Tag Archives: movies

Now I Have A Bunch of Movies to Watch

Dr. Joy Ochs and Dr. Jim Grove speak about movies on World War I.

Dr. Joy Ochs and Dr. Jim Grove speak about movies on World War I.

I counted about 55 people in Flaherty Community Room before the program started, and a few more streamed in. My wife estimated the crowd at 70, and I don’t think she was too far off.

It was a pretty decent turnout for 3:30 on a Tuesday afternoon. And the presentation was very interesting. Dr. Jim Grove and Dr. Joy Ochs spoke today about films depicting World War I. Their presentation preceded Thursday afternoon’s showing of “All Quiet on the Western Front,” and it make me anxious to see that movie.

Dr. Grove started the presentation with a broad survey of numerous World War I-inspired films. One genre of films was the “airplane” movies, such as “Wings” or “Hell’s Angels.”

As World War II drew closer, World War I movies foreshadowed that great conflict and grew sometimes grimmer (although, to be fair, some earlier movies seem pretty grim, too). One in particular that I would like to see is “Dawn Patrol,” which centers on the difficult position of commanders who order young pilots to their almost certain death.

When World War II actually got underway, there was more of a shift to patriotic World War I movies, such as “Sergeant York,” released in 1941. I’m not going to put that one first on my list, although I probably would watch it if I were slightly tipsy.

Dr. Grove briefly covered several films that I have seen and enjoyed, such as the 1981 film “Gallipoli.” It is an Australian film that partly illustrates how lives were wasted during World War I.

On a lighter note, he also mentioned “African Queen,” possibly the leading chick flick or rom-com about World War I (trust me, yes, I know, it’s an old Humphrey Bogart movie, but I think it really is a rom-com). “My legs, the leeches.”

Dr. Joy Ochs gives insights into the movie "All Quiet on the Western Front." I don't want to spoil it, but it doesn't end well for everyone.

Dr. Joy Ochs gives insights into the movie “All Quiet on the Western Front.” I don’t want to spoil it, but it doesn’t end well for everyone.

Anyway, the two films I most want to see, and have not yet, are “Paths of Glory,” which Dr. Grove showed an extensive clip from, and “All Quiet on the Western Front.” Dr. Ochs spoke about that movie, and illustrated her points with intriguing slides. I was interested to see how windows were used as symbols in the film, and how that echoed a World War I recruiting poster.

I am glad that I will get to see “All Quiet on the Western Front” Thursday afternoon. It may be some time—the fall semester will keep me very busy—but during Christmas break, I’ll have to find a copy of “Paths of Glory.”

Dr. Jim Grove discusses "African Queen."  A very campy, very entertaining move. As an audience member pointed out, Katheryn Hepburn didn't look exactly like that in the movie. "It's actually Lauren Bacall," Dr. Grove quipped. He was joking.

Dr. Jim Grove discusses “African Queen.”
A very campy, very entertaining move. As an audience member pointed out, Katheryn Hepburn didn’t look exactly like that in the movie. “It’s actually Lauren Bacall,” Dr. Grove quipped. He was joking.

The fascinating film talk could only scratch the surface—there have been a lot of movies made about World War I. The war happened just as the cinema industry was taking off, and I’m sure it had a profound impact on the look and feel of movies.

Beyond the very informative lecture, I also enjoyed the afternoon because it was a chance to see some familiar faces. Jay Shuldiner, a retired history professor; and John Rogers, retired social work professor, both attended. It was good to see and say hello to them.

One of the nice aspects of the series is that it has, so far, had good attendance, and that it has brought many people to the Hill.

Anyway, the presentation today was informative and interesting. I can’t wait to see more. If you missed it, check out the movie Thursday, or come to the next lecture a week from Thursday. I am one of the two presenters then on World War I propaganda.

It is not my clearest photo, but for some reason I like it the best. Anyway, I'll have to ask about the movie Dr. Grove was talking about here--it's about the psychological damage done by war. It sounds very grim, but very interesting.

It is not my clearest photo, but for some reason I like it the best. Anyway, I’ll have to ask about the movie Dr. Grove was talking about here–it’s about the psychological damage done by war. It sounds very grim, but very interesting. Sadly, I don’t recall the title, maybe “Regeneration?”


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World War I Event Reminder-Movie Week!

This week is “movie week!”

Dr. Jim Grove and Dr. Joy Ochs of our excellent English program will discuss the legacy of World War I in film Tuesday, Sept. 2 at 3:30 p.m. in the Flaherty Community room at MMU.

On Thursday at 3:30, in Betty Cherry Heritage Hall, the movie “All Quiet on the Western Front” will be shown. And there will be popcorn.

It’s all part of ou????????????r ongoing WWI series at Mount Mercy University. Check out more events here.  All of these events are free and open to the public, so I hope to see you there!

The video, by the way, is from local Cable TV and was posted on Twitter by MMU. It feels very odd to see myself speak, but what can you do?

I don’t think Brad Pitt is going to play Joe in the story of my life.


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I Want To Finish This Trilogy Of Silly

I’ll admit it, I’m a fan of the Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg films, or at least the two of his three “Cornetto Trilogy” movies that I have seen so far, “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz.” The third is out in theaters, and I have not viewed it yet.

I saw “Shaun of the Dead” a few years ago, and despite some graphic violence, found it very witty. I especially like the scene where the two friends are picking out which old record albums to throw at the approaching zombie. It’s a funny movie, and the violence is very cartoonish—obviously not to be taken seriously in this parody.

My wife and I have been thinking, with the release of the third movie “The World’s End,” that we should see the second. One of our daughters warned us before we bought a DVD of “Hot Fuzz” that it was much too violent for our tastes. Still, we are curious about movie 2, since we liked “Shaun” so much. So we bought it and watched it this Saturday.

Well. It was violent, much more graphically violent than the first movie. But even here, the violence is not played to scare, but is an integral, and rather cartoonish, part of a parody. I’ve never been less disturbed by two beheadings or a man impaled by a roof spike (and somehow those details reminded me of Exorcist movies). Anyway, I’m not sure we got many of the movie references—you could tell that much of what you were watching was meant to remind you of things that we had not seen—but it’s a tribute to the rather droll British sense of humor that it’s not necessary to “get” the parody in order to enjoy it.

If you liked “Shaun of the Dead,” then you probably will like “Hot Fuzz.” I know I did.

Best line of the movie? “Narp?” At one point, the main police character has to imitate a bad guy, a local thuggish character whose only line so far has been “yarp” when he means yes. The cop answers two questions in a good imitation of the bad guy’s “yarp,” but then comes a question he must answer in the negative. Neither he nor the viewer has heard the thug say “no,” before, so the “narp” is said as a desperate, apparently correct, guess as to what the negation of “yarp” might be. Trust me, in the movie it’s much funnier.

And it’s all for the greater good.

I may enjoy the third movie the most, I don’t know. But at least I actually watch science fiction movies, so maybe the jokes will be even funnier.

Then again, even without that level of understanding, they were pretty darn funny in “Hot Fuzz.” Yarp.

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What Kind of Movie is Your Tree?


A cardinal objects to invader. A scene from "Gone With the Wind."

The Gazette had a fine editorial this morning, extolling the virtues of trees on Arbor Day.

That put me in a treeish mood (Joy, I’ve coined another word for you, at least it looks like an adjective, I didn’t type “treely”). Not that it takes much to make me feel treely happy (that time I did). For no particular reason, I was also thinking about Hollywood, maybe to avoid thinking about royal weddings.

Most of the trees in my yard (there are several dozen) are still sleepy, just waking up, but I show some Arbor Day images here and note the tree’s movie genre or acting avatar. I don’t know why I love trees so much, except it’s such a strong urge that I can’t understand people who A) either don’t like trees or B) are picky about the trees they like.


A versatile actor, experienced, not flashy. John Reilly?

We had a young weeping willow in our yard, until it died, and a friend of one of our kids noted that was probably a good think because willows are “messy” trees. While he has a point, it was a totally pointless point. Sure, they drop branches—but they’re beautiful. It’s their job to look pretty and they do it well, it’s our job to clean up around them before we mow—and quit complaining about it, because if we look up we’ll see spreading yellow-green arches of branches that will give us transcendent joy.

Young Maple.

This is not John. John is 80 years old and 100 feet tall, this is a 5 year old maple, about 8 feet tall. In an ensemble cast with an older oak behind it. Meg Tilly in "The Big Chill."

If a willow were a movie, it would be whimsical and full of fun surprises. Sort of like “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” A mature willow across the street from us in California had branches that formed a natural bench, which you had to climb to reach, but it was worth it. In my memory, it was 100 feet high, but I was only 4 feet high, so I suspect the bench was probably 8 feet off the ground.

Today, I was photographing the waking trees in my yard and thinking about their personalities and what kind of actor or movie each would be.

Wil Wheaton in "Stand by Me" is the baby oak in the foreground. Big oak in background is Richard Dreyfuss from the same movie.

The birch is a bit stuffy, entertaining but slow moving, not in any hurry. It’s “Pride and Prejudice.”

The weeping cherry tree is flashy and exuberant, but not heavy on content. It’s “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

The tulip is tall, a bit scary and yet, oddly entertaining. It’s the most recent “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

“Lord of the Rings?” Majestic, spectacular, larger than life? Oak or Walnut.


Hawthorn. It's cute, but watch out, it has thorns, too. Sigourney Weaver in "Alien."

Walnut, to me, is a defining tree. I love them. Many people hate them for the mess they make 3 weeks of the year. But for the other 49, they are ballerina trees, twisted in interesting shapes, with the most perfect foliage available in this climate, attractive clumps of narrow leaves that make dappled sunshine. They kill other plants so that they can dominate a region, and that’s one reason Audrey has won this fight—there are no walnut trees in our back yard. But still, you don’t find nicer looking trees year round than a native black walnut. Like LOR, it’s both gnarly and pretty at the same time.


Hmmm. A delicate character, beautiful but not long lived, this is Nicole Kidman in "Moulin Rouge."

While not in our yard, many walnut trees have been planted by someone, some “Lord of the Rings” fan, in the woods behind our fence …

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The Invention of Vicky and Charlie

Audrey and I gave each other some DVDs for Valentine’s Day, and today finished watching the fourth of four movies. How did they stack up?

Charlies Wilson's War

Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks. She's a bit loose, but not a prostitute, and he's a bit loose, but not chasing symbols. Nice movie.

The best, I think, was “Charlie Wilson’s War.” Tom Hanks isn’t always great, he was, after all, in a terrible movie with a dog once, and he has been featured in marginal movies made from marginal books by a marginal author whose name rhymes with “Tan Clown.” But this is a good one, and Hanks does have a talent for “period” films—think “Saving Private Ryan,” “Apollo 13,” or even, thought the events were totally fictional, “The Green Mile.”

Anyway, in “Charlie Wilson’s War,” he plays a somewhat tainted Congressman who nonetheless champions the cause of Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion. It’s not always remembered as well as it ought to be that the Taliban takeover of that country was partly due to the fact that we were willing to arm anybody who would kill Russians, but the Russian invasion was every bit as cruel as it was depicted in the movie, and forcing them to leave Afghanistan was an achievement.


Am I a fan? She's cuter than Nicole Kidman, I kid you not.

Hanks is good in the movie, and so is an actor who has a somewhat more uneven record, in my opinion—Julia Roberts, who actually plays a complex and mature woman in the film. And Amy Adams? Well, she’s Amy Adams. I know it’s probably for all the wrong reasons, but yes I am a fan.

America’s post-Vietnam history is too full of fits and starts—of foreign involvements either handled very badly or begun well but ended too soon. Such is the case with this movie, where, as Charlie so colorfully says, we “messed” up the end game.

My rating? Four and a half of five daisy petals. Definitely worth a look.

Next, in my opinion, was “The Invention of Lying.” I was a bit troubled by the film, whose star, Ricky Gervais, is pretty open about his atheism in real life and certainly espouses that philosophy in this flim. I can see why some religious people are troubled by this film, which treats religion as the uber-lie.

Invention of Lying

An attack on religion, but an interesting, entetaining, thought-provoking and humorous one that I enjoyed. I suspect the Big Man in the Sky is more amused than threatened.

Still, the film cleverly creates and presents an alternative universe where humans are not capable of lying. That somehow works. I loved the movie company in the film, which, since humans could not write fiction, was reduced to having “readers” recite history. Gervais’ character, Mark Bellison, is stuck with the 13th Century, and thus is not very successful. Jennifer Garner is charming as his love interest, although the weakness of the film, one that is shared by too many movies, is that the entire basis of love appears to be sex.

Still, another thought-provoking, watchable movie. The humor is a bit harsh and anti religion, but then again there is noting duplicitous or dishonest about it, and I don’t mind if people don’t share my philosophy as long as they are thoughtful and honest about theirs.

Four of five petals. (Daisy petals just seems like a good rating system for movies.)

Cute bakers. Where is the cheese?

Somewhat less successful was Wallace and Gromit, “A Matter of Loaf and Death.” I like W and G, and this was somewhat funny, but not as inventive as some of their earlier work. And for some reason, Wallace was not as obsessed with cheese as he should have been. I missed the cheese.

Three petals. Just as an Ebert review of three stars is favorable, I would say this is more of a plus than a minus, but if you have not encountered the clay British chap and his more intelligent canine sidekick, this would not be the best first introduction, but if you enjoy W and G it’s certainly worth a look.

Finally, “Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona.” Did I like it? Just saw it, and honestly, I’m not sure. It was nice to see that Spanish actor from “No Country for Old Men” being passionate rather than being a serial killer.

It’s a Woody Allen film, and like some of his other movies, sometimes bogs down a bit as characters sit around and yack and the camera pans back and forth and you get a bit tired of the verbal ping-pong. And the characters irritate you by saying one thing and doing another.

Vicky Christina Barcelona

I am not fond of cotton candy--never have been. Yucky, gritty stuff, and sweet with no other flavor is not that satisfying. But I still wanted to go to this amusement park and to Barcelona.

It’s a “love” story that is really a sexual lust story. Of course, lust and sex are strong adult motivations, and I don’t mind if a movie maker explores those motivations.

And I like a lot of Woody Allen movies.

Also, Penelope Cruz is always watchable. And Scarlett Johansson is very interesting as the glue that holds Penelope and Javier Bardem together.

Furthermore, I really liked Spain, want to go there.

On the other hand, I found the movie slightly yucky. The husband comes off as a bore simply because he is one of the few characters who acts like an adult. Bardem’s artist character is particularly irritating, and I couldn’t help but think he was partly Allen’s alter ego (and Allen himself seems more than slightly creepy).

How many petals? I guess three, but a more mixed three than W and G. Still worth seeing, but has some minuses, too.

That’s it for now. I’m reading an old Bill Bryson book, “The Mother Tongue,” and a memoir by another author, “The Last Kid Picked.” When I finish one, I’ll blog about it. Planted Hollyhocks a week ago, they are supposed to take 10 to 14 days to germinate but are already showing. Morning Glories and Moon Flowers will be started next, but not yet, since germination time is pretty quick for them and it will be some weeks before plants can go in the gardens. Gardens themselves are a beehive of activity—the Sedum from last year doesn’t look like it’s been in the dark for three months under three feet of snow, but it has. The new rose bush in front looks particularly vibrant with almost totally green canes. Most bulbs in the new garden have not declared themselves yet, but in sunnier back gardens many green things are showing.

It’s officially spring in Iowa. Very early spring, still chilly and I would not be surprised by a late season snow fall one of these cool, wet days, but still. Although Cedar Rapids doesn’t look as sunny as Barcelona, it’s not Siberia anymore, either.

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