Children play dangerously – what could be better?

When I was a kid – maybe 3 or 4 I was over at another kid’s house – in the alley. There was a fire – someone was burning their garbage, and my brother who was 3 years older, and his buddies suggested to me that I should grab a wire that was white and directly in the fire. They told me it would be fine, and because it was white – that meant it was cool enough to grab. So I did. Wow, did that hurt! I don’t remember what happened next but I can type and use my hands well enough today so I assume I recovered.

There are many aspects to this event that I’ve left out though. Where we were at was about 4 blocks away from where we lived. There were no parents around at all – none. Of course this was not unusual: there never were. They were all working, and so the best way to take care of the kids (that was us) was to turn us loose and tell us NOT to come back until lunch – or supper depending upon the day part. Nobody was concerned that we would get snatched away, or that we wouldn’t come back. Of course there were the occasional events that caused our parents anguish (like the time Dean fell out of a tree and broke his arm) but that wasn’t enough to change the habit of turning us loose to wile away the hours.

Yesterday I heard a piece on public radio with the author of a wonderful article in the new Atlantic, and then the magazine appeared in our mailbox, and I’ve started to read it. What the author was saying on the air was that parents today have done just about everything to remove any chance of a child experiencing anything that might actually build their character or subject them to some pain. I think this is nuts, and I wonder about my grandkids – growing up in a world where they are not allowed to be by themselves – so that they can figure out how to navigate the world and the lives they will eventually have to lead – all by themselves.

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Wonderful example of Cinema Verite’

I came across this this morning at . It’s a terrific article about the process that these folks used. Here’s the video that they shot:

I love this article and the video for a number of reasons. First of course because it’s amazing news, and fascinating. But on a more personal level – I’ve been a documentarian for over 40 years, and I love the way that they did the piece: no faking it, no setups, no “over the shoulder” shots that tell you it was all setup – just one camera (with a high quality mic which I love) – shooting something as it happens. I love it. It shows you the power of what simple emotions and straight ahead shooting really is.

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Questions about HER

I saw Her last summer and really enjoyed it. And since then, it has stayed in my mind, raising lots of questions. This morning I ran across this piece in the New York times and it raised even more questions.

But here’s the thing that doesn’t seem to come into the equation whenever I hear about the notion of “will machines become human minds?”. While folks speculate about whether or not you could actually have a machine with a human mind – as Samantha in HER does, they rarely consider the question of wondering. Wondering about stuff that you have never seen before, or even know if it exists or not does not seem to be in the cards. How could a machine create a new thought about something that isn’t there. What would be it’s reference point? Actually there are many aspects of something that isn’t there that come to mind (at least to my mind – which I assure you is somewhat human):

Deciding that you like something, or not. Choosing to do something because it makes you happy, and conversely choosing to not do something because it makes you sad. Creating an entirely new thing – something that no one has ever even thought of – just to name a few.

I’m not worried about computers becoming real live thinking machines – mostly because they would still leave the realm of art to us poor humans. Ah now that’s a fascinating thought.

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The Paws Report: 2013 Best Pix (that I saw)(and liked)

This notion of a a group of pictures or a single picture that was the very best is pretty tricky. Firstly, when I went through a list of the films that made the critics “Best” list – I saw at least another 10 films that I didn’t get to see at all. How good were they?

Such is life. OK so here’s my list. Some of the very best were all about the money – Blue Jasmine, and on the other side – Wolf of Wall Street – and then all over the place – American Hustle, Dallas Buyer’s Club and Nebraska – perhaps the strangest of them all. I especially liked Nebraska because it was so real. But I think overall in the group I probably liked American Hustle the best (although Blue Jasmine is the only one I saw twice)

Without any question the toughest movies of the year were all about race. 12 Years a Slave, Lincoln and the toughest, saddest, movie of the year- Fruitvale Station. This trio of films were all superb – in really different ways – each on more intimate. Lincoln of course was great to see the politics of America. 12 years was stunning in the brutality that was visited upon so many people. But when you see what happened to one man over a 24 hr. period, it really hits you that not much has changed.

The next group of films were kinda crime related – Prisoners, Mud, The Heat and American Hustle. I suppose Wolf fits in there too, and also Blue Jasmine, and of course Fruitvale Station, and sure, 12 Years.

The next Group – Love and Relationships. I really enjoyed Enough Said, and Her. Her was so strange – and hopefully NOT prophetic. Of course all (good) movies are about relationships so Blue, Hustle, and Mud are in this category too.

And finally, Family pictures – Nebraska, Blue Jasmine, Enough Said, and Mud.

So there’s my list. I realize that I forgot the best special effects movie of the year – Gravity, but they don’t generally make my list. Besides, it scared me too much.

Now it’s time to get started again!!
Woof

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The Paws Report: Walter Mitty

Went to see the last film in my own little Christmas Holiday Film Festival – the Secret Life of Walter Mitty. And what can I say – I loved it. But then again, I’m a sucker for sentimental movies about the oppressed, and normal. It was a very sweet love story between Ben Stiller and Kristen Wiig, and of course Walter Mitty’s famed secret life. Do you remember the short story by James Thurber? Of course not – you aren’t old as the hills (well some of you are) but I do. The henpecked husband who has wild and fanciful flights of fantasy (too many “f”s?) This version is much less beaten down – more just really average – but still somewhat paralyzed in his daily life. Anyway – go see it – it was definitely the most fun I had in my film festival. An joyful and very woofable 4 Paws.

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Great speech on our health care system

I was listening to MPR today and heard this speech and I wanted others to hear it to. Such a great insight into our health care system. Please take a listen.

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Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Last night, after a wonderful day of “tasting”, I decided that the perfect ending would be a movie. I had a choice – Sherlock Holmes or Tom Cruise’s new action thriller. I chose Mission Impossible, and am I glad I did! What a treat! Now I am familiar enough with movie trailers not to trust them to really show me what or how a film might actually be, and so I had seen the trailers to this film and was not intrigued at all. It was just way too fast, too mindless, too unending. But the film is not that at all. It’s a wonderful combination of suspense and action, and enough space between huge gigantic effects that you could breath. I was stunned by the end of the film how short it felt, when it was actually over 2 hrs long. OK, so here’s the plot: Tom Cruise is in a prison – in Moscow, and some folks are getting him out. After they do that, they discover that they need to stop a really bad person from stealing a nuclear bomb, and detonating in order to start a nuclear war. This of course means that they have to go to lots of interesting and exciting places – like Dubai, and India. But enough about the plot. The plot isn’t really all that important. What made the film for me was the excellent balance between action, fighting, crazy impossible devices, and crazy impossible encounters. Oh and what makes it fun is that the devices – the impossible devices that are supposed to give you the most amazing powers in the world – they keep falling apart and failing. I loved it. It adds terrific suspense, and like that.

Now the only thing that didn’t really work for me was the actual climbing and stuff up the outside of this really really tall building. Tom Cruise explained how he trained like crazy to be able to climb around on the outside of this film and like that, but it was so impossible to believe that he was really doing this stuff – I mean it was just beyond belief that anybody could do this stuff – even knowing that he had a safety harness and was wired up to the building, it was just too insane – it had to be done with computers – CGI (computer generated images)

So here’s my verdict: 4 big and fluffy paws! Run, don’t walk to see this film, and take along a chew toy!

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My Week with Marilyn

Michelle Williams channeled Marilyn Monroe. That’s the only way she could have nailed it so hard. Wow! She was really excellent, and everybody else in the cast was excellent too! Eddie Redmayne as her by chance confidant does an excellent job too. 4 fuzzy and very fluffy paws! A warm and bittersweet film about unrequited love, and the power of publicity to play on a person’s weaknesses. Highly recommended.

http://youtu.be/U_tbnTM7zVE

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I was looking forward to this film for a while since I had seen the original in Swedish. I wish I could say I liked it better, but there were some problems, so I give it 3 paws and a yawn. Here’s the issue. Most Swedish films are, how shall we say, dark? Lots of blues and greens and grey. But the Hollywood folks were not about to be outdone by a Swedish thriller – no they were determined to make it darker than dark. Everybody’s is grey, with green or blue skin, and nobody is allowed to smile. Ok, I’m exaggerating – there were in fact a couple of smiles, but they were just to show that these are actually humans.

Speaking of which – what is with the opening credits? Remember all those Bond pics with the liquid women who were naked and dissolved into other women and men and guns? Well, now they dissolve into tubes and wires and chocolate and all kinds of crazy stuff – and the question is: why? What the hell does this have to do with the film at all? The answer is, thankfully, nothing.

As for the film itself, it’s very close to the original film (full disclosure: I haven’t read the book) which I assume is pretty close to the book. A few changes here and there, but they didn’t really change the essence. But they did decide that we definitely need more sex, and more vicious sex. It’s tough to watch, and definitely not sensual. But does it advance the story? Not really. It was, again, Hollywood’s way of showing that if Sweden can do, then we can do it harder, more violent, and more unforgettable.

Finally, why did you get rid of the lead actress’s eyebrows. I saw Rooney Mara on Letterman the other night, and she’s beautiful. In this film, she looks like an android, and for what reason? The original had an amazing actress, Noomi Rapace, who is also quite striking. The story shows you that this girl is seriously damaged, brillant, and enigmatic. So why do you also have to make her look so strange? I don’t know. I mean, she’s plenty strange all by herself.

Anyway, it’s a pretty involved thriller. Daniel Craig is excellent. Christopher Plumber is also excellent, and I think Rooney Mara will go far.

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Awful film – Martha Marcy May Marlene

I give this potboiler 1 paw – and a dirty forgetful paw at that. OK so somebody had an idea for a film – how about a girl who escapes from a cult, and then goes to live with her sister. Now let’s put in about 10 plot points (given a new name; has to eat after the men; forced sex; breaking into houses; shoots kittens; killing house owners) and then have a girl sit around for the entire rest of the movie and look spacey. In other words, 15 minutes of film, 100 minutes of filler. It was awful.

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