“Man has lost the capacity to foresee and to forestall. He will end by destroying the earth.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

Tar Balls in the Surf, Gulf Shore, Alabama

 

“I think the environment should be put in the category of our national security.  Defense of our resources is just as important as defense abroad.  Otherwise what is there to defend?” ~ Robert Redford, Yosemite National Park dedication, 1985

Latest word out of the gulf indicates that BP is engaged in a cover-up of the literal kind. In an article cross-posted in the Huffington Post, Allison Kilkenny discusses the allegation: Photojournalist C. S. Muncy believes that he has found evidence that BP is trucking in sand and dumping it on top of oil balls. Muncy spoke with a an individual who had been hired to patrol the beach to keep out reporters and photographers, and this person confirmed that BP had brought in sand.

Rather than being an attempt to aerate the existing sand to promote the biodegrading process, the new sand seems to be more of a cover.

“The water there was a deep purple, maroons, blues. It looked almost like a rainbow. The scope of this is beyond belief. It’ll take years at this rate to gather up even a portion of the oil that’s on the surface today.” ~ John Wathen, Waterkeeper Alliance

   

Sea Turtle Covered in Oil off Coast of Grand Terre Island, Louisiana

 

In other oil spill news, Keith Olbermann of “Countdown” aired the following piece that shows just how far the spill has spread and what it is leaving in its wake:

Vodpod videos no longer available.
“There is a sufficiency in the world for man’s need but not for man’s greed.” ~ Mohandas K. Gandhi

Remember those FEMA trailers, the ones laced with formaldehyde? The ones deemed unsafe to send to Haiti post-earthquake for temporary shelter? Well, they’ve finally found a use for them: They are being used to house people involved in the clean up of the BP Gulf oil spill.

FEMA Trailer in Venice, Louisiana

As a result of individuals becoming sick after staying in the FEMA trailers after Katrina, the CDC conducted air-quality tests on 519 trailers. The CDC tests confirmed that the trailers posed a serious danger to any who still lives in them. So what to do? What to do?

Not wanting to pay storage on the unusable trailers, the federal government began selling them—even though the government had banned such trailers from ever being used for long-term housing. More than 100,000 trailers have been sold in public auctions, including to businesses and individuals in Louisiana.

According to the New York Times, the trailers have been “showing up in mobile-home parks, open fields and local boatyards as thousands of cleanup workers have scrambled to find housing . . . Ron Mason, owner of a disaster contracting firm, Alpha 1, said that in the past two weeks he had sold more than 20 of the trailers to cleanup workers and the companies that employ them in Venice and Grand Isle, La.”

The trailers are selling for $2,500 and up, and many buyers claim that they were not informed of the restrictions on using the trailers for housing. The GSA said on Wednesday that “they had opened at least seven cases concerning buyers who might not have posted the certification and formaldehyde warnings on trailers they sold.”

Ron Mason, owner of a disaster contracting firm, Alpha 1, has sold more than 20 of the trailers to cleanup workers and the companies that employ them in Venice and Grand Isle, La. He sees nothing wrong with the trailers. Says Mason, “Look, you know that new car smell? Well, that’s formaldehyde, too. The stuff is in everything. It’s not a big deal.” None of Mason’s trailers were posted with the required placards on the outside or inside indicating the formaldehyde risk or that it was not supposed to be used for housing. According to Mason, who is planning to buy more trailers, he is “providing a service.”

As Primo Levi once said, “I am constantly amazed by man’s inhumanity to man.”

More later. Peace.

“Every great film should seem new every time you see it.” ~ Roger Ebert

vertigo

” A lot of movies are about life, mine are like a slice of cake.” ~ Alfred Hitchcock 

“Cinema should make you forget you are sitting in a theater” ~ Roman Polanski

Today is at least 25 degrees cooler than yesterday. It’s overcast and windy and therefore, the perfect day to compile my favorite 100 movies.

kill-bill-vol-2Unlike my top 100 rock ‘n roll songs, which contained 115 songs, I have managed to keep this list to 100 movies, almost. In a few cases, I have listed sequential movies as one listing because it makes more sense. For example, I only used one entry for “Lord of the Rings,” as that was always intended to be one story. The same goes for “Kill Bill,” which was intended to be one movie, but was considered too long for one movie.

On the other hand, I have listed two of the Indiana Jones movies separately because I did not like the second movie. But for “Star Wars,” I only used one entry for episodes 4, 5, and 6, as I view those as one storyline with the same group of actors. I know. I know. More Lola logic.

The movies that I have listed are my favorite movies, not necessarily what I would consider the best movies ever made. I did omit any foreign language films, and some cult classics (like “The Lost Boys” or “Rocky Horror”) because those could be lists of their own. However, the list contains movies spanning six decades and includes musicals, drama, a few comedies, and suspense movies. I have included the main actors rather than the directors, just because.

the-godfatherYou can tell that I am fond of certain actors (Kevin Spacey, Al Pacino, Harrison Ford, Morgan Freeman, Anthony Hopkins) and certain directors (Alfred Hitchcock, Anthony Minghella, Quentin Tarantino, and Francis Ford Coppola). One thing that may surprise you is the lack of romantic comedies. I am just not a romantic comedy kind of person, preferring instead intense movies with complicated storylines, beautiful cinematography, classics, and science fiction.

I reworked the list at least eight or nine times, removing a few titles and replacing them with movies that I felt were being more true to my preferences. At first, I had included some movies that I like and that were critical favorites, but upon reflection, I realized that they were in fact not my favorites, even though I liked them.

“Movies are like an expensive form of therapy for me.” ~ Tim Burton

You won’t see big blockbusters like “Titanic,” even though I liked it, simply because it was not in my top 100. You will see some movies with which you may not be familiar: “Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai,” “Beyond Rangoon,” “The Red Violin,” “The World According to Garp.” The first and third are movies that have stayed with me over the years that I find much more humorous than the more popular broader comedies such as those by Adam Sandler. “The Red Violin” is one of those movies like “The English Patient” in that its storyline is haunting and remains with you.

beyond-rangoonOf the much older movies, no, I never saw them in the theater. However, I watched many of them over and over again on television in the days before cable. As for “The Ten Commandments,” you are probably surprised by its inclusion, but it was one of those movies that used to be on television every Easter, and I would watch it with my father, who loved it, so I don’t even remember how many times I have seen that or “Ben Hur.” Even though it isn’t necessarily one of my all-time favorite movies, my father loved it, and I loved watching it with him from the time that I was a very young girl.

The rest, well let’s just say that it’s an eclectic list that reflects my eclectic tastes. Please feel free to question entries, suggest others, or argue vociferously over some of the movies that I have included. I would love to hear what other people have to say. Just remember, I called it my favorite 100 movies (a suggestion that I took from Memphis Mafia).

That being said, enjoy.

“The movies we love and admire are to some extent a function of who we are when we see them.” ~ Mary Schmich

 

My Favorite 100 Movies    

1.            “The English Patient” (Ralph Fiennes, Kristin Scott Thomas)

2.            “Lord of the Rings” (Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellen, Sean Astin)

3.            “The Usual Suspects” (Gabriel Byrne, Kevin Spacey)

4.            “Shawshank Redemption” (Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman)

5.            “Braveheart” (Mel Gibson, Sophie Marceau)

6.            “The Princess Bride” (Cary Elwes, Robin Wright)

7.            “Dead Poets Society” (Robin Williams, Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard)

8.            “Silence of the Lambs” (Anthony Hopkins, Jodie Foster)

9.            “Star Wars: Parts 4-6” (Harrison Ford, Mark Hammill, Carrie Fisher, Sir Alec Guiness)

10.       Philadelphia” (Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington)

11.       “The Godfather: Parts 1 and 2” (Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, Diane Keaton, Robert DeNiro)

12.       “Se7en” (Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey)

 seven usual-suspects

 

13.       Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark” (Harrison Ford, Karen Allen) 

14.       Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (Harrison Ford, Sean Connery)

15.       “Terminator 2: Judgement Day” (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton)

16.       “Pulp Fiction” (John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson)

17.       “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” (Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Graham Chapman, John Cleese)

18.       “Henry V” (Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Derek Jacobi)

19.       “Sleepers” (Brad Pitt, Robert DeNiro, Kevin Bacon, Jason Patric)

20.       “Heat” (Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino)

 

heat

monty-python-and-the-holy-grail

 

21.       “Toy Story” (Tom Hanks, Tim Allen)

22.       “The Green Mile” (Tom Hanks, Michael Clark Duncan)

23.       “E.T.” (Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore)

24.       “Gladiator” (Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix)

25.       “Elizabeth/Elizabeth: The Golden Age” (Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, Joseph Fiennes, Clive Owen)

26.       Brokeback Mountain” (Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal)

27.       “Capote” (Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener)

28.       “Children of Men” (Clive Owen, Julianne Moore)

 dangerous-liaisons

sense-and-sensibility

 

29.       “Dangerous Liaisons” (Glenn Close, John Malkovich, Michelle Pfeiffer)

30.       “Sense and Sensibility” (Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman)

31.       “Schindler’s List” (Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes)

32.       Mystic River” (Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon)

33.       “A Room With A View” (Maggie Smith, Helena Bonham Carter, Julian Sand)

34.       “Dead Again” (Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Derek Jacobi)

35.       “Alien” (Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt)

36.       “Beyond Rangoon” (Patricia Arquette, U Aung Ko)

37.       “Kill Bill: Vols. 1 and 2” (Uma Thurman, David Carradine)

38.       “Witness” (Harrison Ford, Kelly McGillis)

39.       “Goldeneye” (Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean)

40.       L.A. Confidential” (Kim Basinger, Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe)

41.       “Platoon” (Willem Dafoe, Charlie Sheen)

 

platoonmystic-river 

42.       “The Matrix” (Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss)

43.       “The Bourne Identity” (Matt Damon, Franka Potente)

44.       “Saving Private Ryan” (Tom Hanks, Matt Damon)

45.       “The Untouchables” (Kevin Costner, Sean Connery)

46.       “The Red Violin” (Samuel L. Jackson, Greta Scacchi, Eva Marie Breyer, Jason Flemying)

47.        “Star Wars: The Wrath of Khan” (William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Ricardo Montalban)

48.       “Trading Places” (Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy, Jamie Lee Curtis)

49.       “Dead Calm” (Sam Neill, Nicole Kidman, Billy Zane)

50.       “Beyond Borders” (Angelina Jolie, Clive Owen)

51.        “Misery” (James Caan, Kathy Bates)

52.       “Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl” (Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightly) 

53.       “Age of Innocence” (Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfieffer)

54.       “Trainspotting” (Ewan McGregor, Johnny Lee Miller)

55.       “The Great Gatsby” (Robert Redford, Mia Farrow)

56.       “Running Scared”  (Gregory Hines, Billy Crystal)

57.       “Apocalypse Now” (Marlon Brando, Martin Sheen)

 the-untouchables the-red-violin
 

58.       “The Talented Mr. Ripley” (Jude Law, Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow)

59.       “Jaws” (Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss)

60.       “Doctor Zhivago” (Omar Sharif, Julie Christie)

61.       “It’s a Wonderful Life” (Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed)

62.       “Throw Momma From The Train” (Danny DeVito, Billy Crystal)

63.       “Vertigo” (Jimmy Stewart, Kim Novak)

64.       “Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai” (Peter Weller, John Lithgow)

65.       “The Blues Brothers” (John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd)

66.       “Amadeus” (Tom Hulce, F. Murray Abraham)

67.       “Rear Window” (Jimmy Stewart, Grace Kelly)

68.       “The Graduate” (Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft)

69.       “Animal House” (John Belushi, Tim Matheson, Tom Hulce)

70.       “All The President’s Men” (Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman)

71.       “Witness for the Prosecution” (Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich, Charles Laughton)

72.       “Ordinary People” (Timothy Hutton, Donald Sutherland, Mary Tyler Moore)

73.       “Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid” (Paul Newman, Robert Redford)

 dead-calmamadeus

 

 

74.       “The Elephant Man” (Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt)

75.       “Psycho” (Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh)

76.       “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher)

77.       “The Piano” (Holly Hunter, Karvey Keitel, Sam Neill, Anna Paquin)

78.       “The Way We Were” (Robert Redford, Barbra Streisand)

79.       “Stand By Me” (River Phoenix, Wil Wheaton, Kiefer Sutherland, Corey Feldman, Jerry O’Connell)

80.       “White Nights” (Gregory Hines, Mikhail Baryshnikov)

81.       “2001: A Space Odyssey (Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood)

82.       “To Kill a Mockingbird” (Gregory Peck, Robert Duvall)

83.       “M*A*S*H” (Donald Sutherland, Elliot Gould)

84.       “Some Like It Hot” (Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon)

85.       “Dial M for Murder” (Ray Milland, Grace Kelly)

86.       “The World According to Garp” (Robin Williams, John Lithgow)

87.       “Saturday Night Fever” (John Travolta, Karen Lynn Gorney) 

88.       West Side Story” (Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer)

89.       “Body Heat” (William Hurt, Kathleen Turner)

90.       “The Dirty Dozen” (Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine)

91.       “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” (Bette Davis, Joan Crawford)

92.       “Oliver” (Ron Moody, Shanni Wallis)

93.       “Othello” (Orson Welles, Suzanne Cloutier)

94.       “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly” (Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach)

95.       “On Golden Pond” (Jane Fonda, Peter Fonda, Katherine Hepburn)

96.       Casablanca” (Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman)

97.       “Tess” (Nastassja Kinski, John Collins)

98.       “I Want to Live” (Susan Hayward, Theodore Bikel)

99.       “The King and I” (Yul Brynner, Deborah Kerr)

100.   “The Ten Commandments” (Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner)

  

“You know what your problem is, it’s that you haven’t seen enough movies—all of life’s riddles are answered in the movies.” ~ Steve Martin

body-heat

Well, I hope that you enjoyed my list. I tried to fit in some of the more evocative movie posters—”Platoon,” “Body Heat,” and my particular favorite, “The Red Violin”— as well as a few of the ones that I think are particularly well-designed, like “Mystic River” and “Untouchables.”

Not to mention Alfred Hitchcock’s wonderful poster for “Vertigo,” which shows Jimmy Stewart clinging to the top border of the poster—great design for something that came out four decades ago. How about that?

So that’s all for now. As always, there will be more later. Peace.

The Great Gatsby: Past is Present

So Much More Than a High School Assignment

“What Foul Dust Floated in the Wake of His Dreams”

Without fail, everyone in high school is assigned The Great Gatsby, and almost without exception, everyone hates it, or at least, fails to appreciate it. My youngest son and I were discussing this subject months ago, and I agreed with him that this particular book is wasted on someone in high school. I mean, I realize the idealism of trying to introduce the young mind to F. Scott Fitzgerald. At one time, I, too, believed that this was a worthy exercise.

But as they say, time is a great teacher. Gatsby is not a character who can be appreciated by youth, certainly not by an egocentric youth whose only concern is the world that rotates around his axis. Now I know that there is a contingent out there who will argue vociferously that that in itself is the very reason that Gatsby should appeal to a 17-year-old boy: because Gatsby never grew up and the world seemingly revolves around him. But Gatsby never grew up only in the sense that his love for Daisy has never aged and the world that revolves around him is completely superficial. But everything else that happens in the novel is moving in real time, leaving Gatsby behind.

I was remembering that particular passage in The Great Gatsby when Nick remembers Gatsby looking across the water at the blinking green light: “I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out Daisy’s light at the end of his dock. He had come such a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close he could hardly fail to grasp it. But what he did not know was that it was already behind him, somewhere in the vast obscurity beyond the city” (chapter 9).

“The Colossal Vitality of His Illusion”

I don’t remember how many times I have read Gatsby, or what new things I find each time I read it. I loved great-gatsby-bwthe original movie with Mia Farrow and Robert Redford. They were perfectly cast—Farrow with her breathless voice and wide eyes, and Redford with his impossible good looks in his ice cream suits. It was a case of the book being brought to the screen perfectly, with Sam Waterson as narrator Nick Carraway.

I suppose I am reminded of Gatsby for many reasons this cold afternoon: the time in which it was set—the 20’s immediately before the Great Depression, when things were still seemingly golden, but the veneer was starting to wear off. Fitzgerald’s narrative reveals characters who are so out of touch with their surroundings that they fail to notice the suffering of others. They fail to stop for a dying woman or to care that she was run down in the road like a dog. All that matters is Daisy’s suffering, which is superficial. Only Nick notices because only Nick has a real job, works for a living, and has any sense of connection with the rest of the world. In the book, only Nick is actually invited to Gatsby’s party. Everyone else just drops in as they please, which in itself is very telling. Nick is mired in reality. He is the touchstone.

As the book closes, Daisy and Tom move on, careless of what they have left in their wake: Tom’s mistress Myrtle Wilson is dead because of Daisy. Gatsby is dead, killed by George Wilson, spurred on by Tom. But the Buchanan’s take their little girl and their servants and their money and move on, as if life is a mess to be taken care of by the less fortunate: “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money of their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made” (chapter 9):

“A New World Material Without Being Real”

In high school, a sophomore or junior will probably take something like this away from the book’s plot: Gatsby made a lot of money and had great parties but still didn’t get his woman, so he must have been pretty lame. (I know, I’m being very simplistic.) But will they see the Buchanans as AIG, Shearson Lehman, and all of the other people on Wall Street? Daisy and Tom are the people who continued to collect multi-million dollar golden parachutes and head off to Cabo as thousands and thousands of people watched their retirement funds decrease in worth by 60 and 70 percent. In essence, the Buchanans are part of the $700 billion bailout package; you have to wonder what their cut will be, because undoubtedly, people like Tom and Daisy will come out on top.

Can a 16-year-old have an appreciation for George Wilson as a metaphor for Addie Polk, who, at 90 years old, shot herself in the chest rather than be evicted from her house? After all, all George Wilson wanted was a better life for himself and his wife. After George lost Myrtle, he had nothing to live for, so he killed the person who he thought was responsible for ruining his life, and then he shot himself. Addie Polk is recovering in the hospital, and her mortgage will be forgiven, but at what price the human heart?

eyes-of-t-j-eckleburgAnd then there are the eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg, always looming on the side of the road. He seems to be watching, but just how effective is he? He sees Myrtle’s death. He sees Daisy fleeing the scene. He sees everything that happens in the Valley of Ashes, that long stretch between the Eggs, where nothing prospers. But he does nothing. He is impotent because he is only a symbol. We know about impotent symbols. Oh, I’d say Dr. Eckleburg is about as effective as Congress and W. in their oversight of what was happening in the years leading up to this massive economic meltdown?

Which leaves Nick Carraway and Gatsby. I tend to think of the American people as Gatsby for the most part: looking for that green light, that signal that everything is essentially okay, never realizing that perhaps, the good days are in the past for now. Gatsby so wanted to believe that he could throw parties and buy new shirts and have great meals, and not have to answer to his past as Jay Gatz. But in the end, that’s who he was.

The only one standing was Nick Carraway, and he was left with the mess. Nick was always the smart one. He didn’t overindulge. He wasn’t taken in by Daisy’s cousin Jordan, even though she was beautiful and sensual. In the end, Nick was a changed man, not the innocent who entered the lives at the beginning of the story, yet he still grasps a tenuous kind of hope that things will get better:

“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther . . . And one fine morning—So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past” (chapter 9)

So who does Nick represent? The American people when all of this is over? The American People who voted for Barack Obama hoping for change, for better things to come. I suppose that we’ll just have to wait and see.

“The Incarnation was Complete”

When I began this entry, I really wasn’t certain where I was going. I just knew that The Great Gatsby was on my mind, and as I continued to write, the connections to real-time events just fell into place. It’s odd how that happens sometimes: two seemingly disparate subjects meeting and connecting. Maybe it has something to do with that String Theory that I’m trying to wrap my head around, but I have to admit that physics is just beyond the edge of my relative intelligence, so we aren’t going there today.

The Great Gatsby remains one of my favorite classic reads, as do most of Fitzgerald’s works. I also find the whole Zelda Fitzgerald story incredibly intriguing, but I’ll save that for another time. But Gatsby himself is such a tragic portrait of a man, and I am only half kidding when I say that high school students cannot appreciate this story. More, it’s a matter of how much they want to put into the book in order to get something out of it. But as with many stories, the reveal does increase significantly with time.

Let me close with this wonderful passage from Chapter 6, one that I missed on the first few readings:

“He had thrown himself into it with a creative passion, adding to it all the time, decking it out with every bright feather that drifted his way.  No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.”

Man, if only I had created the phrase “ghostly heart.” More later. Peace.