Posts Tagged ‘movies’

I’ve been reading a book by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with Anthony Walton called Brothers in Arms, about a black tank battalion during World War II. It’s one of several books he has written, and I would have probably finished this one by now except I became ill.

During the Democratic National Convention in the summer of 2016, Abdul-Jabbar was one of the speakers. Someone I vaguely knew commented to another, “I thought he was just another dumb jock,” expressing surprise at how intelligent and articulate he was. Being familiar with his background, I was bemused.

He has been an eloquent spokesperson for his faith ever since he converted to Islam and changed his name from Lew Alcindor in 1971. From Wikipedia: “Abdul-Jabbar has been a regular contributor to discussions about issues of race and religion, among other topics, in national magazines and on television… In November 2014, Abdul-Jabbar published an essay in Jacobin magazine calling for just compensation for college athletes, writing, ‘in the name of fairness, we must bring an end to the indentured servitude of college athletes and start paying them what they are worth.'” In 2012, he was selected by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to be a U.S. global cultural ambassador.

But I cannot forget the basketball prowess. Even as a kid in upstate New York, I read about him as a 6-foot, 8-inch player, leading the “Power Memorial team to three straight New York City Catholic championships, a 71-game winning streak, and a 79–2 overall record.”

Then “from 1967–69, he played under coach John Wooden, contributing to [UCLA’s] three-year record of 88 wins and only two losses… During his college career, Alcindor was twice named Player of the Year (1967, 1969); was a three-time First Team All-American (1967–69); and played on three NCAA basketball champion teams (1967, 1968 and 1969).

As a pro: “Abdul-Jabbar is the NBA’s all-time leading scorer with 38,387 points and won a league-record six MVP awards. He collected six championship rings,… a record nineteen NBA All-Star call-ups and averaging 24.6 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.6 blocks per game… He is also the third all-time in registered blocks (3,189), which is even more impressive because this stat had not been recorded until the fourth year of his career (1974).

“In 2015, ESPN named Abdul-Jabbar the best center in NBA history, and ranked him No. 2 behind Michael Jordan among the greatest NBA players ever. While Jordan’s shots were enthralling and considered unfathomable, Abdul-Jabbar’s skyhook appeared automatic, and he himself called the shot ‘unsexy.'”

Beyond all that, Kareem appeared in one of my favorite comedies, Airplane, where he played Roger Murdock; great first name, that. And the role has affected his real life.

Kareem was the celebrity JEOPARDY! champion on the episode that aired Friday, November 6, 1998. Why on earth would I know that without looking? Because my JEOPARDY! victory was Monday, November 9, 1998.

In 2016, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.Kareem Abdul-Jabbar turns 70 on April 16.

For the Daughter’s birthday recently, her mother and I took her and her friend to the Spectrum Theatre to see the documentary Kedi. From the description:

“Hundreds of thousands of cats roam the streets of Istanbul, free, without a human master, as they have for thousands of years. They wander in and out of people’s lives, affecting them in ways only an animal who lives between the worlds of the wild and the tamed can… Cats are such an important part of the city’s personality that everyone who grows up in Istanbul or lives there has a story about a cat—stories that are memorable, sometimes scary, sometimes spiritual, but always very personal. Istanbul-born director Ceyda Torun, in her debut, has created a heartfelt love letter to both cats and the beautiful city of Istanbul…”

Watching this movie, one can gets all philosophical about life. Should cats be owned? (And as someone with two cats, one doubts that they CAN be.)

What is abundantly clear is that taking care of the cats and their kittens bring joy and even healing to those people of Istanbul who are in their lives. These humans more aware of life and their place in it than the average American. “Cats are the mirrors to ourselves.”

The citizens fret that with greater number of sterile highways and high-rises, the very nature of the city will be irreparably altered for the worse, not just for the felines but for the people as well. An apartment-dwelling cats using a litter box are nothing like the street cats.

The director wrote: “I grew up in Istanbul and I believe my childhood was infinitely less lonesome than it would have been if it weren’t for cats – and I wouldn’t be the person I am today. They were my friends and confidants and I missed their presence in all the other cities I ever lived in. This film is, in many ways, a love letter to those cats and the city, both of which are changing in ways that are unpredictable.”

Kedi works in achieving its modest goals. Here’s the trailer.

I saw I Am Not Your Negro at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany a couple weeks ago with my wife and a friend. I wrote a decent review, which I have managed to lose. So I’m cobbling together something else.

From Rotten Tomatoes:
“In 1979, James Baldwin wrote a letter to his literary agent describing his next project, Remember This House. The book was to be a revolutionary, personal account of the lives and successive assassinations of three of his close friends- Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. At the time of Baldwin’s death in 1987, he left behind only thirty completed pages of his manuscript. Now, in his incendiary new documentary, master filmmaker Raoul Peck envisions the book James Baldwin never finished. The result is a radical, up-to-the-minute examination of race in America, using Baldwin’s original words and flood of rich archival material.”

I remember watching James Baldwin on the Dick Cavett Show, one of the clips used in this movie. Peck uses the choices of film segments very impressively. It’s not just video from 1965 when Baldwin debated William F. Buckley. It’s bits of old movies, and scenes from Ferguson, Missouri.

As my buddy Ken Screven wrote, “Even though Baldwin died in 1987, and much of his words contained in the movie reach back 50 years, the issues Baldwin talks about are still with us, raw and festering in the minds of many of Trump nation… This is a significant spotlight on an America we thought no longer existed.”

Interestingly, the RT critics’ score is 98% positive, but the viewers’, only 84%. Bill Goodykoontz of the Arizona Republic wrote: “‘I Am Not Your Negro’ is important. And urgent. And almost certainly unlikely to be seen by the people who would benefit from it most.” Rick Bentley of the Fresno Bee: “Whether it’s Baldwin speaking or the readings done by Samuel L. Jackson, ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ pulls no punches. It’s painful for a society that declares itself to be educated to be forced to look at how ignorant it has been and remains.”

The one caveat, I suppose, is that maybe America should all go out and buy it on DVD, because there were more than a few times in the watching when I thought, “I’d like to see that part again.” Here is a trailer of the Oscar-nominated documentary.

“You complete me.” There was this segment on CBS Sunday Morning the day of the most recent Academy Awards called Why do people love to quote movies?? Reporter Faith Salie does not have that affliction, though her husband does.

I’m only so-so at remembering movie quotes, but I surely know the title quote is from Jerry Maguire, which I saw at the cinema, probably in early 1997. It is specifically from a monologue from the title character (Tom Cruise) to his estranged wife Dorothy ( Renée Zellweger).

It occurred to me that, in some metaphysical way, you all complete me, especially blogwise. This would be a very different experience if you didn’t encourage me with your comments.

And what do I do it repay your kindness? I ask for more, more, MORE! I request that you Ask Roger Anything, and I really do mean anything. Of course it’s also more work for me, but it helps with my self-discovery, so I don’t mind at all. I promise to respond, generally within a month, although the last batch of questions I stretched to less than two weeks ago.

I will answer your questions to the best of my ability, though that may be diminishing, as memories are wont to fade. Obfuscation on my part, though, comes with the territory. You know you like it.

You can leave your comments below or on Facebook or Twitter; for the latter, my name is ersie. If you prefer to remain anonymous, that’s fine; you should e-mail me at rogerogreen (AT) gmail (DOT) com, or send me an IM on FB (make sure it’s THIS Roger Green, the one with the duck) and note that you want to remain unmentioned; otherwise, I’ll assume you want to be cited.

Sometimes, you just need to leave work early to see the Oscar-nominated live action short films

“Mindenki,” Hungary (25 minutes)

This was the Oscar winner, and certainly worthy. The title translates to “Sing,” but it oughtn’t to be confused with another, full-length, animated recent film of the same name.

Reportedly based on a true story, young Zsofi (Dóra Gáspárvalvi) enrolls in a new school best known for its lauded children’s choir, which is great, because Zsofi loves singing. Her mother, the principal and her new friend Liza (Dorka Hais) encourage her to join the troupe. But Zsofi runs into a snag.

I love the music, and the world of competitive choir, and it has a nifty ending. But the most engaging part of the film is the friendship between the shy Zsofi and the cool Liza.

“Silent Nights,” Denmark (30 minutes)

Aske Bang’s third short starts off strong. Malene Beltoft (Inger) is a kindhearted worker for the Salvation Army homeless shelter worker. One of her clients is a Ghanaian immigrant named Kwame (Prince Yaw Appiah). They strike up a romance.

The film’s first half addresses the difficulty many immigrants, including Kwame, have in wanting a better life. But there may be way too much story at the back end to be credible. Still, I found the couple intriguing.

“Timecode” (Spain, 15 minutes)

Juanjo Giménez Peña won the Palme d’Or for this. Luna (Lali Ayguadé) and Diego (Nicolas Ricchini) work in a parking garage in 12-hour shifts. Pretty boring, with polite but minimal interaction between the two only at the shift change.

Then Luna discovers that Diego has a hobby. Eventually, the two soon start using the expansive video surveillance system to swap videos. It was a minor piece but with some charm, especially if you appreciate the moves.

“Ennemis Interieurs,” France (28 minutes)

Sélim Azzazi’s film, translated “Enemies Within,” feels like it’s based on current events, though it was set in the 1990s. It takes almost entirely inside a dim immigration office. Hassam Ghancy is an unnamed Algerian-born Frenchman hoping to procure official citizenship. Najib Oudghiri is the likewise unnamed official who essentially plays the good cop AND the bad cop at different points.

For a movie mostly confined to one location, it was quite affecting. Ghancy’s character showed fear and indignation from the interrogator’s questions. Probably the best of the five.

“La Femme et la TGV,” Switzerland (30 minutes)

Timo von Guten’s film is the most quirky of the features. Jane Birkin, who’s been in quite a few movies you may have seen, is the femme, a melancholy baker in a tiny French town. Her only joy is to wave at the TGV train when it goes by twice a day at 185 mph.

A train conductor sends her a note, tossed off the speeding train and landing in her yard, thanking her for her daily greetings. A correspondence is struck up between the pair, but not on “the Internets,” which she actively avoids.

There is a relationship based on more tossed packages, stuffed with cheese, and carefully written letters which eventually forces her to take action unusual from her predictable life. The solution was there but she couldn’t see it before. I liked it, though it may be a tad long. It’s based on a true story.

Here are trailers for Oscar-nominated live action short films. Most of the movies are in subtitles. I did not find them out there for free, only for a fee.

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