The Fountainhead (1949) – An OCF Classic Movie Review

The Fountainhead is a novel by Ayn Rand about an architect named Howard Roark who embodies Rand’s ideal of the individualist.  It was made into a movie with Rand providing the screen play.

(Spoiler Alert – Skip down to last paragraph to avoid spoilers and read recommendation)

Gary Cooper is Howard Roark, a young man who wants to build buildings where the form corresponds to the function of the building and the materials it is made from.  But the architectural profession demands that only the established patterns, like classical columns and facades be used.  Unwilling to compromise on these points he is scorned by his profession and denied any commissions by the corporate establishment and is forced to get work wherever he can find; a gas station here, a factory there.  But slowly he gains a reputation as an innovator who can build modern buildings that are structurally sound and gracefully beautiful.

During these years he meets friends and enemies that help or hinder his career and he meets his soul mate; Dominique Francon (played by Patricia Neal) who is the daughter of a prominent architect and is the first to recognize Roark’s great talent and integrity.  But because she sees that the world will try to destroy him, she leaves him to spare herself the agony of watching it happen.  He meets Gail Wynand (played by Raymond Massey) the owner of the New York Banner, a tabloid newspaper that profits from yellow journalism.  He is also Dominique Francon’s new husband.  Wynand recognizes Roark’s talent and hires him to build a mansion for him in the country where he will live with his wife.  Neither Dominique nor Roark keep their former relationship from Wynand and in fact Roark and Wynand become close friends.

Working for Wynand at the Banner is Ellsworth M. Toohey, the newspaper’s architectural critic (if you can imagine such a thing).  He is also Ayn Rand’s mouthpiece for the collectivist ideology.  He believes that individualists like Roark are criminals for defying the will of the majority and should be treated as such.

Eventually we reach a crisis when Roark agrees to design a low-income housing project on the condition that his design would be adhered to completely.  When the powers that be betray him and change his designs, he dynamites the buildings before they are completed and is put on trial.  Wynand attempts to defend Roark in the Banner but Toohey organizes a boycott of the paper and Wynand is defeated and must recant his defense of Roark.

In the climax of the picture Roark gives a summation speech to the jury defending every man’s right to the fruits of his labor, in his case the design of his buildings and the agreement that they would not be altered.  And of course, he is found not guilty.  Wynand sells the Banner and uses the funds to commission Roark to build the tallest building in the world and then shoots himself.  The movie ends with Dominique Roark taking a construction elevator to the top of the million story Wynand Building tower with Howard Roark standing there with his hands on his hips while the wind whips his shirt.

O good grief.  Where to start?  Ayn Rand was a novelist and social critic who proposed a theory of human values that she called “objectivism.”  It seems to be a justification for a libertarian view of human interaction.  It espouses individualism and the right of everyone to live life according to the individual’s free will without constraint as long as no one else’s existence is constrained by this behavior.  For Rand, the antithesis of objectivism and the epitome of evil is communism.  Since Rand had grown up under the Soviet regime, she knew something about how communism worked.  She was also a novelist and her books reflected her philosophy.  And Howard Roark was one of the exemplars of her philosophy.  And the book is a very interesting read in some respects.  But subtlety was not one of her attributes.  There are no shades of gray.  Howard Roark and Dominque Francon are demigods of individualist virtue and Ellsworth M. Toohey is a communist slug dripping slime wherever he goes.  But even this would be a starting point for a movie.  What is missing though is anything like actual human behavior.  The characters are there more or less only to mouth talking points and diatribes for their particular points of view.  Even the romantic entanglements are presented as examples of how these mythical objectivist supermen and women would behave.  At no point can you find yourself suspending disbelief and becoming immersed in the characters.  It’s more like one of those public service film documentaries from the fifties where you are told about how the air raid shelter will allow us to survive World War III and get on with our lives in the glorious future that awaits us.  I enjoy watching the movie as a lark.  But except as a philosophical treatise on Ayn Rand and objectivism I don’t think it can be recommended for entertainment value.

Cure (1997) – A Movie Review

“Cure” is a Japanese psychological horror film written and directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, starring Kōji Yakusho as a Tokyo Metropolitan Police detective named Kenichi Takabe investigating a string of murders by different killers that are only linked by the throats of all the victims being slashed with an X shaped incision.

(Spoiler Alert – Skip down to last paragraph to avoid spoilers and read recommendation)

Takabe and his partner the forensic psychologist Sakuma suspect that a powerful hypnotist is implanting the idea of the murders into each of the killers.  They track down a strange man named Mamiya that was present at several of the murder scenes.  He behaves as if he has no memory of his own identity or his history.  Sakuma has Mamiya committed to a hospital for observation.  Mamiya uses his hypnotic powers to learn the details of Takabe’s family problem from a hospital employee.  Takabe’s wife is seriously mentally ill and the stress of living with her is undermining his own mental balance.  Mamiya uses this information to torment Takabe during an interrogation.  Takabe begins imagining his wife committing suicide.  He has her placed in a psychiatric institution to safeguard her.

Next, we see Mamiya implant a murder suggestion in a young female doctor and shortly afterward she murders a man.  Afterward Mamiya even causes Sakuma to commit suicide.  Finally, Mamiya escapes from the hospital and Takabe who is now enraged against his tormentor tracks him down to an abandoned hospital and after being taunted by Mamiya shoots him.  When Mamiya’s last motion is to attempt to implant the murder suggestion in Takabe the policeman empties his pistol into the madman.

After killing Mamiya Takabe finds an old phonograph player in the hospital and listens to a recording that seems to be the source of Mamiya’s knowledge of the deadly hypnotic technique.  In the next scene we see the corpse of Takabe’s wife at the mental hospital with an X cut into her throat.  In the last scene we see Takabe in a restaurant finishing a meal.  As the waitress leaves his table, we see her walk over to a counter and grab a butcher’s knife.

This is a very strange movie.  And of course, since it’s spoken in Japanese that adds another layer of distance for the non-Japanese speaking viewer.  But the movie is quite compelling.  The Mamiya character is extremely unnerving.  Whenever someone attempts to interrogate him about his actions or even his history it always ends up with him turning the interrogation around.  The movie viewer develops a strong revulsion for the character.  He manipulates the interrogators and eventually implants his suggestion.  Because of this antipathy I felt a great sense of satisfaction when Takabe emptied his pistol into the homicidal hypnotist.

I’m not sure how to provide the recommendation for this movie.  My impression of this movie was definitely positive.  I did enjoy it.  But it’s such a strange movie that I’m having a hard time selecting what audience this movie is made for.  I guess we’ll have to start with audiences that enjoy crime dramas.  A somewhat similar type of movie might be “Silence of the Lambs.”  But added to that is the foreign language aspect which might be problematic for many viewers.  I guess I can only qualify this film’s audience with these two factors.  That will have to be my recommendation, as vague as it is.

Gilda – An OCF Classic Movie Review

Currently the cable channels available to me contain two kinds of movies I might watch.  There are Halloween movies (horror and slasher movies) and classics (mostly movies from the 1930’s and 1940’s with a smattering of later movies that supposedly have “timeless” qualities).

So tonight, my choice was between John Carpenter’s “The Thing” (1982) and the 1946 film noir “Gilda.”  In deference to Camera Girl’s presence (she wanted something quiet in the background) I put on the older movie.

(Spoiler Alert – Skip down to last paragraph to avoid spoilers and read recommendation)

The plot of Gilda is slightly goofy.  The motives of the three main characters are hard to reconcile with their actions.  Glenn Ford plays Johnny Farrell, an American down on his luck in Buenos Aires for some unknown reason.  We meet him he has just won a sum of money in a craps game from some American soldiers.  As he walks away, he is accosted by a robber armed with a pistol.  He is rescued by Ballin Mundson who happens by with a walking stick that has a retractable 18-inch blade hidden inside.  We find out that Ballin owns an illegal gambling casino.  And after a very short time Johnny inexplicably becomes Ballen’s indispensable operations manager.

When Ballen returns from a business trip he introduces Johnny to his new American bride Gilda played by the absurdly beautiful Rita Hayworth.  But of course, Ballen doesn’t know that Johnny and Gilda were married and divorced sometime before the start of the movie timeline.  And they vehemently hate each other.  But neither of them reveals to Ballen this common history.  And because Gilda resents Ballen’s trust in and friendship with Johnny she attempts to torture Johnny by forcing him to cover up for a string of flirtations that she initiates with every man who catches her eye at the casino.  The logic of this isn’t really well explained.  But Johnny apparently feels its his responsibility to keep Gilda from upsetting Ballen.

During this part of the movie, we learn that Ballen has other business interests in addition to the casino.  Somehow through patents he has a monopoly on the world-wide production of tungsten (of all things).  And eventually we find out that his position was provided to him by Nazis(!).  Eventually the Nazis return and want their monopoly back.  A crisis arises when Ballen refuses their demands and he murders one of the Nazis at the casino.  Ballen must flee the country to escape the law.  He tells Johnny to find Gilda and bring her back to his house from which he will be fleeing with Johnny and Gilda that night.

When Johnny extracts Gilda from a romantic rendezvous that she was on and brings her to Ballen’s house they have a bitter fight which of course ends with them in a passionate kiss.  And, of course Ballen enters the room at that exact moment.  He rushes out and drives away.  Johnny jumps in his own car and follows him to the airport where Ballen runs to a waiting plane and flies out over the ocean.  The police have followed both of them and they tell Johnny that they have been waiting for the Nazis because they want to bust up the tungsten cartel.  They watch Ballen’s plane heading off into the night when it suddenly explodes.  We are then shown Ballen parachuting into the ocean where he is picked up by a boat.  He tells his rescuers that he will be hiding out for a while but he will return to deal with a situation, which we assume is Johnny and Gilda.

Thinking Ballen dead, his will is read and Gilda is his sole heir but Johnny is the sole executor of his estate.  So, Johnny marries Gilda to get control of the casino and the tungsten empire.  Afterward he treats her like dirt as revenge for what Johnny thinks of as her disloyalty with other men.  Gilda rebels by acting even more disloyal.  Finally, there is a rapprochement when Johnny finds out that Gilda has only been pretending to have affairs with various men.  Now the police tell Johnny that he must give up the casino and tungsten business because Argentina is about to seize them.  Johnny and Gilda decide to return home to America.  But at that juncture Ballen returns and announces that he is going to kill the couple.  And because he has to kill them both he won’t use his sword cane but his gun instead.  But just as he bears down on them, the friendly philosopher/bathroom attendant (I didn’t mention him before?) Uncle Pio stabs Ballen in the back with his own sword cane.  The understanding police inspector declines to press charges against the amiable killer saying, “you can’t murder someone who has already been declared dead plus haven’t you ever heard of justifiable homicide?”  And Johnny and Gilda live happily ever after.  Well, anyway we hope so.

Good lord.  This movie is a hopeless mess.  As I said earlier the plot and the motivations of the main characters are hopelessly absurd.  Gilda’s marriage to Ballen can’t be reconciled with her actions.  And Gilda’s and Johnny’s feelings for each other are hopelessly confusing and annoying to the audience.  The whole plot of the Nazi tungsten business makes no sense and seems ridiculous on its face.  Sure, uranium would have made sense for crypto-Nazis to be dabbling in but tungsten?  What were they planning to do, deprive the world of light bulbs?  And then there is the laid-back police inspector who wouldn’t let a little thing like homicide stand in the way of a happy ending.  Add to this Gilda’s almost incessant habit of saying Johnny’s name in every sentence she utters at him and you have a movie in which it is impossible to suspend disbelief.  The only possible motive for this movie was to showcase Rita Hayworth’s face and figure.  And without a doubt that is a worthwhile endeavor.  Hayworth is featured in several song and dance routines where she parades and shakes her very charming assets for the audience.  She was a very lovely woman in the prime of her life.  Now is this a movie worth recommending?  I would say only if all that I’ve said is taken into account.  You have to be going in just to watch Rita Hayworth dance to “Put the Blame on Mame.”  If not then don’t.


Search for Intelligent Life on Cable TV

Tonight, I watched for the first time Charlton Heston’s 1988, made for television version of “A Man for All Seasons.”  So, of course, when I watch it, I’m comparing it to the 1966 film starring Paul Scofield.  And that was a great movie.  Great acting, all around.  If I’m being honest the Scofield picture is better.  But the later film is still a pleasure to watch.  And that is because it is essentially the same story.  Both movies are based on the same stage play and for that reason both provide the same story and characters.  Even large chunks of the dialog are the same.

Both plays include an argument between Thomas More and his future son-in-law about the value of man’s law in God’s world.  It’s one of my favorite parts of the play.  He tried to make his daughter’s very idealistic and self-righteous fiancé understand that man’s law was made to deal with imperfect humans not angels.  And without it we would all be at the mercy of the powerful.

‘William Roper: “So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!”

Sir Thomas More: “Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?”

William Roper: “Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!”

Sir Thomas More: “Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!’

The image of the law as a windbreak that protects us from the winds of merciless powers that rule the Earth.  Wonderful image.  The author is a poet, I’d say and a good one.

So even though the later film is not as great as the earlier one it is true to the play and this trueness to the story, even if in the hands of less able actors still manages to provide the same general experience.  There’s a satisfaction in watching a play that provides that successful theatrical effect.  It draws the audience in and immerses them in the scene, in the words, in the interaction of characters that you care about and believe in for the short time that you sit there and watch and listen.

And that’s a theatrical experience.  Most movies do not possess this.  Because the rule of movies is, “Don’t tell them, show them.”  And even a play is showing us something.  But to pull together a scene where the characters are in a space together and they collide and we get to see who they are by what they say is still a very powerful experience.  No special effects needed.  No need for fancy camera angles.  Think of how many great courtroom scenes you can think of.  Or a death scene between lovers.  The dramatic scene is charged with meaning and all that is needed is a poet’s soul to breathe life into it.  Even mediocre actors can take a wonderful scene and give the audience the catharsis that the writer created.

But the truth is this is a relatively rare event.  Out of the thousands or tens of thousands of movies that have been made in the last century or so what percentage have this quality?  I’d guess it’s much less than one percent.  I don’t have any figures to back this up but I doubt it’s a tenth of a percent.  Most of the “entertainment” produced is awful.  It has no soul.  And I’m not even talking about its morality.  I can imagine that art can be made that’s immoral or even amoral.  But what it can’t lack is an honesty about what it’s trying to say.  You can claim that the world is a meaningless maelstrom of death and destruction and out of that you can make art that could touch the human heart.  Or you can show us sublime love and the selfless sacrifice of a mother for her child.  And that could be art too.  But mostly what we get is dreck.  We might as well be watching a surveillance camera of traffic moving on a street.

I have three good movie versions of “A Christmas Carol.”  And I like to watch all three of them.  All three provide a close approximation of the story and therefore a similar feeling of catharsis.  And likewise, there are some other classic movies that tell a story that was so good that they’ve been redone.  One of Shakespeare’s plays or some other talented author’s work.  So, I’ll own several versions of the same work.  And seeing how different actors and directors bring the classic scenes to life is interesting to compare.  But the underlying experience is based on the skill with which the story was crafted and given human meaning.

All that was a lot of words.  Maybe it made sense to you.  I guess it can be boiled down to the fact that there are such things as timeless classics and they exist because they resonate with something inside our brains or minds or souls.  Look for these and own them so that when the crap that you can “stream” on some particular night is just too soul-deadening for you to stand you can reach for this DVD or Blu-ray or whatever technological incarnation exists and feed your soul with something that has meaning and maybe joy.  Or at worst find the book.

Cape Fear (1962) – A Movie Review

“Cape Fear” is a psychological thriller starring Robert Mitchum as ex-convict, Max Cady, looking for revenge against the man who put him in prison eight years before for rape.  Gregory Peck plays Sam Bowden Cady’s target.  But Cady’s real targets are Bowden’s wife Peggy and daughter Nancy.

(Spoiler Alert – Skip down to last paragraph to avoid spoilers and read recommendation)

Cady shows up in the small southern town where Sam lives and begins threatening his family in a veiled way.  Sam is an attorney and a friend of the town sheriff Mark Dutton played by Martin Balsam.  Dutton agrees to investigate Cady but the clever psychopath has carefully planned his campaign in a way that makes him immune to the local law enforcement.  He has a lawyer in tow who threatens the police with a harassment suit if they continue rousting him for flimsy charges.

But when his family dog is poisoned, Sam begins to panic.  He tries to buy Cady off with a $20,000 payoff but Cady explicitly tells him that what he wants is to attack Peggy and Nancy.  There are several incidents where Cady stalks the Bowdens and at one point Sam attacks Cady but he isn’t goaded into fighting back.

Sam pays a private detective to follow Cady looking for him to commit something criminal by which to force him to leave.  And he does do something heinous.  He takes up with a woman he meets at a bar and at a hotel that they go to for a sexual tryst Cady ends up brutally beating and sexually abusing her.  When the police, and Sam show up at the hotel the woman refuses to press charges.  She says that even if Cady goes to jail for ten years, she fears that when he got out, he would kill her.

Now desperate, Sam pays three thugs to beat Cady into a state where he would leave on his own.  Instead, Cady beats the three men till they needed hospitalization and one of them confesses that Sam paid them.  Cady’s lawyer reports Sam to the Bar Association for criminal behavior.

With no possibility of the sheriff for help, Sam thinks up a plan to trap Cady using his wife and daughter as bait.  He pretends to go to Atlanta to answer charges before the Bar Association while he sends his family to a remote location on the Cape Fear River on a houseboat.  But in reality, he arrives shortly after the family along with a deputy sheriff that agrees to help him guard the family from Cady.

Cady follows the private detective who was meant to lure him into the trap.  But Cady is too clever for the trappers and he manages to drown the deputy sheriff and by the time Sam has discovered this, Cady has menaced Peggy and abducted Nancy.  Sam arrives just in time to save Nancy but Cady knocks the gun out of Sam’s hand and then almost drowns him before Sam turns the tables and strikes Cady in the head with a rock.  Sam has time to get Nancy to run away before Cady returns with a club to finish him off.  At the last second Sam recovers his gun and shoots Cady.  Badly wounded Cady tells him, “Finish it.  I don’t care.”  But Sam taunts him with the news that instead of a clean death Cady would be locked up like an animal for the rest of his life for the murder he committed.  The movie ends with the Bowdon family leaving Cape Fear on a police launch headed for home.

This movie is a tour de force by Mitchum.  The rest of the cast is satisfactory but the picture belongs to him.  Watching his portrayal, I could easily believe that he actually was a degenerate criminal in real life.  He’s just that convincing.  Mitchum’s portrayal and the sense of helplessness that his plan instils in the Bowdens provides the audience with an atmosphere fraught with menace.  The movie provides effective thrills and a villain that everyone can love to hate.  Highly recommended for fans of suspense films.

“Bugs, Mr. Rico. Zillions of em!”

ZMan takes the Dean of Science Fiction to task on his concept of a soldier only franchise in “Starship Troopers.”

Of course he’s rightly basing it on the book but even the highly toxic spin that the director took with the movie still made it a fun experience to watch them zap those bugs.  Hopefully some of Heinlein’s better novels and juveniles will be brought to the screen the way they deserve.

For fans (and detractors) of the book there is a lively discussion in the comments of the post.

Mercenary Rule

The High Cost of Loving (1958) – A Movie Review

“The High Cost of Loving” is a mild comedy of errors about the home and workplace tribulations of Jim Fry (Jose Ferrer).  Jim’s a purchasing agent for the Lynden Company which has just been purchased by Associated Industries.  Through a series of accidents and misunderstandings Jim gets the impression that he’s about to be fired.  And naturally this is simultaneous with the news that his wife Ginny is going to have a baby.

(Spoiler Alert – Skip down to last paragraph to avoid spoilers and read recommendation)

This comedy of errors begins with Jim not getting invited to a lunch where the executive board of Associated will meet the assistant directors (like Jim) who are being considered for promotion in the new corporate environment.  And after this first slight, several incidents provide reinforcement to the idea that the new management intends to terminate Jim.  And of course, this makes him jumpy and increasingly bitter and causes trouble between husband and wife.

In addition, Jim’s work friend Steve has a wife Syd who in addition to being Ginny’s friend is also a blabbermouth who can’t help but say the wrong thing about the events going on at Lynden Company.

Finally, after Jim has come to terms with his worries and resolved to do whatever is necessary to save his job, he reaches his office in time to see a painter scraping his name off the window.  Incensed, he sits down at this desk and writes a scathing letter to the new president of Lynden Company expressing his outrage at what he thinks is the company’s ingratitude toward him.  He stomps over to the president’s office and gives the letter to the secretary there.  Just then the president and his boss from Associated Industries walk in and hurry Jim into the office to inform him that an error occurred keeping Jim off the list of invitees for the lunch with the executive board.  And then they inform him that he’s been promoted to Director of Purchasing.  After some embarrassing moments he retrieves the letter and manages to convince the president that the letter he wrote should be returned unread.  And tranquility is restored on the business front for Jim.

The movie ends with Ginny allowing Jim to regale her with tales of his oratorical prowess at the infamous “lunch” followed by Ginny pulling a prank on him.  She pretends that the letter he reclaimed from the president’s office was not the one he wrote but a magazine subscription form letter that must have been on the president’s desk.  After debunking her joke the movie ends with a romantic scene between husband and wife as their lives settle into a new and happier circumstance.

This movie is a bit of fluff.  A Shakespearian title would be “Much Ado About Nothing.”  It’s such a mild comedy with so little consequence about the plot that you might think it isn’t worth the trouble to watch it.  I’ll disagree.  I don’t suppose that the word charming has much currency today.  But that is the word that comes to mind.  And for once my tastes and Camera Girl’s agreed.  I guess that makes this domestic comedy a good date movie.  The relationship between husband and wife is so attractively drawn that we both found ourselves laughing at the same scenes.  And each of us defended our side of the battle of the sexes when it inevitably emerged.  But we equally agreed that the marriage on display was refreshingly healthy.  Jose Ferrer directed himself in this movie and I believe he also had one of the writing credits.  I give him high marks for the little touches he added to the domestic scenes.  The scenes where husband and wife wake up and stagger through their groggy routine were well scripted and enjoyable.  And finally, the thing I noticed was that the world of 1958 America was a thoroughly pleasant place.  Even the anxiety of losing a job takes place in surroundings that trumpet a peaceful and well-ordered world.  And Jim is worried about losing his job because of competency not diversity, equity and inclusion considerations.  Ah, simpler and better times.

The Shining (1980) – A Horror Movie Review

I recently rewatched the movie “The Shining.”  This is the Stanley Kubrick film with Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall in the lead roles.  I saw this movie in the theater when it came out and I am a huge fan of the Stephen King book that it is based on.  In fact, I believe the book was the best thing King ever wrote.

Kubrick is a famous director and I’m sure the deletions from the book’s plot and the changes made were necessary to bring the movie into a reasonable length.  But making these changes makes the movie a different story from the book.  And that makes the book a much richer story than the movie.

That being said, “The Shining” is a great horror movie.  Jack Nicholson was born to play Jack Torrance.  And Shelley Duvall is Wendy Torrance from head to toe.  Watching Jack descend into madness you could believe that no ghosts were necessary.  All of it could be credited to a combination of writer’s block, cabin fever and a disastrous marriage.

But the supernatural aspects of the story are blended into the psychological situation flawlessly.  You really can’t tell where one aspect ends and the other takes over.  The conversations between Jack and Wendy on the one hand and Jack and his spectral associates are so intertwined that it’s obvious that the ghosts understand Jack better than his own wife does.

The plot is telegraphed early on when Jack is interviewing for his job as winter caretaker of the Overlook Hotel.  His employer ends the interview by revealing that a few years earlier a man named Delbert Grady who had taken on the job of winter caretaker had gone mad and chopped up his wife and two young daughters with an ax and then committed suicide with a shotgun.  His boss explained that living in the Overlook during the mandatory five-month winter isolation in the remote Colorado location had been known to cause “cabin fever” for some vulnerable souls.

Later on, Jack actually meets Mr. Grady when he shows up as a waiter in the spectral party that seems to run endlessly in the Overlook’s shadow world.  When Jack finds out his friend’s name he asks, “Weren’t you the caretaker here Mr. Grady?”  Grady claims to have no memory of that.  On being further prompted by Jack about his murders and suicide and Jack insisting, “You were the caretaker here.” Grady replies, “You are the caretaker Mr. Torrance, you’ve always been the caretaker here.”

And that’s the essence of how Jack’s destruction is accomplished.  The Hotel (in the person of Grady) plays upon Jack’s sense of failure and his resentment toward his wife and son because of the humiliating employment choices he’s had to make when he yearned to be a writer.  Now the Hotel plays up his importance and the trust that the Hotel has in his competence.  When the Hotel physically attacks his son Danny, Wendy tries to convince Jack to take them back to Denver.  Jack snaps and starts raving about his responsibilities to his employers.  But instead of meaning the owners of the hotel he’s talking about the ghosts.  And from there it’s only a short step to the ax and more murder.

I suspect most people have seen this movie and know the plot.  But I’ll stop there with the plot.  It’s too much fun to give it all away.  Suffice it to say that between little Danny’s gift (the “shining” of the title), the Hotel’s desire to possess Danny and that gift and Jack and Wendy’s deeply scarred marriage this is a powerful witch’s brew of supernatural and psychological horror.  In a later review I’ll tackle the book it’s based on.  And whether you read the book first or watch the movie I’ll leave it to you to decide.  But both are excellent within their medium.

Highly recommended.

(Strong Language warning for this clip)

Abraham Lincoln – Vampire Hunter (2012) – A Science Fiction – Fantasy Movie Review

Words utterly fail me.  I understand that about $100 million was spent on this movie.  That seems inconceivable.  I also read that it actually made a small profit.  That also seems impossible.  And finally, that I didn’t stop watching this “film” at any one of a hundred places in the 105 minutes of running time is a source of great personal shame for me.

Who thought this thing up?  Who green-lit the project?  Who are these nincompoops?

The premise is that when Abraham Lincoln was a boy his father angered a bounty hunter who went after runaway slaves.  And since the bounty hunter was a vampire, he killed Abraham’s mother.  He vows revenge and when he grows up, he meets up with a vampire hunter and trains to become one.  It turns out that the hunter is also a vampire himself but you can’t have everything.

So armed with his silver-dipped ax, Old Abe rail-splits his way through the vampire kingdom and we discover that the South is not only filled with slavers, it’s chock full of vampires too.  You know I always suspected that.  Eventually Honest Abe puts away the ax and picks up the law books and becomes a politician and the rest is history.  That is until the vampires invade his White House and kill his young son.  And then they use undead troops to try to win the war for the South by overwhelming the Union Army at Gettysburg.  So Abe decides to seize all the silver tea sets in Washington DC to provide vampire killing weaponry for the troops.  There’s an overly long fight on a train headed over a bridge that is on fire supposedly bringing weapons to Gettysburg.  It turns out to be a meaningless plot twist but it goes on forever.

But with silver clad bayonets, bullets and cannonballs the tide is turned just in time for Lincoln to read his Gettysburg Address.  Mary Todd Lincoln gets to shoot the girl vampire that killed her son.  She shoots a toy sword with a silver chain out of a rifle and the chain embeds itself into the vampire’s head.  And this symbolizes something or other.

And that’s more or less it.  Amazingly, this is even stupider than it sounds.

I don’t suppose most people would watch a movie called Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter but just in case some innocent, trusting individual might stumble onto this turkey I felt compelled to put out this warning.  If you watch this movie, you will lose brain cells.  I myself lost at least three IQ points.

So to sum up, movies of the stupid, for the stupid and by the stupid have not perished from the Earth.

23SEP2023 – Generational Differences

Happy first day of Fall here at the Autumnal Equinox.

So, I looked around at the news to see if anything jumped out at me.  Meh.  Lots of stuff is going on.  The Texas AG sat down with Tucker to talk about the impeachment hit the DOJ put out on him and how it failed.  That was pretty interesting but I wasn’t in the mood for that level of wonkery.

There are all kinds of articles about Menendez but I’ve got a weak stomach so the little bit I’ve done already is about half the fatal dose for that stuff.

But then I was watching a YouTube video by a sf critic called Bookpilled, where he listed what he considered the top science fiction books in his opinion.  The list was fairly interesting:

Dune by Frank Herbert

The Mote in God’s Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

The Stars My Destination / Tiger! Tiger! by Alfred Bester

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

The Dispossessed by Ursula K. LeGuin

Norstrilia by Cordwainer Smith

City by Clifford D. Simak

Hothouse by Brian Aldiss

Neuromancer by William Gibson

Blood Music by Greg Bear

The Dying Earth by Jack Vance

Solaris by Stanislaw Lem

A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge

Blindsight by Peter Watts

So, because the list seemed thoughtful, I went onto one of his other videos.  This one was called Battle of the Hard Sci-Fi Classics [100 Book Challenge #35-40].  In this “challenge” the host read one or more books by the “Big Three.”  The works he read were “Rendezvous with Rama” and “2001: A Space Odyssey” by Arthur C. Clarke; “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” by Robert Heinlein; “I, Robot” and “The Gods Themselves” by Isaac Asimov.

Well, I’ll say Bookpilled was not particularly impressed by these golden age authors.  Clarke and Asimov were damned with faint praise but his true scorn was reserved for poor old Bob Heinlein.  Scathing would be a mild description of his comments about the Dean of Science Fiction.  Not amused.

And that brings me to the point of this little essay.  The reviewer Bookpilled, is a Millennial.  His sensibilities were formed in a different world from mine.  Now, much of his criticism of Heinlein (and of the other two authors to a lesser degree) center around the merits of the works as literature.  He finds fault with the characterizations of the protagonists, the seeming simplicity of the plot devices and even with the level of foreshadowing of events.

And in a lot of ways, the criticism is justified.  Heinlein’s characters were very often “types.”  The wise older man, the talented but naïve young man, the omni-competent hero, the socially awkward scientist.  And some of his books, especially in the later years were less successful as “works of art.”  But Bookpilled didn’t just give “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” low marks.  He was viscerally outraged by almost everything in the book.  He was especially upset about Heinlein’s handling of sex.  And, granted, sex is one of the truly weakest aspects of Heinlein’s writing, especially (apparently) from the point of view of Millennial readers.  But it’s interesting that his writing is completely unreadable for this apparently enthusiastic science fiction reader.  Why is this?  Frank Herbert is approximately of Heinlein’s generation but Herbert’s Dune is on Bookpilled’s top fifteen list of all time science fiction books.  So, what’s the deal?

I think the generational difference is that when science fiction was a new art form its audience was entirely made up of young men.  And the aspect of the work that earned it praise was almost entirely its capacity to inspire enthusiasm and wonder about the future.  Whether it was interstellar space travel, nuclear power, or alien life forms the loftiness of the prose and the depth of characterization were almost unimportant to the success of the story.  And so, when these older stories are read by 21st century critics they are not amused.  It matters not at all that “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” is probably the first story to consider a political revolution between Earth and a space colony.  He’s read a host of books that took this concept and then updated for the present reader.

In these updated versions, the protagonist may be a black trans-lesbian with anti-white-colonial credentials and the computer will be the disembodied mind of Che Guevera or Woody Allen or someone else, depending on whether it’s an earnest political story, a comedy or something I can’t even imagine.  And the “diversity” allows the author to virtue signal to his audience the correctness of his story.  And if he’s a talented writer it allows him to add exotic points to the writing.

And that’s fine.  Every generation has its own art.  I think the important thing for me to note is that there is a place today for art that does not follow the template of the current day.  Bookpilled is a guy that looks like he’s somewhere in his early thirties.  So, his sensibilities are in line with his generation.  Now, I think he’s probably a fair example of his cohort and I’ll even say he’s probably not hostile to the world view of his parents’ generation.  He just sees things from his point of view.  But if he can enjoy Dune, Mote in God’s Eye, The War of the Worlds and even Frankenstein then he is reachable through art that speaks with a very different voice than his here and now literature.

So as an incipient science fiction author I think it behooves me to understand my potential market.  These young people are intelligent (well, at least the ones I want to reach).  Probably good writing, even if it comes from a different world view will interest them if it can provide sympathetic characters and interesting plot.  But if my plot challenges their world view it will need to be persuasive.  I won’t be able to win them over with exposition.  I’ll need to show them what I want them to understand.  That’s the challenge.

Well, why not?  Propaganda for its own sake is pretty awful even if it’s of your particular stripe.  So, Bob Heinlein be warned.  The Millennials have lost their patience and if you’re not careful they’ll take back your grandmaster’s hat and robe.  Get a copy of “Fifty Shades of Gray,” a highlighter and drop all the dears!