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Category Archives: Film and Television

Date Night: At the Movies – Murder on the Orient Express

Last Friday, we were lucky enough to get tickets to see the latest film interpretation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. Lucky? It’s because the line was forming fast. We haven’t been to a show in a long time where a line formed at all (see my review of Dunkirk), let alone all the seats in the theater being filled. That was, in my mind, a good sign.

This was a very good adaptation of the story. I particularly liked Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot, with his outrageous moustache, A-type personality, wicked sense of humor, and French-Belgian accent. As compared to Albert Finney’s role as Poirot in 1974, both actors did equally well. They represented the character just right, as I imagined him in the several Poirot books I read.

Moreover, the current movie followed the book’s plot well. Although I very much like the way the dénouement is treated in the 1974 version, the period fashion and hairstyles in the 2017 version was somewhat better, and truer to the 1930s setting.  However, I had a little difficulty with the train’s engine (it’s a boiler on wheels, you know) hitting and being buried by the snowbank and not cracking. In the book (as I remember) and in the 1974 version, the super-hot engine wasn’t buried by the avalanche.

Since then, we tracked down a few television versions of Murder on the Orient Express, and some were awful: slow, stiff, an unemotional Poirot, and wacky scenes I don’t remember in the book.

This calls for me to dig out my copy of Murder on the Orient Express and re-read it. It’s on my Christmas Vacation Reading List.

©2017 Susan Marie Molloy and all works within.

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Pushing It

I am just old enough to remember when Christmas decorations in the stores went up the day after Thanksgiving, which was the same day Christmas carols started playing on the radio, and families in the old neighborhood put up their outside decorations, come mild or bitter cold breezes off Lake Michigan. In fact, it was a treat to go Downtown to see what Marshall Field’s window themes were for any given year, but you couldn’t do that until after Thanksgiving.

Slowly, decorations and the not-so-subtle hinting at great store bargains began creeping up before Thanksgiving, and so much so that well, nowadays you can stick your head into any one of several ginormous arts-crafts-sewing stores, and yes, The Decorations are up and serenaded by Eartha Kitt belting out “Santa Baby.” In July. Or – gasp! – June.

My Ma told me that when she was growing up, nobody put up decorations – including at home – until Christmas Eve. If you watch old movies (like I do), you might see the same craziness in any given Holiday-themed movie. I could be mistaken, but Barbara Stanwyck didn’t put up her tree until Christmas Eve in the 1945 movie, “Christmas in Connecticut.” And if I remember my history right, it was Franklin Delano Roosevelt who got the ol’ ball rolling with asking stores to start their Christmas season right after Thanksgiving. It was to get the draggy Great Depression economy rolling again, you know.

I’m not blaming anyone for the whole moving-Christmas-up-and-up-and-up. It’s just that it would be so nice to have that spirit, that goodwill feeling, that feeling of brotherhood and love all year ‘round, or at least during the six months’ time those decorations are up and Der Bingle starts dreaming of his ”White Christmas.”  People have become so numb and zombie-like with every holiday, in fact.

I read a tract somewhere wherein a priest wrote that in the anticipation of a baby’s birth, the joy of it coming didn’t end on the day it was born. In fact, the greater joy came on its birth day, and continued well past that day, throughout the years. Conversely, with Christmas, people have all this joy and merry-making for Jesus’ birth (if that’s how they observe the holy day), but it fizzles out the day after Christmas. I found that interesting, and it makes sense.  But it doesn’t.   What has Christmas become? You and I know that answer.

Still, I’d like that total societal feeling of consideration, love, and cordialness year ‘round, but maybe that’s too “Pollyanna,” and I’ve become jaded.

But it is worth a try. Isn’t it?

What I saw this past week:

“From the newspaper and around town.”

©2017 Susan Marie Molloy and all works within.

 


Date Night: At the Movies – Dunkirk

Though the skies were darkening up and the thunder was pounding in the distance, I shortened up the workday and headed out for supper and a movie.

Low sodium soy sauce was available at our table. Half the sodium, but one still has a tendency to use more for flavor — so maybe one doesn’t really cut back on sodium?

First stop was a Japanese Steakhouse for beef teriyaki and pork sayogoshi.  The atmosphere was peaceful and happy with gentle piped-in music.  That is, until a young kid let out a blood-curdling, Janet Leigh-worthy scream.  It wasn’t apparent where the screaming came from, but when a hibachi table burst into flames to my right, and those flames licking well above the dividing wall, the “hidden” kid let out another scream.  Kid was scared of the fire, the adults were laughing—

“No more fire.  No more fire,” the blue-capped chef assured all.  And everyone at the table laughed again.

The poster in the lobby.

With our meal finished, we walked down the street to the show.  We had advance tickets to see the new World War II film, “Dunkirk.”  I was excited to see it, as I read that it was darn good.  The film tries tells the true story of over 325,000 English and French troops who were penned in at Dunkirk, France in 1940 by the Germans and the small boat rescue of said troops by civilians, where the governments couldn’t produce.

I enjoyed the cinematography, and what scenes were computer generated were well done.  Yet, overall, the film left me somewhat flat; the ending just didn’t make me stand up and cheer (as some war pictures do for me) – though in real life, this rescue was what Winston Churchill called “a miracle.”  The film didn’t convey that.

This movie was a dud for me.

It will be interesting how the rest of the movie-going public assesses “Dunkirk” when it’s released tomorrow, July 21st.

 

 

 

 

©Susan Marie Molloy and all works within.


BOOK REVIEW: How You Can Keep Fit

Several months ago, I wrote about a couple remarkable books that The March King, John Philip Sousa, wrote. Those were extraordinary finds that I stumbled upon by chance. “The Fifth String” and “The Conspirators” are admirable works to add to Sousa’s talents.

To continue: I am a big old movies devotee and an Old Hollywood fan, too. I particularly like to study filmmaking techniques from the late nineteenth century through the early 1960s. And along the way, I enjoy discovering the lives of actors and actresses, particularly to see if they did anything beyond the, “I’m ready for my close up, Mister DeMille.”

Some time ago, I read that Rudolph Valentino wrote, and that some of his books were published. My curiosity was piqued. Really? He wrote? And what did The Sheik write? I was on a mission to find them, and I discovered some of them are extant.

Unmistakably, he was a fitness leader of sorts. His “How You Can Keep Fit” book was published in 1923 and filled with pages of health and exercise tips, and of him half-dressed and posing for the exercises he advocated. He wrote that to be fit as an actor made his acting and stamina the best that could be. After all, he said it would be embarrassing to have a stand-in do what he should be able to in acting and performing stunts. Acting was a strenuous job with riding horses for hours in the hot California sun, for example. He was thinking of not only of his pride in his work, but his fans, too. He gave them what they really wanted – a man who was a man’s man.

 

Moreover, he wrote about the importance of eating only when one was hungry, to not drink icy cold water (it’s bad for the body), and to exercise every day. He wrote amusingly about his growing up years in Italy, when he was the conventional boy: running, riding horses, swimming, climbing fences and trees, and tearing his clothes, much to the consternation of his mother. He was an active boy!

As he grew older, he maintained his exercise routines, and thus, we have his fitness book, so that you, too, can be fit.

The exercises he champions can be followed by just about anyone, even today. He warns against overdoing anything ; moderation is key to a healthy life.

Finding this book was exciting for me. It gives another perspective into the life of one of Old Hollywood’s most popular actors, but more importantly, it gives a look into the psyche of the American public in the 1920s. The public ate up just about anything public figures took the time to create, and this book shows that not all of it was garbage back then.

 

 

“How You Can Keep Fit”

Author: Rudolph Valentino
Published: 1923
Publisher: MacFadden
Pages: 77

©Susan Marie Molloy, and all works within.


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