faithful recreation of the sets used to shoot the original Star Trek series. Now that I know this is a real thing in the world, I must of course experience it. Now I just need to decide if I should go by land (an 80-hour round trip), or just fly to Montreal and rent a car for the short drive to Ticonderoga . . .
Sunday, January 31, 2021
Saturday, January 30, 2021
This photo was originally shot in black and white. Colour was added by an algorithm.
Miss you, Dad. Take care.
Friday, January 29, 2021
Thursday, January 28, 2021
Wednesday, January 27, 2021
Tuesday, January 26, 2021
Here's another surprise I found while decluttering my library. It's a collection of temporary tattoos meant to promote Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, a new (as of the early 1990s) television spin on the Superman mythos. I believe they must have come packaged with Lois & Clark trading cards, which I have not recycled, as is the fate of these tattoos. Fans certainly had a decent range of colour schemes to choose from.
Monday, January 25, 2021
Sunday, January 24, 2021
Rao knows I love Richard Donner's Superman (1978), the film that cemented my love for the characters and stories that made up the world of Clark Kent and his heroic alter ego. Donner's adaptation captured almost the full gestalt of what makes the character great: his goodness, his vulnerability, the tragedy of his birth, the irony of being two-thirds of an impossible to reconcile love triangle, the weight of his self-imposed responsibilities. And Donner captured these elements in a film that avoided campiness (save perhaps when it comes to the villains) and treated the mythos with respect.
But another great Superman story emerged in 1978: Superman vs. Muhammad Ali, a gorgeous oversized tabloid comic book crafted by two legendary figures in comics: writer Denny O'Neil and artist Neal Adams. While the concept sounds like a gimmick of questionable taste, O'Neil and Adams put the two icons, one real, one imagined, on equal footing through good storytelling and clever use of the mythologies of both men.
The plot is really quite simple: an alien armada arrives in Earth orbit. It's the Scrubb, a renowned warrior species who've heard that Earth, too, is a planet renowned for its martial prowess. An emissary of the Scrubb demands that Muhammad Ali, who they dub Earth's greatest warrior, must fight the Scrubb champion in gladiatorial combat. Refuse, and Earth dies under a hail of nuclear missiles.
Of course, the alien emissary finds Ali just as he's being interviewed by Clark Kent, Lois Lane, and Jimmy Olsen, Clark slips away to change into Superman and argues he should be the one to fight the Scrubb champion, acknowledging that while Ali is the world's greatest human fighter, he, Superman, is superhuman...to which Ali responds if anyone's going to fight for Earth, it should be someone born on Earth.
The alien emissary doesn't care who fights as long as someone does, so he sets up a primary bout that will take place in an arena that nullifies Superman's powers, guaranteeing a fair fight. Well, "fair" in the sense that now you have a guy that's still pretty strong but who's never needed any training to win fights going up against, well, Muhammad Ali.
While this setup sounds like silly kid stuff, the storytelling abilities on hand really sell the idea, and the narrative gives both Ali and Superman plenty of moments to shine, with three great boxing sequences, some Mission:Impossible style covert ops, and a spectacular space battle. In the end it turns into a legitimately exciting space opera that, if filmed with care and an admittedly huge budget to capture Neal Adams' incredible visuals, could have rivalled the Star Wars films for escapist entertainment back in the day.
Naturally you'd use the cast from Donner's Superman, and Ali would, of course, play himself. Somewhere out there in the multiverse, you can see this movie...
Saturday, January 23, 2021
Today's experiment in "If intellectual property wasn't a thing:"
I present The Legends of Yesterday, a secret cabal of extraordinary individuals long thought lost, retired, or dead. No one but their mysterious, never-seen leader (voiced by Bruce Campbell) knows that these reluctant heroes are not only alive and restored to their primes, but gifted with immunity to aging and disease. How will the 21st century react to these relics of yesteryear? What is the hidden agenda of their secretive leader? And what about M.A.L.I.C.E., the Malevolent Alliance of Lawless Individuals for Crime and Extortion? Can they be stopped, even by the Legends of Yesterday?
The Six Million Dollar Man (television) - pilot, astronaut, espionage and brute force
The Bionic Woman (television) - teacher, tennis, espionage and brute force
Michael Knight and KITT (television) - crimebusting, infiltration, policing
Rollin Hand (television) - espionage, disguise
Barney Collier (television) - engineering, invention, mechanics
Colt Seavers (television) - stunts, brawling
Robby the Robot (film) - food and drink synthesis, driving, butlering, comic relief
Foxy Brown (film) - revenge, infiltration, knife fighting
Kelly Garrett (television) - infiltration, seduction, karate, pistols
John Clayton, Lord Greystoke (novels) - brawling, jungle survival, exploration, animal handling, hunting
John Shaft (novels, film) - investigation, pistol, brawling
Big Jim (toys) - kung fu, camping, driving, SCUBA
Alan Carter (television) - astronaut, pilot, wisecracks
Stretch Armstrong (toys) - stretching, brooding
Isis (television) - animal friendship, elemental control
April Dancer (television) - espionage, glam
Roy Hinkley (television) - science
Mary Ann Summers (television) - morale, logistics
John Drake (television) - espionage, rage
Belt Jones (film) - brawling, martial arts
Friday, January 22, 2021
Thursday, January 21, 2021
I will admit I prefer the classic Superman trope--that is, the Clark/Lois/Superman love triangle, with all its painful angst--but judging by the trailer, this looks like it might be a half-decent take on a Superman and Lois who've taken the plunge, gotten married, and raised a family.
Wednesday, January 20, 2021
Audiences are used to seeing character arcs, and we get a lovely one in Joe versus the Volcano (John Patrick Shanley, 1990). But the writer/director also treats us to a fascinating arc in tone, as Joe's story begins in an absurdist dystopian factory with the worst working conditions since Fritz Lang's Metropolis, eases into a more mundane middle-class idyll, then glides to a paradisiacal tropical finish. It's the journey Joe needs to take in order to recapture his love of life, a journey made possible by a gift from on high, a not-quite-random act of kindness rewarding Joe's courage and perseverance.
What a strange, beautiful film.
Tuesday, January 19, 2021
Monday, January 18, 2021
Sunday, January 17, 2021
Saturday, January 16, 2021
Friday, January 15, 2021
Skills on Gilligan's Island
Like all humans, Castaways possess a wide range of skills thanks to natural aptitude, many hours of practise, or both. During the game, characters will find their skills tested by many challenges, suffering penalties to their chance of success if they do not possess the particular skill needed in the given moment.
The following skills are most relevant to life on the island:
The ability to bob, dodge, weave, balance, and perform other feats of dexterity.
The ability to play a role convincingly on stage or film or even during one’s personal life.
The ability to make friends with animals, or at least to convince them you’re not a threat or prey.
The ability to breed livestock.
The ability to shoot a bow and arrow.
The ability to create buildings and vehicles out of bamboo.
The ability to play the banjo.
The ability to play brass instruments, such as the tuba, sousaphone, trumpet, etc.
The ability to threaten and coerce others into doing your will.
The ability to identify, collect, and display butterflies.
The ability to create a campsite and live comfortably outdoors for days or weeks at a time.
The ability to use tools and raw materials to assemble structures.
The ability to competently shoot motion pictures with a motion picture camera.
The ability to scale cliffs, with or without equipment.
The ability to scale mountains, with or without equipment.
The ability to climb trees.
The ability to wash clothing.
The ability to create useful tools out of coconut shells, oil, meat, and leaves.
The ability to cook with primitive equipment.
The ability to ride a bicycle.
The ability to ballroom dance.
The ability to tap dance.
The ability to fool someone into believing something that is not true.
The ability to change your appearance with clothing, makeup, and appliances.
The ability to drive an automobile.
The ability to handle dynamite without blowing yourself up.
The ability to understand and repair electronic devices and understand the principles behind their function.
The ability to plant, raise, and harvest crops.
The ability to invest wisely in capital markets.
The ability to provide basic first aid to an injured person.
The ability to catch fish.
The ability to engage in fisticuffs.
The ability to arouse someone’s interest in you as a sexual being.
The ability to grow small-scale plots or planters of flowers, herbs, vegetables, small fruits and berries, and trees and shrubs.
The ability to gather fruits, nuts, and other naturally-occurring foodstuffs.
The ability to maintain one’s own personal hygiene and personal appearance.
The ability to play rhythm guitar.
The ability to play bass guitar.
The ability to cut and style hair.
The ability to play the harmonica.
The ability to play the harpsichord.
The ability to walk long distances through challenging terrain.
Understanding the study of history, focused on the past of the human species.
Hot Air Ballooning
The ability to operate a hot air balloon.
The ability to track down game.
The ability to perform feats of illusion through slight-of-hand or other trickery.
The ability to conceptualize and assemble a device for some utilitarian or artistic purpose.
The ability to juggle two or more small items such as balls, boomerangs, jars, pineapples, coconuts, pies, torches, batons, etc.
Language, American Sign Language
The ability to speak American Sign Language.
The ability to speak the language of the cannibals on nearby islands.
The ability to speak Cantonese.
The ability to speak English.
The ability to speak French.
The ability to speak German.
The ability to speak Japanese.
The ability to speak Mandarin.
The ability to speak Spanish.
The ability to speak Swedish.
The ability to speak Tagalog.
The ability to speak Transylvanian.
The ability to read lips and discover what a person is saying even if you can’t hear them.
The ability to pick small locks.
The ability to apply makeup to oneself or others.
The ability to use your body as a weapon.
The ability to repair aircraft.
The ability to repair spacecraft.
The ability to repair automobiles.
The ability to repair bicycles, tricycles, unicycles, penny-farthings, etc.
The ability to repair motorcycles.
The ability to repair seagoing ships.
The ability to repair submarines.
The ability to diagnose and treat a variety of ailments.
The ability to use weapons such as clubs, brass knuckles, swords, hammers, screwdrivers, bottles, knives, daggers, and other non-ranged implements of menace in combat.
The ability to mime.
The ability to locate and safely deactivate mines.
The ability to lower someone’s morale by insulting, degrading, or humiliating them.
The ability to use appearance and performance to showcase consumer products.
The ability to play the mouth harp.
The ability to know where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re going in a boat, raft, submarine, or other watercraft.
The ability to make deals that benefit both parties.
The ability to play an electronic organ.
The ability to play a pipe organ.
The ability to pack goods into the most efficient space.
The ability to paint works of art on canvas.
The ability to paint a house, fence or other large pieces of infrastructure.
The ability to play drums.
The ability to shoot photographs with a camera.
The ability to play the piano.
The ability to safely operate a fixed-wing aircraft.
The ability to safely operate a helicopter.
The ability to safely operate a ship.
Pilot, Space Capsule
The ability to safely operate a space capsule.
The ability to maintain and shoot a pistol or flare gun.
The ability to mix ingredients and calculate the correct dosage to kill or incapacitate a human or animal with poison.
The ability to shape clay into pots and other ceramic items, and to use a kiln and paint and glazes to finish said items.
The ability to comically stumble or crash in a way that may be painful and embarrassing, but avoids significant injury.
The ability to craft puns in order to trigger a desired emotional response from an audience.
The ability to pilot a raft.
The ability to repair appliances, given the right tools.
The ability to repair electronic devices, given the right tools.
The ability to discover new information by referring to books, journals, photographs, interviews, and other data collection.
The ability to maintain and shoot a rifle or machine gun.
The ability to break into a safe or other sealed container.
The ability to sail a sailboat.
The ability to find useful resources or trinkets.
Understanding the science of celestial phenomena and their motion in space.
Understanding the science of ascertaining the nature of astronomical objects.
Understanding the science of life and living organisms, including their physical structure, chemistry, physiology, development, and evolution.
Understanding the composition of elements and compounds and how they react with other substances.
Understanding algorithmic processes and computing machines.
Understanding the classification, structure, and habits of insects.
Understanding how the solid earth changes over time and how that informs the structure of the Earth and its natural history.
Understanding the habits, structure, and classification of fish.
The ability to apply several different scientific disciplines to achieve unconventional--some might say impossible--results, often with evil intent.
Understanding the study of quantity, structure, space, and change through numbers and formulae.
Understanding the physical and chemical behaviour of metals and alloys.
Understanding matter, energy, spacetime, and the other foundations of the universe.
Understanding systems of governance and political thought and activities.
Understanding how to use medical imaging to diagnose and treat diseases.
The ability to design, build, and maintain rockets, satellites, probes, and other Space Age infrastructure.
Understanding the classification, evolution, habits, and distribution of animals and how they interact with their ecosystems.
The ability to use SCUBA equipment to explore underwater.
The ability to create sculptures from clay, ivory, stone, wood, or other raw materials.
The ability to use charisma and sex appeal to change the behaviour of others in a way favourable to you.
The ability to create and repair garments with a needle and thread or sewing machine.
The ability to sing melodiously.
The ability to draw.
The ability to skydive with a parachute.
The ability to fashion a sling or slingshot, to gather stones of the proper size and shape to serve as ammunition, and to use the sling or slingshot to incapacitate targets.
The ability to use a snorkel to look below the surface of the water while swimming.
The ability to maneuver in space with a spacesuit and tether or jet propulsion.
The ability to fashion a spear out of native materials and use it to incapacitate targets.
The ability to bowl.
The ability to box.
Sport, Field Hockey
The ability to play field hockey.
Sport, Ice Hockey
The ability to play ice hockey.
The ability to throw darts.
The ability to golf.
Sport, Roller Skating
The ability to roller skate.
The ability to play tennis.
The ability to wrestle.
The ability to play stringed instruments such as the violin, viola, double bass, fiddle, etc.
The ability to operate on a person to fix an ailment.
The ability to swim.
The ability to set traps for small game such as bunnies, wild turkeys, snakes, and so on.
The ability to ride a unicycle.
The ability to use natural landmarks and tools like compasses to avoid getting lost on land.
The ability to weave blankets, mats, and other items out of cotton and other natural materials.
The ability to play instruments from the woodwind family, such as saxophones, flutes, etc.
The ability to create useful implements or works out art out of wood.
The ability to write non-fiction works that present a compelling argument.
The ability to write a compelling short story or novel.
The ability to write an interesting personal diary of life events.
The ability to write poetry evocative enough for publication.
Writing, Scientific Papers
The ability to write scientific papers suitable for publication in peer-reviewed journals.
The ability to craft a screenplay suitable for the demands of motion picture production.
The ability to write compelling travelogues.
The ability to yell powerfully enough to startle a person or beast and perhaps cause them to flee or respond to a challenge.
The ability to yodel compellingly. Can be used as a signal of distress, success, or call to attack.
Have I missed any skills that someone might need to survive on Gilligan's Island? Post in the comments below!
Thursday, January 14, 2021
Wednesday, January 13, 2021
Tuesday, January 12, 2021
Monday, January 11, 2021
Sunday, January 10, 2021
Saturday, January 09, 2021
The face of a haunted woman bathed in staccato sparks and ropes and flashes of neon light, senses assaulted by a cacophony of electronic noise that beats in time with not only the light and stop-motion movement across the screen, but our heroine's trauma. Five minutes of off-kilter terror. Takashi Ito, 1982
Friday, January 08, 2021
Barabbas (Richard Fleischer, 1961) might be one of the most interesting takes I've seen on the Christ story; this time, we follow the journey of Barabbas, the thief who the mob pardoned at Passover instead of Jesus. Turns out this makes Barabbas immortal, or at least he's lucky enough for his circumstances to make it seem that way. He's a subject of both awe and scorn, a sinner who nonetheless was in the presence of Christ near the end of his life and so, perhaps, divinely touched by that experience. But can the cynical non-believer come to terms with his role in the story of Christ, or is he forever damned to walk the earth?
Anthony Quinn is predictably excellent as Barabbas, capturing the thief's bitterness and anger while projecting just enough doubt and vulnerability for us to believe that he really was touched by his experience, despite his protestations.
The costuming and production design create a believable first-century ambiance, and there's a gladiatorial combat sequence almost as grand as the chariot race seen in Ben-Hur (1959). The many years Barabbas spends mining sulphur are appropriately claustrophobic and desperate.
Still, I can't say that this film will stay with me. Barabbas' eventual redemption seems predictably inevitable, without any truly gripping moments of revelation; it's as if time simply wore him down and he got tired of resisting his conversion. In the end, like Christ, Barabbas is crucified, and this final scene is one of the film's most powerful moments, not simply because of the weight of its allusions, but because of the composition, the lighting, and Quinn's convincing death agonies.
Thursday, January 07, 2021
Wednesday, January 06, 2021
Beautifully bleak, Alfonso Cuarón's Children of Men (2005) presents a societal collapse painted in tones of brown and grey with the occasional spatter of blood red. Set nearly twenty years after the birth of the last surviving baby, civilization is crumbling under the weight of hopelessness and fury. In the United Kingdom, immigrants and refugees suffer the wrath of Fascist Britain. The privileged class may have food and lodging, but even their plight is ultimately hopeless, so the government hands out free euthanasia kits. After all, a world without children is a world without a future, so why go on?
In the midst of this doomed landscape we meet Theo Faron (Clive Owen), a middle-class divorcee who finds himself dragged into the role of guardian to the first pregnant woman, Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey). Faron didn't ask for this job, but he understands its importance, and shepherds Kee and her baby through the hellish landscape that is rubble-strewn Britain. The journey is fraught with violence and betrayal as the decay of civil society seems to accelerate around Faron and Kee, until they are caught up in a vicious urban street battle that seems a precursor to all-out war. The end is nigh.
That end comes at sea, in the frigid waters of the English Channel, in the pale red light of a blinking buoy. There is death, but there is also hope - if there can be hope at all for this ruined world. Can the cry of a newborn save humanity? Perhaps. But perhaps it's just the last gasp of a doomed species.
Tuesday, January 05, 2021
SPOILERS for The Midnight Sky
Handled differently, George Clooney's The Midnight Sky (2020) could have been a tense apocalyptic science fiction thriller. Unfortunately, the screenplay is so riddled with plot holes and misguided story beats that all the drama is drained from the film before the conclusion of the first act.
The music is lovely, the performances are fine, and the production design is magnificent--but what is the point of this story? The only stakes are the lives of the handful of people on the starship returning from Jupiter. The film makes it clear that everyone on Earth is doomed. Saving the astronauts is pointless; even if they make it back to the habitable moon around Jupiter (and don't even get me started on the idea of there being a habitable moon around Jupiter and we just didn't notice it until the mid-21st century), it's not like they can repopulate the species with just a couple of people. At best, they're dooming the astronauts to an extremely lonely and depressing life, raising a child (one astronaut is pregnant) who will eventually be all alone, without parents, without another single member of her species anywhere in existence.
Also, what was the point of the little girl who stays behind in Greenland with Clooney's character? The film's plot and tone wouldn't have changed a whit without her.
I'd respect the film more if it acknowledged these problems, but Clooney treats the ending as melancholic but hopeful, as if warning the astronauts to turn back is some kind of huge victory. Even Clooney's efforts to make contact with the ship are pointless, because they clearly see that Earth is wrecked as soon as they arrive, and from that point they could have figured out themselves that they had to go back to Jupiter to survive (however pointless that survival may be).
Science fiction at its best is a wonderful vehicle for exploring all kinds of stories. But creators can't just rely on the awe and majesty of their visual effects to carry the story. The story needs to make sense; it must be logical; it must have meaning. The Midnight Sky has none of these elements.
Monday, January 04, 2021
Sunday, January 03, 2021
With the right screenplay and direction, such a story could have been quite interesting. Unfortunately, the screenplay is uneven; there are a couple of bright spots and a few moments of cringe, while the rest is simply bland. Shatner's direction is workmanlike and nowhere near the level of skill and creativity needed to match the scope of his intended story. Worse yet, for the first time in the Trek film series, the production design and special effects are seriously below par, enough to seriously distract from a story that absolutely demanded striking visuals. Even the normally excellent main cast perform below their true capabilities here; only guest player Laurence Luckinbill, playing Spock's half-brother Sybok, seems to be having any fun in this picture. In fact, the only aspect of this production that could reasonably be called "good" is the superb score by Jerry Goldsmith, a score that surely deserves a far better film.
Saturday, January 02, 2021
Friday, January 01, 2021
The less familiar names show up because I watched several early films by (in)famous director D. W. Griffith.
Other 2020 Milestones
I have now seen 551 out of 566 Best Picture nominees, or 97.35% of the total. That includes, as I noted late last year, 100% of all the winners. Just 15 nominees left to go, but tracking the last few down is going to be a heck of a task...