Isaiah Thomas: Superstar?

DATELINE: COUSIN IT   cousin-it

We’ve ignored him long enough. On the last regular season game of the Celtics for 2016, we received a dope slap. And we deserved it. He’s been here since Rondo left, and we never paid much attention to him.

He was the last one taken in the 2011 draft  Danny Ainge acquired him for a bag of popcorn. So, how could we be expected to think he would show up in the basketball statistics next to Wilt Chamberlain (just short of 2 point record in 4th quarter)?

He’s 5’9″. He’s the same height as Lucky the Leprechaun.

He’s mighty mouse. Yet now he has made himself indispensable, untradeable, and the latest Boston superstar.

What, you say? Isaiah Thomas? the minimight who scored 50 points plus in a basketball game for the Celtics? The man who puts himself into the same sentence now with Kevin McHale and Larry Bird?

We need to do some homework. Like Thomas Brady, Thomas, Isaiah came out of nowhere.

He will have to do this for a few more years to become a Titan. Yet, we believe he is now here to stay. He is about to be baptized by the media as Boston’s new Messiah. We have discovered a new star.  No, not a dog star. This one could be up there with Gronk.

Give us another week to reset the Satire Machine.

He has, up to now, been simply Esther Blodgett. No longer. A Superstar Is Born.  He has waded into the River Jordan around Christmas time. And we are looking to the heavenly rafters suddenly for another banner.

 

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Disrespected and Played for a Fool: Streep’s Latest

 DATELINE: Florence Foster Jenkins

ffj Really and Truly

Florence Foster Jenkins (interpreted by Meryl Streep as a pixilated and dotty old lady) was actually a wealthy philanthropist with a love for music. In her youth Mrs. Jenkins sang at the White House, but in the 1940s she was humored and taken advantage of by famous and infamous friends, like Toscanini.

Alas, this film’s audience will likely see her the same way. The film’s marketing strategy plays the woman of limited singing ability as a comic figure of mockery. Streep plays her as an obtuse woman, blindly thinking she was as talented an opera singer as Lily Pons.

There is something disheartening when no one will treat her with dignity for fear they might lose her generosity. Her husband (Hugh Grant) was, in fact, an arranged companion whose job it was to shield her from the truth. His protection is her undoing.

You could say people killed her with kindness rather than confront her delusions. Florence, once puffed up, buys time at Carnegie Hall for her misguided solo performance. Out of her humanity, she gives thousands of tickets to wounded US soldiers to try to brighten their lives with her gift of music. In her grandeur she seemed confused to learn her singing off-key was considered a joke that she was never allowed to enjoy.

Sincere second-rate artists are easy targets for ridicule and contempt, but Streep’s depiction of a good heart takes the comedy out of the burlesque Florence’s audiences sneered at. There is too little kindness for those who try to live creative lives, but fall short of greatness.

Using opera for the masses as the vehicle, this movie surprises in its microcosmic tale about the integrity and hard work one untalented woman put into an art she loved. Florence Foster Jenkins had a tragic, but happy life.

Audiences who ridicule Florence Foster Jenkins do so at their own peril.

Once Upon a Time: The West Reconsidered

DATELINE:  NOT Young Abe Lincoln!

not-young-abe-lincoln

When last we watched Sergio Leone’s grand epic, Richard Nixon was president.

It’s time for an updated opinion. Oh, yes, this Western is still longer than the Nixon Administration and more opera bouffe than operatic; however, we now admit this is a masterpiece of filmmaking.

Once Upon a Time in the West was Leone’s attempt to escape the spaghetti and meatballs and go directly to the steak and potatoes of American Westerns. He succeeded with a Dead Man’s Hand of storytelling.

From the magnificent faces of stars like Woody Strode and Jack Elam, to the star power of character actors Keenan Wynn and Lionel Stander, Leone avoided the dubbed spaghetti mess of the ripoff westerns made in Europe in his name.

His film gives stars Henry Fonda (as a sociopathic killer as bad guy) and Charles Bronson (as sociopathic killer as good guy) some startling moments on screen. What a joy to find these actors together in a movie that gives them free reins.

We now forgive Claudia Cardinale as she seems rather good as a New Orleans madam come West for the money. We also liked Jason Robards in the Eli Wallach role.

Leone could have made this with Clint and Lee, as a fourth in his Eastwood series, but the casting here is inspired—matching the staggering scenes of desert, grit, and horse opera. Editing and music mesh perfectly.

Those stunning blue eyes of Henry Fonda become weapons—and his transformation into his younger self in a climax flashback (30 years earlier) is a sight to behold.

Everything is exaggerated and hilarious, but not quite a disrespectful spoofing of his own spaghetti westerns. Homage is a delicate exercise, and master filmmaker Leone succeeds here.

 

 

Hitchcock/Truffaut Testimonials &/or Chitchat

 DATELINE: Directors & Stars

directors-or-stars

The two late filmmakers met for a book in the early 1960s. At the time the French movie director Francois Truffaut was hotter than Hollywood, and Hitch was thought to be a TV star who made entertaining fluff.

Truffaut saw more and wanted to interview Hitchcock about each of his films. For a week they recorded the audio of their chat, through a translator, and began a lifelong friendship.

A book emerged in 1966, but a film record of their insightful movie self-critiques only comes in 2016, fifty years later!

For those who know only the dark humor of a TV host and his Psycho movie Doppleganger, the revelation may be how many contemporary film directors owe him everything. The smart ones study him, and the dumb ones try to copy him.

That means Brian DePalma is not consulted—though David Fincher and Martin Scorcese are in on the documentary. Put aside the two weird Hitchcock docudramas that featured Anthony Hopkins and Toby Jones.

There is much discussion over the visual impact of Hitch’s images throughout his career from silent to the 1970s era when he was thought to be old hat.

The film boasts two closing sequences of some length that show the utter genius behind Vertigo and Psycho. Only obliquely do we find psychoanalysis of the Master of Suspense. Interestingly enough he demands Truffaut turn off the tape recorder when he wants to discuss Jesuit influence on his philosophy of crime and punishment—and more surprisingly when he discusses the notion of directing scenes when expects the heroes (Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant) are having erections over their blonde leading ladies.

This is a fascinating movie for aficionados of Hitchcock—or those with more than a passing interest in great movie making.

 

 

 

Speke, Burton, & Lost Miniseries about the Nile

DATELINE: Dr. Livingstone, We Presume

One of the best BBC miniseries was the forgotten The Search for the Nile. It proved to be wildly entertaining, filmed on location in the areas that were part of the grand quest of British explorers in the 19th century, including the search for Dr. Livingston by Henry Stanley.

Why has this 6-part show faded from view? It is not available on DVD in the US, and has not really been on TV in decades. Yet, it had James Mason lending his grand voice to the proceedings.

The stars suitably aged twenty-five years over the course of the bumpy and choppy narrative. Sir Richard Burton was limned by the angry young man Kenneth Haigh. His arch-rival was John Quentin as John Hanning Speke.

Their debate, rivalry and eventual hatred, jealousy, and snide posturings make for great drama. Alas, some of it seems more emotive than the actual search.

The beautiful music score of Joseph Horovitz is not to be heard on iTunes or is available to stir your memories.

The story spins on the final destruction of a life’s work by Sir Richard Burton’s wife, trying to save his soul posthumously by burning anthropological studies of sodomy, sex rites, and other shocking matters to the Victorians. Thus, Burton’s true modern spirit has been largely lost.

The smug Speke might have been right, but his priggish and racist attitude is rancid—and the story does not flinch.

The entire series of journeys with their porter Bombay are the subject of several epic novels by author and actor Jan Merlin who surely could have played Burton or Speke in the series. His books, called Gunbearer One and Two, are around for those who want more depth than the series presents.

 

 

 

Don’t Dun the Din, Tom Brady

 DATELINE: Inevitability Meets Tom

whistlegate

A cacophony is growing louder that the Patriots are inevitable favorites to win the Super Bowl.

No team can stand up to the vindictive nature of Tom Brady’s Angry at Goodell Tour, ready to tear the head off every chicken in the coop. Or, Dolphin, as the case may be.

Experts and pundits agree that the Steelers, the Seahawks, the Giants, and even the Cowboys will not match up to the Patriots game day face. Even with the Super Bowl played on foreign soil, in the heart of Texas, the Patriots would seem to be favorites with only a few easily recognized enemies.

You might say that playing the Super Bowl outdoors in cold weather would be the biggest impediment to their victory; however, we know that Tom Brady loves to play in the snow or in the indoors where the only snow is the media blitz. And we know the Cowboys always play indoors where no Buffalo roam.

So the cold weather would not seem to be the worst enemy of Patriotdom in February.

What then might stop the Patriots dead in their tracks?

Why, it would be those guys who play the game in stripes. Yes it’s the referees who could cause the Patriots to become derailed, deboned, and sent reeling.

And whom do these referees work for? You guessed it. The guy named Roger Godowndell, the hated vicious heartless enemy of Tom Brady.

Pass the water jug, Gunga Din. We need a chaser.

Scrooge, the Grinch, and Belichick

DATELINE:  Winner Take All

Laughing Cavalier2

The Patriots celebrated Christmash and the AFC East, on a Saturday afternoon by devastating the New York Jets.

If it were a boxing match, it would have been called because of too frequent nosebleeds from the rainy day New Yawkers.

The Patriots rained on the parade of Jets during the first half. When they were all wet, the rains of Ranchipur and Foxboro relented, but the mercy was too late.

Tom Brady was waving up to his visiting Brazilian in-laws after one touchdown, and LaGarrette Blount was holding a cape for the waiting Martellus Bennett after the next.

When Bennett came to the sidelines, he seemed delighted that Blount was holding the robe to drape over the shoulders of the tight end who would be Gronk.

The Patriots put 41 lumps on coal into the Jets stocking, just in time for deflating the Macy Parade animals. For this loss, coach Todd Bowles released himself from the hospital the day before—and came to the downpours to stand there like Rick waiting for Ilsa at the train station in Casablanca.

Victory was not going to show up for the Jets this day.

It was a day when Belichick’s Bell, Book, and Candle, were not going to be exorcised. It was a holiday when crowds cheered the DUI Michael Floyd who caught a ball out of bounds and received an ovation.

Gronk brought his charity lottery winner to the game to watch from the luxury boxes. And, in the second half, the skies miraculously cleared and bright sunlight shone down upon the blessed Patriots.

Yes, December would end with division championships and home field advantage. Their rivals saw their QBs bite the dust in Oakland and Tennessee, but youthful Tom Brady was standing tall, casting a dark shadow on Roger Goodell.

The Super Bowl seemed within Brady’s grasp for this year.

Michael Floyd: Asleep at the Switch?

DATELINE: Waiting for His Day on the Field

floyd

Michael Floyd’s week is not necessarily better in New England.  He will likely play against the New York Jets on Christmas Eve. He hopes the Star of Bethlehem shines down upon his sorry soul.

Police released video of him arrested, and forcibly given a blood test for alcohol after a court order.

He seemed like a confused, frightened man unable to follow directions, and clearly worried. Yes, in America in 2016, a black man in a fancy car, stopped by police, might fear he will be shot.

It was the Chandler Jones school of dumb-founded. Like Jones, Floyd’s impairment does not look as bad as it really is: he fell asleep at a red light with the car running. Yikes.

The media jumped on Belichick and asked if he had seen the video when he signed Floyd. How preposterous and absurdist can the media be: the video had only just been released to the public that day.

The hubbub intensity led Michael Floyd to speak to the Boston press in the locker room, protesting that everyone makes mistakes. Well, he did not seem stupid and spoke articulately.

Let’s face it: his popularity in Boston will be in direct correlation to the number of Brady passes he catches against the Jets.

If he has a great game, brings in a couple of touchdowns, he will have sponsors lining up to vouch for him at AA meetings.

If he is a flop, he allegedly faces jail time in Arizona. Let’s be serious: men with millions of dollars and celebrity can hire the best attorneys. Michael Floyd will not be sitting in a jail anytime soon.

Next to Aaron Hernandez, also in the headlines this week for his hacked phone calls, Michael Floyd seems a subdued and contrite figure.

Thinking of Gronk

 DATELINE:  Move Over, ALF

ALF

Gronk is never far away in spirit.

As the Pats won yet another AFC East championship, Martellus Bennett shared a public photo of teammate James Develin holding Gronk’s T-shirt to be given on next meeting—and a public shout out.

Gronk, however, has not been idle, nor idyllic, but more idol. His family business opened a health and fitness spa outside of Boston—promising that Gronk himself may make an appearance one day. In the meantime, one of his innumerable brothers shall hold down the fort. It’s a Gronk no matter who shows up to cut the ribbon.

Our Gronk has taken our advice and never breathed a word about it.

Gronk’s new movie American Violence is about to be released. Directed by Timothy Woodward, no relation to the Equalizer Edward, the film features Gronk in a bad-ass role as a mob hitman. Looking dapper, menacing in dark glasses and a suit off the Tom Brady rack, the role is a springboard for the movie actor career.

Heavy violent drama may not be Gronk’s real forte. However, he will have billing ahead of Michael Pare, which indicates a star is born.

We more hopefully anticipate Gronk’s second movie, a sports comedy called Divot. This one he carries on his bad back. He’s has # 1 billing in a so-called “golf comedy.”

Perhaps that is a misprint. We suspect it’s a goof comedy, more in keeping with Gronk’s Noel Coward-style wit. We will stream American Violence during the Super Bowl if the Patriots fail to make it to the Big Show.

You can rest assured that this epic will receive our full critical eye and traditional zingers.

Tom Brady Sings the September Song in December

DATELINE:  The Singer, not the Song

walter-hustonWalter Huston

Denver is the Black Hole of Calcutta as far as Tom Brady is concerned. If Brady plays for the next ten years, he might reach a .500 level of victories.

Tom’s losing record to the home field Broncos was 2-7. He just upped the ante.

Not exactly stellar for a QB who has played for nearly two decades. So, we were not surprised when Tom played a tentative game, carefully increasing his pass arsenal as he grew confident, but rather he mostly relied on LaGarrette’s running coupled with Dion Lewis.

It was a workmanlike win for old Tom, highly satisfying because it clinched first place, home field advantage. Yet, there were the interesting developments that indicated the Patriots are back to their better selves.

It helped to see Julian back on taking in the end zone catching where Cyrus Jones fumbled. Alas, poor Cyrus, he may be going the way of Laurence Mulroney who also had a hard time holding on to balls for Belichick.

Better news centered on Patriot takeaways . There was one to start and one to finish—and the Broncos looked busted.

We also enjoyed seeing the off-setting unsportsmanlike penalties of Chris Hogan with the former Patriot assassin Aqib Talib. It couldn’t have involved two madder dogs than these.

Going to the Super Bowl seems to have made TB12 more circumspect in his play, based on this performance. He seems to know the opportunities are dwindling down to a precious few. This is not the “September Song”, but more like the January Song.

We can hear Walter Huston now, who was only a few years older than Brady when he made it a big musical hit of 1938 on Broadway. Tom was humming it.

Hell and High Water for Comanches

DATELINE:  Move Over, McMurtry

 hell

Looking for all the world like a Larry McMurtry story about the modern West, or one of those films of Martin Ritt, the new movie with Jeff Bridges, Ben Foster, and Chris Pine, stands out on the barren landscape.

It’s not wrong to put it on a short list with No Country for Old Men.

High or High Water features a highly intelligent script, with motifs of billboards along the highway—and the repeated issue of rednecks being smart.

It does not hurt to have parallel storylines:  two bank-robbing brothers and a modern version of Lone Ranger and Tonto on their tail. Therein is a sharply focused tale.

Foster and Pine give performances as the brothers that suggest acting DNA is thicker than high water. Bridges outpaces Tommy Lee Jones at his laconic, sarcastic best to interplay with his Indian companion and fellow Ranger.

The old Ranger wants to outsmart the desperado brothers, looking to his last case before retirement. The brothers want to outsmart the banks and legal system. It smacks of an earlier time, and one witness is surprised that robbers are not Mexicans.

Minor characters may be the best barometer of fate. There is a kind of friendly camaraderie among the West’s denizens—which leads the Bridges character to comment “how much I love West Texas.”

Like the stories of McMurtry a generation ago, we see how much fate is in the genes of character. Directed with sharp clarity by David McKenzie, the film was called originally Comancheria—after the tribe and region where the Native Americans set the bar for Westerns.

This modern Western rises above that high water mark.

Lives of a Bengal Lancer: So Incorrect Politically It’s a Thrill

 DATELINE:  Closeted Lancers

cromwell-with-cooper-tone

Those old Colonial epics of the 1930s are well-remembered (from Gunga Din, Beau Geste, Mutiny on the Bounty, and Charge of the Light Brigade) with stars like Cary Grant, Errol Flynn, and Clark Gable.

One of the least celebrated and seldom mentioned is the 1935 Henry Hawks film called Lives of a Bengal Lancer.

It uses a similar formula as the others, but has a few wrinkles to put it over the top.

Once again we have a triumvirate of stars in a bromance that seems rather heavy on the ties that bind men. This one sends Gary Cooper and Franchot Tone to the Raj. How do all these Americans show up in British India? Well, they’re self-described Canadians. That settles that.

What intrigues is the performance of Richard Cromwell, so long forgotten except as Angela Lansbury’s real life, gay husband.  He was so obviously gay that it defies logic that anyone could not have known, but Angela didn’t. Here he plays the boyish son of the regiment commander, under the care of mother hen Gary Cooper. He is obviously gay here too in the movie.

What? The plot reeks of homoerotic love story—and the minor women are thrown in for complication, but certainly nothing serious. Here, the men bond with the men, or boys as it may.

It’s a rousing adventure out in the Khyber Pass with Muslim enemies that today might be handled with more care. Then, again, animals were likely hurt in the making of the picture, too. It was another time and era.

It is not a lost gay classic, but probably has more along those lines than usually admitted. It is about as politically incorrect as you might find—and a guilty pleasure too.

 

Twin Nightmares: Dahmer and Dylann

manchurian-candidate  dahmer

Same Face of Evil

 

Jeffrey Dahmer and Dylann Roof would have loved each other.

Too bad they never had a chance to fall into each other’s clutches. They weren’t separated at birth, but they share the same DNA.

What a shame they never met and worked wonders on erasing each other from society. It would have been the ultimate Death Match.

Roofie was the drug Dahmer always wanted. And, Dahmer would have enjoyed putting Roof’s head into his refrigerator after drilling a few holes in it.

How odd that these killers, a generation apart, would seem to spin in the same orbit. These are the baby-faced denizens of evil. They are the worthless pismires of American culture, our best looking face on barren brains and twisted psychology of homicidal kids at lemonade stands. When given lemons by life, these two made hemlock.

Alternately smug and catatonic, they offer a cutie-pie-in-your-face to the Grim Reaper. These angels of death show the blue-eyed, blond side of Darkness.

Dahmer always wanted a zombie sex slave—and Roof is already half-way there with his catatonic oblivious attitude.

If you want to compare points of interest, you might see a similarity in the bland, blank-faced, bubble-heads of mayhem. These are the ultimate twin peas in a pod.

They blur the lines of connection between serial and mass killings, but they cover the gamut. Eventually they will become roommates in Satan’s dormitory for wayward maniacs. In the meantime, we must put up with Dylann Roof until he reaches the end of the line in prison, the place where Dahmer found his poetic justice.

Ultimately, a cursory glance at their pictures will give you a bad case of the creeps.

Belichick Finds Michael Floyd Over the Rainbow

 DATELINE:  Drive, He Said

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Local jokesters ribbed each other yesterday by saying Swami Belichick might claim drunk driver Michael Floyd.  Today, the laughingstock is taking stock of another brilliant Belichick move.

Yes, the Patriots have signed a public relations disaster. No, he is not quite in the league of Johnny Manziel. This is more like Floyd Boyzeal.

Drunk drivers never walk a straight line in football. They best catch the ball and zigzag.  Former Patriot coach Charlie Weis was Floyd’s college coach at Notre Dame and suspended the player for DUI.  So, he gave Belichick a rousing report that may sound like a drinking dirge.

Swami Bill usually works some magic on the bad boys of football, causing them to walk the straight and narrow while singing the Great Hoodie’s praises.

How odd indeed that a solid player (a hale and hardy saloon patron) is suddenly free in December for the Patriots to scoop up. It smacks of LaGarrett Blount being tossed into the rubbish heap two years ago—just in time to pull the Patriots’ bacon out of the fire.

Far be it for us to deflate any bubbleheads, but this is the sort of maneuver that pays dividends around Super Bowl time when your best receivers are on the injured list.

So, Belichick’s Salvation Army of Patriot reclamation projects will gather around Michael Floyd and sing a few bars of “Amazing Grace” to bring him to sobriety and success.

Whether we are about to view Miracle on Foxboro Street, or you are about to see Belichick’s version of Apple Annie revert to a Pocketful of Miracles, only the next few weeks will prove.

Like It’s a Wonderful Life, Belichick is about to help Michael Floyd earn his wings. Yep, this is the Great Hoodie version of turning wino into waterboy.

Goodell Cooks Data Again in NFL Pot

 DATELINE:  Commissioner Moriarty

Goodellfather

Every billionaire’s favorite mouthpiece, Roger Goodell, was at it again, at his usual press announcement bully pulpit

Goodell boasted, according to his cooked stats, that crime in the NFL is way down over the past three years. Yes, indeed, the number of child abusing, wife beating, gun toting, drunk driving players has been cut down to a mere 31 arrests this year. That is almost an average of one per team.

Not one mealy mouthed sports journalist dared to ask if that number included crimes like cheating, deflating footballs, or destroying evidence. Goodell kept that number down this year by refusing to acknowledge the Steelers deflated footballs against the Giants a few weeks ago.

The data did not include whether or not millionaire players had an incentive of a grandiose paycheck as their motivation to play nice.

Nor did Goodell answer the question of whether the NFL takes any responsibility for former, retired players who are involved in shootings, suicides, and domestic violence.

We want to know if the intelligence test scores of players, the notorious Wonderlick score taken at the annual Combine, revealed a corresponding decrease in intelligence among players. Nor did Goodell discuss the mental health clinic enrollees among the NFL players.

Goodell did not say whether his own moral duplicity, hypocrisy, and shady dealings, were included in NFL crime data.

Thank heavens that unsportsmanlike conduct is not a crime.