Hollywood: A Very Short Introduction

The sequence beginning around 3:30 is captivating.

What’s going on here?  We are right to be confused:

So I’m told in this one:

Some of the Oxford Very Short Introduction books aren’t that helpful.  Some are great.  I got a lot out of this one.  I didn’t know this story about Lucille Ball, for instance:


The Gambler (2014)

Saw this clip on some retweet of this fellow’s Twitter.

I was struck by

  • the bluntness and concision of the advice
  • the fact that the advice contains a very specific investment strategy down to what funds you should be in (80% VTSAX, 20% VBTLX)
  • the compelling performance of an actor I’d never seen opposite Wahlberg (although I’d say it drops off at “that’s your base, get me?”)

It appeared this was from the 2014 film The Gambler

The film is interesting.  Mark Wahlberg plays a compulsive gambler and English professor.  There are some extended scenes of Wahlberg lecturing his college undergrads on Shakespeare, Camus, and his own self-absorbed theories of literature, failure, and life.  The character is obnoxious, self-pitying, logorrheic and somewhat unlikeable as a hero. Nevertheless his most attractive student falls in love with him.  William Monahan, who won an Oscar for The Departed, wrote the screenplay. The film itself is a remake of 1974 movie directed by James Toback, in which James Caan plays the Mark Wahlberg role.

Here’s the interesting thing.  Watching the 2016 version, I realized the speech I’d seen on Twitter that first caught my attention is different.  The actor’s different — in the movie I watched it’s John Goodman.

What happened here?  Had they recast the actor or something?  The twitterer who put it up is from South Africa, did they release a different version of the movie there?

Did some investigating and found the version I saw was made by this guy, JL Collins, a financial blogger.

Here’s a roundup of his nine basic points for financial independence.

He did a pretty good job as an actor I think!  I believe the scene in the movie would be strengthened from the specificity of his advice.  And the line about every stiff from the factory stiff to the CEO is working to make you richer is cool, maybe an improvement on the script as filmed.  I’ll have to get this guy’s book.

It would make a good commercial for Vanguard.

VTSAX vs S&P 500:

Readers, what does the one to one comparison of JL Collins and John Goodman teach us about acting?


Darkest Hour

This movie is on HBO this month.  I saw the movie in the theater and thought it was pretty good.  It really captured the batty, Lewis Carroll eccentricity element of Churchill and the British Parliament.

But one thing that I was wondering about was the title.  I remembered a story I’d heard years ago about Churchill visiting Harrow in 1941.  The schoolboys sang a new verse to an old song:

When Churchill visited Harrow on October 29 to hear the traditional songs again, he discovered that an additional verse had been added to one of them. It ran:

“Not less we praise in darker days
The leader of our nation,
And Churchill’s name shall win acclaim
From each new generation.
For you have power in danger’s hour
Our freedom to defend, Sir!
Though long the fight we know that right
Will triumph in the end, Sir!”

Churchill didn’t care for the word darker.  In his speech to the school he said:

You sang here a verse of a School Song: you sang that extra verse written in my honour, which I was very greatly complimented by and which you have repeated today. But there is one word in it I want to alter – I wanted to do so last year, but I did not venture to. It is the line: “Not less we praise in darker days.”

I have obtained the Head Master’s permission to alter darker to sterner. “Not less we praise in sterner days.”

Do not let us speak of darker days: let us speak rather of sterner days. These are not dark days; these are great days – the greatest days our country has ever lived; and we must all thank God that we have been allowed, each of us according to our stations, to play a part in making these days memorable in the history of our race.

Getting all that from the National Churchill Museum.

I believe this Wikipedia page is inaccurate:

The Darkest Hour” is a phrase coined by British prime minister

Did he coin this phrase?

Winston Churchill to describe the period of World War II between the Fall of France in June 1940 and the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 (totaling 363 days, or 11 months and 28 days), when the British Empire stood alone (or almost alone after the Italian invasion of Greece) against the Axis Powers in Europe.

Perhaps he uses it in his volumes of history, which I don’t have at hand.  But that’s not the source Wiki cites.  In the cited “Finest Hour” speech, Churchill did use the phrase “darkest hour,” but to refer to what a sad period this was in French history:

The House will have read the historic declaration in which, at the desire of many Frenchmen-and of our own hearts-we have proclaimed our willingness at the darkest hour in French history to conclude a union of common citizenship in this struggle.

I bought screenwriter Anthony McCarten’s book:

on Kindle and did a search.  Unless I’m missing something, I can find no other time in the book where Churchill himself is quoted using the phrase “darkest hour.”

So, the movie about Churchill uses for its title a term that Churchill himself specifically asked people not to use.

My question as always: is this interesting? 


Mission: Impossible: Fallout

Question about this film, if you’ve seen it:

(and don’t get me wrong, I had a good time)

why was a high-altitude parachute jump the best way to get into Paris?


Classical KUSC / soundless WW2 footage

found that playing Smithsonian Channel’s The Pacific War In Color while KUSC our local classical station was coming out of my old radio created a cool effect.


RIP Stanley Cavell

Here is an obituary of the Harvard philosopher, who has left this Earth. To be honest with you, most of Cavell’s work is over my head.  Much of it seems to deal with the ultimate breakdown of language and the difficulty of meaning anything.

Cavell wrote the epigraph for my favorite book:

and at some point, somebody (Etan?) recommended I check out:

which meant a lot to me.

This book is a study of seven screwball comedies:

The Lady Eve

It Happened One Night

Bringing Up Baby

The Philadelphia Story

His Girl Friday

Adam’s Rib

The Awful Truth

These Cavell calls comedies of remarriage.  They’re stories (mostly) where the main characters have a history, and the plots involve the tangles as they struggle, fight, and reconnect.

What the book really gets it is: what is revealed about us or our society when we look at what we find pleasing and appropriate in romantic comedies?  Why do we root for Cary Grant instead of Jimmy Stewart in The Philadelphia Story for instance?

It’s fun to watch these movies and read this book.  

It’s dense for sure.  I read it before the Age of Phones, not sure how I’d fair today.  But I still think about insights from it.

At one point Cavell says (in a parenthetical!):

I do not wish, in trying for a moment to resist, or scrutinize, the power of Spencer Tracy’s playfulness, to deny that I sometimes feel Katherine Hepburn to lack a certain humor about herself, to count the till a little too often.  But then I think of how often I have cast the world I want to live in as one in which my capacities for playfulness and for seriousness are not used against one another, so against me.  I am the lady they always want to saw in half.

Cool phrase.

RIP to a real one!


Oscars Conspiracy Theory

goof

Let me be clear I don’t really believe this conspiracy.  But I DID think of it.

If Moonlight had won, award would’ve gone to Adele Romanski, Dede Gardner, and Jeremy Kleiner, the producers.  That’s who would’ve accepted and given the speech.  White producers winning for a movie directed by a black man about black characters would’ve been a terrible look for an Academy terrified by its own dismal record on representation and diversity.  So, the Academy deliberately staged a mixup.  This had the added benefit of helping the Oscars’ other big problem, people tuning out of the telecast, by making wild unpredictable surprises a part of the experience — “you gotta watch to the very end to see what happens!”

Again, I don’t believe this theory, there’s no evidence for it and significant evidence against it.  Still sharing it.