REVIEWING THE AMERICANIZATION OF EMILY, 1964

Cover of "The Americanization of Emily"

The Americanization of Emily (1964) is an American comedy-drama war film written by Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Arthur Hiller, loosely adapted from the novel of the same name by William Bradford Huie who had been a SeaBee officer on D-Day.

With a brilliant script by Paddy Chayefsky, it features impeccable direction by Arthur Hill and a radiant Julie Andrews in her first non-musical feature role. James Coburn displays his comedic chops,  which are considerable, and James Garner is perfect as the Admiral’s dog robber … a role he also played in The Great Escape, released the previous year (1963). Chayefsky put a strongly anti-war slant on the story and the film includes some of the most memorable monologues in any movie ever made.

I first saw this in the theatre when it was newly released. It was a powerful experience and stayed with me since. It was a premium time for anti-war sentiment here and abroad, but the movie still suffered from being seen as unpatriotic.

This isn’t a movie that you hear about much although it was nominated for two Oscars — Best Art Direction – (George W. Davis, Hans Peters, Elliot Scott, Henry Grace, Robert R. Benton and Best Cinematography – (Philip H. Lathrop). Julie Andrews was nominated by BAFTA for Best Actress.

It is not available on DVD at the moment, but is available as a download from Amazon.com. It will probably become available again at some point. How and when movies are released or dropped seems whimsical and without any particular logic.

Right before it stopped being available, I made sure to get a copy for us. Many of my favorite movies from the 60s and even through the 1990s are no longer available. I know that downloading and streaming video is all the thing, but I don’t want to be limited to watching movies on my computer nor do I want to be entirely dependent on the whimsical technical capabilities of my cable company. I prefer owning my own media and frankly, I neither like nor trust my cable company. They already have much too much power and charge much more money than they ought.

Garner’s role as Charlie Madison was originally slated for William Holden, with Garner set for the Bus Cummings role played ultimately played by Coburn. Holden dropped out of the project. This was great from Garner’s point of view. He viewed The Americanization of Emily as the best role he had in his long movie career. In interviews, Coburn echoes the sentiment. If one wanted to judge a role by the number of brilliant speeches the leads get to make, this has to be the top vehicle for Garner, Coburn and Andrews. Paddy Chayefsky wrote some of the best dialogue ever heard on stage or screen. He was an actor’s gift and well they knew it.

 

The actors in The Americanization of Emily were aware how important an opportunity the film offered. Great movie roles don’t come along everyday in any actor’s career.

If you can catch this on cable or anywhere, watch it. The script is brilliant, the kind of scriptwriting that’s becoming extinct. For me, the language, the words, will always be the best part of a great film. If you are a “word person,” this is your movie. The acting is first-rate, the photography is perfect. It’s everything you want a movie to be.

CHRISTMAS AT THE POPS 2013

December 13, 2013

A great evening. Snow expected, but not this night. Tomorrow, or perhaps the night after, the roads will be slick. But tonight, the roads are dry, though traffic is holiday heavy. As we drive into Boston, we can see the westbound Pike is bumper to bumper. Glad we aren’t going that way, we assure each other.

“We’ll have dinner after the concert,” I say. “Then when we are ready to come home, traffic will have cleared.

It’s an easy drive to Symphony Hall, but slow. Traffic gets heavier as we approach Boston. Owen is a patient traffic. Good thing, too. You need patience to drive in Boston any time of year, but near Christmas, you need saint-like patience. Still, it was easy enough. Take the Mass Pike all the way and get off at Prudential Center. Go  straight ahead out of the Pru tunnel. About five minutes later, Symphony Hall comes up on your right. We always find a parking space in less than a block. Against all odds, but so far, every year a space has been awaiting us.

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Note: The orchestral version of Sleigh Bells was written by Leroy Anderson (a Cambridge native who was Bandmaster at Harvard University) in July 1946 for the Boston Pops Orchestra.  It was performed by them and became a huge hit. The song remains — to this day — the most performed holiday song (per ASCAP).

We had Asian cuisine after the concert. It was good and the prices were no worse than they are locally … much to our surprise and pleasure. And we were hungry! They put an orchid on the table with dinner. Nice, very nice. It was so perfect, I didn’t know it was a real flower.

Traffic was much lighter on the way home. Indeed, the westbound traffic was no problem, but the eastbound side was now bumper-to-bumper. We managed to avoid the worst of it in both directions. Yay us. Full of sushi, noodles and Christmas music, I stopped to take a few pictures on Uxbridge Commons. We may not be Boston, but it was a picture from a Christmas story.

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MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!

REVIEWING THE KINDLE FIRE HDX

Amazon launched the new generation of Kindles at the end of September 2013. I spent time perusing these latest greatest Kindles. They are much like the previous generation with the following differences:

  • Higher resolution graphics
  • More memory and memory options
  • Faster processor
  • Longer battery life
  • Easier (more) Amazon cloud storage
  • Simplified (better) support
  • A front-facing camera for Skype and similar applications
  • Different, more intuitive, menu structure
  • New placement of speakers and buttons
  • Even better sound quality
  • Comes with a charger.

There are other difference, but these are the ones that concern me.

When the HDX first came out, my Kindle Fire HD was working fine, but as months passed it began to stutter. Stuff wouldn’t download. Too many audio books and movies. Too much music. I kept finding more ways to use the Kindle and 8 GB of memory was insufficient.

When they dropped the price by $50, it became less expensive than my original Kindle HD Fire. After a dark night of the soul about spending the money, I bought it. It came with 6-month financing at 0% interest … a nice touch.

I depend on my Kindle. It’s not an optional piece of equipment. I have hundreds of books I can read only on Kindle so in the end, there wasn’t much choice. I was going to get the new Kindle.

I’m convinced Kindles are the biggest bargain in tablets. My granddaughter has an iPad which theoretically has more functions. For my purposes, it isn’t as good. Not only does it cost two to three times more than the Kindle, but the sound quality, screen resolution and color are not as good. The difference in sound quality is particularly obvious. I don’t know how Kindles get such great sound from tiny speakers, but listening to anything on the Kindle Fire HDX is a pleasure.

The Amazon Kindle Fire HDX has a new interface for email that’s smoother and easier to use. The calendar is greatly improved. There are plenty of free games from Amazon. If you have a Prime subscription, you can watch a wide selection of movies and TV shows free too. You can also borrow books. Moreover, you can “buy” many books for $0.00. Sometimes these sales run for only a day or too, but there are new deals every day. And finally, you can lend your books to Kindle-using friends and family.

This is an incremental upgrade to the Kindle Fire HD. The HDX is a wonderful tablet, but so is the original Fire HD. You can still buy the Fire HD (new from Amazon) for $139. For many people, it will be more than adequate. The main advantage to the HDX is the faster processor and additional memory. If you use your Kindle a lot, you’ll notice the difference.

This is a remarkably complete, fun entertainment center in a lightweight, purse-sized package. It’s almost too much fun offering a plethora of pleasantly distracting choices. It’s also a better reader. The page color is a softer; adjusting screen brightness is easier.

You can store everything on Amazon’s cloud servers. If you delete a book, you don’t lose it. You can remove items from the device, but they remain accessible as long as you have WiFi. Serious road warriors may want to get a Kindle with 3G.

You can do most things you would want to do on any tablet on the Kindle. You won’t be editing pictures or writing your novel, but I don’t think you’d be doing that on any tablet. Or at least I wouldn’t. For those things, I want more RAM, a hard drive, an application with legs and a full-size keyboard.

Big thumbs up for overall quality, sound, video, and speed.

Buy a cover that offers some protection and keeps dust out. Most let you prop your Kindle like an easel to watch a movie or listen hands free. Many (most) covers turn the Kindle on and off when you open or close it. Covers are affordable.

Fingerprints are a peril of all tablets. Keep a stash of lens wipes handy. Good for the Kindle, cameras, computers and eyeglasses. Don’t bother with a protective screen; it’s a waste of money.

The on/off button is less difficult to reach, though its placement on the back of the unit wouldn’t be my first choice. I’d prefer all the controls in front. And I find the charger connection tricky. The edges of the HDX are beveled, so the plug is not straight, but slightly angled. You have to be very careful when connecting it; it would be easy to damage the connector. They need to find a way to make the connector straight, not angled. It isn’t a deal breaker, but it is annoying.

The Kindle Fire HDX wakes up instantly. Zero boot time.

I got the one with the ads. They only appear on the splash screen before you unlock it. What’s the big deal?

If you own a Kindle, you are in the Amazon universe. Amazon is so integral to my life anyway, that’s fine with me. I’ve been buying books, appliances, music, movies, housewares, coffee, cameras, computers — everything except clothing — from Amazon for years. If you feel you need to spend two or three times as much for a tablet for the privilege of buying exactly the same stuff elsewhere, hey, that’s what Apple is all about.

VACATION REPORT: DAY 2 – RISING TO THE CHALLENGE

When you can’t fix it, you soldier on. Today, overcoming the series of blows that knocked out yesterday, we go forth to shop and take pictures of Cape Cod. If the Red Sox can survive last night’s defeat by Detroit, we can survive a cruddy tourist trap on Old Cape Cod.

The weather is with us, or it’s supposed to be. Hard to tell. Yesterday it was bright and beautiful early, but got dreary and chilly by early afternoon. Regardless, we’re out and about today.Until we get tired.

Ogunquit, September 2009

Ogunquit, September 2009

We’ve never had a bad vacation. Garry and I travel well together. We’ve been to awful hotels and had horrible airplane experiences.

Once, coming back from New Orleans, American cancelled our connecting flight (without so much as an explanation) and left us stranded in Atlanta.

On a flight from Israel to New York via London, British Airways left me sitting on my luggage (with all the other Israeli in-transit passengers) in Heathrow for 40 hours. It was supposed to be a 3-hour layover, but the plane broke down. BA had to bring a replacement from Italy. They didn’t even offer us cookies and tea. Or a comfortable lounge because we were merely coach passengers. It didn’t ruin my trip home, but I have never willingly flown British Airways again. I’m not quite that forgiving.

I remember when Garry and I were coming back from Florida and Delta left us sitting on the runway so long (in Philadelphia) one of the passengers went into a diabetic coma. We had to make an emergency landing in Baltimore, which was going backwards since we were in transit to Boston from Orlando.

Williamsburg 2012

Williamsburg 2012

Then there was my memorable flight between JFK and Logan, during which two out of four engines got taken out by lightning. I wasn’t sure I was going to ever see Garry again. Not to mention the poisonous mussels in Galway that left me unable to look at a mussel for the next ten years — that was our honeymoon. One vacation, I came down with German Measles but we just kept going because there wasn’t anything to be done about it anyhow.

We are, as I said, good travelers. We let bad stuff roll off and enjoy the rest. It’s hard to find anything good about this “resort,” but it will give me plenty of material for blogging mill and in the midst of a kind of grisly horror have been moments of insane hilarity. It would be silly to let it ruin our single annual week of vacation. We’d be the only losers.

Rockport, July 2010

Rockport, July 2010

Today, laden with cameras and optimism, we will sally forth to hunt for (1) a really comfortable pair of shoes for me and some great beauty shots of beach and cute Cape villages.

We’ll be back. Later, with photographs.

Gettysburg, 2012

Gettysburg, 2012

VACATION REPORT: DAY 1 – “WHAT A DUMP!”

It’s 76 miles as the road goes, but it took three hours. Which wasn’t bad considering it was a snail trail all the way. Friday night traffic is bad and the roads to the Cape are the most crowded. No matter. We were in a good mood. Patient. No screaming and cursing as we were cut off and tail-gated crawling to Cape Cod.

Baseball. The soothing cure all.

Baseball. The soothing cure-all.

Finally we got here. I got a bad feeling. You probably know what I mean. The asphalt in the parking lot is all broken. It feels dilapidated. You try to find the office and you can’t because there’s a backhoe parked in front of it. And in your heart, you know your room is directly behind the backhoe. Yup, I knew it. I asked for a different room. I just couldn’t do a week staring at the ass end of a backhoe.

“The last lady loved it. She had three little kids and said it would keep them interested.”

“We don’t have little kids. I prefer not to spend my week on the Cape up close and personal with a back hoe.” Humor? My head hurts.

The only other available unit is on the second floor. No elevator. No help with our stuff, of which there was, as usual, way too much. I had asked for a room with handicapped access. “Well,” she said, “You’d have to talk to your exchange group about that.” Right.

We needed a place to sleep. It was getting late. We were tired.

Garry had A Look. I know that look. He’s pissed, figures it’s not worth fighting over because it’s futile. He spent years on the road and he knows a dump when he sees one. And, as he points out later as he is hauling several tons of stuff up a steep flight of stairs … “We’ve stayed in worse.’

The old futon in the "living room." What a beauty!

The old futon in the “living room.” What a beauty!

Indeed we have. The place in Montreal with the hot and cold running cockroaches. That was very bad. This place IS a dump, but there are worse dumps. At least the WiFi works.

The mattress on the bed may have had some spring, a hint of softness … a long time ago. Long, long time ago. Now, it’s weary. Made bitter by hard use, it is lumpy and unforgiving. I sense 8 nights of torture awaiting us. Don’t stay at the Cape Wind in Hyannis. You’ll be sorry.

The bed is hard as a rock. The ancient futon in the living room is ugly and stained, but oddly comfortable. The TV works and the National League playoff series starts tonight. If there’s baseball, Garry is good to go. Until we hit that bed. That’s going to hurt. A lot. We brought our own pillows. Maybe I’ll sleep out here in the living room on the futon.

The bathroom. Garry looked. “It has,” he said, “A certain ‘je ne sais quoi.’ ” Yes, that certainly is true. I was laughing hysterically when I pulled out a camera and took a few shots of it. “Je ne sais quoi” like this is too good to not share.

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No baking dish. I use the broiler drip pan. I ask about getting one. Tomorrow. Hopefully. How about a bulb for the lamp in the living room? Tomorrow. Hangers for the closet? It’s a big closet, but not useful with no hangers. Tomorrow — if they have any (good luck). The dresser is tiny, just three small drawers — more like an oversized night table. I give two to Garry and decide to keep everything except my underwear in the duffel.

We moved to the futon in the living room. It took less than 15 minutes for Garry to cry “uncle.” I didn’t last that long. Now we are in the living room. If I think of this as an adventure, I might enjoy it for the sheer hilarity. You can’t make this stuff up.

It’s a dump. But, for the next week, it’s our dump.

Daily Prompt: Mix Tape Masterpiece – ANIMUSIC RESONANT CHAMBER

You make a new friend. Make them a mix tape (or playlist, for the younger folks) that tells them who you are through song.

Photographers, artists, poets: show us MUSIC. And here it is. Animusic is music made visual. If music can be seen as well as heard, ANIMUSIC makes it so! Enjoy! I own several of their DVRs and they are wonderful. You can visit their website and see what’s available. The kind of music varies from classical to hard rock to “hard-to-describe,” but all of it has the same ability to let you actually see music, every note. If you don’t normally like music, you might like this because it isn’t like anything else.

See on Scoop.it – In and About the News

I published this a while back, but I thought it deserved another appearance, especially since it’s such a perfect match with today’s prompt.

I find this piece of music haunting and sometimes, I play it over and over again and can’t get it out of my mind. There’s something about it. Turn up your speakers, then watch, listen and be awestruck!

Click on the graphic (above) to see the entire production.

Animusic specializes in the 3D visualization of MIDI-based music. Founded by Wayne Lytle, it was originally called Visual Music. It became Animusic in 1995.

The company is famous for its futuristic computer animations in which the music actually drives the animation so that what you see and the music precisely correspond. This is as close to “visual music” as you can come.

Although other musical animation productions exists, there are differences. The models for Animusic are created first, then are programmed to do what the music “tells them.” Instruments appear to be playing themselves …  instruments that could never exist yet somehow seem entirely plausible. Many people, on first seeing an Animusic production ask if the instrument or instruments really exist. I thought it was real … strange and remarkable, but real. They are startlingly realistic. Sometimes very funny, too.

See also on www.youtube.com