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Disdaining others’ tastes in movies

Which is more fun?

Disdaining relatives' film-watching preferences or disdaining co-workers' tastes?

Or maybe simply snorting about box-office numbers?

The blockbuster is back

Hollywood’s studios have some good news as the summer movie season kicks into high gear: Business is up.

The movie industry is on track to beat last year’s box-office record. The Memorial Day weekend’s blockbuster opening of “X-Men: Days of Future Past” grossed an impressive $111 million, and studios hope upcoming flicks on giant fighting robots, animated dragons and hyper-intelligent apes can keep that momentum going.

Box office revenue is up 3.3 percent so far this year compared with the same period in 2013, and that’s a strong sign given that ticket sales have generally been trending lower for the last decade. Audiences have thinned out amid heightened competition from video games, TV and other forms of entertainment.

What's the last movie you saw in a theater?

Scenes from Spokane Dept.


OK, not really. You can tell because several in this group appear to not have guns.

“Shelly Dubinsky on 514 in 10 minutes”

Ever had a friend who called or texted you when a certain movie was on or when a certain scene was coming up?

The movie in question doesn't have to be a fine film. And the particular scene might not be morally uplifting. But this friend wanted to alert you nonetheless. 

The Butler

Robin Williams as Dwight Eisenhower, left, and Forest Whitaker as Cecil Gaines in a scene from “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.”

“You hear nothing. You see nothing. You only serve.” Such are the instructions Cecil Gaines receives as he embarks on his daunting new job at the Eisenhower White House in “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.”

But of course Gaines, played by Forest Whitaker in a moving, grounded performance that anchors the film and blunts its riskier excesses, hears and sees everything.

And that means that over more than three decades on the job, he has a Forrest Gump-like view not only of the White House under seven presidents, but of the long arc of the civil rights struggle in 20th-century America. More here.

I'm really looking forward to seeing this movie. Do you have a favorite movie you've seen this summer?


Favorite reunion scene in a movie?

On second thought, maybe there aren't really all that many.

Let's see, there's “Romy and Michele” and, uh, OK, let's move on.


Annual recommendation

You don't have to give a rip about Apollo 11 to enjoy this set-in-Australia story.


If you organized a Cold War film festival

What movies would you include?

Did you know Rod Serling wrote the screenplay for “Seven Days in May”?

Ever been a good Spring Break movie?

I can't think of one.


When was the last time you characterized a vacation as rip-roaring?

Australian movies were all the rage

A) 10 years ago. B) About 35 years ago. C) 70 years ago  D) Last year. E) Other.


You’ve seen too many movies if…

You are almost surprised to discover, upon walking into a convenience store, that it is not being held up at that moment.

True or false

WSU Coug and longtime national sports broadcaster Keith Jackson was in a movie with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau.

Who was your favorite movie president?


That's Henry Fonda in 1964's “Fail-Safe.”

No one could say he was incapable of making a tough decision.

In what movie bar would you hang out?

I think I'd pick “Butch's” from “The Best Years of Our Lives.”

Of course, seeing as how it is set in the 1940s, cigarette smoke would be an issue.

Same goes for the place in “Harvey,” which would be another possibility.

Two that would not be high on my list are the bars in “Star Wars” and “Flashdance.”

And the George-Bailey-was-never-born version of the tavern in “It's a Wonderful Life” seemed to attract a pretty easily amused clientele. I'd steer clear of that place, too.


Did you know there’s a connection?




At the movies

We went to the movies the other night – “Hope Springs” – and noticed the security measures now in place (post-Colorado movie massacre):  cops patrolling the parking lot as the evening sky grew dark and the “may I see the inside of your purse, ma’am, for a safety check?”  question by the ticket taker are new measures.  The guy was a young adult with a  sweet smile and so I answered, “Yes, of course! How thoughtful that you want my purse to be safe.” He glanced in at the usual purse contents (wallet, comb, lipstick, too many pens, lost paper clip, grocery list, list of family/friends’ addresses, napkin from Starbucks…) and said, “OK.  

Last time I was inspected at a movie theatre was in Jerusalem in 1975. Women in one line, men in another and then the full pat down. And the ushers walked the aisles, carrying flashlights, admonishing anyone chatting while the film (Pink Panther) played.

 Hope Springs was poignant and entertaining. Meryl Streep and Tommie Lee Jones make for an interesting chemistry - as did the new security measures mixed with the usual expensive popcorn.

(S-R photo: Meryl Streep as Kay Soames, left, and Tommy Lee Jones as Arnold Soames in a scene from “Hope Springs.”)

Can you name a better movie title?


Remember, I didn't say “better movie.” I said “better movie title.”

Battle of the movie battle scenes

Where would you rank the opening battle scene in 2000's “Gladiator” on your list of all-time best movie depictions of large-scale combat?

‘American Pie’ inspired teens’ naked run

OGDEN, Utah (AP) — Four Utah teens armed with a BB gun told deputies they were inspired by a scene from an “American Pie” movie when they went running naked through an Ogden-area neighborhood.

Authorities said Wednesday the teens were spotted streaking in the residential community about 45 minutes north of Salt Lake City at about 2 a.m. Sunday.

When a deputy responded, a 17-year-old girl ducked behind a tree, while the three teenage boys kept running and were found shortly after.

The teens said they brought the BB gun because they feared they would be attacked by deer during the jog.

Deputies notified the teens' parents and let them off with a warning.

The 2006 film “American Pie: The Naked Mile” features a high school student who wants to join a college campus' tradition of running a mile naked.

Today’s obscure NCAA reference


Something tells me Ron Patimkin would not have made this year's OSU team.

True or false

This is a scene from the locally filmed movie, “The Basket.”


Wildlife refuges play roles on silver screen

PUBLIC LANDS — This year’s Academy Awards holds special interest for the Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System. Some critics are listing “Meeks Cutoff,” with scenes from Malheur National Wildlife Refugein Oregon, as a possible Oscar contender. 

“Meeks Cutoff,” starring Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood and Paul Dano, is about pioneers stranded on the Oregon Trail and was filmed from federal lands adjacent to the wildlife refuge. 

Malheur Refuge manager Tim Bodeen knows why director Kelly Reichardt wanted to capture scenes of the refuge:

“We’re one of the nation’s great wild places where you can get wide open views of the natural environment,” he says. “And we have bountiful wildlife [including coyotes and mule deer] that people associate with historic America.” Today’s visitors can hike, bike, fish and hunt on the refuge as well as see wildlife and tour the 19th-century Sod House Ranch. 

Read on for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service observations on some of the better known refuge-linked movies:

Gentlemen of England

There are any number of good reasons why I am not a drama teacher.

But if I did have influence with theater students, I would make sure their homework included watching this astonishly rich and layered 1999 movie.

It takes its time and shines a bright, penetrating light on the creative process. 


Pick the summer movies at Mirabeau

The city of Spokane Valley has again opened voting for residents to select which movies are shown during the free outdoor movie series at Mirabeau Park this summer. People can visit the city's web site and pick their top three choices from the list or suggest another move that is rated no higher than PG-13. The votes will be tabulated in March. The showings are scheduled for July 21 and Aug. 18.

Here are the choices: Cars 2, Dolphin Tale, Happy Feet 2, Hugo, Kung Fu Panda - The Kaboom of Doom, Puss in Boots, The Muppets, The Smurfs, Soul Surfer and The Zoo Keeper. Voting ends Feb. 3. If you would rather cast your vote by phone, call (509) 720-5408.

Best New Year’s movie scene

“The first thing that popped into my head was Michael giving Fredo the kiss-off in 'The Godfather II',” wrote Tara Leininger. “I am blaming my husband for this as he is the owner of the boxed set — and still will watch it whenever the first two movies on are on TV. (I don't think he's watched No. 3 twice.) I just roll my eyes and do something else. But here I am, thinking of New Year's movies and all I can come up with is Cuba and the revolution.”  

‘Barefoot Bandit’ to plead guilty today

In this Feb. 11, 2010 file photo provided by the Islands' Sounder newspaper, chalk drawings of bare feet are shown on the floor of the Homegrown Market on Orcas Island, Wash., after Colton Harris-Moore broke in overnight. (AP Photo/Courtesy Islands' Sounder, Meredith Griffith, File)

By GENE JOHNSON,Associated Press
SEATTLE (AP) — When Colton Harris-Moore broke into Kyle Ater's grocery store in Washington's serene San Juan Islands — the second time — he drew cartoonish bare feet and a three-letter message in chalk on the floor: “C-YA!”

 Turns out the Barefoot Bandit was right.

Harris-Moore, now 20, will see Ater and other victims today at Island County Superior Court, where he is expected to plead guilty to about 30 state felony charges arising from a two-year, cross-country crime spree in stolen planes, boats and cars.

 Harris-Moore's daring run from the law earned him international notoriety, not to mention a movie deal to help repay his victims, after he flew a stolen plane from Indiana to the Bahamas in July 2010, crash-landed it near a mangrove swamp and was arrested by Bahamian authorities in a hail of bullets.

“I want to see the phantom with my own eyes,” Ater said Thursday. “There were so many people affected by his crimes, and probably even some that don't know they were affected. They're still looking for their cell phone, or wondering why their propane bill was so high that month.”

Friday's proceedings before Judge Vickie Churchill consolidate cases against Harris-Moore in three Washington counties. He has already pleaded guilty to federal charges in Seattle and will be sentenced for those crimes early next year. He will serve his state and federal sentences at the same time. The federal charges included his theft of an airplane from the Boundary County Airport that belonged to a Bonners Ferry, Idaho, cattle rancher.

State prosecutors plan to ask for a nine-and-a-half year sentence Friday, while Harris-Moore's attorneys, John Henry Browne and Emma Scanlan, are seeking a six-year term, citing his bleak childhood in a Camano Island trailer with an alcoholic mother and a series of her convict boyfriends. They laid out the details of his upbringing in psychiatric and mitigation reports filed with the court.

“Colt blames no one but himself,” wrote Pamela L. Rogers, a mitigation investigator who reviewed Harris-Moore's case. “He made bad choices and takes full responsibility and expects to be held accountable for those bad choices. … He desperately hopes to one day have a career and a family and make contributions he can feel good about — and he's willing to work hard for that.”

Harris-Moore's first conviction came at age 12, in 2004, for possession of stolen property, and according to Rogers' report, his first experience with burglary came when he broke into the homes of his classmates to steal food because his mother spent most of her Social Security income on beer and cigarettes — something she has denied.

Over the next three years he was convicted of theft, burglary, malicious mischief and assault, among other crimes. At one point he was arrested when a detective posed as a pizza-delivery driver.

In 2007, the boy was sentenced to three years in a juvenile lockup after pleading guilty to three burglary counts in Island County. But he fled the minimum-security facility in April 2008 and was soon back to his old tricks, breaking into unoccupied vacation homes, stealing food and sometimes staying there.

As red-faced investigators repeatedly failed to catch him, his antics escalated: He began stealing planes from small, rural airports and crash-landing them — at least five in all.

“What was characterized by the media as the swashbuckling adventures of a rakish teenager were in fact the actions of a depressed, possibly suicidal young man with waxing and waning post-traumatic stress disorder (following his first plane crash in November 2008),” wrote Dr. Richard S. Adler, a psychiatrist who evaluated him for the defense lawyers.

Waves of burglaries broke out on Orcas Island, where Ater runs his Homegrown Market and Deli, in late 2009 and in early 2010, after stolen planes were found at the airport there. The second time, Harris-Moore left Ater's new security system in a utility sink, under a running faucet. He took cash and a tray of croissants, and Ater's insurance company jacked up his rates.

Mike Parnell, a former owner of the Oakley sunglasses company who lives on Orcas, was repeatedly victimized. Harris-Moore hid out for long periods in the second level of his hangar at the airport, and when Parnell and his family would go on trips in their plane, Harris-Moore would take their car to their house and eat their food. At one point, Harris-Moore entered their home while Parnell was there with his wife and three children and grabbed his wife's car keys off a counter.

“We were all fearing for our lives,” Parnell said Thursday. “The kids wouldn't sleep in their own bedrooms. We purchased night vision goggles. I'm glad that day is finally approaching when we will finally know what the consequences are, and I hope it's sufficient for the way our whole island suffered.”

Harris-Moore's final spree came after he stole a pistol in eastern British Columbia and took the plane from the hangar in Bonners Ferry, where investigators found bare footprints on the floor and wall. That plane crashed near Granite Falls, Wash., after it ran out of fuel.

He made his way to Oregon in a 32-foot boat stolen in southwestern Washington — stopping first to leave $100 at an animal shelter in Raymond, Wash. From Oregon, authorities said, Harris-Moore traveled across the United States, frequently stealing cars from the parking lots of small airports. In Indiana, he stole another plane and made for the Bahamas, more than 1,000 miles away, where authorities finally caught him in a manhunt that spanned multiple islands.

Fox bought the movie rights in a deal that could be worth $1.3 million, and Dustin Lance Black, who won an Academy Award for writing the movie “Milk,” about the gay rights activist Harvey Milk, is working on the screenplay. He's met with Harris-Moore several times at the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac, according to Lance Rosen, Harris-Moore's entertainment lawyer.

Harris-Moore doesn't get to keep any of the money under the terms of his federal plea deal.