Wednesday, April 26, 2017

All you need

All you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun.



Girl Scouts, 1920.

Armenian fighters, 1895.

Annie Oakley, 1922, age 62.
1925 Drexel Institute Girls Rifle Team.
Claudia Cardinale, Once Upon a Time in the West.
Lillian Gish, Night of the Hunter.


Vietnamese girl captures USAF Lt. 1967.
Assembling submachine guns in Leningrad, 1943.
Soviet sniper Roza Shanina
Roza Shanina 8 days before her death.
Greek partisan.
Lyudmila Pavlichenko, killed at least 309 Nazis.
Soviet women snipers--over 700 confirmed
kills between them.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Pasolini's Medea (1969)

  
I watched Pasolini's Medea for the first time in years. It was easier to understand having seen Jason and the Argonauts as a child, but reading about it (the play, the movie and the myth in general) on Wikipedia clarified some things I didn't understand. For example, Medea dismembers her brother and leaves his body parts strewn about so her father, who was pursuing her, would have to stop and take time to pick them up.

Maybe if the rest of the movie had been clearer to me, like why she hacked her brother to death, I would have been less understanding about her actions at the end. Still, I don't remember Jason being such a jerk in the other movie.

Opera star Maria Callas in the title role (doesn't sing.)

In the beginning, the cintar tells 5-year-old Jason a story. It's difficult to understand, he says, because it's full of deeds, not thoughts.

Admirers of the movie might think I'm an idiot, but (maybe) approach it like an opera. I heard this guy on the radio say that the way you go to the opera is that you read all about it, learn the storyline before you go so you can relax and enjoy the music, because you're never going to follow the plot by listening to the lyrics.

Available on Fandor.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Gallagher


There are celebrities I don't like. Some are extremely successful, like Tom Cruise, but others are in sad decline and I feel guilty for not liking them. So it's such a relief when they turn out to be horrible people I can freely hate.

I don't know how I got into this, but I listened to a couple of interviews with '80s comedy sensation Gallagher on YouTube.

Gallagher was a prop comic who was huge in the '80's. He had 14 specials on Showtime in his day. I only saw one. His thing was smashing watermelons with a sledge hammer. That's how he would end each show.

Gallagher is now 70. He hasn't modified his look since the 1980s. Bald on top with long hair on the sides.

But he's turned angry, bitter and racist, attacking Arabs, Jews, Mexicans, gays, lesbians, and I don't know who else. He also attacks other comedians all of whom he considers his inferiors. He's outraged that comics drink water on stage.

Marc Maron interviewed him on his podcast. It didn't go well. Maron seemed to feel bad about it. He spoke at length before playing the recorded interview (which Gallagher walked out on.) He didn't know Gallagher and Gallagher seemed to know nothing about him. But their agents spoke and they were both in Portland, Oregon, at the same time, so they did the interview in Maron's hotel room.

Gallagher said he had been out to make a lot of money but didn't see how this shaped his career. He couldn't understand why he didn't have a talk show. I don't necessarily think he felt entitled to one, but, as Maron said, he seemed to lack self-awareness. He didn't know how he ended up where he is today, and he doesn't understand why he was being attacked for his anti-gay or anti-Arab jokes. He mentioned an anti-Semitic joke perhaps not knowing Maron was Jewish.

"Can we tell a Jew joke that they don't want to pay?" Gallagher said.

"Why?" Maron said. "It's not true."

"It's not true---why do people laugh?"

"Because it's a stereotype, that's been established. Most people that laugh at those jokes don't have a Jew in their life."

Here is Galagher on Opie and Anthony. The late Patrice O'Neal tries to be helpful, advising Gallagher to update his look, quit the melon thing and use his full name.

And here is Marc Maron on Opie and Anthony discussing his interview with Gallagher.

They All Laughed

By the way, there was Peter Bogdanovich's 1980's movie, They All Laughed. It wasn't bad, but it was a disaster at the box office for various reasons. I watched it and thought one of the characters was modeled on Gallagher, a frizzy-haired adult on roller skates. It stood as grim testament to Gallagher's popularity at the time.

And another thing----I mentioned Gallagher's outrage at comics drinking water on stage. Didn't Steve Martin, a bit of a prop comic himself, do a thing back then----he would take a drink of water, spill a little on the stage and think it didn't matter, then he would grab the mic stand and pretend to be electrocuted. Drinking water isn't a new thing.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Again with the westerns

High Noon would have been pretty good if
Gary Cooper hadn't been wearing that stupid-looking tie.

Like I say, I never liked westerns. They're about ugly people wearing ugly clothes in ugly towns. I can't stand those ties men wear in them. The showgirls wear awful-looking outfits. The people are either illiterate or they may as well be. Their only recreation is hanging around in often garish saloons and their greatest ambition in life is to some day own a ranch.

But I find westerns weirdly fascinating. Why were they so popular outside the United States? What did Josef Stalin see in them? The Dalai Lama liked westerns and said his favorite actor was John Wayne. (Poor Richard Gere.)

In the '60's and '70's, the Soviets made their own "westerns" which I liked, set in Kazakhstan or Siberia in the 1920s. I used to like samurai movies. And there are a lot of foreign films set in various times and places that, if you wanted to make an American version, could best be done as westerns.

I think of Night of the Shooting Stars, Okraina, The Virgin Spring.

Last House on the Left was an Americanized version of The Virgin Spring which didn't work terribly well. The Virgin Spring itself was based on a medieval ballad that was probably closer to Oedipus Rex than anything else.

In the ballad, three sisters on their way to church are killed by three goatherd brothers they just met. They're killed because they refuse to marry them. The three murderers try to sell the girls' dresses to a farmer's wife. She recognizes the dresses as her daughters'. She screams for her husband who comes out with a sword. He kills two of the brothers outright then demands that the third one tell him who they are. He says that they were abandoned in the woods as children and had been fending for themselves ever since, and the father realizes they're his sons who he inexplicably left to die in the wilderness years earlier.

I don't know if medieval Swedes had access to ancient Greek drama, or if it was a coincidence. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Class division

A photo showing the class divide in Britain in 1937.

Strange that boys were considered lower class if they wore sport jackets.

Like the scene on Rebel Without a Cause where James Dean goes to high school wearing slacks and a tweed jacket. At least it wasn't a blazer. 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The new Mystery Science Theater 3000



I see that Mystery Science Theater 3000 is coming back with a new cast on Netflix. I was surprised how saddened I was when the show went off the air years ago, but I have mixed feelings about it coming back.

For one thing, Rifftrax proved that you can do the same thing to successful, big budget movies, too. Making fun of low budget movies just seems cruel.

Back when they were still on the SciFi channel, I made the mistake of looking at their website. I read the user comments. It seems that many of the fans enjoyed the show because they thought they were punishing people for making movies that weren't very good. They weren't laughing because the show was funny, they were laughing as they imagined the reaction of the people being ridiculed.

Then I watched a video on YouTube of some of the cast in a talk show appearance with a film historian who thought that some of the movies they attacked were pretty good.

Comedians are just annoying when they argue with regular people. They're overbearing, if they can't make an argument they make a joke, if there's a glaring hole in their argument they cover it with a joke and if they lose on some point, they make a joke and think they won.
 
And by the way, in Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie, Mike Nelson's acting was quite bad. If it had been any other movie, they'd be mocking him. I felt sorry for Joel Hodgson leaving the show and then seeing them make a big movie out of it.

I was a little surprised when it dawned on me that Joel Hodgson was a prop comic. I've never seen Carrot Top perform and never wanted to, but maybe I should give him a chance. Hodgson hates Gallagher.

Finally, there was a thing they did on both Rifftrax and MST3k. They would shout the name of a well-known black person whenever a black character appeared in the movie. It would be nice if they quit that.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Veterans hated John Wayne


I don't think people know this now, but a lot of World War Two veterans couldn't stand John Wayne. They hated him because he dodged the draft while playing a war hero in the movies.

Back in the '70s, when we had local talk radio, war veterans would call in and talk about it.

There are different explanations for Wayne staying out of the war. One was that his career was just beginning to take off when the US entered the war and he didn't want to join right then, then his career was going so well he didn't want to walk away and join the Army.
 
When he appeared before his draft board, he argued that he was the sole support for his wife and children. He didn't mention that he was about to get divorced because he was sleeping with Marlene Dietrich. He falsely claimed that a studio threatened to sue him if he got drafted and he later said he thought he could better serve his country by being a movie star.

Everyone knew he was a draft dodger. I don't blame him. But that may be one reason he became such a rabid McCarthyite in the '50s. He thought it would make up for it. He blamed the Communists for his not getting an Oscar (he finally got one in 1969). He couldn't imagine it was because of his lousy acting. He told Playboy magazine that he was a white supremacist.

I never understood his appeal. I never liked his looks, he walked funny and had weird speech patterns. But looking at some of the terrible cowboy stars of the '30s and '40s, maybe he wasn't so bad.