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Jonathan's Coffeeblog: Cinema

"The meaning of life and other trivia." Copyright ©2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 Jonathan David Leavitt. All rights reserved.

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Tarkovsky vs. Hollywood - 5:47 PM Sunday, March 15, 2009
[Plus Yurodivy and Skomorokhs]

Tarkovsky &  Rublev

Last night I watched a strange, long, movie called Andrei Rublev. It was in my Netflix queue, and had finally risen to the top after months. I don't even remember why I added it to my queue, but I obviously had the right instincts when I did, because the film got me thinking about many things, not the least of which were Russia, the role of court jesters and holy fools, the meaning of art, and of course, the meaning of life, which is the fundamental theme of Jonathan's Coffeeblog. The film was the work of a Russian director named Andrei Tarkovski, who worked in the Soviet Union and ended his days as a defector. He was buried in a cemetery for Russians in France in 1986.

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Don't Shrug Her Off - 2:10 PM Monday, December 15, 2008
[Movie Review: The Passion of Ayn Rand]

Atlas, Before He Shrugged

I have long been, and still am, a fan of the great Russian-born Hollywood screenwriter, novelist, philosopher, and radical advocate of capitalism, Ayn Rand. Her name surfaced again recently in a Newsweek article which blamed her for the current worldwide financial meltdown. This is not about that, however, but about a movie made about Miss Rand by Showtime, an adaptation of Barbara Branden's book, "The Passion of Ayn Rand," which I saw on a Netflix rental DVD. I loved the movie, which I had never seen though it came out in 1999.

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Tengri, Lord of the Sky - 3:43 PM Saturday, August 23, 2008
[Heavenly peace indeed.]

Tengri (Coffeeblog)

A few weeks ago I saw Sergei Bodrov's movie about the life of young Temujin, the Mongol slave boy who grew up to become Genghis Khan, conqueror of Eurasia from China to Afghanistan in the early 1200's. Wow. It was quite a movie, somewhat long and detailed compared to a Hollywood flick. Some of the scenes were so fantastic that I thought they were fictionalized, so I looked up Temujin in Wikipedia and found that the same events were believed to be true. One recurring scene beguiled me, when Temujin, at various ages beginning in boyhood, climbs a mountain to commune with a sky god named Tengri, personified in the film as a mysterious wolf. That scene led me to more web searching only to discover that Tengri is/was the universal deity of the Turkic and Mongol peoples, and as such, an excellent point of departure for a Coffeeblog extravaganza about Eurasia, Turks, Mongols, and sky gods in general. There is actually a religion called Tengriism, labeled pagan or shamanistic, but the worship of Tengri brought me back to memories of my school days. You see, I am so old that I remember that, along with the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, at the beginning of every school day we recited a prayer.

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Bad Parent Movies - 2:38 PM Sunday, December 30, 2007
[Is the new Hollywood really the old Hollywood?]

The New Hollywood Meme?

For some reason I haven't written for Jonathan's Coffeeblog for a few weeks, but I've been busy with other stuff, including much frustrating interaction with bureaucracies. However, I did watch a few movies during that time, three of which, by strange coincidence, all dealt with impassioned young people who were overreacting to nasty, overbearing "control freak" parents. Did I discover a new Hollywood obsession, a meme as it were, or perhaps an unconscious personal motive in the choice of films to see next: Into the Wild (in a theater), Transamerica, and Factory Girl (the latter two on DVD)? In the first of the three, a recent male college graduate resentfully makes a charitable donation of $24,000 given to him by his parents to buy a new car. He then disappears and goes on a grim journey, which he considers liberating, during which he works as a Dakota combine operator, travels with sympathetic hippy couple, tries life as a wetback (he abandons his ID before re-entering the US from Mexico), as a homeless street person and as a daredevil river kayaker. He becomes a surrogate grandson to a lonely old man, and finally tests his mettle alone against Alaska's Denali wilderness. The wilderness wins.

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I am Curiousyellow - 12:07 PM Thursday, November 15, 2007
[Long? Boring? Banned in Massachusetts?]

Curious (Yellow)

The month after I started Jonathan's Coffeeblog, I was curious about the process of starting a blog using the Blogger website. I gave my exploratory blog the title "Curious" with the username (changed later) of "curiousyellow," which I made up on the moment, suddenly recalling the 1967 Swedish film I am Curious (Yellow). Since then, curiousyellow has been my username on many social websites, including Flickr, del.icio.us, Twitter, and Seesmic. Recently I decided to see the movie again to see if my opinion of it had changed. It has changed....

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Edith Piaf, the Movie - 4:01 PM Friday, July 13, 2007
[The vernacular language of Paris.]

La Môme Piaf

The other day I saw a great movie with a friend and I want to write about it to recommend it to my readers. I'm having a hard time writing about it, however, and I don't know why. Maybe I'll figure out why by the time I finish this. Anyhow, the movie was about Edith Piaf, the great French singer who died in the 1960's, and was named (for non-French audiences) La Vie en Rose, meaning "life in pink" or "the rosy life," after the famous song written by Piaf herself. The French title of the movie is La Môme, meaning the "kid" (human, not goat), and is Parisian slang. Actually, the vernacular language of Paris was almost as much the subject of the movie as Piaf herself....

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Ninna Nanna Malandrineddu - 2:04 PM Saturday, June 16, 2007
[Keep the family's honor.]

Little Marauder Lullaby

It's over. The Sopranos television series has aired its last episode. If you're a fan like I am you've seen them all, and you're going to miss Tony and Carmela and Meadow and AJ and the rest of the family and the Family. At the end of the third episode from the last, AJ is in the hospital, and Tony goes to visit him. A song starts to play and then the credits roll....

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Gangs of New York - 12:40 PM Thursday, May 31, 2007
[Foreign religious meddling?]

Gangs of New York

The American film director Martin Scorsese grew up watching Italian films, and his 1973 Mean Streets was inspired by Fellini's I Vitelloni. As a Fellini buff, I'm now renting DVD's of all of Scorsese's films, and recently saw his 2002 production, Gangs of New York. The gangs referenced included no Italians. They had not yet started their great migration to the USA during the period in which the action takes place, from the 1840's to the American Civil War, when New York was under the thumb of the political boss Tweed. This was the same period during which Charles Dickens wrote his novels on the same theme as Gangs: the desperation of the urban poor, the folks Marx was calling the proletariat....

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Molon Labe: 300, the Movie Review - 8:20 PM Monday, April 9, 2007
[Bashed, impaled, speared, run through, mutilated and pierced.]

Molon Labe!

Do a Google search for the phrase Movie Reviews "300." You will probably, as I did, get about 22,100,000 hits. Why, you might ask, does the Warner Brothers action movie, based on a Frank Miller graphic novel, in turn based on the Battle of Thermopylae which took place in Greece in 480 BC, require yet another review, which is what you are reading? Read on…...

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300: The Book Review - 7:04 PM Sunday, March 25, 2007
[Testosterone-powered drama.]

Action! History! Rhetoric!

A fascinating cultural phenomenon is unfolding before us. A battle fought 2,486 years ago, chronicled by a Greek known as the Father of History, resurrected from the dusty basement of academia by a cartoonist who turned it into a 1990's comic book series, has now hit the movie theaters in a groundbreaking mash-up of cinematography and computer graphics, a blockbuster hit, which inspired an cry of outrage from the spokesmen for a Middle Eastern theocracy, who are blaming the whole thing on (that's right) the Jews....

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Deadwood - 3:56 PM Friday, February 2, 2007
[There is a lot of bluntness in Deadwood.]

Deadwood: Bootleg Romanticism

A few years ago, fed up with my local monopoly cable TV service, I cancelled it and instead subscribed to DSL internet access for around the same cost. Giving up TV was not all that hard—for a while—but I gradually found myself spending more time watching Blockbuster rentals, and finally, I joined Netflix. What have I learned? Among other things, I learned that there are great movies out there that never get shown in the theaters (as, for example, those produced by HBO, the "home box office"}. Great in what sense? As series that can go on for thirteen hours every year, for years, they can make use of character, plot, and background material in ways that can't be done in a typical feature film. Compare, for example, the Godfather I through III feature film series, with The Sopranos....

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Vlogging a Dead Horse - 3:33 PM Friday, December 1, 2006
[Captain Video has been promoted.]

As of today, Jonathan's Coffeeblog makes its debut as Jonathan's CoffeeVlog. That's right, instead of the usual static image, there's a video, courtesy of YouTube. If you can get the YouTube link to run, you will see a talking head clip of your trusty CoffeeVlogger pondering the difficult question of whether the term vlog is monosyllablic, with a V instead of a B, or polysyllabic, pronounced vee-log in English....

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Bettie Page - 9:23 PM Monday, April 17, 2006
[Stranger bedfellows than one would imagine]

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White Swan, Black Swan - 3:38 PM Wednesday, February 8, 2006
[Mythmakers par excellence]

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A Male Alice in A Wonderland of Women - 3:54 PM Saturday, January 21, 2006
[A giant inflatable fantasy woman with a halo]

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The Three Cabirias - 6:26 PM Tuesday, December 20, 2005
[Magic: the show-biz kind as well as the supernatural]

Now that I am a Netflix subscriber I am able to see a succession of films by specific directors, and lately I discovered how much I admire the work of Federico Fellini, the Italian auteur director who died in 2003. As a student I saw the much-vaunted La Dolce Vita and found it horribly depressing. Since then I have had a second look at many of Fellini's films and found them anything but depressing: they convey what Ayn Rand called the "benevolent universe" sense of life. No matter how desperate the plight of the leading character, there is always the ability to bounce back and come up smiling (La Dolce Vita and some later films are arguably exceptions). Fellini, also a cartoonist and a screenwriter, used and reused certain themes: magic (the show-biz kind as well as the supernatural kind), clowns and circus bands, dancing for joy, and the metaphysical equality of man, that is, nobody is too low to deserve happiness if he (or more often, she) makes an honest effort....

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Capote (The Movie) - 7:34 PM Monday, November 7, 2005
[in the DNA of every cell, the capacity for homicide]

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Cold Start - 2:54 PM Friday, June 10, 2005
[Frankly, Scarlett, I DO give a damn]

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Sith Happens - 7:11 PM Tuesday, May 24, 2005
[Long Ago and Far Away?]

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Copyright ©2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 Jonathan David Leavitt. All rights reserved.