31DEC2018 – Best of 2018 List

Here’s my retrospective on 2018, completely subjective of course and whenever I can’t make up my mind or I don’t want to leave something out I’ll cheat and provide more than one choice.  And that’s one of the wonderful things about being the boss, you get to break the rules and do what you want.

 

Best Quotes of the Day

Some are political, some philosophical and some just human nature.  The order is just chronological of their appearance on the site.

 

“In the many forms of government which have sprung up there has always been an acknowledgement of justice and proportionate equality, although mankind fail in attaining them, as indeed I have already explained. Democracy, for example, arises out of the notion that those who are equal in any respect are equal in all respects; because men are equally free, they claim to be absolutely equal.”

Aristotle

 

“No state will be well administered unless the middle class holds sway.”

Aristotle

 

“When there aren’t any smart decisions, I suppose you just have to pick the stupid decision you like best.”

Orson Scott Card

 

“No one likes the fellow who is all rogue, but we’ll forgive him almost anything if there is warmth of human sympathy underneath his rogueries. The immortal types of comedy are just such men.”

W. C. Fields

 

“Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.”

H.L. Mencken

 

Carpe diem!  Seize the day!  Rejoice while you are alive; enjoy the day; live life to the fullest; make the most of what you have. It is later than you think.

Horace

 

“And this is the simple truth – that to live is to feel oneself lost. He who accepts it has already begun to find himself, to be on firm ground. Instinctively, as do the shipwrecked, he will look around for something to which to cling, and that tragic, ruthless glance, absolutely sincere, because it is a question of his salvation, will cause him to bring order into the chaos of his life. These are the only genuine ideas; the ideas of the shipwrecked. All the rest is rhetoric, posturing, farce.”

Soren Kierkegaard

 

If civilization had been left in female hands we would still be living in grass huts.

Camille Paglia

 

Best Books Reviewed

Fiction

I’ll have to go with the Galaxy’s Edge series:

http://orionscoldfire.com/index.php/2018/01/18/legionnaire-galaxys-edge-volume-1-by-jason-anspach-nick-cole-a-science-fiction-book-review/

Over the course of 2018 I read and reviewed all eight of the volumes in the main series (first volume linked above) and they only got better as the series went along.  It was good old mil-sci-fi space opera.  I assume I won’t live long enough to see the end of the series but so far that isn’t a problem.  I look forward to the next installment soon and am in no way tired of this particular universe.  Kudos to Anspach and Cole.  Long may they stoke their dumpster fire at the Edge of the Galaxy!

 Fiction Runners Up:

“The Hidden Truth” by Hans G. Schantz

http://orionscoldfire.com/index.php/2018/10/30/the-brave-and-the-bold-book-3-of-the-hidden-truth-by-hans-g-schantz-a-science-fiction-book-review/

Schantz has also upped his game as his series progresses and the “The Brave and the Bold,” the third volume, is the best so far.  Kudos to him.

 

“Southern Dust” by Caspar Vega

http://orionscoldfire.com/index.php/2018/08/25/southern-dust-by-caspar-vega-a-science-fiction-and-fantasy-book-review/

Vega is an acquired taste for me and as I’ve written about him, “It’s for those who like gritty crime dramas with a staccato, post-modern, minimalist writing style.”  Even though my tastes are a little more conventional I appreciate that there is an audience for the more unusual so I look around for interesting stuff.  As I’ve said before, your call.

 

Non-Fiction

The two books listed below provide two different takes on the way to interpret the results of ancient DNA analysis.

“The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution” by Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending

“Who We Are and How We Got Here; Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Past” by David Reich

http://orionscoldfire.com/index.php/2018/05/24/the-10000-year-explosion-a-book-review/

http://orionscoldfire.com/index.php/2018/06/18/who-we-are-and-how-we-got-here-ancient-dna-and-the-new-science-of-the-past-by-david-reich-a-book-review/

 

David Reich being an academic embedded in the politically correct culture of the university system treads ever so gently around the edges of how the science of human genetic history should be interpreted.  Cochran and Harpending are much more direct and sometimes possibly presumptuous in the conclusions they draw from the evidence.  Both books together tell a fascinating story of how much we now know about the complex and diverse origins of the various human populations.

 

Best Movie

Science Fiction & Fantasy

The Incredibles 2

http://orionscoldfire.com/index.php/2018/07/08/the-incredibles-2-a-science-fiction-fantasy-movie-review/

This is a kids’ movie but it far exceeds any of the other “superhero” movies for just plain entertainment value.  I won’t say it was as original as the first installment but it mostly kept to the spirit of the original and provided a fun vehicle for parents (or grandparents) to enjoy a movie with their kids.

 

Older Movies

True Grit

http://orionscoldfire.com/index.php/2016/12/07/true-grit-the-duke-the-dude-and-the-dutiful-daughter-part-i/

 

This is a twofer.  For younger folks I’ll only recommend the new version by the Coen Brothers.  For people who grew up on the John Wayne movies of old I recommend they view both movies back to back in chronological order.  They each have facets to its advantage.  Each differs slightly from the source material.  But each is a fine movie.  And I’ll also recommend the novel that is the source for the movies.  It also has facets that aren’t available in either movie.

 

Music

Country Music

Album of the Year

Colter Wall by Colter Wall

Song of the Year

Pan Bowl by Sturgill Simpson

My music choices are very idiosyncratic so I won’t try to justify them.  To paraphrase a recent annoying politician, they just reflect who I am  Pan Bowl is an older song from Simpson’s 2014 album.

 

TV

The only truly notable television I watched in 2018 was the State of the Union address by the president.  Everything else was at best just okay.

 

On – Line Articles

 

Here are the articles that I thought were informative on our political situation.  There were many others that were intersting but these seem to encapsulate the developments in the political thinking this year.  Basically it’s the red-pilling of the normies.

http://orionscoldfire.com/index.php/2018/03/23/american-greatness-pick-of-the-day-total-political-war-by-matthew-j-peterson/

 

http://orionscoldfire.com/index.php/2018/04/15/a-different-kind-of-red-shift/

 

http://orionscoldfire.com/index.php/2018/05/29/john-derbyshire-post-electoral-gold-for-the-stupid-party-the-anti-anti-white-vote/

 

http://orionscoldfire.com/index.php/2018/10/25/our-revolutions-logic-angelo-codevilla-an-on-line-article-review/

 

Humor

Trump vs

These are of course the most subjective things to judge.  I just kind of liked these a lot.  I admit they are absurd but such is life.

Trump vs the Hell Storm (Part 1)

Trump vs the Hell Storm (Part 2)

Search hell Trump vs the Hell Storm (Part 3)

 

Photos

Here are my favorite photos of the year.

Landscape

 

 

Nature

American Museum of Natural History, New York City, Sony NEX 5N, Sony 24mm F\1.8 APSC lens
macrophotography with Sony A7 III, Minolta 200mm f\4 macro lens and extension tubes, long horned beetle
Monotropa uniflora, Indian pipe, ghost plant, corpse plant, Sony A7 III with Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro lens
Sony A7 III with the Sigma MC-11 Adapter and the Sigma 180mm f\2.8 APO Macro EX DG HSM OS for Canon

 

31DEC2018 – Movie Quote – True Grit – Mr. LeBoeuf Spills the Banks of English

In the Coen Brothers’ version of “True Grit,” there are several conversations between Rooster Cogburn and Texas Ranger LeBoeuf where Rooster made it clear he considered LeBeouf a blowhard.  After the incident where LeBoeuf is dragged feet first behind a horse and shot through his shoulder he is recovering in the cabin they have occupied.

 

(Inside the Cabin)

 

As Mattie enters.  We see LeBoeuf musing before the fire as he cleans his Sharp’s carbine —an awkward operation given the injury to his shoulder, now bandaged. All we see of Rooster, seated further from the fire, is a pair of boots, and legs stretching into darkness. Mattie goes to the pot of food on the fire.

 

LEBOEUF

“Azh I understand it, Chaney——or Chelmzhford, azh he called himshelf in Texas——shot the shenator’zh dog.  When the shenator remonshtrated Chelmzhford shot him azh well.  You

could argue that the shooting of the dog wazh merely an inshtansh of malum prohibitum, but the shooting of a shenator izh indubitably an inshtansh of malum in shay.”

 

Rooster is a voice in the darkness:

 

ROOSTER

“Malla-men what?”

 

MATTIE

“Malum in se.  The distinction is between an act that is wrong in itself, and an act that is wrong only according to our laws and mores.  It is Latin.”

 

We hear the pthoonk of a bottle yielding its cork, followed by the pthwa of the cork’s being spit out.

 

ROOSTER

“I am struck that LeBoeuf is shot, trampled, and nearly severs his tongue and not only does not cease to talk but spills the banks of English.”

 

We hear liquid slosh as the bottle is tipped back.

 

True Grit: The Duke, The Dude and the Dutiful Daughter; Part I

Aquaman – A Science Fiction & Fantasy Movie Review

Today Camera Girl and I took grandsons Primus and Secundus to the local multiplex and watched a double feature of

  • Ralph Breaks the Internet
  • Aquaman

Between tickets and popcorn this went for about a hundred bucks.  And it was horrible.  Having to twice sit through the interminable coming attractions and other advertising video was pure torture.  Ralph Breaks the Internet was mildly amusing but twice as long as it needed to be.  Plus, at the end I found out that Sarah Silverman was one of the voice actors.  By the time Aquaman began I was bored and queasy from eating greasy popcorn.

It wasn’t bad.  There was a little too much girl power being pitched and of course none of it made any sense at all but taken as a whole it wasn’t bad.  The plot was ridiculously contrived and the evil half brother motif might as well have had Thor and Loki’s names filed down to protect DC from being sued by Marvel.

The special effects are, of course, spectacular.  Due to his human/Atlantean hybrid ancestry the title role is performed as a regular guy who just happens to be a super hero that can breath under water and control the denizens of the deep.  The rest of the Atlanteans try to sound like some kind of quasi-medieval nobility, sort of like how the Asgardians in the Thor movies do.  It’s a little silly but not terrible.

I’ve never followed the Aquaman character before.  I figured he was just the DC version of Submariner who was the lamest of the Marvel superheroes.  From the ending sequence and the way these superhero franchises are handled it’s certain that there will be sequels.  Not that I think there need to be any.

Bottom line, the movie has plenty of action and drama.  The main character is likable and fulfills the function of a superhero by being heroic.  And finally, the grandsons thought it was very good.  So it fulfills its primary role, it amuses kids.

The Dead – A Movie Review

The Dead is the film adaptation of a James Joyce short story of the same name that is part of the “Dubliners” collection.  It was the last picture directed by John Huston and was made shortly before he died.  It starred his daughter Angelica Huston and a cast of Irish actors who are mostly unknown to American audiences.  It’s the story of a New Year’s Party in Ireland in 1904.  The protagonists are a husband and wife, Gabriel and Greta, visiting his aunts for the party.  There are a number of characters who interact and exhibit the various foibles and characteristics found in a gathering of middle-class city dwellers.  There is the drunkard and the old maids and the young women and men full of excitement about the cultural and political happenings.  Music is a big part of the story with opera arias and piano concertos along the course of the party.  But at last the story is a meditation on the transitory nature of life.  Because it is an Irish story and specifically because it is James Joyce story it is very melancholy.  But there is humor and the portrayal of the party is an amusing period piece of turn of the twentieth century Ireland.  There is a number of mentions of the Irish Republican Army meetings plotting the coming uprising and the story is full of allusions to the Roman Catholic religion and the changing mores of the times.

But in the end, as the summation of the story, we see an intellectual coming to terms with the visceral nature of life.  He feels that he’s never touched his wife’s heart the way the death of a childhood sweetheart did many years ago.

John Huston was a very sick old man when he made this film and the concept of mortality was of prime importance to him.  And the James Joyce story is a good one.  But I wonder how big the audience is for this movie.  It’s a period piece and all the humor is mild and subdued.  It’s highly sentimental and slow paced.  I enjoy it a great deal and like it as a good end of year picture.  But I would recommend prospective viewers consider in advance if they care for such tame and sad entertainment.  I recommend this movie for the philosophic spirits out there.

Flash of Genius – A Movie Review

This was a 2008 release that’s based on a true story.  Greg Kinnear plays Bob Kearns, an engineering professor in the Detroit area in the 1960s who along with his wife Phyllis (played by Lauren Graham from the Gilmore Girls) and their six kids are living a happy mid-western existence.  One day Bob was driving and he came across the difficulty of having single speed wipers in a light rain.  If he left the windshield wipers on then the window would get dry and the blades would squeak and streak, but if he left them off, he couldn’t see.  Being an inventor, he came up with an electronic device that allowed the wipers to work with a variable delay between cycles, now known as intermittent wipers.  With the help of a friend who had an automotive component company he approaches Ford Motor Company about them purchasing his wiper invention to use in their cars.  They convince him they need to have a copy of the device to get it approved by the federal agency that oversees automotive safety equipment and he provides it to them.  Kearns leases factory space and goes into production on the device.  Then Ford backs out of the deal and starts producing essentially the same device on their own.

The rest of the movie chronicles Bob’s twenty-year crusade to bring Ford to justice for stealing his invention.  During that time, he loses his job, his wife and almost his mind.  At a certain point he becomes so desperate that he jumps on a bus to Washington D.C. to “talk to the White House” about his problem.  This lands him in a mental ward for several months.  When he gets out, he hires a lawyer to sue Ford for stealing his idea.  The lawyer (played by Alan Alda) gets an agreement from Ford to pay Bob several hundreds of thousands of dollars to settle.  But when he finds out that Ford wouldn’t be admitting to the theft, just paying him off, Bob balks and refuses to give up his crusade against Ford.  At this point he’s several years into this nightmare and without a job.  His wife, exhausted with raising six kids and supporting the family leaves him.

Now alone and miserable, he spends all his waking hours teaching himself the law applying to theft of intellectual property and fighting off Ford’s counter-suits and other delaying tactics.  Finally, twelve years after initiating the effort his suit goes to trial.  He represents himself and blunders through the various amateur shortcomings of being a make-believe lawyer.  But as the end of the trial approaches Ford’s representative suddenly offers him thirty million dollars to drop the suit.  He refuses and everything comes down to the jury decision.

I won’t give away the ending but I will comment on the dilemma of this poor man.  Basically, he traded away the best years of his life and the happiness of a family for the chance to get justice from a court over being robbed of an invention.  I am an engineer but I’ve never had a “flash of genius.”  But I think as much as I am a vindictive bastard, I’d have recognized that spending decades of my prime and losing the woman I love to be proven right is an obsessive-compulsive fool’s errand.  Even if you win, you’ve lost.  A corporation is an immortal being with godlike power.  It can outlive you and overpower you.  The best thing you can do is steer clear of them.  They are by definition soulless and amoral.  I think the lesson learned from this movie is that life is short.  Justice that costs you your reason for living is too costly for real people.  It’s a good movie and the character Bob is a recognizable type that I have met several times in my life.  And I felt sorry for him but I think he made a big mistake.  Good movie about a cautionary tale for nerds.  Don’t trust the man.

The Inside Baseball of Film Versions of “A Christmas Carol” – Part 1

Anyone who has been reading my posts on this site for more than a year knows that I am a Christmas Carol fanatic.  So as a fair warning I’ll just say that this post is only for true Christmas Carol devotees.  Every word of it is subjective and dedicated to minutiae.  I have four versions of the film that I like and each has an aspect in which it excels the other three.  Every year I re-evaluate the films and debate with myself on trivial points that would have exactly zero importance to the overwhelming majority of the human inhabitants of planet earth.  Here goes.

Material that wasn’t in the book

A Christmas Carol was a novella.  It is brief and in places lacks details about the characters and events.

For instance, the book never says why Scrooge’s father treated him so poorly.  In the 1951 version it is stated that his father held it against him that his mother died in his childbirth.  And in the same version a similar grudge exists as the reason why Scrooge dislikes his nephew Fred.  It is shown that his sister Fan died giving birth to Fred.  In the 1984 version the same reason for his father’s dislike for Scrooge is presented.  But the death of Fan during Fred’s birth is not added.  What is interesting about these additions is that based on the original story they would be impossible.  In the book Fan is quite a bit younger than her brother Ebenezer.  Therefore, their mother couldn’t have died at the birth of her older child.  I suppose Fan could have been Ebenezer’s half-sister but I don’t imagine that a twice married man would still be holding his first wife’s death as a grudge against his son.  So, this addition is spurious.  But it is extremely dramatic and provides a timely reason for both father’s and son’s misanthropic behavior that could be somewhat excused and so leave room for deserved forgiveness.  And it has a highly effective scene where the older Scrooge hears his dying sister ask for his promise to take care of her infant son Fred.  We see that the younger Scrooge never heard the dying plea and the older Scrooge gets to belatedly beg his beloved deceased sister’s forgiveness for his heartless treatment of her only child.

And notice that the 1984 version borrows both the discrepancy of Fan’s age and the spurious grudge of Scrooge’s father but neglects the equally spurious grudge of Scrooge for his nephew.  I guess they thought those additions gave resonance to the story.

In both the 1951 and 1984 versions Scrooge’s fiancée is introduced during the Fezziwig party scene and give a name (Alice in the earlier version, Belle in the later).  Neither this early link to Scrooge’s life or the name show up in the book.  In addition, in the 1951 version it skips the scene introducing this woman’s later life with husband and large family but instead substitutes a scene during the Ghost of Christmas Present section where Belle is volunteering at a shelter for the poor.  Now whereas tying Scrooge’s love to the Fezziwig era of his life is fine and in fact better than the way the book presents it, I do not particularly favor the poor shelter addition.  It seems unwarranted.  I think the scene where she is surrounded by her family is dramatic enough in that it illustrates what happiness Scrooge has lost.

In the book the Ghost of Christmas Present visits the house of Scrooge’s nephew Fred.  The dinner guests are presented enjoying games such as blindman buff and forfeits which I take to be word games such as twenty questions.  One of the rounds determined that it was a disagreeable animal that growled and lived in London.  And, of course, it turns out to be Uncle Scrooge.  In the 1984 version the story is adapted so the dinner guests are playing a game called similes where they need to guess the end of a simile.  When Fred asks his wife to complete “as tight as,” she replies “your Uncle Scrooge’s purse strings.”  Scrooge hears this while in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Present.  After his repentance and on the actual Christmas Day he meets his niece and discussing the game of similes he advises her that the simile, in case it came up, was “as tight as a drum.”  Nicely played.

From the book we know that Jacob Marley died seven years earlier on Christmas Eve.  And we are informed that Scrooge inherited his house.  What the 1951 version does is tie these facts together in a scene.  We have Jacob Marley’s charwoman come to the office and interact with Bob Cratchit and Scrooge.  Then we have Scrooge being warned by a dying Marley that their misanthropy would endanger their immortal souls.  And this then links both the charwoman’s stealing of his bed curtains and bed clothing and her later spurious appearance after the last of the spirits depart and Scrooge wakes up on actual Christmas morning.  In this scene the charwoman (identified incorrectly as Mrs. Dilber) is bringing in Scrooge’s breakfast and witnesses his reformation into a caring human being.  His manic happiness frightens her and when he gives her a gold sovereign coin as a present, she assumes it’s a bribe to keep her quiet about his strange behavior.  When he tells her it’s a Christmas present and he is quintupling her salary she is overcome with happiness and rushes off with her own characteristic version of a Merry Christmas greeting.  I find this addition to the story especially apt.  In the story the charwoman selling Scrooge’s bed curtains comes off very negatively.  But humanizing her by including her positively in the scene about Marley’s death and allowing a rapprochement with a penitent Scrooge on Christmas morning improves the story and ties these aspects of the story together in a way that gives the story more depth.  It reinforces that Scrooge’s repentance touches every aspect of the world we have been shown in a positive way.

Overall I’d say that the film additions to the plot have been acceptable and true to the spirit of the story.

Miller’s Crossing – A Movie Review

The Coen Brothers make a lot of interesting movies.  Some I like more than others.  Miller’s Crossing is one of my favorites.  It’s a gangster story in an unidentified southern city during the 1930s.  Albert Finney is Leo O’Bannon, an Irish gangster who runs the city.  Gabriel Byrne is Tom Reagan, Leo’s right-hand man and best friend.  Verna is Leo’s girl.  But she’s also sleeping with Tom.  Verna’s brother, Bernie (played by John Turturro) and  Mink Larouie (played by Steve Buscemi) are small-time bookies who have crossed another gangster, Johnny Caspar.  Caspar wants Bernie dead and Leo won’t let it happen because of Verna.  Tom knows that Bernie and Verna spell disaster for Leo and advises him to give up Bernie.  So, this is the complicated basis of the story.

But that’s not the reason to watch the movie.  It’s a comic book version of a 30s gangster movie.  A gangster can be bounced down three flights of marble stairs and walk away from it all in one piece. The cops and the city administration will switch back and forth between mob allegiances on an hour’s notice and bring to bear against their former allies all the force of military grade weaponry.

The movie has a fine soundtrack that includes popular music of the era, Irish folk music and even a little Italian opera.  My favorite scene is an attempted mob rubout at Leo’s house.  It’s a bullet riddled ballet to the accompaniment of Danny Boy.  It’s in this scene that Albert Finney proves that a Thompson machine gun will never run out of ammunition.  It’s a thing of nihilistic beauty.

Finney, Turturro and Buscemi are all extremely entertaining but Gabriel Byrne is the center of the movie.  His character Tom is a hardened bitter man who nevertheless lives by a code that requires loyalty to a friend.  In fact, his loyalty to Leo is the only admirable behavior displayed in the whole movie.  And even this is wholly doomed by their relationships with Verna.  Basically, everyone is corrupt.  The good guys are mobsters.  The bad guys are mobsters.  There’s even a scene where a little kid sees a dead mobster on the street and steals his toupee.

And because this is a Coen Brothers movie it is suffused with black humor.  Every mob rubout and brutal beating is chock full of jokes and wisecracks.  The mobsters and cops in the movie are prone to witticisms and philosophical musings that probably rarely occur in real mobsters and cops.  The best example is when Johnny Gaspar explains to Leo that Bernie’s selling of Johnny’s fixed fight information demonstrates Bernie’s lack of moral character.

Miller’s Crossing is a typical Coen Brothers movie.  All the characters are morally compromised and happy endings are extremely scarce and never unmitigated.  If you have enjoyed any of their other movies then I highly recommend Miller’s Crossing.  Otherwise, read my description and decide for yourself if this type of film is for you.

Cyrano de Bergerac – An OCF Classic Movie Review

With enormous trepidation do I write this review.  In this year 2018, surrounded by the mores and mentality currently on display in the former realm of Christendom, how can you explain, never mind, recommend the story of Cyrano de Bergerac?  To a generation that embraces Miley Cyrus, Beyoncé and the Kardashians how do you justify Cyrano’s chaste love for Roxane.  To a world that needs safe spaces to cower in at the very hint of harsh language how do you explain two men fighting to the death with rapiers over an insult?  It’s ludicrous to even consider.  The very word honor has ceased to have an explicable meaning.

No, there is no way.  This story can only be presented to an older generation.  And even to them, watching it would be a jarring exercise in switching gears from the world of Caitlyn Jenner and Hillary Clinton to the chivalry of seventeenth century France.  So, I cannot expect any sympathy from a modern audience for such a story. Even when this movie was filmed in 1950 the plot was considered much too sentimental.  In fact, the only saving grace it had was the tour de force performance of its star Jose Ferrer.  Even critics who savaged the rest of the production including the rest of the cast, declared Ferrer’s portrayal of Cyrano as a masterpiece and his recital of Rostand’s words inspired.  And so, they were.  Ferrer’s mastery of the material only seems the more convincing compared to the journeyman competence of his fellow cast members.

For those who have read this far but do not know Rostand’s plot, Cyrano is a musketeer in the employ of the King of France in the seventeenth century.  He is also a poet and a deadly skilled swordsman.  He also possesses a very large nose about which he is devilishly sensitive.  One word or even a glance at his nose is enough to trigger a duel from which the offender will exit without his life.  And Cyrano is secretly in love with Roxane his distant cousin and one of the most beautiful women in Paris.  Because of his relationship with Roxane he is compelled by his sense of honor to help her in whatever she asks.  Unfortunately, what she asks him is to help his rival in love to succeed in his courting of Roxane.  When Cyrano meets this rival Christian, he discovers that he is unable to string romantic words together in a way that appeals to Roxane.  So, Cyrano must become Christian’s coach in writing and speaking poems of love.  And finally, when it becomes too difficult, he uses the darkness of night to impersonate Christian under Roxane’s balcony and succeeds in winning her love for Christian with Cyrano’s own passionate declaration of love.

There follow several obstacles, a nobleman as rival to Christian who is also his superior officer in the army and a war with Spain.  Marriage, sorrow, misunderstanding and death stand in the way of true love.  But revelation finally occurs, if too late to allow for happiness.  All of this is brocaded with a script that Ferrer delivers with wit and panache.  For a man of the late nineteenth or early to mid-twentieth century it is a treat and for those afterward a puzzle only.

Recommended only for the true sentimental idealist.

The Maltese Falcon – An OCF Classic Movie Review

Back in late October of 2016 I reviewed Dashiell Hammett’s crime novel “The Maltese Falcon.”  To describe the review as highly enthusiastic would be an understatement.  I raved about the book.  Well, I’ll almost repeat the performance for John Huston’s film.  There are differences, of course.  And if you had read the book before seeing the movie you’d feel that both Bogart and Astor were physically miscast.  But the movie on its own merits is superb.

John Huston based the movie quite faithfully on Hammett’s book.  Humphrey Bogart is Sam Spade, one half of the San Francisco based private detective firm of Spade and Archer. He’s also his partner Miles Archer’s wife Iva’s former lover (now that’s a complicated sentence!).

The story opens up with Spade’s secretary, Effie Perine, announcing a new client, Miss Wonderly (played by Mary Astor).  Wonderly starts telling a tale to Spade and also Archer as he walks in during the story.  The story is a fabrication about a make-believe teen-age sister who has been spirited away cross country by a real gangster named Floyd Thursby.  Spade and Archer agree to tail Thursby in return for some also very real hundred dollar bills that Wonderly pays them.

Archer is shot and killed during his surveillance and this begins a sequence of events that involves Spade in a confusing search for the truth about a globe-trotting quest to obtain the legendary Maltese Falcon.  We meet corpulent Caspar Gutman played by Sidney Greenstreet, who is the ringleader behind the search.  Then there is Joel Cairo, played by Peter Lorre, a mincing effeminate who sometimes works for Gutman and sometimes doesn’t.  There is Wilmer Cook, Gutman’s young triggerman who would rather shoot his opponents than negotiate terms.  And finally, we have the good cop/ bad cop duo of Detective Tom Polhaus and Lieutenant Dundy.  They show up at strategic moments to inform Spade that he is everyone’s favorite suspect in several murders.

The exact details of the plot are too much fun to spoil so I won’t go into much detail but suffice it to say there really aren’t any innocent parties involved unless you include Effie Perine.  Wonderly, which isn’t the last fake name she’ll go by in the film is up to her neck in the crimes but she becomes Spade’s femme fatale in the story.  Spade is a ruthless but strangely honorable character who lives by his own logic.  The criminals (almost everyone) spend the entire movie double-crossing each other in various iterations.  They all prove, with some prodding from Spade, that there is indeed no honor among thieves.  But the plot moves along smartly and by the end all the loose ends are neatly tied up and Sam Spade is sort of the last man standing.  Bogart even gets to apply an ironic tagline to describe the futility of the whole mad enterprise.

When I said that Bogart and Astor were physically miscast it’s because in the book Spade is described as a tall muscular blond-haired man.  Bogart is none of those things.  And in the book Mary Astor’s character is a woman in her twenties which at the point when this movie was made could hardly describe Astor.  Regardless, they make the characters their own.  And especially Bogart’s Spade is iconic and basically defines the Sam Spade character for most of the people who have heard of the Maltese Falcon.  The rest of the cast is also excellent.  Greenstreet and Lorre are so interesting and memorable that at certain points in the movie they push even Bogart out of the spotlight.

If you’ve never seen the Maltese Falcon then shame on you.  In fact, if I had my way people would read the book first and then watch the movie.  But this is a fallen world we live in.  So, I guess I’m already asking too much to recommend a black and white movie.  Highly recommended.

To Have and Have Not – An OCF Classic Movie Review

I think it’s a pretty remarkable fact, that of the seven films Humphrey Bogart was in that I consider worth owning my least favorite is Casablanca.  It’s possible I’ve just seen it too many times already.  But I’ve watched the Maltese Falcon many times more and I keep putting it back on.  It’s probably just individual preference.  But for whatever the reason, it tells me that Bogart was in a relatively large number of excellent films.

Next up is “To Have and Have Not.”  This movie is based on the Hemingway story.  Several of the story elements seem to be repeated in Casablanca.  A French colony is the locale.  There are Nazis and their local collaborators as the heavies.  Resistance fighters including a husband and wife team are looking for help from Bogart’s character.  There is a damsel in distress as the love interest.  And there’s a singer at a piano that entertains us here and there.  Honestly, I actually prefer this earlier film to Casablanca.  It seems less strained.

Bogey is a charter boat captain named Harry Morgan and Walter Brennan is his first mate Eddie.  Eddie is a garrulous alcoholic and Harry’s best friend.  They’re on a two-week charter out of Florida to the French island of Martinique.  Martinique is part of “Free France” but under the thumb of the Nazis.  Harry meets Marie Browning, played by a very young Lauren Bacall, as she is stealing the wallet of Harry’s charter client.  He takes the wallet from her and discovers from the contents that the client was about to skip out without paying him.  Grateful for her unwitting help he strikes up a friendship with her.  Of course, under the circumstances, their relationship is always awkward and tentative.  He calls her Slim which rankles her so she calls him Steve probably from spite.  But for all their verbal jousting the sparks begin to fly and it’s easy to see that their relationship will be at least one of the major plot lines.

The hotel where Harry, Marie and apparently anyone involved in the resistance ends up staying is owned by, of course, Frenchy, or so he is called by Harry.  He is the clandestine leader of the resistance.  Several of his friends get into a gun battle with the local police and this leads to Harry and Marie falling under the suspicious eye of the local police chief.  He seizes their passports and money and grills them for information on the resistance.

Being strapped for cash Harry accepts a job ferrying some resistance fighters onto the island, Paul and Hellene de Bursac.  Paul gets shot during a sea voyage while evading the harbor patrol.  Harry acts as a cut-rate trauma surgeon and removes the bullet.  The police finally decide to put the squeeze on Harry by grilling Eddie this triggers a confrontation that Harry controls with the help of a few well aimed bullets.  Throughout Marie is at Harry’s side, for the most part, trading wisecracks and supporting the cause.  Eddie supplies the comic relief and Hoagy Carmichael as Cricket plays the piano and employs Marie as an ersatz lounge singer.

Bit of well-known classic Hollywood trivia, the sparks flying between Harry and Marie were mirrored in real life between Bogart and Bacall and they shortly afterward became man and wife in real life.  And the chemistry they had translated excellently to film.  Their sparring courtship is fun to watch and although stylized in the manner of director Howard Hawkes’ staccato bantering dialog it comes off as interesting and of its time.  Highly recommended.