Sunday, December 27, 2009

Arnold Stang, Sherlock Holmes

Arnold Stang died last week at age 91. He played one of the gas station owners in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, was the voice of Top Cat, and played a heroin addict called Sparrow in the 1955 film, The Man With The Golden Arm.

It's interesting to see comic actors in grimly serious roles. But I don't know if it always works.

Margaret Mitchell wanted Groucho Marx to play Rhett Butler in Gone With The Wind (I assume she was serious) and Benito Mussolini tried to his two favories American stars, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, to star in a production of Rigoletto.

Sherlock Holmes

And speaking of odd casting choices, Sherlock Holmes fans are upset over the choice of Robert Downey, Jr, in the title role. And the boxing. I don't think he should have been boxing---it turns out he claimed to be an amateur boxer in at least one book. But they were showing a bunch of the old Sherlock Holmes movies on TV yesterday, and they were pretty bad. All filmed in a studio. They should have gotten out onto the street once in a while.

I haven't read any of the books. I don't know what the "real" Sherlock Holmes was like, which probably doesn't matter. Johnny Weissmuller was nothing like the Tarzan of the books, and Ian Flemming wanted David Niven to play James Bond. I heard that, in the book, Forrest Gump was morbidly obese.

The Sherlock Holmes movies with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce were set in what was then the present day, with Sherlock Holmes fighting Nazis and so forth. Every scene was shot in a studio, so I don't know what stopped them from setting it in Victorian England.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

James Cameron, Avatar, and the toll in human life

I keep feeling guilty about what I write.

A while back I sat here and attacked poor James Cameron, just because of the fawning profile of him on 60 Minutes. For years, I've felt hostile to any subject of a fawning profile on 60 Minutes, ever since Mike Wallace's fawning profile of that monster, Leona Helmsley. Leona was able to get Wallace on her side by bringing up her dead son. Wallace's son had died years earlier, so he was symathetic to anyone with a dead son. Good thing he didn't interview Saddam Hussein blubbing over Uday and Qusay.

No one had the bad taste to mention that Leona Helmsley's dead son was a crook. He stayed out of prison by having enough sense to steal only from his stepfather. And as it happens, Mike Wallace's surviving son is scumbag Chris Wallace on Fox News. Chris Wallace made a name for himself on some network news magazine with an attack on federal funds for special education. Wallace targeted Black parents in the South, ambushed them with cameras and claimed the fact that they couldn't or wouldn't instantly explain why their children needed special education was proof that they were defrauding Uncle Sam. Republicans in Congress used the report to cut funding. I don't know what Mike Wallace's dead son was like, but if he was anything like his brother, good riddance to him.

But poor James Cameron---all he wants to do is entertain! Some people didn't like that he said that he was "king of the world" when he got his Oscar, but he didn't mean that he was literally king of the world. He just meant he was terribly pleased. He did get poor Sigourney Weaver an Oscar for Aliens. And he deserves some credit for being Canadian, although he should do more for his people.

I've never seen Titanic, but apparently it had a scene of Leonardo di Caprio standing at the front of a ship flapping his arms shouting that he is king of the world. This scene had tragic consequences. Cruise ship operators have had to stop passengers from trying to do the same thing. I don't know off hand if there are proven cases of people falling overboard and disappearing while trying this, but there are reports of it. James Cameron's success has come at a cost in human life.

There was the 1993 movie, The Program, which showed football player proving their courage by lying on the double yellow line on a busy street. This stunt didn't work in real life. Two people were killed when they tried to do the same thing, and more were injured.

People murder each other all the time, so it's hard to tell to what degree violent movies cause violent crime. But with The Program and Titanic, the cause and effect relationship is very clear. Nobody anywhere ever tested their courage by lying in the street before The Program, and nobody climbed out on the bow of a cruise ship yelling that they were king of the world before Titanic.

And, yes, I know, the people who did this behaved rather unwisely. But if you make a movie costing over a hundred million dollars like Titanic did, you obviously expect a vast number of people to see it. If a tiny fraction of one percent of your audience was dumb enough to try it, that would still be thousands of people.

And, if you're going to say that the people in real life who climb out on the prow of a ship are idiots whose deaths are their own fault, weren't the characters in the movie idiots, too? Should James Cameron be admired for making a movie about a couple of abject morons?

By the way, does anyone know what the death toll was from Natural Born Killers? How about The Matrix?

Many years ago, The Weekly World News reported that the movie The Deerhunter had killed more people that the Hindenburg disaster. The number of Russian Roulette fatalities has no doubt risen since then.

You do need to be careful about these things.

In Oregon, two morons wanted to be like the main characters in a movie they saw. So they murdered a couple of a beach and fled to Mexico.

The "characters" they wanted to be like were Dick Hickock and Perry Smith in In Cold Blood.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Dial M For Murder in 3D?

I remember years ago. The Weekly World News' columnist, Ed Anger, was thrilled with movie colorization. But he not only wanted all the old black & white movies colorized---he wanted them in 3D!

I don't think you could make old, 2D movies into 3D back when that column was written. But you can now. Some company wants to use its software to make Star Wars and other sci fi movies into 3D.

It doesn't interest me a bit.

But one thing I wouldn't mind seeing---and they could do this and get the serious high-brows on their side and avoid the unpleasantness that occurred years ago over colorization---is Alfred Hitchcock's Dial M For Murder in 3D as originally intended.

The movie's not terribly impressive in 2D, a minor work by Hitchcock, but people have been saying for years that it was one of his greater works in 3D. There's no telling if that's true. I don't think it's been shown in 3D since it was released in 1954. But now there's hope that we can find out.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Precious: Worse than Birth of a Nation?

Here's a pretty good article by Ishmael Reed about the Lee Daniel's Precious, on the Counterpunch website:

The Color Purple, Siskel & Ebert, Mo' Better Blues, Spike Lee, Do The Right Thing

I remember years ago when The Color Purple came out. Siskel & Ebert reviewed it without mentioning the controversy about it. Then they came back a few weeks later to discuss it. And they both agreed, the movie was not racist. There may have been a time, they said, when there should have been a balanced view of Black characters in movies, but this was no longer needed. Even though The Color Purple was the only "Black movie" Hollywood had put out in years.

A few years later, this happened again. Siskel & Ebert reviewed Spike Lee's Mo' Better Blues without mentioning the attacks on it by Nat Hentoff and others who claimed it was "anti-Semitic" because it had a couple of Jewish guys in it who were on screen for only about two minutes and were jerks.

And, again, a few weeks later, Siskel & Ebert came back to the movie to discuss the controversy. Again, they both agreed. But this time, they agreed that the movie was anti-Semitic for not providing a balanced picture of Jewish persons.

So. Jews are so underrepresented in Hollywood that they need to be carefully protected, but, according to them, anti-Black racism just isn't a problem anymore.

My guess is that Siskel & Ebert also had some idea that Black audiences watching a Spike Lee movie would be more impressionable, more easily influenced by a movie than Whites watching The Color Purple.

It was Nat Hentoff who started the anti-Semitism smear against Spike Lee. Hentoff claims to oppose censorship in any form. He defended racist college students who he claimed were being persecuted by universities. He defended an Israeli who screamed at a group of Black women, "Shut up, you black water buffalo. Go to the zoo." The Zionist explained that he was probably thinking of a Hebrew-language slur commonly directed against Palestinians. I doubt pro-Zionist Hentoff saw any problem with that.

There had been attacks on Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing---accusations that he had libeled Italian-Americans. These attacks came to an abrupt end when a mob of Italians murdered a Black 16-year-old who walked into their neighborhood to look at a used car.