Values in sports

Michael Vick was suspended from the NFL and sent to prison for  bankrolling a dogfighting ring.  Ray Rice was given a two-game suspension (until the public outrage was perceptible even to the Ravens and NFL honchos) and a wrist-slap in court  for punching his girlfriend out.

Why the disparity? Could it be because Vick was abusing highly trained athletes who excel at a violent sport?

Weekend Film Recommendation: Rounders

The stakes are high, the chips exchange hands, and dreams crash as quickly as the cards are revealed: it’s got to be Texas Hold ‘Em. This week’s movie recommendation is John Dahl’s film about the underground world of professional poker players, known as Rounders (1998).

The story begins with Mike, played by Matt Damon, collecting together all of his secret stashes of cash to play a game of high-stakes poker. His opponent is Teddy KGB, a ‘connected’ guy played by John Malkovich, who possesses a comically unplaceable (perhaps Russian?) accent, a good eye for cards, and a peculiar love of Oreos. Teddy cleans Mike out for the $30k that was intended to fund Mike’s daytime occupation of a law school education. Lesson learned, Mike retires from poker and directs himself to honest work to fund his degree.

Before long, Mike’s childhood buddy Worm, played by Edward Norton, is released from prison. Worm has perfected his card hustle while inside: he would win money from inmates, that he would then strategically lose to the guards. This way, upon his release from prison, he’d have both a network of available games to play at the courtesy of his correctional officer friends, and a well-established reputation as an atrocious poker player. The situation is ripe for the hustle. However, some long-standing debts that Worm accrued before his sentence began have been carrying interest during his incarceration, and he needs Mike’s help to scrounge the cash together before his creditor Teddy KGB comes a-calling. The clock is ticking.

Screen shot 2014-09-05 at 01.43.37

Damon at this point in his career was still enjoying the acclaim heaped upon him for playing a disaffected kid with unusual potential in Good Will Hunting. The differences between that role and this one are slight. While both Will Hunting and Mike McDermott are immensely capable, Will lacks direction whereas Mike lacks self-control. And the latter is far more difficult to sympathize with, even if there isn’t much else aside from the accent distinguishing the two roles – heck, Damon didn’t even go through the bother of getting rid of that irritating side-part.

Mike’s relentless (and frankly exhaustingly over-worked) sense of loyalty to Worm makes him a far less interesting character than Worm, whose unscrupulous approach to card playing means he has few compunctions with adding debts to Mike’s tab and even forcing Mike to take vicarious responsibility for Worm’s own indiscretions. Norton’s portrayal of the character Worm, who in turn is usually pretending to be some other character for the purposes of the hustle, is wonderful. It’s all there: the sweaty palms from the immensity of the stakes in play, the glint in the eye when the con works, and the droopy-shouldered resignation when it doesn’t. Characters deceptively playing other characters is familiar territory for Norton (e.g., The Score, Primal Fear – and dare I say The Incredible Hulk and Fight Club, albeit for different reasons?), and the gimmick is well executed.

Screen shot 2014-09-05 at 01.45.00

Once you get past Damon and Norton in the two lead roles, however, much of the supporting cast is risibly flat (especially so for the female characters): Famke Janssen plays Petra, the moll from one of the underground clubs with a talent for the game and an eye for Mike; Gretchen Mol plays Jo, who as Mike’s girlfriend and fellow law student has twice the reason to be disappointed when his gambling comes at the expense of their life together; Martin Landau plays Dean Petrovsky, the law professor who has taken to mentoring Mike and for whom a daft backstory is constructed to explain his preposterous generosity toward Mike; John Turturro plays Knish, the only Rounder with whom we eventually come to sympathize. The acting’s not the problem, really – it’s just that they’re completely unbelievable as characters.

That said, Rounders is a film for those among you who love a card game film that takes no prisoners and isn’t afraid to play a little dirty from time to time (for more of that ilk, see my review of The Sting). Rather than post a trailer, here’s one of my favorite clips instead:

While the language police are having donuts

As anyone learning it as a second language will tell you, English could use some tidying up. The orthography alone is a mess: a “Spelling Bee” would be completely silly in most other languages, where letters are used with some relationship to phonetics. Never mind Chinese. Then we have all those idiomatic traps (in front of, but behind);  illogicalities, real and seeming: loosen = unloosen, raveled = unraveled, inflammable=flammable; and all the words whose negating barnacles can no longer be pried off:

 It had been a rough day, so when I walked into the party I was very chalant, despite my efforts to appear gruntled and consolate. I was furling my wieldy umbrella for the coat check when I saw her standing alone in a corner. She was a descript person, a woman in a state of total array. Her hair was kempt, her clothing shevelled, and she moved in a gainly way. I wanted desperately to meet her, but I knew I’d have to make bones about it, since I was travelling cognito. Beknownst to me, the hostess, whom I could see both hide and hair of, was very proper, so it would be skin off my nose if anything bad happened….

What we don’t have, and could use, is the wonderful Italian kit of modifying suffixes .  I know, when you have two words for everything from Latin and German, plus colonial uploads like bungalow, yada yada…  But wouldn’t you like to be able to stick -accio/a on something to tersely express disdain in the middle of a noncommittal sentence (Tea Partaccia), or signal affection by just saying “Spotuccio!” when your dog brings your unchewed slippers?

They stack, too: “Spotinuccio” for the little pug. This needs care, however, as they can trip over each others’ feet, so if you try this, heed the following, what happens when rough and untrained hands are allowed to meddle with machinery.

The violin was christened a “small viol” (violino). It isn’t really a viol (square shoulders, tuned in fifths, etc.), but violino/violin it is, OK.  A double bass is a great big one, violone, and it really is exactly that.  The tenor of the violin family was named a “small big viol”, or violoncello (its official name, also in English, and note the second o) even though it’s more properly a violinone (skipping the viola, but see below) and not any kind of viol.  Worse, the pieces got disconnected, and we absurdly call this second-largest of  the strings a cello, literally “a small”. By curdled analogy, the tenor, larger mandolin (mandolino = small mandola, OK so far) is a mandocello.

The Germans got off this derailing train with Geige, Bratsche , and Bass-Geige, but even they passed up Kleine Bass-Geige for violoncello. Bratsche is its own mystery, supposedly an attempt to bring   viola da braccia, “arm viol”, across the Alps. But (i) how can that word not denote a horn? and (ii) how could it not have been called violaccia from the start?

Weekend Film Recommendation: In the Name of the Father

By 1993, Daniel Day-Lewis had cemented his reputation as one of the foremost young British talents in cinema. The method acting for which he had acquired the interest of the critics (and the consternation of the film crew) in Jim Sheridan’s My Left Foot was deployed yet again in their collaboration on the film adaptation of Gerry Conlon’s autobiography Proved Innocent: The Story of Gerry Conlon of the Guildford Four. The film that resulted, In the Name of the Father (1993), is this week’s recommendation.

Screen shot 2014-08-26 at 15.13.05

The film front loads the explosive action: in the opening scenes we watch the bombing of a pub in Guildford that we later learn kills five and wounds many more; back in Belfast a few days earlier, an upstart young Gerry (played by Day-Lewis) accidentally ignites an overblown military response by the British Armed Forces in his Belfast neighborhood after he’s caught stripping roof materials with his friend Paul. To secure Gerry’s safety, his father Giuseppe (played by Pete Postlethwaite) sends Conlon the lesser to London, whereupon Gerry and Paul waste no time getting into mischief.

But it’s out of the frying pan and into the fire, as Conlon actually has a rather unhappy knack for stepping into sensitive and highly threatening situations. The wider political climate, fraught with tension as the Troubles were reaching (one of) their peak(s), has just seen the passage of the Prevention of Terrorism Act that permits – among other things – the detention of terrorist suspects for up to seven days. Conlon becomes a suspect in the Guildford bombing and is tortured by the cops for days until they extract a fabricated confession from him that incriminates himself, his travel buddy Paul, and two other friends. In a wretched turn of events, even Gerry’s father and aunt are included in the conspiracy.

From that point forward, the drama shifts gears to a crusade for the exoneration of those convicted for the Guildford bombing – a crusade prosecuted by the resolute Giuseppe and the lawyer Gareth Pierce (played by Emma Thompson). Giuseppe and Peirce hope to recruit Gerry to the cause by rousing him from apathy before it’s too late. In a film dominated by male spaces, all of which lack either determination, a sense of justice, or competence, Peirce brings a refreshing blend of all three.

Although the physically demanding preparatory rituals Day-Lewis used in My Left Foot weren’t required for In the Name of the Father, he was no less obsessive in getting into character. He stayed awake for days and starved himself before permitting filming to proceed in the interrogation scenes, and his desperation shows through. Even the weariness of being in prison for fifteen years comes across in his appearance, right down to the facial features. It’s not Linklater’s Boyhood, but Day-Lewis looks like he’s visibly aged by the end of the film.

Screen shot 2014-08-26 at 15.11.41

While there’s no question that Postlethwaite is outstanding as Conlon the elder, the added value of his character to the overall plot (beyond simply providing added grist to the suffering mill at the heart of the miscarriage of justice trope) becomes clear only as we approach the film’s conclusion. The father-son dynamic sharpens the sadness in the beginning of the film, but Giuseppe’s most significant contribution is as a foil for Gerry’s character development. At various points, Gerry spurns all three of the film’s elder male leads (Gerry’s father, the righteous Giuseppe; Gerry’s one-time idol, the self-confident IRA soldier McAndrew; and Gerry’s nemesis, the crooked cop Dixon). Eventually, Gerry has to pick what direction his embitterment will turn him toward, and it’s this complexity – combined with the impressive performances – that elevates In the Name of the Father above your garden variety miscarriage of justice movie.

Indeed, throughout the film there are fragments of more subtle imagery and nuance than the traditional ‘wrongful conviction’ genre would suggest: in prison, Conlon dulls his nerves to the indignity of his incarceration by taking acid smuggled in on pieces of a jigsaw puzzle of, you guessed it, the British Empire. As Conlon’s undeserved time in prison ticks by, the fabric of the Empire itself is gradually chipped away. The religious allegory one expects from the film’s title is mercifully never over-played, even as the themes of redemption and forgiveness permeate the story.

Watch it, and you’ll get a sense of how good a film has to be to make a soundtrack that includes Bono’s music tolerable.

The Limits of Shaming and Guilt-induction as Argumentation Tactics

Kevin Drum has written a doleful, observant pair of posts about certain argumentation tactics he observes among leftists. In the first he addresses guilt:

let’s be honest: We really do rely on guilt a lot. You should feel guilty about using plastic bags. About liking college football. About driving an SUV. About eating factory-farmed beef. About using the wrong word to refer to a transgender person. About sending your kids to a private school. And on and on and on.

We all contribute to this, even when we don’t mean to. And maybe guilt is inevitable when you’re trying to change people’s behavior. But it adds up, and over time lefties can get to seem a little unbearable. You have to be so damn careful around us!

In his second post, Kevin discusses the “brutal” intersection of shaming and social media. He quotes Freddie deBoer:

If you are a young person who is still malleable and subject to having your mind changed, and you decide to engage with socially liberal politics online, what are you going to learn immediately? Everything that you like is problematic. Every musician you like is misogynist. Every movie you like is secretly racist. Every cherished public figure has some deeply disqualifying characteristics. All of your victories are the product of privilege. Everyone you know and love who does not yet speak with the specialized vocabulary of today’s social justice movement is a bad, bad person.

I am grateful to Kevin for having the integrity to bring this problem up, not least because in doing so he risks being exposed to the shaming/guilt-induction tactics that he is describing. The norms under which we engage each other in debate matter enormously for the health of our democratic republic. If it’s okay for liberals to reflexively accuse everyone who disagrees with them of being insensitive/racist/sexist/a bad person etc. then it’s also okay for Sean Hannity to label everyone who disagrees with him an unpatriotic, freedom-hating terrorist stooge.

Across the political spectrum, we are capable of better than this. We can make arguments for why we believe what we believe without resorting to the non-argument that our personal opinions and moral worth are isomorphic. Accepting that truly good people can disagree with you is part of becoming a contributor to civil society. It’s also part of growing up.

Weekend Film Recommendation: Body and Soul

garfieldMany fine movies have been set in and around the boxing ring. Most of them borrow from the subgenre’s touchstone, which is this week’s film recommendation: The 1947 classic Body and Soul.

The hero of the story is up-from-nothing Charley Davis (John Garfield), a scrappy boxer looking for a shot at the championship. Unfortunately, that means throwing in with the criminals who control the whole rotten enterprise and exploit everyone in it. As celebrity and money go to his head, Charley is drawn away from the decent values and people from his old neighborhood and towards the glamorous but amoral people who spend their lives in society’s upper echelons. Charlie thinks he is on top of the world. But then the bosses order him to throw a big fight so that they can cash in by betting against him, pushing him to the point of emotional and ethical crisis.

This movie suffers a bit from the Hitchcock problem: Its elements have been aped so many times in subsequent films that they may come across to modern viewers as cliched. But try to get past that unfair but understandable reaction and feast yourself on a sharply-written, unforgettably photographed and acted piece of cinema.

The rewards for viewers are many. Garfield is superb as Charley, bringing alive his character’s mix of toughness and boyish vulnerability. It’s a complex performance of impressive maturity from a fairly young actor (who unfortunately never got to become an old one, he died just a few years later). Abraham Polonsky’s memorable script creates a triangle around Charley, with the other two points being strong, well-rounded female characters: Charley’s long suffering fiance Peg and his mother, Anna. These roles are brilliantly essayed by Lili Palmer and Anna Revere, respectively. In particular, the scenes of the three of them together in Anna’s house are absolutely riveting. These confrontations are also beautifully blocked and lit as the three performers move from the kitchen in the foreground to the small bedroom in the background which has a window where there really ought to be a wall (Realistic architecture maybe not, but the effect is so striking that you will not care).

Body and Soul Wong HoweThis film is also justly legendary as a showcase for my favorite cinematographer, James Wong Howe. The boxing scenes are astonishing in their vividness. Until I saw this photo I wondered if it were just a Hollywood legend that Howe shot them on rollerskates! Howe also shines outside the ring, given the viewer a gritty, realistic cityscape in which this dark story unfolds.

Although on the surface this movie is of course about pugilism, at a deeper level it’s about low-income outgroups (Jews and Blacks) trying to make good in a corrupt, oppressive and money-grubbing system. Virtually everyone involved in the production were members of the hard left and would soon be persecuted by McCarthyites as a result. But they had a free hand here for their pro-underdog politics, and they pulled no punches.

p.s. Interested in a different sort of film? Check out this list of prior RBC recommendations.

Weekend Film Recommendation: The Hitch-Hiker

hitchhiker2
Ida Lupino was a central figure in the breaking of the all-male lock on the Hollywood director’s chair. While she was looking for a new project to make with her then-husband Collier Young, she met one of the men who had been kidnapped and forced to drive through Mexico by spree killer Billy Cook. That inspired her (and co-screenwriter/producer Young) to make this week’s film recommendation, the first film noir directed by a woman: 1953′s The Hitch-Hiker.

The plot is straightforward and crisply told. Wonderfully, there is none of the extended, needless expository “set-up” of the characters and story of which too many film makers are enamored. Rather, the movie opens with a solitary figure walking slowly along a highway, looking for a ride. His face is off-camera. A car stops to pick him up, and moments later we see the same car on a dark side road, with dead bodies next to it. The solitary figure, face still obscured, harvests wallets and jewelry from the corpses. And then we see two pals on a fishing trip pick up a hitchhiker, who draws a gun and tells them to drive to Mexico. Somewhere along the way, he announces blandly that he is going to kill them too. From there, the movie is a three-handed nail biter, with William Talman as the hitchhiker and Frank Lovejoy and Edmund O’Brien as the luckless captives. Lupino keeps the brutal tale moving quickly and tells it an unromantic, unadorned style reminiscent of one of her mentors, Raoul Walsh.

Like most people, I only knew William Talman as the Prosecuting Attorney who got his head handed to him every week by Perry Mason. But there was more to the man than the role of Hamilton Berger let him show. As the gun-toting, sadistic Emmett Myers, he’s truly chilling. Yet like most bullies, he conveys an undercurrent of weakness and fear. It’s a pity Talman’s addiction to tobacco took him away from us at such an early age, leaving The Hitch-Hiker as the only big screen work for which he is even occasionally remembered.

HH2O’Brien is credible as the more macho of the kidnappers, who chafes at Talman’s psychological terrorism and keeps looking for a way to confront him. But the more complex performance is by Frank Lovejoy, whom Lupino seems to have coached to play his part more like O’Brien’s wife than friend. He cooks, he tends injuries, he loves children, he counsels patience and he better endures Talman’s taunts that the captives are soft and unmanly. Yet when the need arises, Lovejoy is heroic. I wonder if Lupino saw herself this way. In any case, I doubt that a male director/scriptwriter would have crafted Lovejoy’s part in this complex and compelling fashion.

The film is also a master class in noir cinematographer, with Nicholas Musuraca behind the camera. The eerie shots of Talman’s menacing face floating in the dark in the back seat with the two terrified captives harshly lighted and staring at the camera are unforgettable. But Musuraca also puts paid to the idea that film noir camerawork has to be all about shadow. Noir is a mood and not just a lighting style. The lonely, glaring shots of the car rolling through the bleak desert utterly isolated under the burning Mexican sun are just as much iconic noir as are all the dark scenes. Musuraca is revered in film noir uber-buff circles, but not widely respected beyond that, perhaps because his oeuvre was so enormous that he inevitably worked on some zero-budget tripe. But with this film, the trend-setting noir Stranger on the Third Floor and his movies with Jacques Tourneur (also once unappreciated), he has the basis to accrue a stronger reputation over time.

The Hitch-Hiker is a minor classic of the noir genre and a feather in the cap for Lupino, Young and everyone else involved. After this gripping movie, you may find yourself hesitant to ever again slow down and pick up that guy with his thumb out on the side of the road.

My dinner with Julian

A few weeks ago, I got to have dinner with Julian Bond.  We have a friend in common, who asked me to recommend a play for when “my friend Julian Bond” came to town. “Did you say ‘your friend Julian Bond?’” I squeaked into the phone; whereupon she invited my boyfriend and me to join her and her husband and Bond and his wife for dinner.

As I drove our star-struck way downtown, I listened to Michael read from Bond’s biography on Wikipedia, even as I pretended to ignore him: “Honey, they’re not going to give us a test!”  But after he rolled through the familiar list of credits–leader in the American civil rights movement, helped establish the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, first president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, twenty years in the Georgia legislature, University of Virginia history professor, past chair of the NAACP–Michael said, “Oh, listen to this.  His father got one of the first PhDs granted to an African-American by the University of Chicago.”

“Really,” I said.  “I wonder if he was a Rosenwald Fellow.”

You’ve probably never heard of the Rosenwald Fellowships, but you’ve undoubtedly heard of many of the Fellows: W.E.B. DuBois, Gordon Parks, Jacob Lawrence, Zora Neale Hurston, Alain Locke, Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Marian Anderson, Katherine Dunham, James Weldon Johnson, Ralph Ellison and nearly every other African-American artist and scholar active in  mid-Twentieth Century America.  The Rosenwald Fellowships, like the MacArthur genius grants which succeeded them, gave no-strings-attached cash to scholars and artists to continue their work; but unlike the MacArthur grants, the Rosenwalds went almost exclusively to African-Americans.

The fellowship program was part of Julius Rosenwald’s one-man campaign for racial justice, a campaign which led him to build the Rosenwald Apartments in Chicago and YMCAs in other Northern cities to provide housing for African-Americans moving up from the South.  It also led him to construct 5,000 schools for black children who were kept out of public classrooms occupied by white students.  The Rosenwald Schools provided primary education to one-third of the South’s African-American schoolchildren between World War I and Brown v. Board of Education.

So why haven’t you learned about any of this?  Because Julius Rosenwald, who made a fortune as the president of Sears, gave much of that fortune away during his lifetime and directed that the rest be spent within ten years of his death.  So his legacy isn’t a foundation with a big building giving out the occasional grant and the frequent press release; it’s the thousands of people educated and housed by his generosity.  But no good deed goes unpunished: for failing to make perpetuity his highest concern, Rosenwald has largely been forgotten.

Not by all of us, though.  I learned the story several years ago when the Spertus Museum in Chicago put on an exhibit of work by Rosenwald  Fellows.  One item in the exhibit was enough to persuade me of the Fellowships’ significance: a kinescope of Katherine Dunham performing new dances influenced by her Rosenwald-funded trip to the Caribbean.  As I watched the motions and the gestures, I recognized the origins of Alvin Ailey’s classic “Revelations.”  Ailey was Dunham’s student; and so, from Rosenwald to Dunham to Ailey, we have perhaps the premier work of American dance.

Thus, after a pleasant dinner in which we talked about theater and travel and the demographic transformation of Washington–Bond’s wife Pam said, “Yes, Julian calls our neighborhood Upper Caucasia”–I turned to him and said, “So, your father was a Rosenwald Fellow?”

He seemed equal parts surprised and gratified to encounter someone who knew about the Rosenwalds, and what an honor it was to receive one, and told the following story:

During a trip South in the mid-1930s to do research as part of his fellowship, Horace Mann Bond drove his car into a ditch.  Apparently a pair of rural African-Americans made their living digging holes in the road and then charging hapless motorists to tow their cars out of them.  While the two entrepreneurs were hooking up the tow truck, one of them observed Mr. Bond’s elegant city clothes and the new car he was driving, and asked how a black man came to have such luxuries.  Mr. Bond explained that he was a Rosenwald Fellow and that the fellowship had paid for the clothes and the car as well as the research he was about to do.  His interlocutor smiled: “You know Cap’n Julius?”  He hoisted the car back onto the road.  “No charge.”

Later, over coffee, Julian showed me an iPhone photo of himself seated next to an extremely elderly white lady who was holding his hand in both of hers.  “Do you know who this is?” he asked.  “In 1961 her book outsold the Bible!”  It was, of course, Harper Lee, author of To Kill A Mockingbird; and on one of his recent trips South, Bond had gotten to meet her.  “I’m so excited, I’m stopping people on the street to say, ‘Look at this!  I had coffee with Harper Lee!’”

Which is, of course, just how I feel about my dinner with Julian.

# # # #

 

Weekend Film Recommendation: Pickup on South Street

Pickup on South Street (1953)Many films have been set in seamy settings where everyone is on the make, believing in nothing and exuding cynicism until something comes along to drive one person into moral behavior (e.g., The Third Man, Casablanca, The Mission). Sometimes what makes the worm turn is romance, sometimes it’s an attack of conscience, sometimes it’s religious faith, but in this week’s film recommendation, it’s hatred of Commies!: Pickup on South Street.

Samuel Fuller’s 1952 hard-boiled masterpiece is set in the urban world of schemers, grifters, prostitutes, cops and robbers that he knew so well. The film’s perfect opening sequence, which is dialogue, backstory and exposition-free, shows cool as a cucumber pickpocket Skip McCoy (Richard Widmark) lifting the wallet from the kind of woman a respectable young man’s parents hope he never brings home (Jean Peters). The theft is observed by two men who turn out to be federal agents. They’ve been trailing the woman because she has been unknowingly passing military secrets to the Reds at the behest of her lover/co-conspirator (Richard Kiley). Meanwhile, the clever Skip soon figures out that the piece of microfilm he found in the stolen wallet is extremely valuable. Skip decides to sell it to the highest bidder, politics notwithstanding, thereby throwing himself into conflict and intrigue with the cops, the feds and the Reds.

pickup-on-south-street-2The entire cast is on fire here, and all of them are well-matched to Fuller’s pulpy tone and visuals. Even though she hated playing the sexy bad girl, Jean Peters electrified a generation of men when this film was released, which was just before women of her physical type were largely pushed aside by Hollywood producers in favor of curvaceous blondes like Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield. Richard Widmark, who might remind modern audiences of a young Jack Nicholson, exudes cocky charm, which is an ideal foil for Kiley’s more restrained performance as a desperate Communist agent.

But despite all the thespian talent put on display by the leads, this film is nearly stolen by Thelma Ritter in a supporting performance as Moe, an aging, raffish stoolie/ragwoman who just wants to save enough money for a nice funeral. She will sell almost anyone out — even her surrogate son Skip — but she draws the line at helping Reds. And Skip, otherwise amoral, draws his own line in the sand when Moe becomes a target.

Pickup on South Street is a rough, tough tale of the city which features corruption, disloyalty, double-dealing, licentiousness and some savage physical violence (I would not be surprised if both Peters and Kiley got some bruises making this movie). In short, for fans of Fuller and film noir more generally, what’s not to like?

To give you the flavor of this movie, I embed below one of my favorite scenes, which is representative of the whole. Jean Peters’ character is looking for the “cannon” (slang for pickpocket) who stole her wallet and believes that someone named Lightning Louie can facilitate her search.

p.s. Interested in a different sort of film? Check out this list of prior RBC recommendations.

Pub Quiz

Due both to being an amateur film reviewer and to observing the process through which my wife’s writing was made into the movie, I often surf Internet Movie Database and read its brief descriptions of various films. Here is the one for Casablanca.

Set in unoccupied Africa during the early days of World War II: An American expatriate meets a former lover, with unforeseen complications.

Sometimes, the films described are so strange sounding I can hardly believe they are real, and that is the seed from which this quiz grows. Below are 5 short film descriptions of the horror/sci-fi genre. Three of them are real descriptions from IMDB whereas the other two I made up. Try to guess which is which. Answers after the jump. As ever, please post scores and any critiques/comments/corrections at the end.

1. A lesbian college couple becomes stranded in the middle of nowhere with a pack of orphaned Nazi zombie breeders hellbent on their demise.

2. When an island off the coast of Ireland is invaded by bloodsucking aliens, the heroes discover that getting drunk is the only way to survive.

3. Two awkward Martian teenagers infiltrate the Texas Chili Cook Off and try to reunite their squabbling parents at the same time.

4. After making a pact with a witch to win a high school tennis tournament, the class nerd is terrorized by blood-sucking tennis balls that can only be defeated by a magical silver racket.

5. Aliens resurrect dead humans as zombies and vampires to stop humanity from creating the Solaranite (a sort of sun-driven bomb).

Continue Reading…