Monday, December 30, 2013

One more thing about Plan 9 From Outer Space

The movie was wide screen when shown in theaters. They cut off the top and bottom of the picture. When you see the shadow of the microphone of the script sitting on the co-pilot's lap, you wouldn't have seen that in the theater. Maybe the airplane cockpit set wasn't that bad in wide screen.

Friday, December 27, 2013

TV Guide's lousy top 60 TV show list

Counterpunch.com ran an article, "The Futility of Top Ten Lists" subtitles "Depth Takes a Holiday", by Walter Brasch.

Much of it deals with TV Guide's list of the top 60 TV shows. I'll take it down if they want, but here's the bulk of the article dealing with TV Guide's list. You can read the whole thing here.
TV Guide also loves lists. This month, it threw out a list of what some of their editors irrationally believe are the “60 Greatest Shows on Earth,” complete with a sentence describing each show. And, like most lists, it’s little more than annoying static.
The top three shows, according to TV Guide, are “The Sopranos,” “Seinfeld,” and “I Love Lucy.” Squeezing into the list at the bottom are “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” “The Good Wife,” and “Everybody Loves Raymond.” Inbetween—and completely without any logic, except for the editors’ over-ripe egos that they actually know something—are numerous shows, some great, some better than mediocre. For instance, “Saturday Night Live,” which believes stretching out a good one minute comedy sketch to five minutes makes it five times better, is the 18th best “greatest show on earth.” The editors, who seem to be in a time warp that left them in junior high, placed “SNL” above “The Dick VanDyke Show” (no. 20), “The Tonight Show, starring Johnny Carson” (no. 22), “Friends” (no. 28), “Taxi” (no. 35), “Barney Miller” (no. 46), “The Bob Newhart Show” (no. 49), and “The Daily Show, with Jon Stewart” (no. 53.) No one at TV Guide can explain how “The Daily Show” was 35 places below “SNL” or why “The Colbert Report” never made the list
The editors also didn’t explain how “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” by all accounts one of the best comedies on TV, was rated no. 7, while Sid Caesar’s “ Your Show of Shows,” a 90-minute live comedy show in the early 1950s that exposed America to the acting and writing talents of Carl Reiner, Imogene Coca, Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, Howard Morris and dozens of others, was 37th on the list, 19 below “SNL,” which should have used the Sid Caesar show—or even its own first half-dozen years—as models of comedic genius. Missing from the list of the “60 Greatest” is “The Tonight Show, with Steve Allen,” which established the standard by which all other late night show operate.
“60 Minutes,” which has often been the top-rated show, made the list at no. 24. But, “See It Now,” with Edward R. Murrow, one of the nation’s most important and influential journalists, did not make the list, an oversight that could be attributed to the fact that TV Guide editors probably slept through most of their college journalism lectures, days after their after drug-induced high while watching “SNL.”

Also missing from the “60 greatest” list—and indicative of TV Guide’s lack of understanding that America extends beyond the polluted Hudson River— is “NCIS.” TV Guide editors freely mark the best prime time shows to watch each day; they usually don’t give “NCIS” that distinction. Only in the past couple of years, exhausted by seeing “NCIS” at the top of the ratings week after week, have they published major features about “NCIS,” while constantly gushing over shows and stars that have no chance of lasting a decade in prime time.
For 10 years, the actors and crew of TV’s most-watched show have just done their jobs, and they have done it well. Every actor is someone who could be on Broadway or handle a major film role.
The writing on “NCIS” is fast-paced and thought-provoking, wringing emotion from its 20 million viewers each week. Unlike many procedural dramas, this CBS show’s writers layer a fine coat of humor that is far better than what passes as half-hour sitcoms these days.
The production values exceed most other shows—from lighting to camera movement to even prop placement. The behind-the-scenes crew may be among the best professionals in the industry.
Behind the scenes, the cast and crew are family. They work together. They care about each other. Numerous shows claim this is true with them. But, the reality is their claims are little more than PR sludge. With “NCIS,” the claims are true.
There are no scandals and there doesn’t seem to be much ego among the actors.
In 11 seasons, Mark Harmon, who can evoke an emotion in the audience merely by a slight look and no words, has never been nominated for an Emmy. As every good actor knows, true acting is when people don’t know you’re acting.
Portraying the fine nuances of a character is a quality that sustained James Garner’s career for five decades. Like Mark Harmon, Garner never won an Emmy, and his popular show, “The Rockwood Files” never made it to TV Guide’s “60 Greatest” splash of nonsense.
Mark Harmon and James Garner, both masters of their craft, may not even care they’ve never won an Emmy. They, like millions of us already know, a spot on TV Guide’s “60 greatest shows on earth” is not the recognition they crave – but probably deserve.
Walter Brasch’s book, America’s Unpatriotic Acts, was the first major book to catalogue and then destroy the government’s belief that the PATRIOT Act was necessary to protect American security at the expense of the Bill of Rights. His current book is Fracking Pennsylvania, which looks into the health, environmental, and economic effects of fracking.

I guess I should try watching NCIS. I listened to a few minutes if it a couple of years ago and attacked it on this very blog. Was it the one where Justin Bieber got shot?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Dylan Sprouse

Now nude pictures of former child star Dylan Sprouse have made their way onto the worldwide web. He and his twin brother, Cole, had played a child prostitute in The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things, based on the book by "J.T. LeRoy". You may recall that author LeRoy was supposedly a sado-masochistic transvestite teenage boy prostitute from West Virginia. The book was exposed as a literary fraud and the author was revealed to be a depraved middle aged woman from California.

But Cole and Dylan are better known for their Disney Channel series, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, about twins living in a hotel suite or something. It was terrible. And their boy prostitute movie was no picnic either, by the way.

But here it is----another case of former Disney child stars doing this sort of thing. You have Miley Cyrus swinging naked on a wrecking ball and doing what she imagines are gangly yet provocative dance moves. There was Britney Spears who stopped wearing underwear and there were the ones who were in Spring Breakers. There was one who had taken nude photos of herself in her bedroom. And, for that matter, there was Haley Mills who did some nude scenes in the '60s.

I said it before and I'll say it again. I don't think that the kids are reacting against Disney. I don't think they're trying to shake off their Disney pasts with this stuff. I think this is the natural progression----this is what Disney has done to them. I can't explain how, but I'm sure it's true.

Also note that Dylan has said that he liked the pictures---that he's been working out at the gym and is happy with his new firmer self. Well, I can name someone else who worked out in a gym and was happy with his body----Anthony Weiner. This is what physical fitness does to people.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

How little do actors work?

Sonny Tufts, Victor Mature

How much do actors get paid for a guest spot on a TV series? I ask because, look at Internet Movie Database. Most of these actors seem to work one job every two or three years if that. How do those poor devils make a living? And how do they keep in practice if they only act a few days a year? I know a lot of them are working other jobs.

Actors are like teachers. When I was in school, I realized that, no matter how little respect I had for certain teachers, they all knew so much more than me. And you look at, say, Sonny Tufts, regarded as a terrible actor. He came to Hollywood during World War Two. A football injury kept him out of the war and Hollywood needed male actors. All their regular guys had been drafted.

Tufts became a bit of a joke. His name came up on The Bullwinkle Show, The Monkees, Johnny Carson cruelly mocked him.

But the guy went to Yale, studied opera, auditioned for the Metropolitan Opera but ended up acting on Broadway before venturing off to Hollywood. No matter how little respect you have for him, Sonny Tufts was still better than you.

He must have had some talent and looking at imdb.com, he seemed to be doing pretty well, although one of his last credits was in Cottonpickin' Chickenpickers.

The poor guy died at 58. He was from a rich family, related to the guy for whom Tufts University was named. Maybe "Sonny Tufts" was a bad name for an actor. His real name was no picnic, either, Bowen Charlton Tufts III. It's hard to pronounce the name "Tufts", unless you give up and just say "Tuffs".

If you want to make sure your child doesn't grow up to be an actor, just give him a lousy name.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Ed Wood vs. Herschell Gordon Lewis

Ed Wood worked so hard. Plan 9 from Outer Space had a fairly complex plot, three or four different threads going---the depressed old man, the army guy, the airline pilot, the police. I thought it was nicely edited. It had special effects, constructed sets, miniatures, it had a few decent actors---Gregory Walcott, Tom Keene, Lyle Talbot, Dudley Manlove who was big in radio, Joanna Lee who went on to be a writer and producer in television (although she cheerfully denied any connection to Plan 9). It had scenes in The Pentagon, in the barren desert landscape outside Washington, D.C., in and around Los Angeles. He had one good scene of Tor Johnson rising from the grave although they ruined it at the end with an unconvincing miniature headstone falling into the empty grave.

Contrast that with the crap Herschell Gordon Lewis churned out. I guess he did put some effort into Two Thousand Maniacs, but for the most part he didn't seem to be trying very hard. He filmed whole scenes in one master shot, the camera always mounted on a tripod. He would only cut within a scene if one of his "actors" flubbed a line. He panned and tilted and zoomed a little, but he never tracked or dollied like Ed Wood did. His storylines were always quite crude, simply excuses for sex or gore scenes. Everything was always brightly, evenly lit.

So. Should you try to be more like Herschell Gordon Lewis or more like Ed Wood? I mean, you wouldn't want to be either one of these guys, but they didn't get to choose who they were, either. For someone just setting out with a digital camcorder, someone with little money, experience, and probably not much talent, how hard should you really try?

When you watch a low budget movie, if it's any good, you'll find yourself thinking that, if the filmmaker just had some money to work with, they could make some pretty good movies. You never think that watching the movies of Ed Wood or Herschell Lewis.

Lewis probably had less to be embarrassed about. He made sex and gore movies. They were what they were. He made few pretenses. He can dismiss any attacks on his work by declaring that he was just trying to make money (which he did).

Ed Wood made a deeply but weirdly personal film, Glen or Glenda, a heartfelt plea for tolerance. Plan 9, bankrolled by a Baptist church, called for an end to the arms race. Bride of the Monster ended with a nuclear explosion intended to protest nuclear weapons. What did Herschell Gordon Lewis ever do?

Of course, Glen or Glenda was produced as an exploitation film meant to cash in on news of a sex change in Europe. And Ed Wood did end up working in sex movies, both as a writer and director and, in one case, as an actor. He wrote several porno novels.

Herschell Gordon Lewis knew when to quit. He went into "direct marketing". Ed Wood stuck it out to the bitter end.

Friday, December 20, 2013

It's bothered me for years

I've never told anyone about this. But it's been eating away at me for more that forty years.

When I was in the fourth grade, I was reading one of those books----what are they called? Primers? One of the reading books they had that you'd read to practice reading. They had little stories in them. I think university professors wrote them. I had a teacher in high school who said he had a professor who wrote textbooks like that who tried putting in stories about children of different races being friends, but publishers wouldn't accept them because they couldn't be sold in the south. So he tried doing stories with animals, with a brown dog and a white dog playing together, and they wouldn't publish those, either, because, again, school districts in the south wouldn't buy them.

There was a children's book in the 1930s called The Rabbit's Wedding that was banned in several states because it showed a black rabbit marrying a white rabbit.

But that has nothing to do with what I'm talking about.

There was this one story in the book that was different from the others.

It was about a couple. I don't know if it specified where they lived. But when their baby was born, he was very small. Not Tom Thumb small----he was a very small baby but within the bounds of normality. The father suggested a name for him, but the mother thought it was too grandiose because the baby was such a "li'l bit". The father jumps at it.

"That's what we'll name him! Lil Bit!"

I guess they were hillbillies.

Their son, Lil Bit, was still puny when he went to school. When the teacher asked his name, the class laughed when he said "Lil Bit".

Lil Bit was an outcast, being puny and having such a stupid name.

Then one day, because the roads there were so poorly maintained, the school bus went off the road and rolled down an embankment into a ravine. The children were trapped inside. They couldn't escape. But there was one child who was small enough to squeeze out the window. It was Lil Bit. He climbed out and ran for help.

And everyone was nice to him after that.

At the time it depressed me to think that there were kids who this story was written for, who lived places with dangerous roads with parents who couldn't pronounce the word "little".

It also bothered me that they used that stupid plot, where a kid is an outcast because of some trait that ends up making him a hero.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Herschell Gordon Lewis' "Linda and Abilene"

I was always weirdly fascinated by the work of Herschell Gordon Lewis. I read an interview with him, and he was proud of having filmed everything in 35mm color. He was angry about art filmmakers shooting with handheld cameras. He always had his camera mounted on a tripod. And he always used very bright, even lighting no matter how inappropriate it was. His movies were completely artless, and he seemed proud of that, too---the fact that all he was doing was grubbing for money.

He generally filmed in master shots----one shot per scene. If an actor flubbed a line sixty seconds into a ninety second shot, he said he would cut, move the camera and start filming again from the point where the line was flubbed. He bragged about how little film he used.

On the DVD commentary on one movie, he claimed to have not wasted any film at all. There were no outtakes He used everything he shot. Obviously untrue since there was a bonus feature on the DVD showing outtakes. I think he said somewhere else that he filmed on a 1.5:1 ratio.

So I was kind of intrigued by a western he made, Linda and Abilene.

The movie starts with Abilene and her brother, Todd, standing over the fresh graves of their parents. They go back to the farm. Later, Todd spies on Abilene while she bathes naked in a stream. They masturbate that night thinking about each other. We know this because we hear their thoughts in voice-over.

One night, Abilene is standing naked in her room admiring herself in a mirror. She hears a wolf howl or something and screams for her brother who rushes in. Then they start having sex. They do this over and over in repeated sex scenes.

Todd begins to suspect that what they're doing might be wrong, especially since it was 1869 and they didn't have contraceptives. So he goes to town, hangs around with a prostitute in a bar. He tells her his sister is home alone at the farmhouse three miles down the road. A cowboy overhears, gets up and leaves the bar.

While Todd is in bed with the prostitute, the cowboy is raping his sister.

When Todd goes home and finds out, he comes back to town to fight the rapist. He beats up Todd and shoots him, but before Todd dies, he shoots and kills the rapist.

The prostitute, Linda, has sex with Abilene. Then they bury Todd and I guess Abilene becomes a prostitute. I stopped playing very close attention by then.

Some of the movie was filmed at Spahn Ranch while the Manson Family was living there. In fact, one Manson follower was a rather prominent extra in the movie (there were hardly any extras in it).

I watched it wondering if it was possible to make something other than a soft core porn film using the same ingredients, but I don't think it's possible.

Okay, you have Lewis who made sex films and gore films. Either repeated disconnected sex scenes with a rudimentary plot, or a series of gore scenes with a rudimentary plot.

Is it possible to make a commercially viable movie that crudely-made today? Is there any niche audience that would be charmed or amused by anything that poorly made? Gore has gone mainstream and with sex you'd have to compete with the massive porn industry.

Lewis started making gore movies because they had to think of something. Hollywood started making sex movies, so they had to figure out something that was in such bad taste that Hollywood wouldn't touch it. Today, I don't think there is anything that would have any commercial potential that Hollywood wouldn't freely exploit.

Linda and Abilene is available for instant viewing on Netflix if anyone's interested.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Woody, Mia, Ronan

John Baxter

John Baxter, in his biography of Woody Allen, thought that the fawning biographies of Allen written by Eric Lax contributed to the public's dismay when he broke up with Mia Farrow. Lax's books presented Allen as a living saint completely devoted to his art with an idyllic relationship with Mia Farrow and her children.

And now----now Mia Farrow's suffering the same thing. Throughout that mess, the break up with Allen, the molestation accusations and the custody trial, Mia was presented as an innocent victim, a living saint adopting all those children. She started going to church again. Had all the kids baptized--even Soon-Yi showed up, although she wore jeans. She reportedly had to have surgery on her tear ducts because of all the crying she did. She put a huge crucifix in her bedroom. She said that she was suffering because of all the bad things she had done. She was a single mother trying to protect her children from that very bad man.

So, after all that, she springs it on us that she doesn't know who the father of one of her children is because she was sleeping with a 72-year-old married man at the same time she was in a long term relationship with a man she falsely accuses of being a child molester.

It could be that having all those adopted children who presumably don't know who their biological parents are has made Mia think that announcing to the world that she doesn't know who Ronan's father is wouldn't have an effect on him. Although Ronan could be more like Bud Bundy begging his mother to tell him he was the result of a one night stand with a cool guy.

Hasn't Allen been paying child support all these years? You think he paid for Ronan's college?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Mia Farrow, Woody Allen, Frank Sinatra, Ronan Farrow, et al

First of all, I go by my middle name and I've known several people who do. It's not that unusual. So it's weird that Seamus Ronan Farrow changed his name to Ronan Seamus Farrow instead of simply going by his middle name. All the kids in that family change their names all the time which makes it hard to keep your celebrity gossip about them straight. I don't remember what Moses' name is now. Poor kid.

It would be okay if they had normal names, like Jack or Bill or Mary. But Dylan went through a couple of name changes and now calls herself "Malone".

I also think it's weird that Mia has announced that Ronan may be the spawn of Frank Sinatra. He does look like him. But you think he wants to hear about his elderly mother's sex life? Mia was a swinger. Didn't she break up Andre Previn's marriage?

And in spite of her outrage over Woody Allen's apparent crimes against Dylan, Mia is friends with and defends Roman Polanski---dismisses his criminality as a bad choice.

Ronan made some quip on Twitter about Father's Day---something about his father also being his brother-in-law. Trying to make like Woody Allen was the freak, like they'd be a perfectly normal family if not for him.

I hope Ronan is Frank Sinatra's. He was some sort of child prodigy and I like Woody Allen okay, but I don't like the idea of his having spawned a child prodigy.

The Trip (2010)

Watched The Trip (2010) starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, directed by Michael Winterbottom. It was good, pretty funny. I haven't really seen their other work. This was reportedly edited from a TV series.

I remember long ago reading an interview with David Letterman. This was before he had his show. He said he was different from most comedians. He said that you would never want to take a road trip with a comedian. It would quickly become a nightmare. But he said he would be good company on a long drive.

The Trip is about Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon reportedly playing fictionalized versions of themselves, driving through the north of England so that Coogan could write an article about the cuisine. They drive each other crazy, one more than the other.

They sit in very expensive restaurants eating stuff I would never order doing impressions of Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Al Pacino----those are the ones that stand out. Strange that no one can do a passable Woody Allen.

England is a better looking country that I realized. I thought it was all flat and New England-like, but the landscape was beautiful. They drive a Land Rover.

There's no nudity and very little indecent language. Although there is phone sex. Phone foreplay, anyway.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

An alternative to the phony trailer

Here's my suggestion. Instead of making a fake trailer for a nonexistent movie the way so many people have done, make a fake documentary where serious academics discuss the artistic, technical and dramatic aspects of the nonexistent film.

Maybe have a trio of enthusiastic young film students interview the filmmaker in an in-depth discussion.

Wouldn't that be better? Or at least easier? Or just different?

The voice of Charlie Brown

I watched a promo for the fall line up for CBS TV, 1968. One of the shows was Blondie, based on the comic strip. We saw the kid, Peter Robbins, who played Alexander which was interesting. He had been the voice of Charlie Brown on the Peanuts Christmas special, and, yep, he sounded like Charlie Brown.

I knew this because the poor kid is now in his 50s, is seriously ill, and was arrested for making threats. He reportedly threatened people by saying he had nothing to lose because of his medical condition.

According to imdb.com, he was paid $125 to do the voice of Charlie Brown.

"It is my natural voice," he said, "but it has a special kind of inflection, a mixture of anxiety and reflection as only a 9-year-old can display."

It's pretty bad, paid a lousy $125 (about $800 today) for something that follows you the rest of your life and gets you into the national news when you get arrested forty years later.

Mad Youth, 1940

Not a still from the movie, but a couple of dancers who were in it. 
And they did this dance move in the film. And he was wearing the same shirt.

Saw an old exploitation film called Mad Youth. It started out promisingly enough. A rich woman spends her alimony hiring male escorts. While the woman and her escort are out playing bridge, her daughter has some friends over for a party. They play strip poker. A couple dances. The girl's dress flies up every time she twirls around. Another girl marches into the living room dressed as a drum majorette. She begins tap dancing while twirling a baton.

At the bridge party, a drunk sings a song about Broadway.

The mother keeps hiring the escort who is a deposed Russian Count. He's alarmed that she keeps asking for him. He calls the daughter and asks her out. They go to a restaurant with a floor show. First we see clog dancers then a "matador" fights a tiny bull.

We see a montage of the escort and daughter dating. They see a knife-throwing act, a magician sawing a woman in half, a man painting a picture with his feet.

When the mother finds her diary and learns she's been dating her escort, the daughter goes to see her friend who, it turns out, is now enslaved by a prostitution ring. They try to force the daughter into prostitution as well.

The escort talks to the mother. She doesn't know where the daughter is.

"You mean to tell me you let your daughter go to visit Helen without even knowing where she lives?" he says in his Russian accent. "But all we know about her is that she ran away to marry a man she'd never seen, a man she met through a matrimonial agency advertisement...Don't you know that some of those agencies are the worst kind of traps? That many of the customers are criminals, morons, white slavers or people who are physically or mentally diseased?"

"Oh, I'd never given it a thought."

"Oh you American mothers, with your bridge parties and beauty shops and your silly flirtations, wasting your lives and neglecting your duties, letting your children run wild for lack of sensible parental supervision."

"You don't know American children. They're spoiled and disobedient and drunken."

"Drunken? Yes. Drunk with the exuberance of youth and sheer joy of living. There is nothing really wrong with the children of today. Nothing that proper environment and congenial home life wouldn't correct."

"What do you expect us modern mothers to do?"

"Quit trying to be butterflies. Get back to the business of being mothers like your mother and your grandmother and generations of mothers before them."

"A lesson in morals and ethics is fine coming from you, a professional gigolo."

"That's all changed now. I have found a real job. And I've worked long enough to know that I can hold it and earn an honest living."

"That's all very interesting but I don't see that it concerns me."

"But it does concern you. I am going to marry your daughter."

He uses his gigolo detective skills to find his way to the brothel where the daughter is a prisoner.

Russian escorts are tough customers. They fight their way out and speed away in a taxi.

"Oh, Count. I'm so glad you came."

"Don't call me 'Count', Marian. All that stuff is behind me...I got my American citizenship papers yesterday and I've got a job. We'll get married and we'll live like self-respecting, self-supporting Americans should."

Friday, December 6, 2013

Paul Walker

The guy was 40-years-old. He was with a guy who was 38. They were a couple of middle aged men driving 90 miles per hour in a 45 zone. It was by sheer chance that they crashed into a lamp post instead of a family in a minivan. TMZ posted video of Walker claiming to have driven 185 miles per hour on the freeway. If this was true, to hell with him. The world's a better place without him.

Sound of Music live went okay, I hear

Erin McCarthy tweeted:
Carrie Underwood has a great voice, but she can't act her way out of a brown paper package tied up with string.
Seems like she was singing awfully loud, though. Is that normal? The poor girl never claimed to be an actor.

I watched about 45 minutes of it. I was horrified when the kids came running down the stairs without using the banisters. I would consider that a stunt. It seems like using stairs a lot on live TV was an invitation to disaster. Wonder how many times the kids fell down in rehearsal.

The sound was bad at times, like you could hear an air conditioner going, and I kept expecting to hear a studio audience.


The irony about live performances like this is that they have to be so well-rehearsed that there's no feeling of spontaneity. But if it weren't live, it would just be a made-for-TV movie.

I heard the thing went okay. No disasters.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Sound of Music---Live!

I passed up the chance to see The Sound of Music performed on a tiny stage at a community theater. I should have gone! It would have been like a 3D movie. But I have sympathetic stagefright anyway and with them singing as well as acting, it would have been too much for me.

Now it's going to be on live TV.

The grim reality was that Maria didn't love her husband when she married him (she said she loved him later). She wanted a husband and he wanted someone to take care of his huge family. He wasn't rich---he had lost all his money in bad investments which is why he didn't object to his children performing in public. They needed the money.

Poke around on Wikipedia. You can find the name of the submarine that Captain Von Trapp commanded in World War One, and you can see a list of the ships he sank, although they don't give the death toll.

They didn't flee. The Nazis weren't trying to force him into the Navy. The family just happened to move, and they returned to Austria several times during the Nazi era without any trouble.

It would be interesting as the lurid story of a defrocked nun hired to care for a bunch of neglected children whose rigid authoritarian father runs their household like an Austro-Hungarian submarine. The teenage daughter dates an admirer of Adolf Hitler. The children have a pathological fear of thunder. The captain's wealthy fiancee tries to get rid of the fallen nun but fails and is forced to flee.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Twin Peaks on Netflix

I know I'm years and years behind the times.

I'm sitting here watching Twin Peaks.

It reminds me of The Love Boat. You could turn it on in the middle, watch as much or as little of it as you wanted and it didn't matter that much.

It's interesting. It's all right.

I don't really like the FBI guy.

Phil Donahue did a show on it. They had one of the directors on. A sort of loud obnoxious woman in the audience seemed to hurt his feelings when she said that she wasn't trying to insult him, but she could see the difference when he was dircting and not David Lynch. The actors defended his directing.

I'm sitting here and I can't tell who directed what.

It's a TV show. You only have a week to film. I suppose there would be a difference but I can't see how the director mattered that much.

Now there's an insurance salesman named Neff, a reference to Double Indemnity which is sort of annoying.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Sound of Music on live TV

I'm on the west coast. That means that, even if I watch The Sound of Music "live" on NBC Thursday, it will be delayed three hour. They will have bleeped out any obscenities the actors blurt out and blurred out any humiliating wardrobe malfunctions.

I find live TV stressful to watch. Videotape is cheap and plentiful. What's the point?

Since Carrie Underwood (who I had never heard of before) is playing the defrocked nun Maria, I thought they should get Dolly Parton as Mother Superior (was there a Mother Superior, or am I thinking of The Flying Nun?) and Justin Bieber as Rolf.

I may watch a little of it, but I think I'll be traumatized if anything goes wrong. I've been living with other people's humiliation for years.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Is it wrong to hate celebrities?

J. Elvis Weinstein tweeted:
I remember a time when celebrities one didn't like inspired a chuckle or indifference instead of a deep, seething hatred.
Am I wrong to hate Tom Cruise? There are lots of celebrities I don't really like, but he's the only one I'm really disgusted by. A combination of not liking his screen persona, hating his acting style that the rubes think is brilliant, and not liking his actual personality which seems to be a Scientology thing.

I'm not sure if Weinstein does remember such a time, anyway. I remember old people who couldn't stand John Wayne because he didn't enlist in World War Two. There are the right-wingers who hate Jane Fonda, of course.

When my sister was in high school, she hated everyone. She was apparently offended that Stevie Wonder had once been billed as "Little Stevie Wonder" and was mad that someone got up to help him find his way to the stage during an awards show.

"He's blind," my brother pointed out.

"Well, he's been blind a long time. He ought to be able to find his way around by now."

She hated John Huston because he said in an interview that he was happy with his performance in Chinatown. She interpreted this to mean that he was exactly like the character he played.

There were the actors who were blacklisted, prosecuted or driven out of the country for political reasons.

Maybe that's the problem----that the studios used to keep actors in line, keeping them out of politics and not letting them do anything annoying.

Of course, Josh Weinstein has a point. Why hate celebrities? Paris Hilton isn't hurting anyone. The Kardashians only hurt themselves. Dustin Diamond is just pitiful.

On the other hand, if you're going to inspire public adoration, you've got to expect some seething hatred.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Cheap used standard definition prosumer camcorders


I used to try to stay a step behind everyone else. I was using Regular 8 long after the world had moved on to Super 8. I did start using Super 8 after everyone else went into video and I had a couple of old spring driven 16mm cameras. I bought a couple of very nice used Super VHS camcorders after that format was obsolete, although it did have the same definition as standard definition digital video.

I was proud of myself when I bought a brand new three chip consumer camcorder, a little Panasonic Mini DV camera. I was stunned at how cheap it was. Then I found out why. It was standard definition and everyone had moved on to HD.

That's what made me snap out of it. I was wasting money.

Now high definition camcorders are dirt cheap. You can buy a Flip-type high def cameras for $25.00 if you look around.

But now I'm looking on the internet and am seeing obsolete standard defintion prosumer camcorders for sale. A few years ago, they would have cost $6,000. Now you can get one for less that a tenth of that.

And I know it's stupid, but I want one!

I would feel like a rich guy felt fifteen years ago, like I did driving my old Chrysler Imperial. They still look impressive.

Well, I'm not going to buy one, but I could.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Kardashian and Kanye West and their baby North

Naming their baby "North" was a bad move for Kim Kardashian and Kanye West.

Now, every Christmas, you can bet that two or three people will cleverly give the child a copy of the movie North, the story of a young boy who divorces his horrible parents and sets out to find a new family.

Going to give the kid ideas.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Solondz' Life During Wartime

Long ago, I was watching old episodes of Dark Shadows and noticed that the whole thing was made up of conversations between two people at a time. Once in a while there would be a small group talking or a third person would step into the room momentarily. I assumed it was just easier to work this way, easier for the writers to crank out 120 pages of script a week and to make production simpler. It was essentially a live show, live on tape.

Sitting here now watching Todd Solondz' Life During Wartime. Interesting movie. Almost every scene is a conversation between two people. It works pretty well.

It took me a little while to figure out that it was a sequel to Happiness. It had an entirely different cast and the kid from the first movie was now in college. The father has just gotten out of prison----pretty short sentence considering.
 
The women in the family have no luck with men. One was married to a homosexual pedophile rapist, the other is with a reformed criminal who hasn't entirely stopped one particular offense. Their father recently left their elderly mother.

Characters whose lives would be pretty good if they'd just cheer up.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Temporary becoming permanent

I watched Alec Baldwin on MSNBC interview the two actors who played astronauts in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Learned among other things that the music for the movie was originally put on there temporarily so they've have something on there when they showed it to test audiences. They paid to have original music composed and recorded then liked the temporary stuff so well they decided to keep it.

According to a documentary about Harry Nilsson, this was how "Everybody's Talking" got to be the theme to Midnight Cowboy and it's old news that this was how they selected the music for Easy Rider.

Similarly, there was the shot in the movie Lawrence of Arabia. Peter O'Toole holds up a lit match. We expect him to put it out with his fingers, but he blows it out and the picture cuts to a shot of the sunrise over the desert. The script called for this transition to be done in a long dissolve. Had it been edited on a computer, this is probably how it would have ended up, but because they edited on film and the dissolve would have to be added later with an optical printer, they saw how good it looked as a direct cut and stayed with it that way.

There there was the movie Snakes on a Plane. They didn't have a real title, so they put that crude description on the script until they could think of one. And they decided that was about as good as it was going to get. I haven't seen it, but I hear that the title may have been the best thing about it.

I don't really have a point here. I was just watching a documentary about Harry Nilsson and they mentioned the thing about "Everybody's Talking".

Nilsson was born in 1941. His father was in the Navy and he grew up thinking he had been killed in World War Two. Then he discovered in the '60s that he was alive and well and was married with a family in Florida.

It always comes as a shock. Both Jack Nicholson and Bobby Darin learned as adults that their much older sisters were their mothers and that their parents were actually their grandparents. Lars von Trier learned that his father was actually his step-father and that his biological father was a German guy. It was a good thing his mother didn't tell him----she wanted a child with the German guy because he was from a creative family. She wanted creative genes for her child. If Lars had known, he wouldn't have reacted against that and become an accountant or a gas station attendant----both occupations that are far more useful than movie directors.

It's probably a good idea to tell the kids the truth. Within reason. Don't mention botched attempts at contraception or alcohol playing a role in their conception like John Lennon did talking about Julian.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Skyfall: Revenge is stupid

Years ago, I saw some stupid Tom Clancy novel movie. The Irish Republican Army goes to the ends of the Earth to get revenge on Harrison Ford because he thwarted an attack they were carrying out. Seems like an attack not going exactly as planned would be something IRA members would have been emotionally prepared for. Surely they were aware that their operation might go badly. Seems silly to get a bunch more guys killed, not to mention the nuisance, expense, risk of prosecution and the distraction from their stated purpose.

And last night I watched Skyfall, a recent James Bond movie. I know I'm behind the times here. It's not a new release. But apparently a former British spy wants revenge on "M" who is now a horrible elderly British woman. Apparently the guy has assembled a massive organization with scores of henchmen willing to go to their deaths just to get her.

James Bond movies were always kind of disappointing. This one was better than the others I've seen. He didn't drive a Ford like in Casino Royale. But the only times I've liked him are when we see him working a crappy government job, having to deal with his surly superiors and then getting out of the office, getting to travel and be his own boss for a while.

In this, we see James Bond's childhood home which wasn't how I would have pictured it. He should have had a more normal childhood, maybe with alcoholic parents.

We find out that the British secret service likes to recruit orphans. In the U.S., I've heard that the Secret Service hires a lot of Mormons and a lot of Mormons work for the CIA. But that's unrelated to the movie.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Andy Warhol, J.J. Murphy

I guess I should mention here that I listened to filmmaker J.J.Murphy on public radio tonight. He wrote a book called The Black Hole of the Camera: The Films of Andy Warhol.

Murphy dismissed the thing I among others have said, about art film being mostly conceptual and that you can pretty much skip the movie. He actually sat through the full eight hours of Empire as well as Sleep which was over five and a half hours. Gushed over how great both of them were, but I'm still not buying it.

He said:
...It was shot in black and white. I believe it was shot in negative film and negative is very difficult film to deal with and he obviously brought it to a lab that didn't know how to handle the film very well and consequently there are a lot of blotches and marks on these very strange patterns that actually appear on the film stock. So between the depth of the image and the material of the film, there's this sort of tension but it really starts to appear like stars in the galaxy. It's a little bit like the Vija Celmins "Starry Night" painting series. That's the experience of the film for me. Each section is different and I describe it in some detail just because it was important to get at what happens, but it's not that nothing happens. There's actually quite a bit happens in the course of that film as different lights get turned off and things change that you have these marks on the film. You seem to be on this journey. So I think it's very interesting that he didn't film it during the course of the day which is, you know, I think most people would have thought he would do but that he figured out to do it that way. Warhol was into high concepts. Like the idea of five hours plus of a person sleeping and everybody thinks then, "Oh, I don't have to see the film." And the same thing with eight hours of the Empire State Building.
You can read the full transcript or listen to it here.

Also you can look at Murphy's website here. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Tom Cruise's deposition

I read some excerpts from Tom Cruise's deposition in his $50 million lawsuit against a couple of tabloids that reported that he had "abandoned" his daughter, Suri, after Katie Holmes had the good sense to dump him. The lawyer for the tabloids question him about how little he saw his daughter after the break-up and yet had plenty of time to go to his idiotic "church", flying off to London at one point for a Scientology event but not doing the same to see his pitiful daughter.

Cruise was forced to admit that Suri is no longer in Scientology which, according to the cult, means that she is now a "suppressive person" and should be shunned by all "church" members. No exception is made for children who Scientologists believed are reincarnated and billions of years old.

In fact, Scientologists who were forced to shun their own families were angry that Cruise got to continue seeing his daughter.

Cruise floundered when asked to explain these aspects of Scientology. He reportedly considers himself the number three man in Scientology. Can he really not explain their beliefs or did he just not want to?

Cruise compared himself on location in a movie to a soldier going to Afghanistan and to an Olympic athlete. From the LA Times:
He said he might train "months, a year, and sometimes two years ... for a single film" and then compared himself to an Olympic sprinter who has to race 30 or 40 times a day instead of only once.
Yeah, being a fifty-year-old movie star is much harder than being an Olympic sprinter.

He was forced to admit that Holmes left him to protect her daughter from the cult:
Q: Okay. My question to you, and I apologize if you find it offensive. And again, I repeat, I’m sorry we’re here. I don’t want to be here. My client doesn’t want to be here. They don’t think that this warrants a litigation. But—

A: I believe it does.

Q: I know you do, that’s why we’re here.

A: Yes. Yes.

Q: But unfortunately, we are here and you have to answer the questions. And the question is whether you believe the published contentions that Katie Holmes left you in part to protect Suri from Scientology, whether those are false?

A: Do I believe that?

Q: Do I believe—do you believe that that is a false statement?

A: I believe it is a false statement.

Q: And Ms. Holmes has never indicated in any way that that was one of the reasons that she left you?

A: That is—that she left me because of?

Q: To protect Suri from Scientology.

A: Did she say that? That was one of the assertions, yes.

Q: So those publications were not false?

A: I mean I—those publications I don’t know—first of all, I don’t know everything that they said in that, and there are many different other aspects to the divorce.

Tom Cruise is a sputtering dullard.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Is it possible to "tell a film"?

You might want to try to succeed where Jafar Panahi failed. In This is Not a Film, he tried to "tell a film" rather than make a film. Can it be done? Would anybody watch it? Anyone at all?

Panahi was doing this because the script he wrote didn't make it past the censors. In your case, do it because you have no money.

I think it's like what I heard on the radio, that I wrote about before. An opera fan had advice for non-opera fans hoping to attend the opera. Study it ahead of time. Learn who the characters are, what the plot is, what happens from scene to scene, because you're not going to figure any of that out by listening to the lyrics. Learn all about it in advance so you can relax and listen to the music.

That's what you'd have to do----don't act out the movie for the camera.

Look at Pasolini's Notes Towards an African Orestes, a documentary about a film that was never made. I had seen it years ago and remember him discussing different approaches to take to the story.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

This is not a Film

The protests over the 2009 elections in Iran were a CIA plot aimed at starting another "color revolution". Mousavi hadn't held office in ten years, he suddenly decided to run for president three months before the election, he barely campaigned and only in two cities, then he declared himself the winner before the polls had even closed and called on his supporters to take to the streets.The election results were perfectly in line with the credible polls taken before the election.

I'm not terribly sympathetic to Jafar Panahi, the subject of the documentary, This Is Not A Film. He was a CIA stooge, planning to make a movie supporting Mousavi.

The movie starts with him in his very nice apartment. He talks on the phone to his lawyer who was appealing his sentence----six years in prison and a 20 year ban from working in the movies. She thought she could knock both down quite a bit.

The movie looked beautiful. Seemed to be filmed in existing light on a prosumer camcorder with some lousy-looking additional footage shot on a cell phone.

Panahi wants to act out the script he wrote for an earlier movie that was rejected by censors. He puts some masking tape down on the floor to represent the set, sort of like the "sets" in Lars von Trier's Dogville. It's not working and Panahi gives up.

If you can tell a film, why make a film, he says.

He probably could have talked about it at length without actually acting out the movie for the camera. It seems like there are ways to do it. It's like writing a movie review without discussing the plot. It can be done.

Well, good luck to him.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Mario Bava's Knives of the Avenger

How many remakes of Shane have there been? Clint Eastwood's Pale Rider, there was a terrible science fiction movie I can't remember the name of about a warrior who helps some futuristic farmers and teaches their young son to meditate by standing on his head. And I would count Sling Blade.There was a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie, Nowhere to Run.

And here's another one: Mario Bava's Viking movie, Knives of the Avenger, available for instant viewing on Netflix.

Cameron Mitchell as a Viking who fights mainly by throwing knives befriends a widow and her young son. There's a scene where a dog in a bar, sensing that there's going to be trouble, gets up and slowly walked across the room to a safe place like the dog in Shane.

Shane wasn't very violent compared with this. Even the kid is violently attacked a couple of times.

Sling Blade was the only one that understood that Shane was a killer and that Joey really shouldn't have been hanging around with him.

One writer put Shane in a category with two other de Wilde movies, Hud and All Fall Down, where he plays a boy who idolizes a man he shouldn't. 

If you ever want to remake a samurai movie, it might make more sense to do it as either an Ingmar Bergman-like medieval Swedish movie or an American hillbilly movie. People keep remaking samurai movies as Westerns and it never comes out quite right.

According to imdb.com, it was filmed in six days, perhaps helped by the fact that the Italians didn't record live sound. All they had to do was get the visuals right. They didn't have to do retakes for flubbed lines.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Video remakes of Andy Warhol's Empire

I looked on You Tube. It turns out that people HAVE done video remakes if Andy Warhol's idiotic movie, Empire. Warhol falsely claimed to have filmed a single shot of the Empire State Building for eight hours. In fact, much of the footage was repeated.

One person posted a clip that was five or ten minutes long which he claimed was part of an eight hour video. Which seems wise. Just film ten minutes of it and CLAIM it's part of a longer movie----nobody's going to watch the whole thing anyway. Unwatchability seemed to be the whole point of the original.

Much of art film is conceptual anyway. All you have to do is get the idea. But, before digital video, you couldn't do it unless you had a lot of money to throw away. Now anybody can do it. Is this a good or bad thing?

Ed Anger in the Weekly World News thought it was time to replace the Mona Lisa and the Sistine Chapel ceiling because Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo may have been good in their day, but anyone with a Polaroid camera could make a better likeness now.

I have to be careful not to degenerate into an Ed Anger. I'm all for art film. Now we need to figure out precisely what distinguishes digital video from film artistically and get the most out of this new medium.

Photography became a genuine art form when it stopped imitating painting, cinema became an art form when they stopped filming stage plays.

But I'm not sure there's that big a difference is between high definition digital video and film. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Gun Street (1961)

Saw a 1961 movie called Gun Street. Sort of a poor man's High Noon. An escaped killer is coming back to town and the sheriff is bracing himself. But, while High Noon was an allegory about McCarthyism, Gun Street had the sheriff berating the jurors for sentencing the guy to life in prison instead of executing him.

"He'll be in town pretty soon," the mayor says, "if he isn't already, and the townspeople are going to wonder what you're going to do about this."

"The townspeople?" the sheriff says. "Go find those twelve townspeople on the jury who should have taken his rotten, stinkin' life and they didn't. Go find those townspeople and ask them what they're going to do now that he's killed again!"

The escaped killer had killed a prison guard by running him over with a wagon, but I don't think he should be blamed for that. It was a horse and wagon, not a car. It can't stop on a dime. You'd have to struggle to put on the foot brake at the same time trying to control the horses. Why didn't the guard get out of the way? How fast could a horse-drawn wagon have been going?

The sheriff seemed like kind of a jerk. He allows a husband to beat his wife in order to get information out of her and he seems to be in a bad mood all the time. 

I don't know when the story was set, but the sheriff had a crank telephone in his office. It might have been more interesting if he had conducted more of his investigation by phone. And they should have given him a Luger.

It had everything I hate about westerns. Ugly people in ugly clothes living in an ugly town. The rich people had ugly furniture. It had a fight which consisted of two guys punching each other again and again. There was no shooting in it which was just as well since everyone had the same gun and it would have been boring. We find out that the sheriff's greatest ambition in life is to own a farm.

Only thing that could have saved it is if they had broadly hinted that the sheriff and the escaped killer had once been lovers, that the killer ended their relationship which is why the sheriff was so mad. Like in Ben Hur.

"Go on! Say it! He was my boyfriend!"

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Lars von Trier press conference in Cannes

It finally occured to me to look for it on You Tube---the 2011 press conference in Cannes where Lars von Trier gave a long rambling answer which resulted in his getting kicked out of Cannes.

Von Trier is asked about something he said about the "Nazi aesthetic". He answers that he thought he was Jewish and was happy being Jewish, then found out that he was a Nazi. He had grown up thinking that his Jewish stepfather was his father, but his mother, on her deathbed, sprung it on him that his biological father was actually a German.

Von Trier (obviously joking) explains that, now that he's German, he can understand Hitler. "I can see him sitting in his bunker...I think I understand the man. He's not what you'd call a good guy."

The crowd was laughing. A reporter is so untroubled that he asks a completely unrelated question about the movie.

Serge and Charlotte Gainsbourg, Catherine Ringer and von Trier

By the way, here is a YouTube video of Serge Gainsbourg on a French talk show calling Catherine Ringer a "whore" for unsimulated movie sex:

http://youtu.be/EywQXQZaty4 

"You are a whore...You are a whore. That's all...You are a bitch and a prostitute," Gainsbourg says wittily.
 
Now Gainsbourg's daughter, Charlotte Gainsbourg, is appearing in what von Trier described as his "porn film". They've reported that the movie will have unsimulated sex, and they were reporting it would be Gainsbourg and Shia LeBeouf, but now Hollywood Reporter says:
Skarsgard, another von Trier veteran, played down the sex in the film -- which, the actors and producers pointed out, will be carried out by body doubles and visual effects.
I don't know what kind of movies Catherine Ringer did, if they were art films of some sort or simply porn.

Maybe Serge is spinning in grave. But he was such a degenerate himself.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Norman Mailer's Tough Guys Don't Dance

I had seen Tough Guys Don't Dance years ago on VHS. Directed by Norman Mailer around the same time that Charles Bukowski wrote the script to Barfly. Both movies were made by Golan-Globus and Bukowski and Mailer almost got into a fight when they attended Menahem Golan's birthday party. But Mailer's movie was----well. It ended up on the dollar rack at the video store I went to, there among the Brooke Shields movies.

Based on Mailer's novel of the same name, starring Ryan O'Neal, Isabella Rosellini, Debra Stipe, Lawrence Tierney, Wings Hauser. With Penn Jillette. Linc from The Mod Squad. Some other people.

Should perhaps be of interest to no budget film-makers----a mystery/thriller/noir. It had only one fight, no car chases and no stunts that I can remember. Had one cop in uniform and one police car. A few guns. And it did have a Rolls Royce. The performances were a little odd. There were blatantly fake southern accents. The plot was actually sort of interesting.

If you can write it, you ought to be able to do something along those lines on a tiny budget.

One thing we learn is the importance of not humiliating your actors. The movie contains what is regarded as the worst line reading ever. Ryan O'Neal reads a letter and gets some upsetting news.

"Oh, man!" he exclaims. "Oh, God! Oh, man! Oh, God! Oh, man! Oh, God! Oh, man! Oh, God! Oh, man! Oh, God!"

It sounded like Ryan O'Neal saying "Oh, man! Oh, God!" several times. You can find it on YouTube easily enough if you want to see it.

People begged Mailer to cut it out of the movie, but he liked it, and I can see why. It was memorable. But Ryan O'Neal felt his reputation as an actor had been damaged by it and was mad at Mailer with whom he had been friendly before this.

I thought the music was terrible.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

I was RIGHT to worry

J Elvis Weinstein tweeted: "Out of the hospital and ready to slowly rejoin the world. Thanks for all your well wishes (sorry St. Louis and SF for missing the shows)."

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Skyline

I was interested in this after I saw it listed as one of the ten worst movies of the year. They said it was a really cheap end-of-the-world movie set mainly in an apartment. Sounds fine. I got it from Netflix. Turned it on.

"Wait a minute," I thought. "What th---"

I looked it up online.

Turns out the thing cost ten to twenty million dollars.

I turned it off.

A bad science fiction movie that cost, say, half a million bucks might be interesting, but not ten to twenty million.

I should have read about it before ordering.

Friday, October 18, 2013

I'm worried about J. Elvis Weinstein

He hasn't tweeted since October 5th. Well, I'm sure he's fine. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

James Franco, charlatan

I've never been able to judge male beauty. The first time I saw a promo for Magnum P.I., I thought, well, that's an interesting concept---a show about an ugly guy who's a private detective in Hawaii. Just because someone looks terrible, it doesn't mean he can't have interesting cases.

There was Ed Marinaro on Hill Street Blues. I would look away when his picture came up on the opening credits. I always imagined his family, proud that he was on TV but heart broken at how weird-looking he was. Later found out he was featured on an episode of Donahue discussing male sex symbols.

And--one more--there was Montgomery Clift. I always had the impression that he had been a great actor whose life and career were somehow terribly tragic, and I always assumed the tragedy was that his career was hampered by his odd appearance. Later, I watched an episode of Biography about him and Peter Graves kept referring to "his beauty".

And now we have James Franco. Perhaps if I were more impressed by his looks I'd be impressed by his other crap.

I've seen him act in a couple of things, but don't remember him. Saw him hosting the Oscars and I've seen him on talk shows mostly taking about what a genius he is. It seems he's enrolled in several university graduate schools at the same time, published a book of short stories and is an "artist" and has done several gallery shows.

But, here's the thing. I've read his writing both in his blog on the Huffington Post and a short story published in Esquire that's available on-line. My writing may not be brilliant, but his is very bad in both form and content. And this is someone going for a graduate degree in creative writing at Yale.

His "art" is all conceptual and performance art. One of his "pieces" was a video of him walking around in Paris with a sex toy attached to his face, another was a video of extreme close-ups of people going to the bathroom. It's art for the artless. One of his "installations" was a show of "invisible art"---he just left the gallery empty.

Now he's come out with a novel which sounds like a bunch of crap----a plotless epistolary novel of sorts made up of disconnected chapters.

It's possible that all this stuff he does is brilliant, but it sounds intellectually lazy. He goes into an area of art that requires no special talent or skill, he writes a novel that takes the form of lists, letters and Wikipedia entries. It could be interesting, but it doesn't sound like it requires much ability. He seems to be going into areas of art and literature that are wide open to charlatanism.

He's taken college a step or two past other celebrities in higher education.

Brooke Shields went to Princeton, Jonathan Taylor Thomas went to Harvard, Jodie Foster went to Yale, Natalie Portman went to Harvard, the girl from Flashdance went to Yale. George W. Bush went to Yale. Were they all geniuses? Would any of them have gotten into these schools if they hadn't been stars? Are there any celebrity college students who haven't gone to elite schools?

In the case of Franco, there's no hint of genius. I've seen his writing and I feel I can say without fear of contradiction by any informed person that he got into the English and Creative Writing graduate programs based entirely on his celebrity. I assume the same is true of everything else he does.

Seeing a hugely successful charlatan should give you something to aspire to. It should show you that anyone can become a major figure in art, literature and academia. Franco should be inspiring young people to dream of becoming great big phonies.

If Franco had become a charlatan and parlayed that into a movie career, that would be interesting.
 
But Franco did it all based on being a celebrity which, in turn, was based primarily on looks. What is there for the rest of us?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Kardashians look horrible

I didn't realize it's been so long since I've watched anything Kardashian-related on TV. I had never seen them in high definition until late last night, and, my God----they look awful!

Bruce Jenner looks ghastly and has really skinny legs. I haven't really seen the son on there since he gained weight, poor wretch. His arms are completely covered with tattoos.

They need to start using a soft focus lens.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Gravity, diapers

There was a scene in The Reluctant Astronaut where Don Knotts, launched into orbit, apparently asks how to use the bathroom.

We see him ask into the microphone, "How do you---" and the picture cuts away to a shot of the rocket. Then we see a guy at mission control say, "Well, you just---" and they cut away to the rocket again. Then we see Don Knotts again looking a bit horrified. "You're kidding!"

I had some friends who pretended they knew how this was done in zero gravity and discussed the degrading process Don Knotts would have to go through. But now it turns out that astronauts simply wear diapers. This came out a few years ago when a woman in the space program grabbed a couple of astronaut diapers for a non-stop drive from Houston to Florida where she attempted to kidnap a woman Air Force officer who was dating a guy she had been stalking.

I just discovered that, if you Google "astronaut murder" the suggestion "astronaut murder diaper" will come up.

This issue of space diapers has come up again with a discussion of the new movie Gravity, something about astronauts. They were complaining that it was inaccurate because Sandra Bullock wasn't wearing a diaper. Reportedly, she was wearing something called "boy shorts" under her space suit. I had never heard of them and I felt uneasy Googling "boy shorts", but all that came up were pictures of women posing in underpants that I guess were supposed to look like something a kid might wear.

What bothers me more than the astronauts is the fighter pilots. Watching war movies, I always did wonder what they would do if they had to go to the bathroom.

When racist senator John McCain was shot down in the Vietnam War, one of the people he still calls "gooks" came out of an air raid shelter and risked his life swimming out into the lake to rescue McCain who was tangled in his parachute. This heroic act by a Vietnamese civilian paid off for his people.

The Vietnamese knew who McCain was. They knew that his father was an admiral and that his grandfather had a ship named after him. So they knew just how to manipulate him. They knew he was used to getting special treatment. They sent him to a civilian hospital and had him treated by Soviet doctors. Vietnamese officers were brought in and pretended to be thrilled to get to meet John McCain. And it worked great. He started chattering away. He spilled his guts and told them everything he knew. The Vietnamese adjusted their air defenses and US bombing suddenly became far less effective.

So for years McCain has been trying to conceal his treason by falsely claiming to have been tortured. American prisoners who were present at the time have said he's lying.

Now I can't think about this without picturing the Vietnamese man pulling McCain to shore and discovering he was wearing a giant diaper which probably absorbed a lot of water while he in the lake. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Chan is Missing

I watched Chan is Missing for the first time in years. The full movie is available on YouTube. I'll have to buy the DVD now to make up for watching it there. Made for $22,000 in 1982, although I don't know if they spent twenty-two thousand actual dollars or if that included deferred payments to cast and crew.

Directed by Wayne Wang. A couple of cab drivers in San Francisco's Chinatown search for Chan who disappeared with their money after they paid him to operate their own taxi. Has he left the US? There's talk about the struggle between the pro-Taiwan and pro-Communist Chinese in the US and a murder committed by an elderly man over the conflict.

Filmed in black and white, 16mm. With a song in Chinese sung to the tune of "Rock Around the Clock" in the opening credits.

Voice-over narration held it all together. The fact that everything didn't have to be clarified through dialog gave it greater realism.

Makes me think of what Gore Vidal wrote in Myra Breckenridge:
“Without precise notation and interpretation there is only chaos. Essentially, each of us is nothing but a flux of sensations and impressions that sort themselves out as a result of the most strict analysis and precise formulation, as Robbe-Grillet has proposed but not accomplished (his efforts to revive the novel as an art form are as ineffective as his attempts to destroy the art of film are successful)."
It is perhaps fitting that I would quote an unrelated novel in a discussion of Chan is Missing. As one character, a woman studying "the legal implications of cross-cultural misunderstanding" explains, "most Chinese speakers...try to relate points or events or objects that they feel are pertinent to the situation that may not to anyone else seem directly relevant at the time."

They talk to another man who tells a story about musician who woke up with a neurological disorder that rendered him incapable of performing. He was making the point that they should look to themselves to try to locate Chan.

They had a lot of extras with scenes filmed in restaurants and a community center.

The movie was better than I remembered, a little worse in some ways. There were things I would have done differently, which means that I would have loused it up. I watched the review on YouTube that Siskel and Ebert did at the time and they liked the things that bothered me.

Wayne Wang had worked with Rick Schmidt, co-directing a feature before this, A Man, a Woman and a Killer.. Wang is mentioned several times in Schmidt's book, Feature Filmmaking at Used Car Prices.

A beautiful film. The first commercially successful extreme low budget movie I knew about, predating Stranger Than Paradise by a couple of years. Chan is Missing had a lower budget.

I don't know what the movie would have looked like if it had been made today, how much it was shaped by the fact that it was shot on film. How much would digital video have changed it?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

1954 live TV version of Orwell's 1984

I never read Nineteen Eighty-Four. Turns out I had a pretty clear picture of the characters, storyline and most of the details of the book.

I watched a 1954 British TV version. This was broadcast live on the BBC. It was controversial at the time---the book was a bit morbid. It starred Peter Cushing and Donald Pleasance, with Wilfrid Brambell who went on to play Paul McCartney's grandfather in A Hard Day's Night.

I watched it on Roku, but it's available here on YouTube.

There was one moment when we see a big mic shadow, and at one point a door closes and the wall wobbles. But it was great. It was clear that it was a live TV show which has certain limitations, but it shows what you can do with little more than skill and talent.

The question for a lot of us is, what can you do without much skill and indeterminate talent?

I argued on this blog some time ago---I noted the admiration that the French New Wave had for American B movies and suggested that TV shows might be a better source of inspiration for low budget filmmakers today. They were about the same, genre material filmed on very tight schedules and low budgets. But B movies are just hard to sit through and there were stylistic changes in TV over the decades.

Frankenheimer noted that all the directors who worked in live television had terrible back problems caused by the incredible stress of, essentially, filming a ninety-minute movie in ninety minutes in front of ten million people.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Breaking Bad finale parties

"If you're throwing a Breaking Bad finale party, you don't get it. I'll be watching alone in an abandoned warehouse."

--J. Elvis Weinstein

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Ray Carney, bad analogy to abusive adoptive parents

Well. Ray Carney still hasn't handed over the stuff and Jon Jost has posted that he's given up on him.

I kind of like Ray Carney's writings. I veered sharply from siding with him to Jon Jost to Carney again and back to Jost. Each time I switched sides, I felt deeply ashamed of my previous position.

As I understand it, Mark Rappaport was moving to France. He happened to run into Ray Carney in New York. He told Carney he didn't know what do with some of his stuff. He had already donated prints of his films to different archives, but he had this last bit of stuff. Ray Carney jumped at the chance to take it.

According to Carney, it was stuff that Rappaport was going to toss in the dumpster otherwise. His good prints had already been donated. And he had a bunch of old scripts,  prints of films and digital masters.

Rappaport's version is that Carney was going to store it for him and he could get it back when he wanted.

This was ten years ago. I don't think either one anticipated Rappaport ever wanting any of it back, so my guess is that neither one bothered remembering exactly what was said at the time. But I think Carney had a point---that he stored this stuff for ten years and it could just as easily have been twenty years before Rappaport asked for it back. He was supposed to store this stuff into perpetuity?

I tended to side with Carney on his battles with Gena Rowlands. I'm not sure why, but my initial impulse was to side with Carney on this, too, although I did in fact side with Rappaport and Jon Jost.

The whole thing is none of my business. I would have donated a couple hundred bucks to any fund to take care of it----to either pay off Carney to return the stuff or to pay for more digital masters to be made----but I don't know the people involved and, like I say, it's none of my business.

It sort of reminds me---and this is a terrible analogy, I know---of the parents in central Oregon. They adopted a bunch of kids, and had to raise money to take care of them. At first people were happy to donate, but it went on and on. They adopted all these children with no means to take care of them and they weren't becoming self-sufficient. People got tired of raising money for them. Then the parents were arrested for child abuse.

With Carney, even if you kind of side with him, how long is this going on? Even if you thought he was right, you still figured he'd give the stuff back.

For God's sake, he could photocopy all of Rappaport's papers,copy the digital masters and take the films down to Costco and have some DVDs made. He can have his cake and return it, too.

And I'll tell you what has always bothered me about Carney.

Look at the pictures of him. He's always smiling. The bastard has dimples. But look at the picture of him smiling. There's nothing in his eyes. How does anyone smile that much without wrinkles around his eyes? He's 66-years-old.

Plus there are the bow ties and suspenders. I lived in Boston for a short time and bow ties were more common there, but he looks like a college kid trying to play a crusty old country lawyer in a school play set in the 1930s.

I thought his students would have some influence on him, that it would be settled once he got back to class.

It could be, even if his reputation is damaged-----here's another analogy----it's like what they say about presidential debates. Being on stage with the President of the United States makes the challenger look presidential. Even if Carney looks like a jerk, he's going head to head with Mark Rappaport, an artist Carney clearly admires.

I would feel great if I got in a public feud with someone big. Like Frankie Muniz or Marjoe Gortner. I would feel like I hit the big time even as they ridiculed my lack of achievement and millions joined in their attacks on me.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Miley Cyrus and an intern whose name I don't remember

I knew this high school girl who was doing some sort of internship at a store where I worked. The store owner went to a concert---some famous singer. And she looked over and there was our intern with a couple other teenage girls on the edge of the stage dancing and gesturing to the singer in what they imagined was a suggestive manner. They just looked like awkward high school girls.

"Saw you at the concert," the store owner said.

The intern didn't look too embarrassed. She rolled her eyes. She acted like she played an embarrassing role in a school play. It was embarrassing, but it wasn't her fault. She didn't write the part.

This came to mind watching video of Miley Cyrus. What the hell is she doing?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Breaking Bad, second to last episode

Well. I watched the episode. It'll be repeated in three hours but I don't think I could handle watching it again. When Aaron Paul was asked what the most difficult scene was for him, he said it was one that hasn't been broadcast yet. I think we just saw it. I hope we just saw it, that there's nothing worse next week.

We get to see more of the guy who will whisk you away and change your identity and I feel better about it now.

There was confirmation of what we all knew, that the phone call to Skyler was to get her off the hook with the cops.

There was a scene where Walter's wedding ring drops off his finger which reminded me of the scene in The Sixth Sense. Was it an actual reference to that? It does spur Walter getting back in action.

It does seem that Mike was the one holding it all together. Once he's gone, everything goes to pot.

Look at the scene a few episodes ago where Walter meets with the neo-Nazis and hires them to murder Jesse. Walter is sitting there. Todd is sitting behind him. And we realize that money alone gives him no power in this situation. They could take him at gunpoint if they want. The only thing stopping them was that they didn't especially want to at that moment. Without Mike to back him up, he's helpless.

It was Mike being in a Mexican hospital that allowed Walt to kill Gus.

We were rooting for the cops for a while, but now law enforcement is putting the pressure on Skyler. They'll do everything they can to put her away her unless she tells them where Walter is, but she doesn't know and they don't care if she knows or not. They'll destroy her anyway.

The cops aren't even giving Skyler protection. They're watching her house but the Nazis are still able to break in. Lydia wants Skyler killed. The Nazis are doing pretty much as they please and the cops are worthless.

Man, I hate Nazis.

Andrea is dead, Brock has been kidnapped by the Nazis so they can force Jesse to continue cooking for them.

Who is the bigger problem?

Is it Walter who's destroying everyone's life, or is it Jesse's bad karma rubbing off on everyone around him? Everything would have been fine if Jesse had disappeared when Saul had arranged it for him. He could have climbed in the minivan and ridden away.

Hank and Gomez would still be alive, Hank trying to figure out how to catch Walter and failing. Andrea would still be alive. Brock would be fine. The car wash would continue to operate. The only thing is that the Nazis who took over Walter's meth production might have come after Walter to force him to cook for them.

Walt told Jesse it was for his own good to disappear and he was right. Now Jesse is held captive by the Nazis.

Walter let Jesse's other girlfriend die of the heroin overdose, but he may not have been able to save her anyway, and Jesse was the one who gave her the heroin in the first place. He's as much at fault in the airline disaster as Walter. It was his bright idea for Hank and Gomez to go after Walter's money, taking them out alone into the desert where they were horribly killed. Andrea would still be alive, Brock would be safe, and really, going back a while, the other kid, Brock's uncle Tomas, wouldn't have been murdered if Jesse had left well enough alone. If you see a child in a gang being horribly exploited by criminals, call the police, don't go to the criminals.

Jesse setting out to kill the two drug pushers who murdered Tomas is what set off the chain of events that led to him murdering Gale which led to Gus murdering that guy with a box cutter which led to Walt killing Gus.

Another thing about Justin Bieber's tattoos

Justin Bieber appeared in a couple of episodes of some cop show playing a delinquent. An actress on the show later apologized for telling interviewers that the boy was a brat. Apparently he ruined a cake on the craft services table and locked a producer in the bathroom. His spokesman rationalized his alleged brattiness by claiming he was "in character".

But the actress who apologized for calling him a brat, in her backtracking, said that he was pretty good actor. He was untrained and had no experience, but he did great. He was a natural talent.

A lot of good his acting ability will do him now. Unless they want to slather him with body make-up, the boy can play only characters who always wear long sleeve shirts and long pants or sinewy characters covered with religious tattoos.

I've seen these people who've had their faces tattooed, sometimes covered with tattoos. Hard to imagine that they're happy with that.

There was a local youngster who always wore a hat pulled down on his head because he and his friends had tattooed the word "ACID" across his forehead. He was homeless and some horrified doctors removed the tattoo for free.

But I see these people with extensive tribal looking tattoos on their faces. They sit out asking for spare change. The only thing I can think is that they were burning their bridges behind them, afraid that they might someday abandon their current lifestyle and become squares. They want to make sure that could never happen.


The picture above is a mugshot. I don't know what this guy's story was, but that's how you'll look in your fifties with that crap on your face.

And here's a tattoo that didn't have its desired effect:


Why would anybody do this?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Justin Bieber is to tattoos what Michael Jackson was to plastic surgery

I didn't realize Justin Bieber had so many tattoos. He was a cute boy, but now he's just repulsive.

Miley Cyrus did the same thing----started getting tattoos and now she can't prance around almost naked on national TV without being self-conscious.

Here's a quote I've pasted into this blog before:
Honestly, I’ve never seen an attractive tattoo.  Never.  Not one.  Not “USMC” (Untied States Marine Corps), not a heart with an arrow piercing it; not a flower, not a butterfly, not a bird, not a horned demon, not a Chinese character purporting to translate as “Peace,” or “Harmony.”  Every tattoo I’ve ever seen manages to detract from the person’s appearance.  In truth, seeing that crap plastered on people’s bodies makes me think of graffiti spray-painted on an overpass.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Saul Goodman, Perry Mason

Perry Mason was kind of amoral in the early seasons

There was one early episode of Perry Mason. Perry and Paul Drake enter an apartment and find a dead body, a murder victim. And Perry tries to stop Paul from calling the police.

Paul tells him he has to call or he could lose his license. So Paul calls, reports the body but when he tries to say more, Perry hits the receiver. He tells Paul to report it if he has to, but not to gossip about it.

The early Perry Mason never quite broke the law, but he would do stuff that seemed borderline. There was an episode where he goes back to a crime scene and fires a gun into a tree so cops will find the bullets.

Seems like it would be a nice change to have a TV lawyer like that again.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Jaden Smith a Scientologist?

Jaden Smith has never actually attended school except for the Scientology-based one his idiot parents operated for a few years.

But the boy has tweeted that:
If Everybody In The World Dropped Out Of School We Would Have A Much More Intelligent Society.

If Newborn Babies Could Speak They Would Be The Most Intelligent Beings On Planet Earth.

Education Is Rebellion.

School Is The Tool To Brainwash The Youth.

All The Rules In This World Were Made By Someone No Smarter Than You. So Make Your Own.

People Use To Ask Me What Do You Wanna Be When You Get Older And I Would Say What A Stupid Question The Real Question Is What Am I Right Now

If A Book Store Never Runs Out Of A Certain Book, Dose That Mean That Nobody Reads It, Or Everybody Reads It.
The one about newborn babies being the most intelligent beings on planet Earth---I take this to be Scientology crap. They think people are reincarnated, so the babies are actually billions of years old. I don't know why else he would think that. Maybe he's never seen a newborn baby before.

I don't know if Twitter has spellcheck, but the boy's spelling seems pretty good, although the words "intelligent" and "rebellion" are the only ones that would pose a challenge. He correctly writes "brainwash" as one word. He wrote "dose" instead or "does", but I take that to be a typo.

I don't understand the capitalization thing.


It reminds me of the song that French degenerate songwriter Serge Gainsbourg wrote for sweet wholesome teenage pop singer France Gall, "Poupee De Cire, Poupee De Son". (Here she is performing it on the Eurovision song contest, 1965.)

She sings that she is just a wax doll. She performs, puts out records, the kids dance to her music, and she hopes that some day she will be able to live her songs.

Gainsbourg explained that kids listen to pop music, looking to teen stars for guidance with life and love, but the pop stars know far less about it than the kids who listen to them. Pop stars, being pop stars, aren't able to experience life.

And here we have Jaden Smith, a rich home-schooled celebrity kid.  He could drop out of school and it wouldn't hurt anything. Especially that Scientology school his parents set up. And, yes, I'm sure it's purpose was to brainwash the young.

The world's full of kids trying to pull their lives together, trying to make some kind of future for themselves. Jaden Smith's not one of them. I don't know if that's an entirely good thing for him, but there are very few kids who are going to get anything of any value from his comments.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Walt and Hector

You know what would have been a gripping, hair-raising moment on Breaking Bad? If, while wiring the bomb under Hector's wheelchair, Hector had kept glaring at Walt like he wanted to kill him. Wouldn't it have made more sense for Hector to have blown himself up and blown up Walter? A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Maybe Gus would come to personally kill Hector, but what if he sent an underling to commit this monstrous act? Then what? Then Hector would be killed without having taken revenge on anybody. If he blew up Walt, at least he'd have that.

Couldn't Walt have used a rifle? Wouldn't that have made sense? He could have killed Gus while he was in the hospital overpark even though Gus suddenly suspects something. It wouldn't have been chemistry-oriented, of course. It wouldn't have been remotely interesting. And Walt would have had to run around carrying a rifle which would be harder to explain that the heavy magnetized object he had in the bag. And Gus's bodyguards would have shot back. And witnesses would have heard where the shot came from and police would have rushed to the scene.

The world is full of complete morons who get away with horrible crimes. And then you had Leopold and Loeb, the boy geniuses, who wanted to commit the perfect crime and bungled it so badly that it was a bit of a miracle that they weren't captured immediately.

There are much bigger and much, much dumber drug lords than Gus or Walt.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

John McCain, Pravda

McCain thinks he's president.

When asked about what he thought about Vladimir Putin's piece being published in the New York Times, McCain said he hoped that HE would able to publish something in Pravda.

First of all, Pravda is the paper of the Russian Communist Party. Putin's party is Russia United.

Second, Pravda ceased publication for several years and then came back in a much more modest form. It's not a mass circulation paper.

Third, Putin is the PRESIDENT of Russia. How would John McCain publishing something in a Russian newspaper be equivalent to Putin publishing something in the New York Times?

During the Soviet era, it was fairly common for Pravda to publish letters to the editor from the U.S. At the University of Oregon, a member of the College Republicans was bragging about he got a letter to the editor published in Pravda.

There was a Cuban psychologist who interviewed McCain in Vietnam. According to an article on Counterpunch.com http://www.counterpunch.org/2008/06/13/mcnasty/ :
According to Fernando Barral, a Cuban psychologist who questioned McCain in January 1970, “McCain was "boastful" during their interview and "without remorse" for any civilian deaths that occurred "when he bombed Hanoi."  McCain has a similar recollection, writing in his [autobiography] that he responded, "No, I do not" when Barral asked if he felt remorse.” (9)

McCain told [Barral] that he had not been subjected to “physical or moral violence,” and “lamented in the interview that ‘if I hadn’t been shot down, I would have become an admiral at a younger age than my father.’”
“Barral said McCain boasted that he was the best pilot in the Navy and that he wanted to be an astronaut.” The Cuban psychologist concluded that McCain was [a] ‘psychopath.’” (10)