Sunday, March 29, 2009

Movie: Patton



Here's another one of the movies that tends to turn up in lists of "Greatest movies". It tells the story of General Patton's World War II. He was a prominent general who pushed his men to the limit, but he certainly was no diplomat. He seems, from the movie, to be one of those strange people who love war for the opportunities wars give more than they hate war for the damage and destruction wars lead to.

A war movie that is almost three hours long could of course give a solid overdose of bombs and explosions, but this movie steers gently away from that danger. Actually, many of the major battles are shown through newsreels. That leaves more room for depictions of Patton's mental state, as well as the wheeling and dealing to get as much of the honor and as little of the damage as possible.

George C. Scott does a fine job as Patton. He was awarded an Oscar for this, but declined to accept it.

Patton (1970)

Director: Franklin J. Schaffner

Main actor:
George C. Scott as Gen. George S. Patton Jr.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Funny Quotes of the Week 17

"I can't listen to that much Wagner. I start getting the urge to conquer Poland." (Woody Allen)

"Furious activity is no substitute for understanding." (H. H. Williams)

"Don't worry if you're a kleptomaniac, you can always take something for it."

Movie: No country for old men



I'm usually a huge fan of the Coen brothers, but sadly, this movie is not up to their normal standards. Of course, one reason why I have this opinion may be that I usually don't like the kind of movie where people hunt each other down with guns or other killing equipment.

Actors are often brilliant in the Coen brothers' movies. Here, I'm not quite comfortable with Javier Bardem's portrayal of Chigurh. His role is crucial here.

There is also little of the humour that I like so much in many of their movies.

On the other hand, I can't say I'm not at all drawn into the story - at times, I'm quite excited to find out what happens next. But not often enough...

No Country for Old Men (2007)

Director: Ethan Coen and Joel Coen

Main actors:
Tommy Lee Jones as Sheriff Ed Tom Bell
Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh
Josh Brolin as Llewelyn Moss
Woody Harrelson as Carson Wells

Friday, March 27, 2009

Architecture winners

The jury in the competitions for new art museum and new library in Oslo is over. The winners are:

Munch/Stenersen:
1. ”Lambda” by Herreros Arquitectos (Spain)
2. ”Yin-Yang” byREX Architecture (USA)
2. “Girls on the bridge” byChrist & Gantenbein (Sveints) og Lie Øyen Arkitekter (Norway)

(Only "Girls on the bridge" were among my favorites.)

Deichman:
1.”Diagonale” by Lund Hagem Arkitekter og Atelier Oslo (Norway)
2. “Meeting place/diversity/openness/exploration” by Schmidt Hammer Lassen (Dennmark)
3. “Intermezzo” by Snøhetta (Norway)
3. “Between Brochure” by David Chipperfield Architects (U.K) and Div.A Arkitekter (Norway)

(Here, both no. "Meeting place/diversity/openness/exploration" and "Intermezzo" were among my favorites.)

(Source: Hav Eiendom.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tetris HD

Funny: Tetris in HD.

(Thanks to NRK Beta.)

Wallace's nude scene

Daily Mail tells us that another movie superstar has now finally decided to do a nude scene, no doubt fulfilling the wishes of countless fans...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Norwegian blog

As mentioned many times before, I have a blog in Norwegian in addition to this one in English. (And additional ones on specific topics.) Now, Mloovi makes it possible to give a machine-translated RSS feed of my Norwegian blog in English: Bjørn in Norwegian...

Here it is in French: Bjørn en norvégien

...and in Chinese (Traditional): 在挪威的比約

Movie: Terminator



It is still a lot of fun seeing some of the movies of the past which I have heard so much about. I have even been to a Terminator 3D show in Universal Studios. Moreover, it's obviously fun to see the Republican governor of California falling naked to the ground.

That's not all - the movie has a fairly engaging story once it gets going, and the technical quality of the effects was probably good 25 years ago. For my taste, however, there are a few car chases too many. It's also fascinating that in this world it is possible to send a cyborg back in time, but it's also possible to aim at Sarah Connor a thousand times without killing her. I'm all for suspending my disbelief when it is necessary for the story, but I also defend my right to roll my eyes while doing so.

The movie was actually far better than I feared - and far worse than the hype suggests. So I guess I should be pretty happy.

The Terminator (1984)

Director: James Cameron

Main actors:
Arnold Schwarzenegger as The Terminator
Michael Biehn as Kyle Reese
Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Deichman

In the same way as with the Munch-Stenersen museum, there's also been an architect competition for the new central library of Oslo, which will be located to the north of the opera. Again, all proposals are available at the web pages of Hav eiendom. My favorites are:

Intermezzo
Meeting place / Diversity/ Openness/ exploration

And of these, I think I prefer the last one. It preserves the sight lines from the railway station to the opera and provides a nice contrast to the slopes of the opera. It's cool!

Munch/Stenersen

There has been architect competitions for the new Munch museum (incorporating the Stenersen museum) in Oslo. The contributions are available at Hav eiendom's pages.

In my opinion, an important consideration is to fit nicely with the wonderful new opera. In particular, the new museum should not be destroying the view of the fjord from the opera roof. Based on this and other considerations, here are my favorites:

Melankoli, 2012
Girls on the bridge
Viewing + Seeing

(of these, I think my top favorite is Melankoli, 2012).

Movie: The French Connection



There must have been made hundreds of movies in which two policemen, at odds with their bosses, go around trying to solve a big case, often being hampered more than helped by their peers. These movies tend to involve some car chases, some creative investigation and some wisecracking.

Of course, The French Connection involves better actors than most movies in its genre. It may also have been an early example. Other than that, it is really surprising to me that it got five Oscars, including best male actor (Hackman), best director and best picture. To me, it's just too similar to lots of other movies I've seen, and the story is less interesting than most of those. Granted, the movie takes off a little in the end (with a nice little car-and-train-chase) etc, but it's not enough to make me happy today...

The French Connection (1971)

Director: William Friedkin

Main actors:
Gene Hackman as Jimmy Doyle
Fernando Rey as Alain Charnier
Roy Scheider as Det. Buddy Russo

Funny Quotes of the Week 16

"If the English language made any sense, a catastrophe would be an apostrophe with fur." (Doug Larson)

"America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between." (Oscar Wilde)

"An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field." (Niels Bohr)

Eurovision Song Contest 2009

Here are my impressions of the competitors in the Eurovision Song Contest 2009:

Top 5:
1. Norway (9/10p)
2. Germany (8/10p)
3. Azerbaijan (8/10p)
4. Croatia (8/10p)
5. Israel (7/10p)

First semifinal (12th of May):

(in order of appearance)
03/10 1. Sweden
04/10 2. Bosnia Hercegovina
07/10 3. Israel
05/10 4. Belgium
05/10 5. Andorra
06/10 6. Czech Republic
04/10 7. Montenegro
06/10 8. Iceland
03/10 9. FYROM
05/10 10. Bulgaria
06/10 11. Portugal
04/10 12. Switzerland
05/10 13. Finland
05/10 14. Belarus
06/10 15. Turkey
07/10 16. Romania
06/10 17. Malta
05/10 18. Armenia

2nd semi final (14th of May)

06/10 1. Denmark
06/10 2. Slovenia
08/10 3. Azerbaijan
04/10 4. Netherlands
04/10 5. Latvia
07/10 6. Hungary
07/10 7. Serbia
09/10 8. Norway
05/10 9. Ukraine
07/10 10. Greece
07/10 11. Lithuania
05/10 12. Poland
08/10 13. Croatia
05/10 14. Estonia
06/10 15. Moldova
04/10 16. Cyprus
05/10 17. Irland
04/10 18. Slovakia
06/10 19. Albania

Directly to the final:
05/10 France
04/10 Spain
05/10 United Kingdom
08/10 Germany
05/10 Russia

(Thanks to Seher.no for providing most of the links.)

Norwegian Paradise Hotel

The Norwegian version of Paradise Hotel has been on for a few weeks. At Seher.no, there are photos of all the male contestants. Worth a look?

Friday, March 20, 2009

A trendy sin

Juventus player Nicola Legrottaglie claims that homosexuality is a sin, according to Blikk. His advice to gays is to read the bible.

Well, I won't start characterizing his brains, but at least he looks good...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Movie: Hairspray



No, this is not the classic movie with Ricky Lake and Divine from 1988. Instead, it has a wonderful cast, with John Travolta as Edna, Christopher Walken as her husband Wilbur and Zac Efron as the male object of desire for Tracy.

I was a bit worried in the beginning, as I didn't think the music was good enough - there are not many things as painful as musicals where you can hardly wait for the music to end. However, after a while the positive energy of the whole enterprise just completely took over, and I enjoyed the movie a lot.

Of course, the moral of the story is a very welcome one: black and white, thick or thin, that's just small parts of who we are and should not be taken as all-embracing characterizations.

Have fun!



Hairspray (2007)

Director: Adam Shankman

Main actors:
Nikki Blonsky as Tracy Turnblad
Zac Efron as Link Larkin
John Travolta as Edna Turnblad
Michelle Pfeiffer as Velma Von Tussle
Christopher Walken as Wilbur Turnblad
Amanda Bynes as Penny Pingleton
James Marsden as Corny Collins
Queen Latifah as Motormouth Maybelle
Brittany Snow as Amber Von Tussle
Elijah Kelley as Seaweed
Allison Janney as Prudy Pingleton

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Movie: 12 angry men



Okay, this is getting ridiculous - this is the 11th movie I've seen this month - and we've only reached the 17th of March. It seems I always tend to prefer to see a movie rather than watching tv or reading a book...

Anyway, 12 angry men is currently on number 9 of the Imdb top 250 chart. It is a strange movie - almost entirely taking place inside the jury room, where twelve men are to decide the faith of a young man. Some may want more "action" than that, but what could possibly be more intense and dramatic than a discussion which can end up in life or death?

The movie is thoroughly engaging, with intelligent arguments. We are gradually getting to know the case and the people in more detail. All the people have their own backgrounds and stories that contribute to the overall story. It is a very nice piece of filmmaking, and could be a lesson to anyone who thinks you need big explosions to make dramatic movies...

12 angry men (1957)

Director: Sidney Lumet

Main actor:
Henry Fonda as Juror #8

Monday, March 16, 2009

Movie: In the heat of the night



Sidney Poitier is the cool homocide expert who happens to be in a town in southern USA just as a big-shot is killed. The clueless and corrupt local police department would prefer to sort things out in their own don't-rock-the-boat kind of way.

The movie works well on at least two levels: both as a crime story and as a portrayal of the ugly head of racism in southern USA in the middle of last century. Moreover, the music is difficult to beat, winning Quincy Jones a Grammy. The movie also got the "best picture" Oscar, deservedly so.

In the Heat of the Night (1967)

Director: Norman Jewison

Main actors:
Sidney Poitier as Det. Virgil Tibbs
Rod Steiger as Police Chief Bill Gillespie

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Movie: Dances with Wolves



There is no shortage of nice things to say about this movie. A movie looking at the European-Indian conflicts from another angle than the "cowboy is good, indian is bad" which was so usual for so long, was surely called for. It is an emotional movie - I feel strongly for the Sioux and their lifestyle after watching this. And the landscapes are beautiful. Moreover, the actors are good, the scenes with animals in them look realistic and so on.

So maybe if I had watched it at another time of day, I would have liked it more. I watched it in the early evening, and felt - as I usually do when I watch movies that are almost three hours long - that it was too long. After all, the story is fairly simple, and especially the more predictable parts could have been shortened. In this way, it reminds me of Braveheart in that the director obviously loved the main actor so much that it was hard to cut scenes.

On the other hand, the movie got 7 Oscars and lots of people liked it a lot, so who am I to say that it should have been cut...

Dances with Wolves (1990)

Director: Kevin Costner

Main actors:
Kevin Costner as Lt. John J. Dunbar
Mary McDonnell as Stands With A Fist
Graham Greene as Kicking Bird

Movie: The Last Picture Show



This is another movie which I've heard mentioned time and again for years, but which I've never really known what was all about. It turns out that it's a movie from the year I was born (1971) taking place in the 1950s. It shows how young men grow up in a small community with little to offer except enlisting for the army. Both of the central male characters, Sonny and Duane, are easy to identify with.

Cybill Shepherd's Jacy is another interesting character in this movie. She is certainly not an innocent girl and an object of the boys' desires - quite to the contrary. She is a player, but none the happier for it.

I've read somewhere that Timothy Bottoms was compared to James Dean after this movie. It's easy to see why - he has the same talent for portraying a young, vulnerable man with no clear direction in his life.

In conclusion, I'm happy to finally have seen this movie. And my "big plan" is working out fine: making a spreadsheet with titles of movies I should see, factoring in such things as Imdb rating, Academy awards, mentions in lists of movies you should see etc etc. More often than not, the "world's best movies" have some qualities to them, even if they don't sound too good...

The Last Picture Show (1971)

Director: Peter Bogdanovich

Main actors:
Timothy Bottoms as Sonny Crawford
Jeff Bridges as Duane Jackson
Cybill Shepherd as Jacy Farrow
Ben Johnson as Sam the Lion
Cloris Leachman as Ruth Popper

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Movie: Mutiny on the Bounty



Another one of the old classics that "everyone should see". And again, I'm surprised at how well the movie is working, 74 years later. It is still engaging.

Of course, the story is well-known - and was well-known in 1935, too. Anyway, it's hard to be surprised by the events when the name of the movie includes the word "mutiny". But still, the relationships between the different characters make it interesting.

And I'm getting more and more respect for the acting of Clark Gable. He was a fine actor. However, the romance he has in this movie is not too convincing. By the way, three of the actors in this movie was nominated for best actor (Gable, Laughton and Tone), but the award went to Victor McLaglen for The Informer. However, Mutiny on the Bounty secured the prize for best movie.

Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)

Director: Frank Lloyd

Main actors:
Clark Gable as Christian Fletcher
Charles Laughton as Bligh
Franchot Tone as Byam
John Harrington as Mr. Purcell

Funny Quotes of the Week 15

"I am at two with nature." (Woody Allen)

"If all the world's a stage, I want to operate the trap door." (Paul Beatty)

"It is hard enough to remember my opinions, without also remembering my reasons for them!" (Friedrich Nietzsche)

Friday, March 13, 2009

You've got talent - stripper

Here's a small thing from today's show of Norway's "You've got talent". Kim Andre Olsen.

7 naked men - and a woman

khou.com writes about an outraged woman, Jill Erickson, who is "astounded" about a photo at the website of Gilly Hicks which shows a woman and seven naked men (from behind). "I can't believe they are allowed to do this."

Well, it's one thing to be "astounded" - that is every person's right. To suggest that a photo of a little rear nudity should be outlawed, on the other hand, is plain ridiculous. But then, she's from the US, apparently.

Movie: Chun gwong cha sit



Last time I saw "Happy together" (English title) was at Oslo Film Festival in November 1997. That was three years before my first trip to Taiwan and many more years before my second and third trip. Taiwan must have been something exotic and strange to me then, not something concrete and familiar. Now, the scenes from Taiwan set in motion lots of emotions.

I didn't like the movie then. This time, I liked it more, particularly the second half. The is quite an unpleasant depiction of a relationship that has more problems than pleasures. But it also examines the meaning of "home" and what going to the end of the world may lead to.

But the movie also has its problems - or rather, I would probably have to be in a very particular mood to really love it. It is slow and moody, dark and seemingly hopeless, and very different from Wong Kar Wai's more action-packed movies.



Chun gwong cha sit (1997)

Director: Kar Wai Wong

Main actors:
Leslie Cheung as Ho Po-wing
Tony Leung Chiu Wai as Lai Yiu-fai
Chen Chang as Chang

Sexist commercial

In Norway, it is illegal to make commercials which take advantage of the female or male body in an irrelevant way. Many commercials have been stopped because of this - usually when nearly naked women have been depicted.

Therefore, it's interesting to see what will happen to this ad for Byporten, a shopping centre in Oslo:



I can't make up my mind if I shall be angry because of such a blatant use of the male body, or if I should just sit down quietly and look...

Monday, March 09, 2009

Paradise Hotel



Today is the premiere of the Norwegian version of "Paradise Hotel". I seriously doubt that I will watch it, even though the advertising in advance includes photos such as the one above and interviews in newspapers where Petter says that he doesn't rule out having sex and Noor says that "I'm happy with everything, and in particular with my butt."

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Movie: It happened one night



In my effort to see some of the movies that I "should have seen" long ago, I could do a lot worse than choosing a movie that got five Academy Awards (best picture, best director, best actor, best actress and best writing) and which is still in the top 200 in the Imdb charts.

The movie is 75 years old this year, but why does that matter? Of course, there are no colours, but except that, what matters in this simple, funny, romantic and human story was told exactly as well 75 years ago as today. And Clark Gable was not a bad actor...

Ellie runs away from her father - he tries to stop her being with Mr. Westley, a guy she has married in secret. However, she finds herself in Miami, having to get to New York without her father's detectives finding her. And then she runs into journalist Peter Warne, who has no sympathy for the spoiled brat.



1934 seems so long ago, but then I suddenly realize that this movie was about 37 years old when I was born - and now I've let it wait for 37 years more before I finally saw it. I'm glad I didn't wait even longer.

It happened one night (1934)

Director: Frank Capra

Main actors:
Clark Gable as Peter Warne
Claudette Colbert as Ellie Andrews

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Sydney Mardi Gras

Congratulations to everyone celebrating Sydney Mardi Gras!


Blikk.

Movie: Funny Games U.S.



It's been many years since I saw the original Funny Games. I remembered that movie as an unpleasant, but interesting movie. Now that there's been a remake with Michael Pitt in one of the roles, I naturally wanted to see it.

It's still unpleasant, of course. I don't want to reveal too much to anyone who havent's seen either version, but let me just say that there are some particularly unscrupulous guys in this movie. The actors are pretty good and there are some media-critical parts which are interesting in this movie, too.

The question that is hard to avoid, however, is "What's the point?" The original version was still not ten years old when they started making this movie. This version is very similar to the original. Why would Michael Haneke do this repetition exercise instead of using his talent for something new? To be a bit harsh: this movie doesn't really add much, except that it can be seen by that segment of the American audience that can't read. That may well be an important segment commercially, but still I think his resources could be better used elsewhere.

Funny Games U.S. (2007)

Director: Michael Haneke

Main actors:
Naomi Watts as Ann
Tim Roth as George
Michael Pitt as Paul
Brady Corbet as Peter
Devon Gearhart as Georgie

Funny Quotes of the Week 14

"The young have aspirations that never come to pass, the old have reminiscences of what never happened." (Saki)

"America had often been discovered before Columbus, but it had always been hushed up." (Oscar Wilde)

"There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are." (W. Somerset Maugham)

Movie: Little Miss Sunshine



Life is not always easy. Especially if your uncle tries to kill himself, your brother have wowed not to speak, your grandfather is a sexmaniac and drug addict and your father is an endless stream of "self improvement" gibberish. So why not take refuge in the dream of winning a beauty pageant?

This is a movie about family values - family values of a more realistic kind than the ones right-wing politicians subscribe to. It is a very warm movie, as well as funny.

By the way, it's interesting to see this comment on imdb.com: "The F-bomb [probably meaning "fuck"] is used 59 times, and 10 uses of the s-word [shit]." Somebody actually counts this? Doesn't that get in the way of enjoying the movie?

Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

Directors: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris

Main actors:
Abigail Breslin as Olive Hoover
Greg Kinnear as Richard Hoover
Paul Dano as Dwayne
Alan Arkin as Grandpa Edwin Hoover
Toni Collette as Sheryl Hoover
Steve Carell as Frank Ginsberg

Art: Munch's Sick Child

Finally, I've been to the exhibition on Munch's Sick Child in the National Gallery.

The Sick Child is an important work, it can be considered his breakthrough and is also the work that Munch made the most paintings of. In this exhibition the contemporary context is detailed, other works by Munch is shown, there is one room devoted to the different methods used to examine the (first) painting and even one room devoted to the history of tuberculosis. But the highlight is five of the six versions of the painting - one from Tate in London, one from Thielska Galleriet in Stockholm and two from the Munch Museum in Oslo - in addition to the one belonging to the National Gallery. (One painting usually in Göteborg was not lent to this exhibition.)

Comparing the works is interesting. I must say I like the first one the most. It is dark and "weak". Almost no individual brushstrokes are visible. It also has lots of scars. The third and fourth versions (usually in Thielska and Tate) have broad brush strokes, and are more vibrant and "sunny", not fitting the topic. The fifth and sixth versions are even brighter, with broad fields of color - moving still further away from the dark and gloomy (and touching) beginning.

Sadly, the National Gallery is presently in a building unsuitable for the purpose. I'm happy that the authorities have decided to build a new museum where the National Gallery can move (together with the modern art museum) in a few years' time. The lack of space is particularly pressing. To get space for this exhibition, part of the permanent exhibition had to be removed. On the other hand, the Munchs that were taken from their usual spots to be included in this exhibition, were replaced by Munchs from the vaults. For instance I've never seen the painting "Fylkesmann Torvald Løchen" (1918) before - I found it playful (and partly cubistic). It is an example of what is rarely shown for lack of space.

Movie: Milk



It is very nice to live in a civilized society, in which a majority of the population knows the difference between love and abuse. No such luck for Harvey Milk, the politician who took up the fight and got vocal when "the normal majority" kept using the gay community's silence to hold control of definitions.

So in a way it's hard to watch this movie without being swept away with the thought that I'm happy to be living in one of the few countries on this globe in which the gay fight for freedom has come so far. Of course, there's still a lot to do here as well - kids still call each other names in the school yard. However, name calling has at least been rooted out of the political debate - it's been a long time since anyone has confused homosexuality with paedophilia and still been taken seriously.

So of course I'm sympathetic to the ideas of this movie. It tells an important story, the actors are great and it is at times funny and at times very moving. The Academy Award to Sean Penn was well deserved.

Milk (2008)

Director: Gus Van Sant

Main actors:
Sean Penn as Harvey Milk
James Franco as Scott Smith
Emile Hirsch as Cleve Jones

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Google Calendar out of order

Google Calendar has not been working for days, and I'm starting to get very frustrated. There seems to be a problem if you happen to use other signs than the US A-Z. (For me, who happens to have a name with an ø in it, that's a problem...)

This last year or two, I've gradually let Google handle more and more of my information: using Google Calendar for my appointments, Google Documents for many important spreadsheets and texts and Gmail for some of my email. I start getting second thoughts, when a malfunction in their calendar software goes unacknowledged for days.

I guess it's at least time to backup everything and start preparing for the day everything falls apart...

Movie: Fargo



One of the great things of life is knowing that there still are Coen brothers movies that you haven't seen...

For some strange reason, I've never seen Fargo. It's a fascinating movie. Slow-paced, quirky, funny and warm. Criminals Carl Showalter and Gaear Grimsrud are hired by Jerry Lundegaard to kidnap his wife - the plan being that her father will provide the ransom, Jerry will take half of it and his financial problems will be over. Needless to say, things don't go according to plan, and Police Chief Marge Gunderson, 7 months pregnant, starts to investigate...

Minnesota is cold. There is snow all around. Some of the scenes are more like painting than moving images.

Not the best of their movies (I still think that's "The Hudsucker Proxy"), but still fun.

Fargo (1996)

Director: Joel Coen

Main actors:
Frances McDormand as Police Chief Marge Gunderson
William H. Macy as Jerome 'Jerry' Lundegaard
Steve Buscemi as Carl Showalter
Peter Stormare as Gaear Grimsrud