Do spoilers spoil the fun?

Recently I wrote about receiving an email that had a major spoiler for a recent film. The email was from someone I did not know who had sent it out as a mass everyone at all connected with my university. In the discussion that followed my post, some readers said that knowing how things turn out actually increased their enjoyment. It turns out that there is some evidence in support of that position.
[Read more…]

Doris Day (1922-2019)

The actress and singer died today at the age of 97. I have seen many of her films and they were easy to enjoy. Her three romantic comedies with Rock Hudson were great fun. There was something very appealing about her but while she turned in some good dramatic performances in some films, her enduring image of the wholesome girl next door stuck to her, aided by her rejection of some great roles.

She turned down the Sound of Music, declaring herself too American to play a nun from Salzburg. But nor was she ready to change her image and embrace the times: rejecting the role of Mrs Robinson in The Graduate. She said she found the script to be “vulgar and offensive”.

After she retired in 1975, she devoted her life to animal welfare.

Here is an appreciation of her life and career.

How to make an adult film with help from family and friends

Alfred Sole has loved films all his life and has made a career in it. At the age of 75, he is still working as a production designer at major studios. In a highly entertaining article, Ashley and April Spicer describe how he got his start in films.

As I approach him, Alfred smiles broadly and extends his hand. He has a boyish face and a soft-spoken, warm manner. He’s of average height with salt-and-pepper hair. He’s like your friendly uncle, or your favorite person to sit next to at the neighborhood bar.

But looks can be deceiving, so I have to ask myself: Is this really the man who in the early 1970s was at the center of a national scandal about a pornographic film titled Deep Sleep? A film he was rumored to have shot in his parents’ home in Paterson, New Jersey using a cast and crew made up of family and friends? And it wasn’t just those close to him who participated in the movie—it was alleged that many in his suburban town had taken part, including a local lawyer, banker, police officer and funeral home director. Hell, even the mayor’s wife, high-school teachers, and Alfred’s mother were said to have been part of the erotic production.

What followed was one of the most notorious national prosecutions of adult film in American history.

Is this the man once described by the government as ‘Public Enemy Number One’?

[Read more…]

Film review: Knock Down the House (2019)

I just watched this documentary that follows four insurgent women candidates who bucked the Democratic party establishment by challenging long-standing incumbents in primary elections in 2018. The four are Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York City, Amy Villela in Las Vegas, Nevada, Cori Bush in St Louis, Missouri and Paula Jean Swearingen in West Virginia. The film follows them from the time they declare their candidacies until the primary results are announced.
[Read more…]

Game of Chairs

For those of you like me who do not watch Game of Thrones, here is my favorite Sesame Street character Grover to explain what the story is about and who wins the game.

And here is my least favorite Sesame Street character Elmo trying to play the role of peacemaker.

I am pretty sure there are allusions in both clips that only those who have followed the series closely will get.

This is Spinal Tap – again

Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer, the three guitar players in the 1984 cult film that featured the loudest rock band ever (it went up to 11), are actual musicians and a few days ago, the trio performed live with Elvis Costello at the Tribeca Film Festival at a screening for the 35 anniversary of the film. (The drummers in the band had a habit of dying mysteriously.)

Here’s the trailer for the original film from back in 1984.

A new documentary about Satanists and the Satanic Temple

I have written many times before about the Satanic Temple and their efforts to keep the public square secular and open to all beliefs and not have it become the domain of those who favor one religion over other religions or religion in general over non-religion. Their demand that their statue of Baphomet be allowed in any public space that allows religious symbols has proven to be a potent political and legal argument against religious exclusivity but their broader goals are to promote social justice and equality.
[Read more…]

Why do people broadcast film and book spoilers? (No spoilers!)

Yesterday saw the release of the film Avengers: Endgame, the latest in the franchise of superhero films based on the Marvel comic books. These films have been roaring commercial successes. I myself am not a fan of the genre and have watched just a couple (The Avengers and Spiderman: Homecoming) to see what all the fuss was about. I had not planned on seeing the latest film.

But last evening I got an email from someone I do not know in which the subject line, all in upper case, revealed what is apparently a major plot twist in this film. The person who had sent out the spoiler had gone to great lengths to make sure that every single person who might in any way be connected to my university (including alumni) was made aware of the spoiler. The address line contained the addresses of about 250 email address lists (not individual addresses) that seemed to cover pretty much everyone. I think my address was in the list of physics faculty, staff, students, and emeriti. This person had gone to great lengths to obtain all these email address lists, presumably by hacking into the university server that has the database that contains all of them.
[Read more…]

Time for a new Netflix?

The original Netflix business model was clever. You would queue up the films you wanted. They would mail you a DVD of a film that you would mail back after watching. It was easy. There were no due dates and no overdue fees. All it required for them was to purchase DVDs and stock a warehouse with them, with little other overhead since once you purchase a DVD, you can rent it out as many times as you like. It is little wonder that these low overhead costs drove the brick-and-mortar Blockbuster out of business.
[Read more…]

Dara O’Briain reviews the film 2012

I have not seen this film or even heard about it but after watching this hilarious review of it by the comedian, I don’t think I need to. Like most natural disaster films, there is an attempt to give a scientific explanation for the catastrophe but O’Briain says that this ludicrously over-the-top apocalyptic film offered one that was so utterly outlandish that he used it to insert a useful lesson about neutrinos.