The Bell Finally Tolls

DATELINE: RONDO ALL DONNE

 

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

DATELINE: MOVIE MASHUP

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

 DATELINE: MOVIE MASHUP

Branagh

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

DATELINE: MOVIE MASHUP

 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.

Christie Pulls the Curtain on Hercule Poirot

 DATELINE: TV MASHUP

 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

 DATELINE: TV MASHUP

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.

 

 

 

 

Spiritual Journey Not Just for the Senior Set

DATELINE: MOVIE MASHUP

Dern & Squibb

Perhaps the only other movie to film on the outskirts of Lincoln, Nebraska, is Boys Town with Mickey Rooney. Now comes the black and white feature entitled Nebraska, with Bruce Dern.

The film has all the echoes of another b&w movie called Hud that featured an old movie star named Melvyn Douglas. The colorless panoramas are the same, and the sense of smallness against the backdrop of unrelenting Nature remains.

Dern plays Woody, an old man with the fixation that he has won a million dollars in a lottery and must go to Lincoln to retrieve it. The trip is a Fool’s Errand, but his son Davey (Will Forte) agrees to humor the old reprobate and take him there out of pity.

Along the way of this spiritual journey, Woody’s son learns in a weekend more about his father than he thought he knew from 40 years of life.

Visits to Woody’s old hometown, old girlfriend, and family cemetery, are among the morsels to enlighten. When his wife, Kate (June Squibb), joins them, you have a hypnotic drama unfolding with masterly performances. Squibb steals every scene she appears in as the shrewish spouse.

Such stories always feature and old nemesis, and Dern’s is Stacey Keach, one of many who think they will take some of the old man’s million dollar winnings.

Dern’s old curmudgeon alcoholic teetering on the verge of Alzheimer’s Disease is a last grand performance in a long career of character villains. This time he wins the pathos award and has a brilliant capstone to his movie career.

You don’t have to be old or have elderly parents to appreciate this movie, but it will resonate all the more for a certain generation or two.

Directed by Alexander Payne.

 

If you enjoy the reviews of Ossurworld, be sure to read his latest collections:  DOCUMENTARY VERSUS DOCUDRAMA and MOVIES IN THE STREAM. Both collections of reviews are in softcover and ebook formats, especially for smart readers.

Don’t Bet Apples for Oranges on the Patriots

DATELINE: HUMOR

High Hatting

 

The New England Patriots are moving closer to real action.

We hate to report on games in August, but Tom Brady thinks he will play a half—which may be half too much for an aging superstar. He may need to sharpen his skills and may enjoy playing, but we now fear for every useless play he makes.

Rob Gronkowski may not play too—to show he is not made of glass, even if he falls on his…our poetic skills seem to need more preseason to find the right rhyme.

The real work of the preseason game is to find out if the bettors can handle the new odds.

We need to see if the referees have enough yellow flags to support a full implementation of every rule that will be overlooked during regular season.

In short, everyone is honing skills and making audition tapes for the unlikely possibility they may be cut.

We are not sure what is better viewing: pointless preseason or pointless baseball. Our choices inspire us with the motto early to bed, etc.

Of course, the Patriots creamed the Panthers when it doesn’t count, which is the opposite of their usual preseason nonsense.

The game did what it meant to do: whet the appetite of the faithful and convince them that this is the year Tom does it again.

As for us, we believe when apple-picking time arrives, we may have a better sense of the Patriots and whether their apples have wormholes. In the meantime, we know that rotten apple at the bottom of the barrel has not yet spread its corruption.

You can count on it, but don’t bet on it yet.

Red Sox Wander In Twilight Zone of 2014

DATELINE: HUMOR

 

Ellsubry

The Red Sox, bad as the baddest teams they have fielded this century, now has entered the Twilight Zone.

We are not at all surprised that David Ortiz now feels entitled to complain about how bad it is to play for a last-place, cellar-dwelling team. After he hit his 400th home run this past week and then hit a 30th homer to make it eight seasons with that many and more, we knew he had been given the keys to the kingdom.

However, we were taken aback that the team photo with rows of minor league players sitting and standing before the Green Monster had one empty chair.

Yes, you guessed it: the mystery compounded with David Ortiz being unavailable for the photo pose. No problem with an end seat empty, they will Photoshop Ortiz into the group. Or perhaps they will make him the backdrop, rather than the green scoreboard.

We discovered too the Red Sox want to cover up, stonewall, and muscle, anyone who asks why. At least one major sports network pulled its story on the absent Ortiz.

You don’t cross King John Henry VIII, or you end up writing a blog from the Outer Limits.

The Sox also seemed to be flirting with international intrigue when Yopenis Cespedes was targeted and removed in the third inning because of an unspecified “family emergency.”

Then, to put a capstone on the shenanigans, the wife of the opposing pitcher was incensed that Will “Don’t Call Me Clutch” Middlebrooks broke up her husband’s no-hitter.

She immediately sent out a tweet calling Middlebrooks a “butthole.” Later, having found herself the object of vitriol, lived and died by Twitter. She called her comment a joke. It would appear the joke is on her.

That signpost you just passed reminds us that the Twilight Zone is harder to leave than to enter.

Jarmusch Breathes Life into Vampires

DATELINE: MOVIE MASHUP

Tom&Tilda

Jim Jarmusch comes to the vampire craze in movies and TV with his usual deadpan approach.

Only Lovers Left Alive is the antidote to True Blood or Twilight, presenting vampires as a dying breed. Contaminated blood has put the aging bloodsuckers on the endangered species list.

Vampires are now forced to purchase pre-tested and safe blood supplies of O-negative. Tom Hiddleston plays Adam, living in dead, deserted Detroit and has become a reclusive musicologist. His wife Eve (Tilda Swinton) stays in Tangier where blood apparently is safer and cavorts with her old friend Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt).

Tilda and Tom’s wigs are nearly hilarious and distracting.

Yes, that Christopher Marlowe complains vociferously about Shakespeare stealing his best work, Hamlet. He is among the undead.

This is not your usual action-packed vampire tale, but seems to be a moral drama about whether the vamps ought to start feeding off the “zombies” (their name for living humans). It could be a true death sentence.

Adam complains that the world’s blood supply has been polluted by the zombies—and the last bastion of culture and sensitivity are those dead people who have wandered the earth for centuries.

Quite often Tom Hiddleston shows off his rather-beautiful dead body, looking like alabaster—one of the few drawbacks of being dead.

Jarmusch has once again gone against the grain and provided a film that the general run of True Blood fans will dislike. His film is literate and filled with ennui, indifference, and elite references.

If you want a breath of fresh air, crawl into the crypt with Jarmusch’s vampires.

 

 Fans of movies should not miss the collections of movie reviews in MOVIES IN THE STREAM and MOVIE MASHUP, taken from the annual movie viewing of Ossurworld! Available on Amazon.com for smart readers.

 

 

Laborious Cases for Hercule

 DATELINE: TV MASHUP

Big Four- 25 Years of Poirot!

In the penultimate movie about Hercule Poirot, the creators and David Suchet try to cram a dozen stories into one film.

Based on The Labors of Hercules, the stories meld into one over-plotted extravaganza that has too much weight on the back of its aging detective.

You still cannot do better than having Agatha Christie mixing wit and wiles into a concoction that is a mixologist’s dream cup of hemlock.

The stories originally meant to serve as epical parallels by Agatha Christie to the demigod Hercules and her personal little man, Hercule. Instead the murder weapon is an “objective correlative,” according to one villain, mocking T.S. Elliot and literary pretense in a crime novel.

Christie even takes on Sherlock Holmes with a dog that does not bark in the night at a would-be rapist.

The movie remains stylish, set in a 1930s Swiss hotel cut off by avalanche, trapping murderers, victims, and Poirot, in a dizzy dance of death amid the sumptuous setting and bad paintings (a clue, not a red herring).

Keeping with the tenor of the previous seasons and movies, Poirot is nothing short of suffering myasthenia gravis: depressed more than usual at the death of a client he failed to protect.

The cynicism about killers and the human race seems to be pushing Poirot closer to his end of career case, coming up next. Psychopathic villains in this tale bait Hercule for his ego and his inadequacy. Poirot may well have been at the murder game far too long.

The climax almost comes across as a Marx Brothers comedy (think Go West) with every bad guy holding a gun on a hostage at the same time in the same room as Poirot tries to explain the crime and how it was accomplished.

Devotees of Belgian gray cells will savor every moment.

Ortiz Hits #400 as a Red Sox Designated Slugger

 DATELINE: HUMOR

OBAMA & ORTIZ

David Ortiz has reached a landmark that only two other Red Sox players achieved. This week he hit his 400th home run, putting him 50 behind Carl Yastrzemski and 120 behind Ted Williams.

The Sox have Ortiz locked up for another season, as he reaches the Jack Benny plateau. Few baseball players have managed to hang on to age 39 for as many years as Jack Benny or Ronald Reagan.

Ortiz may want to try.

If he plays five more years, he will likely pass Yaz as a slugger for the Sox—and in his mind, he probably thinks he can hit 20 each season to pass Ted.

Pie in the sky is the bread and butter of most athletes.

As disparaging as we have become toward Ortiz in recent years, there can be no diminishing of his achievement. Far beyond the ugly rumors of enhanced performances, he continues to slug his average of 30 home runs every season.

If he falls off to twenty, he will be at age 43, ready to retire with a bunch of records that may stand for a few decades.

At a time when most home run hitters are shadows of their biggest years, Ortiz has maintained a level of performance.

If his body can hold out and his Achilles heel isn’t an Achilles tendon, then he could take that career pinch-hitter role to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

You may not believe it, but we are rooting for him.

Two Endings & Two Coincidental Eras Passing

DATELINE: TV MASHUP

Big Four- 25 Years of Poirot!

We don’t like many TV shows.

So, when two of our most favored go off into the sunset on the same week, we are about to suffer severe withdrawal symptoms.

After seven seasons of up and down dead people, the HBO vampire show called True Blood is about to send people to the real eternity: cancellation at the end of August, 2014.

And, over on the other side of PBS, the epical rendering of all Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot is coming to a close after 13 seasons over 25 years. It happens the same week as the ending of the vampires.

The two shows dealt with death in quite different ways. At first Hercule Poirot handled stylish murder cases with all the aplomb of a game show host. Over the years, he grew a little nauseous from all the murder—and he took upon a decided cynical attitude toward human nature.

 true blood

On the other hand, True Blood began as a scary idea of dead people tormenting a small Louisiana town. Over the years, these dead people became oversexed corpses who seemed to have more life than living people. Necrophilia was never so attractive, and the show turned into a romper room for seeing dead people.

Both shows started with a core cast that usually ended for the supporting players with a fading from the scene. On True Blood, being dead never helped much: they could always bring you back. On Poirot, the beloved sidekicks went off the map as the detective became a more solitary and depressed character.

Now the only ones who will be depressed are the legion of fans.

We suspect True Blood will be able to have offshoots and sequels, returns and resurrections. Alas, for David Suchet’s Poirot, the end is final. The actor managed to film all the Christie stories. There are no more second acts.

In both shows, the protagonists aged rather markedly. Poirot looked more tired after 25 years. The aging vampires also looked like the crypt was closing on them.

We hate to think how much we have changed over the lifetime of these shows. We always felt like we had stayed the same while the series aired. Now we know that time has passed and the enjoyment of those classic episodes will be a memory without new episodes.

Weathering a Bad Sports Team

DATELINE: HUMOR!

Equalizer Among Equals

We recently noted how many teams seemed to be named after weather forecasts: Thunder, Lightning, Hurricanes, Tornado, Blizzard, and so forth.

With a debate over the name of the Washington NFL team reaching its acme, we wondered if there could be a substitute for racist, sexist, homophobic, and other names that offend fans.

It occurs to us that there are still a few names available to future teams of soccer, baseball, tiddlywinks and chess.

We think a few teams ought to consider the old standby: The FLAKES. No, we don’t mean to be cornball or suggest the Breakfast of Champions. We mean old-fashioned flakes, for a team that seems to epitomize oddball and eccentric teammates. It could work for the Yankees.

Another unused name that could baptize a team to reach the heights of absurdity is The DRIZZLE. It may not rain when it pours, but a steady drizzle is always a nuisance. What spoiler wouldn’t want to be known as The Drizzle?

The BREEZE would be perfect for radio sports blabbers who usually “shoot the breeze” over their own favorite team.

We could also go for the HAIL. What a hearty group of fans might do with the hale gang all there well met for the playoffs?

If your team arrives deader than a doornail every season, you may want to consider the NIMBUS, not to be confused with the cloud covered FOG, which is the funk fans find themselves enjoying when the forecast is for another losing streak.

Of course, lately in Boston, we have been partial to the FROST HEAVES. It applies to several local teams (that shall remain nameless here) that used to inspire good weather vibes.

Yo, Enis, for Crying Out Loud!

DATELINE: Humor!

Yo, Enis!

‘Yoenis’ sounds like a name only Rocky Balboa could call.

If Stanley Kowalski cried out, “Yoenis!” it would have to be in the all-gay production of Streetcar Named Desire.

“Yo, Enis,” sounds like it deserves, if not requires, the use of commas whenever it sounds. If you called “Yo, Enis,” in a crowded theater, someone might call the police to arrest you on a morals charge.

Yet, Yoenis Cespedes comes more trippingly on the tongue than Saltalamacchia—and we did eventually learn how to say it—or even more importantly to a bloggist, how to spell it.

Let’s face it: Yoenis is never going to make the hit parade on your computer’s spellcheck program.

Yoenis, say it softly and it’s almost like praying for a restroom. Say it loudly and it’s almost like cursing out your worst enemy.

We suspect that Stephen Sondheim could not have created a name like Yoenis, even for West Side Story. It’s a name enough to send the Sharks and Jets running for the hills—or back into the closet.

Pete Rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

Yoenis, when he hits back-to-back home runs in the eighth innings of two games to win them, it’s the most beautiful sound we have ever heard. “Yo, Ennis!”

The Sox have just acquired a player named Yoenis, and suddenly the name will never be the same. Yoenis.

Red Sox Nation has just found how wonderful a sound can be. Let’s hope we never stop saying, “Yo, Enis!”