Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Journalism's Future Changing Rapidly

MINNEAPOLIS — With revenues dwindling for TV newscasts and newspapers, who will fund journalism in the United States?  The evolving state of journalism here was the lecture given today to a group of senior lifelong students by Kathleen Hansen, director of graduate studies.  Unlike Sweden, the UK and Canada, there are no public subsidies for news reporting in the United States.  The massive technological shift is forcing journalism to change, Hansen said.  Newspapers remain the largest employers of reporters in most communities, but their future is dubious.  On the other hand, a study shows that civic engagement declined in Denver and Seattle when newspapers closed.  People stopped going to meetings.  Young people must be optimistic because the U of M School of Journalism and Mass Communications has 1,000 students, more than any other discipline in the College of Liberal Arts.  The Guardian promo gives a slant on the current dilemma.

Monday, February 24, 2014

"Pompeii" is Formula Tragic Love Story

We probably should have seen the new “Pompeii” movie in 3-D but didn’t.  The young actors are quite attractive and the special effects are great which bodes well for those with 3-D TV sets.  As Gary H. said, it’s much like “Titanic” in that an actual horrific event is sexed up with a love story.  Instead of the ship sinking, Mt. Vesuvius blows its top.
Much like the Republic horse operas, the handsome hero saves the damsel in distress from the forces of evil in this case portrayed by yesteryear’s heartthrob Kiefer Sutherland who is sporting a thick British accent.  I suspect his dialogue was dubbed.  The lead is played by Kit Harrington.  Besides the bad guys, the young lovers must deal with the impending horrific doom that buried Pompeii.  I could have seen the actual Pompeii ruins in 2010 on a cruise but chose not to do that nine-hour tour which was probably a mistake.  The theater was nearly empty yesterday so I suspect Sony hopes to make money on the DVDs and cable TV.  It’s not the worse movie I have seen in recent years because it deals with an actual event which was covered in a BBC miniseries that may be better.


Saturday, February 22, 2014

Goddard Irony: From Pinup to Higher Education Icon

Marion Nestle, the Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, was recently interviewed on NPR and I was struck by the irony that there is an academic position at a major university supported by an endowment from an actress who started her career in her teens scantily clad in the Ziegfield Follies.
Goddard was more than a World War II pinup.   She was a vivacious comedianne and is best known for the 1939 MGM comedy “The Women.”  She was also one of four finalists in the coveted role of Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone With the Wind.”  Paulette was the sexy girl next door whether she was seen in the costume drama “Kitty” or dancing with Fred Astaire in”Second Chorus.”   You can’t imagine her in film noir or Gothic horror.
How many students at NYU know about the Paulette behind the Goddard Chair?  Ms. Goddard was a star during the brief Hollywood Golden Era and her movies are available on DVD and cable TV.  But she has a permanent home at NYU.


Friday, February 21, 2014

"Secret of the Blue Room" Lost Now Found by YouTube

Along with the late Gore Vidal, I have been looking for years for the 1933 thriller “Secret of the Blue Room” from Universal with Lionel Atwill (shown here), Gloria Stuart and William Janney.  I had seen it on local TV in about 1953 and then it disappeared.  Lucky me; it turned up today on YouTube and is a decent spooky castle murder mystery with Edward Arnold as the detective.  Unfortunately, the resolution is very poor on YouTube.  It’s folly to assume that Comcast, which owns Universal, would restore the movie from the original 35mm negative and reissue it on DVD.  I am sure they are too busy getting a monopoly on cable TV to bother with classic movies.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

"Xanadu" is Worth a Look

The 1980 movie “Xanadu” is the prescription for the winter blues with fanciful production numbers that rival the grand studio musicals of the 30s, 40s and 50s.  Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly headline the cast and are featured in a ballroom song and dance reminiscent of Fred and Ginger.  Swing music of Gene Kelly's era mashes up with the disco of the Electric Light Orchestra.  John Beck portrays a cartoonist who has a dream of converting an abandoned auditorium into a roller disco emporium and Kelly helps him realize that dream.  The reviews were negative for “Xanadu” but I like it.

Monday, February 17, 2014

"Monuments Men" Movie Leaves Me Wanting More

To do justice to the confiscation and distraction of precious and sacred works or art during Word War II you would need a mini-series, preferably co-produced by the French, Italians and British.
George Clooney was hoping to shrink this huge topic down to less than two hours in the movie “Monuments Men” which may explain why the reviews have been negative.  Although the movie was episodic and slightly confusing, it was also suspenseful in part and the sets and acting were top rate.
Why should we care about European monuments and fine art when millions of people died in the Nazi gas ovens or were killed in combat?  To answer that you need Sir Kenneth Clarke, who explained the relevance of art and architecture to civilization in the BBC TV series “Civilisation.”
“Monuments Men” opens with Clooney showing a slide of the Cassino (Italy) monastery leveled by the Allied bombers, but he doesn’t say that precious frescos were lost.  So why should we care and that is the difficulty in making “Monuments Men,” based on actual events?  Viewing the 2006 documentary “The Rape of Europa” is useful before seeing the Clooney movie.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

"Paris Wife" Explores Hemingway Enigma

My eyes welled up at the conclusion of Paula McClain’s wonderful novel “The Paris Wife” which deals with the lives of Ernest Hemingway and his first wife Hadley Richardson in Paris after World War I.
Most of the novel is in the voice of Hadley, but the italicized chapters are Hemingway’s perspective.  What I found most interesting was Hemingway’s observation that “Hadley killed something in him” and Pauline (his second wife) was his future but he didn’t trust her.  This is all quite puzzling, but that’s for the good.  Hemingway, in the novel, had a “flawed keystone at the center of him,”  Hadley observed.  Although she found Hemingway to be an enigma, the five years they spent in Paris were the best in their lives.  Given that this is a novel and not a memoir, you have to assume it’s a combination of fact and fiction, but I accept it and kudos to Ms. McClain for writing a compelling novel about the century’s greatest writer.

Slavery's Home Was Good Hope Jamaican Plantation

FALMOUTH, Jamaica (Jan. 30) — In the steamy hot jungle of Jamaica lies the Good Hope Great House Plantation, built in 1750.  For the 3,000 slaves on the plantation it was hopeless.  Master John was a “womanizer,” according to our tour guide.  Crops are still grown on the plantation.  The plantation's birthing house for slave women still stands and is quite chilling.
We finished the morning with lunch in the jungle.  The Canadian couple I was with ordered Red Stripe beer, the same that 007 drinks in “Dr. No,” a book I was reading that week.  The movie of the same name was a disappointment, although filmed in Jamaica.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Sordid Movie Features Princess Di

What possessed them to make a movie about Princess Di?  The 2013 UK effort “Diana” staring Naomi Watts is a stinker but it has it’s moments like when she is cleaning the pig stye apartment of her boyfriend Dr, Hasnat Khan.
So we learn that Di was handy with the Pinesol and rubber gloves but she and Hasnat were a train wreck from the get-go.  The boyfriend Hasnat is a mess of contradictions — a heart surgeon who loves his booze, smokes and greasy fast food burgers.  Hello, British Heart Association: send this guy a pamphlet on healthy eating and physical fitness.  But then Diana is not without her faults, arranging a job for Khan in Boston without his consent.  Life with Di looked like a nightmare to Khan at this point, no doubt.
And what about Dodi, the son of the owner of Harrod’s Department store with whom she spent her final hours?  Well, apparently he was a stooge Diana enticed to stir Khan into a jealous rage.  A lot of good it did because he was probably engrossed in a White Castle slider at the time.
I visited Harrod’s in 1998 wherein I saw an incredibly tasteless shrine to Dodi and Di on the top floor.  What an unfortunate mess that was.
The story of Diana’s attempts to ban land mines that were killing and maiming children in Angola is covered in the movie amidst the romantic melodrama surrounding her madcap life.