Saturday, January 31, 2015

Justin Bieber, child actors

Years ago, I read someone marveling over the Indian-born actor Sabu. He had reportedly been an orphan working as a stable boy when he was discovered at age 13 and cast in The Elephant Boy. His father had been an elephant driver who died when the boy was 9. After that, he starred in Drum, The Thief of Bagdad and The Jungle Book. He had gone instantly from being unknown to being a major international star.

But it's not that unusual with child stars. Look at how many child actors are cast in major roles with little or no experience. Claude Jarman was 10, living in Nashville, when he was discovered and cast in The Yearling. He got an Oscar for that.

Christopher Atkins was 18 and had worked as a lifeguard with no thought at all about acting when he was cast in The Blue Lagoon. He's worked steadily ever since and has a long list of credits on

The younger you are, the better your chances.

I mention this because I just watched Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC argue that Justin Bieber should have gone to college, THEN pursued a singing career. Bieber grew up in poverty and couldn't have gone to college anyway. Now he's a millionaire. And like all the other celebrities, he can get into any university he wants. Jonathan Taylor Thomas went to Harvard, Jodie Foster went to Yale, Brooke Shields went to Princeton, Natalie Portman went to Harvard, that girl from Flashdance went to Yale. Admission requirements to elite schools are entirely subjective. They may not have had the grades or the test scores to get into a middling state college, but they were rich and famous enough to get into elite schools.

Realistically, where would Justin Bieber be if he hadn't jumped at his chance when he was 12? The poor boy has had some legal problems lately, but that may have happened anyway. The difference now is that he's a millionaire. If he weren't he might have ended up rotting in some Canadian prison.

There are people who put down parents trying to get their kids into the movies, but it's really the kids' only chance. And look at the American economy. Movies and weaponry are our only exports.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

French cops interrogate 8-year-old Muslim

After all the crap about "free speech", a French Muslim 8-year-old was interrogated by French police in Nice for "supporting terrorism". In this case, he's stands accused of talking during the "moment of silence" for the cartoonists killed at Charlie Hebdo.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

I did it. I watched "The Interview"

Man. I actually watched The Interview on Netflix.

It was terrible. Seth Rogen was far worse than I could have ever dared imagine. James Franco was awful. There wasn't one funny thing in it. It was just terrible.

There are people chuckling at how upset North Korea was over such a crappy movie. I think it's more humiliating for Sony if they DID get hacked by North Korea and exposed as racist, sexist scum, all because of this garbage. Why would they make this thing? What was in the script that they thought was funny?

And don't forget Obama declaring his love for Seth Rogen. 

I'm stunned than anyone at all liked this thing. I disapproved of it anyway, and I dislike James Franco and Seth Rogen for various reasons. My expectations were extremely low and I'm still shocked at how bad it is.

I heard that the first part was funny and the last part was realistically violent, but neither worked. 

And the CIA thinks this is going to trigger a revolution in North Korea?

White Sun of the Desert (USSR, 1970)

I'm not sure how many American movies were shown in the USSR in the '60s and '70s. I do know that the big budget western, McKenna's Gold, with Gregory Peck and Omar Sharif, was big hit in the Soviet Union. It was made in '69.

The Soviet action film, White Sun of the Desert was made in 1970. I watched it on DVD and watched the interviews with its two writers.

The movie is an "Eastern", one of the Soviet films inspired by American or Italian westerns. Like others in this genre, it was set in Soviet Central Asia in the 1920s. Seemed to be more like a spaghetti western than an American western. The hero was more of an ubermensch and was a much better shot than you see in most American westerns.

At the end of the Russian Civil War, a Red Army soldier, Sukhov, is on his way home, walking through the desert. He encounters some Red Army soldiers who are in pursuit of a brigand who left his harem behind as he fled. The soldiers coax Sukhov into taking charge of and protecting the harem and taking them to safety.

The interview with the writers was interesting. The studio wanted to produce a western, and they wanted it as good as or better than an American western, which was a tall order since they had never made one before. Two writers set out to write the script. They decided on the time period and region, but they knew little about it, so they interviewed an old soldier who had fought there in the '20s.

They understood what they wanted the movie to look like, who they wanted the character to be and the setting for the story, but they still needed a plot. Which they got when the old soldier told them about the time they found a harem of women, abandoned by their husband in the desert, gathered at a well. They assigned a soldier to take them to town and make sure they were taken care of.

The interesting thing is that once the script was done, it was the writers who had the job of finding a director.

One director like the humor in the story, wanted to cut out the violence and make a nice comedy. A Lithuanian director wanted to cut out the jokes and make it even more violent. There's a scene where Sukhov finds a man in the desert, tied up and buried up to his neck in the sand. The Lithuanian wanted MORE people buried up to their necks, then he wanted people to ride over them on horses.

They finally got Vladimir Motyl to direct. He didn't really want to do it, but, like Sokhov, he got roped into it.

The movie was a huge hit in the Soviet Union and is still very popular. Critics didn't entirely understand it at the time. They weren't sure what genre it was. And people in the movie industry didn't care for it in part because almost all of the action was done through montage---sort of the poor man's CGI. Something low budget filmmakers might want to look at.

One thing I've noticed with Soviet action films is that the deaths are more disturbing than in American films. They aren't more violent or more emotional. They just come as more of a shock. I suspect it's because killings in American movies are telegraphed. It's become a joke in action movies---you see an old cop talk about all the things he and his wife will finally have time to do once he retires, and you know he's going to die. 

People in the United States tend to have a terribly confused idea of how the Soviet movie industry worked. For the most part, it had the same problems the American movie industry has. They had to compete with television; for the action movie Pirates of the 20th Century, they had to tone down a rape threat so they could get the equivalent of a PG rating. Soviet movie studios were self-sustaining. The government wasn't going to subsidize them. Ticket sales were their only source of revenue. And unlike Hollywood, they had to compete with foreign films.

In the '80s, there was a Soviet director visiting the U.S. It may have been Tarkovsky after he defected---I didn't know who he was at the time so I don't remember. But I saw this guy interviewed more than once, and each time, the idiot reporters asked him the same questions. They said that they couldn't imagine living in a country where you had to go to the government for permission to make a movie. And each time the director said, "You don't go to the government. You go to the movie studio."

The reporters thought that all Soviet movies were "propaganda". I doubt any of them had ever seen a Soviet movie other than Battleship Potemkin, and they didn't seem to realize that they were producing propaganda themselves, spreading ignorant assumptions about the Soviet Union.

Friday, January 23, 2015

American Sniper? American MORON is more like it

Cretinous mass killer Chris Kyle.

Chris Kyle was a moron. He was shot and killed when he decided that a great way to "help" a war veteran suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was to take him down to the gun range to shoot some guns. The poor devil went berserk and killed Kyle and another idiot. The only one I feel sorry for is the poor wretch who killed them.

Kyle's now the subject of a movie called American Sniper, directed by Clint Eastwood, the elderly California millionaire known mainly for bullying his live-in girlfriend into getting repeated abortions.

Kyle owned a company that trained police SWAT teams. The company's logo was a human skull.

In the '70s, there was a TV mini-series called The Holocaust. Michael Moriarty played a member of the SS. He didn't start out as a bad guy. He was a lawyer and he joined the SS because he just needed a job. His wife and children were so proud of him in his uniform. His black uniform with a skull on the cap.

I didn't quite buy that. How did any German not realize the Nazis were evil? They had skulls on their caps. 

Now we have an American company with a skull for a logo, founded by a sniper who apparently killed hundreds of people, and the company trains police officers. Thank God Kyle is dead and that his company is bankrupt.
Chris Kyle's company logo.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

One more Charlie Hebdo thing

And, finally, no one else has said this so I will. The cartoons in "Charlie Hebdo", besides being disgusting and unfunny, are lousily drawn. Those people just can't draw worth crap.

They're talking about how tragic it is that some of France's best known cartoonists were killed, but how hard can they be to replace? The drawing is terrible, they're not remotely funny or clever. What exactly is involved in this?

One person said that the magazine had been "wiped out". There was no way they could go on now. In fact, putting together a new issue took them about two seconds. The willingness to be openly and disgustingly racist was pretty much their only requirement.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Charlie Hebdo not all it was cracked up to be

So it sounds like Charlie Hebdo was pretty much a mainstream publication that expressed it's middle-of-the-road opinions in the most obnoxious way possible.

Diane Johnstone writes from Paris on

Personally, I never liked the provocative covers of Charlie Hebdo, where the cartoons insulting the Prophet – or for that matter Jesus – tended to be displayed.  A matter of taste.  I don’t consider scatological, obscene drawings to be effective arguments, whether against religion or authority in general....
Charlie Hebdo was not in reality a model of freedom of speech.  It has ended up, like so much of the “human rights left”, defending U.S.-led wars against “dictators”.

In 2002, Philippe Val, who was editor in chief at the time, denounced Noam Chomsky for anti-Americanism and excessive criticism of Israel and of mainstream media.  In 2008, another of Charlie Hebdo’s famous cartoonists, Siné, wrote a short note citing a news item that President Sarkozy’s son Jean was going to convert to Judaism to marry the heiress of a prosperous appliance chain. Siné added the comment, “He’ll go far, this lad.” For that, Siné was fired by Philippe Val on grounds of “anti-Semitism”.  Siné promptly founded a rival paper which stole a number of Charlie Hebdo readers, revolted by CH’s double standards.

Charlie Hebdo

Do a Google image search for "charlie hebdo mohammad" and see the cartoons they were printing. Makes the mass murder at the Charlie Hebdo office less surprising. Still appalling, but less surprising.

Drawing something disgusting or offensive isn't terribly difficult, especially if you're trying to offend fundamentalists. I can't say I see what the big deal was about this magazine. I suppose it qualifies as satire. Now they're referring to the victims as "journalists".

It was a horrible crime. Committed by two men in their 30s and an 18-year-old boy whose life they decided to destroy while they were at it. The teenager surrendered to police.

[Turns out the 18-year-old suspect had an airtight alibi--he was at school.]

Won't do much for French Muslims.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

James Bond

There was a long interview on YouTube with Fess Parker, TV's Davy Crockett and later Daniel Boone. There were a number of startling revelations. Fess Parker spoke Russian, had been a law student, the show Daniel Boone had been cancelled only so the studio could put it into syndication to try to make back some of the vast sums they lost on the movie Cleopatra. And, most shocking of all----

Fess Parker was considered for the role of James Bond!

Parker thought it was insane, but they discussed it with him. It would have given him a chance to use his Russian. I heard they also considered Adam West.

Parker was from Texas and spoke with a Texas accent. I don't know if they would have made him speak in an English accent.

Did they make the other James Bonds modify their accents? As far as I know, Roger Moore was the only Englishman in the role. The rest were Scottish, Australian, Welsh or Irish. And there was one American, the first to play 007, on a live TV show in the 1950s.

I bring this up because Rush Limbaugh got his enormous panties in a bunch when it was revealed in a hacked Sony email that they were considering black actor Idris Elba to play James Bond when the current guy quits.

It'd be fine with me. It would be a bit ironic. Ian Fleming was a disgusting racist. One of the chapters in Live and Let Die was entitled "N****r Heaven", changed to "Seventh Avenue" in American editions.

I never liked James Bond movies. In the early '70s, they were showing them on one of the networks every Friday night. We'd sit there watching them after The Brady Bunch and the Partridge Family. They just never seemed very good. I remember liking Roger Moore a lot better than Sean Connery. Even as a child, I thought it was absurd that SPECTRE had a far more advanced space program than the US or USSR. I couldn't understand what women saw in James Bond. The fight scenes were never very convincing and the gadgets just seemed stupid.