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« #990 : November 19, 2013, 11:56:25 PM »



Concurring with the release of the movie I finally decided to give it a try. I had heard people who were reading it describing it as the vicissitudes of the "scapegoat" and not, as they should have, as a serial killer (or about that) thriller. That, I think, is the core of the novel although Pennac fattens the story with the too annoying vicissitudes of the protagonist family. I won't read the other adventures of the "scapegoat" but I give this a 8\10.


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« #991 : November 20, 2013, 03:01:58 AM »

The Western Films of John Ford, by J.A. Place

Yankee Stadium: The Official Retrospective, by Mark Vancil and Alfred Santasiere III


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« #992 : November 25, 2013, 08:15:17 AM »



The famous novelist and screenplayer is one of the most important experts on boxing. This is a collection of recent writings commenting on quite recent fights. The best article though is the hefty one about Mike Jacobs written in 1950. 9\10


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« #993 : November 25, 2013, 08:22:47 AM »

great so far 3/4 the way through.


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« #994 : November 28, 2013, 08:25:15 AM »

Lots of political books in recent weeks.

A Generation Awakes: Young Americans for Freedom and the Creation of the Conservative Movement - Wayne Thorburn - Everyone's favorite right-wing extremist conservative student group gets an exhaustive chronicling by one of its former national chairmen. Thorburn does excellent work chronicling YAF's early years, a story told by Rick Perlstein among others but never as well. Thorburn shows YAF's substantive impact on national politics, the high-profile careers of many members, its fissions and splits during the Vietnam era and gradual decline. The book loses interest as it drags along; once it reaches the Reagan era it becomes a recitation of names and dates, chronicling seemingly every single alumnus. I only wish this book had been available for my college seminar paper.

Republicans and Race: The GOP's Frayed Relationship With African-Americans, 1945-1974 - Timothy N. Thurber - Thurber examines how the Republican Party, between the end of World War II and Watergate, transformed from the "Party of Lincoln" to its modern incarnation as a predominantly white, conservative party.  hurber overturns a lot of conventional wisdom on the topic. The racial realignment originated from FDR's New Deal policies and Republican opposition, long before the Civil Rights Act. Black leaders' frustration with Eisenhower's incremental approach to civil rights played a part, as did Kennedy's rhetoric (if not actions). And while acknowledging the realignment following Johnson's achievements and Barry Goldwater's candidacy, he downplays the "Southern Strategy" meme, arguing that moderates controlled the GOP until Ronald Reagan's election. He's also extremely, if not always convincingly, sympathetic to Nixon, who built heavily on Kennedy and Johnson's achievements (but more out of pragmatism rather than ideological solidarity). On the whole he sides with the "benign neglect" assessment over simple accusations of racism.

And several books on the '64 presidential election, including:

The Making of the President 1964 - Theodore White

The Road to the White House: The Story of the 1964 Election - Harold Faber

and

All the Way With LBJ: The 1964 Presidential Election - Robert David Johnson

The first two books are contemporary accounts; indeed, Road is a largely a compilation of New York Times articles. White's book is more interesting as it chronicles the bitter infighting during the Republican primaries, all the way through the convention (though Robert Novak's Agony of the GOP is even better), along with Johnson's struggles to adjust to the presidency and frame a campaign message. He especially does a great job at describing the national mood after JFK's assassination, the fear of racial violence and nuclear war that enabled Johnsons' reelection. The Times account is valuable for its detailed on-the-ground accounts of key events in the campaign, and paints detailed portraits of Johnson and Goldwater. But its immediacy is also a flaw as it prevents detached analysis. Hindsight is 20-20, but the opening chapter is laughably shortsighted, with Faber proclaiming the Republican Party and conservatism irrevocably discredited by Goldwater's defeat.

Johnson's book is a much more recent volume. He leans towards the academic and analytical, rather dry in style and focusing more on broad societal trends than individuals. His most contentious argument is that Henry Cabot Lodge stood the best chance of beating Johnson in the general election. An odd thesis, and since Lodge never took his campaign (run by stateside amateurs while serving as Ambassador to South Vietnam) all that seriously speculation at best. Johnson has the benefit of 40-plus years that White and Faber lacked, allowing him to place Goldwater's campaign within the rise of conservatism, while showing Johnson as the last gasp of New Deal liberalism. Neither's an especially new argument.

Also a biography of William Scranton that I'm picking at when I'm able to sneak off to the library.

« : November 28, 2013, 12:19:59 PM Groggy »


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« #995 : November 30, 2013, 09:14:31 PM »

Scorsese by Ebert

http://www.amazon.com/Scorsese-Ebert-Roger/dp/0226182037/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1385871260&sr=1-1-catcorr&keywords=scorses+by+ebert


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« #996 : December 05, 2013, 03:48:38 PM »




This omnibus volume includes the five sf novels written by this author.

What Mad Universe is probably the best one of the lot, though the finale is quite disappointing. But the dystopy part is brilliant and full of inventiveness, with a touch of humor. 8\10

The humor should have been the prevailing note of Martians Go Home but that works only at the beginning, Brown not being able to sustain the comic note beyond the first 20-30 pages. 6\10

The Lights in the Sky Are Stars
. This could have been maybe a masterpiece as a short story in the hands of a Bradbury. Unfortunately  Brown made it a full novel and of the 100 pages the 80 in between are just fattening up of the beginning and the finale. 5\10

Rogue  in Space. Included in the volume are  the two short stories on which this novel was based. I think the shorter form suits better the material. of the adventurous kind: actually the first story would be enough, the second being quite contrived as to inventiveness. 6\10

The Mind Thing. A very good horror-sf of the alien invader kind. On a par with Invasion of the Body Snatchers or The Puppet Masters. 8\10


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« #997 : December 06, 2013, 05:41:12 PM »

Almost President: The Men Who Lost the Race But Changed the Nation - Scott Farris - Decent book chronicling some of the more notable presidential also-rans. Lightweight but contains interesting sketches of Henry Clay, Stephen Douglas and Barry Goldwater, among others. I'd more firmly rate Irving Stone's old book They Also Ran if you can find a copy.



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« #998 : December 07, 2013, 07:07:22 AM »

White Knight: The Rise of Spiro Agnew - Jules Witcover - A detailed, largely critical account of Agnew's rise from obscure Maryland Governor to Vice President. Noting Agnew's liberal attitudes as Baltimore County Executive and later Governor, Witcover suggests a personal motive for his conversion to conservatism: when Nelson Rockefeller announced he wasn't running for President in '68 (later backtracking, of course) Agnew lashed onto conservatism instead. All of Agnew's incendiary speeches, alliterative tirades and boneheaded gaffes are reproduced in full, some analyzed in needlessly exhaustive detail (do we need 20 pages on the "fat Jap" comment?). Modern readers may get the impression that a talk radio host somehow wound up as Vice President. Witcover wrote a later volume, A Heartbeat Away, chronicling Agnew's downfall which I haven't read. I have, however, read this...

Go Quietly... or Else - Spiro Agnew - I typically avoid political memoirs since they tend to be indifferently (ghost-)written exercises in self-justification. But this was too much to pass up. Agnew claims that the charges of bribery and income tax evasion that drove him out of office were a conspiracy by old political enemies in Baltimore; that the investigation was rigged; that the media eagerly pounced on his misfortune (an impression he undercuts by citing sympathetic newspaper editorials); that Elliot Richardson was an ambitious, possibly Zionist schnook; that Nixon desired his ouster to distract from Watergate. And, most controversially, that Alexander Haig threatened to murder Agnew if he didn't resign. The utter lack of self-reflection or accepting responsibility is amazing, even so far as Nixon Administration memoirs go.

« : December 07, 2013, 07:26:14 AM Groggy »


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« #999 : December 10, 2013, 03:27:34 PM »



A very good bathroom reading. I read this series of anectodes told in a very sentimental, sometime mawkish way during a long series of debates with myself. 6\10


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« #1000 : December 11, 2013, 08:15:36 PM »

Nixon's Vietnam War - Jeffrey Kimball - Basically tries to deconstruct the idea that Nixon achieved "peace with honor." Tricky Dick vacillates between a desire to execute his "madman theory" and bomb Vietnam to the stone age, or else withdraw and appease popular sentiment. The conclusions aren't especially novel but the detailed accounts of operational planning make for interesting reading.



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« #1001 : December 11, 2013, 09:24:32 PM »

I) Conversations with Wilder, by Cameron Crowe

II) Some Like it Wilder, by Gene D. Philips


(I've only seen six of Billy Wilder's movies - Sunset Blvd., Ace in the Hole, The Lost Weekend, Witness for the Prosecution, Stalag 17, and Double Indemnity). I read the parts that deal with those movies, and the parts that deal with cinema in general and his biography; I skipped the parts about his movies that I haven't seen).

There are some discrepancies between the books; where a discrepancy exists, I'll believe the words of Billy Wilder himself as opposed to the words of a biographer who conducted one interview with Wilder and otherwise bases much of his book on a combination of previous Wilder books.

Foe those who are interested, I'll share a few statements and quotes by Wilder; item #4 is from the second book; all others are from the first:  (everything in yellow is a direct quote from a book)


1) Wilder says that anytime someone asks him what the greatest movie ever is, his answer is Battleship Potemkin.

2) Wilder's says the best-directed movie of all-time is The Best Years of Our Lives, directed by his friend William Wyler.

3) p. 30 - Wilder says Charles Laughton was "the greatest actor that ever lived." And he says Edward G. Robinson was "a wonderful actor."

4) p. 152 of the second book says that Stalag 17 was banned in Germany upon release.
Quoting from the book: In 1956, Wilder received  a letter from George Weltner, the Paramount executive in charge of worldwide, indicating that the film could be released in Germany – provided that, when the dialogue was dubbed into German, the spy hiding among the prisoners "is not a Nazi, but a Polish prisoner of war" who has  sold out to the Nazis. Wilder replied to the Paramount high command, "Fuck you, gentlemen! You ask me, who lost my family in Auschwitz, to permit a change like this?"
Wilder threatened to never work for Paramount again unless he received an apology. He never heard from anyone at Paramount "no apology, no nothing," but in 1960 the movie was released, unaltered, in Germany.


5) (p. 24 of first book) , discussing Stanley Kubrick: Wilder says the only Kubrick film he didn't like was Barry Lyndon. (The book was made before Eyes Wide Shut.) But in Full Metal Jacket, he loved the first half but not the second half:

The first half of Full Metal Jacket was the best picture I ever saw. When the guy sits on the toilet and blows his head off? Terrific. Then he lost himself with the girl guerrilla. The second half, down a little. It's still a wonderful picture. You know, if (Kubrick) does a thing, he really does it. But this is.... this is a career to discuss. Every picture, he trumps the trump. These are all pictures any director would be proud to be associated with, much less make. At a picture like The Bicycle Thief [1947], you forget that this is your profession. You just get lost in the picture.

6) RE: Humphrey Bogart:  On the set of Sabrina, Humphrey Bogart clashed with Wilder, William Holden, Audrey Hepburn, and just about everyone else. However, a few years later, when Bogie was on his deathbed, he called Wilder to his home and apologized for his behavior on Sabrina. Wilder therefore says (p. 10), the last memory of Bogart I have is, he was a terrific guy, because that's the way I saw him last. He was very good, better than he thought he was. he liked to play the hero, and in the end, he was.

on p. 173 of the first book, Crowe mentions how Stephen Bogart (Humphrey's son) writes in his book that Humphrey thought that the fact Holden and Hepburn were having an affair was weighing the chemistry of the movie against Bogart.

Wilder's response:

Absolutely crazy. He was crazy, Bogart was. He thought that the picture stunk. But peculiarly enough, when I knew that I was on his list of shitheels... when his illness was cancer, and he was lying there, he became very docile, he became very nice. And I felt for him, for the first time, because he was, after all, an anti-Semite who married a Jewess. How can I do better?

on p. 174, Crowe asks, "Were you capable of being a bastard to an actor, or a crew member?"

Billy replies:

A bastard to an actor? Yeah, sometimes you have to be a bastard to an actor, because the person likes to be treated like a bastard. You learn that very quickly. So you have to have a different pattern of behavior, from one actor to another actor, to an actress in the same piece. Because once the picture's over, it's over. You're not married to them, as I've said before. Sometimes there is a son of a bitch that I took for a picture because they're a son of a bitch. Because I want him to be a son of a bitch.
 And look, it should be worth everything in this world to have an actor or actress or a cameraman or anybody who helps you with your picture. It's gonna be over one day. But while you are working with them, you take abuse, or you take some niceties which you know are not sincere – you take it to go on. Come the next day, you're gonna be on that stage again, you're gonna continue this scene, or start a new one. You have to massage their ego, or you... If I knew that Mr. Bogart was an anti-Semite – and I knew it – I still took him, because I needed him for the picture. The picture means a great deal, a great deal, to me at least. And it's very difficult, but to take somebody who is unpleasant, and who has got no talent, that's a tragedy.


I had a heard time hearing Wilder say Bogie was an anti-Semite (Forget the fact that (as Wilder noted), Lauren Bacall, the love of Bogie's life, was Jewish; and besides for the fact that Bogie named his daughter after Leslie Howard, cuz he was eternally grateful for Howard insisting he get his career-making part in the Petrified Forest - Howard's father was Jewish, his maternal grandparents were Jewish; his mother's mother was probably not Jewish and therefore Howard was not actually Jewish according to Jewish law, but Bogie did name his child after a guy with that much Jewish blood, so to speak. But forget all that.)
I'd never heard anything about Bogie being an anti-Semite.
Bogie's mother Maud was a virulent anti-Semite, but I never heard that about Bogie. In fact, Darwin Porter, author The Secret Life of Humphrey Bogart (I have no idea how reliable this book is), wrote the following, on bottom of this page http://www.adherents.com/people/pb/Humphrey_Bogart.html

It wasn't until an hour later, after Lee had gone, that Maud stormed into his bedroom. "Don't you ever invite that stinking little tramp into my house again," she yelled at her son.

..."She's a slimy Jew," Maud charged. "I don't want a son of mine going out with a Jewess. These money-changers are the anti-Christ. They have no appreciation of the finer things of life. They're all about greed and chicanery. They are the bottom-feeders of life."

"Jews are just as good as anybody else," Hump [Humphrey] said. "No better, no worse."


I did some searching online, and it seems that Wilder is the only source for Bogie being an anti-Semite. It all gets back to these couple of quotes by Wilder; I even saw someone pose this question in a Google group and the responses were all that the only source for this was Wilder https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/alt.gossip.celebrities/vE3eHhGtdow

Obviously, Wilder knew Bogie and I didn't, but considering that quote Porter attributed to Bogie mentioned above (Jews are just as good as anybody else. No better, no worse," and considering that I'd never heard a single person other than Wilder ever say Bogie was an anti-Semite, I have to say that I am not convinced either way.
Guess we'll never know (just like with most people - you never know what feelings/prejudices are ever in anyone's heart)


---------------------------------------------

For anyone who is a Billy Wilder fan – and if you are a fan of classic movies, how can you not be a fan of Wilder? – you'll enjoy Conversations with Wilder.
It's annoying how much Crowe writes about the meetings themselves, in italics. Like before each conversation begins, you'll have these italicized paragraphs, like 'Today we meet in Wilder's apartment. I am five minutes late, and he answers the door in a green sweater and blue shirt...." And then Crowe will intercut a Wilder quote with, eg. 'The phone rings, and Billy answers it...' I guess Crowe wanted to give you the feel of actually being there with Wilder, and you definitely do get that feel, but, while the occasional sentence in the beginning is fun, by the end it's endless paragraphs and it gets annoying... Anyway, you can skip the italicized paragraphs if you want, just read the conversations, they are awesome.

« : December 12, 2013, 02:33:17 AM drinkanddestroy »

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« #1002 : December 12, 2013, 02:28:13 AM »

a few more tidbits from Conversations with Wilder: (everything in yellow is a direct quote from the book)

7) Marilyn Monroe was terribly difficult to work with, like she would repeatedly show up late.
p. 36:

She was, believe it or not, a terrific dialogue actress. She knew where the laugh was. She knew. But then again, we would ahve three hundred extras, Miss Monroe is called for nine o'clock, and she would appear at five in the afternoon. And she would stand there and say, "I'm sorry, but I lost my way to the studio. She had been under contract there for seven years!.... After The Seven year Itch, I said, "I'll never work with her again." But then I was delighted when I heard that she had read the script and she would like to do Some Like It Hot. It's wonderful that Monroe wanted to do the part..."

And Wilder also said, "Whenever I saw her, I always forgave her."

8 )  pp. 88-89: RE: The Spirit of St Louis, Wilder bemoans the fact that,
"I could not get in a little deeper, into Lindbergh's character. There was a wall there. We were friends, but there were many things I could not talk to him about. It was understood – the picture had to follow the book. The book was immaculate. It had to be about the flight only. Not about his family, about the daughter, the Hauptmann thing, what happened after the flight... just the flight itself." I'm surprised Wilder, a Jew who lost 3/4 of his family in Auschwitz, was friends with the Nazi-loving Lindbergh.
As one example of a story Wilder could not put into the movie, Wilder confided that he heard a story from newspapermen who were in Long Island with Lindbergh the night before he was to take off on his famous flight. The newspapermen "told me a little episode that happened there, and that would have been enough to make this a real picture.
The episode was that Lindbergh was waiting for the clouds to disappear - the rain and the weather had to be perfect before he took off. There was a waitress in a little restaurant there. She was young, and she was very pretty. And they come to her and said, "Look, this young guy there, Lindbergh, sweet, you know, handsome.... (His plane is) going to be a flying coffin, full of gas, and he's not going to make it. But we come to you for the following reason. The guy has never been laid. Would you do us a favor, please. Just knock on the door, because the guy cannot sleep...."
So she does it. And then, at the very end of the picture, when there's the parade down Fifth Avenue, millions of people, and there is the girl standing there in the crowd. She's waving at him. And he doesn't see her. She waves her hand at him, during the ticker-tape parade, the confetti raining down. He never sees her. He's God now. This would be, this alone would be, enough to make the picture. Would have been a good scene. That's right – would have been a good scene. But I could not even suggest it to him.


[Wilder mentioned several times throughout the book how he would have loved to put that episode in the movie, eg. p. 90: ... And just that girl, who we'd see again at the very end. And you fade out on that [Wistfully:] That would have made the whole picture.

After Wilder said there's no way he could have even mentioned asked Lindbergh about filming this episode, Crowe asks, "Couldn't you have had your producer bring it up?"

 Wilder responds:

No. Absolutely not. They would have withdrawn the book or something. "There you go, Hollywood, out of here!" I don't know - very tough guy, very tough guy. I know, because I pulled jokes on him. One day when we were flying to Washington, Charles Lindbergh and I, we were going to the Smithsonian Institution to see the real Spirit of St. Louis, which we had duplicated. Hanging off the ceiling, it's there. And we were in a plane flying to Washington, and it's very very rough, so I turned to him and I said, "Charles, wouldn't it be fun if this plane now crashed, can you see the headlines? – LUCKY LINDY IN CRASH WITH JEWISH FRIEND!" And he said, Oh, no no no, don't talk like this!"

« : April 18, 2016, 01:32:03 PM drinkanddestroy »

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« #1003 : December 12, 2013, 02:50:58 AM »

So you wouldn't watch other Wilder movies because these are mostly comedies?


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« #1004 : December 12, 2013, 03:41:38 AM »

Final post on  Conversations with Wilder by Cameron Crowe:

9) RE: the French New Wave (pp. 186-187)

I was very friendly with Louis Malle, and I knew Truffaut. The whole bunch of them, I knew them. That was a thing, they thougt they had found something new. It was not all that new, but it was very good. For instance. Mr. Truffaut's picture Day for Night [1973]. That's a real masterpiece, I think. Really funny, and really good. I told him so. Just before he died, fortunately. I don't know, it was just a new way of making pictures, but it was not quite a new way, because certain pictures were already nouvelle vague before them. I don't like Godard. I think there behind the mask of the sophisticated man, there hides nothing but a dilettante. Wilder goes on to say, "Breathless, that was the only good one."

10) As a young reporter in Germany, Wilder walked into Frued's house and tried to interview him. Freud, who hated reporters, took a look at Wilder's press credentials and said, "There is the door!"

11) Crowe asks about Mike Nichols and Carnal Knowledge.
Billy says:
Mike Nichols is a very fine director. I like him very much. I miss the days when there were more directors of import like Nichols. You looked forward to their work. Carnal Knowledge was a good picture..."

12) Crowe asks Wilder about his famous statement at an AFI interview, "I don't do cinema, I make movies."

Yeah, that's right. I make movies, for amusement. That's the difference between a bound book and a thing to be continued every week in the Saturday Evening Post. In other words, you just do it for the moment. It is not to be bound. There are only a few pictures [worthy of that], here and there, from other people – Eisenstein, or Mr. Lean, David Lean. I just do not like to think in kind if inspired language that we're not making pictures, we are making [with grand accent] CINEMA!

13) (p. 223) I liked Jaws very much... The Godfather was a first-class picture, one of the best pictures ever made.

14) And finally, Crowe says that for many years "there was lots of popular culture in Wilder's films," he was "very connected to popular culture.. there's jazz, there's 'hip' dialogue, all very current, and he asks, "I wonder when you staretd to feel that popular culture was parting company with you.

Billy responds:

It was the end of jazz. It was always that I was a guy who was trying to speak to as many people as I possiblyn could. I was not a guy who was writing deep-dish revelations, or writing a play like Waiting for Gadot. That did not interest me. It interested me to life the taste of the average person, just lift it a little bit. With some pictures, people leave the theater and it's forgotten. If people see a picture of mine, and then sit down in a drugstore in a neighborhood or have coffee and talk about it for fifteen minutes, that is a very fine reward, I think. That's good enough for me."

« : December 26, 2013, 02:47:07 AM drinkanddestroy »

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