The Halloween Tree

By Ray Bradbury
ISBN 0-375-80301-7

Publication Year: 1972

Tags: Fantasy, Horror, Youth

Rating: ★★★★★

All the boys lament: How can there be Halloween without Pipkin? The light-footed lad may miss his tricks and treats this year, for he has been whisked away on a journey into the world of Halloween itself, and it could mean his life or death. His eight friends must follow him, guided by the mysterious Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud and the symbols upon the Halloween Tree, to fly through all of space and time to learn the terrifying history of Halloween, from ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt, through the Druids, medieval Notre Dame, and the Day of the Dead, with Pipkin always just ahead, waiting, calling, seeking the very roots of Halloween itself … Continue reading “The Halloween Tree”

And Justice For All

(1979, Rated R) Al Pacino (Arthur Kirkland); Jack Warden (Judge Rayford); John Forsythe (Judge Fleming); Lee Strasberg (Grandpa Sam); Jeffrey Tambor (Jay Porter); Christine Lahti (Gail Packer); Sam Levene (Arnie); Robert Christian (Ralph Agee); Thomas Waites (Jeff McCullaugh); Larry Bryggman (Warren Fresnell); Craig T. Nelson (Frank Bowers). Music: Dave Grusin. Screenplay: Valerie Curtin and Barry Levinson. Director: Norman Jewison. 119 minutes.

Tags: Courtroom Drama, Social Satire

Notable: One of the finest courtroom “opening statement” scenes in movie history, with the oft-misquoted line, “You’re out of order! You’re out of order! The whole trial’s out of order!” (Pacino)

Rating: ★★★★☆

When corrupt Judge Fleming is charged with rape, idealistic lawyer Arthur Kirkland is quietly blackmailed into defending him. Kirkland has had problems with the judge in the past, including one incident when the judge wrongly sentenced his client, Jeff McCullaugh, because of a technicality. As Kirkland prepares this and two other cases, he faces a series of moral and legal dilemmas, including the possibility that the judge is guilty.

With the hearings regarding Judge Brett Kavanaugh going on, now is a great time to revisit this particularly relevant film. Continue reading “And Justice For All”

Thursday Afternoon

Brian Eno

Tracks: 1—Thursday Afternoon.

Tags: Ambient, Electronica, Minimalist, Drone

Release Date: October 1985

Rating: ★★★★★

When Compact Disc technology first became popular in the mid-1980s, it naturally became a challenge to electronic composer and experimental minimalist Brian Eno to come up with something unique to this new medium. At that time, a disc could easily handle up to 70 minutes of recording time. Eno’s trick was to create something that would be available exclusively on CD — a work consisting of a single, uninterrupted, ambient musical track lasting 61 minutes. Continue reading “Thursday Afternoon”

Oh Boy, New “Words”

A news item in a CNN email series that I subscribe to announced on September 19, 2018, that Merriam-Webster has added 840 words to their dictionary. In a prepared statement, the publisher noted that, “The addition of new words to a dictionary is a step in the continuous process of recording our ever-expanding language. The dictionary’s job is to report that usage as it enters the general vocabulary.”

Translation: “Because Americans are too lazy to use real language, and too offended not to be included, we’ll make them feel better by putting their disgustingly stupid non-words in our book.” Continue reading “Oh Boy, New “Words””

Geography Club

By Brent Hartinger
ISBN-13: 9780060012236

Publication Year: 2003

Tags: Gay, Gay Youth, Coming Out, Avoid-At-All-Cost

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

From the back cover of the book: Russel Middlebrook is convinced he’s the only gay kid at Goodkind High School. Then his online gay chat buddy turns out to be none other than Kevin, the popular but closeted star of the school’s baseball team. Soon Russel meets other gay students, too. There’s his best friend Min, who reveals that she is bisexual, and her soccer–playing girlfriend Terese. Then there’s Terese’s politically active friend, Ike. But how can kids this diverse get together without drawing attention to themselves? “We just choose a club that’s so boring, nobody in their right mind would ever in a million years join it. We could call it Geography Club!” Continue reading “Geography Club”

Vantage Point

(2008, PG-13) Dennis Quaid (Agent Thomas Barnes), William Hurt (Pres. Harry Ashton), Matthew Fox (Agent Kent Taylor), Forest Whitaker (Howard Lewis), Saïd Taghmaoui (Sam), Sigourney Weaver (Rex Brooks). Music: Roy Budd. Screenplay: Barry L. Levi. Director: Pete Travis. 90 minutes.

Tags: Mystery, Suspense, Political Thriller

Notable: Plot twists that are both relevant and well-resolved — unusual in modern thrillers.

Rating: ★★★★★

American President Harry Ashton is in Spain to promote an historic anti-terrorism summit when he himself is struck by an assassin’s bullet. Eight different people were direct witnesses to what happened, but the question that Secret Service Agent Tom Barnes — himself a witness — has to answer is what, exactly, did they see… and what does it mean? Continue reading “Vantage Point”

Stand Up For Your Life

By Cheryl Richardson
ISBN 0-7432-2650-X

Publication Year: 2002

Tags: Self-Help

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Subtitled Develop the Courage, Confidence, and Character to Fulfill Your Greatest Potential, this book by “New York Times best-selling” life coach Cheryl Richardson is a workbook-style volume that builds upon her Take Time For Your Life and Life Makeovers books and workshops. Continue reading “Stand Up For Your Life”

Mr. North

(1988, Rated PG) Anthony Edwards (Theophilus North), Robert Mitchum (James McHenry Bosworth), Harry Dean Stanton (Henry Simmons), Anjelica Huston (Persis Bosworth Tennyson), Mary Stuart Masterson (Elspeth Skeel), Virginia Madson (Sally (Sarah) Boffin), Tammy Grimes (Sarah Bailey Lewis), David Warner (Dr. Angus McPherson), Hunter Carson (Galloper Skeel), Lauren Bacall (Amelia Cranston), Cleveland Amory (Mr. Danforth). Music: David McHugh. Screenplay: Janet Roach, John Huston, and James Costigan (based on the novel Theophilus North by Thornton Wilder). Director: Danny Huston. 92 minutes.

Tags: Farce, Comedy, Period Piece, Slice-of-Life

Notable: Anthony Edwards gives up the Nerd franchise for a great starring lead; all-star cast happily lured in by Huston family involvement.

Rating: ★★★★★

Newport, Rhode Island — 1926. To this quiet, exclusive resort town, a young Yale graduate arrives, hoping to earn his way as a tutor. His unusual ability to generate electrical shocks is taken by some school children to be magical. When rumors abound that he’s actually a faith healer in disguise, the otherwise sensible residents of Newport find themselves in a madhouse farce of “shocking” proportions.

This film is such a complete delight that it almost needs no comment… but hey, it’s me. Continue reading “Mr. North”

Hypnotizing Maria

By Richard Bach
ISBN 13: 978-1-61664-366-9

Publication Year: 2009

Tags: New Age, Philosophical, Metaphor

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Jamie Forbes, flying his own small plane, hears a cry for help over the private pilots’ com channel — a woman in another small plane whose pilot husband has collapsed. Jamie talks her down to a safe landing, where she tells reporters that he “hypnotized” her into believing that she could land the plane on her own. Considering this idea later, Jamie recalls a time when he was hypnotized by a stage performer, and he begins to discover that hypnotism is a form of believing that what is suggested to you as real… and that perhaps all of life is the same. Are we, he wonders, “hypnotized” into accepting this world as real… and is it, in fact, as real as we believe it to be? Continue reading “Hypnotizing Maria”

Pierrot Lunaire, Op. 21

Arnold Schoenberg (composer)

Tracks: 1—Mondestrunken; 2—Columbine; 3—Der Dandy; 4—Eine Blasse Wäscherin; 5—Valse de Chopin; 6—Madonna; 7—Der Tranke Mond; 8—Nacht; 9—Gebtet an Pierrot; 10—Raub; 11—Rote Messe; 12—Galgenleid; 13—Enthauptung; 14—Die Kruze; 15—Heimweh; 16—Gemeinehiet; 17—Parodie; 18—Der Mondfleck; 19—Serenade; 20—Heimfahrt; 21—O Alter Duft.

Tags: Atonal, Unlistenable

Composed: October 16, 1912

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Arnold Schoenberg selected and set to music 21 of the 50 poems in the lyric cycle of the same name, written and published in 1884 by Belgian poet Albert Giraud. The work comes from Schoenberg’s “atonal” period and features a vocal part accompanied by a five-person ensemble — flute (doubling on piccolo), clarinet, violin, cello, and piano. The work is generally hailed as a masterwork of musical expressionism; Schoenberg stated that the greatest goal of the artist is “to express himself.” In the cycles, Pierrot — the archetypical white-faced clown known as “Punchinello” in Italian and “Punch” in English — is represented (in some fashion) by a seven-note motive most easily heard at the very beginning of the first selection, “Moondrunk.” The work is effectively subdivided into three seven-poem segments. In the first, Pierrot sings of love, sex, and religion; in the second, of violence, crime, and blasphemy; and in the third, of his return home, haunted by his past.

None of this explanation saves this work from sounding like crap. Continue reading “Pierrot Lunaire, Op. 21”