I stayed indoors in the morning because of the bad air quality and sat around looking at obituaries and yearbooks. I wondered what happened to one of my favorite teachers. She could be dead after all these years. I watched “Brazil.” I had forgotten about the Marx Brothers movie at the beginning. The government barging in on someone’s home made me think of immigration under Trump. The way that people dropped in noisily reminded me of what Terry Gilliam did in “Time Bandits.” The television screens in this futuristic world were not too impressive. The phones looked like they were hard to deal with, too. Gilliam was unhappy with Kim Greist’s performance. I would agree with him on that. She is not too appealing, and I kept wondering why Sam was so attracted to her. Greist would go on to appear in “Manhunter,” “Throw Momma from the Train,” and “Punchline.” I could understand Sam’s initial lack of interest in a promotion. I know that I don’t want a job with more responsibility than I already have. Robert De Niro wanted to play Michael Palin’s part, but I think it was good fortune that he was Harry Tuttle. He was more memorable in the small part. Bob Hoskins also had a small part, but I remember him all the more for it. I thought that Ian Holm did a good job as Sam’s incompetent boss. Jonathan Pryce seemed at times to be a Monty Python character. I think I will always remember him for this movie. It runs for too long, but I would rather watch a movie by a director who has too much material and works towards editing it down rather than a director who struggles to come up with ninety minutes of material. After Terry Gilliam made “Time Bandits,” he made “Brazil.” I don’t know why he went from something that was fun to something that was so grim. Did he expect people to go out to see a film that was so bleak? It was too much for a lot of people. The disc had a commentary audio track from Terry Gilliam, which I would have to save for another day. I thought that he would have plenty of interesting things to say about the production. It looked expensive. I thought the movie was good overall, and it showed interesting development from “Time Bandits.” Some of the people who died on November 20 include Leo Tolstoy (1910), Allan Sherman (1973), Bill Scott (1985), Lynn Bari (1989), Robert Palmer (1997), Robert Altman (2006), and Jim Perry (2015). Today is a birthday for Sean Young (59), Bo Derek (62), Joe Walsh (71), Joe Biden (76), and Estelle Parsons (91). According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for November 20, Isaac Hayes had the Number one single in 1971 with “Theme from ‘Shaft.’” In 1982, Drew Barrymore hosted Saturday Night Live when she was seven years old. In 1983, ABC aired the controversial movie “The Day After,” which drew more than 100 million viewers. In 1992, “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” was released.

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Maria by Callas: In Her Own Words

I watched CBS This Morning and a feature on tater tots.  Serena Altschul talked about sparkling water and had to include her 3-year-old daughter in her segment.  I learned something about pepperoni rolls in West Virginia.  My parents phoned me.  I went out to take a bus to Trader Joe’s.  I listened to Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 countdown from November 15, 1986, when Boston’s “Amanda” was the Number One song.  I went to the theatre that was showing “Maria by Callas: In Her Own Words.”  The important interview that gave the film some substance was with David Frost.  If the story is to be in Callas’ own words, there is going to be a lot missing from the story.  What happened with the weight loss?  Did it lead to the decline in her voice?  What happened with the relationship with Aristotle Onassis?  I wondered about the sources of some of the footage.  It must have been a great effort to put this film together.  Callas shows that she is more than a diva, although she doesn’t fully explain things.  She mentions destiny.  She talks about the love of the public, although maybe not everyone loved her.  We really watch a film like this to see someone like Callas sing.  The footage of her singing Bizet, Bellini, and Puccini shows why we’re still paying attention to her.  She was smiling and taking pleasure in her singing.  It seemed that she had health problems, and Onassis’ death came two years before her own death.  She had a fatal heart attack when she was only 53.  There was a lot going on there that hasn’t been explained.  We’re informed that she was rehearsing until the very end with hopes of returning to performing.  Her career on the opera stage lasted from 1941 to 1965.  She was one of the only opera stars I remember from my childhood, along with Beverly Sills.  The people who came to this screening loved the movie.  I’m sure that fans crave any footage that they can get a chance to see.  The film did bring back memories of a time long past.  It’s already been 41 years since Maria Callas died.  Does America care about opera stars anymore?  I was glad that I saw the movie, even if it wasn’t the greatest documentary I’ve ever seen.  I went home to watch the second half of the Raiders game in Arizona.  I don’t know if they gained anything by winning the game.  The Cardinals certainly blew it with stupid penalties in the last few minutes.  Some of the people who died on November 19 include Franz Schubert (1828), Joe Hill (1915), Alan J. Pakula (1998), Dick Wilson (2007), John Neville (2011), and Mike Nichols (2014).  Today is a birthday for Jodie Foster (56), Meg Ryan (57), Allison Janney (59), Calvin Klein (76), Ted Turner (80), and Larry King (85).  According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for November 19, the Hope and Crosby movie “The Road to Bali” was released in 1952.  In 1964, The Beefeaters changed their name to The Byrds.  In 1968, the Supremes gave a command performance in England.  In 1975, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” was released.  In 1980, the epic Western “Heaven’s Gate” had its premiere at New York’s Cinema 1.  In 1999, the Tim Burton movie “Sleepy Hollow,” starring Johnny Depp, was released.  In 2014, Mike Nichols, the director who won an Oscar for “The Graduate,” died of a heart attack at age 83 at his apartment in Manhattan.

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I returned from the shopping mall and had a late lunch before heading to the theatre to see “Widows.” The movie attracted quite a few people who talked at the screen and rooted for characters to be killed. Viola Davis has a strong presence on the screen, but that doesn’t mean that I believed that she and the other women could do what they did. I wouldn’t have believed it if men were in the story, either. When non-professional people get involved in a caper, it’s more likely to turn out like “Big Deal on Madonna Street” than anything like this. Liam Neeson plays an unusual character for him since he became an action movie star. I thought it was curious that Colin Farrell played an American political. I thought he strained to sound like an American. I didn’t really believe him. Robert Duvall played his father. It sounded like he stumbled over a couple of his lines. The man is 87 years old, so it’s understandable that he has lost something in his ability to deliver his lines. I found Michelle Rodriguez reasonably convincing in her role because she had been in “The Fast and the Furious” and “Machete.” The surprising plot twist wasn’t hugely surprising, actually, because of Gillian Flynn’s tendencies. The caper part of the movie has pretty suspenseful and brought to my mind “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot.” It seemed that the way the money was supposed to be divided after the caper, the participants wouldn’t be left with too much money. It must be hard to lead a life of crime because of the constant possibility of getting caught. Steve McQueen was the director. I thought he’s done making better, more interesting films. The two movies shown on KQED on this night were “Kramer vs. Kramer” and “The Philadelphia Story.” Some of the people who died on November 18 include Chester A. Arthur (1886), Marcel Proust (1922), Niels Bohr (1962), Junior Parker (1971), Man Ray (1976), Cab Calloway (1994), Doug Sahm (1999), and James Coburn (2002). Today is a birthday for Chloe Sevigny (44), Megyn Kelly (48), Owen Wilson (50), Kevin Nealon (65), Linda Evans (76), and Susan Sullivan (76). According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for November 18, “Steamboat Willie” with Mickey Mouse made its debut at the Colony Theatre in New York City in 1926. In 1959, “Ben-Hur” had its premiere at Loew’s State Theatre in New York City. In 1978, Bill Joel had the Number One album on the Billboard chart, “52nd Street.” In 1980, “Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters” made its debut on NBC.

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Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

After a long day of work, I stopped to buy a burrito before heading to the theatre to see “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.”  The opening sequence had Johnny Depp as Grindelwald making an escape that brought to my mind El Chapo.  I couldn’t tell what was happening in the action or in the larger plot.  The storytelling was unexciting in this film.  Eddie Redmayne as Newt is getting to be annoying in this series, and I’m not sure that I can stand too much more of him. Jude Law is Dumbledore.  I remembered Law from “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”  There are more characters, like Tina Goldstein, Leta Lestrange, and Theseus, Queenie, and Jacob, although I found it hard to care about them or what was going on.  The J.K. Rowling fans in the audience liked it all, though.  The movie was trying to teach us lessons that most of us didn’t need to learn.  There was a predictable rhythm to the story.  I knew that there was going to be a semi-spectacular conflict towards the end, and that the last scene would set up the next sequel.  The reviews for this movie have been the weakest of any of these Rowling films.  I thought they were justified.  Watching this movie is a lot of waiting around for something interesting.  There was the circus tent and some other magic.  Some of these creatures made me think of a Hobbit movie.  The fans applauded the movie when it ended and seemed eager for the next installment.  I think that for most of fans not in love with the Rowling empire, it is an average movie at best, and the prospects for a good next sequel don’t seem very bright.  I watched the Partridge Family episode “Ain’t Loveth Grand?”  I was rather impressed that The Bank of San Pueblo had its name on their windows.  Laurie invites Greg over for dinner, but she apparently eats nothing.  Danny’s eagerness to dig in at dinner suggests the Partridge Family isn’t the religious type.  Keith works out some music on guitar and piano, showing a little bit of his real self.  During the featured song “Sunshine,” the audience appears to enthusiastically sing along, which hardly ever happens in this series.  It didn’t seem that Laurie would elope with Greg because Laurie was still a high school student.  The California-Stanford game was rescheduled for December 1 at noon, which is a bad time for me.  One of the movies on television was “Easy Rider.”  I watched a few minutes of the commune.  Joan Collins was on the James Corden show, but he didn’t ask her about her famous Star Trek episode.  Some of the people who died on November 17 include Auguste Rodin (1917), Heitor Villa-Lobos (1959), Esther Rolle (1998), Don Gibson (2003), and Jimmy Ruffin (2014).  Today is a birthday for Rachel McAdams (40), Danny DeVito (74), and Martin Scorsese (76).  According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for November 17, the Four Seasons’ “Big Girls Don’t Cry” was the Number One single in 1962.  In 1972, “The Mechanic,” starring Charles Bronson, was released.  In 1989, “The Little Mermaid” was released.  In 1995, Pierce Brosnan’s first James Bond film, “GoldenEye,” was released.

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I was about to start grading a stack of tests when someone came into the office and told me to evacuate.  They were closing the building because of the poor air quality.  I went to the theatre to see “The Great Buster.”  I went to the record stores and bought Blu-ray discs like “Alien,” “Skyfall,” and “Ran,” and vinyl records of “Meet the Beatles” and “The Best of George Harrison.”  Back at home, I tried not to think about how I would deal with rescheduling the rest of the semester, and I sat down to watch “Shampoo.”  Warren Beatty put together a great cast, with Julie Christie, Jack Warden, Lee Grant, and Goldie Hawn.  One thing I found curious was that George was a star hairdresser and yet his own hair was messy.  It’s funny how all this is happening the day before Election Day in 1968, and the main characters are wrapped up in their little lives and self-absorbed concerns.  The look of Los Angeles in this movie is smoggy and unlike the colorful and bright Technicolor of, say, “Singin’ in the Rain.”  A reminder of how long ago this movie was made was the appearance of Carrie Fisher, still a teenager at the time.  I guess people going to this movie were shocked with Julie Christie’s dialogue, although today it takes a lot to surprise viewers.  There is a lot to think about while you’re watching these characters go through their lives.  They barely seem to notice that Nixon is about to be elected.  It’s funny how Ronald Reagan is lurking in the background.  He was governor of California at the time.  The music on the soundtrack included The Beatles, with “Yesterday,” “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” and “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” Buffalo Springfield, with “Mr. Soul,” and Jimi Hendrix, with “Manic Depression.”  We hear The Beach Boys’ “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” over the end credits.  I thought about where the hill at the end of the movie was, and the dog one of the shots.  One of the good features of this latest edition of the movie was a discussion between critics Mark Harris and Frank Rich.  They pointed out a trademark of Hal Ashby with things going on in the background.  There were television screens with oblivious people moving around in front of them, something like “Being There.”  I didn’t read what Roger Ebert had to say about the movie.  I don’t know how he could find “Shampoo” disappointing and yet praise something like “Choose Me.”  I watched the Kung Fu episode “The Salamander.”  I also watched The Honeymooners.  Some of the people who died on November 16 include Clark Gable (1960), Harry Blackstone (1965), Ralph Edwards (2005), Edward Woodward (2009), and Ronni Chasen (2010).  Today is a birthday for Maggie Gyllenhaal (41), Missi Pyle (46), Martha Plimpton (48), and Shigeru Miyamoto (66).  According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for November 16, the album “Bette Midler,” which featured “In the Mood,” and would reach Number Six on the Billboard album chart, was released in 1973.  In 1974, John Lennon had the Number One single, “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night.”  In 1977, Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” was released.  In 1987, Paul McCartney released the single “Once Upon a Long Ago,” originally written for the movie “The Princess Bride” and intended as a duet with Freddie Mercury.

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Babettes gæstebud

I worked on an exam answer key and preparing for a day of classes, but I got sleepy and cut my work short. I stopped to buy a burger and then headed home to watch “Babette’s Feast.” It was one of the great food movies of all time. It was a fun movie to see thirty years ago, when I first saw it. A refugee from France named Babette ends up in religious community in Denmark. She wins the lottery and uses the money to pay for a French dinner that she prepares. It is served with plenty of alcohol, which would normally warm up the guests, but these religious nuts are suppressing their reactions because they think they might be dealing with evil. The quail and the turtle that were brought in did make them uncomfortable. This movie seems more meaningful now than ever before because of all the people who try to express themselves through food. Watching the preparation made me think of my childhood watching the Galloping Gourmet television show. This is taking place in a remote part of the world that doesn’t relate to Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Well, film doesn’t give us a sense of taste, which you could say is a flaw in the movie. I wondered what happened to the actors here. The general reminded me of a character from an Ingmar Bergman film. Bibi Andersson appeared in this movie. There are maybe a couple too many shot of people drinking, but one humorous moment that I liked was one of the women drinking a glass of water and then a glass of wine. “Babette’s Feast” was beautiful, funny, and memorable. I wish that I could see movies like this today. I heard on the news that Bob Melvin was the American League Manager of the Year, and saw on the A’s website that there would be new seating arrangements at the Coliseum next season. I am waiting for a couple of items I ordered to arrive, like the Partridge Family set of green trading cards, and two seasons of The Muppet Show on DVD. With all these bills coming in at the end of the year, I didn’t know if I would have any money left over to buy a new video game console. Some of the people who died on November 15 include Johannes Kepler (1630), Tyrone Power (1958), Fritz Reiner (1963), Jean Gabin (1976), and Margaret Mead (1978). Today is a birthday for Shailene Woodley (27), Frida Lyngstad (73), and Ed Asner (89). According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for November 15, “Rio Grande,” starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, was released in 1950. In 1956, Elvis Presley’s first movie, “Love Me Tender,” had its premiere at the Paramount Theatre in New York. In 1965, the Rolling Stones made their U.S. television debut on “Hullabaloo” performing “Get Off Of My Cloud.” In 1970, “The Owl and the Pussycat” was Number One at the weekend box office. In 1980, Kenny Rogers had the Number One single, “Lady.” In 1987, “La Cage Aux Folles” closed on Broadway. In 2000, Michael Abram, the man who broke into George Harrison’s home and stabbed him repeatedly, was found innocent by reason of insanity and was confined to a mental hospital.

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The Jerk

After a long day of classes and listening to conversations about the smoky air, I returned home to watch “The Jerk” again. The Blu-ray edition didn’t look fantastic, and I suppose this is not the type of movie you really want to see multiple times, but it did make me laugh a little bit. It is not what I would call a witty movie. It is a movie of jokes rather than wit. I laughed when Navin’s mother told him the truth when he turned 18. The dog did a pretty good job of acting, especially when Navin had to drag him around by the leash. Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters did have some chemistry on the screen. It seemed that Steve Martin didn’t know how audiences would react to the scene that he liked so much, the song “Tonight You Belong to Me.” Hey, if you have one of those slow moments in your movie, you have to think that the customers are going to buy some more popcorn. Some of the others in the cast were M. Emmet Walsh, Jackie Mason, Bill Macy, and Carl Reiner. It was too bad that Bill Murray’s scene was cut from the film. I thought that Carl Reiner’s most successful film with Steve Martin was “All of Me.” Would movie audiences today still think that “The Jerk” is funny? Steve Martin himself would think so. Watching it again, I had forgotten how much of the humor didn’t involve race. One of Steve Martin’s movie that I really liked was “Roxanne,” although I haven’t seen it since it was originally released. I looked up information about AMC Classic Theatres and was rather surprised to see that AMC Deer Valley 16 in Antioch wasn’t listed as one. I wanted to go out there and buy a popcorn bucket. I thought about the death of Stan Lee. My Halloween costume two weeks ago was a Spider-Man outfit. I placed an order for the Ingmar Bergman box set that is going to be released on November 20. Some of the people who died on November 14 include Gottfried Leibniz (1716), Booker T. Washington (1915), Tony Richardson (1991), Jack Finney (1995), and Eddie Bracken (2002). Today is a birthday for Yanni (64) and Prince Charles (70). According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for November 14, the Alfred Hitchcock film “Suspicion,” starring Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine, was released in 1941. In 1960, Ray Charles had the Number One single “Georgia on My Mind.” In 1964, “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians,” featuring an eight-year-old Pia Zadora and recognized as one of the worst movies ever made, was released. In 1965, “King Rat,” starring George Segal, was Number One at the weekend box office. In 1970, the Jackson 5 had the Number One hit, “I’ll Be There.” In 1975, Queen kicked off their A Night at the Opera concert tour at the Liverpool Empire Theatre. In 1980, “Raging Bull” had its premiere in New York. In 1981, the Earth, Wind and Fire album “Raise!” which featured “Let’s Groove” was released. In 1991, the FOX television network debuted Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” music video. In 1996, Michael Jackson married Debbie Rowe in Sydney, Australia. In 1999, Gary Glitter was acquitted of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old, although later he would be arrested for child pornography.

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