Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Movies & TV’ Category

Great movie: “In the Line of Fire”

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Clint Eastwood, Rene Russo, John Malkovich—what more do you want? Well, how about excellent production values, tight script, interesting take (a heist movie plus romantic comedy as a political action movie—irresistible). I particular love the scene in which the Eastwood character seduces the Russo character at the piano, with that wonderful dialogue based on unspoken but obvious thoughts.

I’m watching Hulu. Yay. Just started it.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 July 2017 at 8:33 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

The 100 greatest movie props in movie history and the stories behind them

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Via Jason Kottke, here they are. One example: the red stapler from Office Space!

“I wanted the stapler to stand out in the cubicle and the color scheme in the cubicles was sort of gray and blue-green, so I had them make it red. It was just a regular off-the-shelf Swingline stapler. They didn’t make them in red back then, so I had them paint it red and then put the Swingline logo on the side.

“Since Swingline didn’t make one back then, people were calling them trying to order red staplers. Then people started making red Swinglines and selling them on Ebay and making lots of money, so Swingline finally decided to start making red staplers.

“I have the burnt one from the last scene. Stephen Root has one that was in his cubicle. There were three total that we made. I don’t know where the third one is.”

Written by LeisureGuy

12 July 2017 at 11:49 am

Posted in Movies & TV

Fascism for liberals: “RoboCop” at 30 and the problem with prescience

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Very interesting column by John Semley in Salon:

We have become obsessed with prescience. Or rather, a kind of reverse-prescience that sees old books (from Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four” to Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” to Arendt’s “The Origins of Totalitarianism” and Radiohead’s “OK Computer”) invested with a new vitality. These works, and their authors, are hailed for their farsightedness and acute judiciousness, for their ability to “speak to our troubled times.” But more often than not, it’s a case of too little, way too late.

Reading the Stalinist parable “Nineteen Eighty-Four” to make sense of Trumpism feels about as useful as scanning the instructions on a bottle of bear spray while your torso’s already half-digested by a savage Kodiak. Still, we laud the old works and the old masters for their seeming ability to forecast the present, even if they do so in hazy, generalizing terms. The esteemed quality of prescience thus reveals itself as conservative, keeping us fixed on the past, lost in our fantasies of foregone foresight. Damn, if only we could have seen it coming back then.

Few pop-cultural objects carry this burden of prescience like “RoboCop,” Paul Verhoeven’s sci-fi satire/Detroit dystopia/Christian allegory, which turns 30 this summer. Set in a near-future Motor City beset by corporate greed, with slums being rebuilt as privatized skyscraper communities and public services seized by profiteering private contractors, much of “RoboCop’s” critical legacy hinges on its seemingly spooky ability to predict the future: from the militarization of American police forces, to the collapse (and rebirth) of Detroit, to the way in which politics has become increasingly beholden to private money.

Never mind that all these things were already happening when “RoboCop” was released theatrically at the ass-end of the Reagan administration. What matters is how the film is regarded as effectively anticipating what’s happening now. Problem is: claims of the film’s prescience aren’t just overstated. They’re fundamentally incorrect. And if we’re to believe — as many seem to — that “RoboCop’s” near future is meant to be our present, then we must reckon with one of its greatest oversights: its depiction of business-suited capitalists as crass, corporatist, unfeeling heels. What “RoboCop” got wrong was its depiction of the bad guys — of those greedy corporate profiteers looking to razz Detroit’s crumbling ghettos, quarterback private police militias and trap the hearts and minds of good, honest, working men inside hulking robotic exoskeletons.


On the commentary track bundled with Criterion’s now out-of-print 1998 home video release of “RoboCop,” producer Jon Davison summed up the movie’s message. He called it “fascism for liberals.” As Davison puts it: “The picture is extremely violent, but it has a nice, tongue-in-cheek, we’re-just-kiddin’ quality.” Indeed, “RoboCop,” like many of Dutch expat Paul Verhoeven’s other films (“The Fourth Man,” “Starship Troopers,” “Basic Instinct,” “Showgirls,” even the recent “Elle”) function through this sort of deeply embedded irony; this “we’re-just-kiddin’ quality.” The sex, the violence, the way they flirt with ideological reprehensibility — Verhoeven’s films are calibrated to invite reaction, even disgust. And yet that’s never the end in itself.

When a heavy artillery “urban pacification” tank shoots up a boardroom meeting early in “RoboCop,” in one of the film’s most legendarily over-the-top sequences, the joke isn’t the display of gore itself, but rather the reaction. When the scowling CEO of Omni Consumer Products (referred to with mock-affection as “The Old Man,” and played by Dan O’Herlihy) witnesses the wanton display of machine-on-man violence and mutters to sniveling underling Dick Jones (Ronny Cox), “I’m very disappointed in you,” that’s the joke — a critique of the corporate world’s utter disdain for human life, packaged in a parody of Reagan-era paternalist condescension. This, presumably, is what Davison is talking about. “RoboCop” offers visions of violence, of top-down, totalitarian corporate control, and the crumbling of the American Dream itself that proves fundamentally comforting in its cheekiness and ironic distance. Yes, the world it depicts is bad. But we know it’s bad. And that’s good.

Yet this idea — fascism for liberals — runs even deeper into the movie’s DNA. What its capitalist parody doesn’t anticipate is the current entanglements of corporatism and politics. While the ascent of celebrity capitalist Donald Trump may play like something out of a direct-to-video “RoboCop” sequel, the film fails to address the more pressing threat of smiling, do-gooder philanthrocapitalists: guys like Michael Bloomberg or Mark Zuckerberg who increasingly set the agendas of American (and global) politics, while retaining the image of selfless saviors. These are the people who, increasingly, represent the corporatization of everyday life, albeit in a way that “RoboCop”-style corporate villainy can’t account for.

When Donald Trump announced that America would be backing out of the Paris Climate Agreement, ex-NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg promised to pick up the tab with his private money. Likewise, before Amazon’s Jeff Bezos announced he was buying the Whole Foods supermarket chain last week — a move that boosted Bezos’s stock while sapping that of competitors like Wal-Mart and Target — he canvassed Twitter for ideas on charities to which he could donate money. This is the face of modern consumerist capitalism: lead with a benign-seeming charitable gesture, follow through with a massive, bottom line-boosting buyout.

The fundamental weakness of ’’80s-era, “RoboCop”-ian businessman bad guys is . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 June 2017 at 4:17 pm

Great little movie (it’s a written-and-directed by, of course): “Two Days in the Valley”

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And with a knockout cast. Available now on Amazon Prime streaming.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 June 2017 at 10:02 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

The Entire Truth of Dr. Mayim Bialik

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Michael Friedman writes in Psychology Today:

For years, Dr. Mayim Bialik has been challenging our notion of what it means to be a girl and woman.

In a world that has a clear bias against women in science, Dr. Bialik received her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from UCLA. And in a world that presents few and stereotypical roles for women in television and movies, Dr. Bialik has a long history of playing norm-challenging characters. From her portrayal of a young, outspoken and ambitious CC Bloom in the movie Beaches to her role as Blossom Russo in NBC’s Blossom – a teenage girl living in a house run by men after her mother left to pursue a new life and career – to neurobiologist Amy Farah Fowler in CBS’s The Big Bang Theory, Dr. Bialik has been presenting us with a different perspective on girls and women for 30 years.

And now with her new book, Girling Up: How to be Strong, Smart and Spectacular, Dr. Bialik is continuing in this tradition – by challenging stereotypes and trying to tell the entire truth about what girls face while growing up.

There is a critical need for a different perspective. Too often, girls and women face cultural stereotypes that suggest what they can or should do, resulting in bias and discrimination, particularly in academic and work settings. And the effects are severe; not only does discrimination against girls and women result in worse physical and mental health, but also in lower pay and opportunity to be hired for jobs.

For Dr. Bialik, stereotypes against women are not an abstract concept, but rather they are hurdles that she personally faced early on both as an aspiring neuroscientist and actress. “The roles for women, especially in television and movies, have been fairly narrow for most of entertainment history. I grew up watching the sitcoms of the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, and females were either the slut or the nerd – and there was nothing in between,” Dr. Bialik said. “We’ve come a long way, but our perception of women is pretty narrow. And women have been historically underrepresented in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) field for a lot of reasons.”

At the same time that girls and women face bias and discrimination in work and school, our culture over-emphasizes physical appearance. In particular, throughout history, random body ideals for women have been presented in culture, contributing to body image dissatisfaction among girls and women. In fact, negative views of one’s body are so pervasive among women that this is often referred to as “normative discontent.”

Dr. Bialik reflected on how she experienced having to compare herself to conventional societal norms of female attractiveness. “As an adult, I don’t look like a lot of women. I have ethnic features. I’m several dress sizes larger than your average actress in Hollywood … being a non-traditional looking female can be a challenge in a culture that really celebrates conventional leading ladies and attractiveness,” Dr. Bialik described. “I think part of that is having a broad understanding of how significant culture is. And how much notions of what is considered attractive varies by culture … One of the most confusing things, especially for young children, and for teenagers as well, is when their reality is not reflected by the adults around them.

“We’re not seeing entire truths presented to them.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 June 2017 at 1:54 pm

“Tropic Thunder” has aged well

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Of course, I’m a sucker for a movie movie, and Tropic Thunder on Netflix now is an excellent comedy of the genre, with lots of references and allusions. Quite a cast, too.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 June 2017 at 9:24 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

Some really great movies on Netflix right now

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Movies come and go on Netflix, and this site has a long list of really fine movies currently available. Scroll down and keep scrolling: the list is 10 pages long. It includes trailers of the films and a button you can click to add the movie to your Netflix watchlist (button brings up the movie in Netflix, then you click “Add to Watchlist” in Netflix).  Movies are listed by genre. Just a few of the titles:

Kubo and the Two Strings
The Prestige
Tropic Thunder
Blazing Saddles
This Is Spinal Tap
The Big Short
The African Queen
Ip Man
Oldboy (the original, aka the good version)
Big Trouble in Little China

and many more.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 June 2017 at 9:00 am

Posted in Movies & TV

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