Monday, January 30, 2012

Lois Lane scared me

Here it is. In case you're interested.

When I was 6-years-old, my sister brought me this comic book. I don't know why. It terrified me! The comic book terrified me, not the fact that my sister brought it to me.

I didn't understand it. It had several different stories in it, but I thought it was all one, and I didn't really read it. Just looked at the pictures.

Lois Lane's head turned giant and bald. She had a giant, super brain, but all she cared about was the fact that she was bald and now had a huge head. She tried to disguise it in various ways throughout the story until her head and brain go back to normal.

I don't think I was overly delicate or sensitive as a 6-year-old. I preferred violent TV shows. I never liked Winnie the Pooh cartoons because there wasn't enough action. When other boys told me they wanted to be firemen when they grew up, I would correct them----it was POLICEMEN they wanted to be, not firemen! Firemen didn't get to shoot people! If anything, I was a horrible, horrible child.

Maybe it's because I didn't read the thing and just looked at the pictures.

Friday, January 27, 2012

City folk trying to milk a cow

I'm sitting here. The TV's on in the next room. A movie. City people go into the witness protection program and hide out in a tiny rural community. And guess what. They're trying to milk a cow.

They do this every time. Which is one reason it's so stupid. City folk know how to milk cows because it's been explained to them over and over in every single movie ever made about city people who find themselves in the country.

An unrelated item

And I've seen this in two movies. A family is held hostage. One of the children gets hold of the criminal's gun. And what do the parents do? They yell at the kid to PUT THE GUN DOWN. It happened in The Ref, and it happened in some British movie I saw.

The kid is holding the gun on the criminal. They should be yelling at him to shoot! Shoot!

It most cases, it's probably good for parents to provide their children with guidance as to whether to actually shoot someone. But I think I would tell young people that, if their family is ever taken hostage and they get hold of the gun and are holding the criminal at bay with it, and if their parents are yelling at them to PUT THE GUN DOWN as the criminal edges closer and closer to them, telling them they don't have the guts to shoot a man while looking him in the eye, that they would be well advised to shoot him right then.

It's like old episodes of The Big Valley. Miss Barbara Stanwyck is taken prisoner, but when she gets her dainty ladylike hands on a gun, she just waves it around until they take it away from her. How many people have her sons killed on that show over the years? Can't they let the women kill a few for once?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Robert Blake

He's 78 and broke. He retired years ago, but he's thinking he may return to acting. Low budget filmmakers should jump at the chance.

He was acquitted of murdering his wife several years ago. He had an alibi---he couldn't have killed her because he was was away for a few minutes getting his gun. If he was guilty, then what an idiot! He really lucked out.

His late "wife" was terrible. Even Dominick Dunne sided with Blake in this case.

But you'd think he would have had enough money that he could have divorced his wife and kept custody of his child. That's why he resorted to murder (if he did it), because he couldn't divorce her without losing his daughter and having her grow up with that degenerate woman. And a degenerate she was.

That was Blake's defense. That his wife's activities were such--she had ripped off and blackmailed so many men--that there were countless people with motive to finish her off, including convicted killer Christian Brando. When she got pregnant, she had debated whether to name Brando or Blake as the father. Her decision was based on which one would give her greater status. She wanted to marry a celebrity.

She once married a man she met online, went with him on a honeymoon in Las Vegas. They went to a casino. He gave her some cash to gamble with. She walked away with the money and he never saw her again.

Low budget filmmakers should cast Blake if possible.

You look at these low budget movies that hire Dustin Diamond, or one of the Brady Bunch, thinking it'll give the movie a real professional sheen. This could be your chance to work with somebody that's actually good! For God's sake, he worked with Humphrey Bogart!

I've been watching B movies

I've been watching a lot of B movies lately through the magic of Roku. They're public domain now and freely available. And they're not terrible.

They really did use "American shots", as the French called them. Actually, the French called them "plan américain". They're medium long shots used in old Hollywood B movies where a few actors are arranged, standing in such a way that the camera can see all of them. It was unnatural, but a conversation between them could be filmed in a single shot.

No, the movies aren't great. Some of the Westerns are more interesting since they get out of the studio and out into the open, and I watched some that would be considered shockingly violent today. In one, outlaws murder the parents of two boys in front of them. One of them walks off into the desert laughing maniacally. Years later, the brother comes back and murders the men who did it.

In another scene, a child staggers into a ranch and collapses. The rancher carries him inside then goes and gets into a gun fight with the kid's abusive father.

But the violence in these movies isn't that interesting. It would be better if they'd just kill each other instead of shooting the guns out of each other's hands.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


An interesting article about Hollywood and its role in the attacks on the Internet appeared in Written by Richard Forno.

Much of the controversy surrounding The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) [1] and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) [2] pertains to how they were drafted and their potential adverse consequences to the Internet itself, if not society generally. ... [They] represent the latest attempts by the intellectual property (IP) industry (although ‘cartel’ might be a more appropriate term) to further extend its reach into cyberspace to enact what it believes are necessary measures to protect its copyrighted property such as movies, music, and software. Unfortunately, these legislative proposals were conceived and developed primarily by industry lobbyists with little input from Internet engineers, cybersecurity practitioners, or other subject matter experts who understand the technical, legal, and social consequences should these proposals, as written, become law. The secrecy surrounding the drafting of SOPA and PIPA are reminiscent of how these same industry organisations were adamant that the international development of 2011′s controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) occur in secret with little if any public consultation, comment, or discussion.[3]

He goes over the losses Hollywood claims it is suffering due to "piracy".

Interestingly, despite this gloomy news, the MPAA reported that “global box office receipts reached an all time high” of $29.9 billion in 2010 — and soon after announced new statistics showing how movie ‘piracy’ is killing its industry and destroying jobs. [16]

MPAA can’t have it both ways. Either it is losing money and laying people off due to ‘piracy’ or it’s making profits hand-over-fist and keeping its industry very much alive and profitable. Either way, it’s offered up some very misleading statements about its profitability and well-being in the face of an alleged epidemic of online theft that only draconian measures like SOPA or PIPA can address.


... So let’s dig a bit deeper into the statistics routinely cited by the entertainment industry as it plays the victim of ‘piracy’ in the eyes of legislators and the media to determine if these indeed are facts or merely fantasy:

  • 2010: The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) releases a study that, while confirming online copyright infringement indeed is a problem, cast serious doubts on the intellectual property industry’s ‘piracy’ statistics. It also concludes that measuring the impact of ‘piracy’ with any degree of meaningful accuracy may be impossible.[19]
  • 2011: A ‘piracy investigator’ working for the entertainment industry describes how the entertainment industry worked to boost its piracy statistics to gain stronger media and political interest in its efforts.[20]
  • 2012: Julian Sanchez of the Cato Institute notes that the statistics associated with online ‘piracy’ are flawed if not something purely in the fantasies of lobbyists and their paid-for legislators.[21]

You can read the whole article here:

Stem cells

I'm not pretending to write about medicine or science here. I haven't even read the full news stories about it.

But quite a while back, there was news that some quacks somewhere in the world were claiming to cure disease simply by injecting people with stem cells.

It was stupid. Even if stem cells could be used to cure whatever illness or disability, it wouldn't be because you inject them into a person.

But...well...maybe the medical frauds were right.

Researchers injected stem cells into the eyes of a couple of blind test subjects. They didn't expect it to have any effect on their vision. The entire purpose of the experiment was simply to see if you could inject stem cells into someone's eyes. They could. And the people actually had some slight improvement in their vision, possibly as a result.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Merchants of Death----Fresh Air discusses Glock

Interesting show on Fresh Air with Terry Gross today. A discussion of the history of the Glock pistol. Those Austrian bastards really are merchants of death.

You can listen to it here:

The produced the pistol with a plastic frame, with a 17-round magazine, with no external safety and a very light trigger pull.

They were very cheap to produce, but they set a high price on them to make them more desirable to the gun nuts. Because the prices were so inflated, they were able to give huge discounts to police departments who wanted them. The police departments just had to trade in their old guns and they'd give them shiny new Glocks. Or dull new Glocks.

Guns with 17 round magazines were banned for a time. Glock knew this was coming, so their production went into overtime. They were producing guns around the clock so they had a huge stock of them. When the U.S. banned high capacity magazines, they allowed the guns that had already been produced to continued to be sold. So Glock was able to continue selling all these guns they had produced. The fact that they were "banned" made the price go up.


Glock introduced a larger, .40 cabiler pistol. They offered it to police departments. The deal they offered: They would give the guns to the police department for free--all they had to do was trade in their old 9mm Glocks with 17 round clips! Guns which were now worth a fortune on the used gun market.

Glock dumped these guns on the used gun market and made a fortune. Police found their own old guns now being used against them. When cities tried to sue the gun industry accusing them of dumping guns on the market that would be used for no legal purpose, Glock responded by pointing out that these were the cops' own guns they were talking about.

There was also talk about Glocks in TV and movies. They were used by the New York City police, the police department featured in countless movies.

In that one skyscraper movie with Bruce Willis, he delivers some sort of soliloquy about the Glock.

The gun stuff in movies has been annoying me for years. I remember a time when we never had to hear about what kind of guns people had---they had them. They'd wave them around and shoot each other freely. But the movies didn't function as commercials for any particular brand. What kind of gun did Mannix carry? Or Steve McGarrett ( the REAL Steve McGarrett, not the unshaven slob they have now)?

I recently watched a made-for-French-and-German TV miniseries, Carlos. I'll say more about it later. The movie had more cigarette smoking than in any movie I've ever seen. Cigarettes and guns. The revolutionaries loved guns and cigarettes.

This always seemed ironic to me. Look at the stodgy, right-wing amoral scum running the tobacco industry and the gun industry----how could these be symbols of revolution? You look at the beatniks smoking their cigarettes and these people with their guns. Have they ever looked at a gun magazine? Ever seen an NRA spokesman on TV? Ever seen these tobacco industry vermin? That's what they ought to be showing the kids! Look at these people! Is that what you want to be?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Hollywood's two biggest unions to merge

An interesting article by David Macaray on about the proposed merger of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. SAG members are worried that their union will be diluted and marginalized.

Read it here:

From the article:
Both SAG and AFTRA negotiate with the AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers), which means the team that sits across the table from the union reps in a contract bargain, and argues with them about money and benefits, represents the interests of the producers. So it breaks down to the actors vs. the producers. The artists vs. the bean-counters. Management vs. Labor. Your classic dichotomy.

Except for one detail. Some of the most influential union members in Hollywood (Tom Hanks, George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Alec Baldwin, Robert DeNiro) happen to be producers themselves, which makes things more complicated. Another detail: Agents who represent the actors are allowed to have equity in the projects being discussed. In other words, an agent who’s paid to get an actor a fair price for a role in a movie is allowed to be a profit-taker in that same movie. Why isn’t that a conflict of interest?


But these anomalies are partly what make the entertainment conglomerates and the guilds affiliated with them so difficult to understand and navigate. And not to whine about the media, but they haven’t helped. In fact, they’ve been an impediment. In 2008, the media unfairly characterized SAG’s Membership First negotiators as “hard-liners,” which was not only inaccurate, but, sadly, unintentionally indicative of the depths to which people’s expectations have sunk. Apparently, we’ve reached the point where workaday actors asking wealthy Hollywood producers for a fair shake at the bargaining table makes them “hard-liners.”

Paterno again

I saw one comment on an article about Joe Paterno's death. Someone lamented that Paterno didn't retire when he was 77 like people wanted----he could have avoided all this unpleasantness.

Well. No. Paterno was 85 when he died. It was 2002 that Jerry Sandusky raped the little boy in the locker room, ten years ago. Meaning that Paterno was 75 when it happened.

By the time he was 77, Paterno had been cheerfully working with a man he knew to be a child molester for two years. And it's no good saying that he didn't really know whether it was true or not because he reported it to his "superior" at Penn State. Nothing was done about it, and that was apparently fine with Paterno. He knew Sandusky continued to work with children.

The public has known about this scandal for three months. Paterno knew about it for ten years.

Now people are talking about Paterno's "one moral failing" and whether it should overshadow all his work.

Well, he was head coach at Penn State for 45 years. For ten of those years, he knew that Sandusky was a child molester and he did nothing about it. His "one moral failing" continued for nearly a quarter of his time as head coach.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Joe Paterno died

Pennsylvania millionaire Joe Paterno has died of lung cancer at age 85.

He made a fortune as a football coach at a public university. He was paid over a million dollars a year in taxpayer dollars, pretended to be a moral paragon, then was fired when it became known that he couldn't be bothered to call the police when he found out his assistant coach raped a 10-year-old boy in the locker room at the university.

Paterno was a devout Catholic. He must have had some clue what was going on with the Mother Church's child sex abuse scandal that went on for years. Yet he claimed in an interview that he was an innocent naif who didn't even know it was possible for a man to rape a boy. What did he think the church was condemning all those years?

He almost got away with it. If he had keeled over just three months earlier, or if his crimes had been exposed just three months later, he would have been home free instead of dying in disgrace.

And disgrace was all he suffered. He was unemployed for three months, but he would have quit anyway since he was starting treatment for his smoking-related illness. And even then, people still defended him. Pro-child-rape university students started a riot to protest his firing.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Atlas Shrugged Part Two

There is some optimistic talk about an Atlas Shrugged Part Two coming out this year. But I don't know how far along they are since they're talking about getting a new cast. There were no big names in Part One. So, even though it's a continuation of the same movie, they're going to try to get together a new cast of big names.

Good luck to them. Part One already bombed, Part Two will almost certainly do worse and major stars aren't going to take on the roles of actors nobody ever heard of.

I think they should go the other direction. The first movie brought in $4.6 million. The second movie might optimistically hope to gross $3 million. In general, a movie had to gross two and a half times its budget to break even. So if they can make Part Two for, say, half a million dollars, they should turn a tidy profit----not enough to make up for their huge losses on Part One, obviously, but the same core group of Ayn Rand fans will go to it, and that's pretty much the entire audience in any case. They should get a new cast of complete unknowns and film it all on digital video in a studio in front of a green screen.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Atlas Shrugged

Years ago, a friend dragged me off to a meeting of some university Libertarians. They showed a movie. My memory of it isn't too clear----I remember it as sort of a non-musical right-wing version of Godspell with Libertarian youth prancing around smiling whenever they talked about capitalism.

At one point, they had an animated segment in which they claimed that someone in the 1930s had invented a machine that made loaves of bread very cheaply, but the government came in and told them they couldn't produce bread with it because it was too cheap.

This was a variation of a story Ronald Reagan told--that General Electric had developed a way to make light bulbs very, very cheap but the government wouldn't let them do it. It wasn't true, of course. It was a lie like almost everything else Reagan said.

The movie offered no explanation, and it didn't say what law might be invoked to prevent a company from producing bread cheaply. It was just, "The government won't let them!" And this was enough to infuriate Libertarian viewers.

How could a machine make bread cheaper, anyway? What production cost would it cut? It's not exactly labor intensive, and even if it were, labor cost next to nothing during the Great Depression.

Turns out that Ayn Rand's science fiction novel, Atlas Shrugged, was full of crap like that.

Atlas Shrugged was written in the late '50s. It was set in the indeterminate future----an indeterminate future in which people traveled everywhere by train and got all their news by listening to the radio. Air travel was never fully developed and television was a novelty that never caught on.

It was written in 1957. Hadn't TV and air travel already caught on? The first movie about a stewardess having to land a plane was made a year earlier.

Atlas Shurgged, the movie (and it's only part one)

Well, last year they made a movie based on Atlas Shrugged. It cost $20 million and grossed $4.5 million. And it was only part one. There are supposed to be two more parts. And since the two sequels can't stand alone---you have to see the first one to understand the next two---you can bet that the next ones will gross almost nothing. They might want to give up now and not throw good money after bad.

From Roger Ebert's review:
It’s a few years in the future. America has become a state in which mediocrity is the goal, and high-achieving individuals the enemy. Laws have been passed prohibiting companies from owning other companies. Dagny’s new steel, which is produced by her sometime lover, Hank Rearden (Grant Bowler), has been legislated against because it’s better than other steels. The Union of Railroad Engineers has decided it will not operate Dagny’s trains. Just to show you how bad things have become, a government minister announces "a tax will be applied to the state of Colorado, in order to equalize our national economy." So you see how governments and unions are the enemy of visionary entrepreneurs.
Oh, and there is Wisconsin. Dagny and Hank ride blissfully in Taggart’s new high-speed train, and then Hank suggests they take a trip to Wisconsin, where the state’s policies caused the suppression of an engine that runs on the ozone in the air, or something (the film’s detailed explanation won’t clear this up). They decide to drive there. That’s when you’ll enjoy the beautiful landscape photography of the deserts of Wisconsin. My advice to the filmmakers: If you want to use a desert, why not just refer to Wisconsin as "New Mexico"?
Ayn Rand was a crude Nietzschean. She believed in the Übermensch. She thought she was one, of course. She thought rich industrialists were all Übermenschen and that society couldn't function without them. Corporate leaders in Ayn Rand's bizarre fantasy world are also uber-scientists who personally invent the products their companies produce.

In this story, the country is falling apart. Factories are closing. Cities are falling to wrack and ruin. It's because some rich guy has convinced the other rich guys to leave the ordinary folk--all of us untermenschen--to our own devices.

Apparently the rich guy who organized all this is called John Galt.

Another Libertarian film

As I mentioned in an earlier entry, I once saw a "fan film" on YouTube. It was a Star Trek movie that some guy apparently spent a fortune to make. It had a couple of the less successful members of the original cast. And the auteur who made it was obviously an Ayn Rand enthusiast.

First, we see Lt. Uhuru talking to some Vulcans. She tells them they should quit using their slogan, "The good of the many outweighs the good of the few," because it "leads to genocide". Apparently Libertarians believe that Hitler was just trying to help the largest number of people possible.

Later, during a space battle scene, the commander of another space ship says, "I am Captain Galt of the star ship Liberty!"

I don't know if it violated any Libertarian ethic that the fan filmmaker was infringing on various trademarks and copyrights. Libertarians may not know either. They are completely confused by copyright, patents and such.

When my friend dragged me to that Libertarian bread movie all those years ago, we stayed for the discussion at the end. He asked them a question. Do they support copyright and patent laws?

The question completely stumped them! How does a Libertarian justify intellectual property rights---the government giving certain people monopolies on certain things? On the other hand, isn't that the whole point of Atlas Shrugged---capitalist Ubermenschen getting rich off their brilliant ideas and not letting the lower classes have any?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Pay to play

I was looking at a Canadian website. A fellow had made a number of movies and YouTube videos. Uses local child actors. The movies looked pretty good from the previews. He mentioned that he wanted to shoot a movie on 35mm, but to do so, he would have to charge parents about $2,000 per child actor who wanted to appear in it, and he argued that this would be reasonable compared with what parents spend for their kids to play hockey, and he's probably right.

I watched the movie Lord of the Flies and listened to the directors commentary. The director said he got letters from parents after the movie was done. After spending the summer filming the movie, their sons came home and were doing much better in school and were now leaders among their classmates. And these were the kids who played very minor roles in the movie, who were in the background.

On the other hand, it's possible that what this Canadian director was doing could be considered illegal some places.

I read something by a guy who was in a discussion group, something related to script writing. Another fellow at this thing had a script and he stunned the others by saying that he also had financing to produce it and he had a distribution deal. The author of the article talked to him afterward. It turned out that when he said he had financing, he meant that he was going to charge each actor a few thousand dollars to appear in the movie. And his "distribution deal" was to require each actor to buy a couple of cartons of videotapes and find some way to sell them.

The writer of the article noted that it was illegal in California to charge actors to appear in a movie. Acting is a profession, and charging them to work is considered bribery.

I don't know if that would apply to the Canadian guy's work. I doubt it would.

There's Rick Schmidt, author of Feature Filmmaking at Used Car Prices. He had made a few movies for under $6,000 when he wrote the book. Since then, he's become much more prolific, making a movie or two, or three a year. This is because he now holds filmmaking workshops. People pay $3,500 each to attend and make a feature together.

Schmidt's book, by the way, noted that actors are often willing to pay their own expenses to appear in a movie, but he advised against taking them up on this. He called for you to pay them $100 a day to cover their costs, and he pays actors more than that for the movies he now makes through the workshops.

I don't think Mike Kuchar paid his actors, but he said in the commentary to Sins of the Fleshapoids that he would let the actors do stuff they wanted to do in the movie. Give them a chance to do their thing. Like, there was an actress in Sins of the Fleshapoids who would make underground movies with her husband. They would go to the financial district in the early morning, when the streets were deserted, and they would make films of him tearing her dress off. So she wanted a scene where the Fleshapoid tears her dress off. Okay.

Robert Rodriguez said that he didn't let any of the actors in El Mariachi stay on the set for more than three hours a day. That way he didn't have to buy them lunch.

And then there was Night of the Living Dead. I heard that as they started talking about making the movie, the plan was to have everyone to pitch in both money and expertise.

I don't know what my point is here.

I also read a book on movie financing. The author said he was thankful that he paid for his first few movies with his own money because they were terrible and he wouldn't want to have squandered money someone else invested.

If you make actors pay to be in a movie and the movie turns out terrible, you would not only have humiliated them and hindered their careers, but you'd have taken their money, too. Made them pay for the privilege.

No, you got to pay people.

Internet piracy

I read about this thing in Mogadishu. Someone downloaded the movie Blackhawk Down from the internet, then they set up a TV in a building and charged people ten cents each to come in and watch.

It seems like, if Americans want to make a movie about the mass murder of Somalians, the people of Somalia have a right to watch. And if they want to download it "illegally", it's fine with me. They're not "pirates". They're privateers.

On the other hand, doesn't piracy like that help spread U.S. cultural hegemony, helping it spread into communities that otherwise wouldn't waste their money on it?

I have mixed feelings. It generally doesn't affect me because I'm afraid to download movies illegally.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Ricky Gervais isn't funny

There was a critic writing about cult films. He made a startling realization watching Jerry Lewis in The Nutty Professor. When the movie was released, people thought that Jerry was making fun of Dean Martin. But watch a few Muscular Dystrophy Labor Day telethons and you realize he was doing himself. Buddy Love was the other side of Lewis's own personality.

And have Ricky Gervais. In The Office.

I thought it was rather cruel for a successful comic to make a TV show about an office worker who desperately wishes he were a comedian and imagines himself to be a comic genius. But looking at Gervais hosting the Golden Globe Awards, you realize that his character, David Brent, was Gervais himself.

You could probably make a pretty good joke about the fact that Robert Downey, Jr, had a serious drug problem and has been in jail. But simply stating that he's been in rehab and in jail is not a joke. You could make a joke about the rumors that Tom Cruise is gay, but simply saying he's gay isn't a joke.

And I didn't understand his "joke" about Justin Bieber. He said "The only way that he could have impregnated a girl was if he borrowed one of Martha Stewart's old turkey basters."

Why, specifically, Martha Stewart's turkey baster? And why couldn't Justin Bieber get a girl pregnant otherwise? I can think of any number of impediments that might render one incapable of impregnating a girl, but why attribute any of these to Justin Bieber? What is he referring to? What's the joke?

Gervais throws together some elements, says things that sound like jokes, and the shallow, dim-witted celebrities act like it's the funniest thing they've ever heard.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Juvenile Liasson

Now available on You Tube.

Juvenile Liaison was a cinema verite film made in 1975 by Nick Broomfield and Joan Churchill.

It follows the juvenile officers in a northern British community as they strong arm children. Not teenagers. Children. The youngest is a seven-years-old. The cops demand to know where he got that cowboy suit. There is a Pakistani girl accused of eating someone else's apple. She said she brought the apple from home, but the cop told her she was a very convincing liar. And where did she get that colored pencil?

She won't admit anything. "We'll have to set a trap for her," the cop said.

The cops walked around with the camera crew, but didn't seem to modify how they acted, unless they were normally even worse. But they began to realize that this might be a problem for them. So they pressured the British Film Institute to ban the film (which they did for years) and they began bullying the parents who signed release forms to appear in the movie to withdraw their permission. One reported that the police called her repeatedly.

The film would have been a major scandal, but news of it came out just as Harold Wilson resigned as prime minister and Princess Margaret announced she was getting divorced.

Juvenile Liaison 2 was a 1990 follow up to the film. They talk to some of the kids from the first movie. The main cop in it refused to speak to them because the first movie hurt his career. Not as much as it should have.

It's depressing to watch.

Children don't really understand their right to remain silent. They can't refuse to answer when talking to any other adult. Of course, the cops in this movie never read the kids their rights or even show their ID. Apparently, in England, any adult can walk up to a child, declare that he's a cop, and drive away with them.

Parents really should teach their kids not to talk to cops. They really need to get their priorities straight. If your husband or wife was being questioned by police in any criminal case, you'd get a lawyer immediately. If it's their child, they tell them, "Answer all their questions, honey! Just tell the truth!"

In the Central Park Jogger case, a father pressured his son to sign a false confession "so we can go home". The kid signed and spent his entire youth in prison.

In another case, a child signed a confession all the while explaining that it wasn't true (it was thrown out in court.)

In the case of a mass murder in the southwest, they were questioning a teenager. The kid kept asking for a lawyer. Each time he did, the cops brought in his father.

"Just tell them the truth---tell them the truth---" his father kept saying.

The kid would talk some more, then ask for a lawyer again, and the cops did the same thing again. Bring in his father.

I'm not sure a parent would necessarily want their son running around loose if he'd committed a mass murder, but this was a case where police had already bullied several other people into making false confessions.

I saw a posting on an internet message board once. A woman said her teenage daughter had been arrested. The police had conducted an illegal search of a car she was a passenger in and she and everyone else in the car was arrested for possession of marijuana. It wasn't hers, she didn't know it was there, and even if it was, the search was illegal. But this idiot woman told her daughter to plead guilty and to be more careful about who she rode in cars with.

I posted a long message. "If this happened to your husband, would you tell him to plead guilty? Would YOU plead guilty?" She wasn't teaching her daughter respect for the law---she was teaching her that criminal record was such a minor thing that she should plead guilty even when she did nothing wrong and even though she could easily get out of it. You want kids to respect the law, teach them that a criminal conviction should be avoided like the plague.

She wised up and got a lawyer. It took the court about two minutes to throw out the charges.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Khloe Kardashian's "father" isn't hers!

I know I shouldn't write about the Kardashians. It's not really news, but they're reporting this in the mainstream press. I read it on the Chicago Sun Times website.

The ex-wife and the widow of Armenian cuckold Robert Kardashian have told reporters that he told them that Khloe Kardashian was not his daughter.

Khloe doesn't look much like her alleged siblings and towers over them, a veritable giantess next to them and their petite late father. So it doesn't seem unlikely, especially after her pimp of a mother published an autobiography in which she bragged about sleeping around on her hapless sap of a husband.

Khloe should get a DNA test. And it would be better for their reality show--it would be more dramatic--if she wasn't the spawn of Robert Kardashian.

There's something I mentioned on a previous post. In a past episode of their cable show, Khloe prodded Kim into having her buttocks x-rayed in order to prove that she didn't have implants, thus exposing her to radiation for no medical purpose. The other sister whose name I don't remember had her breasts x-rayed on that occasion to see what her breast implants looked like in an x-ray.

It only seems fair that Khloe should get a DNA test.

What if they sue?

There's talk about them suing the widow and the ex-wife who made the claims. If they do, the attorneys for the two women can use the fact that Khloe is a convicted criminal to discredit any testimony she gives. She was convicted of drunk driving and was later jailed for probation violations.

In any case, all the two women claimed was that Robert Kardashian told them that Khloe wasn't his daughter. It was perfectly reasonable for him to think that given the conduct of his wife. If it goes to court, the two women could demand that Khloe take a DNA test that would either prove them right, or it would show that Robert Kardashian was mistaken, which still wouldn't be their fault.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Natalie Wood investigation finds nothing new

Well. Remember how they re-opened the investigation into Natalie Wood's death based the boat captain's recovered memories? The investigation failed to come up with anything new, the cops have announced.

The captain's memories were "recovered" under hypnosis.

The Amazing Kreskin doesn't think there is such a thing as hypnosis. He offered money to anyone who could prove the existence of a hypnotic trance, but how do you prove the existence of any mental state? Courts don't allow memories recovered through hypnosis because they tend to be less accurate and the person believes them more firmly. So hypnosis has some effect.

By the way, I mentioned how quickly tasteless Natalie Wood death jokes reached us in junior high school. How did they spread back then without the internet, and they didn't tell jokes like that on the radio or TV in those days. I also remember a kid in junior high doing a joke thing. He falls asleep, his hand dangling loosely in front of his face. Then he opens his eyes, sees a hand in front of him and starts screaming.

That was the only time I saw that gag until I saw the same thing in a Soviet comedy from around 1970, which would have been five years before I saw it at school.

Was it a coincidence, or did the joke somehow work its way here from the USSR?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

That was Helen Mirren?

Many years ago, I was up late watching TV. This was about 35 years ago. We just started getting the Canadian TV station on cable. Weirdly, they had cut the car chase out of the movie Bullitt, I suppose because it encouraged reckless driving. So I was surprised they left in the excess nudity when they showed a movie called Age of Consent. It starred James Mason as an artist on an island. He starts drawing and painting a local feral girl. Filmed in Australia.

My memory was that, in more than one scene, Mason starts trying to draw the girl, but he becomes frustrated. It's those clothes! They just aren't right! he whines. Just take them off!

Then he starts drawing her nude.

The girl frolics and swims naked for some reason.

I also remembered the closing credits. They had the name of the actress who played that role. They said that she was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. It seemed like an odd thing to put in the credits unless it was a crude effort to give the work artistic credibility.

I was just reading about something else on the internet, and I came across the fact that the girl was played by 22-year-old Helen Mirren.

"Holy crap," I said.

As it happened, I had started watching a documentary about Australian exploitation films. They mentioned Age of Consent as one of the pioneering films that came out after Australia's crusty old film censor died and was apparently replaced by a swinging young hipster.

But that was Helen Mirren in the movie.

And now Mirren, an alleged feminist, is playing Phil Spector's lawyer in a made-for-HBO movie, denigrating Lana Clarkson, the woman Spector murdered, for having been a "B movie actress" and claiming that Spector was the real victim.

"A troubling case. No one will ever know the truth," Mirren said. "Some say he did it; others, he didn’t. I make no judgment. I never actually met the man. My husband has.”

We know the truth. Spector confessed to it moment after committing the murder and he had a long, proven history of threatening women with guns. The only one who says Spector is innocent is David Mamet, and he hasn't offered any reason for thinking so.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Robert McKee, Christopher Hitchens

I never heard of Robert McKee, or if I did, I didn't remember hearing about him. He wrote a book on script writing, and he's some kind of guru now. He charges hundreds of dollars for his script-writing seminars and has people traveling from around the world to attend.

I had seen a TV scriptwriter who spoke here in town. They videotaped and keep showing it on community access TV. The guy had worked quite a bit on Murder She Wrote among other things. At one point, he complained about the readers---the recent college graduates hired by the studios to read scripts. He said that they had been influenced too strongly by a certain professor, and now they were looking for things in scripts that don't necessarily appear in good scripts. They're judging scripts according to outmoded rules about structure made up by someone who doesn't work in the field and good scripts were being rejected as a result.

He didn't name names, but I think he meant McKee.

I saw McKee being interviewed in English by a Russian broadcaster on RT. Hard to tell what to think of him. He hasn't liked Woody Allen's movies in years, he thought that old movies were better than new movies. The interviewer commented that many Russian people prefer movies from the Soviet era to the Russia's current output.

So anyway, I looked the guy up. Read a little. Watched Russell Brand on YouTube standing outside McKee's seminar gushing over how great he was. Russell Brand was pretty good at that!

I looked up criticism of him and found an interesting article on

Jason Zinoman was working on a book about the history of the horror film. He had talked to countless horror directors. He became interested in writing his own script and, in 2009, attended McKee's seminar which he then discussed in at article here:

He points out problems with McKee's views on horror movies and other genres, changes in POV, the role of the hero or main character in horror films, the role of suspense.

But one thing I found interesting was Zinoman's views about what made McKee so influential.

He writes:

So how does McKee get away with being repeatedly wrong while still charging $250 for his daylong course and $645 for four-day seminars? [Prices have gone up since then.] .... By now, we know that his bluster is an act, a carefully constructed device to win your trust. And if you follow a few rules, you can pull it off, too.

Rule One: Drop names shamelessly. McKee tells us that he once received a doctor recommendation from his friend John Cleese, bummed a cigarette from Toni Morrison, and corrected his pal Paul Haggis when he confused two genres over lunch. But my favorite is his anecdote about telling Stephen Hawking (whom he calls “Hawkings”) that he has never read a book by the scientist but is fascinated by the Big Bang. I imagine Hawking rolling quickly away.

Rule Two: Never express a scintilla of doubt. McKee is insightful about some things, especially with regard to structure, but his relative knowledge or ignorance of a subject in no way affects the manner in which he discusses it. He holds forth on politics (“Terrorism is a police problem and that’s all it is”) and the theater (“there is very little crime drama onstage”) as confidently as he does on the Incitement Incident.

Rule Three: Start in a rage and end with poetry. In Adaptation, a wildly imaginative movie that first sends up, then celebrates, and ultimately condescends to McKee, the teacher advises the screenwriter that any flawed movie can be saved with a “big finish.”

This was sort of interesting considering what Katha Pollitt just wrote about Christopher Hitchens. I posted it here a few days ago. She said,
...I think part of the reason why he was so prolific—and the reason he had such an outsize career and such an outsize effect on his readers—is that he was possibly the least troubled with self-doubt of all the writers on earth. For a man who started out as an International Socialist and ended up banging the drum for the war in Iraq and accusing Michelle Obama of fealty to African dictators on the basis of a stray remark in her undergraduate thesis, he seems to have spent little time wondering how he got from one place to another, much less if he’d lost anything on the way. After he left The Nation he said he had a “libertarian gene.” It’s a rum sort of libertarianism, and a rum sort of gene, that expresses itself first as membership in a Trotskyist sect, and then as support for the signal deed of an administration that stood for everything he had spent his life fighting, from economic inequality to government promotion of religion.
You can read the whole thing here:

Tales of Tomorrow

I watched an old '50s sci fi series on Hulu. It was called Tales of Tomorrow a live sci fi TV show from the early '50s. I only saw one episode, and it starred Rod Steiger, or co-starred Rod Steiger. The woman playing his wife got top billing.

You'd think they could have named the full cast since there were only three people in the episode.

Watching episodes of A Bit of Fry and Laurie, I'd watch these sketches, almost all with a cast of two, and they worked pretty well somehow.

Takes it a step or two beyond the old Dark Shadows after school soap opera. In Dark Shadows, the script seemed to consist of a series of conversations between two people at a time. Once in a while, there would be a three-way. But in general, it was two at a time.

And there was Tales from the Dark Side, an anthology series. I haven't seen that many episodes, but none seemed to have more than five actors.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Best Worst Movie (the story of Troll 2)

I've always been afraid to work with actors. I'm worry about screwing around with other people's lives, their hopes and dreams, and humiliating them on screen.

I'm watching a documentary called Best Worst Movie, about the movie Troll 2, shot in Utah with an Italian director, starring a little Mormon kid and a dentist from Alabama.

The Mormon kid thought it was his big break, a starring role in a feature film!

He shot the film. It was a lot of work. Took three weeks.

A year later, he unwrapped his Christmas present, and it was his movie! The title was made up well after the fact, so it took him a moment to recognize it. He was so excited! He put it in the VCR and watched as his dreams of glory evaporated.

I've heard other stories sort like that.

There was a guy on This American Life. He had been chosen to appear on the show, Zoom, in the 1970s. They hired him. It was announced over the intercom at his school. His family was having financial problems and he imagined how he would save them.

Then they fired him. He never knew why.

He had always been an outcast at school. When he got the part on the show, he was popular. Then he was fired and he was an even bigger outcast. He had to come up with some explanation for why he was fired, so he had several stories he told, and now he couldn't remember what was true and what wasn't. He was trying to sort of the truth.

Did they fire him and tell him they wanted him to come back next season?

Did they tell him that they had one too many boys and needed to get rid of one, and they already had one with the same name as him?

Was it because he said the rugby shirts they wore on the show "sucked"?

He interviewed the guy who fired him. He was...well, maybe he was sorry, but he had no memory at all of it. He was shown a picture of the kid as a child. Nope. Still no memory.

The kid was haunted and tormented for years by this. No one else remembered.

One of the actors in Troll 2 had been a mental hospital outpatient at the time it was filmed. His memory of the movie was that there was this little Mormon kid in it who just annoyed the hell out of him. He had a scene where he's trying to force the kid to take a bite of something, and he said he actually wanted to shove it down the poor kid's throat.

Of course, it was no picnic for the director. He was Italian. He was pleasantly surprised to learn that the movie had a cult following in the U.S. He remembered how badly received it had been. Critics hated it. He thought this was his vindication.

He arrived in America for a special screening of the film. As the film started, the audience laughed at all the things that were supposed to be funny. But they kept laughing. At the stuff that was supposed to be scary. He couldn't understand it.

As it went on, he was angry at the actors who were talking to the audience about the making of the movie. One actor couldn't understand what happened to the part he filmed. There was no explanation for what happened to his character. They just sort of stopped filming his role. It was obviously a sign of how incompetent the director was.

The director explained that the actor was so bad that they cut his part.

Well. So. You have disappointed audiences, disappointed actors, a disappointed director. Then, later, amused and delighted audiences, actors who embraced their failure and blamed it on the writer and director, and then the again-disappointed director and his wife who wrote the script.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

I pray they are wrong

Tom Cruise a box office draw again?

Was Tom Cruise ever an actual box office draw? Would any of his movies have bombed if someone else had starred in them?

Well, now they're reporting that he's a "draw" again. The latest "Mission Impossible" movie is a hit, but, again, it's hard to imagine that he's the reason.

He was ranked as the celebrity people would least want to be friends with. But is it wrong to hate him?

There was his obnoxious interview with Matt Lauer. Cruise is a dyslexic high school drop out, but he claimed that "You don't know the history of psychiatry---I do," and told Lauer, "You're glib. You don't even know what ritalin is," and "You--you're here on the Today Show and to talk about it in a way of saying 'Well, isn't it okay' and being reasonable about it when you don't know and I do."

This from someone who says that he didn't know how a dictionary worked until the "Church" of Scientology revealed this "technology" to him.

"I'm passionate about learning. I'm passionate about life, Matt."

There was the business on Oprah---he was jumping all over the set unable to contain his love for his new girlfriend even though he was 46, had been married twice and had two children.

There was his fake, mirthless cackling on that idiotic Scientology video that made its way onto YouTube.

He plays the same unappealing character in every movie. He's too old, but he'd be perfect as a boyfriend on Keeping Up With the Kardashians.