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Preston Sturges - The Filmmaker Collection (Sullivan's Travels/The Lady Eve/The Palm Beach Story/Hail the Conquering Hero/The Great McGinty/Christmas in July/The Great Moment)
Preston Sturges - The Filmmaker Collection (Sullivan's Travels/The Lady Eve/The Palm Beach Story/Hail the Conquering Hero/The Great McGinty/Christmas in July/The Great Moment)
DVD ~ Preston Sturges
Price: $44.45
33 used & new from $30.48

5.0 out of 5 stars Best Loved Classics From The 1940's, January 25, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Amazon allowed me to "steal" this collection for $28, but even at the $40 price the package offers value because every film is a treasure.

I saw "Palm Beach Story" on TCM in 2012 and thought it ho-hum at the time - for some reason, the second viewing from this package was a lot funnier, a third perhaps even more outlandish. Veronica Lake is still a knockout in "Sullivan's Travels" - it's hard to believe she was tending bar in New York in the 1960's. The Great McGinty features a teriffic performance from an actress, Muriel Angelus, whose career unaccountably went nowhere afterward. The only leading lady turning in what I thought was a stilted and ordinary performance -Betty Field in A Great Moment - had a viable career, appearing in such stellar pictures as The Great Gatsby, Bus Stop, Picnic, and Of Mice and Men.

The Great Moment is the most subtle of these Preston Sturgis works, couching its message in the far removed era of the 1840's to make its point about the human greed and the machinations that take place behind great medical advances, so the film never really goes out of date even as the object of discovery does.

Roger Ebert ranks The Lady Eve among the top film classics ever - that film alone sells for nearly $30 in the Criterion edition, so to have it here in this collection makes the package doubly noteworthy. As an introduction to the work of Preston Sturgis or as a stand alone record of early 1940's film, this is a great addition to anyone's film library

Carole Lombard - The Glamour Collection (Hands Across the Table/ Love Before Breakfast/ Man of the World/ The Princess Comes Across/ True Confession/ We're Not Dressing)
Carole Lombard - The Glamour Collection (Hands Across the Table/ Love Before Breakfast/ Man of the World/ The Princess Comes Across/ True Confession/ We're Not Dressing)
DVD ~ Carole Lombard
Offered by ClassicFlix
Price: $12.95
61 used & new from $5.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Sampling of Carole Lombard's Genius, January 20, 2014
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You can't repeat what film historian David Thomson said about Carole Lombard, at least not on the website - let's just say it was good, and let's just say these films prove he was right.

There are many bonuses in this assortment of 6 Lombard films; a superb portrayal by William Powell - who was married to Lombard at one point in his life - in as downbeat a film as he ever made: "Man of the World" which contrasts perfectly to the nutty portrayal Bing Crosby turns in during We're Not Dressing which also features a cameo by future film great Ray Miland (see if you can spot him). Lombard is hysterically funny mimicking Hollywood queen Greta Garbo in The Princess Comes Across, a film shot by the great cinematographer Ted Tezlaff. Hands Across The Table and True Confession are two of Lombard's best known films if not two that show off her talents in stellar fashion.

All the films included are eminently watchable, all are beautifully rendered on this re-mastering so that it can be said with no exaggeration that this collection is an outstanding introduction to the body of work Carole Lombard turned in during her tragically abreviated life, and it can also round out film collections that feature her better known works like "Twentieth Century" and "To Be Or Not To Be".

Desperate Hours, The
Desperate Hours, The
DVD ~ Humphrey Bogart
Price: $5.86
30 used & new from $3.63

4.0 out of 5 stars Worse For Wear, December 27, 2013
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This review is from: Desperate Hours, The (DVD)
Paul Newman was considered for this role, but Bogie was a bigger star so he got the nod. And that's unfortunate because he looks miscast in this home invasion feature drama. After all, 56 year olds have usually been promoted to lead crime syndicates (if they're still alive) and leave climbing through kitchen windows to the young Turks. Paul Newman on the other hand, was 30 when the picture was made and would have been the perfect fit.

Bogart reprises the role of Duke Mantee he first conceived back in 1936 in The Petrified Forest; there is even a Bogart crack "Duke Mantee grown up," and one can't help wondering why Bogie would want to hang around that kind of role considering what he achieved afterward.

So it's really Frederic March's picture, his performance is taut and tight lipped - be secure in the knowledge you're getting a first rank effort from March, with Bogie of secondary interest leading a band of wastrels that include Robert Middleton giving a suitably greasy performance as a psychopathic marauder. Martha Scott and Mary Murphy give convincing performances as wife and daughter to the Frederic March character conflicted in how to proceed when Bogart's band of conscripts hold him and his family hostage. The photography is outstanding, and there are cuts that appropriately leave to the imagination what tractor trailers can do to the human body although William Wyler gets credit for even thinking to position cameras along these lines.

Calvin Klein Jeans Men's Plaited Stripe Sweater, Faded Navy, Large
Calvin Klein Jeans Men's Plaited Stripe Sweater, Faded Navy, Large

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Sweater In Name Only, December 27, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This item has all the protective sweater power of negligee. It's gossamer thin, suitable for daywear in the Sahara perhaps, but few other places - more like a long sleeved tee shirt. Silly price too, $30, I was looking at hefty sweaters during Christmas shopping none of which cost more than $40 with markdowns. Taking yourself to a downtown club and getting a generous pour of Glenlivet will give you more warmth than this item.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 5, 2014 2:21 AM PST

DVD ~ Zac Efron
Price: $8.78
99 used & new from $1.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Parallel Lives, December 23, 2013
This review is from: Parkland (DVD)
For those who want to understand why The New York Times is no longer the paper of record, it's enough to read the peper's review of the movie Parkland.

"No new material," the review begins. You can count on one hand the number of people who knew JFK was awarded a cowboy hat in Fort Worth, Texas on November 22, 1963. Right there, your breath is sucked out. JFK in a cowboy hat? The mind reels because you know someone would have sent him boots to go with it. JFK in boots and a Stetson? Say goodbye to segregation. His words on the podium in Fort Worth go right through you because everyone watching the film knows it's his last day on earth, although none of the characters portrayed in the film knew this. That is the essence of tragedy. The only person not clued in is the star of the production.

I liked the twin tracks the picture moved on. The FBI had Oswald in their sights all the while, and the destruction of documents clarifying this mirrors the destructioon of the man himself so that a double tragedy emerges. Not only did we lose a president, we lost the records telling, in part, why it might have happened. The film elevates that aspect of the story to a noteworthiness only slightly beneath Oswald's vile deed itself.

The archival footage in the film, lacking the embellishments of Oliver Stone's JFK, gives those who own this film their own slice of recorded history.

Standard Albanian: A Reference Grammar for Students
Standard Albanian: A Reference Grammar for Students
by Leonard Newmark
Edition: Hardcover
14 used & new from $54.99

2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dustbin Candidate, July 9, 2013
The fate we accorded Stalin, Lenin, and Trotsky should be visited on this book as well, and it is simply astonishing that this fossil of the communist era is still being touted to Westerners as a useful representation of the Albanian language. The simple truth is, it should be hauled by the neck and dragged off the shelf of any bookstore silly enough to stock it.

Whenever the book unveils a grammatic principle, then substantiates its theory by offering an example of how to use the term or terms in a practical way, you can bet the example is taken from a Plenary Session of the Comintern where someone or something is being condemned show trial style. Nearly every linguistic principle is illustrated by an example taken from communist ideology. So thoroughly is marksist-leninist propaganda embedded in the book that the inherent beauty of the Albanian language scheme is needlessly obscured. Moreover, this is a blatantly sexist book, you will read the pseudo-sexual term "clitic" so often you will be unable to stomach any further justification of its usage. I found the language charts shallow and incomplete.

The book however is beautifully bound; the creme colored paper holding the black ink superbly. But books are meant to be read, and used to learn, and therein lies this book's principle failing. It had limited value when it was first issued, and has only devalued from there over time.

Note: The author of this review graduated from the Albanian language program at The Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California. His translation of Albanian novelist Ismail Kadare appeared in the Winter edition of Michigan Quarterly Review in 2011

Sandy: A Story of Complete Devastation, Courage, and Recovery
Sandy: A Story of Complete Devastation, Courage, and Recovery
by New York Post
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.57
42 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nature's Fury, July 4, 2013
A grim but necessary reminder of nature's power is unveiled in this unflinching look at the devastating effects left by Superstorm Sandy that include in its pictorial review, the Mighty Mouse rollercoaster at Seaside Heights, New Jersey that terrified us when we scaled its dizzying heights as children. The book offers a harrowing reminder of the dangers of living close to the sea, on property the sea often feels it has a right to reclaim. The New York Post team of photojournalists have assembled an unbelievable set of images as graphic evidence illustrating nature's ability to reconfigure what civilization has formed, and shape a landscape into a new geography. The book covers the human story of loss, and hopefully, renewal. Comprehensive in its chronicling of a once in a century disaster.

Flight of the Eagle: The Grand Strategies That Brought America from Colonial Dependence to World Leadership
Flight of the Eagle: The Grand Strategies That Brought America from Colonial Dependence to World Leadership
Price: $15.87

38 of 70 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Greatness: Has This Bird Flown?, June 6, 2013
Having reviewed George Packer's The Unwinding, it dovetails perfectly to followup with Conrad Black's Flight of the Eagle because both books illustrate the competing story telling styles used by historians. The Unwinding is history by anecdote; history told through the viewpoint of a single person. In each chapter, Packer finds a famous personality or an ordinary person to filter the news and events of the times. Conrad Black, by contrast, employs history by analysis; using overarching themes to spin a tale. His is less the story of people than the story of ideas that drive people. The two camps don't particularly like each other. The New York Times gave Frederich Taylor's book Excorcising Hitler, an example of history by anecdote, a very tough review. My attitude is not to get involved in this dispute, rather, let the historian have their particular style, ancedote or analysis, then critique them on how good a job they do with their preferred method.

Of the two authors, Packer is the better writer. His pace is faster, his ideas more gripping, whereas Black, a member of the British House of Lords, deploys certain conventions U.S. readers may be unfamiliar with. For example, on Page 7, after the young George Washington attacks French forces then retreats to Fort Necessity, we get: " they were invested by 700 French and Canadians along with 100 Indian aides." The author has a habit of substituting the word "invested" for the word "attacked". It may be a peculiarity of British writing, and it will take a while for American readers to catch on to this.

Kindle users are going to love the "dictionary" feature on their devices, because it can be deployed on sentences like this: "William Pitt was the first to limn out a vision of" a prosperous English empire on both sides of the Atlantic.

The early going in Lord Black's book is a summary of U.S. military history, where he points out that fighting and skirmishes in pre-Revolutionary America were so prevalent, no one bothered to declare war - evidently in those times, there wasn't much difference between war and peace. Lord Black is heavier reading than Packer, perhaps because his subject is further away from us than Packer's resonate tale, but that does not mean the insights are less meaningful. Lord Black delivers the clearest assessment I've ever heard about why American colonists became disloyal. The Stamp Act, we've been taught, or King George was nuts, many of us learned in school. Nay, cries Lord Black. A king is supposed to look out for the interests of all his subjects, wherever they may be in the realm. Little by little, the colonists determined that England's king wanted to uphold English interests and let theirs slide. Once that happened, the American colonists quickly became disloyal.

But Lord Black sounds surprised when he states that in the early history of the United States, little thought was given to crafting policy that would one day make the United States the pre-eminent world power that it is today. A reader can't help thinking that slavery had a lot to do with that. What nation state can legitimately claim the status of pre-eminent world power when it bases its economic system on human bondage, where the buying and selling of human beings is a core underlying social concept?

The Dred Scott decision legalized slavery even when a slave moved into a non-slave state, the Roger B. Taney Supreme Court ruling that a slave was akin to a piece of luggage. When you moved, you took your luggage with you. Therefore a slave was not free even when an owner moved to a state without slavery. It took a Civil War to end slavery, and slavery was abolished only to be replaced by a new injustice, segregation. We have Plessy v Ferguson (1898) to thank for making segregation the law of the land. These were not lower court decisions, these were Supreme Court decisions, the highest level of decision making in the country. It took time to remove both of these evils. Slavery existed as a constitutional right of landowners from 1789, the year the U.S. Constitution was enacted, until 1865 - 76 years in total. Segregation existed from 1898 until struck down by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, for a total of 66 years. So for 142 years of its history, the United States had as its official policy some kind or another of discrimination based on racial makeup. Not an enviable track record, and one that undercuts Lord Black's argument that the United States gave little thought to establishing itself as a world leader in moral relevance. With such a sorry civil rights record, what nation would dare? And there are other instances where Lord Black's contention of world moral leadership is undercut, and undercut severely. For example, on Page 163 we get: "Jackson's policy toward Indians was also rather repressive." Putting 250,000 Cherokee Indians on a 1,000 mile forced march west isn't repressive, it's genocidal, and Lord Black shouldn't have glossed over the data pointing to the fact that Andrew Jackson tried to wipe out the Cherokee nation. For their part, the Indians not only took Andrew Jackson to court, they won. Jackson's response was cavalier. "The Supreme Court has made its decision, now let's see them enforce it." Openly flaunting the Supreme Court today - impeachable offense, no question. Jackson was also pro-slavery.

Lord Black acknowledges shabby treatment of Indians and slaves were stains on Jackson's career, but he claims they helped the nation get through a "vulnerable period". I take the other side of that argument: Jackson's anti-Indian and pro-Slavery stance simply postponed and made inevitable a Civil War between the States, while positive action by his administration, with the full force of his magnetic and charismatic personality, which I agree he amply possessed, may have brought around the plantation class to the view that ending slavery was a moral imperative. There was no one better positioned to make an anti-slave argument than a Southerner in the White House. Simply put, how Andrew Jackson ever got on a $20 bill is one of the darkest mysteries of American history in dire need of explanation, and unfortunately Lord Black doesn't provide it.

Historian Michael Beschloss ranks James Buchanan as the worst president in U.S. history. Lord Black doesn't dispute that, but writes that "his Cabinet was undistinguished" when in fact Buchanan's cabinet was notorious as well as treasonous. Buchanan's Secretary of Defense dispersed government troops to the far corners of the nation so that in the event Civil War hostilities broke out, there couldn't be an immediate and concentrated attack on the South. Ulysses S. Grant, in his memoirs, disclosed that he captured Buchanan's Secretary of Defense during the Civil War, and meted out appropriate punishment.

An argument Lord Black could have availed himself of but doesn't is that the U.S. works to fix its problems. In fact, that may be the genius of its governing system. Eventually issues get resolved. Some countries never achieve this. The Soviet Union never fixed its inability to supply essential consumer services. Its production of military hardware was always its primary and principal product, and it perished largely because of that. India may never fix the caste system, a reality that disadvantages huge numbers of its citizens. It isn't the problems a nation has that determine whether its aspirations to greatness are realized. It's whether those problems get addressed and remedied. In concluding their massive histories, both Lord Black and George Packer make big bets the U.S. can overcome the financial debacles that are starting to haunt the American economy with increasing frequency.
Comment Comments (9) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 14, 2014 1:56 PM PST

The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America
The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America
Offered by Macmillan
Price: $9.79

216 of 231 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Split Personality, May 25, 2013
George Packer, we learn from the book's jacket blurb, is a staff writer at The New Yorker magazine which means he has access to that publication's marvelous fact checking apparatus that is so good, many fact checkers at The New Yorker have gone on to write their own non fiction books. Packer has borrowed liberally from the John Dos Pasos U.S.A. Trilogy, especially its "Camera Eye" sequences to produce a book with an artistic sense of the possible, and the creative interpretations that go along with them.

Through a series of glimmering short essays, Packer has put together a story of how wealth has concentrated itself in the United States in the second half of the twentieth century, and the first decade of the 21st. One lesson most of us learned about the Great Depression was that the wealthy, by themselves, could not sustain the U.S. economy in 1932. One commentator wrote that every person making over $100,000 would have had to buy 32 cars in order to stave off the economic consequences of the 1929 stock market crash. On the contrary, the lesson drawn by Packer about the 2008 Great Recession is that today, the wealthy are so wealthy they can indeed sustain the U.S. economy almost by themselves. This staggering conclusion is brought home to readers in Packer's brief but luminous essay on Sam Walton where he writes that six of Walton's descendants had as much money as 30% of the least well off Americans. The story of how America's other top income earners fared until the onset of The Great Recession is told in the essay on Robert Rubin: the top 1% of wage earners saw their incomes triple. People in the middle enjoyed a 20% income increase, people at the bottom had flat income which means on an inflation adjusted basis, they lost money. For his part, Robert Rubin argued against regulation of derivatives. Then, after derivatives killed America in 2008, Robert Rubin argued against any responsibility. When a Congressional investigator told Rubin he couldn't have it both ways, Robert Rubin hurriedly left the room. Stop the cameras, stop the book. The fact that Robert Rubin was allowed to leave the room comes off as a major thesis of this book.

The gap between what Americans have and what they cheer for is another layer of Packer's analysis, although the book's commentary is somehow less successful when ordinary Americans like Tammy Thomas and Dean Price are Packer's subjects and I was less willing to follow their stories than I was when household name personalties like Joe Biden and Newt Gingrich were under Packer's microscope and his work on them seemed spellbinding.

This is a deeply unsettling book, and in the end, Unwinding seems an inappropriate description for it - The Great Adjustment seems more specifically geared to what actually took place in the country - those with more struggle to adjust to unfathomable wealth, those with less struggling with their new reality.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 5, 2013 6:26 PM PDT

Mickey and Willie: Mantle and Mays, the Parallel Lives of Baseball's Golden Age
Mickey and Willie: Mantle and Mays, the Parallel Lives of Baseball's Golden Age
by Allen Barra
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.87
72 used & new from $1.25

25 of 32 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stops Short, May 15, 2013
How does one rank a book who's subject is far more appealing than its writer?
Allen Barra beats a reader over the head with the fact that he is a professional writer while others are nursing a sixpack and working on a second bag of Doritos in front of a Yankees - Twins game at a neighborhood bar. He makes sure you know that he gets to go to baseball games on an expense account, while you get to shlep on the D train back up to the Bronx or Brooklyn or wherever it is you park yourself after your night shift at the city morgue. Today people like this are called solipsistic, a fancy word for a know it all. What Allen Barra does is to make himself the story and substitute our interest in the life and times of Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays for an interest in his life. It's not an attractive quality.

What's more, some of the writing is clearly misinformation. Case in point: "who cared about Dick Groat or Brooks Robinson" in a bubble gum pack. Short answer: lots of people. We'll leave out Dick Groat's All American status at Duke University, and just say that Dick Groat took every team he played on either to or near the World Series, and around 1966, when Frank Robinson went to the Baltimore Orioles from the Cincinnati Reds, his teammate Brooks Robinson was, without argument, the best third baseman on the planet. Even today, the 1970 World Series is still known as the Brooks Robinson World Series. So who cared about Brooks Robinson? Everybody.

Perhaps even more unforgivable, the author awards the first two games of the 1955 World Series to the Brooklyn Dodgers. Actually, the Dodgers lost both of those games, but came back to sweep the Yankees three games to none at Ebbets Field. When the Series returned to Yankee Stadium, the Dodgers won the seventh and deciding game, giving Brooklyn its only world championship.

Then too, when author Barra whittles his story down to two protagonists, it makes a mockery of the fact that there was another Hall of Fame center fielder playing in New York in the 1950's and his name was Duke Snider. Want facts? Here's one. From 1950-1959, it is a fact that Duke Snider, in the narrow metric of home runs, hit more homers than either Mantle or Mays. True, Mantle set the record for World Series home runs - I saw him take Sandy Koufax deep in the 1963 World Series, a pitcher many people say is the best left hander in baseball history. But Duke Snider also showed up for the World Series, with 11 World Series home runs compared to Mantle's record 18 round trippers. With Willie Mays, there were always little glitches that kept his team from winning it all, none of them his fault, to be sure. It wasn't Mays' fault that Sal Maglie ate too much pasta before his crucial start in the 1951 World Series against the Yankees. It wasn't Mays' fault that it rained in San Francisco before the start of play in the seventh game of the 1962 World Series - without the rain, Roger Maris does not cut off Mays' sharp single and hold Matty Alou at third base thus preventing the tying run from scoring. Admittedly, Barra's argument that Alou had an excellent chance to score is persuasive here.

Barra throws what can only be described as a temper tantrum over the fact that Maury Wills won the 1962 National League MVP award. He forgets what an unforgettable season Wills had. Never before had groundskeepers received Page 1 coverage. The Dodger groundskeeper brought a steamroller to the ballpark in an effort to make the base path between first and third an exit on the Los Angeles Freeway. Giants groundskeepers retaliated by muddying Candlestick Park so much Sea Hero could have run there, great slop runner that he was. But the proof, as as they say, is in the pudding. In 1962 Maury Wills not only won the NL MVP award, he won the Hitchcock Award as best athlete in ANY sport. What Barra is saying is that not only were baseball writers wrong, all sports writers were wrong. In a word, implausible.

But the saddest thing about this book is that there was a real chance for Barra to write a book we could believe in. It happens when the writer talks about Westfield, Alabama, the hometown of Willie Mays, where on page 17 we get: "Today some of the neighborhoods around Westfield are all in ruin." Since the writer himself broached the subject, did the author take some of his advance money and go to Westfield, Alabama or talk to anyone from there? He lets us know Roger Kahn talked to him. Why not let us know someone from the birth place of Willie Mays talked to him. It adds up to a lost opportunity to add depth and transcendence to the tale.

The writer achieves some redemption when we learn the depth of baseball ability held by Cat Mays and Mutt Mantle, the fathers of Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle. A pitcher can battle back. What about a writer? Barra, who seems to know he's been living dangerously, digs down and serves up the mustard with an outrageous story about Willie Mays standing in the batter's box against the great Satchel Paige, a classic confrontation taking place on Page 86, the result of which will not be revealed here.

Thereafter though, the writer engages in science fiction style speculation over whether a hybrid Mickey Mantle-Willie Mays Yankee outfield could have overtaken the Bob Feller, Early Wynn, Bob Lemon, Mike Garcia Cleveland Indians in 1954 and captured the American League pennant. Why stop the speculation there? What if the Boston Red Sox had signed Willie Mays when he tried out with them? Strangely, Barra is silent on the whole Boston Red Sox- Willie Mays issue.

For my money, the best written sequences consist of Mickey Mantle's minor league history. Berra's research leads to Mantle driving a pitch over the head of outfielder Bill Hornsby, son of Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby. For some reason, tracking Mantle's minor league career carries the same, if not more human interest than his major league exploits perhaps because the interaction between Mantle and his father is that much more intense.

In the index to Barra's book, there are nine citations listed for Chicago Cubs Hall of Fame shortstop Ernie Banks. I looked at every one, and unfortunately, none of them capture the pithy comment Banks once made about Mickey Mantle which, as we move further away from the Mantle and Mays playing days, can now be used interchangeably for either player because it is part of what made both of them so attractive to people who saw them: "He was a great player," Banks said "and he had that name."
Comment Comments (21) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 30, 2013 11:32 PM PDT

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