Jack and Ray on a bender

No, I’m not going to make a fashion blog out of this. If you’re into that sort of thing, head out to Tom & Lorenzo. This isn’t gonna be a story about two middle-aged gays, sipping wine, having a lovely, albeit bitchy afternoon.

This is going to be a story about some other Jack, and some other Ray. With Saul and Elaine Bass included for a good measure.

The guy that’s not Ray is a guy featured on a cover of Galaxy magazine (edited by Frederik Pohl) back in 1966.

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The guy that’s not Jack, you might have heard of him, went by a Bradbury surname. If your grandfather got into pulp-fiction after he got home from the Great War, you might still find something like this in his dusty chest hidden in the attic.

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And no, this isn’t going to be another ramble on how great SF was “back then” and how these whippersnappers of today don’t know a thing about it either. I’m too young to be that kind of guy (stopped smoking pipe years ago, and even shaved recently). It’s just that I’ve been reading one of those SF-almanacs that small presses still publish all around the world, and these two stories kinda stood out (it helped a great deal that they were the first two stories in a 600+ pages, quite light for its size, monolithic book collecting “all” the old masters of Science Fiction literature).

First one, “The Last Castle”, was written by Jack Vance in 1966. Second one, “Frost and Fire”, was written by Ray Bradbury twenty years earlier and published in something called “Planet Stories” (edited by Paul L. Payne).  For those of you who are not familiar with these names (and yet somehow you managed to stumble upon this blog…internet is a wonder), let’s just say that Vance and Bradbury don’t have much in common. If we’re thinking from a purely literary point of view. They were both very influential SF-writers and that’s as far as similarities go. All in all they were quite different beasts.

And yet, there’s a connection. In a bygone analogue era of pop-culture/pulp-fiction two decades were an eternity. These two stories, however different in style and execution, managed to bridge a gap between two vastly different worlds. One was written in post-WWII USA, the other a year before Summer of Love. So last century, both of them. Or so you might think. Fast forward near the end of second decade of 21st century and they still resonate powerfully. Such is the nature of good literature. It just doesn’t go away.

More on this to come tomorrow.

Fuck, yeah! It’s been two years…

…since my last post. Or so the site tells me, though I can hardly doubt him. He’s rarely wrong in such matters. Two fucking years have gone by and I haven’t the slightest idea how did they just passed over my head. I’m lying, of course. I do have some sense about it, but it’s largely irrelevant to anything that I might continue to blog about here.

Anyhow, two years is an eternity in this ‘business’. Scene has changed and so this blog must change as well. What exactly is to be done I’m still trying to define. It’ll be something, though, and we’ll see how it goes.

For starters, this will stop being a blog about movies. It will still cover my musings about ‘framed entertainment’, but it will try to shed some light on other aspects of cultural production all around the world. Gaming (old school, of course, you know that one about old dogs and new tricks), literature, TV, comics, science, food and whatnot. After so many years of consuming stuff, it’s time to give back.

I missed this kind of writing. Free form, careless, rant-a-like. Burnout stopped me for a while but batteries are charged once again, new laptop is alive and kicking and all it remains is to actually start blogging again.

See you around.

 

 

 

 

Hamlet (1948)

ImagePart of me wanted to see Hamlet. I like old productions (much more than new ones I might add), and all in all – it’s a fucking Hamlet – as classic as it gets. While I know my way around tons of pop-cultural references I still have to update my classical database. What can I say? I had a relatively normal childhood which meant Bruce Willis instead of Laurence Olivier. This other part of me was much saner and its influence managed to stop me. For a couple of months at least. That part knew what we would be getting ourselves into. Hell, old British picture meets almost unabridged Shakespeare. It could’ve happened in only one way. No surprises there. It happened just so.

Take any Shakespearean play that you want (take the one you have seen, it’ll be easier that way). Take high-school productions, take your average rural amateur production, take your high-end, posh happening with obligatory black ties stapled underneath actors themselves; disregard the post-modern or deconstructivist stuff and you’ll get the picture. This one I mean – the one that was awarded with Oscar sixtyish years ago. It’s Shakespeare by-the-book. Sure, actors are far better than your average high-schoolers, costumes are much more expensive and life-like, swordplay choreography is as professional as it could be in 1948, and so on. Still, if someone were to give an award for a lack of imagination this movie would be a serious contender. Just compare it with Hitchcock’s Rope (which was released in the same year).

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I’m finding it difficult to even think about Olivier’s Hamlet as a movie. It reads and behaves as a filmed stage play. Theatre en masse. Sure, Desmond Dickinson did brilliant job with cinematography, guys in special effects knew what they we’re doing, Ophelia swooned beautifully and Hamlet showed restraint in waving his arms about (this has nothing to do with movies, it has to do with acting; still, I had to mention it), few camera rides accentuated some of the more important aspects of the text in question (like the one during the Ophelia’s burial) showing us stage from the perspective which would be impossible in a theatre but overall – direction was clueless if non-existent. It was clear, I’ll grant you that. Functional might be a more proper word, but that was all it was. In a “movie” ~150 minutes long Olivier decided not to use anything that this “mundane” medium could offer. Shakespeare itself should be enough (God forbid that someone would dare to edit the Bard), we want none of this plebeian bullshit and trickery.One can’t blame 40’s, nor can one blame style of the “old times”. It was a deliberate choice and it was a poor one.

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Of a Hamlet itself I can’t say much more than it has already been said thousand times over. It’s a classic for a reason. However strong and powerful the core text might be, in this interpretation it still comes across as unwatchable. It was acted well but having camera film competent actors doesn’t spell moviemaking. It was something Olivier never understood quite properly. Hitchcock did. It didn’t help him with Oscars though. Sometimes you just can’t win.

Directed by Laurence Olivier
Produced by Laurence Olivier
Screenplay by Laurence Olivier
Based on Hamlet
by William Shakespeare
Starring Laurence Olivier
Basil Sydney
Eileen Herlie
Jean Simmons
Stanley Holloway
Music by William Walton
Cinematography Desmond Dickinson
Editing by Helga Cranston
Studio Two Cities

Try before you Buy