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June 2, 2008:

MAH AND PAH JONG

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, June is already flying by, like a gazelle playing mah jong. Does anyone still play mah jong or, at the very least, pah jong? Does anyone still wear a hat? Does anyone still say, “And one for Mahler?” Has anyone had a piece of Mahler’s lately? Was it tasty? What am I, writing a Eugene Ionesco play? I gotta tell you. Wasn’t there a wonderful series of films made in China – ou know, the Mah and Pah Jong films? Mah and Pah Jong Go To Beijing, Mah and Pah Jong Eat Duck, Mah and Pah Jong Play Canasta. I just love those films, don’t you? I wish they’d put the damn things on DVD already. I really loved the actors who played Mah and Pah – Pi Jiao and Ling Ping Loo. Boy were they great. I wonder what became of them? You know, if anyone has a clew as to what the HELL I’m talking about, do let me know, because certainly I have no clew. Speaking of Mah and Pah Jong, yesterday was Sunday, as opposed to today, which is Monday. I got up around ten, made a couple of telephonic calls, then finished proofing Ye Olde Newe Novel. I then did some more Nudie Musical work, mostly at the piano. I then decided I didn’t want to do any more work, so I stopped and ran my rare VHS bootleg video of Mah and Pah Jong Dig Rock and Roll. I made up a big ol’ batch o’ pasta (simple – just butter and cheese) and ate it whilst sitting on my couch like so much fish.

Yesterday, I watched two count them two motion pictures on DVD. The first motion picture on DVD was entitled The Big Trail, the film that served as the first starring role for Mr. John Wayne (circa 1931 – he wouldn’t actually achieve huge stardom for another eight years, with Stagecoach), directed by Mr. Raoul Walsh. I’d only seen snippets of the film before and didn’t much care for it. But this new DVD presents the film as it was presented at only a handful of theaters back then – in Grandeur 70. Yes, long before 70mm became the rage in the mid-1950s, The Big Trail and a handful of other films were presented in 70mm. So, no, Virginia, 70mm was not a new deal in the 50s. Well, The Big Trail is a whole other ball of cornflakes in its original widescreen ratio. First of all, it’s very peculiar to see a film shot in 1930 in widescreen, but the fact is that Mr. Walsh’s direction uses the widescreen extraordinarily well. The film was shot on location and the shots are breathtaking. It all seems very authentic, and it’s a mesmerizing viewing experience. Mr. Wayne is really very good in this, his first starring role – charismatic, handsome, and commanding. There are some good supporting performances, but the villain of the film (Tyrone Power, Sr.) is so over the top and Whipley Snidelash-ish that it’s hard to watch him or take him seriously. It’s a long film, clocking in at just over two hours, but in the widescreen ratio off the 70mm negative, it’s pretty impressive. The DVD also includes the flat version in Academy ratio (it was shot with side by side cameras), and several of those awful Fox featurettes. I do wish they’d either get rid of them or find someone else to make them – they all use the same people to spout information that is designed to appeal to people who know nothing about film and spout it in the most perfunctory sound-byte way. I’m sure there’s wonderful stuff to be said about Grandeur 70 and how it all worked but you’re not going to hear it from the lame featurette on this DVD.

I then watched the second motion picture on DVD, which was entitled Enchanted. I’ve written about the film before – seeing it a second time was equally Enchanting – it’s not perfect, by any means, but it really is a terrific film for most of its running time. So, let me talk about the transfer. Time was, when you’d get a Disney DVD and you could just marvel at the marvelously marvelous transfer you’d see. But like other studios recently, as soon as they began releasing things on hi-def, suddenly their standard DVD transfers began looking less wonderful. I have said that I believe these studios are doing this on purpose so that when side by side comparisons are made, the Blu-Ray looks so much better there’s no contest. However, there are still standard DVD releases that are amazing-looking, especially for some older films. So, there is no excuse for these less than wonderful transfers. Enchanted looked great projected – here it’s just kind of ordinary, with nothing popping as it should and everything looking, well, blah. The sound is very good. There are some extras – a really bad blooper reel (why include this if there isn’t anything really funny?), some deleted scenes that will have you scratching your head and asking a) why would any writer have written them, and b) why were they shot? I’m sure the Blu-Ray version looks spectacular, but these studios really ought to rethink this spitting in the face of the public that made DVDs the success they are.

Well, why don’t we all click on the Unseemly Button below whilst I begin another of my favorites – Mah and Pah Jong Push The Unseemly Button.

Today will be a busy day. I’m praying once again not to have any annoying annoyances floating my way. I have to organize the Nudie reading – I’ve decided who is reading what, and after I lock the script today, I have to print out a bunch of copies and my intention is to highlight the lines of each person in each script. That will take some time, of course, but I think it will make things go more smoothly. I have tons of errands to do, some telephonic conversations to have, and then I’ll be going to Mr. Grant Geissman’s to finalize the galley so it can be sent to the publisher.

Tomorrow, I have a music rehearsal for Nudie, where I’ll be teaching several people the group numbers. The rest of the week will have similar goings on. Of course, this weekend brings the final performances of The Brain at the Chance Theater – I think I’ll be attending the Friday and closing day performances. On Saturday, I’ll be at the charity event making sure the entertainment portion of the show goes smoothly.

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, organize, print scripts, enter final fixes, do errands and ship packages. Today’s topic of discussion: It’s everyone’s favorite game, The Initials Game, our new regular Monday Feature. Today will be the first day I’m using initials that Mr. Rothman and I haven’t done. Remember, only one name per post, and it must be a person of note, whether a celebrity, sports figure, political figure, writer, or what have you. Remember, cartoon characters and fictional characters are allowed. Today’s initials are G.G. Let’s have loads of lovely postings, shall we, whilst I finish watching Mah and Pah Jong Out West.

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