Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A brain teaser from the '70's

Remember this from All In The Family? Gloria or one of her feminist friends asked them this puzzler:

A man and his son are in car wreck. The man is killed and the boy is rushed to the hospital. They rush him into emergency surgery. The doctor walks in, sees the boy and says, "I can't operate on him! He's my son!"

How could this be???

The kid isn't adopted, he's nobody's Godchild, not a step-son or anything like that.

I told this a few years ago on the internet to a teenage boy in India and a middle aged woman in Canada. Neither one could figure it out. The Indian kid was extremely bright, but I wasn't surprised that he didn't get it, but I was surprised that the woman didn't solve the puzzle immediately.

The surgeon was the kid's mother.

She was a bit embarrassed.

"'So, the parents had sex changes?'" I typed.

This came to mind when it was reported that 3 in ten children asked to draw a scientist drew a woman scientist. That's up from 1% in the 1960's.

The phony look on Rose McGowan's face all the time

Look at how relaxed and natural the people around her look. Imagine trying to carry on a conversation with someone like that.

The photographer Philippe Halsman would take portraits of people jumping. For some reason the picture of Nixon jumping is the only one I can visualize. He did it because people couldn't maintain a phony expression while jumping. You get to see their natural expression.

Andy Warhol tried this with motion pictures, making film portraits of people in 16mm. The idea was they have to sit there so long waiting for the film to run out that they would eventually relax and look natural.

They need to try something like that with Rose McGowan. It's possible that that really is a neutral expression for her, but I'd have to see a picture of her looking like that while jumping before I'd believe it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Silent movie I couldn't bear to watch

I was listening to a podcast. If I had been on a different computer, I would have played solitaire to keep my mind from wandering so I could pay attention. But I turned on the TV and watched a terrible print of an old silent movie. I don't remember the title. It starred some stunt pilots who played diamond smugglers in Africa.

The movie was down to the last few minutes when the hero climbed out of the seat of his biplane, got up on the wing and started walking around. I think he was going to try to grab onto another plane and climb on board for some reason. I'm not sure what was happening or why.

But I turned it off. I'm sure the guy survived the stunt or they wouldn't have it in the movie, and even if he did fall to his death, he'd be dead by now anyway. But I couldn't watch. Like those YouTube videos of people hanging from construction cranes and doing chin-ups on the bars. Why do they do that?

Woody Allen's movies in general

I'll tell you what I think about Woody Allen's movies.

His movies are all-verbal. Everything is verbalized either in dialog or voice-over narration. There was Alfred Hitchcock's thing about "pure cinema" by which he meant movies that were primarily visual. But Allen's movies are pure cinema as well in that they can't be translated into any other narrative form.

Remember Manhattan, the scene were Woody Allen disapproves of Diane Keaton writing movie novelizations? I don't think you could do a novelization of most of Allen's movies. I don't think you could write a coherent synopsis of half of them, especially Radio Days.

I never quite understood people who said that his early comedies had no plot and were just a series of gags. Of course they had plots. They had a structure to them. What they thought of as plotlessness gave them kind of a richness. We learned things about the future in Sleeper that you'd never get from something with a tighter storyline. His more serious movies were that much different.

Monday, March 19, 2018

The time I went to Toys R Us

This was long ago. I went with some friends to Toys R Us. I shouldn't have gone with them. I looked at the Fisher-Price PXL 2000, the "toy" camcorder that recorded a low resolution black and white image onto an audio cassette tape. They sold for $100 at a time when a real camcorder cost around a thousand dollars. I wanted to buy one. My idiot friends talked me out of it. They didn't make any actual arguments against it. They just scoffed at it. I still wish I had one. They're coveted by artists. I was the only one there with a job. Why did I listen to them?

Later I went into Toys R Us. I bought a toy Mauser pistol. It was plastic painted in some sort of camouflage. It was just a few bucks. I took it home and spray painted it silver then had to put a coat of shellac on it so the silver would get all over everything. It was smaller than a real one but just big enough to serve as prop. Now you can add muzzle flashes digitally.

This isn't it but you get the idea.

Woody Allen, World Socialist Web Site

Glad to see the World Socialist Web Site coming to Woody Allen's defense.

From the article:

...Allen’s enduring reputation stems largely from his marvelous work as a stand-up comic in the 1960s and certain intriguing films he directed in the 1970s and 1980s. His movies in recent decades have been flat as a rule and lacking in urgency. But even within this overall process, there have been ups and downs, and Wonder Wheel has a bit more liveliness to it than some of Allen’s recent efforts.

First, it’s set in Brooklyn in the 1950s, in the place where—and at a time when—the director was growing up. This may help account for the fact that the characters here are less complacent and economically well-fixed.


Atypically, Allen has created his idea of “working class” characters and their accompanying economic woes. While the individuals are not generally endearing, there is less snobbery and less of an embalmed quality to Wonder Wheel than there has been too much of in the writer-director’s recent work. The characters may not be terribly true to reality and remain schematic, but at least they hint at reality somewhere in the distance. If the director had been able to pay more concrete and serious attention to the internal and external dilemmas of its leads, his most recent film would be a far better work.

As it is, Wonder Wheel does not take on an important existence of its own. Allen’s self-conscious touch makes itself felt here too. Timberlake’s Mickey, the only middle class character in the movie, is wise and semi-erudite, hovering dispassionately above the fray, while the talented Winslet, energetically wrestles with a part that has no genuine texture or depth. References to Eugene O’Neill’s overheated psychological dramas, in which the characters devour each other, are largely extraneous.


But Wonder Wheel certainly does not deserve the critical slamming it has received. The hypocrites who praised to the skies Allen films as weak as or weaker than this have suddenly discovered all his artistic failings. How convenient! Just in time to be on the “right side” of a witch-hunt.

As noted above, it’s impossible to discuss Wonder Wheel without taking up the campaign against Allen. His adoptive daughter Dylan Farrow has accused him of sexually assaulting her when she was a child. Allen strenuously denies the charges and alleges that his former lover, Mia Farrow, cooked up the assault allegation in revenge for his leaving her in favor of Soon-Yi Previn, another of Farrow’s adoptive daughters. The Connecticut State’s Attorney looked into the accusation, and decided not to press charges, while the New York Department of Social Services found “no credible evidence” to support the allegation.

Dylan Farrow has repeated her claim, backed by disreputable figures such as “human rights imperialism” crusader Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times, and in the current semi-hysterical atmosphere has found new support.

The Times is leading the charge on this as on every front of the sexual misconduct campaign. A January 28 article was clearly looking for a negative answer to the question in its headline, “Can Woody Allen Work in Hollywood Again?” It observed, “Hollywood says it’s done with Harvey Weinstein, James Toback, Kevin Spacey and other figures ousted for misconduct through the #MeToo movement. But what about Woody Allen?”

The article, by Melena Ryzik and Brooks Barnes, gleefully noted that Allen’s last four films “have flopped at the North American box office, taking in a cumulative $26.9 million—roughly half of which goes to theater owners—while carrying a collective $85 million in estimated production costs, not including marketing.

“Poor reviews have played a role. But box office analysts say that women, in particular younger women, have grown increasingly determined to boycott his films since 2013, when Dylan Farrow first spoke in detail about her claims of abuse in an interview with Vanity Fair.”

The authors found a couple of Allen defenders, including actor Alec Baldwin, who has made a number of principled statements. In January, Baldwin tweeted, “Woody Allen was investigated forensically by two states (NY and CT) and no charges were filed. The renunciation of him and his work, no doubt, has some purpose. But it’s unfair and sad to me.” He added that he had worked with Allen three times “and it was one of the privileges of my career.”

Another was Cherry Jones, the Tony- and Emmy-winning actress who appears in Allen’s soon-to-be-completed movie, A Rainy Day in New York. “There are those who are comfortable in their certainty. I am not. I don’t know the truth,” she told the Times. “When we condemn by instinct our democracy is on a slippery slope.”

However, there is a much longer list of performers who have jumped on the anti-Allen bandwagon:

One of the most recent condemnations comes from Michael Caine, who won an Oscar for his role in Allen’s 1986 Hannah and Her Sisters. Caine essentially accused the filmmaker of being a pedophile.


Mira Sorvino wrote an open letter to Dylan Farrow for HuffPost. She expressed regret for working with Allen in his 1995 Mighty Aphrodite, despite winning an Oscar and a Golden Globe: “I will never work with him again. I am sorry it has taken me a few weeks to come out in support of you since that conversation, but it has been a process for me to own this truth and make this irrevocable break.”

Rachel Brosnahan also expressed regret about working with Allen in his Amazon TV series, Crisis in Six Scenes. Colin Firth, who starred in Allen’s 2014 Magic in the Moonlight, told the Guardian, “I wouldn't work with him again.” Hayley Atwell, whose debut role was in Allen’s 2007 film Cassandra's Dream, also told the Guardian: “I didn't know back then what I know now. Would I work with him now? No. And I stand in solidarity with his daughter and offer an apology to her if my contribution to his work has caused her suffering or made her feel dismissed in any way. It’s exciting that I can say this now and I’m not going to be blacklisted.”

It is Woody Allen who is being blacklisted. These comments are cowardly and anti-democratic, worthy of the tradition of Elia Kazan and the rest of the Hollywood informers in the 1940s and 1950s. Whatever his artistic failings, Allen has every right to make his films. The attempts by the self-proclaimed morality guardians to demolish his decades-long career are deeply shameful and will come to be seen as that in the future.

Streetcar Names Desire skit

I was going to post this under the title "An Early Draft of Blue Jasmine"? I thought Woody Allen might have written this skit, but I was mistaken---Allen never worked on Your Show of Shows. Pointing out connections where there probably aren't any seems to be sort of my thing but I don't know of any here.