Saturday, April 26, 2014

Bees in Paradise

So how many movies have there been about men who find themselves stranded on islands inhabited entirely by skimpily clad women who use men only for breeding? Is this a common fantasy?

Watched a few minutes of one from 1944, a musical about some British airmen who find themselves on an island with all 1940s women. It was depressing so I turned it off.

Directed by Val Guest.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Obama fine with World War Three?

Obama appeared on CBS. He said he's not worried about war with Russia because NATO has so many more conventional weapons. He apparently doesn't know or doesn't care that Russian military doctrine, for years now, is that they will use tactical nuclear weapons if attacked by superior conventional forces.

The Russians lost ten million people in World War One, twenty or thirty million in World War Two. If World War Three starts, they're not going to mess around.

There was a movie called We Have a Pope. It was Italian, directed by Nanni Moretti. We see the cardinals go through the process of electing the new Pope. But once they've done this, the new Pope has a panic attack and can't bring himself to go out on the balcony and speak to the masses. He runs screaming through the Vatican. No one can do anything about it because they guy is Pope, after all. No one can make him do anything. And the cardinals aren't allowed to leave the Vatican until he make his appearance to the public.

The cardinals just elected the guy themselves. They did it by a two-thirds majority vote. It's obvious that they elected the wrong guy. But once they've done it, they treat him like he was chosen by God.

Which is pretty much the situation in America. I don't see any Obama supporters dismayed in any way by anything he does. He does have Republicans to cope with so he can't act freely. But is this what they had in mind when they voted for him?

They say that if you don't vote, don't complain. But what if you did vote and your candidate won? You can't complain if you didn't vote, you can't complain if you voted for the winner, you can't complain if you voted for a third party candidate because you threw your vote away. I'm not sure whether voting for losing candidate from a major party gives you the right to complain. In this case, Romney is making public statements that are worse than Obama's.

Basically, in a "democracy", no one has the right to complain.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Bryan Singer, Apt Pupil

A director called Bryan Singer, known for movies based on comic books, has been accused of raping a teenage boy in the 1990s. The victim is suing him. I won't go into detail.

But Singer got into trouble in the '90s directing the movie Apt Pupil. It starred the late Brad Renfro, 14 at the time, who discovers that his elderly neighbor is a Nazi war criminal and blackmails him into teaching him about being a Nazi for some reason.

The movie included a school locker room scene. And here's where Singer got into trouble.

From the website for A Minor Consideration, a group advocating for children and teenagers working in Hollywood:

When things go Very Wrong
The allegations coming out of the "Apt Pupil" set are disturbing, to say the least. The plaintiffs are claiming that they were separated from their parents, coerced (by threats of dismissal and promises of future work) into completely undressing, and filmed with full frontal nudity - which is a violation of California penal code 311.4. In addition, a still photographer was present on the set snapping pictures, and many of the negatives have disappeared. The defendants are not challenging that it happened, but are claiming that in doing this, they were doing nothing wrong.

It was initially claimed that the this was approved by the Labor Department. This is untrue. All that was approved was an emergency work permit for 14 yr. old Devon St. Alban.

It is the claim that there is nothing wrong that disturbs us the most. Let's examine the facts a little closer.
The children were separated from their parents
It is required that parents stay within "sight and sound" of their children at all times. This is something that responsible producers, directors - AND STUDIO TEACHERS (more on this later) - take quite seriously. It is known and acknowledged that it is not always possible for a parent to be physically present with the child. Such circumstances include shooting quarters that are too small or difficult to handle numbers of people. When this occurs, responsible producers set up video monitors and sound systems so that the parent is aware of what is happening at all times.

This did not happen on the Apt Pupil set. The parents were told they could not be present and no alternate arrangements were made. A question must immediately come to the mind of any reasonable person: Why would the producers not want the parents to see what was happening? What were they afraid of? Could it possibly be that they were reasonably certain that they couldn't get the children to do this if their parents knew it was happening?
Possible coercion of children
From another article on the same site:
These are the facts: Six minors were "intimidated" (the exact words of the Assistant DA, Susan Powers) into getting naked on a working set and were filmed in the nude. No parents were present on the ‘Closed Set’ and the Studio Teacher did not protest. Still photographs were taken of these minors, but not just for ‘continuity.’ Photos of minors urinating exist. The film exists. These minors were working in the nude in the company of adults and were, for nearly four hours, absent any oversight or protection from any quarter.

Fourteen is the age of the youngest minor on the shower scene set of "Apt Pupil" who thankfully had the wit and the courage to refuse the order to step out of his ‘dancer’s belt.’

Six minors were falsely told that they would be in a shower scene wearing "Speedos," a scanty but acceptable covering worn by our Olympic swimmers. Six minors were instead given ‘dancer’s belts’ which professional dancers refer to as "slips," or "honey pots," or "holsters," and which, when wet, hide nothing. Dancer’s belts are flesh colored and affixed with narrow bands of elastic mimicking (in style but not in substance) a jock strap…an athletic appliance which, to my certain knowledge, has never been considered an acceptable covering for published photography of minor aged children.

But even the Dancer’s Belt was too much for the film crew engaged in filming the shower scene. Over an hour into the filming of the scene (approximately 10:15 AM, April 2nd, 1997) the demand was made for even the minors to strip naked.

It was at this exact point that criminal demands were made…and realized. >From this point forward the Labor Code violations became criminal acts. It took months for the DLSE investigative unit to come to this conclusion. It took more months for the SAFE (Sexual Abuse Federal Enforcement) task force to arrive at its conclusion that eight adults participated in this criminal enterprise directed toward six minors in the report forwarded to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office…where the normal command chain was co-opted by Higher Authority…

…and the decision not to prosecute was made (on December 15th, ’97…eight months and thirteen days after the event).

Bryan Singer was the director on the set - the one in charge of and responsible for the scenes being shot. Aides and assistants to this man carried out his orders on the set, from the Assistant Director to the Costumers to the Studio Teachers. Six young boys came under the gaze of the camera lens he directed. Raw footage and the ‘out-takes’…are already circulating and have been seen at "private screenings" here in Los Angeles. It is just a matter of time before photographs and actual video tape of this incident will find their way onto the Internet, and from there into the homes of pedophiles all around the world. The Defense is currently attempting to quash depositions of witnesses to this reality.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

About a Boy, Fargo

I remember many years ago. I had a strange dream.

I dreamed that they made The Blue Lagoon into a TV series. It had a girl who resembled Brooke Shields only in the eye brows and a boy wearing a yellow Art Garfunkel wig. They were both dressed modestly in ragged clothes. It was filmed on a Gilligan's Island-like set and I realized that the storyline came from an episode of the old Swiss Family Robinson TV series that starred Martin Milner.

I turned the TV off in disgust.

TV shows based on movies usually don't work out that well. I see there are a couple of new ones coming up, a show based on About a Boy and another based on Fargo.

So will Fargo be about a pregnant police woman, or about the manager of a car dealership coping with his bratty son and domineering father-in-law? Either might work.

Hard to see how About a Boy would be adapted. They would have to lose one element or another from the original movie. Would the boy's mother be suicidal through the whole series? Would the man keep using the kid to meet women?

Side Effects, Steven Soderbergh

I watched something called Side Effects, directed by Steven Soderbergh, written by Scott Z. Burns, made in 2013.

A young woman becomes severely depressed after her stockbroker husband, convicted of insider trading, is released from prison. She's given an anti-depressant that causes sleepwalking.

It starts out like an exceptionally well-made movie-of-the-week. We have the real legal issue of people committing murders in their sleep, the sleepwalking triggered by medication.  A dedicated psychiatrist (Jude Law) defends his patient even after being warned and threatened by colleagues and prosecutors that it will ruin him.

The psychiatrist becomes more and more suspicious. He seems to be cracking up himself as his life and career fall apart.

But it's classified as a thriller. Kind of a low key one. So you know something's going to happen. There's more to the case than meets the eye and Jude Law starts putting it all together.

Made for $30 million. It grossed $32 million. It obviously didn't make money at the box office. I don't know how much movies make from TV and video. But it seems like a movie that consists mostly of people talking could have been done a lot cheaper.

Visually, the scenes were evenly lit but it was filmed with a very shallow depth of field. The background and foreground in every shot was out of focus with only the subject in focus which gave it an interesting look.

Lucas Belvaux's Rapt, 2009

Rapt is Belgian actor-director Lucas Belvaux's 2009 film inspired by the 1978 kidnapping of industrialist Edourad-Jean Empain. In fact, the kidnapping was very similar, with the man's car forced to stop when a motorcycle accident is staged in front of them. He's taken away, his finger is amputated and sent with a huge ransom demand.

It's like Kurosawa's High and Low turned on its side. In Kurosawa's film, the industrialist pays the ransom, is financially ruined, is despised by other executives in his company and by the bankers who lent him the money, but is admired by the police and the public.

In Rapt, the victim, Stanislas Graff (Yvan Attal), has details of his private life exposed---how he gambled away tens of millions of euros, the number of women he slept with, how he is little more than a figurehead for his corporation. It turns his wife, daughters, business colleagues and the public against him. Graff's family and his lawyer simply want to pay the ransom and get him freed and are at odds with the police who want to catch the kidnappers even if it jeopardizes the victim.

His wife tries to raise the money but they either weren't that rich to begin with or he's gambled away too much. She doesn't have access to his cash anyway. She'll have to borrow it from the corporation.

An interesting movie. A thriller that's more talk than action.

It also made me think of Day of the Jackal, the old one. That movie made France look like kind of a hell hole. It starts with an execution, the French government freely tortures suspects, taps phones; there are bombings, murders, robberies.

In Rapt, police are unsympathetic. They kill, they torture, they're a threat to victim and suspect alike. We see a country struggling economically with a few extremely rich, with organized crime which is as bad as it is anywhere.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Seymour Hersh: Turkey behind the false flag nerve gas attack in Syria

Here is a link to an article by Seymour Hersh in the London Review of Books. It shows that Turkey was behind the the sarin nerve gas attack in Syria which they carried out in order to get the U.S. to begin bombing.

Hersh has appeared on Democracy Now discussing this:

The nerve gas attack in Syria which Obama claimed crossed his "red line", which he was going to use as an excuse to launch a massive bombing campaign on Syria, was a false flag operation orchestrated by Turkey to provoke a US attack.

It'll be interesting to see how MSNBC and the "humanitarian interventionists" who loved Hersh when he was exposing Bush's crimes will respond to this. Rachel Maddow couldn't keep from smiling as she talked about how Syria would be destroyed. My guess is they'll ignore it, but you never know.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Mickey Rooney RIP

Mickey Rooney has died at age 93.

I used to watch It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World almost every night. I had seen it so many times, it put me right to sleep. If you watch him in the opening, in Jimmy Durante's death scene, he was the only one there who could act.

His movie career spanned ten decades, from 1926 to 2013----86 years. One of the last of the silent film actors left, almost the only one left who was still working.

Lawrence Olivier called him "the greatest actor of them all."

Er Dong (China, 2008)

Er Dong is an independent Chinese film made in 2008. A delinquent teenager, an orphan, is sent to a Christian boarding school by his adoptive mother. He's expelled and runs away with a girl to get married.

I read somewhere that Chinese directors thought that simplicity in editing was important in Chinese film, that there were so few movies shown there for so long that audiences would have trouble understanding the "language of film". I don't know if they were right or wrong. The makers of early silent films in the west thought the same thing.

The movie is in long master shots, mostly static camera or panning on a tripod. A couple of tracking shots with the camera mounted on a coal car or in a bus or of the kids riding motorcycles. Filmed in what appears to be existing light. The movie is beautiful,

Rural northern China looks pretty good. The motorcycles look safe enough since there's very little traffic. The kids run off together and live in a tidy single room with a bed and table. Er Dong goes to work as a laborer.

This is how I picture Communism in rural China even with capitalist "reforms". Not rich but economically secure. It's picturesque with brick buildings.

The delinquent kids don't seem that bad. It's cute the way they hang their heads when they're in trouble, although they could be violent. The kid learns something very troubling from his past, how he came to be adopted.

Written and directed by Jin Yang.

Starring Li Jung Bai and Ming Juan Yang in what appears to be their only film.

Like almost everything else I watch, it's available for instant viewing on Netflix.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Kenneth Williams: Fantabulosa!

The thing that always bothered me about effeminate men is that they're so unladylike. They tend to be rather crude. I never understood it. I thought maybe efforts to make them more masculine when they were kids had this effect. You get the worst of both worlds, exaggerated femininity and exaggerated masculine crudity.

Kenneth Williams was a British comic actor. He appeared in the "Carry On" films and on British radio and television. He was obviously gay if homosexual stereotypes had any basis at all in reality.

The movie Kenneth Williams Fantabulosa! is a biopic based on his diaries which he kept from age 14. Much of the movie focuses on his apparent fear of sex. The fact that homosexuality was a serious crime in Britain carrying a long prison sentence gave him a good excuse not to force himself.

"Sexually, I'm as juvenile as ever and unresolved," he wrote. His obsessive cleanliness didn't help.

He may have done more than he admitted. Since it was a crime, confessing to it in a diary would have been a bad idea.

And there was a far more serious crime he may have committed that his diaries (and the film) may have glossed over a bit. He was the only suspect in the death of his father who died after drinking a cleaning chemical kept in a cough syrup bottle. Williams hated his father for pretty good reason and was indifferent to his death.

According to Wikipedia, Williams was offered a role in an Orson Welles movie. He turned it down saying that he had no desire to work in America. In truth, he couldn't get a visa because he was a murder suspect. As far as I know, it was never clear if his father's death was murder or an accident.

The movie went into Williams' relationship with playwright Joe Orton and Orton's longtime companion Kenneth Halliwell. They had been the subject of another movie, Prick Up Your Ears, about events that led to their murder-suicide.

Williams' background was working class. His father took him out of school when he was fourteen to learn a trade and he went into the Army when he was older. But he acted aristocratic. He was a snob, but his humor was strictly low brow. He was fired from a TV show because the star considered him a "grotesque".

Starring Michael Sheen, Cheryl Campbell, and Peter Wright. Available for instant viewing on Netflix.

James Franco hits on teen

Aging youth James Franco admitted he hit on a teenage girl on Instagram, asking for her phone number, asking to see her, suggesting they get a hotel room, all after finding out her age.

How refreshing that he didn't claim it was performance art.

The girl was 17. She was visiting from Scotland. 17 is the age of consent in New York. I guess since he wasn't attempting to commit an actual crime, he could admit to it.

Franco is 35. He smiles a lot which makes him look older.

Franco is intellectually lazy, incapable of serious work artistically, but he's been trying to pass himself off as a genius. Because he's a celebrity, people have played along. But the act is wearing thin. He might be happier if he gave it up and took it easy for a while.

Here's a video of Franco on TV:

James Franco is a 35-year-old millionaire movie star who GOES TO COLLEGE. And he claims he had to resort to social media to meet women. He complains about the "embarrassing rituals of meeting someone." Is it really that hard to meet an adult woman at a university?

I wasn't especially outraged by it, but I am now. Just saw a video of James Franco on TV "admitting" to hitting on a 17-year-old high school girl less than half his age. He falsely claimed to be "new" to social media and it was just his way of meeting people. He was smiling the whole time. He apparently picked a show with a couple of fawning hosts who he knew wouldn't say anything about it or challenge him in any way. All they did was gush over how "honest" he was.

He claimed he didn't know who he was talking to, although he asked her how old she was and what her birthday was. How is that a result of his being "new to social media"? How long do you have to be on there to figure that out? "I'm just a model of how social media is tricky."

I didn't see anything "tricky" here. What did he think was tricky?

Well. To hell with him.