Elmer Gantry

(dir. Richard Brooks) (1960)

Dr Gantry sets aside his unwanted toasters and vacuum cleaners and returns to where he belongs, in the evangelical business.  A sprawling, gargantuan rendering of Sinclair Lewis’ novel, with giant performances, particularly Lancaster as Elmer, Jean Simmons as Sister Falconer, Shirley Jones as Ms Baines and Arthur Kennedy as the journalist following the big tent.  “It wasn’t really acting” quoth Burt Lancaster of his performance, “It was me”.

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Eichmann in Jerusalem

(by Hannah Arendt)

The Varnished Culture finished this work none the wiser but better informed. Valuable as all eye-witness accounts are, it is nonetheless a moot point as to whether the ultimate Nazi bureaucrat is worth study at all. A trickier topic is the Stockholm-style compliance by some Jewish leaders, and touching on that exposes the author to a charge of excessive severity.

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The last stop

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Ed Wood

November 3, 2014 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Comedy Film, Drama Film, FILM, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |

(dir. Tim Burton) (1994)

Somewhere after What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, Johnny Depp became an art-house ham. There’s plenty of scenery to chew in this enjoyable romp of the notorious Fellini-Without-Talent (see: The Golden Turkey Awards (1980), Medved Bros) and which is stolen by Martin Landau as the incomparable Bela Lugosi.

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Before the formaldehyde kicked in

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Edinburgh National Museum

November 3, 2014 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | THUMBNAIL REVIEWS, TRAVEL |

(2013)

In sweet, windy Edinburgh, a revelation was the new National Museum, beautifully done, no expense spared by the look of it. An old fashioned Anglophile collection, all over the shop, with a refreshing lack of ‘unifying themes’ so one could enjoy the diversity.

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Dolly the Sheep, Lewis chessmen, the tomb of Mary, Queen of Scots, a fractured Meisson lion, Ching Ching the Panda (a childhood friend) a pavilion packed to high rafters with enough stuffed animals for an ark. And a corker of a restaurant on the 5th floor*. A nice way to keep out of the paint-stripping breeze.

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*This is called ‘The Tower’ and you can look over clouds scudding fast past old rooftops while dining, as we did,  on asparagus hollandaise, lobster, Scottish oysters and pork cutlets, washed along with Chablis.  L, dripping irony, said she’d prefer the Balcony Cafe on level 3, where you could lunch on focaccia seasoned with a child’s shrieks…

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Edge of Darkness

Edge(Dir. Martin Campbell) (1985)

Northern copper Ronnie Craven has picked up his daughter Emma from college and taken her home to eat ratatouille when a loony ex-con and informer jumps out of the bushes and shoots her dead, presumably meaning to kill the father.

After (whilst still in?) the shock of this outrage, Craven starts to manifest numerous delusions, probably stemming from post traumatic stress disorder.  For example, he thinks he’s a tree!  He still converses with Emma.  He thinks the murder-gone-wrong was nothing more than a front for a vast, labyrinthine conspiracy by the dark forces of global nuclear industry!  I mean, how ridiculous!  Hang on, wait a minute…

Forget the pallid film re-make; this great British series has spot-on casting, divine production values, and is as confusing as any Raymond Chandler plot but just as atmospheric and irresistible.

"Get Me Pendleton!!!"

“Get Me Pendleton!!!”

 

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Dogville

(dir. Lars von Trier) (2003)

Before he developed a cinematic messiah complex and turned out stuff such as Melancholia, Trier did some intriguing and dramatically satisfying work. If viewers can overlook staginess, this film is a gem, an Arthur-Miller-meets-Eugene-O’Neill tour in hell, with great turns by a really interesting cast. Not for all tastes. Ms Kidman’s momentous philosophical discussion with Mr Caan at finale a highlight.

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‘Did you say “torch them all, darling?'”

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Doctor Faustus

(by Thomas Mann)

Formidably long and deep, Mann’s novel was written from 1943 to 1947 and represents his “F.U” to Germany for feting Hitler and forgetting Mann. Still, Mann was right and this work is his masterpiece, one of the most authentic studies of genius.  Roger Scruton called it “Mann’s great valediction to Western culture.”

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A Distant Episode

November 3, 2014 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Fiction, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS, WRITING & LITERATURE |

(by Paul Bowles)

Like the cove in George Orwell’s piece about bookshops, we generally ‘do not desire little stories’, yet this is P’s personal favourite, along with Joyce Carol Oates’ Where are You Going, Where have You Been?. Warning: Both stories are particularly nasty.

To excel at linguistics, you need a healthy tongue

To excel at linguistics, you need a healthy tongue

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The Dinner Game

November 3, 2014 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Classic Film, Comedy Film, FILM, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |

(dir. Francis Veber) (1998)

Kenneth Tynan said that you have to be cruel to be kind in high French comedy. In the present case, a bunch of nasty Parisian swells convene a regular dinner in which they have to bring along an unsuspecting dill, each with his own dumb hobby/obsession that their hosts can suavely, and discretely, mock. The book publisher’s friend has, by accident, found an idiot for the next round – in fact, he’s a world champion. But most satisfyingly, cruelty loses to stupidity in this sublime Gallic turn, and one also learns how many matches it takes to build the Eiffel Tower.

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Things seemed to be going so well…

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A Delicate Balance

November 3, 2014 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Classic Film, Drama Film, FILM, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |

(dir. Tony Richardson) (1973)

One Friday night a tense little New England family receives a surprise visit from a couple of old friends. It seems they were at home and suddenly ‘became frightened’ for no apparent reason. So they decide to move in with their oldest friends, opening up some old, and some still warmly moist, scars, testing the limits and concept of true friendship.

More delectable, drunken, hate-filled east coast dummy-spits from Edward Albee. The Varnished Culture always draws the cat’s attention to what might happen to him if he ever “doesn’t like us anymore”.

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“They were suddenly frightened!”

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