Children of the Corn

Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Children of the CornIt's 1975 and Burt, a Vietnam vet (played by David Anders), and Vicki, his wife (Kandyse McClure), are driving across country. Right from the start, it's understood that their marriage is as rough as a road filled with potholes. (It's also understood that McClure, can't act worth a damn, but I'm getting ahead of myself.)

They're driving through flat and boring Nebraska. Corn field upon corn field upon corn field. Burt, the husband, takes his eyes off the road. A child runs out from a corn field, and before Burt can stop the car, he hits and runs over the child. Vicki gets out of the car, and Burt follows. The tirade that Vicki launches into while they are standing in the middle of the road is not only too damned long — I would've slapped her long before Burt did — it's also an excellent showcase of McClure's lack of acting talent. As much as I like Stephen King, I hate to say it, but the dialogue in this movie had all the flavor of stale bread. It's unbelievable that King is credited as co-writer of the screenplay, along with producer Donald P. Borchers.

Singing in chorus right along with McClure's bad acting was the equally bad and totally flat acting of the children. Rather than coming across as menacing, they came across as funny. Never a good thing in a horror flick.

This movie is a remake of an earlier film, also based the same short story by Stephen King. I would hold out hope that the story is better, but given that many at IMDb stated that this movie closely follows the story, I think that would be pointless.

Public Enemies

Monday, December 28, 2009
Public EnemiesMy, oh my, how the world has changed.

John Dillinger, America's first "Public Enemy Number One," is the man whose pursuit pretty much led to the founding, or should I say "funding," of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which, at the time, was known as the Division of Investigation.

The Wikipedia article on Melvin Pervis notes that J. Edgar Hoover became jealous of the fame Pervis gained following the death of Dillinger, "downgrad[ing] him, [which lead to] Purvis leaving the FBI" in 1935.

Pervis died in 1960 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. "The FBI investigated the shooting and labeled it a suicide, though the official coroner's report did not find sufficient evidence to label the cause of death as such. It was later determined that Purvis may have shot himself accidentally while trying to extract a tracer bullet jammed in the pistol. He was 56 years old."

Excellent movie.

Once Upon a Time in México

Thursday, December 17, 2009
Once Upon a Time in MéxicoThe final movie in Robert Rodriguez's pulp Western, Once Upon a Time in México is not only chock full of stars, it's also chock full of gun-totin' action. Starring in this movie are Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Johnny Depp, Mickey Rourke, Eva Mendes, Danny Trejo, Enrique Iglesias, Marco Leonardi, Cheech Marin, Ruben Blades, and Willem Dafoe. With names like that on the roster, I think it's fair to say that this movie far surpassed the $50,000 budget for El Mariachi. Wouldn't you agree?

It was fun. It was kooky. And, for Johnny Depp's character, it was outta sight.

Béon or Ne Béon (To Be or Not To Be)

I've found a fascinating web site that offers translation of Old English (a.k.a. Anglo Saxon) into Modern English and vice versa. It's called Old English Translator. Below is the conjugation of béon, the verb "to be."

— BÉON (To Be) IRREGULAR VERB
Present & Preterite Indicative
• Ic béo (I am) — Ic wæs (I was)
• þu bist (you are) — þu wære (you were)
• he/hit/heo biþ (he/it/she is) — he/hit/heo wæs (you were)
• we/ge/hie béoþ (we/ye/they are) — we/ge/hie wæron (we/ye/they were)

Present & Preterite Subjunctive
• singular: béowære
• plural: béonwæren

Present Participle (...ing) & Past Participle (...ed)
béonde — [n/a]

Imperative (direct command)
• singular: béo
• plural: béoþ

Inflected Infinitive
• to béonne

Second Person Present Indicative, among other attributes, really highlights the Germanic roots of English. Compare þu bist (Old English — you are), which can also be written as ðu bist, with the modern German du bist. Look also at Third Person Plural Preterite Subjunctive we wæron (Old English — we were), compared with wir waren (German).

English contains a vocabulary that is in triplicate, one set of words that is Anglo Saxon (this being its Germanic roots — e.g., kingly), one set of words that is French in origin (from Norman and Anglo French — e.g., royal), and one set of words that is Latin in origin (e.g., regal). Thesaurus.com shows that kingly, royal, and regal are all synonymous; only their etymologies differ.

The following, from Wikipedia, is note-worthy:

Although the syntax of German is significantly different from that of English and other Germanic languages, with different rules for setting up sentences (for example, German Ich habe noch nie etwas auf dem Platz gesehen, vs. English "I have still never seen anything in the square"), English syntax remains extremely similar to that of the North Germanic languages, which are believed to have influenced English syntax during the Middle English Period (eg., Norwegian Jeg har likevel aldri sett noe i torget; Swedish Jag har ännu aldrig sett något på torget). It is for this reason that despite a lack of mutual intelligibility, English-speakers and Scandinavians can learn each others' languages relatively easily, although, as English is a far more important language, most such language mastery is one-way (i.e., Scandinavians learning English).

Regarding the syntax comparison mentioned above, the syntax of English is SVO (subject/verb/object — I / kicked / the ball) whereas the syntax of German is SOV (subject/object/verb — Ich / den Ball / trat).

A comparison of thou art/thou wert, an early form of Modern English,¹ with the modern Icelandic² þú ert/þú varst is interesting (Icelandic is related to the Scandinavian languages). In this light, Icelandic can be seen as reflective of early Modern English, while the Scandinavian languages bear a somewhat closer resemblance to German.

(German: du bist/du warst. Old English/Anglo Saxon: þu bist/þu wære. Early Modern English: thou art/thou wert. Icelandic: þú ert/þú varst. Swedish: du är/du var. Norwegian: du er/du var. Modern English: you are/you were. Technically, Modern English substitutes, universally, the archaic Second Person Singular [pronoun, nominative thou; possessive thy or thine; objective thee] with the Third Person Plural [nominative you or the archaic ye; possessive your or yours; objective you or the archaic ye]. It is also interesting that the Old English/Anglo Saxon Second Person Plural Accusative or Dative éow, which — to my eyes and ears — bears a phonetic resemblance to the pronunciation of you; and the Second Person Plural Genitive éower, bears the same resemblance to your; and a similar resemblance is found with the First Person Plural Genitive úre, your.)



¹ Thou art/thou wert, the equivalent to you are/you were (about the time of Elizabeth I, AD 1558–1603, and William Shakespeare, circa AD 1564–1616), is an early form of Modern English, which started barely a century after the period of Middle English, which ended circa AD 1470.
² The Icelandic thorn, þ, is equivalent to the unvoiced th in English (i.e., the th in thing and thought is unvoiced, as compared to the voiced th in the and though).

Desperado

Wednesday, December 16, 2009
DesperadoI had wanted to watch El Mariachi, the first movie in this trilogy. I'd rented it, in fact, but . . . for whatever reason, the DVD would only play the director's track. Nothing personal, but I wanted to watch the movie, not listen to Robert Rodriguez. So, I had to skip El Mariachi, and moved right on to Desperado, starring Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, and featuring a guest appearance by none other than Quentin Tarantino.

It wasn't bad, but I preferred the duology of movies Rodriguez and Tarantino did together more recently, Grindhouse, Rodriguez's contribution being Planet Terror.

Inglourious Basterds

TakenHow can you not like a Quentin Tarantino film? (I find it difficult, and that he and I share birthdays has very little to do with it, I assure you.)

Starring Brad Pitt, Inglourious Basterds is what the DVD case for this film calls a "revenge fantasy." I'd drink to that, but I'd prefer to call it "alternative history" given that it knowingly deviates from history.

Science fiction/fantasy/mystery/romance author, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, mentions Inglourious Basterds in her commentary, "The Crumbling Monolith," at Baen's Universe. In her commentary, Rusch offers a critique of the current state of culture, high-brow vs low-brow, but more specifically of the entertainment industry, noting that it "can no longer manipulate the conversation." Says Rusch:

Lest you think social media has only a negative effect, let me point out that as I type this, Inglourious Basterds is beating all the predictions. The movie got a terrible release date. (In the old days, August was where the studio sent awful movies to die — because, conventional wisdom said, no one went to the movies in August.) The movie's reviews were mixed at best. (Some reviewers actively loathed the film.)

But word of mouth on this film is tremendous. Word of mouth or, I should say, word of tweet. The numbers trended upwards on this film from the first show to the last on its opening weekend. Despite the bad press and the bad release date, viewers are finding this movie and telling friends about it. The same thing happened with District 9.

I'm already hearing rumbling from studio suits that they have to find a way to "control" Twitter. They need to "dominate" the social media sites. And the studios will try to change the paradigm, but it won't work. They'd be better off releasing more movies with less fanfare, spending less per movie on production costs, and letting the bad films sink while the good films swim.

I don't know the reason for any "active loath[ing]" of this movie, unless it has to do with its deviation from history. (You should read Rusch's commentary, if you haven't already.) If that's the case, then follow along and repeat after me:

"It's only a movie."

And, lest you missed it earlier, "alternative history" is very much a valid genre. Harry Turtledove, science fiction writer, did the same with the American Civil War in his book, How Few Remain, as well as with World War II in his book, Hitler's War. Author Robert Conroy did the same with his novel, 1862, its premise being, "What if England had joined America's Civil War — on the side of the Confederacy?"

Let's repeat that refrain once more, shall we?

"It's only a movie."

Now, perhaps some will think that this is a denial of history, rather like Communist Russia was wont to do. Consider, however, that that is rather taking things a bit too far. Fiction, when it deviates from history, remains fiction. Men, when they deny history, replace fact with fiction. It's hardly a subtle difference. Further, to write (and to enjoy, I might add) good "alternative history" requires a knowledge of the actual history that has been changed in the fiction narrative. So, it can be argued that "alternative history" must always give a nod to the actual history from which it gains its inspiration. It is therefore the very antithesis of denial.

One last time with the refrain:

"It's only a movie." (And it's about damned time a plot against . . . . Well, perhaps I shouldn't go there. There may be some in the audience who haven't seen the movie, and I'd hate to be a spoiler.)

Taken

Thursday, December 03, 2009
Taken"I don't know who you are. I don't know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don't have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a very long career, skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that'll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you."

"Good luck."


Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is a former spy who is trying build a relationship with Kim (Maggie Grace), his estranged daughter. She and Amanda (Katie Cassidy), a friend of hers, go on a trip to Paris where they get kidnapped. Using his skills as a spy, and former contacts, Mills sets out to find his daughter, no matter what the cost.

Taken, starring Liam Neeson, is one incredibly intense film. I think I'd even go so far as to say that it's the best film I've seen all year. From start to finish, it does not let up. Premiere said, "Liam Neeson is an unstoppable force."

I've seen many films here in my office. Often my attention will flag (see flag³ def. 1 — see also footnote below), and I'll watch the movie while doing something on my computer. Not so with Taken. Trust me. You will be held rapt, you will be on the edge of your seat, and you will be anxious to know what happens next. No exaggeration.

Horror has been defined as that which is not possible in reality that scares you. Terror, however, is that which scares you that is possible. This movie is a thriller, but it is also very much in the genre of terror, too. You have to see the movie to understand why I say this. (These are definitions given by novelists, not by dictionaries.)

FOOTNOTE: I think dictionary.com (an Ask.com service) is one of the best online dictionaries.

Alien Trespass

Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Alien Trespass"It came from another galaxy. A creeping, crawling nightmare of terror!" (Complete with music reminsicent of the original Star Trek series.) It is, in fact, as the tagline for this movie says, "Terror — the whole family can enjoy."

"It's 1957," says the blurb, "a spaceship has just landed in a quiet small town, and Earth is suddenly threatened by an unknown evil. But fear not, hope has also arrived."

Alien Trespass — directed by The X-Files's R. W. Goodwin and starring Eric McCormack (of Will & Grace fame), Jenni Baird, Dan Lauria, and Robert Patrick — is a modern movie done in the tradition of The Blob (1958) and It Came from Outer Space (1953). It's a fun-filled, "creepy" romp into the past that wholly captures the flavour of films from that era.

The San Francisco Chronicle called it, "Retro-escapist fun." Box Office said, "Loads of fun, a highly entertaining retro sci-fi blast from the past." And the New York Post wrote, "Beautifully captures the look of the genre."

As the old cliché goes, "They don't make 'em like they used to."

Acolytes

Tuesday, December 01, 2009
Acolytes is an Aussie film. It won Best Horror Film at the Austin FantasticFest in 2008 and it won the Midnight Madness award at the Toronto International Film Festival in the same year. The blurb on the DVD case reads (no spoilers in the blurb, by the way):

AcolytesFollowing the disappearance of a young female classmate, shy high-schooler Mark stumbles upon a fresh grave in the woods of his peaceful suburb, and spies a 4WD driving away from the scene.

With the help of two friends — James and his girlfriend Chasely — Mark decides to return to the scene to dig up what they imagine is simply someone's dead pet. Their bit of fun turns perilous, however, when they unearth the body of a Canadian backpacker. They embark upon a hunt for the identity of eht killer (played with frightening realism by Joel Edgerton), and James soon realizes that their grim discovery could help them exact revenge upon Gary Parker (Michael Dorman), a brutal bully who robbed them of their innocence years before and who was recently released from prison.

ACOLYTES quickly turns into a sinister tale of deception and betrayal as the three teens find themselves in over their heads, trying to outwit a serial killer as he turns the tables on them and lures them into his violent world.

Not a bad film. Not a great film, either, I'm afraid. Like many British films, this Aussie movie lacks the often over-done polish that is the trademark of Hollywood, and that's a good thing, I think. It lends more realism to the movie, in my opinion.

Garrulus' Travels

Canada ::: England ::: France ::: Germany ::: Greece ::: Guam* ::: Ireland ::: Italy ::: Japan ::: Philippines* ::: Portugal ::: Scotland ::: South Vietnam* ::: Spain ::: Thailand ::: Turkey* ::: Wake Island* ::: Wales :::

LEGEND
Greece — countries where I've lived
Portugal — countries I've visited
* — airport layovers

Goals 2010

  • Find a Job
    date hired: —

  • Lose Weight
    GOAL: 150-159 lbs (68,0 – 72,1 kgs)
    current weight: 192 lbs (87,0 kgs)

  • Write 250,000 words
    53,177 | 21.27% compl.

  • Mythology Course
    date started: Mar 31
    date completed: —

  • Read 30-40 books
    — 20-27 must be fiction —
    11 — fiction
    7 — non-fiction
    18 — TOTAL READ

  • Learn Portuguese
    Complete Hugo Portuguese course
    date started: —
    date completed: —
    vocabulary words: —
    verbs: —

  • Life Goals
    goal achieved: —

  • Folding Bicycle
    Dahon JetStream P8
    date purchased: —

  • MacBook Pro
    13" 2.26GHz MacBook Pro
    date purchased: —

  • Manual Typewriter
    Corona Sterling/Silent of 1940s
    date purchased: —

  • 4 x 6 Index Card Cabinet
    date purchased: —

  • Metal Bulletin Board
    8 Umbra 12" x 12" Tiles
    date purchased: —

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