Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Just Watched: Grizzly Man

Grizzly Man  

Ostensibly this is a documentary about Timothy Treadwell, a man who lived among wild bears in Alaska and who in the end was killed by the bears.  It is a visually beautiful but tragic tale told with compassion and respect for both the bears and Treadwell.  But ultimately this is a documentary about an obsessive filmmaker by a an obsessive filmmaker.  If you know anything about Herzog's previous films like Aguirre, the Wrath of God or Fitzcarraldo it's hard not draw parallels and to see Timothy Treadwell as both a Kinski-esque madman and Herzog himself.

Timothy Treadwell shot much of the footage seen in the film and it's breathtaking stuff.   The intimacy he shares with the bears and other animals around him is amazing.   It's impossible to not describe his actions as reckless and borderline insane but at the same time he gets such joy from the animals that you grow to understand him; he was a man living on the true edge both physically and metaphorically. 

The Herzog footage primarily consists of interviews with Treadwell's friends and the people involved with the aftermath of the attack.  Though Treadwell captured audio of the attack we are saved from having to listen to it.  We do get to hear one of the pathologists who examined the bodies and who listened to the tape describe it's contents however and we watch as Herzog listens to it in headphones and is obviously emotionally affected.  It's powerful stuff.  

I rank this among my favorite documentaries of all time.   It's a nature film and a psychological investigation into obsession, madness and film making.  Films this good are rare. 

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Julio's Liquors in Westborough

I spent the weekend getting ready for my annual Hermit Island camping trip.  Yesterday I needed to stock up on beer and pick up a couple of bottles of good tequila for our traditional tequila alter (pictured above).   There are a couple of very good liquor stores near my home (Harrington Wine and Spirits in Chelmsford and Acton Liquors) and I'm familiar with both their selections but I was looking to find something special and different so I decided to go on a little field trip to Julios.  I'd seen Julio's mentioned on a couple of blogs as having a great beer selection and I recalled I'd actually been there a few times 15 years or so ago when my parents where living at the Willows senior care facility in Westborough.  I figured I'd take a trip out that way and check the place out again.

It was well worth the trip.   The beer selection was superior to either of my local places and I'd venture to say the best I've seen.  There were many Belgium brews I was unfamiliar with as well as many rare bombers from various American breweries.    It was not quite beer Nirvana, as there were plenty of beers I looked for and didn't find, but it certainly was worth the 30 minute drive.  I grabbed a case of Green Flash West Coast IPA, a few bombers of Ballast Point Sculpin IPA and a six pack of Lagunitas Maximus.  None of which are readily available at my normal stores.

Unfortunately, the tequila selection wasn't great. I think if I'd been looking for Rum, Scotch or Vodka I'd have been happier as they all seemed to have a full isles dedicated to the spirits whereas tequila shared its shelves with brandies.  That said, I did pick out a couple nice Reposados for the alter: a bottle of Chamucos, which I love and has seen the alter before,  and a bottle of Espolon, which I've never tried but had a cool label. 

The wine selection look good as well but I didn't venture a close look.  I did nab a couple of hot sauces and some Blair's Death Rain from their hot spice isle though.  It's a cool store.

Just Watched: The Red Baron

The Red Baron

I'm sure there's a good film to be made about Manfred von Richthofen but this isn't it.  It's pretty enough and Richthofen seems like an affable guy but the film spends too much time trying to build a fictional love story and repeating its anti-war mantra.

The lead actor, Matthias Schweighöfer brought the right level of elitism and bravado to the role of the Baron and his love interest was equally well played by Lena Headey who brought a frayed earthiness to her role as Nurse Käte Otersdorf,  Their personalities balanced well but Headey is considerably older than Schweighöfer and they made an odd screen couple. The fact is their whole romance could have been skipped and the film would not have suffered.  (While researching this post noticed Headey's playing the vain and incestuous Cersei Lannister in the upcoming HBO series Game of Thrones.  She has a cold steeliness to her that I think will serve that role well. )  I wasn't a fan of Joseph Fiennes' Canadian airman character however, like his brother I think he makes a better German.

Being that this is a German film about a German war hero the war guilt is palpable.  It's as if every interesting thing that occurred in Richthofen 's life was either a cautionary tale of the cost of war or a philosophical exposition about honor and valor.  I have no doubt that Richthofen considered the mortality of his adversaries but it's hard to ignore the fact he was a skilled warrior who killed a lot of people.  Not every dogfight ended with a handshake in a field in no-mans-land and not every hero need live a flawless life.

The truth is I didn't make it to the end of The Red Baron.  The last 20 minutes played out while I was surfing around the internet not the least bit interested in what was happening on the screen.  I think the Baron scolded the Kaiser and told him to end the war and then went off and got shot down. Yawn.

 If you're in the mood for some WWI flying I'd suggest The Blue Max (1966) staring George Peppard  (The director John Guillermin also directed The Towering Inferno).  It's not a great film either but it is less heavy handed with its subject matter.

The Out Campaign: Scarlet Letter of Atheism