Thursday Throwback: What was the point of the Veepstakes chase?


NBC has an article about the efforts of various news organizations to find out who Mitt Romney’s running mate would be before he announced that it was going to be Paul Ryan. They also described Paul Ryan’s efforts to mislead news organizations.

Moe, now accompanied by an NBC satellite truck and crew, was still at the Wisconsin congressman’s house. She’d spoken to Ryan earlier that day and accompanied him home from a memorial service for victims of the Sikh temple shooting in his district. Arriving home at around 2:00 pm ET, Ryan had sheepishly admitted that he’d forgotten his keys and trekked into the backyard to dig around for a spare.

That was the last time anyone in the press saw the Wisconsin congressman until he appeared in Norfolk as a vice presidential nominee.

Because after a week of smoke and mirrors to keep secret the most-sought-after answer in American politics, he did just about the simplest thing in the world.

Paul Ryan walked casually into his backyard — and kept walking. Out of reporters’ sight, navigating through a familiar forest, he emerged to a car waiting to take him to the airport.

And then to Norfolk.

And it’s a showcase of one of the problems with the news media: the race to get information that will be available to everyone soon enough.

The rush to be the first to report these details has sometimes resulted in catastrophic mistakes. The New York Post reported that Dick Gephardt would be announced as John Kerry’s running mate in 2004. NPR and several other news organizations reported that Gabriel Giffords had been killed in the Tuscon shooting, neither of which happened.

Romney wasn’t going to keep his running mate secret. He was not going to announce that his choice for Vice-President was going to be Candidate X, an individual he assures the nation meets the constitutional requirements, whose identity will be revealed to the public after the election. For the media, it was a lot of effort to be the first to report something that was guaranteed to be public knowledge rather quickly.

Posted in Politics | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Did President Trump Say Finland and Russia Have Gotten Along For 100 Years? Nope.


Yesterday, there was a comment on twitter on something stupid President Trump allegedly said about Russia and Finland. James Oliphant, a White House correspondent for Reuters, posted the following.

Trump said Russia and Finland have gotten along for “a hundred years.” The USSR invaded Finland in 1939.

The tweet has been retweeted 8,185 times and liked 16,535 as of the writing of this blog post.

My family’s rather sensitive to stupid things that President Trump has said about Russia, because of the stakes involving Estonia, where my mother as well as my father’s parents are from. We were pissed off at Trump for saying something so historically illiterate.

However, the transcript suggests he was making a different point. This came just after he mixed up two female Finnish reporters.

Q    Mr. President Trump, what kind of role do you see as Finland having in the U.S.-Russia relations?  Do you think Finland could be of assistance, helping U.S. get better relations with Russia?

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Well, I hope that we do have good relations with Russia.  I say it loud and clear, I’ve been saying it for years:  I think it’s a good thing if we have great relationships, or at least good relationships with Russia.  That’s very important, and I believe someday that will happen.  It’s a big country, it’s a nuclear country, it’s a country that we should get along with, and I think we will eventually get along with Russia.

Finland is respected by Russia.  Finland has been free of Russia, really — just about one of the few countries in the region that has been — for 100 years.  And Russia has a lot of respect for Finland, so that’s always good.  But I think Finland is doing fine with Russia, and I hope that the United States will someday be able to have a very good relationship with Russia also.  I think that’s very good for world peace and for other things.

Thank you.

The video (about 27 minutes in) confirms that the transcript hasn’t been edited.

Obviously, saying that Finland is free of Russia for 100 years, is different from saying they’ve gotten along for 100 years. This criticism of Trump is based on something a reporter heard incorrectly. So far, it hasn’t been corrected.


Posted in Eesti, Politics | Tagged , | Leave a comment

If Obama was white

white obama

A common accusation from the left is that President Obama was targeted because of his race. Lee Siegel’s op-ed piece in the New York Times a few years ago was one example, suggesting that Romney was doing well because he is the blandest, and whitest candidate, in the Republican primary.

And yet, as became immediately apparent in 2009, millions of Americans were unwilling to accept the basic democratic premise that Mr. Obama legally and morally deserved to sit in the White House — and that was before they confronted his “socialist” and “un-American” policy agenda.

Mitt Romney knows this. He knows that he offers to these people the white solution to the problem of a black president. I am sure that Mr. Romney is not a racist. But I am also sure that, for the many Americans who find the thought of a black president unbearable, he is an ideal candidate. For these sudden outsiders, Mitt Romney is the conventional man with the outsider faith — an apocalyptic pragmatist — who will wrest the country back from the unconventional man with the intolerable outsider color.

It’s difficult to tell how Republicans would react to a different Democratic president, as there have only been two other Democrats in the White House in the last 47 years. Both were Southern Governors.

To be fair, much of what excited Democrats about Obama (his international background, his role as an activist in Chicago) scared the hell out of the people who disagree with him politically.

In many ways, his race helped Obama in the primary. That factor distinguished from the other 99 Senators, and helped cut into Hillary Clinton’s support, especially in the early primary state of South Carolina. So one reason it’s somewhat difficult to imagine a white Obama is that another freshman Senator would probably not have beaten Hillary Clinton in the primary.

Hillary Clinton probably would have been a different President, in some good ways and some bad ways (if she had actionable intelligence about Osama Bin Laden’s location, the military would have acted on it before the 2010 midterms). Plenty of Republicans have hated her for twenty-five years, so there would have been plenty of vitriol against her. On the other hand, she had more experience in politics at a national level, and more of a history of working with Republicans.

Republicans might respond differently to a John Edwards type President (assuming there were no John Edwards type scandals) but that’s for cultural reasons, more than racial reasons. A Southern Senator from a right-of-center state will tend to be more moderate than a Chicago politician.

So if a white male state senator from Chicago had given the keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic convention (which might have been possible, as a way to scare Mike Ditka away from seeking the Republican nomination) and become Senator from Illinois, and then president, I don’t think the reaction would have been different.

There are some cultural problems with Obama, but that’s complicated. We do have a constitutional requirement for a President to be born in the United States, which suggests a preference against outsiders. Someone who grew up overseas does go against the spirit of that.

According to Richard Woolfe’s Renegade, Clinton pollster Mark Penn identified the lack of American roots as something that could sink Obama in the 2008 primary.

All of these articles about his boyhood in Indonesia and his life in Hawaii are geared towards showing his background is diverse, multicultural and putting that in a new life. Save it for 2050. It also exposes a very strong weakness for him- his roots to basic American values and culture are at best limited. I cannot imagine electing a president during a time of war who is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and his values.


It didn’t work.

Posted in Politics | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Movies Watched in 2017 Part 5


This is the conclusion of my effort to watch at least 100 films, 10 from each decade. There have been four previous entries: Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4.

I kept track of certain details of films I watched (IE- how many were superhero movies?) New movie just means I haven’t seen it before, even if it may have come out before my parents were born.

Movie #84/ 2010s Movie #13/ New Movie #66: Dunkirk
I get that seeing it on an Imax big screen was a rare opportunity, but it was significantly cheaper to see it in my local theater, and it still impressed the hell out of me. It’s an excellent war film about three sides of a British military campaign (stranded soldiers, civilians trying to help, pilots) with all the strands coming together beautifully.

Movie #85/ New Movie #67/ 1930s Movie #9: Grand Hotel
This Best Picture winner is famously groundbreaking as the first major film to feature a lot of A-list stars, and generally fun. Parts of it may be very dated, but Lionel Barrymore is a standout as a gentleman thief.

Movie #86/ 1950s Movie #11/ New Movie #68/ Japanese Film #4/ Criterion Edition #19: High and Low
This Kurosawa film is an excellent procedural, exploring the investigation and the people affected when an attempt to kidnap a wealthy man’s son results in the capture of his chauffeur’s kid, forcing a businessman in the middle of a hostile takeover to make a major sacrifice. It then takes some very interesting turns.

Movie #87/ 1990s Movie #6: Apollo 13
This was a solid science disaster movie, with an excellent cast (Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Gary Sinese, and Academy Award nominees Ed Harris and Kathleen Quinlan, showing intelligent people solving life and death math problems, during a media frenzy .

Movie #88/ 1990s Movie #7/ Superhero Film #7/ Animated Film #5: Batman- Mask of the Phantasm
This is an excellent distillation of what is great about Batman, combining parts of some of this best comics adventures into something new and exciting. It doesn’t come across as an extended arc of the animated series (even if that could still make for a great story) because the choices for the Dark Knight are so monumental.


Movie #89/ New Movie #69/ Silent Movie Era #9/ Criterion Edition #20: The Lodger
This is an excellent Hitchcock thriller, initially about the reasons a family might have to be worried about a lodger whose absences coincide with the strikes of a serial killer, that takes a turn when the lodger becomes the target of a lynch mob.

Movie #90/ 1940s Movie #8/ Criterion Edition #21/ French Film #4: Beauty and the Beast
Strikingly beautiful adaptation of the fairy tale.

Movie #91/ New Movie #70/ Silent Movie Era #10: The Jazz Singer
I can be appreciate the significance of the film (although it was quickly outdated) and it is often joyous, but it refers to a frame of reference that just doesn’t exist any more, with a rather one-sided family crisis at the core.

Movie #92/ New Movie #72/ 1930s Movie #10: Dark Victory
It’s a film famously lost in the shuffle in 1939 that probably would have otherwise gotten a boatload of Oscars and now hovers in the top ten in the best year of cinema. The story of a dying heiress is elevated by a wide-ranged performance by Bette Davis, who has to handle all the stages of grief. One thing the film pulls off is twisting the direction. There are numerous concepts that could be an entire film but the characters then choose to go in a different direction. Humphrey Bogart and Ronald Reagan are two of the supporting players, elevated by their subsequent significance.


Movie #93/ New Film #73/ 2000s Movie #8/ French Film #5: OSS 117- Lost in Rio
A fun James Bond/ Hitchcock pastiche by an actor-director pair that would later dominate the Oscars.

Movie #94/ 1990s Movie #8/ Science Fiction Film #7: Dark City
It’s a twisted sci-fi noir that has an excellent sense of world-building and set design, even if the final confrontation is a bit cliched.

Movie #95/ 1940s Movie #9/ Criterion Edition #22: To Be Or Not To Be
Very funny theater satire that turns into a military conflict, as a ham actor has to impersonate German officials in order to uncover a spy during World War 2.

Movie #96/ New Film #74/ 1960s Movie #8: The Americanization of Emily
Smart military satire, with a uniformly great performance by Julie Andrews, and a slightly uneven performance by James Garner (much better at reactions than speeches). There’s a final morally dubious decision, although it can lead to interesting discussions, suggesting writer Paddy Chayefsky knew what he was doing.

Movie #97/ 2000s Movie #8/ Animated Film #5: Ratatouille
This is just a reminder of how brilliant the guys at Pixar are, taking a ridiculous concept (a rat that wants to be a cook), and making it about something (the need to create rather than to take; loyalty VS friendship) and elevating minor characters in unexpected ways; it’s one of my favorite moments in film when Anton Ego takes a bite into the ratatouille.)

Movie #98/ New Movie #75/ 1940s Movie #10: Man Hunt
This is a bold thriller about a British hunter chased by Germans that moves a lot quicker than I thought it would, and ends in a very powerful daring way.

Movie #99/ New Film #76/ 1960s Movie #9/ Science Fiction Film #8: The Village of the Damned
It’s a creepy concept executed well, and in a relatively manner of fact way.

Movie #100/ 1980s Movie #9/ Science Fiction Film #9/ Superhero Film #8: Superman II (The Donner Cut)
Give the chaotic origin it’s a miracle it exists at all, although the flaws can’t all be blamed on the process. It alternates between dopey and brilliant.

Movie #101/ 2000s Movie #9/ Musical #5: Walk the Line
This is an excellent biopic/ showcase for Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon. Watching it again I do get a sense of how deeply flawed Phoenix’s Johnny Cash is, although that’s more to the film’s credit.

Movie #102/ 1960s Movie #10: Lawrence of Arabia
I had the opportunity to see Lawrence of Arabia on the big screen, and it was so worth it. It is easily one of the most beautiful films ever made, with some of the most action-packed long shots I’ve ever seen. It’s interesting to watch it now in the context of discussions of cultural appropriation and white saviors, although the film is nicely agnostic about the extent to which Lawrence’s contributions are positive, and notes the shortcomings in the British approach.

Movie #103/ New Movie #77/ 1990s Movie #9: Thelma and Louise
This is a tragedy, but remains a fun movie, about two friends who find their options increasingly limited as the result of some bad decisions, and cruelty from others.

Movie #104/ 1980s Movie #10/ Science Fiction Movie #10: John Carpenter’s The Thing
It’s fun to watch this a second time, when several plot points are more clear. The arctic base is one of the great locations for a science fiction thriller, and the twists are excellent.

Movie #105/ 2000s Movie #10/ Superhero Movie #9: Batman Begins
This was a very well-made superhero origin story, that is elevated by awesome moments you’d expect the director to save for the sequel (Gordon driving a batmobile.) It is actually about something, sets up the world really well, and even the shortcomings have explanations (Batman endangers civilians, but it fits with the recklessness of a young man on an impossible mission.)

Movie #106/ New Movie #78/ 1990s Movie #10/ Criterion Movie #23: Metropolitan
A very smart and witty film about self-absorbed rich young people in Manhattan in the 1980s. What elevates is their realizations that they may be anachronisms, but that their status isn’t to blame for their failures, and that their hanging out is just a temporary phase. Excellent low-budget debut feature.


Posted in Film | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

100+ Notable Foreign Language/ Silent Films on Kanopy


Kanopy’s streaming service has so many nice films available that a Top 100 isn’t enough. I did a Top 100 English language films a few days ago, but if anything, their selection of silent movies and foreign language films is more impressive..

Groundbreaking Silent

Through the Kino Lorber collection, you can get Birth of a Nation (#44 on AFI’s 1998 list of the 100 best movies ever), the most important full-length movie ever made, while the Cohen collection provides DW Griffith’s follow-up Intolerance (#49 on AFI’s 2007 list of the 100 best movies ever), which has become more socially acceptable because it isn’t as racist. Thanks to Flicker Alley, you can get Robert Flaherty’s documentary Nanook of the North. You can also get the 1995 restoration of  Louis Feuillade’s crime serial Les Vampires. There are at least two versions of Dziga Vertov’s The Man With the Movie Camera, as well as the expressionistic German thriller The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

Silent Comedy

Thanks to the Criterion collection, you can have access to the trinity of Charlie Chaplin classics: The Gold Rush (#58 on AFI’s 2007 list of the 100 best movies ever), Modern Times (#78) and City Lights (#11) , arguably his masterpiece. There are also significant Buston Keaton comedies, including Our Hospitality and The General (#18 on AFI’s 2007 list of the 100 best movies ever).  Harold Lloyd classics, such as Safety Last! and The Freshman, his biggest box office hit, come from the Criterion collection.

Silent Drama

The collection of classic silent dramas includes Erich Von Streiheim’s Foolish Wives, Robert Hein’s hand transplant horror story The Hands of Orlac, and Victor Sjöström’s The Phantom Carriage, a creepy masterpiece/ morality tale. Russian Montage theorist Sergei Eisenstein has Battleship Potemkin, Strike, and more, while French montage pioneer Abel Gance has J’Accuse and La Roue (The Wheel). Fritz Lang is represented with his two part opera adaptation with Die Nibelungen: Siegfried and Die Nibelungen: Kriemhild’s Revenge, a restored version of Spies, and his science fiction classic Metropolis. Murnau, another of the great silent directors, is represented with a restored version of his vampire classic Nosferatu, a newly restored Faust fantasy, and the chamber drama The Last Laugh.   You could check out the appeal of Rudolph Valentino in The Sheik with the Son of the Sheik, or Douglas Fairback with The Thief of Bagdad. Earth. Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc may feature the best performance in all of cinema.

beauty beast

French Film

From the Golden Age of French cinema, you have Vigo’s L’Atalante, Renoir’s Rules of the Game, and Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast. From the French new wave, there are numerous Truffaut films including the 400 Blows, Jules and Jim, and Shoot the Piano Player, while Godard has Breathless, and Vivre Sa Vie, and Robert Bresson has Pickpocket. Other noteworthy French films include Jacques Demy’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (actually his entire romantic trilogy), Luis Buñuel’s Belle De Jour (another Catherine Denevue vehicle), Jaques Tati’s Playtime, and the James Bond parody OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies with the future Oscar-winning pair of director Michel Hazanavicius and star Jean Dujardin. For whatever reason, there does appear to be a shortage of Brigitte Bardot films.

German Film

While German’s are overrepresented in the silent era, there are a few notable early sound films available including Fritz Lang’s child killer manhunt M, and G W Pabst’s adaptation of Brecht’s Threepenny Opera. The collections also include the work of later directors. Herzog has Aguirre, the Wrath of God, Wim Wenders has Wings of Desire and Fassbender has Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, and The Marriage of Maria Braun, among others. Also of interest is the The DEFA Film Library’s (East) German Film Collection.

Russian Film

Anyone interested in Tarkovsky can check out his biopic Andrei Rublev, and his science fiction classics Stalker and Solaris. Sergei Eisenstein’s Ivan the Terrible Part 1 is available (Part 2 as well). There are 45 films courtesy of the Russico- Russian Cinema Council, including I am Twenty Years Old, described as a highlight of 60s Soviet Cinema, available in unedited form, showing a soldier’s return to civilian life.


Japanese Film

Kurosawa is well-represented with Seven Samurai, Rashomon, Yojimbo, and Ikiru as standouts, and the Macbeth adaptation Throne of Blood as a compelling curiosity. Ozu has several films including Tokyo Story, Floating Weeds, and the silent film he remade. Other films of interest are Mizoguchi’s ghost story Ugetsu, Suzuski’s yakuza thriller Tokyo Drifter, the date from hell horror of Audition, and Kobayashi’s samurai revenge drama Harakari.

Asian Film

Notable work from Hong Kong cinema includes Wong Kar Wai’s Hong Kong romance In the Mood For Love, and Ringo Lam’s City on Fire, with suspicious similarities to Reservoir Dogs. Korean cinema has the acclaimed documentary Dear Pyongyang, the Hitchcockian plastic surgery thriller Time Shi Gan, as well as Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy (hs entire revenge trilogy actually), and his mystery thriller J.S.A.: Joint Security Area. Also of interest is China’s award-winning and banned coming of age drama The Blue Kite. 

Italian Film

Among the many Italian language films are cinema classics like Fellini’s 8 1/2 —as well as his La Strada and quite a few moreRossellini’s Rome Open City, and Bertolucci’s The Conformist. Neorealist pioneer Di Sica had The Bicycle Thieves, and Umberto D. Antonini has L’avventura, and the rest of the Malaise trilogy. Sorrentino has the more recent The Great Beauty. And anyone looking for horror has The Long Hair of Death.

Spanish Language Film

There are many notable Spanish language films from all over the world, including Buñuel’s Viridiana and Exterminating Angel, Guillermo del Toro’s Cronos. Almodovar’s Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down, and Nava’s Mayan thriller El Norte.

Swedish Film

Ingmar Bergman is well-represented with The Seventh Seal, Persona, Wild Strawberries and twelve others. Also of note is I am Curious Yellow, and its counterpart I am Curious Blue, which showed the impact of the French New Wave on British cinema. Movies adapted into English include the original Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and Insomnia.

Other Languages

A milestone of cinema is Satyajit Ray’s Apu trilogy, starting with Pather Panchali, in the recent Criterion restoration. Marketa Lazarova has the reputation as the best Czech film ever. The Brazilian Portuguese-language Black Orpheus is also quite acclaimed.  In Romanian cinema,  The Death Of Mr. Lazarescu deals with the uncaring bureaucracy an ordinary man encounters near the end of his life, while Aferim! covers the search for a slave. With Polish film, Knife in the Water established Roman Polanski’s reputation, while Ashes and Diamonds explored the aftermath of Poland’s “liberation” under the Soviets. Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colors (Red, White, Blue) trilogy is a milestone of 1990s cinema. Ida is a recent awardwinner as a Nun learns dark secrets about her past.

Iran is represented with the documentary response to repression This is not a film, and  the vampire film A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. As an Estonian, I am obligated to mention Tangerines, the country’s sole nominee for the best foreign language Academy Award.

There are so many more movies that I haven’t mentioned, so anyone with the opportunity (college students; Los Angeles or New York state residents) should get a Kanopy account as soon as they can.

Posted in Film, List | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Political Stars of the 2020s

Booker Harris

There was a discussion on a political message board about who the political stars for the 2020s might be. Before considering that question, it seems pertinent to work backwards to see what 2010s stars were doing a decade earlier.

In the 2000s, Trump was becoming more apolitical after some claims he’ll run for President, Romney was a one-term Governor, Pence and Ryan were promising members of Congress, and Nikki Haley was a state legislator. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton was a prominent Senator/ former presidential relative, Bernie Sanders was a House backbencher recruited by Democrats to run as an Independent who agrees to caucus with them, Elizabeth Warren was a professor appointed to a congressional oversight panel, and Cory Booker was a Newark councilman who won the mayorality in his second go-around.

obama illinois

We could also check it out with the 2000s stars, to see what they were doing in July 1997. George W Bush was a big-state Governor related to a former President, Dick Cheney was a retired Cabinet member/ CEO, John McCain was a war hero Senator who raised his profile when he made the shortlist for Bob Dole’s veepstakes, Condoleeza Rice was an academic with ties to Chevron, Rudy Giuliani was a prominent mayor and Bill Frist was a prominent doctor who had gotten elected to the Senate. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton was a first lady, Barack Obama was a law professor who had just been elected to the state legislature, Nancy Pelosi was a congresswoman with a reputation as a good fundraiser, John Edwards was a lawyer who was gearing up for his Senate bid, John Kerry was a war hero Senator, and Joe Biden was a prominent Senator.

If history is any precedent, it’s quite likely that some of the major stars of the 2020s are currently academics and/ or state legislators, and it’s pretty much nigh-impossible to pick which one will rise to prominence. The 2028 election is unlikely to consist entirely of people who currently hold statewide office, so the potential pool of candidates is going to be quite large.

It’s foolhardy to look at current officeholders and pick which of them will succeed since politics is a fickle business. At one point, Tom Daschle, Russ Feingold, Scott Brown and George Allen looked like potential stars, and then they lost their Senate reelection efforts. Evan Bayh and Tim Pawlenty came close to being on national tickets several times. The circumstances that can raise an individual’s profile often come down to random chance.

That said, there are some people who are more likely than others to succeed. On the Democratic side, new Senators and Governors would have an outsized chance of a significant influence in the coming decade. Kamala Harris is getting the most attention, and has the advantage of the California media market as well as a background appropriate perfect for a time when criminal justice reform is on liberal’s minds. Gavin Newsom is likely to be elected Governor of California, offering an alternative model of liberal leadership.

On the Republican side, future political stars are probably going to emerge in opposition to the next Democratic President. Tom Cotton and Ben Sasse are well-positioned to get reelected in tough cycles for the party, and have been getting outsized attention.

Posted in Politics | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

100 Significant English Language Films on Kanopy

Rains Jeyl Hyde

The Kanopy deal with the New York Public Library is pretty damn awesome, allowing anyone with a New York public library card access to their streaming video collection for free. Reviews emphasize their library of Criterion collection films—which is an impressive selection of 420 films—but there is plenty of other stuff from Kino Lorber, Shout Factory, Flicker Alley, and other imprints. I thought of doing a Top 100, although there’s more than enough material to do two different lists: 100 notable English language films, and and 100 notable foreign language/ silent films.

Horror/ Science Fiction/ Fantasy

There are some decent choices for anyone who likes genre movies. Kino Lorber EDU provides the 1931 pre-code Dr. Jekyl & Mr. Hyde that won Claude Rains an Oscar for Best Actor.  Notable directors with films available for streaming include David Cronenberg (The Brood), Mario Bava (Black Sunday), Brian De Palma (Sisters), George Romero (Day of the Dead) and David Lynch (Eraserhead.) Other classics include 1940’s The Devil Bat with Bela Lugosi, The Corridors of Blood with Boris Karloff (from Criterion’s Monsters and Madmen box-set, all four of which are available), The Blob with Steve McQueen, Deathwatch with Harvey Keitel, Dreamscape and Criterion’s cut of Carnival of Souls. There are quite a few notable genre films in the silent and foreign language categories as well.

Classic Comedy

Classic comedies include Ernst Lubitsch’s To Be Or Not To Be, Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator (we’ll hear more from him in the Silents entry), the Veronica Lake vehicle I married a Witch, the classic Alex Guinness troubled artist comedy The Horse’s Mouth, the Charles Laughton vehicle Hobson’s Choice, and the pop culture satires of the Kentucky Fried Movie, a collaboration by David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, Jerry Zucker before they went on to do AirplaneEating Raoul is a black comedy with an unconventional source of restaurant funding. The Marx Brothers pop up with A Night In Casablanca.



The collection includes a lot of documentaries for all sorts. You have classics like Grey Gardens, about delusional relatives of Jackie Kennedy,  God’s Country by Louis Malle, and Salesman, showing the day to day life of a travelling bible salesman in the 1960s. Political documentaries include The War Room, about the Bill Clinton campaign, and The Times of Harvey Milk. Musical documentaries include Gimme Shelter: The Rolling Stones 1969 tour, and Bob Dylan: Don’t Look Back, essentials for their fans, as well as The Decline of Western Civilization, about the Los Angeles punk scene. Hoop Dreams explores the lives of two African American teenagers and was one of Roger Ebert’s favorite films of the 1990s. Burden of Dreams explores one of the most chaotic movie shoots ever (Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo.) Burroughs: The Movie was the result of years of interview with the Beat writer. For All Mankind features impressive footage from NASA’s space expeditions.

Recent documentaries include the Anita Hill spotlight Anita: Speaking Truth to Power, and 56 Up, the latest entry in the 7 Up series, as the filmmakers return to their subjects return to their subjects every seven years. James Baldwin is spotlighted in the Oscar nominated I Am Not Your Negro, as well as PBS’s The Price of a TicketCan We Take a Joke? explores political correctness and comedy. Super Size Me tackles the obesity crisis in the film that made Morgan Spurlock one of today’s most noted documentary filmmakers. Who is Dayani Cristal? explores the plight of undocumented immigrants, through an exploration of the life of a man whose body was found in the Arizona desert. Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child takes on the difficulties of an African-American LGBT painter. For the Bible Tells Me So has 98% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, and explores the bible’s view on homosexuality. Tower looks at one of America’s first mass school shootings, while Stonewall Uprising covers the events leading to clashes between the police and gay citizens. The Red Pill – A Feminist’s Journey Into the Men’s Rights Movement is rather self-explanatory.

Unforgivable Blackness, Ken Burns’ spotlight on the heavyweight champion Jack Johnson won him several of his many Emmies. There is a lot of Ken Burns’ work in the library, as well as Mark Cousins’ 15 episode series The Story of Film.

British Film

Fans of British music might check out the Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night, and the Who’s Quadrophrenia. Other highlights for Anglophiles would be the animated fantasy adventure Watership Down, Peter Brooks’ The Lord of the Flies (courtesy of the Criterion collection) and The Spy in Black, which appears to be the only Michael Powell film available. Le Weekend stars Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan as a long-married couple visiting Paris to rejuvenate their relationship.

American Film

Notable American classics include two John Ford/ John Wayne collaborations Stagecoach, and the lesser-known The Long Voyage Home, as well as the 1934 adaptation of The Count of Monte Cristo, the 1946 adaptation of The Corsican Brothers, and the Paul Robeson vehicle The Emperor Jones. The mystery The Death Kiss reunited the cast of Universal’s DraculaThe Devil and Daniel Webster adapts the famous short story with Walter Huston as Satan.  Foreign Correspondent is the most notable Hitchcock film available. The Naked City is an influential noir, while Frank Borzage’s History is Made at Night provides a late 1930s love triangle.  Fear and Desire is the rarely seen first movie by Stanley Kubrick. Orson Welles is represented with The Stranger, Mr. Arkadin and The Trial. More recent entries include 1999’s Boondock Saints, and Casino Jack, with Kevin Spacey as lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

WOman Under Influence

Independent (11)

John Cassavettes is represented with Faces, Shadows, and A Woman Under the Influence. Samuel Fuller films include Shock Corridor, and the Baron of Arizona (with Vincent Price.) Other independent highlights include David Gordon Green’s George Washington, and John Huston’s Flannery O’Connor adaptation Wise Blood. Jim Jaramush gets a few films, including Mystery Train, courtesy of the Criterion adaptation. There are quite a few recent indie films thanks to the Samuel Goldwyn collection. 2 Days in Paris, East Side Sushi, the biographical crime drama Whistleblower and the coming of age drama I Capture the Castle are highlights from that supplier.


Some innovative films include Lars Von Trier’s Breaking the Waves, Andre Gregory and Wallace Shaun’s film-long conversations My Dinner With Andre, Orson Welles’ treatise on art and counterfeiting F For Fake, Lars von Trier and Jørgen Leth’s cinematic duel Five Obstructions, and William Greave’s Symbiopsychotaxiplasm.

Theatrical Adaptations

The 1939 Pygmalion that got George Bernard Shaw his screenwriting Oscar is available, as is David Lean’s adaptation of Shaw’s Major Barbara. Thanks to Kino Lorber’s collection, we have the highlights of the American Film Theater series, including John Frankenheimer’s version of The Iceman Cometh,  and Peter Hall’s Homecoming. Something else that seems interesting in the 1985 TV adaptation of Death of a Salesman with John Malkovich and Dustin Hoffman that got a ton of Emmies. Another notable adaptation is the film adaptation of The Browning Version with Michael Redgrave as the lead.

Notable Shakespeare adaptations include Lawrence Olivier’s Richard III, Orson Welles’ The Chimes at Midnight (which adapts several plays to turn Falstaff into the lead), and the recent David Tennant Hamlet.

Great Performances

The Trip to Bountiful netted Geraldine Page an Academy Award, while The Private Life of Henry VIII gave Charles Laughton his an Oscar. Carol Kane was nominated for Best Actress for Hester Street. The Stunt Man and The Ruling Class feature Academy Award nominated performances by Peter O’Toole. Summertime featured a nominated performance from Katherine Hepburn.


Walkabout is one of the most notable Australian films. Jane Campion’s debut Sweetie is also available.

Journey to Italy is an English-language film produced in Italy and Spain starring Ingrid Bergman, considered one of Roberto Rossellini’s best.

Animated films and comedies seem to be a bit underrepresented, but considering the cost of this service is free for the individual, that’s not a big deal. There are quite a few notable films that I haven’t covered, and further exploration will likely reveal some hidden gems. The selections come from various collections, so it’s interesting to see what’s featured and what’s not. Some actors are well-represented (Charles Laughton/ Orson Welles/ Norman Reedus) due to their work in material likely to be included in particular film libraries. Other top talents aren’t covered to the same extent (you’re not going to find much work from Jack Nicholson, or Cary Grant.)


Posted in Film, List | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment