Tag Archives: essays

Childhood Movie Memories

 

Can you remember your first motion picture? For me, I don’t so much remember the first one I ever saw, but the first one that I remember seeing. Alfie, starring Michael Caine and Shelley Winters. I imagine that I was younger than the age when most remember their first movie. Perhaps you really had no exposure to them so you waited until you were older.

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If movie going was a family thing for you then as a kid you didn’t have a say, did you? One thing I attribute my love for films to is that early on I saw so many of those classics of the 1960s. We lived in Alaska when the entire television broadcast consisted of one black and white channel. As chance would have it, one of my father’s duties was to operate the projector for the theater at the local naval base. I tagged along and got to watch whatever motion picture he was shipped to screen. For a kid to have free run of an empty auditorium is a special kind of adventure. Arriving early, I’d wander around indulging my fantasies unsupervised, while dad maneuvered the heavy metal film canisters, removed the massive cellulose reels, and threaded rolls of it through the machinery with surgical precision. Of course, one of my responsibilities was to police the seemingly razor sharp edged empties.

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My impressions were memorable. Michael Caine could command a scene like few others, the charisma that has powered one of the most prolific careers in the industry was easy to see back then. The movies from 1966 were memorable for me and I treasure their artistry with a special place for the magic that I – among many – credit to them. Nevada Smith has that status. There is no better film for showing the talent that Steve McQueen possessed. His hero epitomized the essence of the revenge plot. The story portrays racial conflicts from an individual perspective, allowing the viewer to appreciate the reasons why how we treat each other matters.

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My favorite western from that year is not The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, because it doesn’t capture the America of my imagination, in spite of Clint Eastwood’s machismo. The Rare Breed and James Stewart do. Depth of feeling is one way to judge a film, as a standard to assess quality. I did cry watching it. And I cried watching Born Free. More than once. But I laughed too. Though not while watching Born Free, watching The Ghost and Mr. Chicken. The masters of the art know it is more the facial expression, the body control, in concert with lines spoken, that capture funny. Don Knotts, his comic genius on full display, may not have garnered the full recognition warranted for his performances. Watch it yourself, and dare to disagree with me.

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One last thing. In case you were wondering, one of my first movie memories WAS seeing Bambi on the big screen.

Taking My Time: On The Folded Clock by Heidi Julavits

I hope you will capture Today

Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies

Randon Billings Noble author photo

Randon Billings Noble is an essayist. Her work has appeared in the Modern Love column of The New York Times; Brain, Child; The Georgia Review; Shenandoah; The Rumpus; Brevity; Fourth Genre and elsewhere.  She is a nonfiction editor at r.kv.r.y quarterly, Reviews Editor at PANK, and a reviewer for The A.V. Club.  You can read more of her work at www.randonbillingsnoble.com.


30 April

Today I read to page 32 in The Folded Clock and loved it so much I started writing a letter to a friend – a real letter, not an email or message or text – to tell her about it.  This friend and I used to live in the same city, but now we don’t, so we write letters to each other maybe once a month or so.

I like to write letters. I like addressing the envelope, picking out a stamp that fits the…

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Dear Academia: Opposing Views Are Not “Discursive Violence”

This is worth sharing. Perhaps you agree.

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One of modern liberalism’s biggest problems is that we have taken after the Bush Administration in allowing euphemisms to redefine concepts that are already well-defined.  Why, the U.S. doesn’t torture because we don’t “torture.”  We engage in “enhanced interrogation.”  Unfortunately, the left-wing engages in this bastardization of Webster’s in a distinctly Orwellian way.  Once we co-opt a word or concept, we can use it as a weapon.  You see this in online communities.  Tweeting someone without asking for permission is “harassment.” (Not to mention a Catch-22.)  A doctor engaging in lifesaving measures during childbirth is “birth rape.”  You oppose harassment and rape, right?  So you better agree with us or you are a harasser or rape apologist.

Noted “equity feminist” Christina Hoff Sommers spoke at Oberlin College.  Ah, college.  The marketplace of ideas, where young people go to try out new thoughts and to figure out what they really…

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Do Book Review Bloggers Need Credentials?

Thought provoking commentary about an LARB piece.

Los Angeles Review of Books

The Misfortune Of Knowing

Graffiti Reviews_Courting SamiraThis week, the blogosphere and Twitter have been abuzz about a pompous piece in the Los Angeles Review of Books* by William Giraldi that likened book bloggers to leeches on literature and our medium—the internet—as “a bog to wiggle around in.” If you want a good laugh, read his description of the current climate of literary criticism as:

a climate in which the Net has spawned a cacophony of gabble impersonating literary comment, palaver and vulgate enough to warp you. Literature has always had its leeches, except now the Net has given every one of them a bog to wiggle around in. This wouldn’t be any more of an issue than it is to ignore the wastrel on the corner dispensing pamphlets on anarchy, but as respectable print publications either prune their space for book commentary or else go extinct altogether, more and more criticism — like more and more…

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On Ben Affleck and Slavery

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Matthew Barlow

A few years back, I was contacted by the producers of Who Do You Think You Are?, a popular TV genealogy show, to help them with an episode.  The show was predicated on tracing the ancestry of celebrities, attempting to capitalize on the boon in genealogy amongst the masses, and was based on a popular British version.  For an upcoming episode, they were working with Rosie O’Donnell, whose Irish ancestors had passed through Montreal, living for a time in a long-defunct neighbourhood in the city’s east end.

So I met with people from the show when they came to Montreal, spent the good chunk of a day with them, showing them what mid-nineteenth century architecture in the city looked like, using Pointe-Saint-Charles in the stead of this defunct neighbourhood, which was destroyed by the expansion of rue Notre-Dame in the 70s.  Not surprisingly, the majority of the Montreal part was excised…

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The Guitar

A Word Of Substance

 L anthony

Photo by L. Anthony and Lance Heard

Sweet swallowing eye lids of coal, why won’t you unstick? Switching memories for dreams, you take me on a ride where objects are particles of brain dust puffed up into imaginary ‘things.’ The kind that people don’t want to look at. An abandoned guitar. A torn out sheet of paper. A photograph too bright from exposure. What things are left burning from memory to sight? When will eye lids lift their vision to the light? I can’t tell what’s there when everything is white. A shine shifts in practice. 

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