) thing--he was at his best as a restrained and noble man. I am repeating one of the movies that I mentioned in my initial post on this thread, but anyone who likes an intense but unconsumated romance may love In the Mood for Love. "May" because many think, not without reason, that watching a movie by Hong Kong based auteur Wong Kar Wai is less exciting than a) watching paint dry; b) watching grass grow c) watching six hours of the Weather Channel that you accidentlally taped when you thought you were getting "Live from Lincoln Center". Wong takes a long time to finish his movies--he was still editing In the Mood for Love several hours before its premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival where it won a Silver Bear for best foreign language film. It won a stack of other European and Asian awards that year also. Someone once described the opera Pelleas and Melisande as "Nothing happens, then Melisande dies". A lot happens in In the Mood for Love but more doesn't happen (if that makes sense) and it doesn't happen very slowly. The cast (essentially Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung Chiu Wai--the other characters could have been played by anyone) is perfect. The cinematography is breathtaking--shot and lit by Australian Patrick Doyle who has been behind the camera in many of the most lush Hong Kong films and who has a boatload of awards from Hong Kong, Berlin, BAFTA and Cannes. Even the costuming is superb. Wong's script explores betrayal, hope and fear. His grasp of the telling detail is quite astonishing although some of them aren't apparent on the first viewing--I am no longer sure how may times I have watched at least large chunks of this movie.
  11. Comrades, Almost a Love Story with Maggie Cheung and Leon Lai, directed by Peter Chan In the Mood for Love with Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, direct by Wong Kar Wai A Fishy Story with Maggie Cheung and Kenny Bee, directed by Anthony Chan Casablanca with an astonishing cast directed by Michael Curtiz The Lady Eve with Barbara Stanwyk and Henry Fonda, directed by Preston Sturges His Girl Friday with Rosiland Russell and Cary Grant, directed by Howard Hawks My Favorite Wife with Irene Dunne and Cary Grant, directed by Garson Kanin The Philadelphia Story with Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant, directed by George Kukor Lone Star with Chris Cooper and Elizabeth Pena, directed by John Sayles—might be a bit of a stretch but the last scene makes it clear Just One Night with Maria Grazia Cucinotta and Timothy Hutton, directed by Alan Jacobs Umbrellas of Cherbourg with Catherine Deneuve and Nino Castelnuovo, directed by Jacques Demy and score by Michel Legrand The Last Metro with Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu, directed by Francois Trauffaut Horseman on the Roof with Juliette Binoche and Olivier Martinez, directed by Jean-Paul Rappeneau Entre Nous with Isabelle Hupert and Miou-Miou, directed by Diane Kurys High Heels with Victoria Abril and Antonio Banderas, directed by Pedro Almovodar Marriage Italian Style with Sophia Loren and Marcello Mostroianni, directed by Vittoria di Sica
  12. Here in the suburbs of Motown (there are all of two movie theaters with a grand total of 12 screens within the city limits of Detroit) we usually hit the first showing of a film on the weekends or occasionally an early evening show during the week after work. This allows us to avoid the crowds of boors on weekend evenings. We have had the same type of experience as Helene describes, and it always seems to be the husband who doesn’t understand what is happening on the screen. I assume that people like that simply go to the movies to have something to do, since they obviously can’t be enjoying watching it. We had an odd experience a number of years ago at a Sunday afternoon screening of “Crossing Delancey”. The theater was in a Jewish neighborhood and much of the audience were elderly women. They thought that Peter Riegert would have been a perfect grandson-in-law—either for Bubbie Kantor or themselves and didn’t mind talking about it. When his character said to Amy Irving “I’ll say a brucha for you” half the audience let out an audible sigh. So there was a lot of noise behind us—the theater was crowded and we sat toward the front—but because it was so specific to the movie and so gently well-intentioned it didn’t bother us at all. Those who don’t know “Crossing Delancey” can find out more here: http://imdb.com/title/tt0094921/combined Several years ago a sparkling new print of “Belle de Jour” was released to theaters as part of a marketing campaign for the DVD. Never missing a chance to see Catherine Deneuve, we were at the theater on Saturday. Lovely movie, of course. As we were leaving we heard the couple behind us talking—one said “That Catherine Deneuve is amazing. She’s been in the movies for years and she doesn’t look a day over thirty”, apparently not realizing that they had just watched a film from about 30 years before.
  13. This is a very odd list—flipping through it the only ones I can agree with are Casablanca, Dr. Strangelove, Singin’ in the Rain and Wings of Desire—based only on personal preference. I love each of them and I watch them a few times a year. There are some excellent movies on this list, including others that are favorites of mine. For example, Day for Night is one of the best movies about movies ever made and features a very young Natalie Baye. Aguirre: the Wrath of God is as good a reflection on obsession and power as has been put on film. The Lady Eve is almost perfect as a screwball and extremely sexy comedy with the indispensable Barbara Stanwyk at the top of her game. Whether they belong on a top 100 of all time is an open question. There are a some movies on the list that are not the best representatives of their limited genre. Drunken Master II is good but Police Story I and Project A, both of which feature Jackie Chan at his acrobatic best, are better choices. And there are other Hong Kong action movies that are leagues better than anything Chan has done. Chunking Express is an excellent movie but pales in comparison to the masterpiece In the Mood for Love, also written and directed by Chinese auteur Wong Kar Wai. Talk to Her is excellent but many Almovodar fans (like me) would not select it as his best and others might nominate any of a number of films by Carlos Saura as the best of post-Franco Spain. Then comes the “what the Hell” part of the list. Purple Rose of Cairo? While I am by no means Woody Allen’s biggest fan, I can think of several of his movies that are preferable. Pulp Fiction could win an award as the most overrated movie of the 1990’s. There are better gangster movies than Miller’s Crossing on the list already. It’s a Wonderful Life needs no further comment. The usual suspects seem to make just about any list like this: Psycho, Citizen Kane, City Lights. Perhaps they should be considered among the top 100 movies of all time but one can get tired of seeing them on every list anyone ever does.
  14. Spent about half an hour at a local Borders the other day reading sections of Bentley's erotic memoir. I can see why someone would want to write such a book but, having sampled it, can't imagine why someone would want to read it.
  15. Not providing a link to the review of Toni Bentley's new book is not turning one's back on her. If Bentley wrote a book that traced the history of flower arranging as an indicator of class status and that was reviewed in the NYT it may also not be considered germane to this site. Since this site is devoted to classical ballet and the subject of the book in question has nothing to do with ballet, letting people find the book on their own may be the best course of action--or inaction. Of the works mentioned in the Times review as making up, along with "The Surrender", of "a small but pungent subgenre of extreme female confession", I have read the one by Katha Pollitt a writer who I have long admired. I tried (although not very hard) to read the "memoirs" of Catherine M, but a few pages here and there were enough. Bentley's new book seems from this review to fall between those two--better than something to glance through at Barnes and Noble but not quite intriguing enough to make it to the top of my reading list.
  16. Sequel? The mind boggles. The senses reel. Cliches fall like autumn leaves. "Dogville" is a movie whose characters and ending don't cry out for further resolution. It is over with finality. The corpse count is higher than the last act of "Hamlet". Some movies end in such a way that make the viewer wonder what happened next in the lives of the characters--"Casablanca", for example, although a sequel would be attempting to improve on perfection. Actually we know what happened to at least one character--Rick wound up in East Africa and helped Katherine Hepburn blow up the German lake cruiser. Others are designed to be part of an ongoing series--Star Wars, the Indiana Jones movies, the Mel Gibson/Danny Glover vehicle Lethal Weapon, etc. Regarding the other shocking bits that dirac mentions--most if not all of them happen to Grace Margaret Mulligan--the Kidman character. The townspeople inflict must about everything short of murder on her. If the movie had ended with her death it would have been shocking but not surprising. The ending the LVT used was (at least to me) both shocking and surprising. dirac's point regarding the casting of Kidman is most intriguing. There was no point in the movie that one could forget that the abused and degraded character of Grace was being portrayed by a member of the international screen royalty, once whose star will probably continue to ascend for years to come. Kidman has star power to burn and LVT seemed to make full use of it. But what a sequel to "Dogville" would look like and why it would be made still escapes me.
  17. And quite a point indeed! A very good example of why not to write posts early in the morning before one's first 3 or 4 cups of coffee. :speechless: And while I am using emoticons/smilies, I will drop in and to illustrate Ramey's favorite roles.
  18. I haven't seen this production, but the buzz on the internet opera boards has been very positive, especially for Dwayne Croft as Billy and Samuel Ramey as Claggart. Croft has had quite a career at the Met since since he was in the Young Artist Program there in 1989. He was Billy in the 1997 "Live from Lincoln Center" broadcast, which may be available on DVD. Ramey is a terrific bass-baritone who has sung many of the great Mozart, Rossini and Verdi roles in his long career. He may be particularly well suited to portray the evil Claggart, since he has specialized in playing the Devil in his various incarnations in works by Berlioz, Boito, Gounod, Stravinsky (Nick Shadow) and Meyerbeer. He has a CD and a traveling concert titled "Date with the Devil." If you have seen "Billy Budd" in Geneva, London, Paris, Houston, L.A., Seattle or Dallas over the past few years you have probably seen this production--it is a very popular one that is used by many leading houses. The pairing of Croft and Ramey is interesting--the casting for these two roles in the Britten masterpiece often is. Both are written for baritone, although Billy is a lyric baritone with some very high-lying passages. It was originally written for Peter Pears, Britten's lifelong companion who found it too high for comfort. Claggart is a bit lower and much darker, which suits Ramey, one of the great Grand Insquisitors ("Don Carlos") of our time. Interestingly enough, both have sung the title role in Mozart's "Don Giovanni". DancingGiselle, I would like to read more of your reactions to the performance. You seem to have an advantage over everyone else on this board who would be interested in it--like me, for example. You were in the opera house and experienced it first hand and there are a lot of people who read "BalletTalk" who would be interested in your thoughts. For what its worth, some of the negative criticism of both the opera itself and some of the portrayals of Billy are that he is simply too good to be true and that no human being, especially a sailor on a British warship in the 19th century, could be as pure as he is. I think that Britten followed the sense of the Melville novella quite closely and created a character for the stage that is much the same as Melville's Billy. He actually is too good to be true, an unsullied and unbroken spirit who is both better than but is destroyed by the all too human environment around him. Whether this also makes Billy something else--Christ figure, sacrificial lamb, etc.--is another matter entirely.
  19. On second thought--the Perez books (if one likes them) are too involving for commuting. On third thought--a book of reviews, essays and occasional prose pieces by one of your favorite poets. This came to mind because I have been reading "Required Writing" and "Further Requirements", both collections of prose by Phillip Larkin.
  20. I would suggest "Queen of the South" or any of the delightfully literate mysteries by the Spanish author Arturo Pérez-Reverte. Wonderfully written, very well researched and, as far as I can tell, properly translated into English. Actually "The Nautical Chart" is the one I would suggest starting with.
  21. Berlin Diaries, 1940-1945 I ran into an old friend at a bookstore a few days ago, Princess Marie Vassiltchikov—known to her confidants as Missy. She is the author of "Berlin Diaries 1940-1945" which portrays her journey from a delightful if seemingly shallow aristocrat at the beginning of the book to a volunteer nurse in the charnel houses of hospitals under bombardment by the end. Marie Vassiltchikov worked in the German Foreign Office until 1944 as a translator from English and French into German. She had a unique view of those terrible years in Berlin--a civilian but an employee of the German government, a foreigner but married into one of the noble families of Germany, an aristocrat but not fazed by having to scrounge for food in the ruins. She was a staunch friend of many of the people involved in the attempt to assassinate Hitler on July 20, 1944. The story of the Vassiltchikov family is intriguing in itself. So-called White Russians (to distinguish them from the Soviet Red Russians) the family had large estates in Lithuania as well as Russia. They are related to, in-laws with or friends of families like Metternich, Hohenzollern, Radziwill and Bismark. Even the legendary Thrun-und-Taxis bunch turn up late in the book. Missy is comfortable among the oldest noble families of the German speaking world as well as the petit-bourgeoisie women that she works with at the Foreign Office and the displaced peasant women from Russia with whom she attends Mass. The book was written in a matter of fact, almost laconic style. The author knew English and French almost as well as she knew her native Russian. Writing in English in the evenings or following day while the events recounted are still fresh in her mind she paints an astonishing word picture of the collapse of the Third Reich. For example, her description of bombings and their aftermath is interspersed with accounts of everyday life in a war-time capital: Monday, 22 November "Staying at the office late, as we have a boring conference. It is raining cats and dogs. Today is Georgie’s birthday." Tuesday, 23 November "Last night the greater part of central Berlin was destroyed." This is followed by a long and very detailed description of how she and her family survived the first saturation bombing and resulting fires of that part of Berlin. It is all the more harrowing for its matter of factness and detailed description of how her house and those around it were damaged. An excerpt: "At every crash the house shook. The air pressure was dreadful and the noise deafening. For the first time I understood what the expression bomb carpet means. At one point there was a shower of broken glass and all three doors of the basement flew into the room, torn off their hinges...The crashes followed one another and were ear-splitting it seemed as if nothing could save us." Wednesday, 24 November As Missy tried to get to work she saw more of the effects of the air raid: "As I continued down Lutzowstrasse the devastation grew worse; many buildings were still burning and I had to keep to the middle of the street which was difficult on account of the numerous wrecked trams. On the Lutzowplatz all the houses were burned out. I had to climb over mounds of smoking rubble, leaking water pipes and other wreckage to get across. The bridge over the river Spree was undamaged but on the other side all the buildings were destroyed. By now the sight of those endless rows of burnt-out or still burning buildings had got the better of me and I was beginning to feel panicky. The whole district, many of its houses so familiar to me, had been wiped out in just one night. I started to run and kept on running until a building collapsed as I passed..." Missy relocated from Berlin to Vienna where she served as a nurse trying to help badly burned Luftwaffe officers and men. As a member of the former aristocracy in Russia she would not be treated well by the advancing Soviet army. After watching most of the émigré community flee she got on the last westbound train from Vienna before the rails were closed. By this time the reader (at least this reader) was so involved with her life that he was worried that she wouldn’t make it out in time—even though he knew that Princess Marie Vassiltchikov died in London in 1978. There are several pages of pictures, many of which show Missy as a strikingly beautiful young woman. A wonderful book that I recommend to all.
  22. A wonderful book and very useful. People don't seem to understand the use of the single quotation mark for possessive and plural possessive and it can be very distracting. One reason may be that many people who in the past did not write do now--the internet, with its message boards, newsgroups and other text based interactive systems has created a very "conversational" type of writing that is often at odds with the more formal prose in printed work. Many people seem to write the way they talk so that homonyms abound--"there" and "their" used almost interchangably and the same with "its" and "it's" for example. Well written and fun to read.
  23. Thanks, Treefrog. Did the characters played by Shaw, Sommerville, Hardy and Walters have larger parts in the previous movies? There isn't much point in hiring actors of their stature for such tiny roles--difficult to schedule for one thing.
  24. I saw this movie over the weekend. Not having seen either of the first two nor having head any of the books, I wasn't sure what to expect, although it is probably not possible to have lived in the English speaking world for the past decade and not know quite a bit about Harry Potter and friends. Cultural osmosis is unavoidable. Very well plotted--the story actually made sense, which is generally not the case for big movies released in the USA during the summer. The special effects served the story--things didn't blow up just because they could be blown up on film--and the production design was terrific. Even the score by John Williams, whose biggest fan I am not, helped knit the entire movie together. I missed a lot of course--including some of the smaller roles played by very skilled and experienced actors. Among those are: Aunt Petunia, played by Fiona Shaw, Lily Potter, played by Geraldine Sommerville, Mrs. Molly Weasley, played by Julie Walters, Cornelius Fudge played by Robert Hardy. I will see it again, but if someone could point out approximately when these chacters show up, what they do or what they look like (whichever is more distinctive) I would appreciate it. Some nice cameos--Dawn French as the Fat Lady in Painting; and funny bit parts--Lenny Henry as the Shrunken Head.
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