A shout-out to Weird Al Yankovic – Word Crimes

I make misteaks when I’m writing. But I try not to make big ones, and I do my best to correct them when they occasionally crop up.

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These gigantic erasers have been around since I was a kid in the 50s; fortunately I have never needed one that big. Whilst typing, I can’t ever seem to spell “friend” right the first time; it’s just a quirk, I suppose.

That said, I am always gobsmacked when I see people confusing loose and lose, or their/there/they’re, or its/it’s. Maddening. I tend to be a descriptive linguist rather than a proscriptive one, knowing that languages flow like the mighty Mississippi river over time, and that usage is king – but there’s a difference between colloquialisms and ignorantisms (that last is a neologism.)

Now comes Weird Al, with his second music video in a stream of 8, released one each day. I’ve always loved his work, and this one immediately rose to the top of my favorites list because of the subject matter, near and dear to the heart of a linguist.

I’ll let Al speak for himself.

And now the Old Wolf has done spoke.

Pompeii: The Movie

Pompeii was an interesting movie. I can see why the critics trashed it; the acting was not spectacular and there was way too much overblown drama and not much more than a sappy, derivative plot. That said: I lived in Naples for around 18 months, right under the shadow of Vesuvio. I spent many hours wandering the byways of both Pompeii and Herculaneum, trying to imagine what life was like there, and what the catastrophe must have been like. Seeing those ash-cast sculptures that used to be real, live people in the museum is terribly haunting; the CG representation of the eruption and its (possible) effects on the city was chilling in the extreme, because however it looked, it would have been terrifying.

Pompeii - December 1970 - 14

 Ash cast of a victim.

Pompeii - December 1970 - 10

 Pompeii – Temple plaza

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 Herculaneum and Vesuvius in the background. Herculaneum was buried more deeply and by hotter ash than Pompeii, hence has a different feel about it. Much has been learned since I was there in the 70s – at the time, it was thought that Herculaneum was buried by hot mud flows rather than ashfall, but this appears not to be the case.

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A very rare day of snow in a Pompeiian courtyard. 1970

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The ruins of Pompeii with suburbs of modern-day Naples between it and Vesuvius. It is to be noted that if the mountain ever decides to get its rocks off again, the result could be more catastrophic than the eruption of 79 AD.

In the plus column: Jared Harris, with whom I fell in love as David Robert Jones and Moriarty; he’s always a pleasure to watch. I thought the development of the relationship between Milo and Atticus was one of the more satisfying parts of the film; I’d give it 4 stars out of 10 overall.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

18 Films Soon to Be Released

Over at Woahdude, a list of 18 films being released between now and February, with capsule summaries.

A condensed version, with my assessment in orange.

  • Frozen – There’s a good chance that I’ll see this one in the theaters. It looks cute and smart.
  • The Hobbit –  This one’s a no-brainer. Tempted to go for the first midnight showing, but I’ll wait until the madness dies down.
  • Anchorman: The Legend ContinuesMeh.
  • Jack RyanProbably a Redbox special at some point if there’s nothing better.
  • 47 RoninLooks interesting. I enjoyed The Last Samurai, this will probably be on the same level. Redbox.
  • American HustleMeh.
  • The Secret Life of Walter MittyA possibility. I’ll be curious to see how they treat this story.
  • The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence)In the name of all that’s holy, why?
  • NymphomaniacNot a chance in Hades. I’d like to see society extolling the virtues of faithfulness and stability rather than this kind of camel ejecta.
  • The Green InfernoThis looks like a gratuitous gore-fest
  • Paranormal Activity: The Marked OnesLooks silly
  • Mandela: Long Walk to FreedomThis will be watched at some point for certain, but probably not in the theaters.
  • The Monuments MenI had no desire to see “Inglourious Basterds,” and I have no desire to see this one either.
  • The Wolf of Wall StreetSeven thumbs down. We get too much of this kind of people in real life, I don’t need to see their lifestyle glorified on the big screen.
  • Grudge Matchthis one looks funny, and very meta: two aging boxers who can’t get a break any longer take each other one for the sake of exposure. I’ll probably catch this one in the theater when it comes to Water Gardens in Spanish Fork.
  • The Lego MovieNot much for me there. If I had grandkids close by, I’d consider taking them.
  • Robocop (2014)Looks like a great popcorn flick to lift my spirits when I’m down in the dumps. Redbox most likely.
  • PompeiiThis one makes me think of “Gladiator vs. Dante’s Peak.” Looks like a fun ride, if you don’t take the history too seriously.

 

 

That’s a lot of films coming up – I think Frozen and The Desolation of Smaug are my only real chances of catching this one in a first-run theater. As for the rest, I could miss them altogether and not lose any sleep over it.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

A Random Selection of Well-Loved Movies

On my Facebook wall appeared a question thrown out serendipitously:

“What movie could you watch over and over again?”

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Had this been reddit, the post probably would have hit the front page. People chimed in from everywhere, and I decided to compile a list. What I discovered was that many of the ones mentioned were also on my best-beloved list (marked with a star) and that now I have an entire raft of ones I need to see, so I can judge for myself.

  • 16 Candles
  • A Christmas Story
  • A Walk to Remember
  • Anne of Green Gables Star
  • Back to the Future Star
  • Breakfast Club
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (I prefer the original with Gene Wilder) Star
  • Christine
  • Christmas Vacation
  • Clueless
  • Connie and Carla
  • Dances with Wolves StarStar
  • Dirty Dancing Star
  • Dr. Zhivago
  • Driving Miss Daisy Star
  • Elf
  • Emma
  • Exotic Marigold Hotel
  • Facing the Giants
  • Finding Nemo
  • Flash Gordon
  • Footloose
  • Freaky Friday (remake)
  • GardenState
  • Godfather I and II Star
  • Grease Star
  • Groundhog Day StarStar
  • Harry Potter (any) StarStar
  • It’s a Wonderful Life Star
  • Ladyhawke
  • Last Holiday Star (You and I, we know the secret to life. It’s butter.)
  • Little Women Star
  • Lonesome Dove
  • Love Actually
  • Madagascar 2
  • Miracle on 34th Street (remake)
  • Moonstruck
  • Mrs. Doubtfire Star
  • Poison Ivy
  • Practical Magic Star
  • Pretty Woman
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • Princess Bride StarStarStar (One does not tamper with perfection.)
  • Return To Me Star
  • Sabrina Star (both versions)
  • Secretariat Star
  • Sense and Sensibility StarStar
  • Shawshank Redemption
  • Sound of Music Star
  • Star Wars Star (Yes, I even like the prequels. Sosumi.)
  • Stardust Star (That’s alright, Cap’n, we always knew you was a whoopsie.)
  • Steel Magnolias
  • Sweet HomeAlabama
  • Terror from the year 5000 (SciFi B-flick with a good message. Cheesy but a favorite.)
  • The Help Star
  • The Man from SnowyRiver
  • The Notebook Star
  • The Royal Tenenbaums
  • The Wedding Planner
  • To Sir with Love Star
  • Tombstone
  • Trains, Planes and Automobiles
  • What Happens in Vegas
  • When Harry Met Sally
  • While You Were Sleeping Star
  • White Christmas Star
  • Wizard of Oz Star

And a collection of others from my own favorites (certainly not complete, but for no good reason):

  • A Beautiful Mind
  • Avatar
  • Bicentennial Man
  • Brave
  • Braveheart
  • Brewster’s Millions
  • Capricorn One
  • Children of Men
  • Dark Knight series
  • Enemy Mine
  • Equilibrium
  • Face Off
  • Fahrenheit 451
  • Fantasia
  • Fantasia 2000
  • First Wives Club
  • For Richer or Poorer (Now, let’s go scrub the kitchen floor! Ooh, can we??)
  • Frequency (Wife reminded me about this one!)
  • Galaxy Quest (Oh, that’s not right!)
  • Gattaca
  • Ghost Dad (It’s Edith, and it’s a boy’s name!)
  • Good Will Hunting
  • Guarding Tess (Nic Cage’s greatest film, if you ask me)
  • Heart and Souls (Make a difference before the bus comes for you.)
  • Heaven can Wait (either version)
  • Hidalgo (Omar Sharif was awesome)
  • High Road to China (I love Tom Selleck)
  • Indiana Jones (even “nuking the fridge”)
  • Kramer vs. Kramer
  • La Dame Folle de Chaillot / The Madwoman of Chaillot
  • La Strada (a Fellini masterpiece) StarStarStar
  • Lawrence of Arabia (breathtaking!)
  • Les 400 Coups (Truffaut: Dark and poignant) StarStarStar
  • Letters from Iwo Jima
  • Lilies of the Field
  • Lord of the Rings StarStarStar
  • Michael Collins
  • Miss Congeniality 1
  • Mr. Baseball
  • Murder by Death (Alec Guinness vs. Nancy Walker – priceless!)
  • Newsies
  • Out of Africa
  • Patch Adams
  • Pay it Forward
  • Pete’s Dragon (because Maine)
  • Pinocchio (Disney’s 2D masterpiece)
  • Quigley Down Under
  • Ratatouille
  • Robin Hood (Costner)
  • Saving Grace (Tom Conti, 1986) StarStarStar
  • Schindler’s List
  • Secret of Roan Inish
  • Silver Streak
  • Sneakers
  • Soylent Green
  • Star Trek (Any and all, even No. 5.)
  • Stargate
  • Tangled
  • The 5th Element
  • The 6th Sense (even if I know the ending)
  • The Associate
  • The Count of Monte Cristo
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still (Original version, of course)
  • The Frisco Kid
  • The Good Earth (Paul Muni)
  • The Green Mile Star
  • The Kid
  • The Last Samurai
  • The Legend of Bagger Vance
  • The Man in the Iron Mask
  • The Mask of Zorro
  • The Patriot
  • The Peaceful Warrior
  • The Pianist
  • The Ultimate Gift
  • Tootsie
  • Toy Story (all)
  • War Games
  • Young Frankenstein
  • You’ve Got Mail

My favorite flash mobs.

Flashmobs have all sorts of different reasons for taking place, but some of the ones I have seen lately are real movers. I just thought I’d share a few of my favorites, because I feel uplifted any time I watch one of these.

Someday I’d love to participate in one, or at least be around when it happens.

Best visit to Williamsburg, Virginia.

Best coin ever spent. Sabadell, Spain.

Best button ever pushed. It’s an advert, but who cares.

Best visit to a train station ever – Antwerp, Belgium.

Best “What the hqiz just happened” moment – Québec, Canada. The message may be a bit heavy-handed, but it’s valid just the same.

I hope these please you as much as they did me. One of my favorite parts of these are watching the expressions of the audience; you can tell who enjoys life, and who has a bit of baggage they could perhaps stand to shed…

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Movies: The best of 2013

I love watching movies. They’re great stuff. As I wrote over at Livejournal one day, in answer to a Writer’s Block question – “What’s your favorite activity for the short days of Winter?”, the answer was “a good blood-n-guts / sword-swinging / explosions-are-many / bad-guys-get-ground-up action movie and a steaming cup of Pero. Fireplace if available. Cat in lap preferred.”

I’ve seen quite a few shows recently, and there hasn’t been one that I didn’t enjoy at some level. A list of the most popular ones from this year, in alphabetical order:

After Earth (only half of it, for a number of reasons)
Croods, The
Despicable Me 2
Gravity
Iron Man 3
Man of Steel
Now You See Me
Oblivion
Oz the Great and Powerful
Pacific Rim
Red 2
Star Trek Into Darkness

Each film had good points and weaker points. Some of them were great rides, great popcorn movies; others had something to say while entertaining. But I’d put every single one of these on a scale, together, against a film we watched tonight, and they’d come up short.

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The story of Jackie Robinson has a great cast, a moving story, and supreme social relevance. Boseman and Ford played off each other beautifully as Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey, and the film brings the past into the present with absolute clarity without being “hit you over the head” about it. This  was the state of America within my lifetime, and I don’t fool myself for a minute into thinking that just because we are two generations removed from that day, that all is well. It is not. Racism and prejudice are still rampant in our country, just not as open as they once were. It will take many more generations and much more work before  we can say that we have a nation – let alone a world – that works for everyone, with no one left out.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Whose film is it, anyway?

A few years ago, I became aware of a beautiful short video entitled “Historia de un Letrero” (The Story of a Sign), by Alonso Alvarez Barreda. Each year, the Canadian National Film Board, in cooperation with the Cannes Film Festival “Short Film Corner” and YouTube, hosts an online competition where 10 short films are posted on YouTube, and the winner is selected based on the number of “likes.” The 4th such competition in 2008 earned this short video the prize. It is truly deserving.

The version with the most views seems to be this one at ZappInternet, but I’m not sure if it’s the original or not, and Zapp’s videos won’t embed properly at WordPress, so I chose the one above.

However, in hunting around for the original version to share with you, I ran across this extract from a Mexican television show which claimed that the film was a bald-faced plagiarism of another work, a Spanish piece entitled “Una limosna por favor” (An alms, please) by Francisco Cuenca Alcaraz, which featured at the 2006 Notodofilmfest, in the category of films under 30 seconds.

You can judge for yourself – the idea is, evidently, the same. However, despite the Mexican production’s sensationalist umbrage, the concept of reworking an idea in a new format is old news in Hollywood; just about every Disney fairy tale was written by someone else and already done in another version by someone else. Alvarez himself never claimed to be the originator of the idea, and the Cannes award is not for original screenplay but for overall creative impact.

No such screams of anguish were heard when Historia de un Letrero was remade in English by redsnappa on behalf of Purple Feather under the title “The Power of Words.”

This film was almost an exact duplicate of Alvarez’ work, but set in Scotland instead of Mexico, and indeed billed itself as an homage to the previous film. From all I have been able to determine, the issue of plagiarism is moot, as even the 2006 clip is based on a folk story that significantly predates it.

Whichever version you prefer, the story is both powerful and moving. Thoughts are things, and words have power. Use them for good.

The Old Wolf has spoken.