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Everything posted by JJPierce


    One bonus of the broadcast was Alan Alda, in his introduction, declaring that SOUTH PACIFIC proves popular entertainment can be great art.

    It's on PBS tonight, Aug. 18; check local listings. I saw this production at the theater with my wife Marcia. It's an ABSOLUTE MUST.
  3. Classical Music's New Golden Age

    I guess it was the musical equivalent of graffiti or bad poster art. But I'll bet it was never played again, and certainly never recorded. Of course, I kind of wonder why YOU went to that "performance." Here's an odd case: Jon Brion. He's known primarily as a pop/rock composer/performer, and yet he did a classical score for MAGNOLIA (1999). Here's a video of a work-in-progress run-through: And here's a bit of the finished score, used as a background by some guy demonstrating a Steadicam: You'd think he'd been composing classical music all his life and yet, to the best of my knowledge, he's done nothing like it before or since. I have the CD, and one of the things I've noticed is that he can use reiteration and minor variations on a theme WITHOUT becoming boring. Kind of like Bruckner, although he has nothing else in common with Bruckner. I mentioned Nino Rota yesterday. Among other things, he also turned LA STRADA into a ballet in 1965. Marcello Rota, who is some sort of relative, conducted this concert performance. As far as I know, the ballet has never been produced in this country. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1EaK-vWbEqA
  4. Classical Music's New Golden Age

    In more recent years, classical music has been kept alive in film scores, and not just in routine pieces, but in works that have actually entered the repertoire Here, for example, is Ennio Morricone leading orchestral performances of music he composed for THE MISSION and THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fC58MjYDp64 Morricone's fellow-countryman Nino Rota was best known for film score like THE GODFATHER, but he also composed a lot of straight classical music that has come into vogue lately, finally recorded decades after his death in 1979, as witness these movements from two of his piano concertos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UCfIBdhGxsk Still living is Angelo Badalamenti, who hails from Brooklyn and first became prominent with music for BLUE VELVET and TWIN PEAKS, but has also composed gems like this short piece for the steampunk movie THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN: I think that any hope for the future of classical music in terms of creation as opposed to performance lies in composers like these. Serialism is dead, but "serious" composers can't seem to get their bearings. My wife and I attend concerts by the New York Philharmonic, which has a "resident composer" (I forget his name.). We've heard a couple of his pieces, and they are pleasant, but aimless. Music needs structure.
  5. The people who make them are laughing all the way to the blood bank!
  6. Mao's Last Dancer (2009)

    Apparently this isn't opening, and only in limited release, until the end of August, although it's been shown at a bunch of film festivals.
  7. Ayn Rand’s ‘Ideal’ Debuts in New York City

    Tried to get tickets a week or so ago, but the site said the whole run was sold out. Only the daughter of a friend said there were some empty seats when she went. No-shows, I guess.
  8. Atlas Shrugged movie redux

    I think I read somewhere that Dr. Peikoff sold the rights, no strings attached, long, long ago.
  9. BP Gulf Oil Leak

    Since rtg24 has actually worked on the oil business, I should perhaps defer to his judgment. But I see that on the Glenn Beck show the other day, Yaron Brook didn't let BP entirely off the hook: <<BROOK: But look, let's not let — I don't want to let the government off on the BP thing, because what has the government done? How did BP get to drill in mile-deep water? They are not allowed to drill in the continental shelf. Where it is easily available and when there is a spill, you can easily — BECK: Or in Montana where you have it above water. BROOK: Yes. They set out there a mile deep and then they are given liability cap. Too big to fail. They're only liable for $75 million. Oh, that is easy. I can take on risk if that is all I've got to suffer. So Government creates these scenarios exactly as they're described in "Atlas." When businesses do things, something happens and they're going to be blamed for it.>> So that's one point; BP having a "What, me worry?" attitude because the government limited its liability. I'd only note that a promise like that from the government was bound to turn out to be a rubber check if something bad happened -- as indeed it did. So now BP is out $20 billion. The other point is that the Wall Street Journal (not exactly the most liberal publication in the country) was the first to publicize allegations (later pounced on by politicos) that employees of BP itself and contractors involved in the project had made specific recommendations for more stringent safety measures, and were ignored. I suppose it's possible these are fabrications, but if so I'd think somebody would have blown the whistle. It's also possible that the more stringent measures wouldn't have worked, either. But if I'd been Tony Hayward, I'd have listened to them. Deep water drilling was a whole new ball game, after all. Better too safe than sorry. But I also agree this wouldn't have happened if BP had been allowed to drill in near-offshore waters. The only reason I can think of for the ban there has nothing to do with safety; it's just that the politicians think oil rigs are eyesores. And, bad as it is, the spill hardly ranks with Chernobyl on the disaster scale.
  10. BP Gulf Oil Leak

    Tony Hayward: "I want my life back." Jim Taggart: "Don't bother me." Anybody else see the connection? Obama has been a total klutz on this. But so has Hayward. And it was his JOB to consider the risks and have some sort of plan for dealing with them. Talk about penny wise and pound foolish: how much is this costing BP to clean up this mess, and how much would it have cost them to do the job right in the first place? Don't get me wrong. I love capitalism. But I hate stupidity.
  11. Atlas Shrugged movie redux

    What does the $5 million budget get them? Well, watch for the Lionel logo on any train cars. And they could run the tracks into a burrow representing the Taggart Tunnel. My five-year old grandson shows a great mechanical aptitude. They could hire him to build the sets out of Lego blocks. "Seriously," though, some people saying that this "production" is just a ploy to extend Aglialoro's rights, comparable to a cheap 1993 version of THE FANTASTIC FOUR that was filmed but never released: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fantastic_Four_(film)
  12. Atlas Shrugged movie redux

    Well, I don't know squat about cameras, but I know the best camera in the world can't make a good movie out of a bad script and a bad cast led by a bad director. I can't say I'm impressed by what little I see of the scene, any more than I am by the track records of the principals. With such a tiny budget, is all the "action" going to take place on CNN sets? It's hard to imagine how they can afford do anything on the epic scale of the novel. I'm always prepared to be surprised. Maybe there's more than meets the eye to this production. Maybe the principals will "rise to the occasion." But I'm not holding my breath. And I don't think a bad movie will help Objectivism, even if some of Rand's words make it to the screen. Long before Peter Jackson, Ralph Bakshi started an animated version of THE LORD OF THE RINGS. It generated such a bad reaction (the first installment turned out to be the last) that, according to Lester del Rey, who was fantasy editor at Ballantine Books at the time, it actually hurt sales of the books. But if this version of Atlas Shrugged does crash and burn, perhaps there'll be the equivalent of a Peter Jackson version down the road. Perhaps.
  13. Atlas Shrugged movie redux

    He'd have to be better than the bozos who seem to be working on the project now. Not that it would matter to them, but my wife came up with a casting idea. Not for one of the heroes, but one of the villains. Remember Gregory Itzin, who played President Charles "I am not a shlub" Logan on 24? Too old for James Taggart. But which of the others would people here see him for?
  14. BP Gulf Oil Leak

    Well, if there's something to this, why hasn't BP ITSELF shown any interest? Is this a case of NIH (Not Invented Here) prejudice?
  15. Agora - The Movie - Coming in 2010

    My wife Marcia and I saw it yesterday. We were weeping at the end. Extraordinary. Don't miss it.
  16. Clash of the Titans (2010)

    Because they're a bunch of idiots, that's why. And it isn't just with epics. I remember a remake of DOA that tried to "pump up" the plot with a lot of irrelevant details.
  17. Agora - The Movie - Coming in 2010

    Agora finally opened today -- but in only two theaters in New York. Don't know about elsewhere, but while it got a good review in the New York Times, that was buried in the back pages and there was only a small ad for it. I read on a blog that it reached only 12 theaters in England despite glowing reviews -- after being a hit in Spain. It's as if the Powers That Be are nervous. Could they be afraid of offending Christian fundamentalists? Or do they understand the parallel with Islamic fundamentalism today, and fear the film will offend Muslims -- or perhaps the sort of "liberals" who used to fawn on the Communists and now fawn on the jihadists?
  18. Iron Man 2 (2010)

    But would you rather ride the Spyder or Scarlet Johansson?
  19. Iron Man 2 (2010)

    The real problem with the movie isn't Stark's characterization, but the stupidity of the plot. Here you have Vanko the villain making his high tech... whatever it is... in what looks to be a blacksmith's shop. Then he shows up at the race track, somehow knowing Stark will be there even before Stark does. His outfit doesn't even have a helmet, so any cop could have taken him out with a head shot... need I go on? This sort of thing seems to be typical of comic book and sci-fi movies these days. They seem to get a free pass from the fanboy crowd because they're full of explosions. The more "serious" ones like DISTRICT 9 and AVATAR get a free pass because they're PC -- Darrell Schweitzer ripped AVATAR to shreds in the New York Review of Science Fiction, and he's hardly alone. I'm sick and tired of this sort of mindlessness. But it was nice to see Scarlet Johansson's brief turn as the Black Widow. Maybe she could be brought back as Emma Peel in a revival of THE AVENGERS. --J.J.P.
  20. AVATAR

    Found this transcript of some of James Cameron's remarks about the message of the movie in an appearance on THE VIEW (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXqu9y1FJAo). Like, big surprise: <<Elisabeth Hasselbeck: ... What about to the emotional response? You've certainly hit some nerves with this film. Like Sherri said, you know, the tears, and the love, and the fight. But then there's also been a million incredible reviews ... some sort of criticism that it's - you know, we've even talked about it here on "Hot Topics" - anti-American, anti-troops. What's your response to that? 'Cause I also think this is fiction, and people should step back, and understand the creative aspect, not just critique a political stance. James Cameron: Yeah, I think people ... I think it's fair game to attack a movie based on your perception, of your reality. I think that's fair game. I think movies ... a movie that's trying to communicate ... if that starts a dialog, that's fine. My personal ... Elisabeth Hasselbeck: Were you trying to? James Cameron: No, no. Here's, here's ... I think the film is definitely anti-corporate, you know. And I think that the corporations, and the corporate lobbyists are doing a huge damage to the country, and to the environment. But, but ... (applause) I think they are; I believe that. But you gotta remember, the troops in the movie are corporate security guys; they're mercenaries. The main character is a former Marine - the guy that we follow, who's a hero. And he enlists the aid of a female pilot, who is meant to be a former Marine. My brother, John David, was a Marine for 6 years, fought in Desert Storm. I feel very close to the psychology of the Marine Corps, their sense of duty, and honor, and courage. And so my main character, that I ... you know ... we've spent, you know, couple of hundred million dollars making a movie about this guy - he's a Marine, and he does what Marines do, which is to be courageous, and ultimately to become a hero ... So that's where my heart lies; so that ain't anti-military. Elisabeth Hasselbeck: Well, it's good to hear it from you too, 'cause I think that people have been sort of getting on a bandwagon of treating it as an anti-American film. Whoopi Goldberg: Also, this is meant to wake folks up? James Cameron: Sure, sure, clearly. I mean, that ... to me it's a very personal film, in the sense of when I was a kid, uh, you know, in high school; it was the start of the environmental movement. and I made a film in high school about pollution. So, you know, in the years since, trying to get documentaries funded about the environment? - Can't raise any money to do that; nobody wants to buy that stuff. So I thought if I make a big spectacular action, science fiction film, I can embed these themes in a movie that people are going to see for other reasons. (I tell ya, it's absolutely subversive ...) Sherri Shepherd: Speaking of themes, when you think about making a statement, and themes, Avatar ... it became a political statement for some groups. Because, recently in Jerusalem, a Palestinian and some Israeli activists dressed up as the Na'vi aliens from Avatar, and they peacefully protested a security fence, which was built by Israel, near their village. So does something like that worry you? Does something like that make you proud, Or ...? James Cameron: I think it's cool. I mean, look, the movie starts with the main character opening his eyes, and ends with the main character opening his eyes. It's about changing our perception. It's about this idea that "I see you". It's about seeing the other person past the cultural barriers, past the language barriers, for who they really are. And so here, they're saying, "Look, we're like these guys in this movie. Look at us; see us differently." Well, I think that's cool. And, you know, the film has done that, for a lot of different groups around the world.>> While I'm at it, I might as well take Cameron to task for his simple-minded approach to inventing "alien" worlds and life forms -- the Disney big eyes and all that, as mocked in a video review posted here a few weeks back. Here's how Olaf Stapledon, who created the methodology used in literary sf, did it way back in 1937: http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/s/stapledon/...r/chapter7.html Now Stapledon was at least as far to the Left for his time as Cameron is for ours, but he had a really creative imagination. (But the people at Adelaide mis-transcribed the title of the section; it should be "A SYMBIOTIC RACE.")
  21. I keep reading that Britain, Canada and even Israel have gays in the military, and that they haven't had any problems. As for sexual feelings, what about those between straight men and women in the same unit? If gays ever do cause trouble by making unwanted advances or whatever, they should be disciplined or kicked out. But the same goes for straights, and I've read stories (I can't vouch for their accuracy) that the military has ignored sexual harassment against women by men. The ban or gays, by contrast, has been carried to ridiculous lengths: one of the first things the Army did after we went into Iraq was to get rid of a dozen Arabic translators because they were gay. Yeah, that must have helped our troops a lot. And remember Nidal Hasan? If he'd shown signs of being gay, he'd have been booted out. But signs of radical Islamic sympathies? Fuggedabout it!
  22. The Secret of the League

    As What Might Have Been, the book can be found as a free PDF download in a listing at Google book search. I'd never heard of it before, but sf scholars like Everett Bleiler were aware of it. I hadn't remembered the name of the author either, but one of his other titles, Kai Lung's Golden Hours, rings a bell with me somehow. Bramah was very reclusive, according to the Wikipedia entry, but quite well known in his time -- George Orwell considered The Secret of the League an accurate forecast of fascism, and while I can't make any authoritative judgment from just a summary, that summary makes it sound like Jack London's The Iron Heel stood on its head. But The Iron Heel came out a year later!
  23. Tiddlywinks from an Unexpected Source

    Had never heard this before. The march sounds rather like Sousa, while the waltzes remind me of Khatchaturian's in Masquerade. As far as I can determine, this suite was composed around 1937-8, after the "first denunciation" of Shostakovich by Stalin and his toadies. A year or two ago, I came across a link to some rare footage of Shostakovich himself performing his piano concerto about 1934: How he managed to survive the Great Terror at all is a mystery to me, and there is still a great deal of controversy about his life and music and relations with the régime.
  24. Glory (1989)

    I saw it when it first came out, and loved it. I have a lot of Southern relatives, and a few of them told me THEY loved it -- even though it took the opposite "side" from their ancestors. There's a book about the regiment, which is also very good -- I think the title is A BRAVE BLACK REGIMENT. I believe that some of the information from that appears in an extra to the DVD of the movie. One episode involved actually man-hauling a train captured in Florida back to their base in Jacksonville after a raid into the interior.
  25. AVATAR

    But the Bible was THE book. Denzel's copy is "good enough to get the job done;" i.e., save the world. The other books -- Shakespeare, etc., -- are just ancillary to that. And, yeah, what about all those people killed in the name of God? The Jews were even enjoined to commit genocide in the Old Testament, and the Muslim Sharia law is pretty much in line with Old Testament "morality."