Monday, July 16, 2018


Found: a nearly complete screenplay by Stanley Kubrick and Calder Willingham for an adaptation of Stefan Zweig’s novella Burning Secret.

Related reading
All OCA Zweig posts (Pinboard)

“Wake up”

Representative Adam Schiff (D, California-28), characterizing Donald Trump’s performance in Helsinki:

President Trump’s performance today was the most damaging and shameful surrender of American values and interests in modern history.

I say again to my Republican colleagues: Wake up.


“Love is what keeps us together and afloat”: Fred Rogers, in Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (dir. Morgan Neville, 2018).

Related reading
All OCA Fred Rogers posts (Pinboard)

Twelve movies

[Three sentences each. No spoilers.]

Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie (dir. Andrea Blaugrund Nevins, 2018). The story of Mattel’s Barbie, from origins and early success to Project Dawn, the 2016 transformation of the original doll into a gang of four: curvy, tall, petite, and original. What I found most interesting: the seriousness with which Mattel’s designers treat the evolution of this plastic signifier. Barbie is big, unironic business.


Un pequeño festival de Pedro Almodóvar

Matador (dir. Pedro Almodóvar, 1986). A melodrama, played straight, that approaches John Waters territory in its sheer lunacy. Bullfighting, sex, death, and psychic visions, in a black and red color scheme. Not nearly as good as The Skin I Live In, but stranger.

Law of Desire (dir. Pedro Almodóvar, 1987). A high-flying writer and director, his tangled relationships with two younger men, a transgender sister, and further tangles. The ancient Greeks and Romans would have understood this movie at once: the law of desire is to know no law. Desire destroys everything, even a beautiful Olympia manual typewriter.


Richard III (dir. Richard Loncraine, 1995). A condensed version of Shakespeare’s play, set in a 1930s fascist England, all red and black and brown. Ian McKellen is brilliant as Richard Gloucester, chatting with the camera as he schemes and murders his way to the top. Especially fun to watch this adaptation after the madness of two Almodóvar films.


Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (dir. Morgan Neville, 2018). A documentary about Fred Rogers that skirts some matters (among them, a deeply difficult childhood) but offers many surprises, including Rogers’s political affiliation, the meaning of “143,” and a 1968 Neighborhood storyline about King Friday’s wall. What comes as no surprise: Fred Rogers’s deep love and respect for children, with scene after scene that will reduce many viewers to tears. I wish that the PBS overlords would wake up and put Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood back on the air.


The Phone Call (dir. Mat Kirkby, 2013). A short film with Sally Hawkins as a crisis hotline worker and Jim Broadbent as the voice on the other end of the line. Great performances on and off camera — it’s easy to forget that the voice on the telephone is that of an actor. The ending — well, no, just watch.


Madame Bovary (dir. Sophie Barthes, 2014). Mia Wasikowska as Emma Bovary, married to a clueless husband, seeking solace in louche men and fancy drapes. There must be more than this provincial life! A painterly film (Vermeer, pretty obviously), but beautifully composed scenes give way to more erratic camerawork as Emma’s life spins out of control.


Walls of Sound: A Look Inside The House of Records (dir. David Gracon, 2012). A record store in Eugene, Oregon, its owner, its employees, and its customers, all of whom speak of it with affection (even if those employees have no health insurance). Established in 1972, The House of Records — and it’s really a house, with a former resident making an appearance — is still going strong in 2018. Word: if you have a local treasure to support, bookstore or record store, support it now, so that it will be there to enjoy your support tomorrow.


Dying to Know: Ram Dass & Timothy Leary (dir. Gay Dillingham, 2014). Ram Dass (formerly Richard Alpert) and Timothy Leary, ex-Harvard promulgators of psychedelics, meet not long before Leary’s death for one last conversation about life and death — or as Leary calls death, “the last taboo.” As if no one ever spoke of death before? Too much glibness and self-congratulation for my taste.


Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool (dir. Paul McGuigan, 2017). Annette Bening as the fading star Gloria Grahame, in love with a young Liverpudlian, actor Peter Tuner (Jamie Bell). The story arc is predictable, but Bening gives a great performance. Best watched with subtitles.


In the Realms of the Unreal: The Mystery of Henry Darger (dir. Jessica Yu, 2004). An excellent introduction to the life and work of Henry Darger, menial worker and outsider artist, with reminiscences from his landlord and neighbors. A particular strength of the film: the use of excerpts from Darger’s fiction to illuminate his life. A strange touch: ten-year-old Dakota Fanning as the film’s narrator.


Come Sunday (dir. Joshua Marston, 2018). Based on a This American Life episode about Carlton Pearson (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a charismatic African-American Pentecostal minister who begins to preach a doctrine of universal salvation, salvation even for backsliders, even for people who have never accepted Christ — at which point, all hell breaks loose. I would have appreciated more attention to the biblical texts at issue in Pearson’s challenge to his tradition’s accepted theology. With Martin Sheen as a disturbingly plausible Oral Roberts.

Related reading
All OCA film posts (Pinboard)

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Asset and handler

Jonathan Chait, writing in New York, presents a compelling argument that Trump–Russia has been going on for a very long time: “it would be dangerous not to consider the possibility that the summit is less a negotiation between two heads of state than a meeting between a Russian-intelligence asset and his handler.” The year of wonders: 1987.

A message for Donnie

“Yer jaiket’s oana shoogly peg, Donnie”: the message on a sign held by Helen Broussard, a retired schoolteacher protesting at the Trump golf resort in Turnberry, Scotland. That is, “Your jacket’s on a wobbly peg,” which The Washington Post paraphrases as “You are on your way out.”

For more on Trump and golf courses in Scotland, you might seek out the film You’ve Been Trumped. Too long, but revealing.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

MSNBC, sheesh

“If he demures. . . .”

Garner’s Modern English Usage on the intransitive verb demur (“to object; take exception”; “to hesitate or decline because of doubts”) and the adjective demure (“reserved, modest,” "coy in an affected way"): “The words are also confused in speech, when demure /di-myuur/ is said instead of demur /di-mǝr/.”

Related reading
All OCA sheesh posts (Pinboard)

From the Saturday Stumper

I found today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Erik Agard, way, way difficult. I filled in words here and there, left the browser open, and went out for the usual morning walk. And when I came back, I made a LASTDITCHEFFORT. And everything fell into place.

Two clues that I especially liked, side by side: 9-Down, three letters: “Family first.” And 10-Down, three letters: “Lions’ zebra.” Huh?

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Meditation rock

[Zippy, July 13, 2018.]

One rock, two rocks, three — but what is stage four? You’ll have to click through to find out.

I’m pretty sure Zippy’s practice is not what Allen Ginsberg had in mind.

Related reading
All OCA “some rocks” posts
All OCA Nancy posts: Nancy and Zippy posts : Zippy posts (Pinboard)

What‽ An episode of 99% Invisible about punctuation.

Related reading
All OCA punctuation posts (Pinboard)
You Call That a Punctuation Mark?! (The Millions)