Sen. Cracker Graham Support for K-K-Kavanagh?

DATELINE: Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Blackmailed!

 Judge Roy Moore Any Judge will do it for Trump!

Some observers are wondering why President Bone Spurs Trump’s most ardent critic of the past two years suddenly had a change of heart.

Sen. Lindsay Graham suddenly became the attack dog for the Administration at the hearings for Judge K-K-Kavanagh. His spirited hissy fit at the hearing has all the makings of a man’s manufactured indignation.

If the lady doth protest too much, then what condition has prompted cracker Graham to represent his Carolina constituents with a banjo on his knee?

He even threatened to politicize his future dealings with the judiciary, overlooking the fact that the women justices he supported were not accused of harassing other women.

He seemed unfazed that the man who picks his clerks for their leggy credentials boasted that he will surround himself with a harem of law clerks as a Supreme Court justice. Old B-B-Brett seems unfazed at the pain he is inflicting on his family to satisfy his raw ambitions. On the day Bill Cosby goes to jail in handcuffs for using date rape drugs, Brett is on his way to the Supreme Court for a similar allegation.

Can it be that the latest Trump troll is acting out of the fear of something evil coming his way? For years the rumors have persisted that Graham is a member of Dorothy’s Friends, that amiable group of rainbow singing Munchkins.

Now we begin to wonder if blackmail is at the heart of Trump support. We have seen thugs purported to have made unkind suggestions to women like Stormy Daniels by Trumpist monkeys. Can it be that the voters in Carolina may be treated to a lowdown on the downlow of Lindsay Graham? Would Trumpites sink so low? You better believe it.

So, the man with no proclivities to support date rape of women may have proclivities that he would prefer you not cast a vote upon in future elections. It’s not likely that the LGBTQ community of South Carolina wants to think of what sits on Graham’s knee.

Or if he is on his knees to do something other than pray and to do the bidding of President Bonehead Bone Spurs?

 

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Every Picture’s Untold Story, Part Two

DATELINE: Twice-Told Lizards

Mrs. Arnolfini, not pregnant No Expectations?

Waldemar Janusczark returns for a second round of nasty interpretations of great works of art. The series is the veddy British Every Picture Tells a Story. He isn’t off much in his comments. After all, it’s art and open to criticism from a legitimate authority. He does it with aplomb and humor, if not deadpan accuracy.

Among the targets this time around are Da Vinci and Caravaggio, as well as Jan Van Eyke.

First up on the hit list is Caravaggio, known for his violent depictions of effeminate boys, mostly commissioned works for wealthy and gay bishops.

Caravaggio liked to use rough trade types from the streets of Rome in his religious depictions, and he also enjoyed using a younger version of himself as Bacchus, that god of dissipation and licentiousness.

So, Waldemar goes after Boy Bitten by Lizard. It may be one of the rare occasions when pontification about the symbol of the middle finger is at the heart of art.

Later, he tackles Da Vinci with a hatchet. There is no love for the great master as Waldemar notes how Mona Lisa is a marketing icon and a plump housewife whose critical appreciation is overwrought.

He also takes on The Marriage of Arnolfini, ridiculing anyone who says Mrs. Arnolfini is not pregnant in the picture. He goes even a step beyond to suggest that she is the victim of death in childbirth and that the portrait is posthumous, done as homage by her husband.

You cannot go wrong by hearing these takes on great art, and it will make you the center of attention at parties when you reveal what you have learned.

 

 

Every Picture Tells: Fascinating Doc

DATELINE: Picture This, Part One

 Mr. & Mrs. Mr. & Mrs. Andrews

Art critic Waldemar Januszczak  makes great paintings accessible and stresses how they endure.

From its galloping opening credits, you know this is not Kenneth Clark pontificating. It is art with a large dollop of droll and snide insight. The host begins with a barrage of witty puns.

The mini-series covers a couple of disks with four major paintings and painters on each. Waldemar knows enough to start off the series with his aplomb dropping wit applied to Thomas Gainsborough.

You might think he’d do “Blue Boy,” but instead he goes for an unfinished masterpiece called “Mr. & Mrs. Andrews.”  He savages them totally in about 25 minutes.

In the host’s estimation, Gainsborough did not like Mrs. Andrews much—and the family cancelled the picture before it was finished. He wanted to show the hard-hearted Mrs. Andrews throttling a pheasant her husband just shot on their massive estate.

Gainsborough insights abound from the critic. He notes how the painter’s father was into satin manufacturing—and his artist son always makes his subjects wear the most gorgeous clothes.

As for the subject of portraiture, he did not favor it. The first episode is lively and wonderful. Succeeding pieces on Rembrandt, Giorgioni, and Boticelli, are less amusing, though he provides many startling facts.

You will find that Rembrandt enjoyed the lessons of dissecting human bodies, and Venus on the half-shell is more than an appetizer.

You can’t turn away from great art, or great education, and we look forward to what he has to say about Da Vinci and Caravaggio in the subsequent episodes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Far Lifar Travelled

 DATELINE:  Male as Diva

Lifar with Daddy Diaghilev Lifar & Daddiaghilev!

Today he is barely recalled, except by balletomanes.

Serge Lifar was a name in Jeté sets and Monaco parties from the 1920s to the 1950s. He was a principal dancer for Serge Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes. He was a sort of sub for Nijinsky on stage, in bed, and off kilter.

Lifar was ambitious, and his tale is fascinating to see played out in a documentary called Serge Lifar: Revolution in Dance. Interestingly enough, the word gay is never spoken.

Considered pale in comparison to Nijinsky, olive-skinned Lifar played the same roles for Diaghilev who tutored him and turned him from a late-blooming peasant boy into a stunning aesthete. He became friends with Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, and a raft of Paris artists around the era.

Life was dramatic for Lifar. He was the epitome of a drama queen before the term took hold. He was a social media star when there was no such thing: he had a nose job to lessen shadows on his face when he danced.

As catty serious as this film is, it avoids tales of bedtime trysts, a fight with Boris Kochno (Diaghilev’s secretary) over the Maestro’s dead body (literally) in 1929. It details Lifar’s alleged collaboration with Nazis and handsome officers he needed to cultivate. He twice met with Hitler, and his Paris Opera House was always filled with front-row SS officers.

Yet, there is plenty of dirt to go around, even when spread nicely thin. Lifar refused to go to Berlin and start a ballet school, creating an epic ballet for the Third Reich. He was still convicted of collaborating by a French tribunal.

He regarded himself as homeless, a displaced person, a refuge from Russia who made a home for 30 years in France. He was an autocrat who saved the arts from Nazis, according to friends. He is often credited with “firsts” in ballet that rightly belonged to Diaghilev and Nijinsky.

He couldn’t give up the fame or infamy, having ridiculous duels and carrying on as a diva long after he should have retired. His greatest ballet creation was Icare, about the handsome young man who flew too close to the sun with wax wings. Delusions take many forms. How appropriate.

 

The Invasion Continues with More Pod People

DATELINE: Sequel 25 Years Later (Again)

Kidman & Craig

Twenty-odd years after the second Invasion of the Body Snatchers, a sequel to a sequel shows up. This one is The Invasion and features Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig (young and James Bondy but strictly a bauble here, highly decorative).

We enjoy the notion that every generation presents its own paranoid outburst: invaders from space take over human bodies by replication. Whether another sequel will appear in twenty-five years is doubtful, or at least we won’t know about it.

As in the 1979 film, Kevin McCarthy of the first, original film made an appearance to tie it to the previous. This time, Veronica Cartwright makes an appearance to claim the man she is married to is not her husband (a common complaint in these films).

We love that connection. Here, however, the paranoia is less threatening. The looks from by-passers is not quite as disturbing and malevolence is not around every corner.

Make no mistake, though: The Invasion is cut from the same outer space spore. Alas, this one seems to have a ‘happy’ ending. Paranoia is dispatched.

The horror builds slowly, methodically, as we already know what’s going on, now set in Washington, D.C., where the federal government is as inept as ever. Indeed, high-ranking officials are clearly pod people.

The film from 2008 also features Jeffrey Wright (of Westworld) as an assistant to Craig in his laboratory. Suspense veteran Josef Sommer also appears as some kind of Washington bigwig.

Kids are not immune in this film, and Kidman’s kid is central to her energy to fight the spores that want to turn us all into automatons without emotion. It seems that it is a good turn to save the human race from its own violent rages. You may turn into a pod person by means of projectile vomit, which is certainly cinematic.

Fortunately for us, no good deed by space monsters goes unpunished.

 

 

 

Between Two Worlds: Fantasy Ship to Heaven & Hell

DATELINE: Netherworld for Ossurworld?

betwixt & between

Betwixt & Between!

When Warner Brothers decided to make a World War II movie about the afterlife, they went back to the 1920s and took a Sutton Vane play as their vehicle, updating it.

Gathering together a back-lot cast of marvelous character actors and a couple of bigger stars of the studio, they fairly much put ten people on a mysterious, foggy super-liner going to both heaven and hell, which are the same place.

Ten people end up being the only ones aboard, including two suicides.

John Garfield and Paul Henreid were the drawing cards, with Faye Emerson and Eleanor Parker as the ladies. The film was entitled Between Two Worlds.

However, it was the supporting cast that seemed heavenly:  Edmund Gwenn as an obsequious ship steward (the only crew member on board) and the notorious Examiner at the end of the journey, in his standard white linen suit, Sydney Greenstreet. He is a hard judge for sure at the end of one’s life.

The story quickly sets up a death that no one remembers, and then a one-class byplay of rich and poor in the same main salon, eating and drinking together and coming to realize they are not bound for the United States after all.

Henreid is a suicide who recognizes his mortality before the others. They are meant to learn the fate slowly,  in their  own time and way. However, hot head  John Garfield makes short work of that notion.

The final judgment and reckoning are apt and harsh. You cannot buy your way out, and it’s too late for anything but a just reward, or punishment. This is one of those Warner Brothers movies to savor from the mid-1940s. It is a timeless tale of eternal damnation that would surprise Faust.

 

 

 

 

Fabergé: a World Unto Itself

DATELINE: Walking on Egg Shells

easter egg

If you want to see one of the most sumptuous and stunning documentaries made, take a peek at Fabergé: A Life of Its Own.

We are seldom prepared for art for art’s sake nowadays. However, the makers of this little film show as much love for beauty as did the original Imperial Russian craftsmen who made the notable eggs for the Tsar.

We haven’t seen such colors since MGM’s heyday of technicolor masterpieces, and the strains of Russian music from Stravinsky, Rimsky-Korsakoff, and Tchaikovsky, are more than suitable to the images of the Easter eggs made for the Tsarina and Dowager from the 1880s to 1914.

The obtuseness of the suffering of the people led to a Revolution that ended the dynasty of Nicholas and Alexandra but began an Easter egg hunt that is worth a cool $30m each.

Each egg (about five to ten inches tall) contained a surprise inside: usually a miniature bouquet of jewel encrusted flowers, tiny family portraits, or a model ship. We’ve heard of ships in a bottle, but never saw one in an egg.

Only 50 Imperial eggs were made–and finding them is more difficult than finding the Easter Bunny.

One of the last eggs was made to resemble and ice-encrusted ball with spring flowers within. Stunning.

Carl Fabergé luckily escaped the Revolution’s executions, but the Tsar did not. Fleeing royalty later sold their jewels for food and refuge. Only with the American marketers did the name of the great artist-jeweler become associated with Brut cologne for men, or even bug killer spray.

The Fabergé name is today being restored to dignity and jewelry.

You cannot miss the staggering aesthetics of this film, narrated by Samuel West. It is as rich as a pastry tray of goodies.

Funny Face: Frothy, Light, & Fun

DATELINE: No Ginger Needed?

winged hepburn Winged Hepburn!


In 1957 came the last great Fred Astaire movie, and his dance partner and costar is Audrey Hepburn, not Ginger Rogers. Funny Face is as good as you’re likely to find with a homage nod to those musicals of the 1930s.

You may cringe to see almost 60-years-old Astaire wooing almost 30-years-old Hepburn. The old dance trouper is amazingly youthful, though at times he looks tired after all those acrobatic steps. He watches a few numbers (jazz interpretive stuff with Audrey and two beatniks) with askance.

The older woman Kay Thompson is the fashion magazine owner and editor (and Ginger could have played this but chose not to do it). And, Kay steals all her scenes, including a few dances with aging Fred.

Within a few years, Astaire would turn to dramatic acting in films like On the Beach, dismissing himself as too old to dance and be a romantic lead.

Yet, when he is called upon: Fred still has the magic, doing a dance with an umbrella and a raincoat that turns into a matador’s cape. Brilliant late career effort.

Though producers denied Audrey a chance to sing in My Fair Lady, she does so in this film—and her voice is distinctive, not bad.

Fred plays an arty photographer on the lines of Richard Avedon (who took the real pix in the pic). Hepburn is a bookstore worm transformed into a model that she disdains.

Early claustrophobic stage scenes contrast with the wide-open location numbers in Paris, leading up to the real Eiffel Tower. Director Stanley Donen provides some marvellous moments outside the studio.

Gershwin tunes abound, including the constant refrain from “S’marvelous,” that emerges only at the climax of the movie.

In some ways, the movie is trying too hard to be special, like dancing on raft in a stream with swans floating by. Yet, you must give it credit for providing us with legendary performers doing wonderful things.

 

 

 

Body Snatchers 1979

 DATELINE: Sequel, not Remake!

snatchers 3 Peas in a Pod?

The movie The Invasion of the Body Snatchers with Donald Sutherland and Leonard Nimoy back in the late 1970s was not technically a remake, but a sequel.

Though it uses the same story-line by Jack Finney from his novel, it is slightly updated to contemporary times. Then, out of the original ending comes a running Kevin McCarthy, the original star, dashing through the streets of San Francisco like Paul Revere, calling people to alert.

The “pod people” are coming. Indeed.

This film is even more nightmarish in its paranoia than the original 1950s Commies under the bed movie.

Here the paranoia is steeped in everyone and everything. People are either inexplicably dashing to-and-fro in the background, or they are staring emotionlessly at you.

San Francisco, always weird anyhow, is the perfect backdrop for chaos and insanity.

Gathering some of the most familiar of sci-fi faces, the film puts Veronica Cartwright (Aliens) with Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park  ) and Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek) as a motley crew.

The film is surprisingly modern with the omission of Internet and PCs, which did not exist back then. However, the government control and conspiracy notions are heavy-handed. The use of public phones will be an incomprehensible throwback for young viewers who may wonder where the texting is.

Visual details are fascinating and complex. No one seems to wonder why rubbish trucks are constantly picking up  mounds of black cotton at night. This is the ultimate conspiracy theorist wallow.

If you are a conspiracy nut, then you will not have much restful sleep after watching this looney-tune of a science fiction horror. It puts together man-eating plants with the egg-head monsters of Alien.

Sherlock v. Conan Doyle: Battle Royale

DATELINE: Who Hates Sherlock Holmes? The Author

doyle

If ever there was a legendary love/hate relationship, it was between Sherlock Holmes and the man who was his spiritual father and creator, Arthur Conan Doyle.

In a French documentary called Sherlock Holmes Against Conan Doyle, we have a battle on the order of a duel with the Napoleon of Crime and the Actors Who Took Him On.

Meant to be a money-making enterprise and a throwaway for a couple of stories, Holmes turned into Doyle’s Frankenstein Monster.

A marvelous and entertaining documentary gives us a blow-by-blow description of Doyle’s losing war with his temperamental genius/consulting detective.

You know who will win this fight. Holmes has survived with hundreds of movies and TV shows, depicted by a variety of actors with waspy disdain—from Rathbone to Jeremy Brett, to the modern versions like Cumberbatch. Thankfully, we never see Robert Downey in the role.

The little hour is chock full of clips of these Sherlocks making annotations on Conan Doyle, a man of some adventure and style himself. Often thought as a Watson type, Doyle was actually more of a Professor Challenger sort.

Killing Holmes was frowned upon even by Doyle’s mother, and money is the great resurrection device. After ten years, Doyle was forced to bring him back from the dead.

Based on an old professor who used to wow the med students with his erudition, Holmes was a clever creation who was enhanced by his narrative fellow, long-suffering and frequent punching bag named Dr. John H. Watson.

If you want to see fleeting glimpses of many classic Holmes portrayals, and rare clips of Doyle, you may enjoy the time, though it covers familiar territory.

 

Broken Hearts Club, 20 Years Later

DATELINE: Sexy Romantic Comedy?

stellar cast

Of all the weird elements of the Broken Hearts Club is its subtitle, a Romantic Comedy.  It is nothing of the sort, but rather a version of a gay sex farce. That takes nothing away from its polished and entertaining qualities.

The other oddity, still years later, is the cast of all-straight men, mostly at the start of their big careers, and all playing mincing gay boys of different stripes. It’s like one of those World War II platoons with different ethnicity and stereotypes.

The cast is stellar, including Timothy Olyphant (of Deadwood and Justified) giving a slightly off performance that nearly convinces us he is gay. Of course, his kissing abilities are hot, but he has been married for years.

So has Dean Cain as the Lothario of the group and Zach Braff as the gayest queen.

The ragtag friends work part-time in some capacity or other at Jack’s a gay friendly restaurant in Los Angeles, and they play softball for the business. This gives the actors a chance to prance around in queenly fashion.

When dramatic moments are called for, the actors are highly polished and strong, even in their disappointments with love. They seem to avoid falling into bed with each other, but when it happens, look out.

Greg Berlanti writes and directs with aplomb and wit, though stereotypes are required. The young men are all 20-somethings, in the tail end of the AIDS crisis and not really part of it.

We would like the director to do a sequel and show us these men and their dissipated lives at age 50. It might prove more instructive, if not frightening, to see what happens to handsome gay men in middle-age.

World’s Most Extraordinary Homes, s2

DATELINE: Are You Being Served?

piers & caroline Your Presenters!

They’re back, and they’re just as lovable this time around. Yes, the two presenters for the BBC series, Caroline and Piers.

The hosts are like Mrs. Slocombe and Mr. Humphreys from Are You Being Served? No American show would dare to give the reins to a middle-aged zaftig actress and a slightly epicene architect.

Together they tackle four episodes of garish homes with their usual flattering aplomb. Caroline does admit in a few instances that she is less than charmed with the accommodations.

The houses are in Miami, Portugal, Switzerland, and Japan. All the homes favour spectacular views and ostentatious shows of moneybags.

Once again, the hosts seem unbothered by endless staircases and innumerable stairs. These are not houses meant for anyone with shortness of breath or arthritis in the knees.

And the open walls are out-of-place in hot, hurricane prone areas. Are there no mosquitoes? Often out of the house before nightfall, these extraordinary homes are denied mundane appearances. In the latest season, they seem to find houses with the best picture windows in the world, no mean feat in itself.

Piers has taken on a more rakish look this season, with pop colors and shades of different hues, and Caroline is more of the same. Together they are genuine and effusive, perhaps a bit too much, like a dotty aunt and uncle.

Nevertheless, we enjoy every moment provided by the presenters of the amazing places, Even if they turn out to be a pyramid of vanity.

 

 

Children of Giant: Mexican POV in Marfa

DATELINE: Unavoidable James Dean Strikes Again

Children of Giant Children of Giant!

If you know anything about our Hollywood history books on the story behind making movies, you know that we would be hot on the trail of George Stevens’ 1955 classic epic Giant. 

Made On location in Marfa, Texas, with Elizabeth Taylor as an early feminist in 1920s Texas, and Rock Hudson as the laconic cowpoke who owned Reata, a cattle ranch, you are overwhelmed with James Dean who stood out on the landscape,

However much the director wants to make this a movie about the Mexican discrimination in Texas, James Dean is there to steal the movie. He dominates everything in the fascinating film called Children of Giant.

Actor Earl Holliman is still around to give his perspective, and Jane Withers appears to have declined to participate.

Director Stevens’s son, notable Hollywood producer George Stevens, Jr., offers many insights. They say little about Dean.

It was the film James Dean died making. It was a Western that showed the yellow rose of Texas was a yellow streak of Jim Crow laws against Mexicans. The children loved him, and they saw him as someone special and caring.

Today Marfa’s racism almost seems quaint, next to the horrors being inflicted on Mexicans under Trump.

New York historical novelist Edna Ferber was spot on depicting wild cat billionaire Glenn McCarthy (aka Jett Rink in the movie and book). James Dean’s makeup and style mimics McCarthy in his late middle-age.

Dean is remembered fondly by the Mexican children and adults whom he befriended in Marfa, Texas. Indeed, if you are looking for stories about Dean’s public urination in front of town onlookers, or even the tale of Dean going after director Stevens in a fight over his performance, you will find only slight nods in that direction.

Yet, as a social history document about a social history movie, you could not find a more spot-on documentary. It features townsfolk giving their insights and sharing their unusual photos.

It is nirvana for a movie maven who delights in the behind-the-scenes activity. This little PBS documentary packs a wallop and a message from the children of Marfa in 1955. Unfortunately, James Dean is still the big draw. George Stevens and Edna Ferber could not avoid him then or now.

 Dr. William Russo wrote The Next James Dean, which is available as an ebook and print work on Amazon.

 

Bend Unbroken, Stir Unshaken

DATELINE:  James Bond Satire

Chris Lew Kum Hoi Dr. Tu Yung

How amusing is a gay parody of James Bond? Well, if you tune into Matt Carter’s one-hour spoof, you may be more than pleasantly surprised. It is not too violent, nor too sexual.

It’s Jayson Bend: Queen & Country.

So, it falls into a Goldlocks world of gay cinema. And, thank heavens, it is not about teenagers with a coming out angst and done on videotape.

Some of it is heavy-handed, as it is always difficult to satirize a satire—and people often forget that James Bond was Ian Fleming’s satiric secret agent. He is taken too seriously.

Matt Carter seems to have his name and paws all over this little film. It stars Davis Brooks as Jayson Bend (not Bent), but it’s Jayson with a “Y”—and don’t ask.

We find the cute girls are replaced by cute boys—and Dr. Tu Yung is an adorable villain (played by Chris Lew Kum Hoi).

What may be a great surprise is that this film has a big budget look about it. The color is bright and bold, and the fast cars and special effects are just right. The only violence is at the start, and the sex is chaste: hints by kiss.

It’s safe for straight guys.

Tripping Again with Coogan & Brydon

 DATELINE: Another Sequel, not Deja Vu

 tripping

No, you didn’t read this movie review last week here.

What more can you ask?  Beautiful scenery, lovely music, and witty conversation. Yes, those two British actors (one with 2 Oscar nominations) are back to delight us.

We have skipped the second trip to Italy for now and cut to the chase with Trip to Spain. These two marvelous performers can hit the road and still hit their marks. This is another followup to their British series, The Trip, condensed and made into a feature film. No, it’s not a mid-life crisis movie, despite what the New York Times claims.

They seem to make the films every three or four years, which is just about right. They are reality-based, as the stars play themselves, notable thespians and comedians on a journalistic journey for the New York Times as food critics, or culture commentators.

With each stop at a breathtaking locale, Steve Coogan foams at the mouth with his erudite knowledge. Heaven help you if you know more or have enough. Rob Brydon can match him every mile, and that makes them chemically compatible.

Each morsel is back-lit with some of the funniest conversations this side of reality. Coogan notes how sorry he feels for anyone who thinks this stuff is not scripted and fully ad-libbed. It’s likely a circle within a square is outlined and the two drop in their witticisms.

However, the impressions make all the difference over the meals. When they argue over who does the best Mick Jagger impression as he plays Hamlet, you have moments that will knock fans of Noel Coward into the aisle.

Coogan remains prickly, but Brydon manages to break him up several times this trip, which may not have been planned.

If Coogan reminds us of ourselves, then we have had a bittersweet lesson. Sheer delight awaits the viewer.