Archive for the ‘Rants’ Category

Snowstorms Ate My Blog

I think the old expression “when Hell freezes over” might have got it wrong, because sometimes, Hell is being frozen over, as those residing in our neck of God’s Country—aka Connecticut—for the past month can attest.  Without the official statistics of this Sisyphean nightmare, I can’t tell you exactly how many snowstorms we’ve had (although I do know there has been more than one per week, sometimes on consecutive days) or how many inches they’ve dumped (I believe we’re one of the areas that have already exceeded their average for the entire season; I’m guessing it’s close to six feet).  But I can tell you that the nuclear winter of 2011 has made it impossible to live any kind of real life, which includes blogging, and guess what, another whopper is on the way…

Our driveway is not huge by local standards, but when a foot of snow accumulates overnight (it’s always overnight, so there’s no chance to shovel in shifts to keep pace), it can take Madame BOF and myself almost seven hours to clear it.  And since we’re ecologically minded enough to drive VWs instead of Hummers, that precludes leaving the premises until it’s done, forcing me to miss a day of work in each of the past three weeks, on only one of which my company closed; I’m not counting the first time this winter that a blizzard resulted in a rare closing, when I was home with my daughter between Christmas and New Year’s, which means I wasted a vacation day.  And so, on top of everything else, we get the thrill of watching ourselves slip ever-further behind at work.

All of that would be bad enough, but then the inevitable ice damning—er, damming—due to our frozen gutters started to turn Maison Bradley into a sieve, with random leaks breaking out along the walls adjacent to our deck (which is enclosed on three sides), in some cases cascading down into the basement.  We’ve been able to catch them in time to avoid any damage worse than a set of ruined ceiling tiles, but we feel like jugglers with too many plates in the air as I race to remove the snow that is feeding these insidious BradliLeaks as it melts.  On Thursday alone, I spent four hours raking snow off the roof above the deck, which miraculously is the one section I can reach, and shoveling it no fewer than four times over the railing onto a pile that is now taller than I am.

A roof rake, which I’d never even heard of until this year, is of course one of the most diabolical instruments of torture—uh, tools—designed by the mind of man, so long and cumbersome that if you’re working in a tight space like over our three-sided deck, it’s all you can do not to take out a light fixture, break a window, or put a hole in a screen, only one of which I have done (so far).  Add to that a healthy dose of acrophobia for the poor slob up on the ladder trying to manipulate this unwieldy thing, and we’re talkin’ some fun.  That said, however, under the circumstances, I am extremely grateful that thanks to my generous and ever-practical in-laws, who found me one when most of the major hardware stores were long since out of stock, I have this in my arsenal.

Naturlich, the necessity of shoveling and raking in response to each successive blizzard has ruled out not only normal activities such as blogging, but also secondary concerns like the satellite dish that hasn’t been able to receive a signal for more than two weeks, or experimenting with ways to clear the gutters.  We’ve lost entire days to this never-ending wintry ordeal, since after six or seven hours of back-breaking labor, usually with the knowledge that the next storm is already en route, you’re too exhausted and demoralized to do anything else.  Meanwhile, instead of reading this, all of you apartment- and condo-dwellers should be down on your knees, thanking whatever god or demon or machine you pray to that you are (presumably) spared the worst of these effects.

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Word is out that work on the as-yet-untitled twenty-third film in the official James Bond series has been stopped indefinitely, due to the ongoing financial woes of distributor MGM. You might reasonably expect that the reaction of a guy who saw his first theatrical Bond in 1969 at the tender age of 6 (Dad was awesome!), and hasn’t missed one since, would be unadulterated rage and/or sorrow. But my feelings in this matter are more nuanced.

Sure, it’s sad that MGM’s presumed mismanagement—and I mean “presumed” very literally, since I haven’t followed their travails at all—might kill off Bond, or at least Bond as we know him, in a way that his arch-enemy, SPECTRE’s Ernst Stavro Blofeld (on whom I’d love to do a page-to-screen analysis someday), never could. But I’d started feeling around the mid-Pierce Brosnan era that maybe, just maybe, it was time for him to hang up his shoulder holster, or at least take a hiatus similar to that between Timothy Dalton’s last Bond film, License to Kill (1989), and Brosnan’s first, GoldenEye (1995).

Mind you, that’s no reflection on Brosnan, who I thought was one of the best Bonds, probably second only to Sean Connery, and GoldenEye was very promising, with one of the best Bond theme songs in years. It’s just that the movies themselves started to lose their magic, to the point where I objected to them as much as or more than Roger Moore’s aging and overly light-hearted portrayal, and although Dalton was a welcome corrective in that regard, he just looked like he was in a bad mood all the time. In short, the problems with the films threatened to offset Brosnan’s contribution, although I would have been glad to see him do at least one more, as I believe he wanted to.

I had mixed feelings about the third version of Casino Royale (following the abysmal 1954 Climax! television adaptation and the 1967 spoof that Dad and I surprisingly loved) in 2006. I liked the movie very much, thought it wise for them to bring back GoldenEye director Martin Campbell—who was at one point slated to launch the Quiller franchise—and much admired Daniel Craig in the role, despite wishing that Brosnan had been allowed to return. “So what’s the problem?,” I hear you ask. It’s that the movie was a so-called reboot, which seems to be Hollywood’s answer to everything these days.

The film industry apparently believes that simply hitting the “restart” button abdicates them from the need to make a better mousetrap. And, as with unnecessary remakes, the window between versions gets narrower and narrower, as demonstrated by the perceived need to reboot the Batman franchise just sixteen years after the Tim Burton classic. I’m not saying the Joel Schumacher movies didn’t suck, or that Batman Begins (2005) wasn’t great, but for heaven’s sake, just make a new one that doesn’t suck and get on with it! I’m sick to death of “reimaginings” and retcons.

Quantum of Solace (2008) was, if not the last straw, then at least the film that made me think more seriously than ever that it was time to move on. I won’t even say it was a bad movie on any sort of empirical level, just that it was…not…Bond. It seemed like a lot of running around, another symptom of contemporary cinema, and half the time I had no idea what was going on. It’s okay for a Bond film to have a complex plot, but not to the extent that you just give up and go, “Whatever.” I’m told it resembles the Bourne films, which I’ve never seen, but the point is, if it’s not going to be like a Bond movie, then why call it Bond?

Okay, we can debate the need/desirability/possibility of putting a new spin on an old series or character all day, and everybody’s got their own opinion, and maybe MGM will pull out of its tailspin and this will all be academic anyway. I’m just saying, if this is the end of the line, at least for the foreseeable future, is that really the end of the world?

Bradley out.

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Dead (Reckoning) on Arrival

I’ve mentioned the recent month-long Humphrey Bogart retrospective on Turner Classic Movies (TCM).  There being only so many hours in a day, I used it primarily as an opportunity not to catch up on my favorites, many of which I own anyway, but to take another look at some of his lesser and/or lesser-known films that I haven’t seen for a long time.  I wasn’t crazy about some of them the first time around, and wondered if I’d like them better with a little distance between viewings.  One such film was Dead Reckoning (1947), and I’m afraid the answer was a resounding negative.  Here’s why:

*It’s pretentiously billed as “John Cromwell’s Dead Reckoning.”  Cromwell had made some well-regarded movies (e.g., Of Human Bondage, The Prisoner of Zenda, Algiers), but come on.  I had to look him up to see what his claim to fame was, and I’d wager many of you have probably never heard of him at all.  So why the puffery?  (He is, by the way, actor James Cromwell’s father.)

*I’m normally more tolerant of voiceovers than most people (e.g., the original version of Blade Runner), but this one—in which Bogie explains his predicament (he’s gotten into a typical film noir jam while trying to solve/avenge the murder of a paratrooper buddy) to an army chaplain and fellow paratrooper over flashbacks—is the kind that gives voiceovers their usual bad name.  It has lots of lame faux-Chandler similes, and Bogart just sounds listless, which is in keeping with his whole performance.  And that brings us to…

*Most of the time, Bogie looks weary and ill at ease, but at one point he cheerily delivers an astonishingly sexist speech about how women should ideally be about four inches tall, so that men could carry them around in their pockets at their convenience, but not be bothered by them, and then return them to full size whenever they wanted some…well, you do the math.  Which brings us to…

*It took five screenwriters you’ve never heard of to concoct this ill-tasting brew, which is odd, considering the fact that most of it (situations, scenes, and characters) was simply strip-mined from other, better Bogart movies, primarily The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep, with the main difference—other than quality and originality—being that here, he’s not a professional private eye but, for lack of a better term, an amateur sleuth.  Bogie’s climactic confrontation with his leading lady (whose character, in case we didn’t notice who was being ripped off, is named “Coral Chandler”) is a particularly egregious Falcon steal.  Which brings us to…

*Lizabeth Scott.  It would be too kind to call her the poor man’s Lauren Bacall, although her husky voice (which I normally hate, but not in Bacall), daffy beret, “cute” nickname (“Mike,” although she’s also nicknamed “Dusty,” but never mind), and backstory are obviously a lame attempt to evoke Bogart’s two previous pictures with Bacall, i.e., To Have and Have Not and The Big Sleep.  Instead of a poor man’s Bacall, she’s more like the Bacall of an unwashed, psychotic, drooling homeless guy.  According to the IMDb, the role in this Columbia picture had been written for house goddess Rita Hayworth, but she was then pre-empted by estranged hubby Orson Welles to star in his noir classic The Lady from Shanghai.  Since Rita is an eternal Word-Man fave, I don’t even want to THINK about how much more I would have liked it then…

*Two other minor peeves:  at one point, Bogart is beaten so badly by the villains that his face is supposed to look like a raw steak, yet after he sleeps for 36 hours, showers, and shaves, there isn’t a mark on him.  And playing a retired safecracker who gives him a hand is one of the era’s more annoying character actors, Wallace Ford.  When Bogie and Scott go to his house, after being referred to him by a mutual friend in Detroit (or wherever it was), Ford opens up an honest-to-God speakeasy peephole in his front door (are all the houses in this seemingly genteel community so equipped?), and Bogart says something like, “We’re from the phone company [since, as we all know, phone-company employees always travel with rich blonde widows in tow].  Have you recently had any long-distance calls from Detroit?”  Then, the second Ford lets them in, he says, “McGee?  I’m Murdock.”  Why not just say that when he opened up the peephole?  Why the stupid code?  The house doesn’t even appear to be in earshot of any others, and he’s obviously expected.

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