Tuesday, July 31, 2007

New on DVD: Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 4

Today sees the release of the ginormous Film Noir Classic Collection, Volume 4, with 10, count 'em, 10 great examples of film noir.

As detailed in my April post, every film has a commentary track and extras. This set surely must be in contention for DVD "Release of the Year."

Glenn Erickson, the "DVD Savant," has posted reviews of four of the double bills: WHERE DANGER LIVES/TENSION, THEY LIVE BY NIGHT/SIDE STREET, ACT OF VIOLENCE/MYSTERY STREET, and CRIME WAVE/DECOY. Just awaiting Erickson's reviews of ILLEGAL and THE BIG STEAL.

I expect our friends at the The Shelf will also be covering this set, and I'll update this post with the link when they do.

Friday Update: Here's Glenn Erickson's reviews of ILLEGAL and THE BIG STEAL, just posted.

August 14th Update: Here's the review from The Shelf.

Monday, July 30, 2007

John Fund on Voter Fraud

John Fund's detailed -- and disturbing -- story includes a mention of the problems with the security of California's electronic voting machines.

Fund is the author of STEALING ELECTIONS: HOW VOTER FRAUD THREATENS OUR DEMOCRACY.

Orange County Court Halts Mexican Ticket Processing

The Orange County Superior Court has responded to the public outcry and announced that beginning later this week they will stop sending the personal data of traffic ticket recipients to Nogales, Mexico.

Henceforth tickets will be processed at the court's contractor's offices in California and Arizona.

A court press release said "The public’s confidence and peace of mind regarding the security of their information is paramount to the Court."

I'm very glad to see the court respond so quickly, but can only wonder at the lack of thoughtfulness which went into the original decision, placing ticket recipients at an unusually high risk for identity theft by sending the personal data of many thousands of Americans south of the border.

For background, see my posts of Thursday and Friday.

Prayers for Chief Justice Roberts

Chief Justice John Roberts is reported to have fallen 5 to 10 feet on a dock near his vacation home in Maine.

Jim Angle reported on Fox News Channel's Special Report With Brit Hume that the Chief Justice suffered a grand mal seizure, though it was unclear at the time of reporting whether the seizure preceded or followed the fall.

The Chief Justice suffered a previous seizure in 1993.

Update: An update directly from the Supreme Court spokeswoman, via SCOTUSblog.

She says the Chief Justice suffered a "benign idiopathic seizure" from which he is described as "recovered." A "thorough neurological evaluation...revealed no cause for concern."

Good news.

From Hollywood to the Joint Chiefs

Admiral Michael Mullen, President Bush's nominee to be the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has an interesting family background.

Mullen's father, Jack, was a Hollywood press agent who started working in the publicity department at Republic Pictures in the '40s. Early in his career Jack went on the road with clients such as Gene Autry and the Sons of the Pioneers; eventually his client list included Julie Andrews, Ann-Margret, and Anthony Quinn.

Jack Mullen died at age 54 in 1972.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Steyn On Sunday

Mark Steyn has the truly unbelievable story of two middle school boys -- that's MIDDLE SCHOOL -- who are being prosecuted as sex offenders for swatting a few of their classmates' behinds.

These are 7TH GRADERS. Possibly not even teenagers yet.

The boys -- whose parents now owe attorneys thousands of dollars -- have been offered a plea if they don't want to risk a trial: "...that would mean pleading guilty in return for probation. The terms of probation would prevent...contact with younger children, which would mean they couldn't be left with their younger siblings."

Steyn's conclusion: "A world that requires handcuffs and judges and district attorneys for what took place...is not just a failed education system but an entire society that's losing any sense of proportion. Without which, civilized life becomes impossible... A society that looses the state to criminalize schoolroom horseplay is guilty not only of punishing children as grown-ups but of the infantilization of the entire citizenry."

One of my thoughts is: What kind of a message does it send young people if it's communicated to them that parents and teachers are inadequate to deal with such a minor offense? What an undermining of the authority of parents and others who are responsible to guide young people.

The entire article is a must-read. It truly can't be believed, and I hope Oregon citizens will be speaking out against the heavy-handed reaction of their government employees, including the principal and the prosecutor.

One could easily question which of the people involved in this sad story are the real juveniles.

Universal Food? Universal Clothes?

Deroy Murdock wonders why health care is so consistently singled out as a "universal right." There are other things we need to live healthy lives, such as clothes, shoes, food, and housing.

Meanwhile in Canada, the survivor of a cancerous brain tumor who had to seek treatment in the United States is suing for the right to have private health insurance, "claiming that the province’s ban on private health insurance and private billing by physicians infringed on his constitutional right to life, liberty and security."

In a recent court decision, Quebec allowed a citizen who was made to wait nearly a year for a hip replacement to buy health insurance. (Hat tip: Ugly Naked Guy.)

Back in the States, an employer is docking the pay of those employees who do not meet guidelines for cholesterol, blood pressure, and weight.

On the one hand, the argument can be made that it is reasonable to require employees whose health insurance costs more to pay more for their coverage via their pay being cut.

But on the other hand, it seems as though it might be a short step from this to employers trying to control other aspects of employees' lives. We're already seeing taxpayer-funded healthcare costs used as an excuse for the government to attempt to control citizens' personal choices through legislation.

This seems like a slippery slope, with nanny state-ism moving into the workplace.

Tonight's Movie: More Than a Secretary (1936)

MORE THAN A SECRETARY is a lightweight, mildly entertaining trifle. Jean Arthur plays Carol, the owner of a secretarial school whose students all seem to be using the school as a matrimonial agency, going on to find themselves husbands in the business world. When Carol lays eyes on Fred (George Brent), a magazine editor who would like to hire a secretary, she falls for him and decides to take the job and hope for matrimony herself.

The movie is an interesting mix of up-to-date and very outdated ideas. Fred edits a fitness magazine, BODY AND BRAIN, and is somewhat obsessed with healthy living, munching carrots at his desk and even instituting exercise breaks for the office staff. Seven decades later, that aspect of the plot seems very timely.

On the other hand, reference to a woman "knowing her place in the business world" certainly causes the modern viewer's eyes to roll -- although it must be noted that despite such antiquated attitudes, when Carol's value is recognized, she is given a nice title and promotion!

The two leads are pleasing, and the film breezes by quickly. It's pleasantly undemanding entertainment, as well as a good example of Depression Era "Cinderella" escapism. Worth seeing if one is a fan of Arthur or Brent.

MORE THAN A SECRETARY was directed by Alfred E. Green. It's a black and white movie which runs 78-80 minutes. The supporting cast includes Lionel Stander, Reginald Denny, Ruth Donnelly, and Dorothea Kent.

This film is part of the Turner Classic Movies library. It isn't available on VHS or DVD; vote here to indicate interest in a DVD release. A Jean Arthur boxed DVD set would sure be nice...

Update: There is now a wonderful Jean Arthur set from the TCM Vault Collection, the Jean Arthur Comedy Collection, and it includes MORE THAN A SECRETARY.

Hillary Wants Taxpayers to Fund Tuition for Government Bureaucrats

Hillary Clinton wants a tuition-free government academy, along the lines of our military service academies, to educate more government bureaucrats.

This is something that plainly isn't needed, but is a way to grow government and the tax burden on American citizens.

More on this from Betsy's Page. Betsy makes several good points, including that government employees tend to lean Democrat.

I thought one of Betsy's commenters, David Foster, was particularly spot on: "The idea that 'public service' is inherently more noble than other callings needs to be questioned. Is it morally better to write papers on agricultural policy than to actually be a farmer? Is it morally better to be a railroad safety regulator than to run a locomotive and to safely and efficiently deliver the freight? Is it morally better to write 'environmental impact statements' than to be the engineer who develops a more efficient turbine?"

There are valid and valuable reasons for our service academies, but further growing government with a free academy for government bureaucrats? That idea, in and of itself, provides a great peek into the mind of Hillary Clinton.

Just say no...

Monday Update: Jim Geraghty at NRO points out several reasons the academy is unnecessary.

He also points out that even if the academy turned out 5,000 graduates a year, they would fill only 1.5% of federal jobs each year. (Hat tip: Betsy's Page.)

The comments at Betsy's original post are of interest as well, as some commenters respond to U.S. Public Service Academy co-founder Chris Asch, who has also commented in the thread here.

Brent Musburger Calls NASCAR (Nooooo!)

NASCAR coverage moves to ESPN with today's race at Indy. Unfortunately, with that move comes Brent Musburger acting as the telecast "host."

Arrrrggggh.

I guess you could say we're not Musburger fans. My husband and I are old enough to remember Musburger doing the Southern California news on KNXT (now KCBS) in the '70s, so this is a long-held opinion. His sports work hasn't upped our opinion in the intervening decades.

From the Deseret Morning News: "Brent Musburger will be the lead voice of NASCAR on the ESPN networks, and he's up-front about his relative lack of expertise. 'I'm not an expert on automobile racing... However, the one thing that NASCAR has always had ... and that I love the best of all are the stories that come out of it -- the human drama, if you will, and the personalities.'

"That's got to sound a little bit scary to NASCAR fans... If he's going to concentrate on personalities rather than the actual event he's supposed to be covering, well, that's going to tick a few people off."

That sounds scarily like network broadcasts of the Olympics the last few years, dramatizing them as soap opera miniseries instead of actually showing more than a few minutes at a time of sports coverage.

At least there's Rusty Wallace providing color commentary.

No one can touch Fox Sports' coverage of NASCAR...I wish they did it year round.

Bill Plaschke on Tony Gwynn

The L.A. Times' Bill Plaschke writes on the San Diego Padres' new Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, a class act.

Gwynn will be inducted today with Baltimore's Cal Ripken, Jr., another classy guy.

Congratulations to two men who played the game "the right way."

Saturday, July 28, 2007

New Movie: Enchanted (2007)

Last night we saw a trailer for a new Disney movie that looked like it had a good possibility of being fun.

The film combines animation and live action, as cartoon characters come to "life" in New York City. Among other things, the former cartoon characters have a tendency to burst into song at unexpected moments.

Amy Adams (Oscar nominee for JUNEBUG) plays the sweet, somewhat ditzy princess, and Patrick Dempsey ("McDreamy" of GREY'S ANATOMY) plays the real-world man who tries to help her.

James Marsden plays the animated prince come to life, while Susan Sarandon is a wicked witch. Paige O'Hara (the voice of Belle in BEAUTY AND THE BEAST) also has a role.

The film's narrator -- could the choice be any more perfect? -- is Julie Andrews.

The trailer can be seen online.

ENCHANTED will be released in November 2007.

Tonight's Dessert: Lemon Jello Cake

This cake recipe is a family favorite which was handed down from my grandmother and my great-aunt. I don't believe I've ever seen it in a cookbook -- perhaps because it includes a cake mix in the recipe -- but it's available many places online. I include one such site at the subject link.

This makes a great summery dessert.

Ingredients:

1 package lemon cake mix (I use Duncan Hines Lemon Supreme)

1 3 oz. package lemon Jello

3/4 cup water

3/4 cup vegetable oil

4 eggs


Mix all together for 4 minutes.

Bake in a 9 x 13 pan at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

When cake comes out of the oven, immediately poke it all over with a fork. Then pour over the cake a glaze consisting of:


2 cups sifted powdered sugar

mixed with

2 lemons -- juice and grated zest

Cool before serving.

Enjoy!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Not Comforting

"State-sanctioned teams of computer hackers were able to break through the security of virtually every model of California's voting machines and change results or take control of some of the systems' electronic functions..."

Paper ballots and punch cards, anyone?

Update on O.C. Courts Outsourcing to Mexico

Peggy Lowe of the Orange County Register updates yesterday's story on an Orange County, California court sending the personal identification of traffic ticket recipients to be processed in Mexico.

She notes, as I did last night, that the oversight of the Sonoran police to help prevent identify theft of Americans' personal information is meaningless, due to the ongoing police corruption scandals in Mexico.

The court had initially refused to provide details of the contract -- which struck me as illegal -- but now discloses it's worth $1.5 million.

Orange County Supervisor Chris Norby has placed this issue on next week's agenda as an emergency item. Hundreds of citizens are reported to have complained today.

Discussions have begun about legislation to prevent outsourcing of such personal information to Mexico in the future.

The Register notes that the ticket information sent to Mexico not only includes driver's license numbers, birthdates, and addresses, but Social Security numbers. A veritable treasure trove of information for would-be illegal aliens to use when they cross the border.

All it takes is one flash drive in the wrong hands...

Exhibit Celebrates Queen's Wedding Anniversary

A new exhibit this summer at Buckingham Palace celebrates the 60th wedding anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip.

Among the items on display are the Queen's wedding dress and tiara. The Daily Mail (subject link) has an interesting story about the Queen's visit to the exhibit.

More information from the Daily Telegraph and the Times.

As a regular reader of royal biographies and history, I've always been amused by the trivia that one of the Queen's bridesmaids, her cousin, had the middle name Cinderella. I've always wondered what prompted Lady Diana Cinderella Mildred Bowes-Lyon's parents to give her such an exotic name. :) (The name Mildred seems rather out of place with the first two names...)

When we were in England 20 years ago, a rather shocking story was breaking in the media, that Diana Cinderella's two sisters, who had been reported dead for decades, were actually in a mental institution. But that's another story for another time...

How appropriate that Saturday's opening of the exhibit coincides with this week's release of the newly remastered ROYAL WEDDING DVD. As Astaire fans know, the story is set against the backdrop of London's celebration of Elizabeth and Philip's wedding, and it incorporates color footage of the carriage procession to the wedding. Fred's love interest in the film was played by Sarah Churchill, daughter of the great Sir Winston himself.

Schumer: Block Bush Judicial Appointees

Senator Charles Schumer asserted today that the Democrats shouldn't confirm another Supreme Court appointee by President Bush, because "The Supreme Court is dangerously out of balance."

I don't seem to recall anything about "balance" in the Constitution...the Senate's role in the judicial appointment process is to provide advice and consent, not to obstruct.

I'm sure Senator Schumer will expect Republicans to confirm the appointees of Democrat Presidents, as they always have in the past...yet he believes strident partisanship is the right course for Democrats when a Republican is President.

Tonight's Movie: No Reservations (2007)

Earlier this evening I took a carload of young ladies to see NO RESERVATIONS, the new romantic comedy starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart. As one of the girls sighed at the end, "That was a good one!"

NO RESERVATIONS is simultaneously a romantic comedy, a movie for foodies, and a more serious film about loss and the creation of a new family. Although the film's plot trods on well-worn ground, as a single career woman unexpectedly finds herself a mother, the story was presented with fresh twists and honest but not manipulative emotions, against the fascinating backdrop of the kitchen of a high-end restaurant.

Catherine Zeta-Jones walks a tightrope with her character, Kate, who in other hands could be off-putting. Zeta-Jones makes Kate sympathetic and appealing as she gradually matures and learns to let other people into her life. Aaron Eckhart, who several years ago played Julia Roberts' boyfriend in ERIN BROCKOVICH, is delightful as the sous chef who shakes up Kate's kitchen and helps teach her a thing or two about children as well. Abigail Breslin plays Kate's niece, Zoe, believably, with a performance that is heartfelt but not overly histrionic. Patricia Clarkson plays the edgy restaurant owner who has something of a love-hate relationship with Kate, and has the perception to send Kate to see a therapist. The therapy scenes provide some of the most amusing moments in the film.

The movie runs 103 minutes and was directed by Scott Hicks. It's a loose remake of a German film, MOSTLY MARTHA, which is currently in my Netflix queue. Much of the film was shot on location in New York, which provides an atmospheric backdrop.

When the movie comes out on DVD, this film would make a good double-bill paired with either TORTILLA SOUP, which is another great "foodie" movie based on a foreign film, or with YOU'VE GOT MAIL, another film about a small business in New York, which also explores some issues related to loss and life changes.

Parents' advisory: As indicated in the 3-star review in USA Today, the film is mostly family-friendly. There is a sensual romantic scene and the implication someone has spent the night, but by modern film standards the romance was handled with restraint. The language was relatively mild. The biggest issue for younger viewers would most likely be watching a child dealing with the loss of her only parent. For more parental guidance, see the positive review at Crosswalk.

My two previous posts on this film can be read here and here.

The trailer can be seen here. The film's official website is here.

NO RESERVATIONS provided a very enjoyable evening. Recommended.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

This Has Got To Stop

It transpires that the Orange County, California court system is having traffic tickets processed by a contractor at an office in Nogales, Mexico.

Let's connect the dots: We have a major illegal immigration problem vis-a-vis Mexico...illegal immigrants routinely commit identity theft...the court is sending driver's license numbers, birthdates, addresses, and other personal identifying information of countless Americans to the company in Mexico...a country which is also known for having corrupt law enforcement (so why are we supposed to be reassured that employees are "certified" by the Sonoran State Police?).

And yet we're supposed to believe that all of the personal data being sent to Mexico is secure? Given the history of Mexican law enforcement, it's quite reasonable to suspect bribes could take care of employees being "certified" by the police.

What's particularly troubling is that the people whose data is going to Mexico are not consumers who have made a personal decision that the benefits of, say, doing business with a Mexican company outweigh any risks. The people whose data is at risk have absolutely no say in the matter.

Companies outsource to other countries all the time, but this kind of personal data going to this particular country at this particular time is a Very Bad Decision.

New Movie: No Reservations (2007)

USA TODAY rates NO RESERVATIONS, which opens Friday and stars Catherine Zeta-Jones as a gourmet chef, 3 stars: "Entertaining...Zeta-Jones shines... For those who relish good food artfully presented, and who know the joy of cooking and pleasure of eating...will not disappoint."

The paper also notes of this PG film "Parents will find that they won't have to worry about watching it with their children." Hope that's accurate.

Other reviews are more middling, but I've been looking forward to this film and hope it entertains.

Good News in the Blogosphere

One of my favorite Christian bloggers, Sallie of A Gracious Home, had been planning to stop blogging this summer.

She has just announced that she has reconsidered and will be continuing blogging. Wonderful news!

Sallie's site is an eclectic mix of homemaking and parenting tips, religious discussion, and fun random topics and links. I've been reading her blog for quite a while now, and over time I have come to find her to be an intelligent and wise woman whose opinions I respect.

A Gracious Home is linked at the left under "Food and Homemaking Links."

Tony Snow on Unexpected Blessings

Just read it...

Felix the Cat Sign: "It's Your History, But It's Our Sign"

Earlier this month I wrote about the designation of the Felix the Cat Chevrolet sign in Los Angeles as a historic landmark.

The dealership operator has written an op-ed piece in the L.A. Times opposing the designation. As he notes, "With this historical designation, a future owner would have to build his business around the showroom and sign... While it may be theoretically possible for a future property owner to rebuild on the site, the legal, financial and other impediments that can be used to prevent such rebuilding almost guarantee its failure."

As I wrote previously, while I would very much like to see the sign preserved in some way, I am sympathetic to the dealership's position. Not only is Felix Chevrolet an active private business, but this could well hamper the long-rumored pending sale of the property to USC. The USC expansion would continue the much-need ongoing rehabilitation of the USC neighborhood, which would benefit countless residents of Los Angeles.

It would be a shame if the historic preservation effort were to freeze the neighborhood in time and prevent needed improvements to the area.

New Super Heroes Postage Stamps

This week a new 20-stamp set of Super Heroes postage stamps was released.

I liked last summer's DC Comics Stamps a little better, but there are some nice designs in this set, incuding a cover for a Fantastic 4 comic book.

Coming in August: Disney Magic and James Stewart stamps, as well as a stamp honoring President Gerald Ford.

This week the postal service changed one of their security rules: Customers now must take packages stamped with postage stamps to the service counter for mailing if the package weighs over 13 ounces. Previously, stamped packages under 16 ounces could be mailed in mailboxes.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A Harry Potter Radio Discussion

Today Hugh Hewitt hosted an interesting discussion on the HARRY POTTER books with two classics professors, John Mark Reynolds of Biola University and David Allen White of the U.S. Naval Academy.

Topics included the varied attitudes of Christians toward the POTTER books, and a discussion of magic, ghosts, and witches throughout literary history, ranging from Shakespeare to Arthurian legends to Tolkien, NARNIA, OZ, and fairy tales.

Click at the subject link to listen.

Tonight's Movie: The Blue Gardenia (1953)

A lonely long-distance telephone operator wakes up from a hangover to discover that the man who was her bad date the previous evening has been murdered. Unable to remember all the events from the night in question, the terrified woman is soon on the run from the police. Will a newspaper reporter help put her in jail or clear her name?

The scared phone operator is played effectively by Anne Baxter, with Richard Conte as the reporter and Raymond Burr as the murder victim. (It's fascinating that Burr played such straight-arrow types in his TV series, given his slimy film noir characters, notably in HIS KIND OF WOMAN.) The supporting cast includes Ann Sothern and Jeff Donnell as Baxter's roommates, with George Reeves as the homicide detective on the case. Long-faced character actor Norman Leavitt, whose acting career stretched from playing a cowboy in THE HARVEY GIRLS in 1946 to playing a gravedigger in an episode of QUINCY, M.E. in 1978, has a pivotal role.

One of the movie's greatest pleasures is the on-screen presence of Nat King Cole, who sings the title song in a nightclub sequence. His voice is heard again later in the film singing the same song, via both a record and a juke box. The haunting song gives the film great mood.

The initial turns of the plot can be seen coming a mile away, but the film builds up steam as it goes along, becoming an absorbing whodunit. The Los Angeles setting provides additional atmosphere, although the locale is conveyed through references to the area rather than location filming. Footage of L.A. is limited to shots of freeways and City Hall during the opening and closing title sequences.

THE BLUE GARDENIA -- a title I used to confuse with THE BLUE DAHLIA -- is the first film in director Fritz Lang's "newspaper noir" trio. Lang's other "newspaper noir" films were WHILE THE CITY SLEEPS and BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT, both starring frequent film noir leading man Dana Andrews.

The movie runs 90 minutes and was filmed in black and white. It's based on a story by Vera Caspary, who also wrote the book LAURA, which inspired the classic film of the same name.

THE BLUE GARDENIA is available on both DVD and VHS.

Coming to DVD: Barbara Stanwyck Collection

October 30th will see the release of a five-disc, six-film Barbara Stanwyck Signature Collection on DVD.

The movies included will be EXECUTIVE SUITE, MY REPUTATION, EAST SIDE, WEST SIDE, ANNIE OAKLEY, TO PLEASE A LADY, and JEOPARDY. The last two titles in the list will be released on a single disc.

Extras will include an EXECUTIVE SUITE commentary by director Oliver Stone (?!), radio productions of MY REPUTATION and JEOPARDY, trailers, shorts, and cartoons.

I am slowly coming to appreciate Stanwyck's work. I particularly liked MY REPUTATION; my review can be found here.

A briefer 2005 review of EXECUTIVE SUITE can be read here. It has upcoming airings on TCM on August 4th and September 10, 2007.

I'm looking forward to seeing EAST SIDE, WEST SIDE for the first time. It has a great cast including Van Heflin, Ava Gardner, and Cyd Charisse. It will be airing on TCM October 18th, shortly before the DVD set is released.

Speaking of Stanwyck, earlier this week I watched the documentary BARBARA STANWYCK: FIRE AND DESIRE (1991). It provided a satisfying overview of her life and career, with a number of good clips, although the narration -- written by Richard Schickel and delivered by Sally Field -- was too syrupy for my taste. It's worth looking for as an introduction to Stanwyck's career; it would have been nice if it had been included in this new DVD set.

Harry Potter Encyclopedia May Be Coming

In Harry Potter news, J.K. Rowling has announced she "probably" will write a Harry Potter encyclopedia.

It would include more details about the characters' lives, as hinted at in the epilogue. This news makes my family very happy, as they had a number of questions at book's end.

Amazon has published statistics for its Potter sales. DEATHLY HALLOWS was the largest preorder in the company's history, at 2.2 million preorders worldwide.

Interesting discussions are starting at Hogwarts Professor and Fantasy Fiction for Christians.

I found Discussion Point #3 at Hogwarts Professor especially interesting. From the introduction: "Ms. Rowling said in a 2000 Vancouver interview that she didn’t talk about her Christian faith because if she did readers from 'age 10 to 60' would know exactly how the story would end. In another interview, she told the reporter with questions about her faith to come back after the seventh..."

For more theorizing on whether the Potter books constitute Christian allegory, see my posts of August and December 2005.

Previous Potter posts this week: here, here, here, and here.

That's a lot of posts considering I've never read the books! :)

Oh, Puhleeeeze...

Senator Barack Obama, the man who pledges to sit down to talk with foreign dictators in his first year in office as President, declares that his judgment in foreign policy is "better than any other candidate in this race, Republican or Democrat."

Such self-delusion is cause for concern, in and of itself.

John Doe Protection Bill Survives?

Michelle Malkin reports that the "John Doe" bill, providing litigation protection for Americans who report activity which they fear is linked to terrorism, has been revived.

More from Fox News.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A Question

If someone attempts to board a plane with "carryon baggage [which] contained wire coil wrapped around a possible initiator, an electrical switch, batteries, three tubes and two blocks of cheese" or "a plastic bag with a block of processed cheese taped to another plastic bag holding a cellular phone charger," does anything happen to said person besides being "investigated"?

Block cheese, incidentally, is said to have "a consistency similar to some explosives." Based on recent seizures, a bulletin went out to airports to be watching for "ordinary items that look like improvised explosive device components."

It seems as though people who are clearly testing airline security should be charged with something. That's a point of interest which the reporter on this story didn't cover.

Tangerines and Taxes

Elizabeth and John Edwards have built a home which is many thousands of square feet and therefore uses much more energy than the average home. They regularly travel by private jet.

And yet she believes that giving up tangerines, because they're not locally grown, will help combat global warming?!

You can't make this stuff up.

Not that I'm on the global warming bandwagon...but the Edwardses' hypocrisy is rather astounding. Rather like Al Gore using more electricity in a month than average families use in a year, then turning around and buying "carbon offsets" from himself.

The absurdity of the Edwardses making a small gesture like giving up a fruit grown in a distant state, while living in a palatial, energy-burning home and using private airplanes, points up the fact that the aspiring first couple either think the general public is stupid enough to fall for such symbolism (maybe that's true), that they're mental lightweights, or hypocrites. Or all of the above.

Ben Smith of Politico goes on to talk about the "carbon footprint" of transporting food long distance. Edwards was asked what "sacrifice" would be appropriate to offset the carbon footprint and he is quoted: "Would I add to the price of food? I'd have to think about that."

Reporter Smith then posted "UPDATE: Just to be clear, he's not talking about a food tax. The basic point is that any plan that imposes new costs on carbon emissions is going to make anything that's transported long distances with fossil fuels cost more. It is, in a way, a moment of clarity in this debate."

Excuse me, but how is a "plan that imposes new costs on carbon emissions" that would make food transported long distance cost more NOT a food tax, Mr. Smith? It may be indirect taxation, but it's taxation nonetheless, which would directly impact the price of food.

I think Smith is still in need of "clarity" on the issue.

New on DVD: Classic Musicals From the Dream Factory, Vol. 2

The exciting new set of MGM musicals hits the shelves today!

The titles included in the set are THE PIRATE, ROYAL WEDDING, BELLE OF NEW YORK, WORDS AND MUSIC, TOAST OF NEW ORLEANS, THAT MIDNIGHT KISS, and the highlights film THAT'S DANCING!

More details on extras can be found described here in my post from last April.

The movies can be also be bought as single title releases or, in some cases, on "double feature" DVDs. The two Fred Astaire movies are paired for release, as are the Mario Lanza-Kathryn Grayson titles.

I feel a trip to Costco coming on -- hope they have the boxed set!

Wednesday Update: Here's the review from The Shelf. It's a great writeup, though I personally would have rated some of the films a little higher -- i.e., WORDS AND MUSIC's plot has its hokey moments, but too many great musical scenes to rate a "C" in my book (grin). MGM musicals were my first great movie love.

I'm very excited to hear about the great prints and looking forward to the "making of" featurettes and outtakes! I really enjoy TravelTalk shorts -- I've been painstakingly recording them from TCM -- and the inclusion of two New Orleans TravelTalks with THE TOAST OF NEW ORLEANS is inspired.

I listed some of my "MGM wish list" in the April link above; along with TWO GIRLS AND A SAILOR and YOLANDA AND THE THIEF, which are mentioned on J.C. Loophole's wish list, I'm particularly anxious to see releases of LOVELY TO LOOK AT, THE GLASS SLIPPER, LILI, and TWO WEEKS WITH LOVE. A DATE WITH JUDY is another title I'd like to see. A Jane Powell set would be most welcome, including films like TWO WEEKS WITH LOVE, DATE WITH JUDY, HOLIDAY IN MEXICO, LUXURY LINER, and ATHENA. (I'd love a featurette describing how Dore Schary stole the idea for ATHENA from Esther Williams and Chuck Walters...)

Patterico Does the Math

Federal judges are threatening to force California jails to release prisoners due to overcrowding...the irony is that if the federal government did its job protecting the borders and deporting illegal aliens, California jails would have more than adequate room.

Patterico has the breakdown on the numbers involved. It's a fascinating -- and disheartening -- post.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Harry Potter Reviews

Many of the most ardent Potter readers have now finished the book. In our house, three family members have raced through the book in the last 2-1/2 days, and the book is now in the hands of my oldest son.

For those who have read the book, here are a handful of good reviews to enjoy. There are spoilers at the links so don't click if you haven't read and want to be surprised!

A side note, I am not linking to the New York Times review, as I think their embargo-breaking review was very uncool, given how desperately POTTER readers did not want to know what was in the book. Leave it to the NYT to spill secrets -- they've had lots of practice.

First, at the subject link, a very interesting article from The Wall Street Journal which addresses the Potter books as Christian allegory at some length ("Ms. Rowling's moral universe...is subtly but unmistakably Christian"). My daughter noticed a number of additional, more specific things which aren't described in the review.

Another review from The Washington Post: "an instant classic."

And from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "After all this time it turns out that we have underestimated J.K. Rowling. Not even her most ardent partisans could have anticipated the triumph that is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows."

I'm so pleased for those who've been anxiously awaiting the book that it appears to be such a success.

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS is now the most successful book in history, selling at the rate of 50,000 books per minute! It has broken all bookselling records.

Coming to DVD: Gilmore Girls - The Complete Series Collection

This November the entire GILMORE GIRLS TV series is being released in some eye-catching "doll case" packaging -- yours from Amazon for a mere $180.99.

The set contains "hours of bonus features" -- if there is new material in this set, it would sure be nice if it could be sold separately for those of us who have invested in collecting the set over the years.

Season 7 will be released on the same date, November 13th.

We first began watching GILMORE GIRLS on DVD, without ever having seen the show when it first aired on TV. I rate this series and SPORTS NIGHT as our two best investments in TV series we'd never watched prior to owning the DVDs.

Unfortunately, GILMORE GIRLS slid downhill the last couple years, but when there's a good sale I'll be picking up the final season to complete our set.

Netflix Lowers Prices Again

Earlier this month there was a nice discussion here about Netflix.

I just learned that the monthly fee for our rental plan is being reduced from $9.99 to $8.99 a month.

On the one hand, this is good news for our budget, but on the other hand, the radio report I heard said it may indicate Netflix is having trouble with the competition, specifically Blockbuster. Netflix's stock has gone down in value.

Netflix is a quality service I'd like to see survive long term.

Hillary Wants to Nationalize Preschools

As previously posted here, Senator Hillary Clinton supports the concept of universal preschool.

Now comes word that Hillary, in essence, wants to "nationalize" private preschools.

Last Thursday she proposed a bill which would "give states $28 billion over five years to incorporate the nation's 120,000 preschools now run in firms, churches and storefronts into a government-run system."

Along these lines, Rush Limbaugh warned today that if Democrats gain control of both Congress and the Presidency, outlawing homeschooling will be on their agenda. I don't think that's hyperbole...it makes sense, as Democrats prize government control above all else. They also value "controlling" options such as throwing money at the status quo, even if it's mediocre, to more creative options with less governmental control -- such as school choice and vouchers. One has to wonder if Democrats are suddenly going to wake up to the existence of millions of homeschooling kids and want to bring them under government control.

After all, if kids aren't in government schools, they won't receive Senator Obama's "age appropriate" kindergarten sex education, among other things...

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Another Old Movie Blog...

...is the name of a blog which started this spring. I checked it out thanks to my friends at The Shelf.

Jacqueline has interesting things to say about her favorite movies and actors. She's helped convince me that I really need to see THE LADY EVE. Thanks to movies like REMEMBER THE NIGHT, MY REPUTATION, and THE MAD MISS MANTON, I'm slowly getting over a Stanwyck aversion acquired due to the mannered performances of Stanwyck's latter years, including THE BIG VALLEY and THE THORN BIRDS. :)

Another post I particularly enjoyed was about Easter in the movies.

I hope my readers will enjoy visiting Jacqueline's site.

Legalities: Jan Crawford Greenburg

Jan Crawford Greenburg's column on the Supreme Court is always a good read. (Kudos to ABC News for having such an articulate legal commentator.) Her latest column is a critique of liberal outrage at this term's Supreme Court decisions.

After reading Greenburg's essay, check out Patterico who picks up on an interesting bit in Greenburg's column -- Greenburg thinks Kathleen Sullivan, the former dean of Stanford Law School, would be on a Democrat short list for the Supreme Court.

This despite the fact that Sullivan has been unable to pass the California Bar Exam...!

Fantasy Fiction for Christians

I mentioned Fantasy Fiction for Christians in comments yesterday, but I want to highlight this site for readers who enjoy HARRY POTTER and NARNIA. It's a very interesting site authored by La Shawn Barber of La Shawn Barber's Corner. She analyzes both Rowling and Lewis's series from a Christian perspective and links to interesting articles and websites.

My daughter found the Christian allegory in the Potter books particularly strong in Book 7, for reasons I won't go into here in order to avoid spoilers. I'm looking forward to reading discussions on this in future.

Although I haven't yet read the Potter books myself, I enjoy reading about them, and La Shawn has an excellent site.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Fox Classics DVD Site

Check out this Fox Classics DVD site, which includes a list of upcoming DVD's.

A couple of their upcoming musicals are interesting as they are relatively unknown titles. There have been rumors there's a Sonja Henie set in the works, as well as a second Betty Grable set, but there is no hint of that as yet on the site. I'm also hoping for titles like CENTENNIAL SUMMER and THREE LITTLE GIRLS IN BLUE to show up in the Marquee Musicals series.

I'm also particularly hoping Fox releases two of my favorite Jeanne Crain titles, MARGIE and APARTMENT FOR PEGGY.

The listing of BOOMERANG! under "coming soon" gives hope that that film might finally be officially released on DVD. Previously the release has been rumored to be completely dead for legal reasons, though some copies made it into the marketplace before Fox instituted a recall.

DANGEROUS CROSSING (Jeanne Crain again!) and BLACK WIDOW (Ginger Rogers, Gene Tierney, Van Heflin) are two more promising noir titles coming soon. I taped a pan and scan copy of the latter film from Fox Movie Channel but haven't watched it yet. I've never seen DANGEROUS CROSSING.

Another Fox title that's "gone missing" is TWO FLAGS WEST, a Robert Wise Western starring Joseph Cotten and Linda Darnell. The trailer has appeared on at least one other Fox Western DVD, but there is no sign of the title on the website. Fox has released some great Westerns, including YELLOW SKY, THE LAST WAGON, and THE PROUD ONES. It would be nice if they'd develop a specific line of Western DVDs.

I hope Fox is going to revive the great Studio Classics series. In the meantime, their Cinema Classics, Marquee Musicals, and Film Noir series are keeping film fans very happy.

(Hat tip: Something Old, Nothing New.)

August 2009 Update: The Fox Classics DVD site is now defunct, and is simply an online Fox store.

We Love Amazon


Let the reading begin!!

Click here ONLY if you wish to read the review from the L.A. Times. It does contain spoilers.

Update: Captain Ed posted a fun live blog and YouTube slideshow of the midnight party at his local B&N, which even included a visit from an owl!

He's already finished the book, which he terms "brilliant." A full-length review from Captain Ed will be forthcoming later in the week.

Late Update: Eight hours and 759 pages later, Oldest Daughter, aka Gategirl, pronounces the book a "satisfying" conclusion to the series.

Now it's Dad's turn!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Around the Blogosphere Last Week

Random odds and ends for your weekend reading pleasure...

Brian Stelter of TV Newser said goodbye to his blog's readers today (subject link), as he leaves for his new job at the New York Times.

Fox News Bret Baier Becomes a Father: Bret's newborn son, Paul, had heart surgery but is reported doing well.

Summer Express: 101 Simple Meals Ready in 10 Minutes or Less: From "Minimalist" Mark Bittman.

I Was an eBay Voldemort: Will Collier writes an amusing piece for National Review on what ensued when he received one of the copies of HARRY POTTER inadvertently sent out early by DeepDiscount. (No plot spoilers in article.)

Work on Texas Border Wall To Begin Soon: So says Michael Chertoff. I'll believe it when it happens...

NYC In-N-Out Rumor: That's a rumor I have trouble believing, given In-N-Out's firm belief in local control, but longtime owner Esther Snyder passed away, so you never know...

A Royal Nobody: Biographer Sarah Bradford reviews Tim Heald's new biography PRINCESS MARGARET: A LIFE UNRAVELLED, which came out in Britain this spring. It does not yet appear to be available at U.S. Amazon. Curiously (and confusingly!), Heald's book has the exact same cover photo of Princess Margaret as Theo Aronson's 2001 biography of the princess.

Happy weekend!

'Twas the Night Before Harry

And so, in a few hours, the wait till be over.

I've never read a word of a HARRY POTTER book, but I'm excited for the rest of the family, particularly Eldest Daughter, who will be camped out in front of the house, waiting for Amazon to come through for her one last time. If she follows the practice of the last three or so books, once it arrives she will then retire to her room and not come out again until she finishes the book a few hours later.

My husband has second dibs and will likely start it on Sunday. :)

We have fond memories of a trip to Washington, D.C., a few years ago, within days of a POTTER book's release. It seemed that everywhere we turned, including on the Metrorail trains, we saw people carrying HARRY POTTER. My husband, in fact, had read it on the airplane on our way to D.C.

I am steering clear of most news stories for a few days -- I don't want to inadvertently give anything away to the rest of the family! -- but I did peek at the headline of one review this evening which terms the book "stupendous." I will say no more!

I hope all Harry's fans have a grand weekend and that the book is everything hoped for and more!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

New on DVD: Esther Williams, Vol. I

This week is very exciting for MGM musical fans, with the release of Volume 1 of the Esther Williams Collection.

I've seen all the films either in revival theaters or on video. NEPTUNE'S DAUGHTER, which introduces the standard "Baby, It's Cold Outside," is probably my favorite in the bunch. I always enjoy Betty Garrett, who plays Esther's sister. BATHING BEAUTY is also a particularly good showcase for Esther's talent. All of the films are a lot of fun, and the set is well worth acquiring. My only quibble is that it would have been wonderful if Esther had done a commentary track for one of the films. On the other hand, I'm very excited about the presence of a couple deleted musical numbers.

J.C. Loophole of The Shelf has written an extremely detailed and informative review of the films themselves and the set as a whole. Don't miss it.

Hopefully there will be a Volume 2 of Esther's movies in future!

Coming next Tuesday: More MGM magic, with the release of Classic Musicals From the Dream Factory, Vol. 2.

On Ann Romney and Candidates' Spouses

As regular readers know, I'm not a particular fan of Mitt Romney, finding his positions on several issues to have switched so recently in time that I'm uncertain which beliefs are genuine and which have been for political expediency, in order to run for either Massachusetts governor or President.

That said, I find Ann Romney a very classy lady. I enjoyed today's USA Today profile about Ann, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis nearly a decade ago. She faces the dual challenge of maintaining her health while dealing with the rigors of a Presidential campaign.

On the subject of candidates' spouses, I sometimes have the feeling that Elizabeth Edwards is taking such a high-profile role in her husband's campaign that it seems she's running for office herself.

Of course, I could say the same about Bill Clinton of late...

Democrats vs. Americans and America

The Democrats torpedoed a provision in a bill that would have protected the general public from being sued for reporting suspicious behavior.

The bill, nicknamed the "John Doe Amendment," was created after passengers were sued by the "flying imams" who acted strangely before and after boarding a flight in Minnesota.

The Democrats apparently want the American public to be fearful of reporting troubling behavior and look the other way, p.c. fashion, which endangers our nation.

More from Thomas Lifson at American Thinker. He sees this as a winning political issue for Republicans.

Michelle Malkin has further details including a roll call. Two Presidential candidates -- Obama and Brownback -- didn't vote. McCain and Clinton voted in favor of the bill.

Today at Disneyland

It was a beautiful summer day today at Disneyland. We went out for just a few hours...we're waiting to do the Submarine Voyage on the next visit, as my husband has been out of town. We want to experience it for the first time as a family. (The line was over 2 hours long this morning!)

We went on Small World, Jungle Cruise, Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin, and just had a nice time walking around and taking in the sights, such as this Monorail with a Submarine paint job (click photos to enlarge):


King Triton's Pool looked so inviting we wanted to jump in:


It wouldn't be a Disneyland post without a closeup of some of the beautiful seasonal flowers:



Here's a fun article from earlier this week about the "third shift" which works overnight at Disneyland. Some of my fondest memories from my years working at the park are of being in the park when it was closed. After hours you can hear "I'm Wishing" from Snow White's Wishing Well echoing all the way over to Carnation Gardens...it's a neat effect, as normally you have to be standing right next to the well to hear Snow White singing.

One year I also participated in the early morning canoe races around Tom Sawyer Island...it's hard work paddling twice around the island, as fast as you can, but it's also a very special privilege.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Tonight's Movie: There's Always a Woman (1938)

Bill Riordan (Melvyn Douglas) decides to close his struggling detective agency and return to a steady paycheck as a special investigator for the district attorney. Unbeknownst to Bill, when his wife Sally (Joan Blondell) is clearing out the agency's office she lands a client who offers enough cash to pay their back rent. Bill and Sally ultimately end up competing with one another to solve a murder mystery in THERE'S ALWAYS A WOMAN.

THERE'S ALWAYS A WOMAN falls in the amusing-though-not great category. It's worth watching, though have I found other husband-wife mysteries, such as GRAND CENTRAL MURDER and DANGEROUS BLONDES, more entertaining. I particularly enjoyed Melvyn Douglas, but I found myself wishing that his relationship with Sally was less annoyed and confrontational and a little more romantic. Similarly, Sally was fun -- particularly when she drives her police interrogators batty -- but I wished she were a little less ditzy and a little more of a partner to her husband.

The excellent supporting cast includes Mary Astor as the client, Jerome Cowan as a local gambling tycoon, and Thurston Hall as Bill's boss, the district attorney. There was a striking secretary seen from a distance in one scene, and it turns out it was Rita Hayworth!

This movie was filmed in black and white and runs 81-82 minutes.

THERE'S ALWAYS A WOMAN was directed by Alexander Hall, whose best-known films include HERE COMES MR. JORDAN (1941) and MY SISTER EILEEN (1942). He also directed BEDTIME STORY, reviewed here a few months back.

In 1939 Hall directed Melvyn Douglas in a sequel to THERE'S ALWAYS A WOMAN, which was called THERE'S THAT WOMAN AGAIN. Virginia Bruce replaced Joan Blondell as Sally Riordan. Tom Dugan repeated his role as Detective Flannigan. Hopefully the sequel will turn up on TCM.

THERE'S ALWAYS A WOMAN has not been released on VHS or DVD. It can be seen on cable on Turner Classic Movies.

February 2013 Update: This movie is now available on DVD-R in the Sony Choice Collection.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

So. CA Grocery Strike Appears Averted

This is great news. We really didn't want the hassle of another strike like the 141-day strike of '03-'04.

For an added bonus, daughter won't have to find another summer job and can keep socking away tuition money for a few more weeks. Whew!

Iraqis Being Smuggled Across Rio Grande

Meanwhile, we're hearing fresh warnings about heightened concerns for our nation's safety.

So, when will the President and Michael Chertoff get serious about border security? So far they're mostly talk and no show.

(Hat tip: Captain's Quarters.)

Happy 52nd Birthday, Disneyland!

First off, in the category of "Ask and ye shall receive": It now sounds as though the Sleeping Beauty dioramas may be returning from Yesterland!

Al Lutz of MiceAge reports "...there's now a tentative plan to revamp and reopen the Sleeping Beauty diorama walkthrough in the Castle. Using new lighting and audio technology, the walkthrough would reopen as a 21st century take on the 1957 original Eyvind Earle version of the attraction..."

Security concerns may be taken care of with the installation of hidden cameras. More details can be found in Al's anniversary update, which is chock full of news.

More good news is that John Lasseter has put legendary Imagineer Tony Baxter in charge of Disneyland. Among the promising rumors: "The most current plans for Disneyland are more about tweaking what is already there, and adding back some of the things that were lost over the last ten years... The PeopleMover beam is an obvious choice, and new proposals drafted for it two years ago continue to gain momentum. The 3-D version of Star Tours originally proposed for Tokyo Disneyland may also be heading stateside, and Tony would like to tackle that one especially. The Disneyland Opera House, the Rivers of America and the Tahitian Terrace are also areas that have caught Tony's eye...the plan is to add even more ride capacity to Disneyland."

If they get that PeopleMover track running again and the castle reopened, I will be beyond happy. :)

A side note with some bittersweet news: The Disneyland Hotel's Bonita Tower is soon to be renamed. The Tower was named for actress Bonita Granville, the wife of the hotel's former owner, Jack Wrather. Granville's other hotel namesake, Granville's Steakhouse, was also recently renamed and is now Steakhouse 55. If the name Bonita Granville doesn't ring a bell, her '30s NANCY DREW movies were recently released on DVD.

For a look back at souvenirs from past Disneyland anniversaries, see my post of July 17, 2006.

Happy Birthday, Disneyland!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Chicago Trib to Run Front Page Ads

The Chicago Tribune joins another Tribune-owned company, the L.A. Times, in running banner ads on Page One.

Tribune Publisher Scott Smith insists that "Readers highly value display advertising in their newspapers" and that the ads will be a "net plus for readers." He terms the change a "growth initiative."

So those who buy the papers will have less to read and more ads to look at. This is a growth initiative? Makes you want to run right out and buy a paper, right?

The newspapers don't seem to realize that the bell tolls for them...

(Hat tip: L.A. Observed.)

Tonight's Movie: The Mad Miss Manton (1938)

Barbara Stanwyck and a gaggle of giddy debutantes solve a murder mystery in THE MAD MISS MANTON, an amusing entry in the screwball mystery genre.

The uniquely named Melsa Manton (Stanwyck) stumbles across a dead body, but when it disappears neither a police lieutenant (Sam Levene) or a newspaperman (Henry Fonda) believe her. Miss Manton and her wealthy girlfriends thus decide to take matters into their own hands.

MISS MANTON is a good example of '30s film escapism, with Stanwyck's rich society girl living in an elegant apartment designed by Van Nest Polglase. There are some great bits scattered throughout the film; one of my favorite moments in the script is when Fonda tells Stanwyck he's taking her away to South America. "Can you afford it?" she asks. He replies "No, but you can!"

Sam Levene is fun as the bicarbonate-guzzling lieutenant, a role similar to the soda-swilling Inspector Gunther he played in GRAND CENTRAL MURDER. Hattie McDaniel, who plays Stanwyck's housekeeper, has some of the film's best lines. Bit parts are filled with great character actors such as John Qualen, Grady Sutton, and Olin Howland. Check out the credits of Irving Bacon, who plays the process server -- over 500 film and TV credits between 1915 and 1960!

The black and white movie runs 80 minutes and was directed by Leigh Jason. Jason taught at UCLA before entering the movie business. His brother, Will, was also a director, not to mention a songwriter.

THE MAD MISS MANTON has been released on VHS. Vote here at TCM if you'd like to see it released on DVD.

Watch the trailer here.

THE MAD MISS MANTON next airs on cable's Turner Classic Movies on October 26, 2007.

April 2009 Update: THE MAD MISS MANTON is now available on DVD via the Warner Archive.

Look Who's Coming to USC This Week

None other than Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. His speech will be on "port and supply-chain security and public infrastructure protection." Be interesting to see if he says anything quotable that turns up in the media this weekend.

It's too bad he's not speaking during the school year. I'd love if my daughter could ask him why our nation can put a man on the moon but can't seem to build a simple fence.

Two-Year Bloggiversary!

It seems as though I was just posting on my blog's one-year bloggiversary. It suddenly dawned on me that today is my second anniversary as a blogger!

My oldest daughter set up this blog to pass the time while she was waiting for the last HARRY POTTER book to be delivered. The computer table has a nice view out a bay window so she could watch for the delivery. So it's rather nice that on the day I mark the completion of my second year of blogging, I noted that the final HARRY POTTER book has moved into "shipping soon" on Amazon. Just a few more days and she'll be engaged in one last POTTER reading marathon.

Once more, thanks to all who have been so kind linking and commenting here over the past year, and to those who otherwise offer me support and encouragement. What started as an experiment has turned out to be a great deal of fun.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Tonight's Movie: Many Rivers to Cross (1955)

The frontier comedy MANY RIVERS TO CROSS, in which Eleanor Parker relentlessly pursues Robert Taylor with marriage in mind, has a curiously recycled feel to it.

The "been there, done that" feeling starts with two of the brothers from the previous year's SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS, Russ Tamblyn and Jeff Richards, appearing as Parker's brothers. And some of the sets and props, particularly the barn, look strangely familiar. (Could that well be the same one the brothers danced on? Was Parker's bedroom window possibly the same one where Jane Powell sang on her wedding night?) Multi-couple and shotgun weddings pop up, although in the case of MANY RIVERS TO CROSS they are separate events, rather than combined as at the end of SEVEN BRIDES. When post-wedding dancing starts, one expects Michael Kidd choreography to break out. And there's lots of fighting.

Someone walking into the room and seeing Jeff Richards brawling in CinemaScope, with the soundstage mountains behind him, might be forgiven for thinking for just a moment that he'd walked into a screening of SEVEN BRIDES.

Or maybe the viewer has instead walked into a frontier QUIET MAN...for there is Victor McLaglen bossing his family around, calling a time out in the middle of a fist fight, and starting yet another brawl later on.

Or...maybe it's a strangely costumed episode of GILLIGAN'S ISLAND? For there's the Professor (Russell Johnson) as one of Parker's brothers, and the Skipper (Alan Hale, Jr.) as her fiance. Except...is that Marshal Matt Dillon? Yes, in the latter part of the movie James Arness shows up on screen, too.

It's just that kind of a movie (grin). It's amusing enough, although it's somewhat more interesting keeping track of the cast members and the sets than the story, in which longsuffering Taylor puts up with women (Parker in particular) wanting to marry him and men wanting to fight him. The film is action-packed and colorful and has some pretty location shooting to balance out the soundstage sets. (I note, though, that there is some pretty obvious "day for night" shooting in more than one spot.)

However, the movie never really slows down enough to let us get to know the lead characters better. It just careens from one event to the next, straight through till the end. Towards the end one feels about as annoyed with Eleanor Parker as Robert Taylor does.

This was the third film co-starring Taylor and Parker, following ABOVE AND BEYOND and VALLEY OF THE KINGS. Rumor has it they were a romantic item for a period of time in the '50s.

Morris Ankrum, the character actor who plays the surly tavern owner, played the Assistant D.A. in I WAKE UP SCREAMING, reviewed here last Friday. Ankrum has a fascinating background. He graduated from USC Law School and then was an economics professor at UC Berkeley before becoming an actor. He had a busy acting career, spanning over three decades, with nearly 250 film and television credits to his name at IMDb. He was also affiliated with the Pasadena Playhouse for over three decades.

MANY RIVERS TO CROSS runs 92-94 minutes and was directed by Roy Rowland. Rowland's best films include OUR VINES HAVE TENDER GRAPES, THE ROMANCE OF ROSY RIDGE, and TWO WEEKS WITH LOVE.

MANY RIVERS TO CROSS has not yet been released on DVD or VHS. Vote here at TCM if you would like it to be released on DVD.

The trailer can be seen here.

Fall 2008 Update: MANY RIVERS TO CROSS is now available on DVD.

"Border Fence Project's Slow Pace Raises Concerns"

And they wonder why the public is skeptical about our nation building the fence and enacting real border security...

Yesterland: Sleeping Beauty Castle

Thanks to Wolf Flywheel of The Shelf for calling my attention to a wonderful entry at Yesterland about the walk-through SLEEPING BEAUTY diorama exhibits in Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle.

SLEEPING BEAUTY is my favorite Disney film so I was always partial to this attraction. For those of you who didn't get the chance to experience it, you simply walked through the castle and the story of SLEEPING BEAUTY was told in words and three-dimensional pictures.

Unfortunately, the castle has been closed to visitors since shortly after September 11th. At the time, rumor had it the castle was closed due to security concerns. There was speculation at that time that the castle was an American icon which might attract terrorists. However, as Walt Disney World's Cinderella Castle actually has an entire restaurant inside, one wonders if security could really be the reason.

Although Disneyland is gradually improving its "ride capacity," which had declined precipitously during the Paul Pressler era, it could still use more rides and attractions being open. The higher the ride capacity, the lower the congestion on the walkways.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if they would bring this attraction back from Yesterland and reopen the castle once more? With the return of the Submarine Voyage, anything seems possible...

Speaking of the Submarines, my husband's had to travel quite a bit lately and we haven't yet had the chance to go stand in line and check out the new version of the ride. Hopefully soon!

Independence: "Scorched, But Still Standing"

Last weekend I wrote about the wildfire which closed California's Highway 395 and threatened the towns of Independence and Big Pine.

I'm glad to say that Independence came through the fire with minor damage. As I haven't found any stories to the contrary, I assume Big Pine also didn't have any major losses resulting from the fire.

I was particularly relieved that the Eastern California Museum in Independence did not sustain damage. We've visited the museum in the past and found it very interesting. It contains Indian artifacts, items from the Manzanar WWII internment camp, and a variety of old mining and farming tools.

Another historic site in Independence is the home of writer Mary Austin.

Very good news indeed that these buildings and most of the town survived the fire.

New Book: 1,000 Places To See in The USA and Canada Before You Die

A couple years ago I received Patricia Schultz's 1,000 PLACES TO SEE BEFORE YOU DIE as a gift. I've enjoyed reading it, as well as checking off the places I've seen in the book's margins.

I just learned that a few weeks ago Schultz published a new book, 1000 PLACES TO SEE IN THE USA AND CANADA BEFORE YOU DIE.

Since I hope to eventually visit all 50 states and all the provinces of Canada, this book is a "must buy" for me. I expect it will be both a good read and a useful tool to help plan future trips.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Tonight's Movie: I Married a Witch (1942)

270 years ago, the family of Wallace Wooley (Fredric March) was cursed to be unlucky in love, for reasons too long to explain here (grin). It appears the curse is going to come true for Wally, a gubernatorial candidate who is about to marry the shrewish daughter (Susan Hayward) of the newspaper man who is promoting his candidacy. And then a strange girl named Jennifer (Veronica Lake) bursts into Wally's life -- almost literally. Jennifer, it turns out, is the witch who cursed Wally's family.

The first half hour of the film was a little on the dark side, and I wasn't quite sure what to make of it. However, after Jennifer's attitude toward Wally changes and the film moves into lighter BEWITCHED-style territory, I liked it very much.

There is a riotous wedding sequence with a great sight gag as March and his best man (Robert Benchley, in a nicely restrained performance) repeatedly descend stairs to March and Hayward's wedding ceremony. Hayward also has an amusing comic moment when her father commands her to "Smile!" From there we move into some lovely, fantastical romantic comedy. Lake's Jennifer, who initially seemed mean and annoying, gradually becomes quite enchanting, and March is a wonderful leading man who is surprisingly unrattled to realize that he has lived up to the film's title.

The supporting cast includes Cecil Kellaway as Jennifer's up-to-no-good warlock father and Elizabeth Patterson as the Wooley family housekeeper.

I've been racking my brain over the name Charles Bates, a child actor who appears in the movie's delightful final scene. There's a niggling memory which hasn't yet quite come to the surface, but I seem to remember some vague connection with that name...he might have been the uncle of a childhood neighbor. If I figure it out, I'll update the post.

I MARRIED A WITCH was filmed in black and white and runs 76 minutes. It was stylishly directed by France's Rene Clair. The script is based on a story by Thorne Smith, author of TOPPER. The movie was photographed by Ted Tetzlaff, whose last cinematographer credit was Hitchcock's NOTORIOUS (1946) -- remember that amazing camera shot at the party, which gradually zeroes in on the key in Ingrid Bergman's hand? After that film, he worked as a director.

Of special note are the beautiful gowns worn by Lake and Hayward, which were designed by the great Edith Head.

I MARRIED A WITCH has been released on VHS. It can also be seen on Turner Classic Movies.

Click here if you would like to be notified by Amazon when this film is released on DVD. You can also click here to vote for a DVD release at TCM.

I MARRIED A WITCH rewards the patient viewer with a very enjoyable romantic comedy which builds to a satisfying conclusion.

July 2013 Update: Great news: I MARRIED A WITCH is coming to DVD at long last! It will be released October 8, 2013, by the Criterion Collection.

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