Sunday, February 19, 2006

Top Five Movies

Mike and I, to pass the time in the car, decided to try to name our top five movies (chosen for their merits as a film and for personal reasons) in different genre catagories. I figured we'd share our picks with the world. Feel free to agree or disagree. Plus, these are a little rough, because we did it really spur of the moment.

Mike first; then Gloria:

The Empire Strikes Back;The Empire Strikes Back
The Two Towers; The Two Towers
Serenity; Serenity
The Princess Bride; The Princess Bride
Back to the Future II; Fellowship of the Ring

The Lion King; Beauty and the Beast
Finding Nemo; Finding Nemo
The Curse of the Wererabbit; Mulan
Muppets Take Manhattan; Babe
Willy Wonka (1971); A Little Princess (1995)

Singin' in the Rain; Singin' in the Rain
1776; 1776
The Music Man; Shall We Dance (1937)
The Merry Widow (1934); The Merry Widow (1934)
On the Town; My Fair Lady

Batman Begins; Batman Begins
Indiana Jones (Lost Ark); Pirates of the Caribbean
GoldenEye; GoldenEye
Adventures of Robin Hood; The Mark of Zorro (1940)
Die Hard; Oceans 11

Drama (political/war themed):
Munich; Munich
Good Night, and Good Luck; Good Night, and Good Luck
Wag the Dog; Glory
Cradle Will Rock; Saving Private Ryan
Casablanca; Casablanca

Drama (personal themed):
Good Will Hunting; The Winslow Boy
A Few Good Men; The Apartment
The Big Chill; Pride and Prejudice (2005)
Broadcast News; A Beautiful Mind
Sliding Doors; American History X

All the President's Men; Spellbound
Sneakers; Vertigo
The Sting; The Lady Vanishes
The Usual Suspects; The Usual Suspects
The Hunt For Red October; The Hunt for Red October

Romantic Comedy:
Grosse Pointe Blank; Grosse Pointe Blank
Trouble in Paradise; Trouble in Paradise
Shakespeare in Love; Shakespeare in Love
Love Actually; Bridget Jones's Diary
When Harry Met Sally; His Girl Friday

A Fish Called Wanda; A Fish Called Wanda
Blazing Saddles; In and Out
Pirates of the Caribbean; 10 Things I Hate About You
To Be or Not to Be; To Be or Not to Be
Mash; Monty Python and the Holy Grail

For the record, we agree on 20 of the above (not counting the fact that I put Pirates in Action/Adventure and he put it in Comedy). Plus, within each catagory, things are just listed in random order.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Another Sweater

I made this sweater as part of a swap on I modified the pattern by adding a hood and putting in sleeve decreases. Otherwise, I kept to the instructions.
Pattern: Skully Sweater from Stitch 'n Bitch
Yarn: Doubled Caron Simply Soft
Needles: US 10.5
Time to knit: 2 weeks
This was pretty easy, except for the instarsia skulls on the sleeves. Those were pretty tough, since I had to carry two strands for every new color. But I survived!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Movie Review: Mrs. Henderson Presents

This movie was quite enjoyable, though seriously flawed. It had little discernible structure, and the writing relied entirely on one-liners and situational comedy to carry the action. I felt like I was watching a bunch of moments (some very well executed, some clunky) loosely strung together. This is really a shame, because Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins give great performances, and the premise of the film could have made for so much more. Dench plays Mrs. Henderson, a wealthy widow who decides to buy a run-down theater, the Windmill. When the Windmill's shows fail to bring in consistent audiences, she proposes a revolutionary idea: put nude women on stage. She manages to push her plan past the censors, all the while battling her prickly theater manager, Vivian Van Damm, played by Bob Hoskins. (PS, I was terribly distracted by the fact that the movie kept calling Van Damm "VD," which just connoted Venereal Disease to me.) The show is a great success, but then WWII starts, and the Windmill becomes a much-beloved institution to the young men being sent to France (though that phase of the war ended rather abortively at Dunkirk, which is not explained at all in the movie, which instead jumps straight into the Battle of Britain). The war sweeps the film up into a patriotic mood, as Mrs. Henderson and Mr. Van Damm refuse to close the Windmill, believing it their duty to stay open for the sake of the men in uniform. A couple rousing speeches later, the film just ends. It's really weird. Nevertheless, I enjoyed myself, and the direction and acting was generally good.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Book Review: Finally off the Jane Austen Kick

Hello folks. Yes, I did actually read installment's five and six in the Jane Austen mystery series (Jane and the Stillroom Maid, Jane and the Prisoner of Wool House). They're quite good, but I figure you guys have had enough of that.

Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination by Helen Fielding--6
I read this one over Christmas break. It's like a cross between Bridget Jones's Diary and Ian Fleming. I'm serious. Olivia is almost as nervous and self-conscious as Bridget, but she also figures out how to navigate an international spy situation. The mix is odd, but it does make a great backdrop for action and romance. The fact that Al-Queda plays a major plot role is also interesting, if weird, given the lightness of the other material. I keep getting the feeling that Fielding really wants to be a foreign correspondent journalist (witness the Thailand drug dealing part of Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason, and Fielding's debut book, which featured African refugees) rather than a chick-lit novelist. Her compromise is contrived, but still fun.

Cavalcade by Walter Satterthwait, 3rd in the Phil Beaumont/Jane Turner mystery series--6.5
This installment puts our favorite Pinkerton detectives in early 1920s Germany, just as Hitler is building his Nazi party. Phil and Jane are hired by the Nazis to investigate an attempted assassination attempt on Hilter. As Phil and Jane become familiar with the party leaders, the detectives discover far more about the disturbing anti-Semitism and militarism of Nazi ideology than about the assassination itself. This mystery is a bit odd, in that solving the actual crime is not the primary focus. (Indeed, that aspect is resolved rather hastily in a couple paragraphs at the end.) This is instead an exploration of the evils of Nazism, and the ways in which it could attract both scary psychos and seemingly normal people. This atmosphere very well rendered. In addition, we get some great character development of the Jane/Phil relationship. Satterthwait also sounds an ominous final note, hinting that other western governments allowed Nazism to gain power because they viewed the alternative, communism, as even more dangerous. I have heard this theory discussed in history courses, and there is probably a grain of truth in it. But then, we have the benefit of hindsight. Governments probably make such "bargains with the devil" every day. It's just that they usually don't turn out quite so horrifically.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Movie Review: Not the happiest double-header

This weekend I decided to go super depressing and watch both Munich and Syriana. (I wanted to see both before the Oscars.) They are both sobering looks at the past and present situation in the Middle East, and both are superbly crafted. Of the two, I would say Munich was the better movie. I certainly found it more affecting. The performances were incredibly touching, though generally understated. I am surprised that Eric Bana did not get more Oscar buzz for his work. Spielberg has great control over his material, balancing his artistic license with the facts. The script by Tony Kushner (I heard a very interesting interview with him on Fresh Air, btw) and Eric Roth is well-paced. My only problem with the film was that is was too long. But I don't really see how much material could have been cut anyway.

Syriana follows the structure of Stephen Gaghan's other famous work, Traffic, very closely. Therefore, it jumps straight into the action without preamble and introduces characters quickly. It's a bit confusing, but purposefully so. No one character takes center stage, as their stories are cut together and intertwined. (George Clooney has a largish part and gets top billing, but he's still nominated for a supporting actor Oscar, not a best actor Oscar.) The ending is abrupt but strangely cathartic. There are no answers, but somehow there is a sliver of hope and humanity. The world is caught in the grip of King Oil, but his reign is constantly affected by the actions of individuals. Individuals do matter, even though many will fail in their aims.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Class is back.

Ah, vacation is over. Well, I had to expect that.

This semester's classes are here. I've got Econ 2010b (micro II), Econ 2010d (macro II), and Econ 2120 (linear applied econometrics). My schedule looks reasonable, except macro is at 8:30 in the morning (why?!). We've started general equilibrium in micro, which appeals to the international trade economist in me. We spent all of micro class today drawing Edgeworth boxes (I can't draw an even rectangle to save my life, even on lined paper). I bet this touchy-feely level of GE is going to disappear soon, but I'm enjoying it while it lasts. These classes look like they will be useful and interesting, so I'm optimistic.