Category Archives: Movies

A Different Road But The Same Old Trip

 

The movie came out in the Summer of 1969.   A year after Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King were murdered.  Kennedy, was 42.  King, was 39.

The Democratic convention had boiled over in Chicago, as the nation’s youthful mantra became “The Whole World’s Watching.”  Richard Nixon, was in the White House, promising to end the war in Vietnam with “honor.”  Instead, he escalated the fighting, until Congress finally shut it down by cutting off funding in 1973.  At one point more than 500 Americans were being sent home in body bags each week while the government assured us we were winning the war because their body count was higher than ours.   Seldom mentioned is the fact that a disproportionate number of the American dead were African-American.  Or that our intention was not to  win the war in any traditional sense, but to wear the Vietnamese down by attrition, even though the Chinese and the French had tried the same thing before us and failed.  It’s important to know the history of your enemy before going to war.  The Vietnamese, had been fighting off foreign invaders since at least 938 A.D.  LBJ, had no idea.

Those who could, avoided the war by signing up for a six year hitch in the National Guard or obtaining a II-S college deferment.   This was back when the Guard was still used only as a force to protect and serve on U.S.  soil, an idea that went away with the Bush/Cheney Administration.  They needed more soldiers you see, and they knew that America wouldn’t put up with another round of military conscription (100,000 men per year were drafted during the Vietnam War), so they very cleverly turned everyone into a hero and sent the Guard overseas.  I’m still surprised that they got away with it.  But then I remember that people forget. They had forgotten Vietnam, where nearly 17,000 Americans died in just one year with no exit strategy.

And so the path to war was once again open  for an entire generation of Americans that answered their nation’s call not to defend U.S. soil, but to act as a mercenary force for the Kuwaitis and the Saudis and big oil, to push Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait.

Eventually, the lessons of Vietnam were lost.

At war’s end, more than 58,000 Americans and between 900,000 and 1.1 million Vietnamese had been killed, and nobody was sure exactly why.  Some said it was to stop the spread of Communism.  Others thought it was wrongheaded and without justification because the Vietnamese never had represented a threat to the United States and Ho Chi Minh had no intention of letting either the Soviet Union or the Communist Chinese march in a take over his country.

There was however, oil in the South China Sea, and untold mineral riches in the jungles of Vietnam.  Some of us wondered about that, as the United States was locked down between two opposite poles, those who favored the war and thought it was winnable, and those who did not.  “Don’t trust anyone over 30,” we all said.  And most of us meant it.  Later we worried, as the Bush dynasty took us into Afghanistan and then Iraq, once again without an exit strategy.

In August of 1969, Richie Havens opened the Woodstock Music Festival with his driving rendition of “Freedom.”  How much of it we had was up for grabs, as we were old enough to die in combat, but too young to vote or buy a beer.   There were the Hippies and the Yippies, the Black Panthers, the Weather Underground, Students for a Democratic Society, the Young Republicans and a new feminist movement.  We were millions of lost souls in search of personal and collective salvation.

As the nation reached absolute polarization, “Easy Rider” appeared.  A movie about two young dope dealers on chopped Harleys, hitting the open road in search of America.  It  spoke to the frustrations of my generation in ways that were both real and symbolic.

A lot of us bought bikes.  Steve Heitke, picked up a used Harley and turned it into a chopper with straight pipes rising high into the air off the rear wheel.  It was loud.  Like rapidly repeating artillery fire.  I got my hands on an old Matchless, stripped off the front fender, and gave it a deep metallic purple with silver feathering paint job.   Second gear had been ground out of the gearbox, but I kept riding it anyway by pretending second gear had never been there and shifting directly from first into third.  It rattled a little as I shifted past second but you can get by without second gear if you really have to.

I had just turned 21 when the movie was released, and a bunch of us went to see “Rider” in Minneapolis.  I remember my old friend and fraternity brother Warner “Shorty” Smithers was there.  Shorty was only about 5 feet 6 inches tall, but he was a former wrestler for Edina High School, and one of the toughest guys I’ve ever known.  We used to hang out at various watering holes in the Minneapolis area.  I can recall the Triangle Bar over near the University of Minnesota, on the “West Bank.”  It was a sometime hangout for local Hells Angels.  According to the Angels website, their Minneapolis chapter wasn’t formed until 1982, but I’m here to tell you that bikers wearing the Angels colors were hanging out at the Triangle Bar in the late 60’s.  I know.  I was there.  Maybe they were just passing through.  Legend had it  that Bob Dylan had played the Triangle once or twice.  We kept hoping he’d show, but he never did.  Dylan, was in the area for a time, I was told he’d lived in an apartment above the Baskin Robbins ice cream parlor near Territorial Hall, but by then he’d probably left Minnesota for New York.  There was also “The Depot,” an old bus depot that had been converted into a bar with a enormous dance floor downtown.  Shorty, eventually got a degree from the University of Minnesota and moved to Nevada, where he managed one of those restaurant/casino operations out on the highway before you get into Vegas.  It was Shorty, who took me bar-hopping the night before I was to be inducted into the military.

I had been drafted.   The government had done away with college deferments and set up a lottery system.  They drew numbers based upon birth dates.  The lower your number, the better your chance of being called up for the Army or the Marines and being sent off to the human meat grinder in “The Nam.”   My number was 28, so basically, I was toast.   They put us up in a cheap hotel the night before induction and made me the “group leader.”  I had to sign a piece of paper saying I would be responsible to see to it that all the inductees in the group showed up for their physicals the next morning.  I figured the group could take care of itself, as I left the hotel to hook up with Shorty to slam down a few beers at one of the Twin Cities finer strip clubs.  I had never been in a strip club before, but I figured I was probably going to die within the next two years anyway, so why not.

The thought of buying a used VW Microbus and heading to Canada, had crossed my mind.  But it just wasn’t something  I was intellectually wired to do.  Not at that time of my life.  I was young and still clinging to the hope that it wasn’t all for naught.  That it wasn’t all just happenstance.  That somewhere, someone might actually know what he was doing.  We were all young then.  As young as Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, on those big, beautiful choppers, symbols of freedom rolling across the open highways of America.

I hadn’t thought about “Easy Rider” in years, and then it came on tonight, on the country music channel, of all places.  As I watched, I wondered what happened to the motorcycles Fonda and Hopper rode in the picture.    According to a piece in the New York Times, four bikes were built for the movie, two “Captain America” choppers for Fonda, and two somewhat less conspicuous red and yellow bikes for Dennis Hopper.

One of the “Captain America” bikes crashed and burned at the end of the movie.   It was totally trashed.  You can see it happen if you watch the film.  The other three, the paper says, were stolen.   Gone, until the late, great and legendary newspaper publisher Otis Chandler, master journalist at the Los Angeles Times, and auto and motorcycle collector, hired Ojai bike builder Glenn Bator, to build two replicas of the Fonda and Hopper bikes from scratch, starting with Florida police motorcycles for a base, just as they did for the bikes built for the movie at a reputed cost of $500 each.

Bator, says he charged Chandler $15-thousand each for the replica cycles which Chandler then turned around and sold to the Guggenheim Museum in New York for $200 thousand.   I don’t know if that’s true.  It could be.  The three stolen and still missing bikes are more interesting to  me.  You have to wonder who has them, and how he (or she) feels, being forced to hold secret the location of three  of the most famous motorcycles in the world.  Icons of 1960’s America.  A time of intense dissent, anger, turmoil, repression, growth and joy.  You pretty much needed to be there to understand it. Not to mention the ongoing struggle of trying to understand how we traveled from our certainty of changing the world so that we couldn’t “be fooled again” to arrive at our current locale, with the United States fueling military conflicts across the globe and our own government setting aside due process and spying on us daily while our trusted news anchors salute an ongoing parade of American heroes returning from the latest war.

Ask Not For Whom The Wolfman Howls…

The year was 1973.  I was a young reporter still earning his chops chasing George McGovern across the great rolling prairie of South Dakota.  It was there, at a theater in Watertown, that I first saw the motion picture that set the tone for an entire generation,  “American Graffiti.”  My generation.  Our movie.  It touched us all.  It marked our lives, and its heart and soul came from the northern end of California’s mighty San Joaquin Valley.  From the Modesto area, where movie great George Lucas was born.

And then came “Star Wars,” and a collaboration with Steven Spielberg that produced Indiana Jones, and George Lucas Industrial Light and Magic, and Lucasfilm, and LucasArts, and Skywalker Ranch, where the great American philosopher and educator Joe Campbell spent some of his final days.

From the San Joaquin Valley to the San Francisco Bay, the life’s work of George Lucas and his home state of California will be forever tied.  So why am I reading that he’s decided to locate his new Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, his personal legacy, in Chicago, rather than California?  Really?  Chicago?   Surely this is a joke?

It’s said  that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel lobbied hard to get the museum in his town.  I’m sure he did.  It’s also being reported that Chicago is giving Lucas a plot of land near the Shedd Aquarium for a measly $1 a year and that  San Francisco wanted $30-million for a location in the Bay Area.   Lucas, apparently wanted to locate the museum in the Presidio, but he and the Presidio Trust couldn’t come to terms. There’s also the fact that his wife is from Chicago, so that may have played a role in his decision.

But none of the magic happened in Chicago.  It was all California.   The legacy belongs to both George Lucas and his home state.  How and why the State of California let him get away, is a question that should probably be answered.

While businesses flee to Texas and Arizona, Chicago has stolen one of the State’s true artistic treasures.

In the northern reaches of the San Joaquin Valley, Bob Falfa cruises main street in search of a race, while the Wolfman howls through the night for the displaced legacy of a native son.  How empty.  How sad.

Sucker Punched Into Giving Godzilla One More Try

SPOILER ALERT!   If you haven’t seen the movie, reading this could ruin it for you.  Maybe.  But I doubt it.

Okay, now I feel better.  Here we go-

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I admit it.  I went to see “Godzilla.”  This most recent one, I mean.  The 2014 version.

According to one source, there have been 28 movies featuring the big lizard since the original came out with an all-Japanese cast in 1954.  I didn’t see that one.  We had to wait two years for Hollywood to splice in a few scenes with Raymond Burr of “Perry Mason” fame, to make it more of a draw for the American market.  I did see that one, and being old enough to have been an original viewer of the Original “Godzilla” to be released in the U.S. (and any number of the others that came in between), I feel entitled to go on a bit about this most recent release.

It’s overrated. It has all the usual stuff, the big scary lizard who has to fight other big scary monsters and who turns out to be a friend to mankind and a symbol for our need to give more respect to nature and maintaining and nurturing a natural balance.  It’s the same big scary but eco-friendly movie it’s always been.  But this one, the 2014 version, just didn’t have any kick for me.  Maybe I’ve seen too many.  Maybe I’m all Godzilla’d out.  How many times can you do the same thing before it becomes a bit of a bore even if you do throw in a giant flying mecha-roach.  Or whatever the hell that thing is.

Hint to Hollywood:  Special effects will take you only so far.  At some point a little more character development is needed.  Beyond mecha-roach love just prior to the radioactive fertilization of their eggs.  The whole floppy mecha-roach egg sack thing was revolting.

I find it difficult to feel anything at all for a giant mecha-roach.

I think my favorite of the big lizard movies is the one that immediately preceded this most recent incarnation.   That would be “Godzilla,” starring Matthew Broderick and my old buddy from the Simpson Trial marathon, America’s true renaissance man, Harry Shearer.  It came out in 1998.  I don’t think they slipped in another between 98 and 2014, but they might have.  It’s hard to keep track.

Nick Adams of tv’s “Johnny Yuma” fame, keeps popping into my head.  I just took a look at IMBD and discovered why.  Adams, did “Invasion of Astro-Monster” in 1965.  The plot from IMDB, is that “Aliens from Planet X request the use of Godzilla and Rodan to fight off King Ghidorah, but have a better use for the three monsters.”   Oh my.  This time they threw in Nick Adams instead of Raymond Burr, to bump up the American audience draw factor.   It could be that by 1965, Burr was so busy with Perry Mason, which ran from 1957 to 1966, that he simply turned up his nose at the deal.

It takes a big man to turn up his nose to an Astro-Monster.

However, Burr will forever be remembered as having been the first American to go on the big screen with the big lizard before the the motif moved on to Nick Adams (who according to IMBD was a good buddy of James Dean, which has nothing to do with Godzilla, I’m just throwing it in for the cool factor) and Matthew Broderick to whomever it was that starred in this most recent film.  Oh wait, it was Walter White!  That’s who it was!  Bryan Cranston’s a terrific actor, I was addicted to “Breaking Bad,”  but they killed him off 30 or so minutes into the movie.  Which is another complaint I have about “Godzilla”2014.  For me, Bryan Cranston was as important as the big lizard, but they killed him off so early on in the film that I had nearly forgotten he was in it.  And he was the principle reason I wanted to see it at all.

It was like killing off Bogie thirty minutes into Key Largo.  Shame on you.  “But they were just going for the kid market” you say?  Then why did they bother bringing in a heavyweight like Cranston?  He can’t be working for cheap.  Not after his success with “Bad,” unless it was to……  Hey, wait a minute.  I was sucker punched.

If you really want camp, invite Mr. Peabody over for the evening, pop some popcorn, crank up the way-back machine and watch the Raymond Burr version from 1956.  Beyond that, I think the 1998 version with Broderick has the best balance of special effects, good writing and fine acting.  The 98 version may be the best Godzilla for adults.  And if you want something that really rocks, go for the reruns of “Breaking Bad.”   There’s no killing off Walter White.  Not until the very end, Baby Blue…

Gatsby Really Is Pretty Darn….Great

 

Sometimes the reviewers get it wrong.  That’s what happened with “The Great Gatsby.”  And that’s why I didn’t go out and see the film sooner.    It’s picking up only 50% on Rotten Tomatoes.  “Metacritic” gives it a “metascore” of only 54.  Generally, I’m wary of anything under 70.  So in my mind, “Gatsby” had to be a huge flop.  Half the reviewers at “Tomatoes” thought so.  All glitz, with misplaced hip-hop music and the usual mix of overbearing special effects that crush a story line.   Even a tale told by F. Scott Fitzgerald, that has sustained the travails of time.  So many critics dissed this film that it had to be bad.

So why did I go see it?  Because I found myself with a couple of hours to kill on a Wednesday afternoon.  I had already seen the two or three films that aren’t targeted exclusively at teenage boys or children, so I was out of options.  Except for….Gatsby.  Which, according to the critics, was a stinker.  Not worthy of being associated with the great Scott Fitzgerald.

The one guy selling tickets behind the bank of registers was all alone.  It was, after all, Wednesday afternoon.  He was also closer to my age than most of the young people working at the Archlight , so I asked.  “Have you seen Gatsby?,” I said.  He said he had and that he liked it a lot.  So did his wife, he told me.  However, their teenage daughter didn’t much care for it, probably, he said, because the film is a period piece (It takes place in the 1920’s).  Now I was interested. It had glitz, hip-hop and was souped up with special effects and still this guy, who appeared to be in his late 40’s or early 50’s, liked it?  So I bought a ticket for a non-3D showing.  That was fine with me, since I hate 3D.

I loved the movie.  Yes, it has a lot of glitz.  Yes, there are special effects.  And yes, there is a tiny bit of hip-hop woven into the soundtrack, but all of it contributes to the fabric of the film and Scott Fitzgerald’s wonderfully timeless story of the mysterious and extraordinarily wealthy, Jay Gatsby.

Forget about the critics and go see this film before they pull it from the theaters.  The acting and production values are wonderful.  It deserves to be seen on a big screen with a proper sound system.  “The Great Gatsby” is terribly underrated.   This is one helluva movie.

Lincoln, The Movie

Spielberg, has outdone himself.  Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field are amazing as Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln.  They inhabit their roles.  Tommy Lee Jones, is brilliant.  This may be among the finest films of all time (depending upon which critic you believe), and a valuable history lesson for generations still to come.

Avengers Overrated

  With all the hyperbole and associated hoo-hah, I decided to go see “The Avengers.”   Sure, it’s a kid’s movie.  However, The Hulk, Iron Man and Hellboy were also gleaned from the pages of comics and they were great.  Avengers, though, fell flat.  It’s mostly just a bore.  One explosion after another with the inexplicable introduction of characters from Viking mythology, one of whom, Loki, experiences wrenching ongoing psychotic episodes as he attempts to conquer the Earth while being opposed by his half-brother Thor and his big hammer.  Never explained, is why the mighty Thor, son of Odin and a major mythological badass, has so much trouble dealing with his half-brother Loki.  Thor, should be able to kick his psycho-butt back into Valhalla, with ease.  But he just can’t, because…….he’s conflicted?  Big hammer, little brain?  Give me a break.  Then, in the middle of it all, they drop in some guy with a bow and arrow.  Where the hell did he come from?   And why and how can the bow and arrow guy be expected to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Hulk and Iron Man?  Am I taking this too seriously?  Of course I am.

I suppose it really doesn’t matter.  It’s only a movie.  Throw in another explosion here and some automatic gunfire there.  Overwhelm the senses with enough ear-splitting noise and pretty colors and the kids will love it.  Or maybe it doesn’t work for anyone who hasn’t seen every superhero movie that’s come out over the past ten or twelve years and read all the comics?  I’m sure they were pitching the bow and arrow guy and the Thor/Loki duo to a different demographic.  Nevertheless, this film feels like a bunch of ideas thrown together in an attempt to come up with a viable plot, and it’s just not there.  It’s silly and mostly boring.  With a runtime of 2 hours and 22 minutes, it’s way too long.  The movie’s only saving grace is the one-two punch of Robert Downey Jr., as Iron Man and Mark Ruffalo, as The Hulk.  Their acting ability and character development so outpaces their fellow superheroes as to give them the appearance of two master thespians who somehow stumbled into a high school acting class.

Why so many critics are buying into this explosion of noise, color and nonsense in need of a viable plot is an absolute mystery to me.   They would have been better off doing another Iron Man.

I’m looking forward to seeing “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” with the great Judi Dench to help regain my demographic balance.  “Dark Shadows” is also in the pipeline.  It’s being panned by many of the same critics who loved “Avengers,” so it’s probably very good.  For me it’ll be worth the price of admission just to watch Johnny Depp and Michelle Pfeiffer on the same screen, with or without a single explosion and nary a shot being fired.

Hunger Games Offers More Than Expected

   I wasn’t going to do it, but I did.  I saw “The Hunger Games” even though I felt revulsion at the premise of a society that sends its kids out to hunt and kill one another.  How disgusting is that?  So why did I go?  Because the critics on Rotten Tomatoes are giving the film an approval rating of 85%, and more importantly, I wanted to see what all the fuss is about.  I wanted to see exactly what this film has that enabled it to pull in $189 million in one week?

So I went, even though I’m nowhere near the 12-18 year old demographic the film targets.  Trust me, I’m nowhere near it. The theater employee cautioned against sitting near the back row as I stepped up to buy my ticket.  “It’s full of screaming teenagers” he warned.  I thanked him and took a seat several rows away.  I was grateful for the advice once the crying started.

The movie was, as I had feared, initially disgusting.  I thought about leaving the theater but stayed where I was, determined to give it a chance.  Determined to see what this newest motion picture “phenomenon” was all about.  It wasn’t easy.   I was hit by wave after wave of revulsion as the film began with its horrible premise of innocent young people being forced to take part in the “Games.”  Twenty four go out in the woods, only one comes back alive.  A kind of cross between “Survivor” and the Roman Circus, with the whole thing going out over live television so that the good folk out in the 12 districts can root for their hometown favorites as they slaughter the other teenagers in the field.  Disgusting.

Then the messages began to arrive.

There’s a message about the evils of a two-class society, with the self-indulgent wealthy upper class living in the city and using the military to control the poor, hungry working class out in the hinterlands.   There’s another about questioning authority and the danger in believing what all those smiling faces on television tell you.  There’s another still, about the value of loyalty to one’s friends — and yet another about the need to rise up and take a stand against wrongdoers no matter what the cost.    This is a film about decency and courage, or a total lack of the same, and how society can be philosophically corrupted to a point at which man’s inhumanity to man is considered to be high entertainment.   Just like the Romans.

At least that’s what I thought the film was about.   For me, it has the potential of being a “Brave New World” (lite) for the 21st Century.  But only if younger folk are getting the same message.  Only if they see it as being more than a well produced and well acted, action packed movie that’s highly entertaining but devoid of any serious message.

This is not another Harry Potter.  This is more than mere entertainment.  This is a film that cautions against giving in to the lesser angels of our collective nature.  At least, I hope that’s what it turns out to be.  For an answer, you’ll have to ask someone between the ages of 12 and 18.   This is their show.   Ours, is nearly over.

Chasing The Social Networking Monster

   I quit Facebook, because I was concerned about the gathering up of, collating, and then profiting from, personal information available on the Internet.  Not that my personal info hasn’t been out there for years.  It has.   No, this was more a protest move on my part, just letting the Facebook people know that I can live without them.   I know, I know, they have more than 800-million users (per Wikipedia), so they could care less about me.  I get it.  But you know what?  I don’t care about them either and I’ve been just fine without Facebook.  Well, I do feel a bit cut off but the feeling is diminishing with the passage of time.   While I admire the role FB played in the Arab Spring, and is currently playing in bringing Israeli and Iranian folk together in a push to avoid war, I continue to have reservations about the move by third party companies to gather information on us and then sell our profiles to private business or academia — or others.  It’s just a nasty development, and something that somebody will eventually need to deal with or any semblance of privacy will be erased — and we’re well on our way.

Then there’s Twitter.   I’ve been using it to send out tweets alerting my massive base of followers (120) about my latest posts so that no one need feel threatened with missing any of my incredible insights.   Just today I discovered that people have been tweeting me back.   Some to comment on my writing and others just to say hello.  I wasn’t aware any of that was happening, so if I’ve ignored your re-tweets, or connect-tweets or whatever they’re called, it wasn’t intentional, I just haven’t invested an adequate amount of time to master the Twitter process.  Not sure I will.  I don’t even have an iPhone.  Don’t want one.   I almost never text.  If I have something that’s worth saying, I’ll call someone and say it.  Don’t have an iPad, either.  I don’t understand it.  Why bother with an iPad and a separate keyboard, why haul around all that stuff, when micro computers are available?  Yes, yes, I know iPads have an electronic keyboard.  I also know they don’t compare to the real thing.  That’s why companies are making add-on keyboards (real keyboards), for iPad users.

And we mustn’t forget so-called “Cloud Computing.”  It is, after all, a sort of social networking, offering to feed you apps and various services while storing your formerly personal information out there on a “cloud” (somebody else’s hard drive) floating somewhere in cyberspace for a monthly fee, as opposed to the sanctity of your very own hard drive sitting behind your firewall, protected by your anti-virus.  At least that’s what it seems to be right now.  It’s difficult to pin it all down as the definition of what Cloud Computing actually is appears to be in a state of flux.

What will those clever devils come up with next?  In the words of Michael Fertik, CEO of Reputation.com,  “Your personal information is the new oil.” 

I keep hearing Tom Petty in my head.  It’s his lyric that goes, “How much you’ll pay for what you used to get for free.”  (Add the ringtone to your cell phone for a small fee.)

Before Facebook and iPads, there was LinkedIn.   I’m there, but I only occasionally check my account.  I’m sure there are any number of things I could do with that too, if I chose to invest the time and effort.  But again, I choose not to.   There is so much of this stuff out there.  You’ve gotta draw a line somewhere, or you’ll spend all your waking hours online, tweeting, re-tweeting, Facebooking and updating your LinkedIn account, not to mention that new note-posting thing.

But there is an upside.  There’s a wonderful new form of entertainment out there and it’s absolutely free.  It’s watching the kids at the mall, doing a re-creation of George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead,” bumping their way along, threatening to crash into anything that might be in their way as they insist upon texting and walking at the same time creating a very real pedestrian traffic hazard.  Ever wonder how much of what they’re texting has any real value?  How much of their social media addiction represents something they and (or) their parents now pay for but which they “used to get for free?”

Something that isn’t really needed at all?

When was the last time you read a book?  Not an “eBook” mind you, a book made of wood pulp.  Something with paper pages and covers?  I recently picked up a copy of “The Lost Symbol” by Dan Brown.    I must admit his stuff is getting to be a little formulaic, following “Da Vinci Code” and “Angels and Demons,” both of which were set in Europe.  This time Brown brings master symbologist Robert Langdon home, chasing symbols and their accompanying mysteries here in the United States, making it a fun read even if it’s takes us down a familiar path with an ending that’s a little difficult to buy into.  Well, no more difficult, I guess, than the Camerlingo rocketing a bomb-laden helicopter high above the Vatican, where he straps on a parachute and jumps to safety just before the anti-matter hits the matter and the universe hits the fan.  I didn’t buy that either, but I enjoyed “Angels and Demons” nevertheless.  You can be sure “Lost Symbol” will eventually be made into a film, begging the question of how many people are thinking, “I’ll wait for the movie.”  No time to sit down and read a book, what with all those social media sites to update, clouds to coordinate with, tweets and re-tweets to be seen to and a pile of text messages that demand to be answered.

If you’ve been tweeting me and I haven’t responded it’s not because I was snubbing you.  It wasn’t that at all.  I’ve neglected the demands of social networking on the Internet for the alternative activity of reading a book.   And other analog activities.  A guy’s gotta draw a line somewhere.  Putting it another way, at some point you need to stop texting and look up or you’re liable to walk right off the edge of a cliff — and it could be a long drop to the bottom.

Great Academy Awards With One Regret

   My only regret is that “The Iron Lady” and “My Week With Marilyn” were up for awards in the same year.   Meryl Streep, is a genius and deserves the award.  A year earlier or maybe later,  “Marilyn” and Michelle Williams, would have had a shot at the recognition the picture and the actress deserve.   Williams, was amazing, as was Streep.  But Streep is, well, Meryl Streep, and there is only one.  I also think “Margin Call” was hugely underrated, but it’s all subjective, isn’t it?

A plea to the studios:  Please don’t wait 11 months to release all your best work.   Last year was dry as a desert followed by a December deluge.

The Golden Globes – Why So Glum, Chum? I’ll Tell You Why…

From John Corcoran- 

The first thing I noticed when the Golden Globes began this year was the terrified look on the faces of the celebrity-strewn audience. I confess I did not watch the arrivals–I lost interest in who anyone was wearing years ago. Okay, actually I never cared.

This year I knew something was very different. Over the years the opening shots of the telecast have reflected the state of liquored-up revelry the stars are in. The Foreign Press feeds its celebs (and the Media, more on that later) and the Hollywood Elite,  high-end hooch and champagne before, during and after the ceremonies.

Soon the reason for the uncharacteristically morose edginess became evident—the host Ricky Gervais was introduced to markedly reserved applause.  Last year Gervais caught Hollywood by surprise. He was snarky, rude, insulting, upsetting—and to my mind—hilarious. Grow a pair, Hollywood–learn to laugh at yourselves.  You’re only stars. 

This year the crowd started relaxing only after they figured out Ricky had gone into the tank and had decided to pull his punches. He went easy on everyone.  That was bad news for two reasons. Anticipation of more snark had made his audience look miserable and defensive; and Ricky wasn’t funny.

By the end of the three hours, almost everyone in the audience realized there was nothing to worry about and seemed more at ease, relaxed and half in the bag—even the night’s losers.

This year’s edition was a snoozefest as entertainment, and I doubt Gervais will be back next year. (Don’t bet against Jimmy Fallon.) However, the GG got a lot of the winners right in the movie categories. In my humble opinion.

You can start with the decision to honor the gifted Morgan Freeman with its Cecil B. DeMille honor—the show’s highlight. And it is no secret that the night’s best picture winners, “The Artist” and “The Descendants,” are favorites to duke it out for the Big Prize later this year. So far, so good.

Movie acting choices made sense, too.  Jean Dujardin, wordlessly brilliant in “The Artist” and Michelle Williams, whisperingly sexy in “My Week with Marilyn,” won in the Globes bizarre “Comedy or musical” acting category. In drama, George Clooney gave the best performance of his career in “The Descendants” and who can argue with Meryl Streep doing an accent?

You can’t invite Steven Spielberg to your shindig and not give him something, so an animated honor (“The Adventures of Tintin”) made sure he didn’t go home cranky. I believe they got it right with Martin Scorsese as best director for “Hugo.” The staccato-voiced director thanked everyone he’s ever met in his acceptance speech–except the late Groucho Marx for loaning him the eyebrows.

If a songwriting award is necessary to drag the always publicity-shy Madonna to your event, well the HFPA figured that was a price they were willing to pay.

As for TV? Any show without “The Good Wife” at least nominated for best program can’t be taken too seriously, and I have no idea why most of he night’s TV winners won.

I covered the Golden Globes from 1984 to 1986 and from 1990 to 1997 as entertainment reporter at KABC-TV and later KCAL-TV. I can tell you from that experience, the Globes were by far the most media friendly broadcasts I’ve ever attended. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association—being media themselves—know you keep Media morale up the same way a general takes care of his troops. You make sure they’re well fed.  The Globes were (and presumably still are) the only such event where media eat their backstage meals off real china with actual silverware set on table-clothed tables. (Relax sticklers, we don’t get goodie bags and we need sustenance over what can be a six-hour or more lockdown).

The Globes have gotten big time since the days when I used to cover them in person. How small were they then? One year they couldn’t fill their tables and dragooned some reporters (myself included) to sit inside with the stars. I was at a table with the late Robert Stack, Gary Busey, and Carl Reiner.  I fully enjoyed my time inside the Velvet Rope with an Untouchable, an Unfathomable and a Comedy Immortal. But, if memory serves, my post show live shot was a little slurry.

John Corcoran  1/16/12

 

 

Republican Primaries No Match For Maggie Thatcher

  Not sure anything could be more boring than the current Republican primary/caucus scene.  I do wish they’d stop talking about “Santorum Surging” in Iowa.   Sounds like a treatment for erectile dysfunction that went terribly wrong out in a cornfield.  Anyway, Iowa, is meaningless, no matter what the folks at MSNBC might say.  I’m not unsympathetic.  They do have all that airtime to fill, and they have to talk about something.

Thing is, the Republican field currently appears to have only two candidates that can pose an actual threat to the President.  One, Jon Huntsman, is too middle-of-the-road and therefore far too reasonable to appeal the the right-wing Republican extremists representing the tail that continues wagging the dog.   Although the tail appears to have lost some of its vigor.  The other, Willard “Mitt” Romney, has been endorsed by Daddy Bush, because big Daddy knows that Romney is the party’s best shot.  Even though he kinda, sorta believes in evolution.   And a fair slice of the party irregulars aren’t sure about the whole Mormon thing.  Not sure if he buys into Christianity in the same way they do.  Which, of course, is a huge concern.  They aren’t sure he’s “one of us.”  Can’t have “one of them” in the White House.  Oh my.

More interesting right now is the stir being created in England by the upcoming release of “The Iron Lady,” with Meryl Streep playing former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.   According to Reuters, Thathcher’s free-trade, union busting ways still stir controversy among the Brits.  Taking a page from the Gordon Gekko “greed is good” playbook, her supporters credit her with turning around the British economy with deregulation and privatization.  Sound just a little familiar?  Remember “Reaganomics” and how it eventually dovetailed into something even bigger and badder with the rise of Dubya Bush and his NeoCons?  Thatcher’s detractors cite those same factors for leaving England in its current economic squeeze.  Some are calling upon the government to privatize her funeral.

Also of interest, particularly to those of us in the media, is word that Keith Olbermann, is once again (apparently) at odds with his employer.    According to The Wrap, “The newsman has tapped high-powered lawyer Patricia Glaser to “determine his rights” in his five-year contract, an individual close to him told The Wrap.  Meanwhile, executives at Current TV said that relations – especially those with Current CEO Joel Hyatt – were at a breaking point after deteriorating over the past several months.”  

Thatcher and Olbermann may be the ultimate odd couple, but they’re far more interesting than the continuing Republican circus without the historically confused Michele Bachmann, who was almost always good for a laugh.   Such is the state of our contemporary political madness which makes President Obama look absolutely sane with his end-run around the Republican “party of no” machine, leaving the terminally tanned John Bohener and his whiny nay-sayers bloodied following the recess appointment of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, while, at the same time, the President pulls troops out of Europe and the Middle East to help balance the budget.   Has Mr. Obama finally decided to take off the gloves?

New Mission Impossible An Impossible Bore

   Went to see “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.”  What a waste.  It’s a dumbed-down video game movie, made for the video game crowd.  Which is what I suspected.

Any good movie needs elements of believability.  No matter how outrageous the concept, be it drama or science fiction, they need to make us feel like we’re along for the ride.  That it’s actually happening.  Otherwise, you’ve got a documentary, right?  Or a bad movie.  Well, “Mission” loses its believability near the top of the film with a recorded voice giving Cruise and his fellow agents direction from “IMF” headquarters that sounds like a 15 year old boy.  A kid.  With that voice, the movie’s believability evaporates.  Not to mention the non-stop crashing, bashing and burning that would kill any normal human being.  In this movie, of course, Cruise and others take the hits again and again, and keep coming back for more, like……Batman.  Or Superman.  Except this isn’t a Batman or Superman movie based on a comic book.  No, this is Mission Impossible.  The fun here is supposed to come from the magic that happens when real people, IMF agents, overcome seemingly impossible obstacles to achieve the mission.  Get it?   Eliminating the believability by giving them superhero status kills the effect.

I went only because of the ultra-high rating it’s being given by the critics on Rotten Tomatoes.  I’m clueless as to why they’re going 93% thumbs up on the film.  They must be brainwashed.  It’s just not that good, even for those who are enamored with Tom Cruise.   The one bright spot in the film is the far too infrequent comedic relief supplied by Simon Pegg in the role of Benji.  The guy is outstanding.  Even in a video game.

A Couple Of Holiday Season Movies For Adults

  You’d think I’d learn.  I shouldn’t be writing these things following the cocktail hour.  But here I am feeling motivated by whatever, and so, I will write. Write, I will.  Weegardless.

Here it is.  Flash!  There are movies out there this holiday season suitable for adult viewing!

A couple of movies suitable for adult viewing:   (I know it’s difficult to believe, but there are actually movies out there that go beyond the usual Hollywood crapola for kids.)

First, I give you, “My Week with Marilyn.”   Michelle Williams, is Oscar winning as Marilyn Monroe.  The contrast between her persona and the staid atmosphere created by Lawrence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh), Dame Sybil Thorndike (Judi Dench) and the other British actors she was working with is amazing. Marilyn Monore (Williams), fairly POPS off the screen.  Poor Marilyn, I now feel I understand her more than ever.

Secondly, “The Artist.”  It’s 99% a silent, and it took 20 minutes for my brain to adjust to the fact that a silent film can still be worth watching, that it would be wrong for me to leave the theater before giving it a chance.   I did that, stuck it out past the first twenty minutes, got totally sucked in and found it to be one of the best movies I’ve ever seen.  This too, is Oscar material.  Word of mouth will make it a huge hit.

Oh, and “Margin Call” is also outstanding, although you may not find it at your local movie house.   Lamelle’s is running it here in Los Angeles.  Good for them.  Really, really good movie.

If you have kids to consider, take them to see “Hugo.”  Good kid flick, despite the damnable 3-D goggles you’ll be forced to wear over your regular glasses.  Hopefully you won’t pick up anything communicable from the several hundred people that have used the goggles before you.

I’ll come back and edit this later.  Hopefully I haven’t made any really overly embarrassing errors.  Anyway, my heart’s in the right place.  Gotta go open another bottle of cab.

Harry Morgan Dead At 96

photo: CBS

Alan Alda, Mike Farrell and Harry Morgan on the set of “Mash”

Just read about the death of Harry Morgan, also known as Bill Gannon on the tv show “Dragnet” and Colonel Sherman Potter of “Mash.”  Mr. Morgan, was 96, and played roles that made him identifiable as the quintessential 1950’s American male.  After all those years with the 4077th, it seems somehow fitting that he chose Pearl Harbor Day to finally hang up his spurs.  Harry Morgan, died at this home in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles.