We had a date night yesterday as we went to go see a stage production of the George Orwell classic. Overall the production was OK. Winston was in his cell and party members reconstructed pieces of his life that he had written about in his diary. The whole point was for him to witness and confess to his crimes that they already knew about. It was a bit of a clunky device, but it served its purpose. Unfortunately one of the actor's mics was acting up so the sound person had a challenge of making sure the actor was heard but not loud enough that the popping from the shorting out mic made it seem that Ministry of Love was being bombed. Many people must not have liked the play since I noticed a lot of empty seats at the beginning of the second act.

I'm glad I read the book just a few years ago as opposed to having read it in high school. I had a greater appreciation of the message. This was even before the age of Trump. While reading it I started wondering why someone hadn't used the principles as a playbook to rule/control a population. Looks like someone had the same idea. I think Orwell would have been proud (in an "I told you so" way) to hear Rudy Giuliani say "truth isn't truth" or Kellyanne Conway talk about "alternative facts." During intermission Kitty wondered about "Big Brother watching you" while she typed on her phone. The irony was lost on her. I'm just happy that the book has suddenly become a classic again. Hopefully the more informed we all are about the dangers that could lie ahead, the better prepared we can be to fight Ingsoc.

Annual Tax Post

It's that time of year again where I bitch about doing taxes. This year it seems to be pretty straightforward. I told my financial planner last year that I had really screwed up, and he was amazed that I still did my taxes by hand. The one year I tried TurboTax I found it a complete waste of money. While I still owed quite a bit this year, I had a bit of a surprise. While figuring out how much I owed for my investments, it turns out that the amount of tax I owed on dividends was zero. It must be part of Trump's tax breaks for the rich. It actually makes sense if he wanted to help out older folks who get income from investments. I just couldn't believe the formula as I filled in the blanks. Our income was down this year because I have been socking away so much in my 401K. Since our earned income wasn't that great, it entitled us to keep more of our investment profits. Woohoo! I'm just hoping the IRS doesn't come back and say "Ha ha! just kidding!"

Weekend Movies

Saturday was pretty nice so we managed to do a few things. The weather turned crappy on Sunday which gave us the excuse to just kick back and watch some movies. I'm slowly getting Kitty hooked on oldy moldy classics.

"Battleground" - I had seen a little bit of this WWII movie years ago and really liked it. I wanted to see the whole thing. It has everything a war movie should have; lots of action, good character development, and a historic base. Definitely one of the better ones. Plus it has a very young Ricardo Montalban before he discovered rich Corinthian leather.

"Libeled Lady" - You can really get a sense of just how important newspapers once were in American history just by watching movies from the 20's and 30's. Before "Access Hollywood" there were newspapers spreading gossip. Here a paper prints a false story and gets sued for millions of dollars. The paper tries its best to create a real scandal to force the person to give up the lawsuit. Hilarity ensues.

"Anatomy of a Murder" - Great acting from the likes of Jimmy Stewart and George C Scott, but overall it's just an overly long court drama about trying to prove that a guilty man should be let go due to temporary insanity. Lots of little "gotcha" moments that are typical in courtroom dramas. It was nominated for a bunch of awards but won none.

"Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" - Not one of Broadway's better musicals. Some good dancing, but overall kinda bland. Just like movies that have blackface are falling out of fashion, this movie will be buried by the "me too" movement. Imagine 6 women being kidnapped and held hostage over a winter by 6 men. By spring the women are madly in love with them and they all get married. You could teach a class in the objectification of women with this movie. But it does have Julie Newmar! purrrrrr.

"The Hours" - I have been very good over the past 20 years in terms of seeing every Oscar-nominated movie. How I missed this movie from 2002 is unknown to me. But now having seen it, perhaps I DID rent the VHS tape and just totally forgot about it. It seems kinda doubtful since I remembered absolutely nothing about the movie, and 10 years from now I will STILL probably have almost no recollection of this film. Yeah. It was that "good." There are some good performances (Nicole Kidman did win Best Actress) but the story is nothing special and downright depressing with seemingly everyone killing themselves or wanting to.

"Pygmalion" - The play from which "My Fair Lady" was based. Here's a case where adding music to a story makes all the difference in the world especially when the songs become classics. It's worth seeing both to see how they compare and contrast.

3-Day Movie Weekend

I had great plans for my Presidents' Day holiday. I planned on pretty much doing nothing. Maybe go for my walkie and make pot roast for Kitty, but other than that I just wanted to plant my butt in my chair and watch old movies. Mission accomplished.

"Quo Vadis" - I'm surprised this big-budget offering from 1951 doesn't get more love like a "Ben Hur." It's a combination tale of Nero's Rome and the birth of Christianity. So there's lots of big-budget special effects with the burning of Rome and there's great vore as lions devour Christians in the forum (OK. It was 1950's Hollywood, so there was nothing graphic).

"The Adventures of Robin Hood" - Yes, I have never seen the classic Errol Flynn version of this tale. It was hard to not imagine him as a fox or the rest of the cast as anthropomorphic critters.

"The Front Page" - They billed this as a comedy, but having news reporters clambering to cover a man's execution is not very ha ha funny. Perhaps this was the very first black comedy. It was an early talkie released by Howard Hughes. It was just a weird film as people are constantly throwing insults at one another in rapid "Gilmore Girls" style.

"The Gay Divorcee" - Typical stupid Hollywood plot of boy sees girl and instantly falls in love with her. But when you have Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers singing and dancing, who cares.

"Dark Victory" - A tear-jerker with Bette Davis dying of a terminal brain disease and her doctor falling in love with her. The movie also stars Ronald Reagan and Humphrey Bogart. What was strange was there was a news story the next day where a person with a terminal illness was marrying the love of his life even though she had rejected him many times before. Can you say "insurance money?"

"Little Women" - I can't say anything bad about this movie since Kitty absolutely loves the story in all forms. This was the Oscar-nominated version with Katherine Hepburn. While Kitty may love the story to pieces, I'll just write it off as "just another chick flick." I love how women say the story is so empowering, but then I laugh because it seems like their goal always ends up being to find a good man.

"42nd St" - Didn't I already mention the plot of "small-town girl goes to big city to make it big on stage?" I think that is the plot of half the movies out there! Will the show be a hit or a flop? Who will hook up in the end? Let's throw in lots of singing and dancing and call it a movie!

"I Was A Fugitive From A Chain Gang" - A man is in the wrong place at the wrong time and ends up being sentenced to hard labor. The conditions are so bad he escapes. He ends up working his way up the ladder to become a prominent businessman. He gets discovered and decides to go back to jail to clear his name. Unfortunately he gets two-timed by southern justice and is sent back to the chain gang where he escapes again to live his life on the lam. I could see a lot of elements that eventually get used in "Cool Hand Luke" and even Woody Allen's "Take the Money and Run." A really good flick!

Just Parsons, Not Project

A few months ago mondhasen made a post about a band from the 70's or 80's (sorry. forgot which one). But I mentioned the Alan Parsons Project as a band that I liked but really couldn't admit such since prog-rock/soft rock was "old people music." It just wasn't cool. Eventually I came around to admitting I really liked it. Their video for "Don't Answer Me" came out while I was in college. Once again, it wasn't hip or cool, but the video was fun to watch. Perhaps it was also my time in eastern Oregon where all I could pick up was KBOI, AM radio from Boise that played nothing but soft rock. You'll happily listen to that when you're 100 miles from the nearest town. But I digress.

Right after I made that LJ comment I saw that he would be coming to town! I might not be a superfan, but I could certainly give props to such an influential person of the music industry. We're talking about the man who produced one of the greatest albums in rock history, "Dark Side of the Moon." His concert would be held at one of my favorite music venues, so I bought tickets. Kitty was a little unsure. She knew a couple of his songs and hated one of their biggest hits ("Time"). But she would give it a shot.

I had a feeling it would be an older crowd since his biggest hits came out 30 years ago. I was right. We fit right in. He does have a new solo album coming out, so he played a few songs from that. Fortunately I had checked out YouTube before the show, so I knew the songs he played. Mostly he and his band played the big hits of the Project. During the first part of the show, however, I felt like I was watching a cover band. It was an interesting situation. Alan was most at home behind the sound board. He was a musician, but not really a vocalist. In their heyday they almost never toured. So who exactly were the 7 other people on stage with him? They were talented musicians, but they were not the original band. Even then the "original band" was a collection of studio musicians. I decided to not overthink things. During the second act the band seemed to tighten up a little and really rock out. By the end of the show Kitty had been won over. We were both happy to have seen the show.


Old Movie Time

I'm starting to binge all of the old Oscar-nominated movies in my queue. And they're gonna keep on coming for another 2 weeks! Here's what I've seen so far:

"A Farewell to Arms" - A really schmaltzy love story with WWI as the backdrop. They said that even Hemingway hated what Hollywood did to his story. It does feature a very young Gary Cooper. It's just amazing how attitudes have changed over time. It was so scandalous that men and women should be alone together! And to become pregnant from such an encounter?!? We laugh at the Taliban today, but we were not so different less than 100 years ago.

"Broadway Melody of 1936" - How many movies have been made where someone comes from the country to hit it big on Broadway or Hollywood? I suppose you need some kind of story to support lots of singing and dancing in old skool Hollywood style. Big musical numbers on big sets with lots of extras. Classic. Buddy Epsen's first movie role!

"Our Town" - Supposedly it's a famous American play. They literally put the play on screen. There is a narrator who totally eliminates the 4th wall. There's not much to the plot other than a slice of small-town American life. It features a very young William Holden. So young I didn't immediately recognize him.

"Stagecoach" - One of the quintessential westerns. John Ford + John Wayne + Monument Valley = American classic. Good story. Good cast.


Yes, the DVD arrived in the mail yesterday and Kitty and I watched it. The "secret" of the movie had not been revealed, so it was fun to watch the plot unfold without spoilers. No, there is no "gotcha" moment, but I had heard that the plot pulls you in one direction and then throws you in a completely different one so that you have no idea where you are going to end up. To me that's a good thing. My biggest problem with the majority of Hollywood movies is that you have a good guy and a bad guy. The bad guy wears a black hat. He does bad things. The good guy in the white hat eventually saves the day. He will be put in peril, but he's the good guy, so you know that things will be OK in the end. I prefer films with moral ambiguity. Perhaps that's why I enjoyed "Joker." Wait. You're kinda feeling sad for the bad guy! Batman was supposed to have that trait, but usually he just ends up being a pussy.

So was "Parasite" Best Picture worthy? Tough call. It's new storytelling and perhaps the Academy is now more woke about film around the world. It was probably better than some of the other nominees that I had seen, but not necessarily. It was probably just as good if not better than some of the crap that has won in previous years. Hopefully it will open the doors to movies that people wouldn't normally see.
Maybe this throws the doors wide open to Netflix and Amazon who can better sweep up interesting movies from abroad easier than the plodding dinosaurs of Hollywood studios. Maybe American brain cells can be stimulated to actually think about a plot instead of just cheering for the latest comic book hero.

The Oscars - 2020 Edition

The Oscars is the only award show I watch. It has been a guilty pleasure for decades for me. I love movies. I roll my eyes when an entertainment industry takes itself so seriously, but I can set that aside and just focus on the art. So here are my takeaways from this year's spectacle.

I guess the Academy thinks they can throw a bone to the "Oscar-so-white" crowd by having lots of black people dancing in (and flopping around) the aisles. There was a hip-hop performance by Eminem (I guess) which just proved how old (and white) I was because I didn't have a clue about the song even though it appeared most of the young, hip people did. I asked Kitty "I wonder how Anthony Hopkins feels about all of this?" The camera panned over him and it looked like he was asleep. *LOL* It seemed like every opportunity the Academy had to showcase black people, they did...except in actually having them nominated for things. I just wonder how the "woke" crowd is going to handle this year's winners. If Oscar-be-so-white is true, why did an Asian film win the biggest prizes? A woman won for best music score. I think people just like to stir up shit to better match their own agenda. Produce good quality work, win a prize. Isn't that how it's supposed to work?

Just a few other takeaways. I was happy to see "American Factory" win best documentary since it was the only one I had seen. I liked it a lot even with its overtly pro-union slant. It reminded me so much of the 80's movie "Gung Ho" where a Japanese company takes over a US auto plant. I see little has changed in 30 years, only swap out Chinese for Japanese. It just proves how evil the Chinese system is and what it could mean for the US worker.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the short documentary about skateboarding Afghan girls won. I thought for sure the one produced by MTV would win. I guess the "woke" crowd will just have to take comfort that "Hair Love" won best animated short. I will give a hearty "meh" that "Toy Story 4" won best animated feature. That was a safe bet. The very unsafe bet was to predict that "Parasite" would win both Best International Film as well as Best Picture. I can't wait to see it! It should be in my mailbox today when I get home.

Oscar-Nominated Shorts - Live Action

Since the Oscars were so early this year, we barely had time to watch the last of the short movies and get home in time to catch the show. I think I'll make a second post about that and just write here about the short movies.

"A Sister" - An emergency operator tries to get help to a woman who is in danger of being hurt/killed by an abusive boyfriend. There have been several movies lately dealing with trying to get help to someone on a cell phone. It was done much more effectively in last year's "Mother." A good film, but not great.

"Brotherhood" - A son returns to his family after fighting for ISIS in Syria and is rejected by his father. Pretty meh with a vague ending.

"Saria" - Based on a true story of an orphanage (almost like a prison) in Guatemala where the children were punished for an uprising by being locked in their cell block. A fire breaks out and kills 40 young girls. A good film. Probably my second favorite.

"The Neighbors' Window" - A young family struggles with day to day life in a New York City high rise. They envy a young carefree couple in the building across the way. But who is watching who? This was my hands-down favorite movie and it was awarded the prize later in the evening.

"Nefta Football Club" - A fun quirky tale about 2 boys, a stash of heroin, and a headphone-wearing donkey who listens to Adele. It was nice to have some comic relief.