Saturday, November 20, 2010

Movies I've Liked

First off: I watch movies, I don't hang out at an art theatre to watch films or the cinema.  So take these on that level.  These are Chuckie Movies: movies to be enjoyed, not to show off with.  I don't go into cultural or moral pretentions.  These are not to edify, but to be entertained with.

1.  Stripes -- Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, and Warren Oates in what has to be the classical service comedy.  I can watch it over and over.

2.  The Boondock Saints -- Two nice Irish boyos from Boston put the hurt on the criminal element there.  William Devane plays a gay FBI agent.  Think Walking Tall Goes to Southie.

3.  Bring It On -- The quintessinal cheerleading comedy, with snappy dialogue and a great story line.  It dukes it out to the anti-cheerleader crowd as well as satirizes the cheerleader culture, thus being a little more fair than the reflexive cheerleaders-are-bad-airheads that tends to be the usual fare that panders to the teen crowd.

4.  The Kamikaze Girls -- A Japenese comedy, with a lolita girl and a biker chick finding that they have an unlikely friendship in common.  It's a feel-good buddy comedy.

5.  Leon: The Professional -- Jean Reno and Natalie Portman costar in this fantasy about an unsuccessful hitman who takes care (sort of) a preteen girl.

6.  Sixteen Candles -- This is one of the reasons why John Hughes may have been the great American director of the 1980s; he is the only one to sympathetically and honestly portray typical teens as they are, not as adults would like to imagine themselves as being.  Molly Ringwald starred. A classic line, "I can't believe I gave my panties to a geek."  The wedding scene is a classic.

7.  Dirty Harry -- Harry Callahan is a San Francisco cop who is rather hard on crime.  Great action.  I first saw it in a theatre in a crime-ridden neighborhood; after it was over, the audience cheered the movie.  That was the only time I saw people cheer a movie, and it told me a lot.

8.  Animal House -- I don't know how many times I've seen this comedy set in a college setting; each time was great, repeats do not cause it to lose its luster.  John Belishi shined in it.  Tag line:  "Being fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son."

9.  The Frisco Kid -- Gene Wilder and Harrison Ford star in this buddy comedy featuring an unlikely pairing of a hapless rabbi and a bank robber.  Damn it, I'll call it heart-warming.

10.  Patton -- George Scott played in this biopic; it's worth viewing.

11.  Thunder Road -- You can call it a hillbilly film noir if you want; Robert Mitchum produced and starred in a movie that spoke to Southern males in the 1960's.  He even recorded the title song!

12.  Tampopo -- The first noodle western!

13.  The Magnificent Seven -- This may be the quintessinal western.  Steve McQueen and Yul Brynner recruit five other gunmen to rescue a Mexican village.  Memorable theme music by Elmer Bernstein.

14.  What's New, Pussycat  -- A slapstick comedy from the 1960's, starring Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress, Woody Allen, Peter O'Toole, and others.

15.  Broncho Billy -- This movie of Clint Eastwood's is overlooked; but nontheless is great!

16.  And God Created Woman -- You can enjoy it on different levels.  Don't do it as cinema.  I don't do Traffaut.  Curt Jergens is surprisingly unintentionally funny; and, of course, there's Bardot.

17.  Adventures in Babysitting -- Elizabeth Shue starred in this comedy that was absolutely hilarious.

18.  The Loved One -- A black comedy about the Hollywood way of death, loosely based on the book of that title by Evelyn Waugh.

19.  Red Dawn -- A fantasy in which high schoolers from Colorado fight against Russian and Cuban invaders.  Its politically incorrect script puts some people's panties in a knot; thus it's worth it in itself.

20.  Twelve O'Clock High -- Gregory Peck starred in this black-and-white movie about the Army Air Corps in World War II.  It was the first to sympathetically portray posttraumatic stress disorder and was well-acted.

21.  The Three Musketeers -- A slapstick rendition of Alexandre Dumas's book.  It can't be better done.

22.  The Outsiders -- A teen melodrama.  Okay, take it as documentary if you wish.

23.  The Lady and the Tramp -- Possibly Disney's finest: well-drawn dogs, sentimental and romantic story line, mandatory happy ending.  No, they learned in an earlier movie that offing Bambi's mother was a BAD idea.

24.  Breaker Morant -- Based on a true incident from the Boer War in which Australian soldiers served as scapegoats for an alleged atrocity.

25.  Godzilla  -- The best of the Japanese monster films of the 1950's.

26.  Blazing Saddles -- A western classic, with Cleavon Little.  Great dialogue.

27.  Paths of Glory  -- Movie about the pity of war, set against the mutiny in the French army in 1917.  Kirk Douglas played the lead.

28.  Fast Times at Ridgemont High -- It has more to offer than Phoebe Cates.

29.  The Caine Mutiny -- Humphrey Bogart starred in this military drama based on Herman Wouk's book.

30.  The Sweetest Thing -- Cameron Diaz, Christina Applegate, and Selma Blair star in this raunchy comedy.  'The Penis Song' is a real hoot, even if they won't do it on television.

31.  Witness -- Harrison Ford among the Amish, with Kelly Gillis.

32.  The Searchers -- John Wayne excelled in this western of a man obsessively hunting his niece.

33.  Monty Python and the Holy Grail -- Brit comedy.

34.  No Country for Old Men -- Tommy Lee Jones established himself as the Great American Badass in this one.

35.  The Ref -- Dennis Leary as a burglar in this satiric comedy.

36.  Inherit the Wind -- Drama based on the Scopes trial; though quite more bombastic than the real life version.  Frederic March and Spencer Tracy were the protagonists; with Gene Kelly as the asshole Menckenesque figure.

37.  Kelly's Heroes -- Clint Eastwood in this military comedy.

38.  Napoleon Dynamite -- One for the nerds.

39.  Hoosiers -- Sentimental, yet action-packed.  I liked it.  Gene Hackman at his best.

40.  Bullitt -- Steve McQueen kicked serious butt in this one.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Henri Poincaré on Creative Discovery

Jules Henri Poincaré, a French mathematician, described his method of arriving at a solution to a mathematical problem:

"For fifteen days I strove to prove that there could not be any functions like those I have since called Fuchsian functions. I was then very ignorant; every day I seated myself at my work table, stayed an hour or two, tried a great number of combinations and reached no results. One evening, contrary to my custom, I drank black coffee and could not sleep. Ideas rose in crowds; I felt them collide until pairs interlocked, so to speak., making a stable combination. By the next morning I had established the existence of a class of Fuchsian functions, those which came from the hypergeometric series; I had only to write out the results, which took but a few hours.

"Then I wanted to represent these functions by the quotient of two series; this idea was perfectly conscious and deliberate, the analogy with elliptic functions guided me. I asked myself what properties these series must have if they existed, and I succeeded without difficulty in forming the series I have called theta-Fuchsian.

"Just at this time I left Caen, where I was then living, to go on a geologic excursion under the auspices of the school of mines. The changes of travel made me forget my mathematical work. Having reached Coutances, we entered an omnibus to go some place or other. At the moment when I put my foot on the step the idea came to me, without anything in my former thoughts seeming to have paved the way for it, that the transformations I had used to define the Fuchsian functions were identical with those of non-Euclidean geometry. I did not verify the idea; I should not have had time, as upon taking my seat in the omnibus, I went on with a conversation already commenced, but I felt a perfect certainty. On my return to Caen, for conscience' sake, I verified the result at my leisure."

Poincaré apparently found that an indirect approach to problem-solving was successful in these cases.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Seagull Administration

A form of administration in which the performer drops in, squawks, deposits a lot of shit, and flies off to new parts.
Example:  Our unesteemed boss conducted seagull administration: he liked to drop in occasionally, randomly criticize without inquiry or understanding, and then go on, never to bring up the matter again.   We came to regard that as part of the on-the-job entertainment.