Saturday, February 28, 2015

South Pacific(1958)


South Pacific [1958]. A tragic story with postmodern social implication, ahead of its times. The songs are the story. We all long for a Bali Hai. The geographic view is of Hawaii. IMDb identifies Kaua'i, Hawaii, USA as the spot, unless in the studio. They di try to look real and they are in the Pacific.

The deeper theme of South Pacific is one of racial mixing. Lt. Cable hassopacific adjustment troubles facing the fact that he loves Liat, who is Tonkinese. In the out of the world joy of BaliHai, he loses track of his background and falls for her. Faced with the reality of his social world, he cannot bring himself at first to marry her. So to Nellie has troubles facing the fact that Emile married a Polynesian woman and had two children. Her social bak ground faces adjusting to this fact. Cable sings “You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught” to reveal his findings of this conflict in himself, and Nellie. Our view of others is “carefully taught” to us by our society. It is not born in us.

South Pacific islands have had this place in American culture of being where the outside world is put aside. One might see the British sailors react and change in any version of Mutiny on the Bounty to see this.

The physical world is the standard one of Warmth with broad open views of the ocean. Volcanic peaks dominate the sky. The distance this world is from the larger world of America is pronounced.  The islands are a refuge from the industrial age, though damaged by it as Gauguin clearly saw in his art from here.A beautiful picture of it all.

All the Fine Young Cannibals [1960].


All the Fine Young Cannibals [1960]. Natalie Wood and her future husband Robert Wagner team for this angst-filled melodrama of coming of age and finding what it all means in the shadow of parents and the conditions of life. George Hamilton and Susan Kohner ably assist moving the drama with the singing and bitter angst of Pearl Bailey coming along. The blues is the issue and what to do with them. A hard to find movie, but worth the search. afycannibals

The geography is that of a bit older rural South. One finds the elements of poverty and race, and the associated elements of unhappiness. Chad (Robert Wagner) can play the trumpet very well. He picks up on local African-American blues and finds his way via a twisted path to wealth and fame blowing the blues in the North. He keeps touch with his roots and marries Sally Mae (Natalie Wood). She has trouble living with the torments within Chad as he both profits from the music and yet is tormented by the blues in his own life.

The visual elements shown are that warm, rural South and its poverty, as well as urban living and it finery. Both are places of angst with the South offering home and a place of comfort and forgiveness.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Mrs. Miniver (1942)


A classic film, often on Turner Classic Movies (TCM), Mrs. Miniver gives a view of rural England that is hard to beat. Made in 1942, it put American in empathy with British people suffering the Nazi Blitz or Battle of Britain. A minivermajor element of World War II, Hitler’s mazing and unexplained abandonment of the Battle gave the British a breather and allowed the move toward victory. Some historians see Hitler as winning this battle had only he continued it.

The Miniver family lives in Belham. Belham is fictional as none exists, but it is clearly on the River Thames and in southeast England. The armada of small ships and the heaviness of the Nazi air attacks yield a conclusion that Belham, though fictional, is a model of many places in rural southeastern England. An airbase is nearby and the bombing begins early after the war begins. That bombing is very heavy. This eliminates the North. Their easiness and regularity of travel l to London further indicates a site near London. One can make an assumption that British travel is so superior at this time that sites further out could have been created, but nearness to London is just the natural assumption one wants to make.

The geographic elements shown of British life then and now are numerous.

1. Note that gardening is important. You will find it here, and in many of the British comedies shown on American public television. People are very involved in this in England.

2. Rural roads will tend to be tree lined. While modern highways exist and look like those here in basic respects, the rural roads often are tree lined and would seem compact to Americans.

3. Class system tension existed and still is present. Early in the film, young Vincent Miniver and Carol Belham argue slightly over the role of class in society. The older system of nobility has been in decline and the fading elements of it that remain are a subject for discussion. Should a mere stationmaster be allowed to enter, much less win, a contest on roses? His winning would upset the local lady.

4. The nature of the Thames River is shown. Boats 30 feet and longer are called into service. Note how many show up. A 30 foot boat would be hard to find in Minnesota or most states. But that the river can handle them and allow them ocean access is clearly presented.

Mrs. Miniver is a classic film. Watch for it in the regular schedule around Oscar time. For the historian it has numerous elements of the war period. For the geographer it has a quaint slice of pre-war and wartime British life.

Exodus (1960)


Exodus (1960) is a classic film depicting the establishment of Israel and the immediate collapse of the area into Israeli-Arab fighting. It begins on Cyprus where the British are trying to hold Jews from Europe from entering exodusPalestine, as it was known. The British are stretched at the end of their Empire Period. World War II has exhausted them. They are left in control of Palestine by the Sykes-Picot Agreement and seizures made at the end of World War I. All they really want is out of this situation. They no longer have the resources to continue their World role.

On Cyprus, Ari Ben Canaan (Paul Newman) meets American nurse Kitty Fremont (Eva Marie Saint), and then engineers the takeover of a ship of immigrants. Slyly leading their escape from an internment camp, the Jewish group boards the ship only to find the British will not allow them to leave port. Following a hunger strike to embarrass the British into letting them go to Israel, they are so released. Arriving in Israel one views a typical Kibbutz setting. The Kibbutz is a settlement form intended to place Jewish immigrants in farm settings where those with skills and no funds could work with others in creating a farm community. As the United Nations debates the fate of Palestine and the new Israeli state, you get to observe the fighting of the three sides over this area.

IMDb lists the filming sites as Acre, Israel; Famagusta, Cyprus; and Jerusalem, Israel. It is not a studio set film, it uses the real sites. This authenticity is important in making it a geographically significant film. It would have been easy to use Southern California locations which share the Mediterranean climate zone’s features.

The view of Cyprus is limited. The ship and dock area dominates, but some driving around by the characters gives you some sense of the Mediterranean nature of Cyprus.

As the action shifts to Israel, Jerusalem and Acre alternate as sites. The city has old buildings. This is its nature at this time. The viewer is given a clear picture of older stone building. The area is crowded and an odd interconnectivity of buildings is presented. For example, one can escape capture running from roof top to roof top and up and down.

Acre is the site of the kibbutz and school. It is dry with scrub forest and plantings. The landscape is rough hills. A great deal of exposed stone is shown. It has the just off the desert sense to it.

Crops will grow here. Barack Ben Canaan (Leo J. Cobb) talks to the migrants of oranges so large that “five make a dozen.” These are still a part of international markets as Haifa oranges.

While not emphasized, the famous social structure of the kibbutz is hinted at. The large number of children are herded together. Older children and all Israel’s are ready to do their part in the settlement effort. Note how the children are always in a group. This was for protection, even if they had parents. Questions have arisen over the years as to whether this communalism resulted in some toughing of the personalities resulting in some lingering person damage to some.

A great film that brings the Israeli side to the forefront. The readiness of some to bring all this in peace is met by the unwillingness of others to join that effort. We all know how this has gone.



IMDb. 1990-2015. Exodus (1960) Filming Sites.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

The Elvis Atlas


The Elvis Atlas: A Journey Through Elvis Presley's America (Henry Holt Reference Book) by Michael Gray and Roger Osborne

Michael Gray and Roger Osborne follow the career of Elvis documenting the geography ofelvis text the world of the king, the geographic basis of the influences on him and his music, and the places where Elvis played and made his career. A detailed history accompanies the maps and charts.

The first chapters begin with the musical roots of his music and family. We get to see mapped and discussed the places he was known to frequent. Elvis is a product of those things that influence d him. His music is not a creation of itself.

The influence of the South is vividly made in the book. Tennessee is the hub for those concerts making Elvis a musician and then a star. Gray and Osborne map out the concerts of Elvis to show the locations and the size of the crowds. The South is also the melting pot for the country, blues, gospel, and African components that combine in early Rock and in the music which begins his career. Elvis sang a combination of Country as it was based in Appalachian music, Blues as sung by African-Americans, Gospel as sung by both Whites and African-Americans, and the rhythms of earlier African-American and African music.

Interesting is that Elvis venturing north was not an automatic success. Early concerts in the North do not have filled auditoriums. One does not expect this. It is possible that anti-Rock and Roll movements or the cost of tickets held these audiences down. The eventual fan base for Elvis is not reflected well in his early concerts outside the South.

The move to Hollywood for movie making takes his music west, but also spreads it around the country. This period would include his time in the Army and Germany. Rather than Elvis in concert, you get Elvis as movie star.

The sorrow of the later post-military movie period is shown as putting weight on Elvis as it was his managers will and not his. The early films and their locations were films Elvis wanted to make, but his later career’s films were formularized to maximize Colonel Parker’s sense of what would market Elvis. There is some expansion of his geographic world to Hawaii, but this is not his favored part of the world.

The fall of Elvis is shown in his being pulled away from the places his early and middle career took him. Graceland becomes an escape His spiritual comfort is in his youthful locations and work. Pulled to Hollywood and places not to his suiting, stages where he is not singing his work, deprive him of reward.

In this wonderful work, one flaw that should be noted, is in the attempt to place the Presley family in its historic perspective. This also extends into the historic development of Country Music itself. If going into this history at all, the specific history of the Scot-Irish people should have correctly noted. Country Music develops from a Scot-Irish musical tradition. The sense of sadness, gloom, hurt, loss, and the tough nature of life in early Country Music—or first called “Hillbilly” music-- reflects the history of the Scot-Irish people.

The Scot-Irish title denotes a group of people who began as Scot crofters or farmers who were expelled from their land in favor of sheep herding by the land owners. These Scots were offered land in Northern Ireland as the British consolidated their control of the Irish in the North just after 1600. Later their Presbyterian faith was not regarded as acceptable and they faced some persecution in Ireland. Those who left for America were called the Scot-Irish after their previous dual locations.

In America they moved to the hills to escape the governmental control they regarded as mean and unsafe. Life in the hills was not pleasant or easy. It was a tough life with many hardships. The sense of death, loss of love, hard conditions of Country Music comes from their songs into the mid-1900s. Rock then takes an African set of rhythms, blues, and instruments and Rock was created. Elvis develops his music out of this heritage.

The Elvis fan can follow the career of the king in this book, noting the geography of his life and music had great impact on him and the music many like.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Cabaret is Us


Cabaret [1972] follows the life of American Sally Bowles and her compatriots at the Kit-Kat Club in Berlin in the 1930s. Joel Grey, as the emcee in the stage show, states the purpose of the show as being that life outside is disappointing, but here everything is beautiful. Put that outside truly outside your mind and enjoy. While it is clearly Berlin in the 1930s, is it so much more, like America in 2014? The parallels are multiple and scary. Strictly as Germany in the 1930s it shows a world quickly being overtaken by totalitarian fascism with many ugly sides. The film has a giant elephant in the room throughout it and the cast is in the process of accepting and/or adjusting to it in a clear show of decadent behavior.

The Cabaret makes light and fun of the world for a mixed audience of damaged souls. It promotes and exposes the corrupt world while only hinting about the fascist elephant. Enjoy!, escape!, We the future looks changing and disastrous. “Money Makes the World Go Around” mimics the greed of America from bottom to top, Sally Bowles saying”…when I go I’, going like Elsie” forecasts enjoyment of a valueless life that was their fate and increasingly ours.

The Nazis singing in the park and the masses joining in as those more aware cringe. Americans cheer as their land of freedom becomes totalitarian. Totalitarian? Yes. Name an area of life that is not controlled or influenced by government, and ridiculed if ti is not? It is impossible actually as the question lacks an answer.

So Americans party in ignorance of the impending doom. In Cabaret they find illumination too late. Will we?

Of course a major difference is that the Nazis beat up the opposition while in America they are just marginalized via ridicule. Publically ridiculed they are disenfranchised. They are a silly or worse part of an equation where they work out to a zero. You can tell it easily because it is the place the fascists violate their pc rules. They are supporters of women’s right yet national insult and degrade any woman not in line with fascist policy. Note the disenfranchisement of the Tea Party as racist or stupid for not wanting to spend into the ground.

“Tomorrow Belongs to Me” is the key. The elites tell the lower classes of the rewards if American belongs to them while making their deals with business.

And in America. The dancing girls dance as the band plays on as the fascists’ wreak their damage. Cabaret is Berlin in the 19030s and Chicago in the 2010s.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Good Movies and Their Place: Rose Marie [1936]

Rose Marie [1936]. Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy sing for their peoplsemariee. Three great films for that warmer feeling about life. Sweethearts is their theme song based movie. Funny and a classic. Naughty Marietta is light and fun, but slightly plagued by a lack of editing skills. Rose Marie is a triumph of wonderful wilderness scenes and magnificent singing. The geography view is of Quebec. Now one has to figure that out as it sure looks like California...well because it is. Shot in El dorado County, Lake Tahoe, and Cascade Lake, California, the studio is using local mountains to substitute for what has to be the more rugged parts of Quebec. Either that or they cut out a long train ride some place. The hills are rounded and somewhat forested. They do look watered but should have more tree cover. Not too bad of a job for select parts of Quebec. They use one correct lake name, but other places are made up. Some time is spent in Montreal but is all indoors.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Dallas: a television sample of credits


IN just the first minutes of a Dallas episode from the 1980s note how much of Dallas one sees as setting for the drama.  And yes I have to note the exaggeration.  If you visit the ranch in real life, it is just not that large and has a housing development to the South.  Television does distort some.

Peyton Place Credits Show the Setting


The opening credits are used in media presentations to establish setting, among other elements.  The goal, especially on television, is to establish a context or setting for the drama so that viewers or listeners can begin immediately to place the dramatic action in proper context.  On television this is essential as the program only has 22 or 44 minutes to entertain and cannot take time to establish setting by normal action and views.  The movie has more time and often exploits this time to the fullest.

In the opening credits for Peyton Place we notice the very strong music bringing out the visual elements of New England.  We see farming, ocean coasts, seasonal changes, and such.  The small town nature of Peyton Place is made clear.

Character Alison Mackenzie begins the next section providing a transition from the purely visual scenes to those scenes being couple with human emotions of importance to the dram of the book and movie.

Good Movies and Their Place


A Summer Place [1959]. Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue overacting to the maximum in this drama of adult and teen angst set on an island off the coast of Maine. Sloan Wilson’s novel comes to melodramatic life in this exploration of the growing sexual permissiveness of America. See where it all started and how.  The concerns of the teens will seem charming to some and totally odd to younger post moderns.

Your geographic view is of the coast of Maine. The isolation of the island and the rocky coast are well depicted.  The coast is beautiful and Holly wood travels to places like this partially to just show that big view that television has lacked most of its life. 

Then again, just that people might love on a island and have some isolation from postmodern life, may be a geographic mention that will strike a chord with many in any postmodern audience.

You also get to see a Frank Lloyd Wright building in Carmel-By-The-Sea, California. The Della Walker house is worth a look by itself.  Lloyd attempted to make architecture fit its environment, to become a part of it not a separate element.  His home blends into the rocks of the shore.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Good Movies and Their Place


7. Across the Universe [2007]. A tale of the 1960s set to Beatle music. Beautiful music, wonderful adaption of those songs, and a story suited to explaining the times. What the 19060s were about all tied in one. The geographic view is of Merseyside, United Kingdom; Liverpool,, United Kingdom; New York City; and Princeton, New Jersey. The English locations show an industrial zone and the housing of those living there. It has that old, dirty look, certainly one of some poverty. New York city is the stereotypic New York of apartments and urban life. Princeton, New Jersey is a typical university site.