What Do You Miss About the 1800’s?

~Cross-posted from wherever~

Especially when my mom comes to town, I enjoy a rich diet of period films. In a week in July, My mom and I consumed the BBC miniseries Little Dorrit.  Our Mutual Friend was next for me, after which I feasted on Oliver Twist. A long tale from ’90’s television called The Aristocrats was sumptuous, visually speaking. These on-screen confections and others, including any Jane Austen fare, get me thinking: despite horrible, bizarre realities of the past, life before the 1900’s wasn’t all bad.

Yes, for the longest time it was probably better to stay home and suffer rather than consult a doctor. And suffer you did. Electricity, hot showers, well-insulated homes, widespread literacy, and other comforts of the body and mind were all luxuries of the future. Travel was slow and exhausting. Big cities were centers for disease, misery, and terrible odors. Improvement of your station was elusive. Job hours were long, rich folk snobby.

Yet as blessed as I am to have been born in 1974, I can’t help feeling as if I’ve missed out on a few attractive features of life from the early 1800’s and before.

1.) Fireplaces and easy chairs. Wouldn’t that be lovely, of an evening, to sit in front of a warm fire (hopefully chimneys have been invented) and chat with friends or family from the depths of a cushioned chair (if you were wealthy enough to afford one, in pre-manufacturing days)? Or even read a book with the aid of firelight and candles?

2.) Passing time with family and friends. Connected to #1, it would have been delightful to spend more of life sitting together after dinner–with no interference from TV or radio–reading aloud, playing music, talking or singing.

3.) Cups of hot tea. These steaming drinks being brought out in pretty serving sets look inviting. They would be comforting aids to friendly conversation. Pair it with items 1 and 2 for an ideal experience.

4.) Dances. The dancing looks wonderful. I wish contra and other dancing were more popular activities today. I keep threatening to take a dance class, but sadly, my husband doesn’t want to go.

5.) Lovely gowns. The gowns would be great fun to wear for a few hours at a time, for special occasions. Probably without the whalebone and other confining accessories. These days, fewer and fewer events call for dressing up. We could produce these elaborate pieces relatively inexpensively in our time.

6.) Beautiful countryside. Most period films give the impression that people in the old days enjoyed swathes of unspoiled green countryside, which is why I eat them up. Courting couples would get acquainted with pastoral scenes as backdrops. Peaceful mornings dawned with lilting bird song. Walking in the country or in one’s garden was a pastime. Even seeing it on screen brightens the mood.

7.) Letters and Journals. I love typing, and I think the Internet will be a tremendous resource to our progeny and to historians–if we back it up properly, not assuming that it will be around forever. However, when I see a movie character sit at a picturesque desk, get out a fresh sheet of paper, and start scratching away with an ink pen, I’m reminded that in the last twenty years, we have lost the practice of exchanging long, meaty letters and of saving our correspondence. This practice sharpened our thinking, our writing, and our connections to faraway people that we loved. Also, the majority of us, if we’re not typing up our daily adventures on a public online forum, are rotten at keeping journals. We don’t even know what to record. True, a lot of these personal journals were transformed into best-selling books of the time, so there was ulterior motivation for taking daily notes. Yet it seems like disciplined journal-keeping was common practice in those days.

8.) Sense of Wonder. Speaking of adventure journals, the world was young leading up to the 1900’s because there was so much to be discovered. English audiences of the late 1700’s were startled to read of experiences with isolated ethnic groups–the world map still had blank spots in it, and there were limited means of reaching faraway places. With pleasure they read of the hazardous explorations of Africa by Mungo Park and David Livingstone. News of India would be captivating. And the scientific and technological discoveries kept building. After hot air balloons, who knew what to expect next? There were always exciting books to read and discussions to be had.

9.) Servants. This one is a bonus, because I just thought of it. Back then, if you were the right station in life, you could get away with having–no, you were expected to have–a few servants around. They would cook the meals, do laundry, take care of the yard, and clean the house. And even though I’m content at the balance of work and play in the 21st century, wouldn’t it be pleasant, occasionally, to have a small staff that took over repetitious tasks and saw to your neglected house projects while you took some air in the garden?

Is there anything you miss about the 1800’s?


Users who have liked this post:

  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar

Another old movie, “The Lovely Bones”

Thanks to Susan, ten members of our Film Group settled ourselves with wine and chips, to watch The Lovely Bones (2009), a supernatural drama, based on the best-selling book of the same name by Alice Sebold (2002). The film is directed by Peter Jackson (56), who also directed The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-03), and The Hobbits trilogy (2012-14).

Saoirse Ronan (24) plays 14-year-old plays Susie Salmon, who is killed by a neighbour. The fanciful story has her lingering between this life and the next, torn between wanting to have revenge on her killer, and allowing her family to heal. Stanley Tucci (57) plays her killer; Mark Wahlberg (47) is her father and Rachel Weisz (48) is her mother. Susan Sarandon (71) plays Grandma Lynn.

The strong touch of the director was evident in the special effects around the surreal world between this one and the next. Also his previous experience with horror movies showed, as parts felt like a horror movie. Unfortunately, Peter Jackson seems to have missed the emotional side of the story. Some of the family scenes didn’t ring quite true, and there was little emotional connection between the members of the family.Saoirse Ronan and Stanley Tucci were both excellent in their parts, but the director didn’t make me feel much for either of them. The other actors almost seemed like cardboard figures, walking through their parts, and Grandma Lynn was not an attractive person; she revolted me with her behaviour as an alcoholic.

Two of our members had read the book, and admitted it had made them cry. Apparently Peter Jackson had missed the point in this film. I’m glad I saw the movie, but I wouldn’t really recommend it to anyone else as a “must see”. Jackson is an excellent director, as the film was gripping, and held our attention throughout, but it didn’t leave me with any feeling of satifaction. One thing I did like was that the killer comes to a bad end at the hands of nature. An icicle falls on him, and he falls down a slope to his death. Justice was done, and seen to be done. But where did it come from, is left an unanswered question. Did Susie have anything to do with, even if from the other side? 

On a budget of $65 million dollars, it made $93,621,340 dollars. It didn’t receive very good reviews, in fact some were rather scathing. This in spite of Stanley Tucci and Saoirse Ronan being nominated for Oscars. Good in parts.


Users who have liked this post:

  • avatar
  • avatar

Do you remember City Slickers as fun entertainment?

City Slickers (1991) is an American western comedy, directed by Ron Underwood (64). Written by Lowell Ganz (69) and Babaloo Mandel (68), it is highly entertaining and funny. Ganz and Mandel were writing partners on many projects, including Laverne and Shirley and Happy Days, for TV, and Splash (1984) and A League of their Own (1992). The music is by Marc Shaiman (58), and is an asset to the film. The direction, writing, etc., are all very professional, and once again, here is Holywood at its best.

Billy Crystal plays Mitch Robbins, who is in the midst of a huge mid-life crisis. Daniel Stern is Phil Berquist, and Bruno Kirby is Ed Furillo, two of Mitch’s friends. They gift him a two week cattle ride for his birthday. They are scheduled to go along with him as they are both needing a break from their ordinary lives. The city slickers have to learn to ride before they can even think about herding cattle, and watching Mitch fail at lassoing a wooden calf that isn’t going anywhere, is funny. As the cattle drive is getting underway, Mitch is introduced to Curly Washburn, played by Jack Palance. Palance won an Oscar for his performance as this terrifying tough guy, who turns out to have a heart of gold. To watch Curly sing Tumbling Tumbleweeds with a terrified Mitch playing the harmonica, is a memorable experience. The three friends stick together through many trials and tribulations, and successfully bring the cattle home, only to be informed that the animals were going to end up on supermarket shelves. Mitch takes home, Norman, the cutist little calf he had helped deliver, which he intends placing in a petting zoo.

All’s well that ends well, as the Bard said so long ago; in the 1600s to be more accurate. Mitch’s crisis is resolved and he goes home appreciating his family. His friends also resolve their problems satisfactorily, so the audience has been highly entertained, laughed a lot, and go home feeling good.

It would appear that many people would agree. The film made $179 million on a budget of $27 million.


Users who have liked this post:

  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar

Do you remember My Fair Lady?

My Fair Lady (1964) is an American musical, based on the George Bernard Shaw play, Pygmalion (1913). The Shaw play draws on the ancient Greek myth of the sculptor who fell in love with the statue he had created. Ovid used this story in his poem, Metamorphoses, Book X (8 CE), in which the statue is brought to life by Aphrodite as she grants his wish that this be so. You probably notice the idea was used by Shakespeare in The Winter’s Tale when the statue of Hermione comes to life at the end of the play.

The screenplay is by Alan Jay Lerner (1918-86), music is by Frederick Loewe (1901-88), and the film is directed by George Cukor (1899-1983). This is a beautiful film in every way, with the lovely costumes being designed by Cecil Beaton. It won 8 Academy Awards, and 4 nomination: Best Film; Best Actor; Best Director; Best Cinematography; among others. This sumptuous production is a feast for the eyes, ears, and emotions. I felt a hint of tears at one point, and one of our members admitted to actually crying, she was so moved. This is Hollywood at its best.

Audrey Hepburn was perfect as Eliza Doolittle. Her singing voice was provided by Marni Nixon. Rex Harrison was outstanding as Professor Henry Higgins. Stanley Hollaway, Wilfrid Hyde-White, and Gladys Cooper were all excellent. Jeremy Brett was gorgeous as Freddy Eynsford-Hill, with the voice of Bill Shirley singing his song, On the Street Where You Live.

My Film Group loved My Fair Lady. We had all seen it at least once before, but I for one, had forgotten how much I had enjoyed the original. Everything about the production is so professional. The singers can really sing, with properly trained voices, with good diction so that we can hear every word. The dancers can dance, and are a delight to watch. There is lots of humour, and good acting. The musical interludes are introduced so naturally, the transition is flawless. The good story makes this film great entertainment, and leaves the audience “feeling very good”.

Made with what in its time was a huge budget of $17 million dollars, audiences loved it and the box office made $72 million dollars.

Like 10+

Users who have liked this post:

  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar

Two Movies on One Screen: TAU

Scott Adams has frequently written on the phenomenon of “two movies on one screen”: where people observe the same objective events and interpret them in two (or more) entirely different ways.  I recently encountered an example of this which was based on a movie.

On 2018-06-29, Netflix released a production entitled TAU.  Here is the official trailer for the movie.

This, taken at face value (what I call Movie 1), is a thriller in which a young woman is abducted and imprisoned in a house run by an artificial intelligence which she must defeat in order to escape with her life.  This is so clearly evident from the trailer that I don’t consider it a spoiler.

I watched this movie last Saturday, and my immediate reaction was, “Meh: the special effects were reasonably well done (albeit dark to save money on rendering backgrounds), but it was pretty much what I expected.”  By no means awful, but nothing memorable.  I had seen what was on the screen and watched Movie 1.

It was only after sleeping on it that I woke up with the startling realisation that at the same time, a different part of my brain had been watching Movie 2, and after digesting it and cross-correlating it and a bunch of other stuff, twigged to the fact that this may be one of the most clever and profound film treatments of artificial intelligence ever.  And here’s the thing: I’m not at all sure that the authors of the scenario and screenplay or filmmakers were even aware of Movie 2.  There is no evidence of it in any of the promotional material for the film.  If they were, it is a superb example of burying the subplot for a subset of the audience primed to appreciate it to discover.

I shall not spoil the plot nor disclose the content of Movie 2.  None of the reviews I’ve read so far have twigged to Movie 2, but that may be because I’ve missed those that did.  Instead, I’ll invite you to view the film (why are we still saying that?) yourself and draw your own conclusions.  If, after viewing it, you don’t see Movie 2, here is a cryptic hint.

Here is my synopsis of Movie 2, replete with plot spoilers and a perspective on the movie you can’t un-hear.

If you don’t have access to Netflix, I can’t help you.  I deplore the balkanisation of intellectual property we presently endure and long for the day when you’ll be able to view anything, anywhere, by transparently paying a fee to the creator.  But we have not yet landed on that happy shore, so we must endure “This content is not available in your market” and  content locked into a silo which costs far more to subscribe to than the content is worth.


Users who have liked this post:

  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar

The Diamond Age and other musings…

John make a point in his HAL post about the “Roaring 20s” approaching.

IN the last century, it was a time of technology rapidly changing the lives of middle class people with cars, radios, stock ownership and more. F Scott Fitzgerald said the coat of arms of the 20s should be crossed saxophones over a case of gin.

I wonder which Sci Fi author called the approaching age right?

William Gibson with his dark, corporate cowboy hacker world where normal family life seemed non existent.

Neal Stephenson with his linkage between ancient conspiracies and the underpinnings of modern life?
His economy based on nanotech might see the light of day.

A lot of authors just assumed nuclear annihilation so they are boring.

Who do you think painted the 2021-2030 decade the closest or the most vividly for you?


Users who have liked this post:

  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar

To Sir, With Love: entertaining!

We settled down with our wine and chips, back again in the Club Room. We had a nice chat, and then watched our film. Maureen spoke for all of us when she said that we are all really enjoying this.

To Sir, With Love (1967) is a British drama that deals with social and racial issues in inner city schools in London, England. It’s based on a 1959 autobiographical novel by the same name, by E.R. Braithwaite. James Cavell directed from his own screenplay.

Sidney Poitier played Mark Thackerey; “Sir”. He is so good-looking, and has such a lovely personality, he has a head start in this part. He played well the new teacher who is faced with educating a class of young adults who have been expelled from other schools as incorrigible. This is their last year in school, before they face the unforgiving outside world of reality. They don’t want to learn, and take a delight in baiting the teacher. The headmaster has given up on the pupils, and warns the inexperienced teacher not to worry too much, and wonders how long he will last before being broken.

Lulu, the singer, is among the group, and she was excellent, and also sings the film’s theme song, of the same name. Patricia Routledge, of Hyacinth Bucket, Keeping Up Appearances (1990-95), fame, played Clinty Clintridge. The rest of the actors were well-cast, and rang true.

Rang true, that is, if you overlook the fact that this is really not too realistic. It is a little bit sentimental, and a romantic take on the situation. The hooligans are true to form, and the attitudes of the staff are probably pretty true also. Sir is the ideal school master. He treats the young people as adults, and teaches them what they want, and need to know. He sets them the example of how to behave, and in the end, wins them over. He has been looking for a job as an engineer, and at the end of the film, tears up a job offer. He is not broken, he is going to stay. The happy ending leaves the audience feeling good. Obviously, this is what people like. The film grossed $42.500.000 in the United States on a budget of $650,000.


Users who have liked this post:

  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar

Slumdog Millionaire: A “feel good” film

This Monday, my Film Group adjourned to the lovely suite of Maureen and John. It is a corner unit, on the 48th Floor of our building, and has a fantastic view out over Toronto and Lake Ontario, to the horizon. Once settled with our wine, and chips in little bowls, nine of us thoroughly enjoyed the Film of the Week. We are really enjoying our Group, as there is nothing worth seeing at the Cineplex anyway. We don’t feel we are missing anything. In fact, it is such a pleasure revisiting all these old, award-winning movies, especially with such good  friends.

Slumdog Millionaire (2008) is a British drama, directed by Danny Boyle. Based on the award-winning novel by Indian author, Vikas Swarup, it became an award-winning film. Among other awards, it was nominated for ten Academy Awards in 2009 and won eight, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best-Adapted Screenplay. It was highly successful at the box office, earning $377,910,544 worldwide, with a budget of $15,000,000.

Simon Beaufoy wrote the screenplay, and visited the Juhu district of Mumbai three times to do research. What impressed him most, was the attitude of the street children he interviewed. They were full of fun and laughter, and chat. He wanted to convey in the film, the strong sense of community and the huge mass of energy he felt from the people of the district.

Set and filmed in India, the film tells the story of Jamal Malik, age 18, from the Juhu district of Mumbai. He appears on the Indian version of the TV show, Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Immediately before the last question, he is picked up by the police and questioned as to how he can possibly know the answers to all the questions. After all, he is a slumdog, with no formal education. In flashbacks, he tells the story of many incidents in his life that have given him the answers. The police believe him, and he answers that last question correctly, and wins the money. Meanshile, we learn his background.

(L-R) Director Danny Boyle, and actors Freida Pinto and Dev Patel hold the award for Best Motion Picture-Drama for “Slumdog Millionaire” in the press room at the 66th Annual Golden Globe Awards held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 11, 2009 in Beverly Hills, California.AFP PHOTO/JEWEL SAMAD

Dev Patel plays the 18-year-old Jamal, and the beautiful Freida Pinto plays Latika. Both have gone on to build successful careers in the film industry. They played their parts well, as did all the other actors in the film.

Danny Boyle had already made Shallow Grave and Trainspotters, among other films, by the time he directed Slumdog Millionaire. Here, once again, he takes what could be considered an unpromising setting, and produces an interesting study in human behaviour.

Slumdog Millionaire wasn’t popular with many Indian people. It was felt that the Juhu District didn’t give a good impression of the country. Having seen Danny Boyle’s Trainspotters, I can understand how they felt. I didn’t like the impression left of Scotland, by Trainspotters. Yet life is like these films. It’s not all wine and roses; it has a hard and difficult side too. Even lives lived in palaces can be horrific; a brief reading of Scottish history reveals that. Fairytales, too, always have their dark side. 

The early life of Jamal and Latika is horrific, yet out of that comes a romantic love story. Love thwarted; love requited! Lovely! From unpromising beginnings to life, comes great, good fortune in the winning of the money in Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Jamal and Latika have a new life ahead of them, in which they can create happiness for each other. An Indian fairytale with the usual happy ending. The film ends with true Bollywood. The whole cast are singing and dancing on the platform at the railway station. This seemed to me, symbolic of the overcoming of adversity, and of the unquenchable spirit of the people who live in the Juhu District of Mumbai. It certainly left the audience feeling good.


Users who have liked this post:

  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar

On Churchill’s Darkest Hour, and Ours

On Monday evening I took the time to watch Darkest Hour, wherein Gary Oldman gives an epic performance as Winston Churchill during the days and weeks after he rose to the prime ministership on May 10, 1940. Toward the end of the film, there was a scene where Churchill decides to ride the London Underground to Westminster. While on the subway, he speaks with a woman carrying a five-month old baby on her lap. Now while that woman and her baby were likely fictional, it struck me that were that baby still alive today, he would be five months younger than my own father, who turns 79 next month.

As William Faulkner wrote in Requiem for a Nun, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

Churchill, who led the United Kingdom during my father’s lifetime, refused to back down against Hitler’s brutal war machine which had overrun Western Europe and threatened to do the same to Britain, ignoring the advice of his own senior cabinet ministers who wished to pursue a negotiated peace.

I think of my Great Uncle Phil, a dual Canadian-American citizen who answered the King’s call and volunteered for service in the Royal Canadian Air Force, receiving a commission as a flight lieutenant as the Battle of Britain was underway in the fall of 1940.

I think also of my great-great-great grandfather Juan Francisco, a prominent politician in the then northern Mexican city of Laredo, suffering under the heel of Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna’s brutal oppression, but ultimately leading his fellow Laredoans into an alliance with Texas and the United States. On April 25, 1847, he was administered his oath of American citizenship by none other than Mirabeau B. Lamar, former President of the Republic of Texas.

History is not made by the weak, but by those who have the courage to stand fast.

We face a similar reckoning at present, being told that to secure our southern border against alien invaders is inhumane and heartless. No less a personage than former First Lady Laura Bush has called for compassion in dealing with illegal alien children and their alleged parents.

Well I dare ask, where was this vaunted Bush compassion during her husband’s presidency, when on Thanksgiving night in 2005 some Mexican cartel members decided to have a shootout in my parent’s tony upper middle class neighborhood in Laredo, Texas? Nowhere.

Where was this vaunted Bush compassion when hundreds of innocent Mexicans were killed as a result of the Obama administration’s Operation Fast and Furious? Silence.

What of the confederacy of dunces and rats known as the Democratic Party? They make common cause with the illegals and other foreign interlopers against their own people.

And then there is the vile nest of copperheads in the Republican Party who call themselves NeverTrump. What is NeverTrumpism, but the philosophy of despair, the creed of arrogance, and the gospel of surrender?

I will have none of it. Like Horatius at the bridge and Churchill before the Nazi menace, it is time to stand and fight.

Like 25+

Users who have liked this post:

  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar

Toronto, Canada’s Heart of the City

Anne suggested Heart of the City (2017), by Robert Rotenberg, in February as our Book Group’s Book of the Month for June. This gave me time to read it, and also read Rotenberg’s first book, Old City Hall (2009). He is a criminal lawyer in Toronto, Canada. This, obviously, has given him a good background to write crime fiction. Apparently he is moving out of Law so as to devote more time to writing. It would appear his books are becoming commercially successful, which is quite unusual. Very few people can make a living writing books.

Anne gave us a fascinating presentation with an in depth analysis of the characters and storyline. Admitting that this is not great literature, she pointed out that is well-written and a good read. The characters are memorable, and we find ourselves interested in them. It was agreed that it would make a great airplane, or summer beach, book. This opens it up to a larger market.

Rotenberg in front of Old City Hall

Everyone loved that it was set in Toronto, in the Kensington District in the 1970s. Some of our members visited the Kensington District to find the places that had been talked about in the book. They commented on how much that area has changed in the intervening years.

We were all pleased to have been exposed to the work of Rotenberg. It has been suggested that he is to Toronto what Ian Rankin is to Edinborough and Craig Robertson is to Glasgow, Scotland: they all write, setting their crime fiction in their respective cities.

Our Group had enjoyed reading Heart of the City, and will now be following Rotenburg’s writing career. Many of us wanted to know more about the characters, so will be reading his earlier works. We will be awaiting his next one with interest.


Users who have liked this post:

  • avatar
  • avatar