Monday, June 30, 2008

Netflix Cancels Cancellation Netflix Nixes Nix

Yay! Profiles are not going away. From the e-mail:
We Are Keeping Netflix Profiles
Dear Kyle,
You spoke, and we listened. We are keeping Profiles. Thank you for all the calls and emails telling us how important Profiles are.
We are sorry for any inconvenience we may have caused. We hope the next time you hear from us we will delight, and not disappoint, you.
-Your friends at Netflix

Treasure Planet

There are a few interesting frames and characterizations. 99% not very good at all.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

A Little Princess

Leave aside the real-world princessosity of the principal actress and concentrate on a well-behaved movie with an engaging cast. The evil headmistress is nicely underplayed, but could have been played a little less brittle and with more steel. The scenes where the girls tell the stories they want to hear are very sweet. The magic realism sequences (the somewhat under-imagined animation notwithstanding) don't impede the illusion of meaningfulness. It is too bad that the evil headmistress did not escape in her stainlesss steel zeppelin, but it can't be all in one movie. Varied score by Patrick Doyle.


Thanks, J!

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Hugh Beaumont is the flattest of flatfeet ever! I was drawn in by the promise of "perfumed bullets" but was disappointed. The show is handsomely staged, but the pace was turgid.

Bionicle vs. Weak Dollar

The newest Bionicle series, Mistika, has been added to Lego's shopping site. Typical is Gali, pictuerd above, who is not all that different from the last iteration of Bionicle, Phantoka. What is different however is the price: $12.99, up from $9.99. The enthusiastic leap into double digits is likely to slow down sales, I think. Lego has always been vulnerable to petroleum prices. Is that, in addition to the weak dollar, sufficient to explain a 30% increase in six months?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


New Album 6/25/08 11:37 AM


Colorful. Mostly amusing. Too many finales. Ron Perlman seemingly undaunted by what appears to be sixty pounds of makeup. I'll see the sequel.

Kiss Me Deadly

I am not a particular fan of Mickey Spillane but in interviews he comes off as an interesting person and I avoided the Stacey Keach Mike Hammer even though I like Stacey Keach's acting chops most of the time, but none of that explains how I have had zero knowledge of Kiss Me Deadly. The whole thing looks and sounds like Perry Mason except everything is inverted on the right-wrong axis and pushed up the the violence scale. The common point is two points sleazeward of Paul by 36 degrees to the sexpot of Della. It scores surprisingly high on the Giant Robot Ant test with a .05 (most noir has undetectable amounts of Giant Robot Ant). Suffice to say, I liked it a lot.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Godart Showalter

"Godart Showalter" sent me some spam and finding the name interesting, I Googled it. From the first page of hits:
  • Journal of The Lepidopterists' Society (JLS): 1978
  • Butterflies that are Endangered, Threatened, and of Special ...
  • Austen in the snow: Conference in the Jane Austen Society of North America
  • Renegotiating French Masculinity: Medicine and Venereal Disease
  • Fuzzy Logic: The Revolutionary Computer Technology That Is Changing Our World

Saturday, June 21, 2008


I could not quite get this guy in focus. He was buzzing a lot.
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Le Capitaine Fracasse

Rescued French silent from 1929. There are swords and floppy hats with ostrich feathers so it must be a swashbuckler. Charles Boyer plays the aristocratic bad guy. Several instances of interesting camera work. Print is in pristine condition. An appalling improvised soundtrack of indescribable inappopriateness is included but can, thank God, be muted.

Dead Man

I liked the b&w landscape photography very much and I didn't mind the deliberate pace of the editing. The music on the other hand was not so good. It's a guy (Neal Young) banging away on his guitar. It sounds exactly like what you hear coming down the dorm hall at any state university. Thankfully, there is no singing. There is a lot of stunt casting which works pretty well for the most part but there are a few too many self-conscious moments of auto-drollery that should have been reined in. Jonny Depp has never appeared more alabaster.

Wren Nest

Overhead view of exposed nest (The birds flew the coop!)

View from the entrance:

The entrance is at the bottom of the picture. Wrens like snakeskin-like material for their nest. In this case, weathered bits of cellophane have been used.

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Practice, practice, practice

This one is called Defense of the Anemone Towers Against the Jellyblimps.

Netflix Goes a Little Bit Stupid

Floods. War. Netflix dropping profiles.
I left this on their blog to make myself feel better:
I have to wonder about at least two layers of (in)competence: the engineers that are not clever enough to figure out how to provide this feature (the patents rumor is interesting but hardly insurmountable), the management that would actually think this is a good idea to approve (someone needs to be fired), and the PR dep't that couldn't come up with a better spin. The last one is the least important and the most irritating: 1% of users? Pfft! I don't believe it. Even if it's true (prove it or shut up) it doesn't matter. 1% is a lot of users. "Free up programming space"? What the hell is that supposed to mean? Not providing a tool for migrating is just insulting.
And there is the real rub: if I feel insulted, I don't care if your DVDs are spun from platinum out of the ass of diamond spiders and slipped into envelopes by singing virgins, I won't like it.
There is only one good solution: take it back and say you're sorry.


If Mickey Mouse watercolors are good enough for Frank Frazetta, then they are certainly good enough for me. I am under no delusion that this is a good drawing of anything, but it might serve as the background to a story board.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Andersonville Trial

One of the great TV performances. George C. Scott directs it as much like a filmed play as feasible without actually creating live TV. I think ... maybe it was all done in single takes ...) The cast is an embarrassment of riches; that Ian Wolfe and Alan Hale jr. are around in non-speaking roles is proof of that. Richard Basehart (aka Admiral Nelson from the series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea) and William Shatner ('nuf said) go at it like a Sperm Whale and a Giant Squid.

Red Planet Mars

Peter Graves builds a radio to talk to Mars but accidentally breaks in on a party line with God. Clumsy anti-commie propaganda that would make even Ronald Reagan blush. Was this somehow inspired, in a sideways fashion, by Ray Bradbury's Christus Apollo?

The Wreck of the Mary Deare

Gary Cooper and Charlton Heston do not act on the same amplitude or frequency. This aspect was not put to any particular use in this yarn about a wreck salvagers and down on his heels ship's master. I personally would have cast Randolph Scott and Burt Lancaster, but there you go. The script doesn't go in for much thematic complexity and without the charisma of the principals would be insipid. The climax (with Richard Harris) plays exactly like a Jonny Quest scene but with no kids around. Opening sequence is flawed by an unconvincing miniature shot which is unfortunate the rest of the effects are fine. The derelict ship interiors are impressive.

Dick Tracy (RKO)

Dick Tracy, Detective (... vs. Splitface)
- According to the commentary there is debate about who plays Tracy more convincingly. As a mostly disinterested observer, I can say that Morgan Conway has the better nose, body language and voice, if not accent. The show is actually pretty violent.
Dick Tracy vs. Cueball
- Of the four, this tale has the most reasonable plot. The bad guy almost manages to bull his way through but has some bad luck at the end. He takes it like a man, though.
Dick Tacy's Dilemma (... vs The Claw)

- Ralph Byrd has a good chin for Dick Tracy. His accent is more diffusely midwestern which seems appropriate but his delivery is film-strip dull.
Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome
- Boris Karloff's intense charisma overmasters the entire production. The plot is frankly ridiculous and thereby hilarious.


Whimsical caper movie. The laudable Melina Mercouri is a major distraction throughout, her raucous laughing in particular. Peter Ustinov's amusing performance offsets most detriments. Nicely photographed and agreeably breezy, and although directed by Jules Dassin, it is no Rififi.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Sunday, June 15, 2008

I Drew a Boot

Woo hoo! Next stop: rusty milk can in weeds next to a rickety outhouse. With a horseshoe. And maybe an abandoned thresher in the background. b/w Sad Clown or Puppy with Big Eyes.
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The Babysitter and the Palantír

Friday, June 13, 2008


"Look, that rabbit's got a vicious streak a mile wide! It's a killer!"

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Disney-Style Fairy via Walter Foster How-To

Embarrassing to copy a kid's book but it looks like what it is supposed to look like so it's hard to argue.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Cloud, Forget-Me-Not, Thing

More watercolor exercises. I have independent evidence that this is not a complete waste of paper: GLM says she can see a polar bear in the cloud. Therefore, it looks like a cloud.

Can't not paint a flower. It's required. Just like Potions at Hogwart's.

They can't all be be barely acceptable, sometimes there are problems. This has a perfectly fine beginning but things went awry. I regret to report that a second attempt was awryer, if that is possible. The rocks do not offend.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Night and the City

An especially tatty view of London's underworld following the ultimate exploit of a confused, energetic loser. Moody lighting, dense compositions, interesting and busy score by Franz Waxman, fine acting (with possible exception of Gene Tierney who has very little to work with and does not make the most of it) and an amazing wrestling sequence.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Two Wrens

The bird cam has not caught both wrens at the same time very often. In most of those pictures, both birds are not well represented. This is the first one in which both birds' faces can be seen. Also a green worm.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

It Happened Tomorrow

Dick Powell, Jack Okie et al ham it up something fierce in lightweight fantasy involving newspaper from tomorrow. Premise almost wears out its welcome. Unnecessary bookends almost spoil the show due to extremely poor acting. It's just possible that they were added after the fact using stand-ins for Dick Powell and Linda Darnell.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

As a doorway to a luminous past of legend and idyl, this is a dud. As a live action cartoon set in the Indiana Jones universe, it's all right. Flaws: gophers. Too much exposition and clumsy to boot. Uneven pacing. John Hurt, Ray Winstone and Jim Broadbent are completely wasted (an easy fix would be to combine them into one character.) Kudos: Shia laBoef's (is that his real name? Could it be otherwise?) performance is fine, his role is unoffensive. Karen Allen was a welcome sight but she was given nothing to do. Kate Blanchett was fascinating but the role was ludicrous. I thought the monkeys were funny but the vines silly. Ditto the tree eater and its flying saws.
It's not a betrayal of everything good and true in the way that Episodes 1 - 3 are, so I guess I am grateful for that.

Dark Corner

20th Century Fox noir. Lucille Ball gets top billing! She's pretty good as the practical and infatuated secretary to the nominal protagonist, who is a bit of a likable weenie. William Bendix and Clifton Webb are the pillars of the show, however. Henry Hathaway directed.

iBook Hard Drive Failure

Dang it. I really was planning on backing it up. Honest, I was. Rats. Well, we'll see how it goes at the repair shop.

Bird Cam Rained On

Winds blew off the covering for the cam watching the wrens and some rain got in. It was still working when I disconnected it. I disassembled it so that it can air dry. Hopefully it hasn't suffered too much.
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Baby Spiders

Aww! So adorable and icky!
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Friday, June 06, 2008

The Hunters

Robert Mitchum and his enormous overcoat arrive in Korea just in time to make the world safe for democracy. Mitchum is as great as ever even in the face of some soap opera dialog that would be right at home in Attack of the Clones. Robert Wagner shows up as a jive-talking hot-shot pilot that has to be seen to be believed for its unadulterated lameness. It's fun to see Supersabres and Superstreaks zooming around the sky.

Broken Arrow

Story of a white man ("american") who meets with Cochise (Jeff Chandler, a swell guy I am sure but emphatically not an Apache) to arrange safe passage for mail. The basic facts are more or less correct (let's not dwell on the creepy love story between middle-aged Jimmy Stewart and teen Debra Paget - even the script goes out of its way to make clear that the Apache maiden is of age) but modern viewers will note some omissions. Stewart's character makes a big deal out of how this treaty is not going to be broken and as far as Cochise ever knew it wasn't, dying of natural causes not much later, but the whites started ignoring it soon enough. In 1950, this was the first movie to try to be sympathetic to indians. Photography and color are first rate.

Straw Dogs

Cold Comfort Farm meets My Darling Clementine via Lolita. Unbelievably claustrophobic atmosphere is as unpleasant as abundant violence. Mighty bleak.

Red Sun

Generally weak but serviceable samurai v. cowboy gimmick. The principals are the sole attraction with Alain Delone pulling in a distant third behind Charles Bronson and Toshiro Mifune. Ursula Andress shows up half way, half dressed. She is shrill. Production hampered by uninspired spaghetti production values. Not much atmosphere or panache but it rolls along.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Fun with Watercolors

I am a snob, I admit it. Almost everything is arranged into arbitrary hierarchies of worth with my own judgement and taste as the arbiter. This is mostly a waste of mental energy. For example, here is a typical set: Oil painting: difficult, shown in museums, good; watercolors: easier, shown in cafes, less good; tole painting, easy, shown in church rummage sales, not good. I haven't changed my mind about tole painting. Unless you are actually living in Pennsylvania in 1800-something, stop abusing the furniture! But I was checking out some watercolor sketches by Frazetta and realized that I liked them a lot. The fact that his watercolors are literally a kid's Disney-branded set made me like them more. So I found a Disney-branded set of watercolors (thanks chain drug store!) and gave it a go just to see what all the fuss is about. This is the third practice (made with tube paint, the dry kind annoyed me) and then I fiddled with it photoshop.

I Am Legend

On the Will Smith Remake scale (calibrated in wildwildwests) I Am Legend measures a .88. Several jarjars contribute to this high score:
· The use of Bob Marley songs from the Legend compilation. I Am Legend! Get it? Eesh.
· Dog on a treadmill.
· Butterfly. I can't stress enough how weak this is.
· Sooper-dooper zombies borrowed from The Mummy, by all appearances. Why?
· Shrek.
Yes, the previous attempts at this material have serious flaws but at least they were fun. This is just a drag.
Emma Thompson as the destroyer of worlds is a hoot, however.

Monday, June 02, 2008

And so the alien tyranny was averted

Some of the grubs and whatnot that the wrens take to their nest are surprisingly large and not quite dead.

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