August in the Yard – Closeup Photography – Monarch Caterpillars & Translucent Sprouts

So Camera Girl found two interesting subjects in the yard.  These are all shot with the Sony A7S and the Minolta 200mm F\4 Macro.  This is using the manual focus ring because this is a screw drive AF lens and the adapter only autofocuses motor driven lenses.  But for caterpillars and plants that not such a problem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forbidden Planet – The Quintessential Sci-Fi Movie? – OCF Classic Movie Reviews

A lot of stuff has been said about what makes Forbidden Planet such an important sci-fi movie.  The ground-breaking special effects, the plot element of a human military vessel exploring space that would spawn the endless iterations of the Star Ship Enterprise.  And of course, there’s the classical angle.  Supposedly the plot is an update of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”

So, there’s all that good stuff.  But to my mind the real reason can be summed up in two words, Anne Francis.  When the angelic face of Miss Francis first appears on screen I began to see the movie in the correct light.  This was an epic adventure story that rivalled the Odyssey of Homer for timelessness and meaning.  Now the fact that I was a sixteen-year old boy at the time probably colored my thought processes to some extent and the skimpiness of her costumes might even have had something to do with it.  But let’s face it, giant ants can only get you so far.  If you want to keep the natives from getting restless you have to appeal to their most powerful motivations and if a blonde-haired, blue eyed creature with a very pretty face and extremely long shapely unclad legs is brought center stage, suddenly even the acting skills of Leslie Nielsen seem greatly enhanced and worth a fair hearing.

But now that I’m in my dotage and no longer as easily swayed by a pretty face, I’ve had a chance to re-evaluate the movie.  Surprisingly, I’m still a big fan.  And this is despite the obvious weaknesses that are extremely evident in such an old film.  The dialog has some extremely cliché-ridden exchanges including:

  • The captain tells off the young woman because her uninhibited interest in the young men in his crew will be a distraction from military discipline.
  • Morbius displays the stereotypical arrogance of the academic intellectual toward the practical military authorities.
  • The banter provided by the ship’s cook is the comic relief that would seem right at home in an Abbott and Costello movie.

So what makes it good?  Well, the humans are mostly likeable and admirable.  The plot unwinds in a manner that allows for the gradual reveal of the mystery.  Of course, the who of the question is answered long before the why and how of the problem.  But the details provide reinforcement of the underlying lesson to learn.  We are reminded that smarter isn’t the same as perfect.

And the special effects are still pretty good.  The animation of the Krell infrastructure impresses the viewer with the gargantuan scope of the installation.  The humans walking through it literally look like ants at one point.

And finally, the interaction between the isolated inhabitants of this dream world and the crew of the no-nonsense military vessel is classic.  It reminds you of the stories that portray the first contact between Europeans and the South Sea Islands.  The sailors always have a feeling they have somehow discovered paradise with its idyllic climate, scantily clad, friendly women and tropical fruit. The military men are enthralled with how favorably it compares to the boring, spartan existence of their all-male naval vessel.

Are there problems with the story?  Yes.  Morbius seems a little too dense for a brilliant scientist.  The resolution of the crisis at the end is a little jarring.  The solution is quite heavy handed.  But all in all, it’s a pretty neat story.  I think it indicates why the Star Trek series was so popular.  But I think it also shows why the later tv series were less interesting.  The adventure and discovery aspects became less of a focus as the Enterprise became less of a military/exploration vessel and more of a social worker/nanny vehicle to the stars.

The Edge of Tomorrow – A Short Movie Review

Last night I watched the Tom Cruise movie “Edge of Tomorrow.”  The first thing that strikes me is that it is a sort of mixture of things.

First off, it’s a mil sci-fi movie.  It tells the story of aliens invading and battling humans.  Almost the entire movie takes place within the confines of a single battlefield.  And because it’s a big budget movie with a big star that part is done rather professionally.  The special effects and sets are very good looking.  The action takes place in England and France and Germany so there is the interest of seeing The Louvre and London engulfed in military paraphernalia and smashed by battle.  So, there’s all that.

Next, it’s a time travel story.  The gimmick is that Tom Cruise has been caught up in the gears of the aliens’ ability to alter the future.  Because of a chain of events involving his lucky killing of a high level alien, Cruise is effected in such a way that every time he gets killed in battle, it resets time back to the start of the day of the battle he’s in.  But when he returns to that day he remembers each of these past lives.  It’s sort of like Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog’s Day.  So, even though he’s a complete neophyte to combat, he can learn from what happened to him on the previous incarnations.  Comically, after countless iterations he can effortlessly step through the battlefield performing a choreographed dance with death.  Of course, this means to keep advancing his progress on the battlefield he has to keep dying over and over again.

So, in a way, it’s also a metaphor for, or even a parody of someone playing a first-person shooter video game.  You keep playing the game and increasing your knowledge and skills.  You also have to die over and over and over.  And for anyone who has spent a lot of time playing one particular game you understand the psychologically painful experience of building up the necessary muscle memory and rote memorization of the endless sequences of motions and thought processes needed to wend your way to the next level.  That’s the feel this movie provides.

I’ll have to say it’s a mixed experience.  It’s both stimulating to sense the iterative advancement and at the same time irritating.  There’s one particular sequence that occurs almost endlessly during the movie.  It’s when he’s awakened by a sergeant screaming abuse into his face.  It must happen at least two dozen times.  By the end of the movie I’m genuinely hoping Cruise just clocks him in the face, just to shut him up.

So, does the movie work?  Yes, it does.  The initial introduction to Cruise’s character presents him as an unlikeable jerk.  By the end of the movie he has had to grow.  There’s even, believe it or not, the elements of a love story in the tale.  And, Lord help me, I know how ridiculous that seems in the context of a war movie.

Who is this movie for?  If you’re a Tom Cruise fan and you liked him in War of the Worlds and Minority Report you’ll probably like this movie a lot.  If you’re a mil sci-fi fan I think you’ll probably enjoy it.  If you don’t like science fiction or war movies you will hate this.  And if you’re neutral on Tom Cruise, sci-fi and war movies I think it’s 50/50.  It’s a good sci-fi movie and provides solid entertainment.  But it isn’t “Gone with the Wind” so if you’re looking for highly cerebral or morally meaningful move on.

Trump vs The Time Hag – Episode 5 – Trump Martel

Trump vs The Time Hag – Episode 4 -Augustus Trumpster

 

Scene1:  10th of October 732 A.D. – Plains surrounding Tours, Gaul

 

Trump Martel (TM) – Where is my oaf?  Oaf, oaf oaf!

Jeb Buisson (JEB!) – Here O Prince!

TM – Didn’t I tell you to polish my armor?  I have a 4:30 appointment in Tours defeating Islamic extremists and I want to look my best.

JEB! – I’ve been working as fast as I can but I’m not finished yet.

TM – Oh never mind.  You’re too low energy for that.  Go and take a nap.  That way no actual fighters will end up tripping over your gutted corpse.

JEB! – Thank you sire.

TM – Alright Michel Pencius, assemble my fans, I mean my troops, over there and I’ll address them from this big rock over here.

Michel Pencius (MP) – Yes my lord Trump.

TM – Gather round men.  I have a lot to say and not much time to say it in.  In a few hours about sixty thousand Islamic extremists are gonna come pouring over those hills and unless we put a whole world of hurt on them you are all gonna be eating shish kebab from now on.  That’s right.  No more croissants, no more white sauce and definitely no more wine.  So definitely put on your big boy breeches and don’t stop until the fat lady sings.  And by the way that fat lady is Hilarius Cintoninus.  She is a hideous banshee that has lead the Arabs through the Pyrenees and promised them my head if they attacked Tours today.

Now maybe you’re thinking we can’t beat sixty thousand arabs.  Maybe you think the odds are too high.  Well just relax.  The don’t call me Trump Martel, Trump the Hammer because of anatomical reasons, although if you notice my fingers are plenty big, nothing wrong in that department, everything very, very, good and big.  They call me the hammer because I will hammer those buggers right into the ground.  After this battle, we will be the most powerful force in Europe and we will go on to lay the foundations for the Holy Roman Trumpire which my grandson Trumplemagne will build.  And when I say he will build it I’m not kidding.  It will be one big beautiful and long-lasting Trumpire.  But anyway, if you follow me into battle we will win and keep on winning.  We’ll win so much you may get tired of winning.  You may say, “Enough, it’s too much winning!”

And in conclusion, every man that follows me today will get ten royal arpents of land around Paris and a dozen sheep.  Or if you prefer there is a special package of Trump cufflinks and steak knives available at Le Macy’s down at the mall.  Follow me, men, into victory and glory.  But don’t tailgate.  I hate that.

Troops – Le Trump, Le Trump, hoo, hoo, hoo, hoo.

TM – Yes, you love me.  Of course, you do.  How could you not?  I am the greatest Frank of all time.  Even greater than Sinatra, who was very great.

Justified – A TV Series Review – Part 5 – Season 5 & 6 (Conclusion)

Justified – A TV Series Review – Part 4 – Season 3 & 4

 

Wow!

That’s some damn show.  I won’t drop any spoilers.  Suffice it to say that in the last four episodes everything seemed to be going to hell and I was incensed at the trajectory I saw for the plot.  But by the conclusion I was satisfied that there wasn’t a better possible ending.  I’ll take a while to digest the whole story.  There’s a lot there.  Criminals and cops and their girls.  But at the end Raylin and Boyd together are the motor that runs the show.  They are like the two poles of a magnet.  Opposite and linked.  And then there’s Ava.  Who’s responsible for that disaster?  And then there’s just the sheer scope of the mayhem. By the end of the show the killing becomes like a steady rain.  I seriously wondered if the last episode would close on nothing left of the cast but body bags in the morgue.

Justified is a very well-made crime drama.  The main characters are interesting and in some ways sympathetic.  The run of the show is neither too short nor too long to provide a solid entertainment experience.  The story runs its course and the potential of the situation like the coal in one of the Harlan County mines is extracted and exhausted.

In a crime story that has both, it’s sometimes difficult to strike the correct balance between drama and comedy.  In my opinion Justified manages that balance unusually well.  With the large and shifting parade of criminals and lawmen, victims and friends, there were many colorful characters that provided ample opportunities for laughs.  But often that laughter was tinged with disgust at the ignorance, greed or stupidity that was the source.  And the laughs were often at the expense of the lawmen too.  Trying to outsmart idiots sometimes ended up poorly.  And Raylin consistently had troubles with his love life.  Too often it intersected with his work.  And when that happened, his boss Art would call out, “Raylin, would you come in my office and close the door?”

Critiquing entertainment is far from an exact science.  Objectivity is not even a theoretical consideration.  Why I like Justified so much probably has more to do with me than with the show.  And if your tastes are at all different from mine then we could completely disagree on the quality of this TV show.  With all of that said, I highly recommend Justified to anyone who likes well written and acted drama with a healthy dose of ironic humor thrown in for leavening.  Everything about the show is well done and enjoyable.  And probably best of all it has the correct balance.  There is a beginning, middle and end.  At the end, it was enough.  Anymore extracted from these characters will need to be a different chapter in a different place and with a different flavor.  Harlan County, Kentucky has been successfully mined and the treasure collected and sold to the consumers.  Amen.

Recommended Article: Victor Davis Hanson’s “Why is Everyone Suddenly Quoting Thucydides?” in American Greatness

https://amgreatness.com/2017/07/26/everyone-suddenly-quoting-thucydides/

Thucydides is one of the most difficult Greek authors. As I’ve noted elsewhere The Histories of Herodotus are much more fun (both in Greek and English translation).  Reading Thucydides is like reading a textbook written by a very  pedantic professor.  I found it very slow going when I only had to translate a few pages back 40 years ago as a student.  The Peloponnesian War is recounted battle by battle, march by march and season by season.  Only intermittently is there some nugget of historical interest.  But the ones you find are sometimes priceless.  Hanson is a Classics Professor and actually can read Thucydides in the original Greek so at least he knows what the text is trying to say.  Back in high school (or I guess college nowadays) you were given passages from Thucydides such as the Funeral Oration of Pericles or the Melian Dialog.  Well the reason we still read Thucydides is because people keep doing the same stupid things war after war.  Whether the US and China are fated to battle for supremacy like Sparta and Athens or Rome and Carthage is an important question.  If studying the Peloponnesian War teaches us what has failed in the past maybe we can spare the world another bloody catastrophe.  That some of the Trump White House is reading it isn’t bad news.  Anyway, an interesting read.

Wyatt Earp and Tombstone, A Comparison – Movie Review – Part 3

Wyatt Earp and Tombstone, A Comparison – Movie Review – Part 2

 

I’ve gone over each of the movies separately. Now I’ll consider them together and finish off any other ways of blathering on about them.  After all I am in the blather business.

Which movie do I like better? It’s very hard for me to give a straight answer to this.  Some of my favorite scenes in either movie is Doc Holliday mugging on screen with Johnny Ringo and Ike Clanton in Tombstone.  But Kurt Russell makes me want to turn the very same movie off every time he tries to do drama.  Alternatively, Wyatt Earp has lots of very nice cinematography and music scoring and great story development and supporting actors like Dennis Quaid and Gene Hackman.  It also has a three hour running time and perhaps too much fidelity to the mundane facts behind the Earp legend.

I’ll fudge the answer. I’ve imagined a scenario where these two movies could have been the basis for a much better outcome.  Here are the points I’ll pound:

  1. Go with Kevin Costner as Wyatt Earp. If Kurt Russell needs a consolation prize, let him be the younger brother Morgan. He’s got a good dying scene where histrionics wouldn’t be too distracting.
  2. Hire the director from Wyatt Earp but don’t let Costner get his way.
  3. Keep the running time to 2 hours 15 minutes. This isn’t Ben Hur. A western longer than that is asking for trouble.
  4. Include some of the background info. Especially play up the meeting and earlier collaboration of Wyatt and Doc.
  5. Give Val Kilmer more screen time. Why not a card game with Doc, Wyatt, Johnny Ringo and Ike Clanton. That could really give them a reason to hate each other.
  6. End the story with the end of the vendetta. Afterward come up with a big set piece where Doc goes one way and Wyatt goes another.
  7. Put a limit on the amount of screen time for the Earp women. Mattie and Josie are both extremely annoying and really put a damper on the fun.
  8. Give us a little more of the internal dynamics amongst the Cowboys. Ike, Curly Bill and Johnny Ringo seem like vitriolic characters and it would be reasonable that they would have some entertaining fights going on.
  9. For mercy’s sake make sure somebody punches John Behan in the mouth and steps on his stupid derby hat.
  10. Give Adam Baldwin a good part in the movie (with lines).
  11. Bring back Bill Pullman as Ed Masterson. I want Earp to call him an affable man again like it’s a cuss-word. Also I want to see him catch on fire when he’s shot again. Great fun.

So that’s it. In a perfect world we’d go back in our time machine and re-direct history to remake Wyatt Earp-Tombstone as a masterpiece. Whoever the patron saint of lost causes is may my prayer float up to him and give him a good laugh.  So that’s it.  I’ll still watch Tombstone at least once a year and Wyatt Earp about once every five years.  Coulda, woulda, shoulda.  But still fun to talk about.

Wyatt Earp and Tombstone, A Comparison – Movie Review – Part 2

Wyatt Earp and Tombstone, A Comparison – Movie Review – Part 1

Kevin Costner was originally going to be Wyatt Earp in Tombstone.  But he and the director/screenwriter disagreed on how much of the movie was supposed to center on Wyatt Earp and his background.  He left the production and decided to make the movie “Wyatt Earp” instead.

Wyatt Earp is a sort of biography of Earp.  It starts with Wyatt as a teenager trying to run away to fight in the Civil War, shows him falling in love, marrying and losing his young wife to typhus.  Giving in to a drunken despair he commits some capital crimes and has to flee his old life never to return.  He went out to the frontier and worked first as a buffalo skinner and then as a lawman.  These chapters effectively chronicled the background and events that formed the man that we recognize in the various versions of the legend.  And it shows his links to other characters of legend like Holliday and Bat Masterson and his brother Ed.  And we get the particulars of all of the Earp brothers and their wives.  And what does Wyatt Earp end up as?  He’s a man hardened to the realities of life in the West.  And someone who trusts his family and very few others.  This sets up the events that transpire in Tombstone and afterward.

Costner plays the part with his typical understated style.  The supporting cast is interesting and probably the best of them is Dennis Quaid as Doc Holliday.  The production is done in high style with excellent cinematography and a full musical score.  The direction and scene selection seemed well thought out and deliberate and didn’t produce any confusion over plot elements which was important considering the length of years and progression of different characters covered in the film.  It is a very long film coming in at three hours.  And the deliberate pace and varying importance of the scenes probably was too much for some viewers who really came to see the Gunfight at the OK Corral.  In fact the film was neither a financial or critical success.

So, what do I think of it?  I like it.  I think it comes closer to the actual facts of the story than Tombstone.  And I think despite his unflamboyant acting manner Costner does a much better job of portraying Wyatt Earp as he actually was.  Where I would fault the effort is being so unreservedly faithful to the facts.  Neither The Gunfight at the OK Corral or the subsequent vendetta appear as grandiose and mythic as they do in Tombstone and other descriptions.

It’s a shame when a critic complains about an historical account being too accurate.  It almost seems like nostalgia for mendacity.  But that’s an occupational hazard when dealing with the Old West.  In fact, there’s Holy Writ that covers it. In the western epic “The Man Wo Shot Liberty Vanlence,” one of the characters who I believe is a newspaperman says, and I paraphrase, When the legend becomes the facts, print the legend.

In Part 3 I’ll tie these two films together and ramble on about all thing cinematically Earpish.

 

Wyatt Earp and Tombstone, A Comparison – Movie Review – Part 3

Wyatt Earp and Tombstone, A Comparison – Movie Review – Part 1

We’ll start with Tombstone.  It’s a thoroughly entertaining movie but with a major flaw.  Namely, Kurt Russell does not have the gravitas to portray Wyatt Earp.  So, while I enjoy watching Tombstone more than Kevin Costner’s “Wyatt Earp” I think he made a much better Wyatt than Russell did.  So much so that whenever Russell is speaking I’m annoyed.  Whenever someone else is in the spotlight I’m happy again.  It’s very distracting.  So, there it is.  I’m conflicted about this movie.  Let’s look at the other portrayals.  Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday is the true star of the movie.  Almost every scene, almost every spoken line he has is memorable and immensely entertaining.  Almost all of my favorite scenes in the movie are his.  His interaction with Michael Biehn’s Johnny Ringo is pure gold.  His mockeries of Ike and Billy Clanton are extremely funny, each in its own way.  And all of it together with this portrayal of a deadly gunfighter who is also a highly complicated dying man is a fascinating character to watch.  I keep wishing the movie was called Doc Holliday and that it would flashback to Doc’s earlier life and extend the movie far beyond the Tombstone chapter.

After Kilmer’s Holliday, I think Powers Boothe’s Curly Bill Brocius is my next favorite character.  The first time I saw this movie I did not recognize Boothe at all.  He seems much thinner than I ever remember him in even earlier movies.  And he is a jolly villain.  Always laughing and joking even as he is committing murder and mayhem.  When he is finally dispatched by Wyatt during the famous creek battle I was sorry to see him go.  I think I was secretly hoping that he’d get Russell somehow.  After these two I’ll lump all the rest of the cast together and call out just some of the fine performances.

Stephen Lang Played Ike Clanton as a vicious killer who would cower and run if the fight turned against him.  My favorite scene with Ike is his card game with Doc Holliday.  Holliday’s long winning streak makes Ike question his honesty.  Holliday suggests maybe the better game for Ike was a spelling bee.  This didn’t make Ike very happy.

Thomas Haden Church plays Billy Clanton to great comedic effect.  In one scene Doc Holliday pulls a gun on Billy and tells him to put his hands up.  When Billy says that Doc is so drunk that he’s probably seeing double Doc pulls out another gun and tells Billy he’ll shoot both of them.

 

Sam Elliot and Bill Paxton play Virgil and Morgan Earp and provide workmanlike portrayals.  The rest of the large cast provide varying levels of interest to the story.  Charlton Heston has a small part as the rancher Henry Hooker who comes to Wyatt’s aid.  It’s a good moment and ties the movie to the old western tradition.  For me the weakest part of the story is Wyatt Earp’s romantic life.  His common law wife with the laudanum addiction and his girlfriend the actress don’t seem to really add much to the story.  The feud with the Cowboy gang doesn’t really seem to mesh with the other parts of Wyatt Earp’s life and the ending just seems tacked on.

For me the reason to watch Tombstone is the sequence from the “Gunfight at the OK Corral” through the “Last Charge of Wyatt Earp’s Immortals.”  And the high point of the whole movie is the duel between Doc Holliday and Johnny Ringo.  The two deadliest pistoleros square off and settle the outcome of the war.  And of course, Kilmer’s dialog here is very amusing.

So, I’ll have to remain conflicted by this movie.  It is full of scenes and lines that I greatly enjoy.  My greatest criticism is that it should have been titled for and based on Doc Holliday.  He is the star and he provides all the thunder.  Poor Wyatt is completely eclipsed and left limping along once Holliday leaves the frame.

Next, I’ll look at the true story of Wyatt Earp.  That’ll be Kevin Costner’s film.

Trump vs The Time Hag – Episode 4 -Augustus Trumpster

Trump vs The Time Hag – Episode 3 – Trumpxander the Great

 

Scene 1 – 30 B.C – The Roman Forum (Tuesday)

Emperor Augustus Trumpster (EAT) – Where is Philbertus Macadamius?  Phil! Phil! Where in Hades are you?

Philbertus Macadamius (PM) – Right here Great Trumpster!  All Hail divine Trumpster.  Why, you bestride the whole world like a Colussus!

EAT – Yeah well stop looking up my toga when I do.  Remember my hands are plenty big.  Nothing to worry about there.

PM – Yes great Trumpster.  And how may I be of service?

EAT – Listen Phil, I’m about to make a big speech before the senate and I need someone that I can trust to listen to my tweet, I mean speech.

PM – I would be honored Great Trumpster.

EAT – Sure, sure but listen I’m a little sword-shy after Mike-us Pence-tony, my right hand man, ran off with that Clintonpatra skank and tried to steal the whole eastern empire from me.  That really pissed me off.  So, I have to know that what I say will go no further than this portico.  I have to know you’re loyal.

PM – Rest assured Great Trumpster, that I would never reveal your conversation or blab it to the Times New Roman, er I mean the New Roman Times.

EAT – Yeah, nothing to see here.  Oh what the hell.  If anything happens I can always feed you to the lions in the Colosseum (when someone gets around to building it that is).  Anyway what do you think of this speech?

PM – (reading the scroll) Uh let’s see.  Hmmm, zmmmm, hmmm, zmmm.  Looks good to me.  Cicero himself will rave.

EAT – Yeah except we cut off his head a few years back.

PM – Oh, that’s right.  Good times, good times.  Anyway, the speech is a peach.  Lay it on them Mighty Trumpster.

Scene 2 – Same day, Roman Senate.

EAT – Friends, Romans, Countrymen.  Lend me your ears.  No, I mean really.  I’m having all your ears cut off for those rude remarks you made about the Empress Melania.  She’s the best- looking babe this old burg has ever seen and you claim that Clintopatra is more regal?  You’re just lucky I won and she wasn’t in charge.  She’d have had you guys eunuched within the week and singing soprano in the Palatine Follies before the Ides of March.  But relax, I had her boiled in oil and rendered into so much soap that it’ll last the empire for a decade.  Unfortunately Slickus Willius escaped into the East.  But it’s probably for the better.  If that joker got talking he’d have stolen the togas right off your backs.  Him and that “that depends on what the definition of id est.”  What a crook.

So anyway, here’s the deal.  I’m going to turn this republic into an empire.  Now I know that’s bad, but you folks are already too corrupt to reform.  On the upside the Pax Romana will give you about two hundred years of relative prosperity and peace.  The downside is that by the time the Visigoths show up you’ll be a bunch of serfs too poor and dispirited to care about defending your homes.

But look at the bright side.  The bread and circuses should last right up until Alaric and the Visigoths sack this place in 410 A.D. (whenever that is).  So let’s party like it’s MCMXCIX!!!!

Senators – Toga, toga, toga.

 

Trump vs The Time Hag – Episode 5 – Trump Martel