Thursday, February 28, 2013


The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
by Ryan James

The 1001 Movie Blogger enters my office but stops short with a confused look on his face.

“Oh, pardon me. I must have the wrong office.”

“No, no. It’s alright, Chris. Come on in. I’m filling in for your therapist today.”

“But…where’s my usual therapist?”

“I’m afraid he’s tied up at the moment. It was all rather sudden. That’s why nobody notified you ahead of time. My name is Von James. Dr. Ryan Von James.”

“Well, it’s nice to meet you, Dr. Von James, but uh, I don’t know if I’m comfortable opening up to a total stranger. Maybe I better re-schedule.”

“Nonsense, my boy. I’ve been reading up on your blog entries, and I’m very familiar with your case. Now, why don’t you lie down right here on the couch and get relaxed. That’s it. Now tell me, what is it that’s troubling you today?”

“Well… I think this whole blogging about movies thing is starting to get to me. I mean, I’ve always been prone to a daydream or two on occasion, but here lately—well, ever since I sat down and watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, it seems I’m constantly dropping in and out of daydreams and I can’t do anything to stop it. When I’m at work, I can’t concentrate. When I’m at social engagements, my friends think I’m being standoffish. It’s even beginning to affect my personal safety. I experienced three separate daydreams on the way over here. It’s a good thing my car practically knows the route.”

“And you say these daydreams are a product of your obsessive blogging about movies?”

“I’m almost sure of it because every daydream has me starring in a lead role in one of the movies I’ve reviewed. What’s really weird is, sometimes, I get caught up in a daydream where two movies are combined together, like that time Col. Kurtz was training me to be a Jedi Knight in the middle of some dark jungle.”
“I see.”

“Or sometimes my daydream takes place in only one movie world but then there’ll be casual references to other movies thrown in. And then there’s Bob.”

“What About Bob?”

“He’s a new employee at the library where I work. He’s just an intern really, but I get the feeling he’s always watching me, observing me. And he seems to always be communicating with someone on his smartphone, like he’s reporting back to his superiors. It’s rather unnerving.”

“I see.”

“So…whaddya think, Doc? Am I losing it? Or do you—do you suppose there’s some sort of evil mad genius at work here? I mean like somebody with a nefarious master plan who’s out to get me and drive me insane. No— No, I guess that sounds a bit silly, doesn’t it?”


“Well, there you have it, Doc. That’s my predicament in a nutshell. So do you have any suggestions for me?”

“I know how to murder a man and leave no trace.”

“What! What did you say??”

“I said have you been having any other strange visions lately? For instance, when you’re walking around town, how do women appear to you? Are they always fully clothed or do you sometimes see women walking around in nothing but their undergarments?”

“Now really, doctor! What do you take me for? I’m a happily married man. I—I suppose, like most men, the occasional young beauty catches my eye, but I—“

“Sure, sure. I didn’t mean to offend. It’s just that sometimes—“

It was at that moment the office door opened, and Nurse Mayo walked in. My patient immediately sat up on the couch. His eyes nearly popped out of his head, and he began drooling like a ravenous wolf. He took great interest in the nurse as she walked over to me and handed me some papers.

“Doctor, would you sign these please?”

“Certainly, Miss Mayo, I’ll be glad to.”

I took the papers and signed each one before handing them back to Nurse Mayo, and that’s when I noticed it.

“Why, Miss Mayo!”

Both Miss Mayo and the patient gave me confused looks.

“Y-yes? What is it, doctor?”

“There’s a spot on your uniform!”

Miss Mayo looked down to examine herself and gasped.

“Oh, dear! I’m so sorry. Thank you, doctor. I’ll go change right away.”

With that, Nurse Mayo hurried out of the office shutting the door behind her.

“Please, pardon the interruption. It seems the paperwork is never ending around here. Anyway, as I was saying, I—Well, what is it my boy? You look as though you’ve just seen something totally unbelievable.”

“S-so that’s your nurse?”

“Yes, why?”



“I didn’t see a spot on her uniform….”

“What? But it was clearly visible on her white uniform. Looked like a blotch of mustard or something.”

The patient said nothing. Then it dawned on me. I knew immediately what was up.

“You didn’t see a uniform at all, did you, Chris?”

The patient shook his head, then buried his face in his hands and began sobbing like a baby.

“No! I didn’t! I only saw lacy undergarments and thigh-high boots! Oh doctor, what am I going to do? What’s wrong with me??”

I walked over to the couch, sat down beside the patient, and patted him on the shoulder.

“There, there, my boy. It sounds to me like what you need is a vacation from your blog.”

“A vacation from my blog? Really?”

“Yes, turn off that computer for a while. Go out and get some fresh air. Relax. Enjoy life. Find yourself a nice girl. Get married—“

“But I’m already married!”

“Good, good. Maybe what you need, then, is to find some good books to read. That shouldn’t be too difficult for a librarian, ay? Maybe you can get together with this Bob fellow, and you can suggest books to each other and then talk about the books you’ve read. You may find out he’s a likable sort. Or maybe….”


“Maybe you’d like to amuse yourself by playing a game of solitaire?”

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


'Wondering how am I ever going to get through the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list if they keep updating it with new entries' month.

(Post 10 of 10)


When I saw the 1001 updated list, I admit the one movie listed that made me roll my eyes was Bridesmaids. I knew the movie was popular, but I wasn’t enthused about watching it. I kept seeing that DVD cover of the Bridesmaids striking a militant pose that made me think of something like 27 Dresses or Sex and the City. Oh, boy.

I was also thinking of the article that Christopher Hitchens wrote in Vanity Fair called “Why Women Aren’t Funny.” The main point of which is we, the male, have to be more funny to attract a mate.

That being said, I admit Bridesmaids is funny.

There must be some explanation. Let's see.

Maybe it's funny because it was written by men, right?

No, the screenwriting credit is from star Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo.

It comes from Judd Apatow comedy factory and it probably isn’t as funny as the male point of view film, Knocked Up, right?

Honestly, I thought it was much funnier that Knocked Up.

I’m sure that the women in the supporting cast aren’t all that funny, right?

Well, actually Melissa McCarthy gives one of the funniest supporting performances in recent memory.

Well, for my next objection, I got…uh, I got nothing else. Maybe I need to re-read that Hitchens article.

Monday, February 25, 2013

HUGO (2011)

'Wondering how am I ever going to get through the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list if they keep updating it with new entries' month.

(Post 9 of 10)


If you watch a lot of DVD extras on the films on the 1001 movie list, you will receive many visits from Martin Scorcese. I honestly think the man has seen every movie ever made! It gets to the point where whenever I watch anything, one of the first questions that pops into my head is, “I wonder what Marting Scorcese thought about this?” It’s like Martin isn’t any longer the director of Goodfellas or Mean Streets. He’s just my thick eyebrowed buddy Marty and he’s gonna give me his opinion. Thanks, Marty.

Of course, Scorcese is also one of the most respected directors in American film history. He has done a variety of films, though I associate him most with the gritty urban character studies like Raging Bull and Taxi Driver.

That is why I was a little surprised to see the trailer for Hugo. Hugo is based on a children’s book and is a 3-D family adventure directed by…Martin Scorcese? Are they sure they didn’t mean Steven Spielberg?

Part of the film has the young protagonist trying to find his way to get his notebook back from the grumpy toy seller at the train station where the boy lives. As we quickly discover that the man is actually forgotten French movie pioneer George Melies, it suddenly makes sense as to why my buddy Marty was attracted to the material (Other than the fact that he wanted to make a film his twelve-year-old could see.) Not to over psychoanalyze it, but I’m sure he could relate to a boy discovering not only the wonder and escape of old films, but resurrecting and bringing back to the surface an old filmmaker that he loved.

But I’ll check my friend Marty’s commentary on the extras to make sure I’m right.

Friday, February 22, 2013

DRIVE (2011), TAXI DRIVER (1976)

'Wondering how am I ever going to get through the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list if they keep updating it with new entries' month.

(Post 8 of 10)

Drive/Taxi Driver

I didn’t know what to make of Drive when I first started watching it as I didn't know anything about it going in. Was it supposed to be an action picture? Was it a character study of this nameless driver who is a part time stunt driver for the movies during the days? Maybe some kind of commentary on filmmaking? There are elements of all these things in the movie, but it doesn’t fit too neatly in a genre. Maybe that’s what I liked about it. It has violence, usually pretty brutal, but the violence it depicted has real world implications, which separates it from most of the action films that seem to be out today (Granted I don’t watch many of those).

It’s also nice to have a main character who doesn’t run his mouth all the time and have his over-the-top actions shielded by a series of wisecracks. “The Driver” (No name is given to the character played by Ryan Gosling) is enigmatic, which makes him more interesting to me than, for example, the Liam Neeson charcter in Taken (a movie I hated). He is reminiscent of the characters played by Clint Eastwood in the Sergio Leone Dollars trilogy in this respect.

However, there is one other film that Drive brought to mind that I hadn’t seen in awhile. That was Martin Scorcese’s Taxi Driver. Perhaps it was the ultimate goal of the main character. Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver wants to save a twelve-year-old prostitute, as "The Driver" from Drive wants to save the woman he loves and her son.

So I thought it was a good time to watch Taxi Driver.This was about the third time I’ve seen Taxi Driver and I’ve watched it at roughly fifteen-year intervals. I can honestly say that I think it’s a stronger movie every time. It’s definitely a fortunate combination of writer (Paul Schrader) , director and actor (Robert De Niro) coming together at the right time (and during the right time, the mid-70’s).

Paul Schrader was always at odds with his strict upbringing vs. his need to rebel against it and it really comes into play here (as well as how his later film, Hardcore does). Main character Travis Bickle (an insomniac like Schrader) regularly goes to porno movies, but doesn’t seem to get any pleasure out of it. He’s so clueless about people, that when he takes a date to see one of his porn movies, he is shocked that she might take offense at it.

This was also part of the trio of films that I think of when I think of director Martin Scorcese (Mean Streets and Raging Bull are the others). I know he’s made other good films, but I really think of this as his urban trilogy of sorts. Having seen them all again recently, I think Taxi Driver is the best of the bunch. His instincts about how he films Bickle and the streets of New York makes for a most memorable and unsettling experience.

One other link between Drive and Taxi Driver is comedian/actor Albert Brooks. I know Brooks from his short films on some of the early Saturday Night Live episodes and also some funny feature films of his own from the 80’s such as Modern Romance and Lost in America. In Taxi Driver, he does provide some comic relief in his dealings with Cybil Shepherd and seems like a basically reguler guy which contrasts greatly in the film to the intense Bickle. It’s a small part, but he does it well, but you couldn’t really picture Brooks as ever playing the tough guy, could you?

Well, in Drive, the thirty-five years older Brooks turns into the tough guy! In fact, he is the chief criminal that makes the plot of the movie go around. The Brooks patter isn’t funny anymore, it’s just ruthless and he’ll just as soon slit your throat as look at you. Definitley a most interesting (and unexpected)change of pace for Mr. Brooks.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


'Wondering how am I ever going to get through the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list if they keep updating it with new entries' month.

(Post 7 of 10)

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

I read (technically listened to the Audiobook versions) all three of Steig Larrsen’s Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series. I’ve also watched and liked the three Swedish movie versions from the series. However, when it was announced that David Fincher was doing an English language version, I wasn’t overly excited. Nothing against Mr. Fincher, but I was frankly burned out on the story.

Then the updated 1001 list appears and this version of Tattoo shows up on the list. So I grudgingly give it a shot, but I do so with a decidedly grumpy attitude. It takes me awhile to get involved this version, but I eventually do. I do like the way that Fincher shows the alternating stories of reporter Mykal Blumkwist (Daniel Craig) and Elisabeth Salander (Rooney Mara) He also does monkey around a bit with some of the plot revelations (one in particular), which does give those familiar with the original story some surprises.

Rooney or Noomi?: I didn’t like Rooney Mara as much as Noomi Rapace from the Swedish versions. Rooney is okay, but Noomi really became Salander for me.

Casting choice to make you feel old: The part of the sexy, but decidedly older Editor of Millenium is played by the always seemingly youthful Robin Wright of The Princess Bride.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

WAR HORSE (2011)

'Wondering how am I ever going to get through the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list if they keep updating it with new entries' month.

(Post 6 of 10)

War Horse

When I put in the DVD for the movie War Horse,I accidentally pushed the button for English Audio Descriptive on the remote. As the movie started, a female voice, with a pleasant English accent began narrating over the first shot of the movie...

A slow moving aerial view of the sun rising over an undulating gray landscape. Fields boardered by bushy hedges stretch out into the distance. The sun spreads its light over the land-a silvery lake reflects the rays. Sheeps graze contentedly. Tucked between the pastures, a tall rectangular church steeple looms up above the cluster of small, gray stone houses. White chalk litter the Devonshire landscape, below them a stream meanders to the coast. In a meadow, three men wearing rustic clothing are tending to a dark brown mare who is laying in the grass. A brown-haired teenage boy with blue eyes is peering through a wooden fence as the three men coax the mare.

Keep in mind this narration is not part of the actual movie, though I do think it describes the event taking place pretty well. I decide to watch the entire thing with English Audio Descriptive on. I come to like our narrator as the movie progresses and look forward to her describing the events as we proceed through parts of the story with limited dialogue.

During the emotional final scene, (English Audio Descriptive spoiler alert!) our narrator (who I am now referring to as Clara) paints the canvas of the unspoken scene with words...

Albert shakes his father’s hand…and then hugs him. Rose then steps toward them and places her hand on Albert’s back. A family tableau beneath the fluffy, brown clouds and orange sky. Standing by the gate, Joey watches the family as Ted and Rose stroke Albert’s face. Against the dramatic sky, Joey’s chestnut coat gleams like beaten copper. His calm brown eyes gaze toward the sunset. His long, sleek head stands in profile.


Thank you, Clara.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


'Wondering how am I ever going to get through the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list if they keep updating it with new entries' month.

(Post 5 of 10)

The Descendants

I wonder if a feminist film critic might ask the hypothetical question about the The Descendants that if this had been a Julia Roberts movie instead of a George Clooney movie would it have met with such critical approval and nominated for several Acamedy Awards? Would it have gone the way of Eat, Pray, Love? A popular movie largely because of the star, but not one that would be given any kind of awards.

Not that I didn’t like The Descendants. It does have something to say about how tragedy can become an opportunity. How you can stand for the right thing against pressures for you to take the easy way out. And George Clooney is a very likeable movie star. I’m just not sure it would be in my book of 1001.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


'Wondering how am I ever going to get through the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list if they keep updating it with new entries' month.

(Post 4 of 10)

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

I am not a movie reviewer. But if I were, I do wonder sometimes if I were sitting in my little cubicle or huddled in my office, what would happen if the roles were reversed. What I mean by that is, instead of me passing judgment on a movie, then what if the movie passed judgement on me? I think this one might go something like this.

Hey! I’m Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy. Not the old one with Alec Guinness, but the new one with Gary Oldman. I just have one question. What the hell is wrong with you? I am exactly the kind of movie that you claim you want. So why don’t you like me more? Look at my great cast! Look at my literary roots! Look at the complex plot. You say you don’t like simple minded plots. Well, this isn’t simple minded at all. Were we too hard for you to follow? And those movies that are 'ridiculous with special effects,' or with 'overblown action sequences' or thos 'cutesy romances' you always complain about? Those aren't here! I thought that’s what you wanted, mate! And don’t think I didn’t see you nodding off a couple of times. That’s pretty inexcusable. I don’t mean to get so personal, but I’m afraid that I’m going to have to give you, the reviewer, a thumbs down!

-Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy's review of some guy with the blog, February 10, 2013.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


'Wondering how am I ever going to get through the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list if they keep updating it with new entries' month.

(Post 3 of 10)

A Separation

I mentioned in my last post some of the criteria our library uses for choosing films to show during our foreign film festival. This Iranian film doesn’t meet one of the criteria in that it’s pretty grim and isn’t exactly uplifting. However, I’m willing to overlook that fact for this one for a couple of reasons. This film had such a positive critical response (and a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar to boot) that I have no problems in going with this one for the library to show.

Before I started going through some of the Iranian films on the 1001 list (Gabbeh, Close-Up, The White Balloon) and a couple that aren’t on the list (Offsides! and Song of the Sparrow), I had no idea that Iranian cinema was so respected. As I've looked at a few of these films, I take note of the many similarities between Iranian culture and American culture, yet societal constraints, particularly the treatment of women, are vastly different. What is the proper role of women in this society? What are the limits to what they can do or can’t do? How has the influence of Western culture changed the ways women are viewed in this environment?

I don’t have definitive answers to these question, but please feel free to talk amongst yourselves.

Monday, February 4, 2013


'Wondering how am I ever going to get through the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list if they keep updating it with new entries' month.

(Post 2 of 10)

Le Havre

I help choose the films for the foreign film festival that we show annually at our library. I try to keep a few things in mind in choosing the right film for our audiences.

I don’t want something with too much sex.

I don’t want something with an overabundance of bad language.

I don’t want something that is too long.

I don’t want something geared for an overly young audience.

I don’t want something commercial.

I don’t want something want something to esoteric. (Like another film on the 1001 list updated list, The Tree of Life).

It needs to be good.

The more recent the better.

Oh, yeah. It’s nice if its uplifting too.

Le Havre, the story of an aging French shoeshine man with a sick wife who takes in an African refugee in France meets all of the criteria for the type of movie we show.

Except one. It doesn’t fall under the heading of films that we can show under our film licensing (French curse word delted). I guess I’ll keep looking.

Friday, February 1, 2013


'Wondering how am I ever going to get through the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list if they keep updating it with new entries' month.

(Post 1 of 10)


In Garth Stein’s clever novel, the Art of Racing in the Rain, the canine narrator shares the love that his owner has with Formula One racing. He is especially enamored by the ability of these drivers to be able to race effectively during inclement weather. And the best of these racers during the 80’s and 90’s was formula one superstar Ayrton Senna.

This led me to view the first film on the updated 1001 list, the British documentary about the above mentioned formula one racer, simply titled Senna. I’ve never particularly been a fan of Formula One racing (unless you count that I always thought Jackie Stewart had a cool accent when he used to be on The Wide World of Sports). However, once the story of Senna is put together in this documentary through interviews, archival and racing footage and news reports, the story of the man and the legend really takes shape. One sign of a good documentary for me is something that involves you about something you wouldn’t normally be interested in. And Senna does that.