Thursday, December 30, 2010

Type casting, George Reeves, Mel Gibson

You know how they could have saved George Reeves' career?

He had starred as Superman on TV. But that ruined him. When he appeared in a movie around that time, members of the test audience saw him and started murmuring, "Superman! It's Superman!" His part was trimmed down to nothing.

Here's the way out of the typecasting. They should have put him in a movie where he'd go through the whole thing with his leg in a cast and he could constantly hurt himself. Maybe have him appear in a gun battle. When the other guy runs out of bullets, he could throw the gun at Reeves, hit him in the head and knock him down.

"OW! OWWWWW! My head! My head! Owwwwww!" Reeves could have said.

The audience would forget all about him having been Superman.

Other actors have done things sort of like that.

After playing Moses and Ben Hur, Charelton Heston played a swingin' architect in Earthquake and an equally swingin' pilot in Airport '75.

Steve McQueen's wife did most of the driving in The Getaway, and his character had very poor driving skills in The Hunter.

So here's what Mel Gibson should do. He should do a sequel to his old Australian movie, Tim. He had played a developmentally disabled 18-year-old gardener who marries his middle-aged employer. In the sequel, Tim could be a widower. Lonely and depressed, he innocently joins a neo-Nazi group, but soon realizes his mistake and quits in disgust.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Another thing about the cheap camcorders

A fifteen dollar camcorder is the perfect gift. It's cheap. No embarrassing gratitude from the recipient. Potentially fun to mess around with, but I don't think many people would waste fifteen dollars on one for themselves. I didn't. Just bought them as gifts.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas camcorders

Well, it's the Christmas season, and this year, all the young people on my Christmas list are getting camcorders. Cheap ones. There are only a few kids I buy for.

Aiptek is selling a couple of refurbished models on its website for $10 or $15 each. So I ordered a few of them.

I did a search on You Tube for reviews and examples of video shot with the cameras in question. They seemed okay. For fifteen bucks, they were great. The kids they're for are all teenagers. I don't know if they'll be pleased, or if they'll be frustrated and disappointed when they try using them, or if they already have camcorders or camera phones or digital still cameras with video settings. The cameras are standard definition, so they'll look pretty good on You Tube as long as there's plenty of light while filming, but may not be so great on a TV screen.

Maybe I'm just an old person unaware that, in this day and age, video is no longer a novelty. Like the old people in my day who'd give you a transistor radio for Xmas and think it was a space age marvel because, during the Depression, owning a radio was a tremendous luxury. Not that I didn't appreciate my transistor radio.

If nothing else, they can do what these people did with their cheap camcorder:

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Community access TV guy in the news

One community access TV guy sort of hit it big. At least he's making a bigger spectacle of himself than usual.

A fellow named Barry Sommer had a show on the local cable access channel. He would sit and read anti-Muslim items he apparently got off the internet. For example, one thing he read was a complaint by the British television writer Ben Elton that the BBC cut a Muslim joke from a show but he didn't think they would have cut a similar joke about an Anglican. It didn't seem like much of a comment on Islam, but Sommer seemed to feel it was deeply significant.

In addition to his community access TV show, he's apparently self-published a book attacking Islam. It appeared to be available only on kindle. I haven't seen it, but judging from its title and looking at his TV show, my guess is that it's a copy-and-paste job, a compilation of stuff he found on the internet.

Sommer is 56. He's unemployed and has a high school diploma. He lives in a trailer in an unincorporated area between Eugene and Springfield.

But Sommer proposed that he teach a non-credit course on Islam at the local community college, and for some reason, they went along. They offered his course. No one signed up for it. A Muslim civil rights group pointed out Sommer's background to the college. On his blog, Sommer supported a constitutional amendment to ban the practice of Islam in the United States. He described it as “brilliant, crystal clear and something to seriously consider in the face of Islamic supremacism”.

LCC dropped the class. Not surprisingly, Sommer is claiming to be a victim. And now that "civil rights" group Pat Robertson started is threatening to sue to reinstate the class.

Interesting thing is how polite the press has been about Sommer's "qualifications". They mention his book and his TV show. They don't mention that his only qualification to do the TV show is that he paid a ten dollar annual membership fee to the TV station and that he paid to have his "book" "published". My guess is that no one reporting on this has seen either one.

The Muslims he quotes in the book and on the show ought to sue him for copyright infringement.

Pacifica Forum

Sommer used to be part of Pacifica Forum which was designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, for whatever that's worth. It's a strange little discussion group made up of aging crackpots.

It started out as a much more serious pacifist discussion group. They were critical of Israel, as any genuine peace group is. This resulted in their being targeted by local Jewish and pro-Zionist groups. They were smeared as "anti-Semitic" and run out of their regular meeting place. The founder of the group was a retired law professor. As a retired professor, he was entitled to use classrooms at the University of Oregon for meetings, so they started using rooms at the university.

That's when things started getting weird. Being critical of Israel, they attracted a Lithuanian anti-Communist who blamed Jews for socialism. He wanted to give a lecture to the group. Members didn't want him because he was clearly an anti-Semite, but the 90-year-old founder overruled them in the name of "free speech".

What they did after that didn't make sense. Local Zionists called them Nazis. They inexplicably responded to what I think were false accusations of Nazism by inviting actual Nazis to speak. A "historical revisionist" spoke there (although he stuck to the topic of Palestine) and they invited David Irving to speak (he had just gotten out of prison in Austria where he'd been locked up for denying the Nazi genocide.)

This attracted the one aging local Nazi, a short gray haired guy who keeps showing up in a kilt. Then HE wanted to speak there. He gave a presentation and showed a video from a Nazi rally he attended in California.

That brought on a wave of protests against Pacifica Forum that went on for months. University students wanted the group off campus.

Barry Sommer, who is Jewish, joined Pacifica Forum after the protests started and gave his own lecture, not on Islam but on the Nazi genocide. I was there. There was a large crowd, nearly all of them protesters in addition to the dozen or so elderly people who made up Pacifica Forum.

Sommer spoke for about an hour. The main thing that stood out to me was that he doubted that there had been gas chambers. He dismissed eyewitness testimony as "anecdotal evidence." He doesn't know what anecdotal evidence is.

It wasn't long after that that Sommer and another couple of guys, including the Lithuanian who had started the group's downward spiral, left Pacifica Forum to devote themselves to their hatred of Islam.

One more thing about video

I didn't want to be seen at Sommer's lecture. I didn't want anyone thinking I was part of Pacifica Forum, certainly, and I didn't especially want people to think I was part of the anarchist groups protesting. But there were cameras everywhere!

In the old days, I would attend a rally or an event and would be one of only a handful of people taking pictures or filming. Now everyone has a cell phone camera or digital camera and they take pictures constantly. It's free. They're not wasting film. You can't stay out of the crossfire.

Monday, December 13, 2010

What if Clint Eastwood had starred in The Pawnbroker?

It's amazing the movies people take seriously now.

There was a ridiculous movie called Homicide written by David Mamet. A Jewish detective investigates the murder of a Jewish shop owner. It turns out they were involved in some Zionist group which has a secret cache of weapons. The Jewish detective comes to embrace his Jewish identity by blowing up a building if I'm remembering correctly, and this was presented a good thing.

It was like if Mickey Spillane tried to write a novel about anti-Semitism. I was amazed that people took it seriously. It got good reviews at the time but has disappeared since then.

And I finally watched the movie Gran Torino starring elderly California millionaire Clint Eastwood.

It reminded me of the spoof movie trailers they used to show on Mad TV and the old cartoon The Critic. They showed trailers for movies with bizarre casting decisions. They had Woody Allen in a Die Hard-like action film---terrorists take over the prep school for Korean girls where he works as a clarinet teacher. "More violent than his early, funnier movies," they quote one critic as saying.

Gran Torino was like The Pawnbroker starring Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry.

In The Pawnbroker, Rod Steiger played a traumatized concentration camp survivor who now works as a pawnbroker in a bad neighborhood. He tries to repress all emotion. An ineffectual social worker tries to counsel him and he teaches his trade to a young ethnic.

In Gran Torino, Clint Eastwood plays a traumatized Korean War veteran who is a horrible person. An ineffectual Catholic priest tries to counsel him and he teaches his trade to a Hmong neighbor. And he threatens people with guns, saying Dirty Harry-like things to them as they stand watching him reach into his jacket for a gun.

I may be giving too much away here, but this might have been considered a serious film because Clint Eastwood didn't actually kill anyone.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Ishmael Reed on Obama and anger

During the presidential campaign, when right-wingers accused Obama of wanting to take away their guns (I don't think he ever mentioned gun control) someone pointed out that a white candidate would have done what John Kerry did---get a rifle and a camera crew and go hunting. But Obama couldn't do that. A black man with a gun would frighten white voters.

I hope Democrats in Congress can stop the lousy tax deal Obama made with the Republicans, but, on a similar note, here's from an essay by Ishmael Reed that appeared in the New York Times. There's a link to it below:

...I’ve been thinking recently of all those D’s for deportment on my report cards. I thought of them, for instance, when I read a response to an essay I had written about Mark Twain that appeared in “A New Literary History of America.” One of the country’s leading critics, who writes for a prominent progressive blog, called the essay “rowdy,” which I interpreted to mean “lack of deportment.” Perhaps this was because I cited “Huckleberry Finn” to show that some white women managed household slaves, a departure from the revisionist theory that sees Scarlett O’Hara as some kind of feminist martyr.

I thought of them when I pointed out to a leading progressive that the Tea Party included neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers — and he called me a “bully.” He believes that the Tea Party is a grass-roots uprising against Wall Street, a curious reading since the movement gained its impetus from a rant against the president delivered by a television personality on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

And I’ve thought about them as I’ve listened in the last week to progressives criticize President Obama for keeping his cool.

Progressives have been urging the president to “man up” in the face of the Republicans. Some want him to be like John Wayne. On horseback. Slapping people left and right.

One progressive commentator played an excerpt from a Harry Truman speech during which Truman screamed about the Republican Party to great applause. He recommended this style to Mr. Obama. If President Obama behaved that way, he’d be dismissed as an angry black militant with a deep hatred of white people. His grade would go from a B- to a D.

What the progressives forget is that black intellectuals have been called “paranoid,” “bitter,” “rowdy,” “angry,” “bullies,” and accused of tirades and diatribes for more than 100 years. Very few of them would have been given a grade above D from most of my teachers....

Reed's got a point there. But...

I didn't think Obama was a progressive or a liberal to begin with. I'm still disappointed by him.

They're mad at him for the continuing ban against gays in the military. I'm not sure I'm against "don't ask, don't tell". As long as it's in effect, they'll never be able to bring back the draft.

There are two are three wars going on, depending on how you count them, and the U.S. and Israel are intent on starting at least one more. They don't have enough troops. They're calling back people who left the military years ago and they're sending National Guard to war. So far, the only ones calling for a draft are "liberals" who think it would only be fair to force young people who oppose the war to fight in it and imagine this would energize the anti-war movement.

As it is now, if they try bringing back the draft, every eighteen-year-old boy and his best friend will register as domestic partners the day they graduate high school.

During World War Two, all you had to do to avoid the draft was say you were a homosexual. Back then, it was unimaginable that anyone would falsely claim to be gay. By the time the Vietnam War rolled around, draft boards started demanding proof, or at least evidence. And, today, it's unimaginable that any young man would allow himself to be sent off to war when all he had to do was say he was gay. And with same-sex marriage and civil unions, becoming officially gay has never been easier.

Hopefully Democrats will stop the tax deal in Congress. And maybe it won't be such a bad thing if Republicans block the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell."

Friday, December 3, 2010

Wikileaks and the lapdog press

I can't remember who the journalist was. Was it Christopher Hitchens?

He called around to the various TV networks that employed Henry Kissinger as a commentator or analyst. Ted Koppel was the only one who would speak to him.

Hitchens wanted to know why ABC News was employing a commentator who advised that reporters be barred from covering events in Palestine.

It was the beginning of the first Intifada. Kissinger made a speech calling on Israel to close off the West Bank and Gaza, throw out all reporters, and begin slaughtering Palestinians.

Ted Koppel first tried to deny that Kissinger had actually advocated that, but Hitchens corrected him...I can't remember how Koppel finally weaseled out of it, how he justified Kissinger's continued employment.

And now we have Wikileaks. The American news media is outraged that it's being allowed to report on the news.

On, Glenn Greenwald wrote:

On CNN, Wolf Blitzer was beside himself with rage over the fact that the US government had failed to keep all these things secret from him... Then - like the Good Journalist he is - Blitzer demanded assurances that the Government has taken the necessary steps to prevent him, the media generally and the citizenry from finding out any more secrets: "Do we know yet if they've [done] that fix? In other words, somebody right now who has top secret or secret security clearance can no longer download information onto a CD or a thumb drive? Has that been fixed already?" The central concern of Blitzer - one of our nation's most honored "journalists" - is making sure that nobody learns what the US Government is up to.

Now it's been revealed that the New York Times has reported the memo in Wikileaks which claims that Iran received long range missile from North Korea, missiles capable of attacking European capitals. But, at the request of the Obama administration, they did not report that Russia gave a detailed refutation of the claim. Russian Intelligence refuted the claim that Iran had the missiles or that they were interested in developing the capability to attack Europe.

The New York Times didn't get this information from Wikileaks---it got it from The Guardian newspaper in Britain.

So who is the New York Times hiding this information from? It's already been published in Britain and it's there on Wikileaks. None of this information is secret anymore---it's already been published outside the U.S. Only the American public is kept from knowing this.

In general, secrecy laws are aimed at keeping information from a country's own population, not from some foreign government.

In the 1980s, there was the case of the book Spycatcher. It revealed a number of secrets about British Intelligence, such as their plot to assassinate Nasser and their conspiracy with the CIA against British Prime Minister Harold Wilson. The book was banned in England. It was available everywhere else in the world, including Scotland. But it was banned in England. Newspapers were prosecuted for quoting from the book.

There were the classified human radiation experiments done in the United States during the cold war. Experiments where they exposed impoverished black cancer patients to radiation killed between eight and twenty people. These continued into the 1970s.

The stated reason for keeping the experiments secret is so the victims wouldn't be able to sue and to prevent public outcry against it. According to Wikipedia:
One of the doctors involved in the experiments, Robert Stone, was worried about litigation by the patients, so he only referred to them by their initials on the medical reports. He did this so that, in his words, "there will be no means by which the patients can ever connect themselves up with the report", in order to prevent "either adverse publicity or litigation"

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Cheap high definition

I hate to be so cheap, but what is the least expensive way to get high defenition video?

There are the various "camcorders" like the Flip thing, but I don't know if it's "true" high definition.

There are also digital still cameras with a video mode that'll give you high definition. Like the new Canon Power Shot that they say you can get on the internet for $140.
There's a $400 Panasonic digital camera, that'll give you high definition video, and you can set the aperture and focus while you do it. I assume that'll work. There are some point-and-shoot digital cameras where you can set the aperture and focus, but it makes no real difference because the chip is so small that everything is in focus anyway.

I've seen lovely video shot with digital SLRs that was very nice. With most camcorder, everything is in focus. The digital SLRs, they were able to get a nice shallow depth of field.

I heard that, with the Nikon digital cameras, (at least with the point-and-shoot ones) the sound is always out of synch on video mode.

There are more conventional camcorders.

There's the Panasonic three chip HD camcorder which they said somewhere you can get for about $900. But the site I looked at discussing this noted that the three chips make the picture only slightly better than the more affordable single chip HD camcorders sold by Sony and Canon. Be sure there's an external mic jack.

Aiptek makes several very inexpensive high definition camcorders. They have the great advantage of coming with external mic jacks.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sony HVR-HD1000U MiniDV 1080i High Definition Camcorder

Twenty years ago, back before digital video, they were selling full sized S-VHS camcorders. They cost about the same as a Hi8 camcorder and Hi8 was supposed to be slightly superior in some way, but people still wanted the full-sized camcorders.

I don't know, but, at the time, I figured that a full-sized S-VHS camcorder was an affordable, professional-looking alternative to spending three or four thousand dollars for an actual "prosumer" Hi8 camera.

Now, Sony has a camcorder, an
HVR-HD1000U MiniDV 1080i High Definition Camcorder with 10x Optical Zoom. It sells for about $1,500.

Here's what Sony says about it:

The HVR-HD1000U was created to meet the growing demand from users who are looking for mobility and professional appearance. This camcorder features a shoulder-mount design and black matte body similar to that of professional camcorders; making it perfect for weddings, corporate communications, colleges, universities, and sporting events where appearance makes a difference....
It's a consumer camcorder made to look like a prosumer camcorder. It's for videographers who want to impress their clients.

Well. Seems like a good idea.

Years ago, someone posted on a message board. They were going to make a no-budget slasher movie. But should they use Super 8 film or a S-VHS camcorder? Other people discussed the relative merits of the two formats. I wisely told him to get S-VHS. A big, giant camcorder would impress the actors.

Video: HVR-HD1000u First Look

Friday, November 26, 2010

Student films

There've been a number of attacks on student films. There was one website devoted entirely to making fun of them.

I did a search for "student film" on You Tube and found a few. Student films now seem to mostly be parodies of student films in general.

Apparently, there are a lot of suicides in student films. I wonder what the actual suicide rate is among film students. My guess is that it's lower than among those with other majors. There hasn't been a single documented case of an emo kid ever committing suicide, and, like emo kids, film students apparently embrace depression and make it work for them.

For years I heard that writing a short story was more difficult than writing a novel. I never understood why. It didn't make sense. I finally got an explanation: Novels aren't very well-written. In the same way, a short film needs to be better-made than a feature film.

It's rather cruel forcing film students to make short films. It's kind of like school music programs. They force kids to play classical music and jazz, the two most difficult and least popular genres, while other kids form punk rock bands, practice for a week or two then start playing gigs. Film students plumb the depths of their souls and attempt to make meaningful short films which get them nothing but mockery while far less ambitious young people make feature-length slasher films with their parents' camcorders and go on to successful careers.

Come to think of it, didn't Rick Schmidt say that he started making feature films when he and Wayne Wang realized it wasn't much harder than making a short film?

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Room

Several years ago, I was looking at a message board for a website that made fun of student films. It had a post from an angry, bitter recent film school graduate. He said he spent between twenty and thirty thousand dollars making his film. He charged it all on credit cards. I hope he had the good sense to declare bankruptcy.

His movie was about a girl leaving home. I assume it was a girl going away to college. He thought that the weakness in most student films was the acting--they never delivered their lines convincingly--so he avoided the issue and made a silent film.

I don't think he put any sound track at all on it, because when he submitted it to film festivals they'd send it back with a note alerting him to the fact that there was no sound.

As I said, the purpose of the website was to make fun of student films, but the people running it were sympathetic. They told him the movie sounded interesting and that they could understanding his feelings running up a large debt he had little hope of repaying.

I had mixed feelings. I understood what he meant and why he made a silent movie. I think this was the old days, before digital video. He had to choose between 16mm film and Hi8 video and he apparently went with film. Still, I think I would have recognized the lack of commercial potential.

The Room

That's what I thought about when I saw The Room.

I came across The Room on one of the "worst movie" lists. I'd never heard of it, but it has a cult following.

The movie cost $6,000,000 included marketing. It was self-distributed by it's mysterious first-time writer/producer/director/star, Tommy Wiseau. From what I read, he was never clear about how he raised the money, although he did mention importing leather jackets from Korea.

The movie is about a love triangle. Wiseau plays a sinewy, long-haired banker in his 50s whose fiance begins sleeping with his best friend. It was apparently intended as a melodrama, but audiences found it extremely funny. Wiseau ran with it and began to promote it as a "black comedy".
Now it has midnight showings, every two weeks in L.A. and every month in London.

It's unlikely the movie has made any money. I suppose it's possible it could after the release on DVD.

If I had six million bucks, I wouldn't blow it all making a movie. If I did squander it all on a film, it wouldn't be about a nice guy whose fiance sleeps with his best friend.

It reminded me of something in the memoirs of the journalist Claud Cockburn. He mentioned at one point getting himself assigned as a theater critic. He never attended the theater before, so he found the most hackneyed plot to be clever and original---for example, plays about guys whose fiances were sleeping with their best friends. Theater owners loved him. He gave everything a rave review. At first.

Reportedly, Wiseau rented a studio and bought a "beginning director package" which included a new 35mm camera and a high definition digital video camera. Wiseau said he was confused about the difference between the two formats, so the film was shot with both. The two cameras were mounted side by side during the filming.

Ed Wood, Jr, died just before people became interested in his movies. His friends weren't sure what he would have thought about it if he had lived, if he would have liked the attention or been hurt that they were laughing at him. There was the sad interview with his widow in which she insisted that young people didn't laugh at Plan 9, they watched if for its message of peace.

It's good that Tommy Wiseau can enjoy whatever following his movie has.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Ray Dennis Steckler, Charles Grodin

There was a show from England. The Incredibly Strange Film Show. It was probably twenty years ago.

On one episode, they interviewed Ray Dennis Steckler, director of The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies, Rat Fink a Boo Boo, The Thrill Killers, Blood Shack, and a number of other movies. His work was extemporaneous. He generally worked without a completed script. He explained that, "every time we have a completed script, the movie never seems to get made because we can never afford what's on the script. You know, you need all these things, then you spend all this time locating these things that you need for the movie, and by the time you get all that done, it's too late to make the movie."

Ed Wood, Jr, wanted to be like Orson Welles. Ray Dennis Steckler was more like Eisenstein or Pudovkin--more of an Alfred Hitchcock. The poor man's Brian de Palma, perhaps. His movies were much more visual. He made pretty good use of montage. If things had been a little different, he might have been another Robert Rodriguez.

The Incredibly Strange Film Show was hosted by Jonathan Ross. It's available on You Tube.

At a couple of points in the interviews, Steckler seems to catch himself taking his work too seriously. He quickly snaps out of it. You can't make any kind of a movie without taking it seriously, but you don't want to get caught taking yourself seriously.

I've seen it happen.

I saw Paul Michael Glaser on Charles Grodin's cable talk show after he made the movie Kazaam.

Glaser had directed other movies, but this was the first one that he worked on from start to finish, writing the script and directing all aspects of the movie. He was the auteur. He seemed quite proud and grimly serious. It was a little embarrassing.

I was at my brother's place when I saw the interview and he commented on it.

"Everybody's proud of their work," I said. There are people who are proud of having worked their whole lives in the lumber mills. I've met people who were proud of having never held any job for more than two months. I took perverse pride in being a car wash attendant. And the man did make a movie, after all.

As it happened, Kazaam grossed $19 million, a bit less than its cost, and got terrible reviews.

The child star in it was cute enough. He's still an actor. He's now shaved his head and he's covered with tattoos. You'd think that would be an impediment to an acting career.

Charles Grodin, Bill Cosby, other family films

I found Kazaam on a list of worst films, but it seemed to have done pretty well compared to most of the others on the list. Much better than Bill Cosby's family films, Ghost Dad and Leonard Part 6.

Cosby wrote and produced Leonard Part 6, but tried to blame the director for it being so terrible. It was one of the worst movies ever made. No director could have saved it. And how does Cosby explain the equally bad Ghost Dad, directed by Sidney Poitier?

Bill Cosby was hired to do ads for TCM, Ted Turner's classic movie cable station. This in spite of his role in two of the worst movies ever made, and in spite of the fact that nearly every movie shown on the channel either had an all-white cast or was explicitly racist.

The commercials were in black and white, meant to look like an old film noir. Bill Cosby tells us that he likes classic gangster movies because they don't use obscene language like in movies today.

Well. If the only good thing you can think of to say about a movie is that there were no dirty words in it, I'd say you probably didn't like it very well. In fact, that's pretty much all they said in the ads for Cosby's two movies. They couldn't quote reviews or show clips without revealing how terrible they were, so they interviewed people coming out of the theaters. The only thing they could say was that the movies weren't overtly offensive.

"Well, there wasn't any nudity."

Apparently Charles Grodin took offense at Cosby's TCM ads. He gave an angry commentary on his show. He pointed out that Cosby has made a career of presenting himself as a devoted family man when he secretly had an illegitimate daughter who he sent to prison when she threatened to sell her story to the Inquirer. This was before several women made rape accusations which Cosby denied. Who was he to complain about bad words?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Truffaut, Godard, Day For Night, and a link

There was the letter Jean-Luc Godard wrote to Francois Truffaut after the release of Truffaut's Day for Night, his movie about the making of a movie.

Truffaut was a liar, Godard wrote, "because the shot of you and Jacqueline Bisset the other night at Chez Francis is not in your film, and one wonders why the director is the only one who doesn't fuck in Day for Night."

Truffaut played the director in the movie.

Godard may have had a point there, I suppose. Truffaut was carrying on a highly publicized affair with Bisset while they were making Day for Night. But Truffaut was the only major character who doesn't have a sex scene in the movie. In fact, we keep seeing Truffaut's character alone in bed dreaming of himself as a child stealing movie posters from the local theater.

Well, it's okay with me. Truffaut was playing a character. He didn't need to do a love scene if he didn't want to.

What bothered me about it was that we know what Truffaut looked like as a kid. He looked like Jean-Pierre Leaud in The 400 Blows. He had a crew cut and a big nose. But in the dream sequences, he had a cute dutch boy haircut and an adorable little button nose.

And remember Truffaut's comment in his book on Alfred Hitchcock. He talks about the kid in Hitchcock's Sabotage. The boy keeps getting into trouble. Truffaut commented that, in movies, kids doing things they're not supposed to endears them to the audience.

Were the shots of himself as a child stealing a poster a shameless attempt to endear himself to the audience? And why on earth would a child want a poster for Citizen Kane?

Day for Night was still a pretty good movie. Truffaut not having sexual intercourse in it wasn't a major flaw. I should probably say that that wasn't Godard's central objection to it.

Truffaut had been a critic himself. Like many critics, he could dish it out but he couldn't take it. Roger Ebert wrote an angry letter to the local newspaper here after one of his books got a bad review. And Truffaut wrote a twenty page letter to Godard attacking him back.

"I've always felt that true militants are like cleaning women," Truffaut wrote, "performing a thankless, daily, necessary task. But you, you're like Ursula Andress. You make a four-minute appearance, just enough time for the cameras to flash, for you to make two or three startling pronouncements, then you disappear, shrouded in appealing mystery."

But, anyway, here's a link to an edited English translation of an interesting interview with Godard. He discusses his split Truffaut, the Oscar they're awarding him, the accusations made against him by Zionist groups, among other topics:

Who should play Prince William in the made-for-TV movie

Prince William is getting married. Good for him. But the poor girl should take a good long look at the family she's marrying into. If they divorce, who gets custody of the children? Christopher Hitchens has said a number of times that the royal children are legally the property of the royal family. I don't know if he meant that literally.

But who should play Prince William when they make a made-for-TV movie about the royal wedding? Should actors who play members of the Royal Family be better-looking or not-as-good-looking as the actual Royal Family? Or should some of them be played by better-looking actors and some played by worse-looking actors? Should William and Harry be played by a couple of handsome young stars while Prince Charles is played by some elderly Arnold Stang-like actor?

There were at least three made-for-TV movies about the Amy Fisher case. The actors who played Amy Fisher and Joey Buttafuoco were better-looking than the actual people, but poor Mary Jo Buttafuoco, the victim in the case, was always played by actresses who were less attractive than she was.

What about the baldness issue? How bald should the actor playing Prince William be?

And what about Harry? Prince Harry looks nothing like anyone in the Royal Family, but he looks just like one his mother's boyfriends. It wouldn't effect casting, though. It is a little like the Farkel Family skits on the old Rowan & Martin's Laugh In. A family with red-haired children who all looked exactly like their next-door neighbor.

Through some freak genetic mutation, the inbred royal family seems to be very long-lived. The Queen Mum was 101 when she died. Elizabeth II is only 84. Prince Charles may have to sweat it out for another 17 years before he gets to be king. If his mother manages to live that long, Charles will be almost 80.

Prince William should wait until he's 60, then marry a stewardess and have a couple of kids. That way they'll still be reasonably young when he dies and they get to take the throne. Although having to be king or queen for most of your life wouldn't be much better than spending your life waiting for your father to die.

For the sake of the children, abolish the monarchy!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

You Tube celebrities

I guess Justin Beiber is the only You Tube celebrity to hit it really big thus far.

There were others. Tay Zonday sang "Chocolate Rain" on You Tube and went on to do a Dr Pepper commercial. Chris Crocker, after the success of his "Leave Brittney Alone" video, has done some things, or they've talked about him doing some things. I don't know what. I haven't seen him in anything.

Low budget filmmakers used to get John Carradine or some other aging star to appear in their movies. Rory Calhoun started doing the same thing late in his life. Ernest Borgnine appeared in movies you wouldn't expect to see an Oscar-winner in.

Maybe it's time to turn to You Tube celebrities. Use their star power to sell DVDs.

It may be a bad idea. Few are actual actors. I don't know about the singers like Zonday and Beiber, but most of the others seem to be egomaniacs. Are narcissists easy to manipulate or just hard to work with?

Maybe you can go the other way. Pick your star then put them on You Tube to turn them into phony celebrities. Like the way John Waters used to make his own stars.

This one You Tube guy

There was one You Tube celebrity. Someone I know had "friended" him on My Space.

"Who's that guy?" I said.

"I don't know. He wanted to be my friend so I clicked 'okay'."

I won't say who the You Tube celebrity was. I don't think I want him googling himself and finding his way here. He argued at length on his My Space page that he wasn't a narcissist.

He was the second most popular "director" on You Tube at the time. He had millions of hits. I watched some of his videos. They were terrible. The only one that stands out in my mind showed him drinking a bottle of Snapple. He drinks some of it. He stops and smiles. He drinks the rest of it. The end.

Snapple was donating money to some environmental cause, so he claimed he was saving a tree.

His followers were all teenage girls. Girls get crushes on teen idols they know they would never meet as a safe way to explore romantic feelings. With this guy, they had an extra buffer. They'd never meet him and he was openly gay.

He was banned from Wikipedia---it turns out you're not allowed to make a page about yourself.

At one point, he called on his fans----he has tens of thousands of them----to send donations. He needed help with his rent. He raised eighteen dollars.

Poor kid. People don't realize that narcissism is a serious, debilitating psychiatric condition.

There are others who are more interesting. There's a young fellow called Dylan. He has a scripted series where he tells plausible-sounding anecdotes about life as a teenager.

At least it's voluntary. Not like that poor Canadian kid. He was taking a video class in school. Everyone was gone. He went into the studio and made a tape of himself with a broomstick re-enacting a fight scene from a Star Wars movie. Some classmates found the tape, posted it on line and ruined his life.

Friday, November 12, 2010

PXL 2000

"Come on!" I said.

This was over twenty years ago.

I went with my friends to Toys R Us.

"There it is!" I said.

It was a Fisher Price PXL2000---the toy camcorder that really worked! Produced a slightly fuzzy black and white picture recorded on an ordinary audio cassette tape.

It cost about $100 at a time when real camcorders could cost a thousand bucks.

My friends scoffed. I didn't buy it. I shouldn't have listened to them. Now the PXL 2000 is coveted by artists and bohemians.

I don't know why it matters. There's a free program for Mac computers to modify video to make it look like a PXL 2000 picture. Even if you don't have that, there's a way to monkey with the image to do the same thing.

I'm not sure what all of this means, but here's how to do it:

1. Scale your footage to fit a 540 x 405 composition at 15 frames per second. (This is exactly 75% of a full 720 x 540 NTSC frame.)

2. Reduce the saturation to 0.

3. Apply a Gaussian blur with a radius of 1.5 pixels.

4. Sharpen the image 30%.

5. Clamp the black point to about 5% and the white point to about 95%.

6. Compress the dynamic range of the entire image by about 1.2 to 1.

7. Posterize to 90 steps.

8. Add a lag effect; this should add a small proportion of the three previous frames to each frame, giving slight trails and motion artifacting.

9. If desired, add a scanline or “TV” effect.

10. Clamp the white and black points again.

11. Apply a second 1.5-pixel Gaussian blur.

12. Expand your composition to 720 x 540, leaving a large black border around the frame.

13. If necessary, scale your finished composition to meet your output requirements (720 x 480 for an NTSC DVD, for example).

But why do artists go for the PXL 2000 picture but dismiss other lovely analog video? Look at VHS or S-VHS video, or Hi8!

I was filming some stuff one day with a huge S-VHS camcorder. A fellow began talking to me. I told him a couple of times that I wasn't from "the media", but he kept talking, giving me a message to pass on to governor.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dino De Laurentis, Menahem Golan, Chuck Norris

Dino De Laurentis has died at age 91.

He produced some great movies---Bitter Rice, La Strada, Nights of Cabria---but it was always a little surprising to see his name on those films because he produced a lot of somewhat lower brow movies in the '70s. I'm looking at a list of what he produced then, and he still produced some pretty good movies. Serpico, Three Days of the Condor, Ingmar Bergman's The Serpent's Egg.

There was a spaghetti western Vic Morrow directed in the 1970s called A Man Called Sledge. De Laurentis was producer. Filmed in Spain. They brought in horses from Italy. When they were done filming, the guy from De Laurentis's production company told them to shoot the horses. It would be cheaper than shipping them back to Italy.

Vic Morrow and the Americans on the set were appalled. They shipped the horses back.

Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus

In the '80s, there was a grim shift in internationally produced exploitation films. The Israelis took over.

A lot of the Italian filmmakers were in the Italian Communist Party, directors like Sergio Leone. Spaghetti Westerns were full of Communist symbolism. I mentioned in another entry the end of For a Few Dollars More--bounty hunter Clint Eastwood counts the dead bodies in the back of a wagon by adding up their monetary value. There was the gold buried in the war cemetery in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. In another Spaghetti Western--was is Django?-- we see a rich American rancher murdering Mexican peasants and feeding their bodies to his pet eagle.

But that all vanished. Communist symbolism replaced with Zionist racism.

There was one Israeli Golan-Globus production, Lone Wolf McQuade starring Chuck Norris as a Texas Ranger. Mexicans stand in for Palestinians.

"A Texas Ranger kicked my father's teeth out! Are you going to kick my teeth out, Texas Ranger?"

Chuck Norris mows them down in the desert with an Israeli submachine gun. Then he kicks the man in the mouth.
People compared Lone Wolf McQuade to the spaghetti westerns. It had the same sort of look to it and it had loud music. But the plot revolved around Chuck Norris fighting Communists who were delivering aid to Nicaragua.

In one scene, Chuck Norris gets involved in a fight at a square dance.

"The boys are just having a little fun," says Communist David Carradine.

"Want to join the fun?" says Chuck Norris assuming a karate fighting stance.

"Stop! This is not my idea of fun!" says Barbara Carrera.

Walker, Texas Ranger

I never sat through an episode of Walker, Texas Ranger. According to The Daily Beast's list of the "Fifty Most Loathsome People" of 2007, "Walker, Texas Ranger once let a little girl battle armed gangsters, because she had the power of belief in God."

A guy who watches Walker, Texas Ranger told me that, toward the end, they resorted to a "ceramic leg". We would see elderly Chuck Norris raise his leg as if he was going to kick someone, then they would cut to a close-up of the person he was going to kick and they'd hit him with a fake leg.

It makes me wonder how one should properly use an elderly martial artist in a movie. Even if they could do a spectacular karate fight, is that what the audience wants to see? They should probably show a little dignity. Not kick as high.

Here's a karate fight with an older actor not generally associated with martial arts films:

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Copyright infringement, the New Wave, imperialism

A while back, someone from the MPAA was belly-aching about the scourge of video bootlegging. If it went on, he said, Hollywood would be reduced to making movies that were little better than TV soap operas.

Imagine a world---a paradise---in which movies all looked like daytime soap operas!

Well, it might not be paradise, but you'd get used to it. And if you didn't, you'd just have to find some other way to pass the time.

Of course, there are movies made with little money and they don't look like soap operas.

I would have liked A Beautiful Mind better if it hadn't cost $60 million. It grossed less than $180 million, so it broke even. It was just a guy walking around hallucinating. I wouldn't want it to look like a soap opera, but I wouldn't mind if it looked like an episode of T.J. Hooker, or maybe Ironside.

I read in a discussion of Dogme 95 that the average Danish movie cost something like two million dollars. Somewhere else, I read that Iran had made its most expensive movie ever, and it cost less than two million dollars.

Hollywood is spending too much on these things. The indigenous movie industries of the world are being crushed under its massive weight, which I assume is the whole idea.

After World War Two, the final demand the U.S. made of the French was that they lift the limit on the number of American movies allowed into the country before they could get aid under the Marshall Plan. This was while British youth culture was being taken over; their children dressed in blue jeans and hung around malt shops--what they call "milk bars"--listening to rock and roll.

But it all came back on the U.S. The American movies flooding France inspired The French New Wave which left Hollywood bewildered and confused. The subversion of British youth inspired their own musicians and led to the British Invasion.

But now what? You think anything like the French New Wave could challenge Hollywood? Could a few intellectuals makes films that would compete with movies costing hundreds of millions of dollars? It doesn't seem likely. A small group of filmmakers taking on Hollywood now would be like twenty or thirty thousand lightly armed insurgents in a backward, mountainous third world country trying to fight the massive, technologically advanced U.S. military.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Well, Republicans took over the House, gained seats in the Senate.

I worked with a woman who named her dog "Galt" after the character in Ayn Rand's science fiction novel. Ron Paul did her one or two better. Named his son, Rand Paul, after Ayn herself.

Will Rand Paul filibuster the raising of the national debt, resulting in the shutdown of the government and the U.S. defaulting on its massive debt? Will this bring on a global financial collapse?

The woman who named her dog "Galt" changed all the passwords on the computers then abruptly quit and never came back. She left her belongings behind. We weren't going to return them until she gave us the passwords, but one of her friends at work smuggled her stuff out and took it to her. He was later found to have broken into the place at night and he had been using our Fed Ex account number. After he was fired, he sat in jail for attacking a cab driver.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The class I took at the Community Access TV station

It's been a few years. I used to sit in bed watching Community Access TV Saturday morning.

The Community Access TV station was in the back of a local high school--the one where all the rich kids go--so I would sit and watch the show the high school kids produced. It was short videos made as assignments for their video class.

In one episode, some kids made a short documentary about their friend taking a tennis class. They filmed him playing tennis. He kept missing the ball. He'd go pick it up. He'd miss it again. They interviewed the teacher.

"What is ______'s greatest strength as a tennis player?" they asked.

The teacher laughed. They kept the camera on him, so he finally stopped laughing and talked about the improvement the kid had made since the beginning of the term and that, with continued effort, he thought he could be a reasonably good player.

In another video, some kids interviewed students in the hallway about their feelings about Christmas. One kid gave a long interview that was very good. He sang, talked about his family and what they did on Christmas.

Another gave an interview that wasn't so good.

"What is the spirit of Christmas?"

"The spirit of Christmas is presents for all the little children," he said nervously. There was an awkward silence. He added, "Who don't have presents."

"Are there any seasonal dishes you like?"

"I like chicken."

"That's not very seasonal."

"Fried chicken," he said. And, after a long pause, "with seasoning."

I'm surprised the teacher let them leave that in.

One episode had some younger kids. They looked 13 or 14. One kid was interviewing a big burly kid.

"Tell us about your diseases," the interviewer says.

The kid says he has trouble with his tear ducts and has to use eye drops. And he has ADHD and takes Ritalin.

"Does it suck having ADHD, or do you not notice?" the kid asked.

The other kid didn't answer.

"Show us your Judo," the interviewer says.

They were on the grass. The kid shows him his Judo. Quickly knocks the interviewer down. He hits his head on the ground and writhes in pain for the rest of the video.

The Molechai and Zar Show

There was another show I liked. It came on in the evenings. It was two 12-year-old boys. Both seemed extremely bright. They had a movie review show, like Siskel & Ebert. But they reviewed almost nothing but R-rated horror movies.

They were discussing one movie. "What was your favorite killing, Zar?" Molechai asked.

Zar said he liked the one where a man's head was cut off by a sheet of glass. There was blood everywhere.

But the kids had some sense of moral outrage. One of them was incensed at a scene in a PG-rated comedy. "It should have been rated R!" he said. The movie had a scene where two women spy on a man changing his clothes. "They didn't show him or anything, but they spied on him while he was NAKED!"

I later talked to a guy who had worked as a cameraman on that show. The kids had gone to their parents wanting to do it. They became celebrities at their school for a few weeks before losing interest. Then the cameraman needed videotape so he recorded over the tapes of the show.

Less ambitious shows

The station would broadcast anything that wasn't legally obscene. There was one old timer, a Libertarian, who would sit and read pamphlets for an hour every week. His show had been on for years.

Another guy, a Christian, would set up his camera on a tripod and hang around in his living room without a shirt. He would walk around, eat dinner with the microphone close to his mouth, belch, and occasionally say something religious. He was very hostile toward other denominations, but it was never clear why or what he believed. In one episode, he held up his cat and started speaking in a falsetto cat voice. "Yes, master. I'm sorry, master." I'm probably making it sound more interesting than it was.

If you ever film a TV show in your living room, at least clean up the room.

The Documentary Video class

The only ads they had on Community Access TV were for the classes they offered. For a long, long time, I would sit there watching and I'd think, "I ought to take one of those." I thought that for a few years, then finally looked up their website and sent them an email.

The fellow emailed back. Just as soon as they had enough students they'd start another class. He told me the price, which I think was $65, plus the $10 to become a member of CTV.


After a few weeks the class was starting.

I went to the TV station.

The studio was in the back of the school, but I didn't get that vague feeling of dread I usually get when I go into a school.

There were a handful of people in the class. There was an older woman, a high school senior, a man who didn't like the idea of any private business enjoying any advantage as a result of the documentary. The teacher was openly hostile toward him and they were constantly fighting.

The guy teaching the class was named Larry. In his 50s. He rode a bike. I wasn't sure what to make of him. He produced, it seems like, almost half the shows on the station. He worked very fast. The talk shows were live-on-tape with no post-production. He worked very fast editing the stuff that did require post production. He used analog editing equipment rather than digital editing because he could do it faster.

I think the problem with the class was that Larry had a very simple formula for making these documentaries, but he didn't spell it out. We started out looking at clips of documentaries exemplifying verious techniques---looked at an MTV documentary and one by Ken Burns. He should have shown us videos made by previous classes.


Larry knew how to work quickly. The videos the documentary classes produced all seemed to follow the same formula.

You picked a subject that would give you something to videotape, some action or activity you could easily get footage of. And you picked a subject that had an expert you could interview. Then you'd interview your expert in the studio one day and you'd go and film on location another day. A little editing, and you had your movie.

That may seem obvious, but because he didn't spell it out and explain the formula to the class, people kept suggesting ideas that wouldn't work. Pretty much anythings that's not fiction is a documentary, so we were suggesting all kinds of crap.

Luckily, we had Sue there, who was very serious about it, had a subject in mind and did the work and made the arrangements. She was an excellent interviewer. She and Larry did nearly all the work.

The filming

First we had a fellow come in to be interviewed. He was manager of a glass recycler. The only place that recycled window glass.

I operated one of the cameras.

There were two camera filming. We had to each keep an eye on the monitor to keep track of what the other was doing. If one of us was filming a close-up, the other needed to do a two shot.

The interview went fast, but was for naught. We screwed up the sound.

That's okay, Larry said. We'd just have to interview him again when we got on location.

On location

We went to the place where the recycling was done. We walked around. Sue interviewed the manager. He showed us the broken glass that came in, the pellets they made out of it. He showed us the molds he used.

Larry and Sue were doing that while I hung around with David, the high school kid, and tried to stay out of the picture.

After they were done filming, they handed the camcorder to me. I could get some other shots.

I filmed some lovely close-ups of the glass objects they produced. Glass trophies and awards, decorative items, knobs for cupboards and drawers. David did some filming, too. He was more energetic than me, walking along doing tracking shots of the glass.

I wasn't able to be there the day they went back for more filming. They went back and taped the actual glass work, pouring the molten glass into molds, then letting it cool.

Final result

For the final class, we edited it very quickly. It would have gone faster if Larry had ignored us. But he listened to our helpful suggestions. Sue dubbed the narration she wrote. Added some music.

The final result wasn't bad.

There were going to give us each a DVD of it, but I never got mine. I did see it on TV a couple of times though.

My big contribution:

For the opening shot, Larry wanted it to start zoomed in on some detail on the building, then zoom out to show the whole building, but there was nothing interesting to zoom in on.

"What about those pigeons?" I said.

He zoomed in on the pigeons, zoomed out to show the whole building, then zoomed in on the sign that served as the title.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Tony Danza, Sarah Palin, Levi Johnston

I shouldn't admit this. I saw some of Teach, Tony Danza's reality show. I stumbled upon the last few minutes of the episode.

Tony Danza walks down the hall. Waiting outside the office stands a lovely girl with a black eye. She had gotten into a fight. He tells her that he was on a show called Who's The Boss and there was an episode where he has to move because his daughter got into a fight.

Later, the lady vice principal was picking on a child for wearing the wrong color shoes with his school uniform, so the kid cleverly handed her a dog biscuit. The rest of the staff grudgingly admires the youngster, but Tony Danza calls him over. Dictates an apology the kid writes down.

"I'm sorry I made you feel bad..."

"Now, write 'Best Regards' and sign your name."

He tells the kid to drop it off with the secretary.

But why ARE they wearing unforms?

According to another blog, when the school suddenly adopted their terrible-looking uniforms, Danza told the class that he wore the same clothes to work every day---he had five identical shirts and pairs of pants he wore each day.

Obviously, he does that for the show, so they can edit together footage they shot on different days.

And that's probably the reason they're made the kids shell out a fortune for uniforms and why they're threatening to kick kids out for failing to wear the black shoes the principal selected for them. If there are a thousand kids in that school and they each paid $100 for a couple of uniforms, that's a hundred grand they paid for the benefit of Danza's TV show.

Sarah Palin, Levi Johnston

I heard that Sarah Palin's teen nemesis, Levi Johnston, was trying to get a reality show. Johnston is the father of Palin's daughter's baby.

I am reminded of the words of William S Burroughs in the film "Towers Open Fire":
"I hate to see a bright young man fuck up and get off on the wrong track. Sure, it happens to all of us, one time or another...."
Levi Johnston was a teenager, only 19, in a public feud with Palin, a major political figure. And he was playing his cards a lot better than she was.

On a morning talk show, he revealed some rather vile things about her, like the "funny" way she kept referring to her baby who has Down Syndrome. And he said there was a lot more he could tell, but he was saving it in case she wanted to attack him again.

I hate to see the boy squander the advantages he gained from posing in Playgirl by degrading himself with a reality TV show.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sarah Palin, Reality TV

Sarah Palin has a reality TV show.

I just saw Chris Matthews argue it was a smart move on her part.

"RONALD REAGAN WAS ON DEATH VALLEY DAYS," he said. He was speaking normally, but it was as if a normal person were shouting.

So far, I haven't heard of reality television being anyone's ticket to success.

There was Danny Bonaduce's reality show. Shirley Jones called him and asked him what he was doing.

"Shirley, it's a paycheck," he said.

"It's the last paycheck you'll ever get," she told him.

Balloon Boy's father

Would-be reality TV star Richard Heene is marketing a back scratching device. It's sort of a wood thing that you're supposed to install in your living room so you can scratch your back like bears do in the wild.

For Balloon Boy's sake, I hope it's a success.

Tony Danza

It turns out Tony Danza was the smart one.

But his reality show, Teach, has been canceled. Probably just as well.

It seems that, before he became a boxer and then an actor, Danza got a degree in education. He planned on teaching high school.

He got his chance on this reality show. He goes to work as a high school English teacher.

The kids have no idea who he is.

"I think he was on Cheers," one of them says.

A kid does recognize him in the office.

The class has a couple of kids with learning disabilities as well as really smart kid. A girl cries when she does badly on a test. She takes off while Tony is getting her a kleenex. Tony violates state law by not allowing learning disabled kids to take their tests in the resource room. The smart kid is worried that he's wasting his time in that class even though he gets to be on TV.

The trouble with the show is that the kids don't know who he is and he won't tell them. He should have been regaling the class with stories about his time on Supertrain, or Canonball Run II.

There was Frank McCourt's book, Teacher Man. Publicizing the book, he told one story. Students tried to distract him, get him talking about something else, so they won't have to work.

"Are you from Scotland?"

"I'm not Scotch. I'm Irish."

"What's Irish?"

So, it goes on, a discussion of Irish life and culture.

"So, did you go out with girls in Ireland," one of them asks.

"No. Sheep. Damn it. We went out with sheep. What do you think."

Wouldn't the young people have been interested in hearing about Danza's time co-starring with orangutans in Going Ape? Wouldn't they want to know what Gavin McLeod was really like on the set of The Love Boat?

Instead they're stuck in a class with a 60-year-old teacher working his very first normal job 40 years after getting his degree.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Juan Williams stinks

Good riddance to bad rubbish

From Stan Cox:

NPR should have fired Juan Williams not last Wednesday but nine years ago. The cause for dismissal should have been this radio commentary that I recall hearing him deliver as I was driving through Salina, Kansas on September 14, 2001:
He said in part,

“This week, Neil Livingston[e], an anti-terrorism expert, told me there is only one meaningful response to terrorism. That is to absolutely extinguish the terrorist. That means using nuclear weapons on terrorists in any country that harbors them . . . Despite my non-violent instincts, I found myself reluctantly agreeing with Neil.”

Williams noted that soon after he drew that radioactive conclusion, James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, got him to reconsider it “for a little while.” But then, he said, “I went back to Livingston’s camp” because “these are unreasonable times.”


...By dumping him in 2001 when he should have been dumped, NPR could have reduced somewhat its output of bland conventional wisdom—a variety of verbiage that sounds especially irritating when rolling off the tongue of a fanatic.

And from Dedrick Muhammad and Barbara Ehrenreich in August, 2009:
Just last month on NPR, commentator Juan Williams dismissed the NAACP by saying that more up-to-date and relevant groups focus on "people who have taken advantage of integration and opportunities for education, employment, versus those who seem caught in generational cycles of poverty," which he went on to characterize by drug use and crime. The fact that there is an ongoing recession disproportionately affecting the African American middle class - and brought on by Wall Street greed rather than "ghetto" values - seems to have eluded him.

And a from Ishmael Reed in 2008:
Blaming black men exclusively for the abuses against women is a more profitable infotainment product. Hypocrisy is also involved. MSNBC host, Joe Scarborough, who welcomed Juan William’s latest demagogic attack on blacks, printed in The Wall Street Journal , still hasn’t addressed the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of his staffer, Lori Klaustis who was found dead on the floor of his office or why he had to resign abruptly from Congress. And is Juan Williams, whose career has been marred by repeated sexual harassment complaints against him really one to criticize the personal morality of others?

Juan Williams, sexually harassment

In the early 1990s, Juan Williams worked at The Washington Post where it seems Williams had been sexually harassing female coworkers:

Jo Ellen Murphy, art director of the Weekend section, said that "he was obsessed with my sex life and that's all he wanted to talk to me about . . . . I raised my voice at him and said, 'Just don't talk to me again.' "

After Williams made some "hostile remarks" in late September, Murphy said, a male co-worker reported it to an editor, which triggered the personnel inquiry.

Nancy McKeon, the magazine's features editor, said she told Williams that "you've got a little problem here" after she complained about a sexual remark he made to her. Karen Tanaka, an assistant photo editor, said Williams had been "nothing but nasty to me." Deborah Needleman, the magazine's photo editor, said that when she objected to Williams's "demeaning" comments, he said: "What's wrong with a little flirting?"

Williams was under investigation for sexual harassment, but the Editorial Page Editor Meg Greenfield wasn't informed of this. So she ran Williams' column defending and supporting Clarence Thomas, chortling over the charges Anita Hill made against him, unaware that Williams was himself a pervert.

The disclosure came five days after a Williams column on The Post's op-ed page in which he said that Anita Hill had "no credible evidence" for her allegations of sexual harassment by Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, but that Hill was "prompted" to make her charges by Democratic Senate staffers. The Post's personnel inquiry had begun more than two weeks earlier, but the column angered many women in the newsroom, and several came forward to say that they had also had problems with Williams. Post editors say they decided to make a public statement after WRC-TV aired a report on the controversy.

Williams returned to the newsroom Monday after working away from the office for two weeks, and the controversy seemed to have died down. But emotions began running high again Wednesday when Williams was quoted in USA Today as saying the complaints stemmed from "my attempts at being friendly" and saying "Hi. How are you? . . . Hey, did you have a date? How was your weekend?" He also said The Post had "said basically, 'Come back to work. We're sorry this happened.' "

A letter to Downie signed by 116 newsroom employees yesterday said: "We feel Juan's unrefuted false statements to the national media continue to cause anguish and professional harm to the women involved. They have also left many people inside and outside The Post with the impression that either the complaints were not serious or were not taken seriously . . . . The Post has an obligation to set the record straight by refuting such comments."

After this, Williams was forced to sit in an isolated part of the office where he could be watched at all times.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Randy Quaid

What the hell's wrong with Randy Quaid?

He seemed like a rather appealing actor. Now he and his wife are a couple of nuts. They've made a hobby out of running up massive hotel bills--five or ten thousand dollars or more--and running out without paying. Most recently they were arrested for breaking into and living in the guest house of a home they sold several years ago. They allegedly cause $5,000 in damage, then they missed their court date. They were arrested in Canada. During their arraignment before the immigration board, they wrote a note which their lawyer read to the cameras: “Yes, we are requesting asylum from Hollywood STAR WACKERS” [sic].

The Quaids claim their lives are in danger. Stars are being murdered. Among them, Keith Ledger and David Carradine.

Carradine died in Thailand. So what makes them think they'd be safe in Canada?

Here's a quote from ABC News quoting and paraphrasing People magazine:
"Friends believe the Quaids' downward spin began after a dispute with the Actors' Equity Association," reported People. At the time, Quaid was starring in the musical "Lone Star Love" in Seattle.

"In October 2007, 23 AEA members filed complaints with the organization, claiming Randy was exhibiting oddball behavior and missing rehearsals. He was subsequently banned from the organization," reported People.

The article noted that the couple had hired Becky Altringer, a private investigator to investigate the actors who made complaints about them. Altringer told People, "After that, [Evi] flipped. That's when she started saying everyone was against them, and now she's saying I'm against them." Altringer is reportedly suing the couple for breach of contract to recoup $19,000 she says she's owed.
It doesn't explain what the hell was wrong with him getting kicked out of Actors' Equity in the first place.

The article quotes a psychiatrist, but he doesn't offer much of a diagnosis either. Suggests they're just spoiled rich people:
"It amounts to pretending that something distressing doesn't exist, otherwise called denial," said Paul S. Appelbaum, a psychiatrist and professor of psychiatry, medicine and law at Columbia University. "At some level, most people will register that the summons to appear in court is for them, but it's what the mind does with that information that's important."

Appelbaum noted that peer groups can influence how people respond to court dates by saying, "Oh, you don't have to go." And, in some cases, he said, all you need for a peer group is one person, who can be your spouse or other intimate.

Another factor that can create a no-show mindset is how much they once got away with. "People who are talented, smart or athletically gifted are often allowed to avoid unpleasant realities," said Appelbaum, noting it might be something as simple as being excused from chores because you're in a school play.
"Once you feel entitled, it's very hard to think of yourself as unentitled, even if you're not in demand or fielding phone calls," said Jim Cohen, a professor of criminal law at Fordham Law School whose expertise is psychology and criminal law. "People who consider themselves entitled are not happy being told what to do."
Well, not much insight there. These may be the types who make careers out of testifying that clearly insane defendants are perfectly normal and should be executed.

Of course, I have no insight either.

Dustin Diamond once again

I saw that Dustin Diamond and Andy Dick are the big stars in a low budget movie, Tetherball, being made in Michigan. I'm all for movie production outside of Hollywood. But----why is Dustin Diamond in it?

If straight-to-video movies had existed in the 1970s, maybe the cast from The Brady Bunch would have had more of a career. I remember seeing Greg Brady in a Shasta commercial. "What are we drinking, m'lord," he said in an English accent.

Barry Williams 1977 Shasta commercial

Of course, Jan Brady went on to play a teenage runaway in a made-for-TV movie. In one scene, she talks with a prostitute who mentions a time when she was pregnant.

"I didn't know you had a baby!" Jan enthuses.

"I said I was pregnant, stupid," the prostitute sneers. "I didn't say I had a baby."

Marcia also played a teen prostitute in an episode of The Streets of San Francisco.

Mr Brady played an obscene phone caller who gets psychiatric help in a made-for-TV movie, he played a transsexual on a two part episode of Medical Center, he was in a made-for-TV answer to Star 80, and he played a cop who is very tolerant of his prostitute neighbors in a TV mini-series.

Florence Henderson---I don't know what she's done, but, in her talk show appearances, it always takes about two seconds before she starts talking about sex.

Bobby is an assistant cameraman.

Cindy does electronic music. One of her compositions was used in a pornographic movie, but she had no contact or connection with them.

Ann B Davis pretty much left acting and joined an Episcopal community.

Shows kids like and adults can't stand

Looking at Saved By The Bell and The Facts of Life, I now understand all the adults who couldn't stomach The Brady Bunch and some of the other crap I watched back in my day. I can still sit through an episode of the Brady Bunch if I have to. And, twenty years ago, if I had made a really cheap movie and needed a "big star" in it, I probably would have hired one of the Brady Bunch or one of the castaways from Gilligan's Island.

But I still can't understand why these people keep hiring Dustin Diamond. He's been in several extremely cheap comedies that went straight to video. He's like the John Carradine of really low budget comedy. But looking at his final years as an adult on Saved By The Bell, I can't imagine why anyone would want him.

On top of that, you have his appearances on "reality" TV shows. He seemed like he would be rather difficult to work with, antagonizing other cast members, constantly threatening to call his lawyer and so forth.

Well, maybe that's how they got him so cheap. It sounds like he and Andy Dick are filming their scenes in one day each.

I wish people would just let his career die. Quit giving him false hope so he'll get on with it and do something with his life, like become a dishwasher or a parking lot attendant.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

It turns out Casablanca stunk. And something about Woody Allen

Okay, so, you have this movie, Casablanca. A "classic".

It turns out to be a myth that Ronald Reagan was once slated to star in it, but even if it were true, so what.

John Baxter, in his excellent biography of Woody Allen, pointed out that it was only after Allen's
Play It Again, Sam that Casablanca started appearing on lists of the "ten greatest movies of all time."

I've never been able to sit through the thing.

I felt somewhat vindicated by this article by David Macaray which appeared on the Counterpunch website:

...for all the adoration and praise this movie has received, has anyone actually examined its plot? Has anyone asked themselves what this movie is really about? Because, if they had, they’d realize the movie’s central premise is patently absurd.

Victor Laszlo (played by Paul Henreid) is portrayed as the Nazi’s uber-nemesis. He’s the Czech leader of the European Resistance, an escapee from a concentration camp, a man the Third Reich has been chasing all over the world. As fate would have it, Laszlo, his wife Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), Ilsa’s former lover (Humphrey Bogart), and a contingent of Nazis all wind up in Casablanca, Morocco.

In an early scene, the ranking German officer, Major Strasser (Conrad Veidt), confesses to the city’s corrupt chief of police, Captain Renault (Claude Rains), that Lazlo has already “slipped through our fingers three times.” The Nazis fear Laszlo because, as the charismatic leader of the Underground with a huge and loyal following, he represents a clear threat to the Reich.

And yet, confoundingly—with the stakes high and the stage immaculately set—we see Laszlo walking leisurely around the city of Casablanca, arm and arm with his wife, spending his evenings at Rick’s CafĂ© Americain (Rick, of course, is Bogart), with the Nazis fully cognizant of his whereabouts, yet making no effort to grab him.

The Nazis didn't want to violate anyone's rights.

...we’re supposed to believe that if Laszlo can somehow obtain two “letters of transit” which are floating mysteriously around the city, he and his wife will be able to leave Casablanca unmolested, with the Nazis powerless to stop them. Why? Because these documents bear the signature of Charles De Gaulle, Free France’s president-in-exile.

More preposterously, these “letters” aren’t even made out in Laszlo’s name. They’re blank. They’re a one-size-fits-all document with the power of a diplomatic “Get Out of Jail Free” card.

Even accepting the notion of a “talismanic” letter, why wouldn’t the Nazis simply scoop up Laszlo before he obtained it?...

In reality, Macaray says, the Nazis would have simply killed him. There was nothing to stop them.

The article ends with a quote from Julius J. Epstein, co-writer on the movie:

“It was just a routine assignment. Frankly, I can't understand its staying power. If it were made today, line for line, each performance as good, it'd be laughed off the screen. It's such a phony picture. Not a word of truth in it. It's camp, it’s kitsch. It's shit!”

Woody Allen's Play It Again, Sam

It started out as a play. Allen starred in it on stage. He wasn't trained as a stage actor and had to drink milkshakes all the time to sooth his voice. He wasn't used to projecting.

Bob Denver, TV's Gilligan, replaced Allen when he left.

When they made the play into a movie, Allen didn't want to direct. He had directed a couple of movies already, but they were just a series of gags without a strong plot. He didn't know if he could do something with a beginning, a middle and an end.

That seemed to be a theme in Baxter's biography of Allen. His early works were nothing but a string of gags, which is actually fine. I saw an interview with Jacques Tati in which he praised Allen's movies. Allen was stunned when, early in his career as a playwright, someone told him his play was too funny---it had too many jokes.

He saw the lack of a strong storyline as a weakness and has spent his career trying to correct it. But the truth is that his "earlier, funnier movies" were better cinematically.

Ray Carney has pointed out that, at least in Allen's "serious" movies, "Allen's characters' doubts, hesitations, fears are verbally articulatable (which is why his films are almost completely comprehensible from their written screenplays)." (

On the other hand, you have Allen's "funny" movies, the ones that are a series of gags. The thing is that they work as movies but it would be almost impossible to write a synopsis of one. Try to imagine a novelization of Bananas. They work only as movies. They can't be translated into any other narrative form.