Saved by the Bell or Dobie Gillis?


what scandals?

How could anyone be shocked by the shenanigans behind the scenes of the 1990s TV series Saved by the Bell? After all, actors being actors likely meant drugs, sex, and scandal. So a new TV movie revealing the dirt became another cultural phenomenon this summer, like Sharknado 2.

Yes, someone decided to make a movie based on the memoirs of the nerdy boy from the show. We never watched it, having lost any interest in all things high school about two generations ago.

Of course, had they done a movie about the ugly scandals behind the scenes of Blackboard Jungle or The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, we’d have been all over it. We love satire.

A photocopy of nondescript young actors played the original nondescript young actors. Oh, yes, we do recall Mark-Paul or is that Paul-Mark? He was the handsome ringleader.

As it is, we thought Mario Lopez was adorable when we caught a few shows inadvertently. Then, he played Greg Louganis in a TV movie, and we thought perhaps the old show was a playground for budding talent.

Don’t ask us to identify the female characters in their odd fashions. They all looked alike to us. Oh, yes, we did note that the “Screech” person was stereotype central—whether you were talking Maynard G. Krebs or Merritt Buttrick in Square Pegs.

So, there was no surprise that he was the scandalmonger whose memoir spawned this Lifetime movie. You have to know your audience nowadays, and we suspect that 1990s teenagers still aren’t reading and make the Brady Bunch generation look like world-beaters.

In any case, we will confirm what Ernest Hemingway always said about actors in film versions of his books: the sun also rises.

Borowski’s Murderabilia Carousel



Crime Documentarian John Borowski


When we discovered that crime documentarian John Borowski had a new film, we were absolutely intrigued.

His latest effort takes a larger view of the grotesque subject that obsesses so many people: Murderabilia, collecting like archaeologists, the objets d’art of notorious killers. Look for Serial Killer Culture to either whet your appetite for murderer’s row or satisfy your bloodlust.

Yes, there is a large industry of collectibles being bought, sold, and traded. From the art of John Wayne Gacy to the roller skates of Ed Gein, there is a demanding market for American cultural icons of death and horror.

Borowski lets his subjects defend themselves—and they are a highly defensive troupe of people who have become penpals with the Manson killers, Richard Ramirez, and other bone-chilling names associated with the worst crimes of the past 100 years.

The director’s point is well-taken: this form of American culture can be traced back to the violent lives of Billy the Kid and Jesse James whose history has become ingrained into everyday culture. Perhaps the notion that Jeffrey Dahmer will outshine Jack the Ripper in lore boggles the mind.

The film takes us to a throwback Dime Museum, a venue thought lost with P.T. Barnum’s freakish showplace. We are treated to Milwaukee’s notorious Dahmer tour, and we see the creepy humor of John Wayne Gacy close up.

Borowski has given us chronicles of famous killers like Carl Panzram and H.H. Holmes, but perhaps his examination of the artifacts of the bloodiest killers of American history is the piece de resistance. Can a look at Aaron Hernandez be far behind?

We are not sure what bloody footprints he may track next, but sign us up as a devotee.



Taking a Sledgehammer to Boston’s Ryan Mallett Era



During the past few days the ever-vigilant Boston sports media has been telling us the Ryan Mallett Era is now over in Foxboro. We feel a mallet has been taken for a sledgehammer.

If we thought they were being facetious, we might laugh. Alas, they probably believe they are being insightful, which is laughable.

We presume that since the 21st century began, we have been in the Tom Brady Era in NFL football in New England, or at least in the Bill Belichick Era. In either case it has been the Era of Good Feeling.

Ryan Mallet may have had a handful of snaps during his brief hiatus with the Patriots, as did his predecessor Brian Hoyer. The backup QB who faced the music and sang for his supper was Matt Cassel.

His sojourn in the starting lineup has been a bread-and-butter duty, but hardly qualified for an era anywhere. He may be heading for the last roundup sooner than later.

Perhaps Mallett will enjoy an era in Texas, but he will have to play a few downs to get a foothold. It is hard to be the Zeitgeist of an era when your photo barely makes the weekly game programme.

As for eras, we in Boston are in the Era of Errorful Sports.

It is the era of rebuilding and finding the right bridge. The Celtics, the Red Sox, and soon the Patriots will be in a new era. When your stars evaporate into the mists of lost trading cards, your era is over.

Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Tom Brady, and even Jon Lester may have had eras in Boston that included championships and performances worthy of immortality.

Ryan Mallett was part of an era, but we would more likely label him as part of the Panic of 2014.


The Bell Finally Tolls



rondoprometheusCue Roy Orbison to begin his song, “It’s Over.”

Oh, you mean it’s been over for him for some time? Well, it’s now over for Rajon Rondo too.

Though many a fan may cry, “Out, out, damn spot,” We are not among them.

When Jackie MacMullen, ace reporter and intrepid figure of integrity, tells us that Rondo has let the Ainge juggernaut in on the joke: he wants out, out, out. Preferably today, not tomorrow.

Didn’t Paul Pierce say the same thing when Danny unwrapped his Xmas gifts, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, to soothe the season? A young Rondo went along for that ride and saw what they needed. Now his needs are greater.

He hasn’t seen that much in seven years. It’s almost time for the locusts to descend. Has it been seven years since that mirror was broken?

We followed Rondo faithfully, though disparagingly. We love you, Rondo. Oh, yes, we do. However, enough is enough.

You want a championship again before old age sends you packing to a fate worse than death: perennial loser.

Who could blame you?

As for the Celtics, we have a new generation of young Turks who are deluded enough to believe what Coach Brad Stevens will whisper in their ears.

You can fool some players some of the time, and you can fool some players all of the time. The time to fool Rondo is now over.

That brings us back to the refrain: “It’s over, Celtics fans. Your wish will bring us blight. When Rondo leaves, there is no one else walking through that door to save your bacon.”

Good night, sweet Rondo.



Beautiful Darling Glows Again


Sweetest Candy

Sweet and gentle, Candy Darling smashed the molds most people have for female impersonators. To a degree nearly all have a travesty about them that satirizes femininity. Candy Darling was lovely and could pass the vulnerability test.

Andy Warhol’s superstar that actually had the aura of Kim Novak and Marilyn Monroe was little Jimmy Slattery who transformed himself into Candy Darling. He was beautiful and exuded glamour that Jean Harlow and Lizbeth Scott would aim for in the real Hollywood.

Candy Darling was limited to the New York glitzy life of fame unearned. She wanted to be famous, but it was only acting without much satisfaction.

Her longtime friend Jeremiah Newton, her companion and hanger-on, helped produce this documentary called Beautiful Darling. If ever there was a tragic heroine of the Warhol stable, it was Candy.

She could be called a sham and a fake. Yet, she was pleasant, according to Tennessee Williams. Perhaps all she wanted was to be loved—and it seemed to escape her grasp. Finally, Warhol too seemed to jettison her.

When Warhol finally left behind his male ‘women’ icons, Candy probably was most bereft, but she suddenly discovered she was terribly ill. She did not kill herself with drugs, drinking, or wild living. She developed a tumor when she was 29—and like another darling creature and cultural phenomenon, Klaus Nomi, a few years later, she simply died prematurely and mostly alone.

Her story is unbearably sad, and this documentary notes her impact on Lou Reed, Truman Capote, Warhol, and others of the satiric age of glamour, The Sixties.

Forty years after her untimely disappearance from the Scene, people like filmmaker John Waters pay attention.

Yes, attention should be paid. Darling Candy deserved so much more. It’s the least we can give her memory.

A Slight Rise above Mundane for Jack Ryan



Director and Archvillain Kenneth Branagh

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is some kind of Tom Clancy spinoff for a new movie series franchise. They managed to rope in Kenneth Branagh as both villain and director. And, that put this standard spy thriller into another realm.

Branagh, when he avoids updated Shakespeare, actually directs intriguing films that take tired, old genre action pictures and turns them interesting with minor details.

This film has traditional chase scenes and superfluous action to keep dullards awake. Heaven knows that the tale of a Russian economic czar with a drug problem is tiresome enough. You also have boring “suspense” with the hero downloading key information off computer systems all too easily hacked and onto his handy thumb drive. Oh, please.

In the hands of Branagh, the movie’s routine action may actually take second place to the deeper psychology of the characters and the use of literary detail in the most surprising of places. You hardly expect a discussion of Russian literature and Lermontov over dinner in one of these films.

Yet, Branagh also uses Kevin Costner and Chris Pine in mostly juxtapositions of their careers. Costner was Pine 30 years ago. And, Branagh loves old movies: this film features the voice of Barbara Stanwyk in Sorry, Wrong Number and Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby as glosses on the plot.

So, if you think you have seen this movie many times before, you could be taken aback by a few minor details that set the film apart from others it imitates. Two delightful scenes involve former ballet star Mikhail Baryshnikov as a Russian government official. He’s unbilled and almost unrecognized.

If this movie turns into a franchise foundation film (like Branagh’s version of the first Thor movie), you can count on the fact that nothing to follow will have the same level of delicious detail.

Jodorowsky’s Dune Beats Lynch’s Dune


 jodorowsky's dune

We can think of a couple of great movies that never made it to post-production: I, Claudius with Charles Laughton as the Roman Emperor, and Dune, the Jodorowsky version. Both were made later in an era better able to handle the themes and technical aspects.

Years before David Lynch made an abysmal version of Frank Herbert’s Dune, Alejandro Jodorowsky—one of the great experimental filmmakers and artists—put together pre-production for an original epic. Now comes the documentary telling how it failed to be filmed in Jodorowsky’s Dune.

Studios wouldn’t accept the director: he was a gaucho warrior from South America—and he’d likely be out of control. His previous two movies were staggering achievements outside the system. 

Now nearly 40 years after his greatest film project was denied him, he and his producer Michel Seydoux put together a documentary to tell the tale.

Jodorowsky’s film and artistic team would have blown away audiences—or chased them away. His ideas then went into dozens of 1980s movies from Alien up to Prometheus, from Flash Gordon to Star Wars. What could not be done with special effects in the 1970s was possible a few years later.

Jodorowsky had seduced great minds to join him in his endeavor. Orson Welles, Salvatore Dali, David Carradine, and Mick Jagger, were the cast.

Like a cult leader, Jodorowsky could charm everyone—and even as an old man, you can see his energy, his integrity, and his style, in this film about the unmaking of Dune.

What a crime it is for the true visionary to be refused the union card for Hollywood, but the great filmmaker could rise above it—and even took pleasure in the Lynch’s inability to translate Herbert.

Those who love movies and great art on film owe themselves a chance to see this intriguing story of what might have been.

Logan Mankins Tossed into the Belichick Trashcan



Why would anyone be shocked that the New England Patriots is a business without a heart?

Logan Mankins lasted longer than the HBO series True Blood. Mankins had the true blood, but Belichick wasn’t drinking any more.

Bill Belichick has sent many a deeply appreciated player to ignominy over his years in Foxboro. Today he sent Logan Mankins into the Siberian of the NFL. The gulag happens to be a team that sent the Patriots something they don’t need: another tight end.

Mankins once held out for half a season and accused the Kraft family of being duplicitious (to be kind). They all took it in stride as something out of the heat of the moment. But for Belichick and the krafty family, revenge is a dish best served cold.

They sent Mankins packing just as he may be passing a milestone of becoming older.

We suspect Tom Brady may have given half a thought to the notion today that he too would be thrown across the stone to have his heart, still beating, ripped from his breast.

Mad witch doctors like Bill Belichick have an arsenal of sharpened blades with which to de-heart a team. And, you may have thought only Ben Cherington was guilty of such ruthless behavior in Boston. How wrong you’d be: Belichick was wearing the face paint of the witch doctor years before Ben decided to look petulant and smarmy.

So, now we wish Logan Mankins a nice ride out of Logan to his new destination. Like Willie McGinest, Ty Law, Mike Vrabel, and countless others, he has reached the expiration date on the Belichick milk carton.

We may hear of Logan now and then over the next year or so, but he won’t be back until they decide to give him a retirement party at Gillette—and all ill-will is forgiven.




Christie Pulls the Curtain on Hercule Poirot


 Big Four- 25 Years of Poirot!

Agatha Christie’s posthumous novel about the end of Poirot fits the long-running series with David Suchet.

Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case is a disturbing and cynical finish to the great detective whose use of “little gray cells” so enchanted murder mystery fans.

Over the years, the detective (perhaps like his creator) had grown tired of the evil and murderous ways of sociopaths. So, Christie had Poirot in his ill health tackle the ultimate serial killer in the location where he had solved his first case thirty years earlier.

Captain Hastings (Hugh Fraser) returns for a last hurrah—and turns out to be nearly as dangerous and suspicious as any other suspect.

Confined to a wheelchair and looking exhausted with his heart condition, Poirot seems less the agile crime solver in 1949. He seems doomed, likely a victim as much as the detective he always epitomized.

Indeed, Poirot’s anguish over his own role in murder has driven him to religion—as he grips his little rosary beads, fearing killers had driven him to do their bidding.

Nevertheless, the little Belgian has a few tricks up his sleeve as he will stop a serial killer from continuing his cruel murders that misled police to arrest and courts to convict the wrong people.

As a moral man, Poirot may be more distressed over what he must do than his audience. He feels his showboating style has returned and for that he is most guilty.

The final case for Hercule Poirot is brilliant, and he is equal to the task. Older and wiser than when he made his trips down the Nile or on the Orient Express, Poirot came to the end Agatha Christie wanted. She saved her best for the last.

Vampires Gone with the Wind


true blood

And, they died happily ever after…

For seven seasons True Blood has not let death end a good storyline. The final season, however prosaic, has been nothing short of anticlimactic. Week after week, like a bad Agatha Christie plot, characters have met their ends like ten little Indians.

Once gone, characters could always return in past years, but now the show struggled mightily to bring every subplot costar into some modicum of happy ending. It tends to crimp the story to make every segment of the audience happy at the expense of the drama, the vision, and the meaning.

The show continued to use the F-bomb like a badge of honor, fitting it clumsily into every other sentence. Combined with stripped down sex scenes aching for lively denouement, you had dead people with better sexual lives than the living counterparts.

If comedy is harder than dying, we shouldn’t be laughing quite so loudly. The final season has been a bit of a bore, all too taken up with loose ends.

The show actually lost its imagination a few seasons back. Lately the tales were soap opera suds with immortals that seemed a bit tired looking and completely uninteresting humans.

Anna Paquin’s kiss of death rivaled her brother Ryan Kwanten’s inevitable gay sex fantasies. In a world where anything goes, practically nothing was left on the table of flat characters. If this were a pilot episode instead of the end of an era, no one would have put film in the cameras.

We hate to be hard on a show we watched faithfully for seven summers, but we were had. We bought the Brooklyn Bridge to fairyland.

Without spoiling too much, we can only say that the show ends with a cast Thanksgiving party. As for Sookie and Vampire Bill, perhaps they turned into Scarlett and Rhett after all. But, frankly, my dears, we no longer gave a damn.