The book I'm reading about Groucho Marx by his son is pretty funny. Here's an excerpt about the family sugar bowl.
On Burbankia, my hometown website, I posted the information that Marilyn Monroe got her start in Burbank, and that General George S. Patton once spoke in front of City Hall; I didn't know either fact until this week.
I watched a wistful and sad Russian movie last night, Ballad of a Soldier (1959), made after the post-Stalin "thaw," when films didn't automatically have to be quite so socialist and propagandistic. This is an anti-war film shot in gorgeous black and white, and tells the story of a nineteen year-old World War II soldier who goes through one hurdle after another to visit his mother on leave. Due to his cheery, helpful nature he becomes delayed and only has a heartbreakingly short time to see his mother until he has to leave for the front - never to return.
During his journey he meets a girl in the boxcar of a train and falls in love; the girl is extraordinarily pretty, the young soldier quite handsome. (Both actors were nineteen at the time of the filming and were not professional actors - their performances are quite convincing.) But, as the soldier is killed, any relationship is not to be. They don't even kiss. At first I watched about twenty minutes of this film and then gave up on it - one scene seemed ridiculously Soviet: the solider is in the company of other hardy soldiers, and one makes a lame joke and they all laugh over-long and too enthusiastically. So I asked Alexander, my Russian friend at work, about it. (He's my source for many things Russian; we often talk about Soviet and more recent films.) He said, "No, no... this is a good film. A classic, well-known in Russia. You should see it through." I did and I'm glad. It was excellent.
It just occurred to me that Ballad of a Solider is very much like the later excellent British film Overlord (1975) I blogged about a month ago; both feature a likable young soldier in a doomed relationship with a girl, both men are tragically killed. Both are anti-war in tone. Both are in beautifully shot black and white film stock, both have well-wrought incidental music. The British film's melodies are reminiscent of Ralph Vaughan-Williams' English folk moods, the Russian film's music is strongly peasant in origin - also folk. The difference is that the Russian film is simpler and less gritty, more like Hollywood product of the late 1940's. The British film is modern and impactful. But they're essentially the same movie! Do see both if you have a Netflix streaming capability.
My daughter got me a wonderful book for my birthday, one I had seen in London: London in 3-D, A Look Back in Time. It is SO cool. It comes with a stereoscopic viewer to examine the many pages of old stereoscopic images... I have a Civil War book like this that is equally fascinating. Before there was Avatar, there were stereoscopic images.
By the way, Roger Ebert wrote a funny and brilliant article: Why I hate 3-D (And You Should, Too). Well put. The last 3D subject I saw was the Hubble Telescope IMAX film in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. There should have been a warning: "Attention! Three Dimensional Images of Senator Barbara Mikulski Are Used In This Production."
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