My time as a driver.


I have driven a lot in my life.  Part of that is that I like to drive and I’ve often used it to relax.  Part of it is, for over a decade, I lived on the East Coast while both my parents lived (in separate states) on the West Coast and Veronica’s parents lived in Wisconsin, so it was easier to hit all those spots by driving.  And a major part is that I hate to fly.

So, over the course of over 25 years, from when I got my first California driver’s license in December of 1990 to when I got my latest one, spending almost five hours at the DMV earlier today (always bring a long enough book – I brought Les Miserables), I have covered a lot of the country.  So, I give you one man’s very opinionated look at driving across the country.  Those who are sensitive about their states might not want to read on. (more…)


A Century of Film

Supporting Actor

Film has always relied on supporting performances but awards groups haven’t always recognized them right away.  It wasn’t until the 9th Academy Awards that the first supporting awards were given out.  Likewise, the BAFTAs would go through their first 20 awards without the category and no critics group would give such an award until 1957.  But eventually, of course, all the awards groups followed through and today it’s one way of celebrating great character actors although it has also been a chance for big stars to win their Oscar at last.  Supporting performances can be a role that runs through the whole film (like the way the Academy nominated Gene Hackman for I Never Sang for My Father or Al Pacino for The Godfather) or for a performance that dominates the film in spite of only being in a few scenes (like Orson Welles in The Third Man). (more…)

Revisiting Childhood Movies Part XXIII:

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

  • Director:  Mel Stuart
  • Writer:  Roald Dahl (from his novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)
  • Producer:  Stan Margulies / David L. Wolper
  • Stars:  Gene Wilder, Jack Albertson, Peter Ostrum
  • Studio:  Paramount
  • Award Nominations:  Oscars – Best Music, Scoring Adaptation and Original Song Score; Golden Globes – Best Actor – Comedy / Musical (Gene Wilder)
  • Length:  99 min
  • Genre:  Kids (Musical)
  • MPAA Rating:  G
  • Release Date:  30 June 1971
  • Box Office Gross:  $4.00 mil
  • Ebert Rating:  ****
  • My Rating:  ***
  • My Rank:  #76 (year)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Makeup
  • Nighthawk Notables:  none
  • First Watched:  on television when I was young (7 or 8 or so)
  • Number of Times Watched as a Kid:  5 or so

As a Kid:  Like The Princess Bride, I was confused when watching this the first time because I hadn’t caught the beginning.  In fact, like Silver Streak, I so often didn’t catch the beginning that it took me a while before the confusion was cleared up.  That’s because I seemed to always come in when Charlie wins the ticket.  Having missed “Slugworth” talking to the other kids, I never understood why Veruca would cross her fingers in the scene where they get the Everlasting Gobstoppers.  In fact, why focus on Veruca?  Are they saying she was the only one devious enough to be willing to betray Willy Wonka like that?  I think this also explains why my brain never really connected the song “Candy Man” to this film.  I was always missing the scene where it is sung (which is right at the beginning).  But that also meant I was always missing the mother’s song as well which is fine since Veronica and I skipped it when watching it this time because, like a lot of the songs, it’s kind of underwhelming. (more…)

So, first of all, I am back online and settled in enough to at least post that it will still be a few days before I get posting anything more than updates.  Second of all, the blog has a name.  That’s because we have a new location.  Technically we don’t live in San Diego (we live in La Mesa) but then technically we never actually lived in Boston (the blog started when we still lived in Quincy and then we lived in Arlington for 11 years).  While changing the name of the blog (it seemed stupid to change the picture since that picture was taken in Coronado, just 17 miles from here), I tinkered around with the fonts, so we’ll see if anyone other than me ends up liking it. (more…)

Veronica and Thomas leave for Wisconsin by car tomorrow.  My sister, Alison, and I leave by truck on Sunday.  That means there will be no posts until we are well and settled in California sometime in early July.  As for comments, well, we will approve them when we see them and can approve them, which may take some time.  So please be patient.  It will be hard for Veronica to find time to do that while with her family and hard for me to do it while strangling and/or being strangled by my sister.

I kid, of course.  Why, here’s a recent picture of Alison and I getting along:

So, while we have fun on our trip (“Yes, I can read a book while you spend 90 minutes plus whatever overage is waiting for someone to score in your World Cup match.”  “It is only the biggest spectator sport in the world, you jackass.”) rest assured that eventually your comments will be perused and approved.

Good times on the road ahead!  California here I come.  Right back where I started from.  In August of 1992.

Over a decade back now, Powells City of Books asked for a poem of 20 lines or less that summed up how you felt about Portland (it was for a contest).  I found it while packing and so, it seems like an interesting post as we say goodbye to yet another city. (more…)

A Century of Film
TriStar Pictures

The Studio

Victor Kaufman is the father of TriStar Pictures.  The name came about because Kaufman convinced Columbia Pictures (where he worked), CBS and HBO to combine to form a new film production and distribution company.  In at least one sense, it was the first major film company formed in Hollywood since RKO in 1928.  The reason Columbia was involved, in spite of already producing their own films, was to form a relationship with HBO which had become extremely powerful in terms of dealing with the majors (You can read more about this and the state of the industry in the early 80’s in History of the American Cinema 10: A New Pot of Gold: Hollywood Under the Electronic Rainbow, 1980-1989, Steven Prince.  The story of the formation of TriStar begins on page 25).  By 1984, TriStar had produced its first film (The Natural), although Where the Boys Are ’84 (which was only a TriStar distribution, not a TriStar production) beat it into theaters by just over a month, debuting on 6 April 1984.  But 1984 wasn’t that profitable (“in its first year of operation Tri-Star gained only a 5 percent share of the domestic theatrical market” (Prince, p 31) and by the end of 1986, CBS has sold their shares to Columbia and Time (the parent company of HBO) had sold them half of its shares as well.  A note here on the name: it was spelled with the hyphen until 1991 and was then dropped. (more…)