Friday, October 2, 2015

Mock Squid Soup: October Trivia Teaser

Today, for this month's edition of Mock Squid Soup, all society members are invited to post three hints about their film choice for the month.  All are welcome to guess, of course.  My three clues:

- The movie is 96 minutes long.  All but about three of those minutes are filmed in the same room.

- Sonia Sotomayor claims the film as an important influence on her life.

- The movie was recently parodied by Amy Schumer.

Any guesses?  Society reviews will be posted next Friday, August 14th.  See you then.  Meanwhile, please visit my fellow cinephiles today:

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Clone Wars: Mystery of a Thousand Moons

My friends and I are watching Star Wars: The Clone Wars.  Every Tuesday, we will be featuring an episode from the series which began in 2008 (as opposed to the one that started in 2003).  All are welcome to join us for all or parts of the fun.

Episode: "Mystery of a Thousand Moons"
Series: Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Season 1, Episode 18
Original Air Date: February 13, 2009
via Wookieepedia
Initially, this episode and its predecessor, "Blue Shadow Virus" (see review here), were aired on the same night, back-to-back.  Unlike a lot of multiple-episode story arcs we've seen so far, this one ended well.  The virus from last week is released.  Padmé, Ahsoka and several Clone Troopers are infected.  Anakin and Obi-Wan have 48 hours to travel to another planet for the antidote (a classic Star Trek set up, actually).  Unfortunately, Iego, the planet in question, presents complications of its own.  Many have visited the planet but no one in recent memory has made it back out alive.  Must channel Eagles for a moment...

You can check out anytime you like,
But you can never leave.
via Wookieepedia
Among many freaking out over the conundrum is Typho, Padmé's bodyguard.  Typho is, in fact, the one who located the sources for the antidote.  Typho was first introduced in Attack of the Clones, in which he was played by Jay Laga'aia.  In our series, he is voiced by James Mathis III.
via The Avengers: The Earth's Mightiest Heroes Wiki
Mathis was born November 28, 1974 in Brooklyn, New York.  In addition to extensive voice work, he has made live action guest appearances on shows such as ER, Judging Amy and Monk.  Beyond Star Wars, he is best known for his work on The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, for which he supplied the voices for Black Panther, Bulldozer and King Cobra.

If you would care to join us for all or part of our travels, sign on to the list below.  Please visit the other participants today.  Next week: "Storm Over Ryloth."

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse: October 2015 Blog List

Greetings to all!  I hope you'll join us for the next installment of the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, an online gathering of bloggers who love books.  The next meeting is set for Friday, October 30th.  If you're interested, please sign on to the link list at the end of this post.

The idea is simple: on the last Friday of each month, post about the best book you've finished over the past month while visiting other bloggers doing the same.  In this way, we'll all have the opportunity to share our thoughts with other enthusiastic readers.  Please join us:

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse: September 2015

Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the works they enjoyed most over the previous month.  Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.  If you wish to add your own review to the conversation, please sign on to the link list at the end of my post.

Title: Seabiscuit: An American Legend
Author: Laura Hillenbrand
via Wikipedia
I think of Seabiscuit as being a recent publication but 2001 was 14 years ago.  It was the rare sports book that transcends genre, setting a new standard for a thoroughly researched, fully engaging non-fiction work, easily accessible to someone who knows nothing about the sport in question.  A publishing sensation, it vaulted from the New York Times bestseller list to the big screen.  The film, starring Tobey Maguire was a critical and commercial success in its own right.  I finally got around to reading the book this month.

Seabiscuit was one of the most famous racehorses in American history and easily the most famous who never won a Triple Crown race.  In 1938, according to Hillenbrand, more newspaper space was devoted to this extraordinary thoroughbred than to President Roosevelt.  He was a late bloomer, too old for the Kentucky Derby by the time he came into his own, yet he bested every major rival of his era, most famously War Admiral, 1937's Triple Crown winner.  Underestimated by the eastern establishment, Seabiscuit put California racing on the map and was the perfect underdog symbol of a depressed nation in desperate need of inspiring heroes.

The horse and his supporting cast are vividly drawn.   Larger than life owner Charles Howard contrasts with trainer Tom Smith who spoke only when absolutely necessary.  Jockeys Red Pollard and George Woolf are both daring and more than a little crazy.  The stallion himself, though, is the star - proud, fiercely competitive and displaying evidence of a playful sense of humor.  Early temperament issues were subdued by expert handling, his success as much a product of nurture as nature.

I grew up in Maryland, one of the most important horse racing states in the country.  Yet I've never been to the track nor placed a bet on a horse.  But off and on, I've been drawn to the sport as a casual fan.  The Black Stallion movies certainly fueled my imagination as a child.  Hillenbrand balances the excitement and the dangers of racing well.  Horse racing was a far more popular sport in the age of radio than it is now but the jockeys were also more vulnerable. Pollard himself was instrumental in establishing the Jockeys' Guild, essentially the profession's first labor union. 

There are many interesting parallels with Daniel James Brown's chronicle of the University of Washington crew of the same era, The Boys in the Boat (my review here).   Both books examine sports more popular in the '30s.  Both address the bias of East Coast media against West Coast teams and athletes - a perception still alive and well in 2015.  Seabiscuit and the Washington crew employed similar race strategies, letting others set the pace before pulling ahead in the home stretch.  Each book references the subject of the other.  The Boys in the Boat makes several references to Seabiscuit's celebrity and Hillenbrand's book acknowledges the inspiration Tom Smith drew from the Washington crew's strict diet in guiding his horse's eating habits.

Seabiscuit is easily enjoyed by the non-fan, I think.  I have yet to see the movie, though My Wife and I did watch the excellent American Experience documentary profile.  The book has certainly piqued my own interest in the sport, particularly the 20th century's two most celebrated champions: Man O'War (Seabiscuit's grandsire) and Secretariat.

Please join us and share your own review of your best read from the past month.  This month's link list is below.  I'll keep it open until the end of the day.  I'll post October's tomorrow.  Meetings are the last Friday of each month.  Next gathering is October 30th.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Clone Wars: Blue Shadow Virus

My friends and I are watching Star Wars: The Clone Wars.  Every Tuesday, we will be featuring an episode from the series which began in 2008 (as opposed to the one that started in 2003).  All are welcome to join us for all or parts of the fun.

Episode: "Blue Shadow Virus"
Series: Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Season 1, Episode 17
Original Air Date: February 13, 2009
via Wookieepedia
Biological warfare rears it's ugly head in "Blue Shadow Virus."  Dr. Nuvo Vindi, in the employ of the Separatists, has weaponized a disease once eradicated throughout the galaxy.  Padmé and Jar Jar stumble upon his lab and become his prisoner.  Obviously, Anakin, Obi Wan, Ahsoka and company must rescue them and neutralize the weapon.
via Wookieepedia
It's time we discussed Padmé in greater depth.  I've never been quite sure what to make of her myself.  Leia's description of her to Luke in Return of the Jedi - "Kind, but... sad" - is one of the more beautifully human moments in the entire saga.  Padmé is not the adventurous type, preferring the quieter, more subtle arts of diplomacy.  She has badass capacity, as we saw in "Bombad Jedi."  But in stories like "Blue Shadow Virus," she is a mere damsel in distress.  The genius of Leia, particularly in the original movie, is that she is both at the same time.  I don't feel Star Wars has ever quite managed that with Padmé.  She's different from her daughter and that's as it should be.  Still, I'd like Padmé more if she had more of an edge to her.  Perhaps she needs to be as close to pure good as possible to contrast with what Anakin will become?

Padmé is an occasional side character in The Clone Wars - not much time for development.  Even so, I'll be interested to see what new insights these stories might bring regarding her.
via Wookieepedia
Padmé is voiced by Catherine Tabor.  Tabor was born December 30, 1979 in Georgia.  In addition to all of the cartoons and video games one normally sees on a voice actor's resume, she has had a couple roles in live action films: The Girls' Room, Just Like Heaven and The Morningside Monster.

If you would care to join us for all or part of our travels, sign on to the list below.  Please visit the other participants today.  Next week: "Mystery of a Thousand Moons."


Friday, September 18, 2015

Family Movie Night: The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness

Title: The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness
Director: Mami Sunada
Original Release: 2013
Choice: My Wife's
My Overall Rating: 5 stars out of 5
via That Movie Guy
Studio Ghibli films have been the great pop culture revelation of my parenting life.  My Wife and I watched Spirited Away without my daughter but we have discovered all of the others together as a family.  The lush, hand-drawn animation, the sophisticated stories and strong female protagonists have provided wondrous inspiration. The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness provides a glimpse into the creative workings of the operation.  The documentary follows producer Toshio Suzuki and directors Isao Hakata and, of course, Hayao Miyazaki over the course of a year as the studio struggles to finish two major projects.  Both The Wind Rises (directed by Miyazaki) and The Tale of Princess Kaguya (Hakata) were initially scheduled for release on the same day.  But due to the two directors' differing work habits, things didn't quite work out that way.

I'm a sucker for any exploration of the creative process, especially when I already have tremendous admiration for the creators and their work.  It's wonderful watching hand sketches come to life.  Miyazaki, not surprisingly, is an eccentric and enigmatic character.  He reveals his story generating process to be decidedly non-linear, with little regard for narrative coherence.  He says that underlings have confessed to him that they don't entirely understand his stories and admits that he himself isn't quite sure what Spirited Away is about - rather shocking considering that it's easily his most critically revered film.

One expects a certain level of deifying from those who work for and with Miyazaki.  While everyone in the movie obviously respects and admires him, there is also evident fear.  We never hear reports of outright cruelty but he's clearly a demanding boss.  One animator says that most people don't stay with the studio long - even the most talented find the old man hard to take after a while.  The camera's perspective, though, is more forgiving.  It's hard not to like Miyazaki.  But then again, I don't have to work for him.

The film provides a deeply loving view of the Ghibli movies and, tangentially, the city of Tokyo itself.  Both the city and the country are near and dear to my heart so I'm grateful for the brief visit.  It's not a particularly kid-friendly documentary.  My daughter's patience was tested by the end.  But it was lovely for My Wife and me.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Clone Wars: The Hidden Enemy

My friends and I are watching Star Wars: The Clone Wars.  Every Tuesday, we will be featuring an episode from the series which began in 2008 (as opposed to the one that started in 2003).  All are welcome to join us for all or parts of the fun.

Episode: "The Hidden Enemy"
Series: Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Season 1, Episode 16
Original Air Date: February 6, 2009
via Wookieepedia
There's a traitor in the clone trooper ranks and Rex and Cody are out to find him. Obi Wan and Anakin go behind enemy lines to track the spy trail from that end.  They lock horns with Asajj who, of course, has lured them into a trap.  "The Hidden Enemy" was intended as a prequel to The Clone Wars movie.  As with "Rookies," I am glad for the glimpse into the lives of the troopers.  The treasonous act also shines a light on the complicated bond between the troopers and the Jedi they serve.
via Wookieepedia
Concept art for the character of Asajj Ventress was part of the early planning stages for Attack of the Clones.  With the death of Darth Maul in Phantom Menace, a new Sith apprentice was required and Asajj was one idea from the brainstorm that eventually produced Count Dooku.  Asajj found new life first in a comic book, Jedi: Mace Windu, then in the Clone Wars saga.  The name is drawn from Asaji, the Lady Macbeth equivalent in Throne of Blood, continuing Star Wars's essential connection to the films of Akira Kurosawa.
via The Legends of the Multi-Universe Wiki
Asajj is voiced by Nika Futterman.  Futterman was born October 25, 1969 in New York City.  The vast majority of her career has been in voice work but she has made live action appearances in the TV shows Chicago Hope and Murphy Brown.  She has performed voices for Avatar: The Last Airbender, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes among many others.  She has had a minor singing career, too.  In addition to singing as her characters, she supplied background vocals for The Offspring's "Pretty Fly (for a White Guy)."

If you would care to join us for all or part of our travels, sign on to the list below.  Please visit the other participants today.  Next week: "Blue Shadow Virus."