Preminger’s Last Film

DATELINE: Graham Greene Spy Novel!

 Robert Morley.

Based on a Graham Greene novel, this movie is the ultimate in dry British style. In some ways it is the antithesis of what you’d expect from James Bond or George Smiley. There is really no action, but it is hilarious in its microcosmic scenes.

The Human Factoris a far-cry from the action flicks Preminger gave us fromLaura  to Stalag 17  to Bunny Lake is Missing,and on and on. Preminger’s list of credits is astounding. So, this may be a bit of a shock to fans who may think the old master had lost it in old age.

The cast is nothing short of dead-pan marvelous: Nicol Williamson, John Gielgud, Derek Jacobi, Richard Attenborough, and Robert Morley in fine fettle.

It’s 1979 and there is a leak in security at the MI-5 HQ. Maybe it’s serious, and maybe they are just over-reacting—think of Kim Philby.

Preminger just lets the actors downplay. As for the plot, it has to do with Britain’s involvement in apartheid Africa, which is lost on most American audiences. Flashbacks a decade earlier show Williamson with his beautiful African wife, Imam. You know it’s a flashback because he doesn’t have a mustache.

In between the dull parts, you have Robert Morley mugging at the girls in a strip bar, most unconvincingly but comic for sure. It’s all veddy-veddy British.

It is almost quaint to see the simple tools of spying, dropped off messages, phone calls on land-lines, and simple codes.

Noted actress Ann Todd appears in a pivotal, harsh role as Williamsson’s mother toward the end—and the defector games seem almost like Edward Snowden modern.

Otto Preminger’s low-budget effort is in a minor key, but he stayed active and possibly relevant, even in his final movie directing.

 

 

 

 

 

Inner Circle of Jeffrey Epstein

DATELINE: Friends in High Places

Ghislaine Maxwell and friends.

The second part of the Who Killed Jeffrey Epstein  series delves into his close associates, while hinting that his accumulation of wealth may have been by fraud.

Epstein skates away from every investigation by dint of his personality, or bank account. His true rise to superpower came from a woman named Ghislaine Maxwell, a daughter of media mogul Robert Maxwell. She came to Epstein at a low point: her father died in a strange boating accident, some suggesting he was a spy for Israel and was assassinated.

Ghislaine moved into the New York residence, becoming his partner in sex crimes—procuring young girls. She was also a bon vivant and knew everyone from royals to movie stars, to celebrities of all stripes.

She and Epstein had pinhole cameras in every residence and amused themselves with video scenes of the rich and famous at parties, in bedrooms, on the private jet, and wherever Epstein set them up.

A few girls tried to escape—but they found his long reach of checkbooks would thwart any FBI or prosecution. In fact, he had a future Trump cabinet official in his hip pocket when he was a mere Palm Beach prosecutor.

Girls were plucked out of Trump’s Winter White House, the notorious Mar-a-lago. One 14-year old named Virginia Roberts began a nightmare relationship with Epstein, only escaping to Thailand when he ordered her to bring back a 12-year old girl.

By the new century, Epstein had broadened his social world to Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Prince Andrew, Bill Clinton, and scores of the richest men in the world. He redefined himself as a philanthropist despite a conviction as a pedophile. He was tied to MIT, Stanford, and Harvard, as a big donor to research. Many fell prey to his clever manipulations.

Once ensnared, many famous men were likely unable to break out unless there was payment of some sort.

Marilyn Declassified

DATELINE: Patsy Monroe? 

In a new documentary called Marilyn Monroe Declassified,  director and writer Paul Davids in 2016 tackled the thorny subject of the probable suicide (its official designation) almost 60 years later.

He takes much archival footage and tries to find rare insights to give a background in his premise that it was more likely her death was an improbable suicide.”

No doubt that even decades later, Marilyn is a glowing and beautiful icon, transcending time and place. She may be up there in a few thousand years with women like Helen of Troy. Yes, legends easily pass into mythology with a background like Marilyn.

This film purports to examine both FBI and CIA documents only recently released to public scrutiny.

Using some fairly reputable scholars and researchers, the film veers off the standard biography patter for the final 20 minutes or so when the revelations about affairs with the Kennedy brothers (President and Attorney General) devolves into a mob contracted hit to embarrass the Kennedy Administration, led by the CIA guru and demonologist, James Angleton.

Sam Giancana, who believed the Kennedys betrayed him, was an eager contractor for Angleton. All stones could be unturned and thrown into the ocean when used. You may well ask yourself why it took 4 hours to call the police to report Marilyn was dead by her housekeeper (allegedly a CIA agent). After that, all bets are off.

The connection to Kennedy revealing to Monroe about the truth of the Roswell incident is documented in CIA/FBI reports. Whether true or not, she believed it and was prepared to use it, but the CIA was not about to accept that reality.

This documentary may seem to have gone off the rails, but it also seems grounded in the horrors that not even Ancient Alienswill tackle. It appears Oswald was not the only Patsy in a  conspiracy-ruled world.

Older than Dirty Gringo

DATELINE: Mexico & Villa

 Peck & Fonda

Years ago we passed up Old Gringobecause of Jane Fonda. It seems a generation past, and it was. She had the temerity to be the only one to make a movie about Ambrose Bierce, the extraordinary American literary figure.

We thought there would be others to make such a film, but in 30 years, no one has.

So, we turned to it now, on streaming view, to see old Gregory Peck playing Old Gringo. He is always marvelous, and here was another role in which he could shine: as the cynical, burned out, angry writer who ran off to Mexico because the fake media had used him his entire life.

This story is fiction and speculation. Bierce meets a naïve governess who has gone there to Mexico without knowing Villa’s revolution is in progress. She is used like a pawn by a rogue general under Villa played by the hot tamale of the time, Jimmy Smits.

The film is one of those tortilla Westerns with plenty of shoot-outs and western action. It seemed incongruous for both Peck and Fonda as they played out a freakish firing squad scene and tourista Americans.. Fonda is now 80+ and Peck is long gone.

When the gratuitous action calms down, they play a May-December love scene that is actually brilliant and touching. She is a spinster never expecting love, and he is an old reprobate whose career prevented him from smelling the roses.

If one scene can make a film, two legends brought it to life. The old politics is now long lost in today’s society, and so are these great actors.

Better to have waited to view this strangely literary movie amidst the chaff of movie crap.

Ambrose Bierce disappeared in Mexico in 1912, and this is only one theory of his demise. Yet, in movie annals, it may be the last word.

Half-way through the film, the American woman falls in love with the foreign revolution—and we had some sense of Fonda still fighting the Vietnam War. When the end comes, she has betrayed the identity of a great man for self-interest, perhaps a moment of ultimate guilt.

 

 

 

 

Who Killed Jeffrey Epstein?

DATELINE: Trumpeting Epstein’s Death

 the Buddy System?

The short cable series in three parts went to tackle this thorny question, and you would be amazed at how many people became angered by the question. The series has received many low grades and bad reviews. Yet, it uses actual police video, interviews, and even Epstein’s own voice.

Who Killed Jeffrey Epsteinis a good question and a puzzling mystery, and an interesting documentary.

Just how and why may be of interest: a billionaire predator for years managed to buy whatever he wanted in girls as young as 14 years, and art as old as valuable. He had many residences—and even more powerful friends like Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew, and Donald Trump.

Some speculation is that he made his money because he had dirt on the famous rich people who attended his parties. No one is quite sure how many girls were molested, or how he made his money.

The series opens with all the blunders and peculiarities of his death in a high-tech New York City federal prison. Cameras malfunctioned; his bunkmate was released suddenly and not replaced; guards fell asleep or surfed the web instead of making rounds.

It was a perfect storm for a perfect crime. With life nowadays considered cheap, it would not take much powerful moneymen to wipe out Epstein. Yet, others bristle at the idea it was not suicide. You may wonder why “conspiracy” is such a dirty word. It certainly makes an outrageous murder all the easier to cover up.

Epstein’s latest criminal lawyer said he was upbeat and ready to fight again. His other lawyers said his plea agreement of 14 years earlier was airtight. He likely would have walked again.

Interestingly, and not noted in the first episode, the prosecutor of Epstein in New York, by the name of Geoffrey Berman, was recently fired by Donald Trump, one of Epstein’s friends. It almost requires a new episode of investigation.

The lawyer of O.J. Simpson, Klaus von Bulow, and Donald Trump, is Allan Dershowitz—and he intimidated all the girls who accused Epstein.

The man who gave Epstein his first foray into rich society by hiring him as a teacher and liaison at the Dalton School in New York was the father of AG William Barr. Epstein had no experience and no degrees.

We have here a horror story of money’s power.

Dive Bomber Alert on Mill Circle!

DATELINE: Robin Bobbin’ on Squirrel

When a plethora of robins showed up this spring in my yard near the big tree, I thought—there goes the neighborhood. However, they started rummaging through last year’s flower stems. Each one was yanked out and taken to some unknown spot for a nest.

That’s when the first wave of bombers hit.

Under the eaves of my side-door porch, I saw birds flying toward the storm door. They never hit because they were building a nest, which I promptly discouraged.

So, the freeloaders went to the big tree not far from the dining room picture window. There, for the first time, they started their architectural work. As if for good measure, they regularly cleaned out the yard of ants and other crawling insects.

 

The good neighbor policy continued until I saw the squirrels and chipmunks arrive.

It was war.

A half-dozen robins attacked with all the ferocity of kamikaze flights. They chased the squirrels out of the tree and around the yard. I had never seen such nimble flight—and they worked often in pairs till the squirrels ran for cover.

Then, they began chasing the chipmunks out of the yard. Less inclined to climb the tree, the chipmunks were nonetheless not welcome in this yard anymore. They were attacked with zooming claws outstretched.

I thought I watched out-takes from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds.

You may have thought the hawk patrol had been replaced.

Regular bombing runs can be seen during morning coffee break whilst sitting at the window. Warfare never looked so natural.

Prince of Cool: Chesney Baker!

DATELINE: 1954 Buddy

 Chet as Challenger.

Was he really the first jazz musician in the early 1950s with a gay following? In a world of macho and homophobic jazz fans, Chet was often was dismissed as “faggy,” and singing like a girl. His style was decidedly feminine, often impossible to tell whether it is a boy or a girl’s voice. Think of Astrud Gilberto or Stan Getz.

He chose to sing a few ditties, that cemented the belief. His “My Buddy,” is shockingly gay for 1954.  And, his other plaintive tunes, like “Just Friends,” seem to sum up a gay world experience in the closet days of yore. He was always with beautiful women and a dog, as if to throw the bloodhounds off scent.

You half expect him to sing out about the love that dare not speak its name. And, then he bookends his melancholy sound with an amazing trumpet rendition that is subtle and delicate.

Gay historians may have missed him simply for not looking in the unexpected world of jazz by the Prince of Cool, as he was known to the aficionados of the day. He speaks convincingly, “How could you know what love is?” It almost seems a finger-poke to the straight eye.

“Miss your voice, the touch of your hand

Just long to know that you understand

My buddy, my buddy, your buddy misses you.”

Bruce Weber did a lionizing documentary on Chesney, Let’s Get Lost, which has been called homoerotic, rather knowingly. If you want a copy on DVD or tape, you will pay through the trumpet, unless you can play a Euro version on your recorder.

He was beautiful in his youth—and the camera loved him. By the end, the drugs and careless living took a hideous toll on his face. His talent remained, like a granite pyramid.

Chet Baker was hardly gay, in any open way, but was a sexually charged creature.

When Chet blew off a movie role as a trumpeter, Robert Wagner replaced him in  All The Fine Young Cannibals.

Weber’s biographical docurama contains the last haunting images of Chet before he either jumped off a hotel roof in Amsterdam, or was thrown off by drug dealers to whom he owed money.

The movie is stunning in its black and white sharpness: Chet Baker was James Dean, Louis Armstrong, and Picasso, all rolled into a trumpet.

Race to Victory: History ‘s Honorable Series

 DATELINE: Original Big Three

  Winnie.

In an age of re-enactors playing historical figures and onerous narrators, History Channel has gone against its own monster: we have World War II: Race to Victory,  a three-part examination of the Big Three of the greatest war in history.

World War II: Race to Victoryis a throwback to the grand documentaries of CBS back in the 1950s and 1960s. It is purely informative and uses rare footage to enhance the lessons.

With a plethora of newsreels, photos, and historical documents, it seems that History is drawing on this goldmine of records, news films, and interviews. And, they are not colorizing the brilliant black and white footage.

The series starts with an examination of Winston Churchill and his nemesis Neville Chamberlain. On the same side, they were bitter opponents, but had to live with the other in their cabinets.

Churchill’s rhetoric still makes him transcend all others in the 20thcentury. His persuasive powers were made for an age when behind-the-scenes patricians ran the British government. And make no mistake, the Brits did not have a democracy in the American sense.

While Churchill uses his techniques to great advantage, he falls short with his counterparts: Franklin Roosevelt will not be drawn into the war before he was ready, and Josef Stalin didn’t believe anything Churchill told him.

If there is a revelation in the first episode, it is that Chamberlain’s appeasement was a misnomer. He was buying time for a country not ready for war; to Churchill, that meant nothing.

Race to Victory  plays on the rivalries and mistrust among the original Big Three, and we hope future episodes are of the same high quality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coogan & Brydon & Tristram Shandy

DATELINE: Early Teaming of Coogan & Brydon

 Cock & Bull.

If you truly want the roots of the duo of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, you need to go back to 2005 and the costume drama they almost made. Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Storyis a fascinating Fellini-like motion picture. You will even hear music from Fellini’s 8 & a Half.

It is only ancillary about the Laurence Sterne novel. It is about trying to make a movie about it. From the opening scene of Rob and Steve in make-up having a witty repartee to the end of the film when they do their Pacino imitations after a viewing of rushes, you have the basic motif of theTrip pictures.

Tristram Shandy’s behind the scenes take over after nearly half-an-hour of the novel narrative. Debates brew about how to play it, amidst the personal crises of the actors. Roger Allam shows up as the thankless agent of Coogan.

Director Michael Winterbottom set the course five years before the first of the trip films. In Tristram, they argue over leading role status, their looks, and already Steve Coogan playing himself (in variation) has sex scandals brewing in the media.

Coogan plays Tristram and his father, as the film never really goes beyond his birth and early childhood. Rob plays his brother/uncle. When Steve arranges for Gillian Anderson to join the cast, it doubles Rob’s role. Steve’s ego is mortified at what he has done.

This is a semi-friendly rivalry that would be more fully studied in the four subsequent semi-fictional films in which they continued to play movie versions of themselves.

Trump’s Confederate Roots

DATELINE:Pass the Buttersworth!

Is there an official tally somewhere?  Just how many slaves does Donald Trump own?

Trump will miss Aunt Jemima when she’s gone.

Based on his vehement defense of Confederate generals, flags, and plantation mentality, we presume he is the last slave owner in America. Or, are we mistaken? Those people surrounding him are zombies, not slaves.

Maybe it was Fred Trump, the KKK wannabe wizard, who owned the slaves or treated his workers like slaves.

The brain dead seem to gravitate to the man whose billions of dollars may well be in Confederate currency.

Throw anyone in jail who dares to malign Gone with the Wind.

Donald Trump may be the only person in the United States who is standing on the dock awaiting the arrival of  Mississippi gamer boat, Waiting for the Robert E. Lee, of Al Jolson fame.

No doubt Trump prefers Jolson in black-face singing, “Mammy,” as he pours Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup on his Uncle Ben rice.

He likely hums “I Wish I Were in Dixie,” before going onstage for his notorious political rallies.

Jeff Davis would be proud. John Wilkes Booth would not shoot Trump.

Jerry Jones & Bill Belichick: Birds of a Feather

DATELINE:  Systemic Problem in NFL

The two foremost social thinkers of the 19thcentury remain powerful symbols of racial injustice:  the NFL now claims it did not listen to those uppity black players who believe they are living in an unequal and unjust system of police rioters.

The two biggest symbols of the NFL –Jerry Jones and Bill Belichick—have maintained their deafening silence on the subject of George Floyd and racial brutality.

Their defenders claim that, in private, both are dismayed that their black players are not happy.  But, they are not moved much more than Trump on the scale of justice. Oh, yes, they are both MAGA men.

In the Massachusetts senator debate last night, Joe Kennedy, grandson and great-nephew of Robert and John Kennedy said the Patriots ought to sign Colin Kaepernick. Fat chance: that white snowball in hell belongs to the NFL.

Oh, yes, Robert Kraft is a Trump supporter too.

Defenders of the symbols of NFL victory lappers will never come out and admit their worlds are backward and their views are racist.

It’s hard to draw any other conclusion in the face of such rampant ostrich head burying.

There are those rednecks who line the streets holding automatic weapons as a show to intimidate peaceful demonstrators. There are those resemble the Boston Strangler who put a knee to the neck of the helpless victims but wear police uniforms or NFL neckties.

85% of America think the country is out of control. Among the minority here are Jerry Jones and Bill Belichick: they are always in control, even if your civil rights are thrown out the window.

These are members of the Orange Pips.

Acorn Falls from KKK Tree

DATELINE: KKK and Fred Trump

New York March of the KKK on Memorial Day, 1927!

President Trump practically gave himself a hernia in his latest apoplectic denial to the Twitterverse. He denies vehemently that his father attended and may have been arrested at a Klu Klux Klan rally (one of those big events Trumps appear to like) in Brooklyn in 1927. It came only a few years after KKK burned down a black neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in the notorious Wall Street Massacre.

Trumps like to repeat history.

Police are pictured above rounding up the usual suspects.

Donald Trump may deny till he is blue in the white hood, but there was a parade of Klansmen on Memorial Day in 1927—and police took five or six stalwart marchers aside. The big issue is whether Fred Trump was detained, or simply arrested.

We also don’t know if he had a deluxe Klan robe.

Whether the President’s father’s wizard-style caused him to be detained or arrested is a matter of, you guessed it, inflammatory semantics. They didn’t have stun guns back then, or Fred Trump might have been knocked on keester. Fat keesters also run in the Trump family.

Apparently, to be detained by police, your questioning must be “brief and cursory,” and after that, if you seem to be suspicious, they can arrest you.

Whether there was probable cause is the big issue. Knowing the Trump family, we suspect that “probable cause” is their middle name.

Police records are not being provided to the media from the arrest, but newspaper accounts are rife from the era. We provide one picture here from the Brooklyn fake news media.

Twenty years before the President’s birther records were faked, his father was one of six dubious marchers who were pulled aside for belligerence and racial intolerance (that’s the suspicion).

Whether Nature or Nurture, we now have more evidence, however circumstantial, that the acorn does not fall far from the Grand Wizard’s old oak tree.

Anatomy of a Male Ballet Dancer

DATELINE: Not in the Movie!

  Gomes has an ‘S”for scandal.

Despite the salacious title, you will see the male ballet dancer, but not much of his on-stage anatomy. And, you will not hear about the sex charges made against him.

Marcelo Gomes is one of the foremost contemporary dancers, and he does allow an inside look at his life, but you will not be going into his most private life.

His name is pronounced or mispronounced all too often: he is Marshelo Gomess, not like the Marchello Gomez.

He professes a hope to fall in love one day (on the backside of his career as a dancer in his 30s, we may think time is running out.

By all accounts he is the most proficient, modest, technically correct dancer of the age. Ballerinas love that he only performs to make them look better.

Marcelo has all the problems you might expect: he was an oddity, the only boy in ballet school growing up. He was clearly talented from the get-go. He is a genius in his work, and in his personality. He grew up in Brazil and never spoke English until he was 17. He sounds like he was born in Poughkeepsie.

His father and he are alienated, though they meet pleasantly in the film. However, the elder will not attend any performances, and the reason is not explored.

He studied in Paris and picked up French instantly. His great problem nowadays is injury. When he dances at St. Petersburg, he is overwhelmed to see Nijinsky’s rose petal costume from Spectre de la Rose,but he hears a bone crack when he dances Giselle.

He knows that his career is on its last legs, and he is already preparing to become a choreographer in his post-dance days.

As a personable and most untemperamental man, he came out on magazine covers, still shocking to many even today. He has a pet dachshund, and there is no boyfriend to be seen in this film. If you think you have a chance with him, this is your time for a pas de deux.

Apart from the creepy title, we thoroughly enjoyed this marvel of the modern dance world—and the film too. Alas, shortly after the film’s release, Gomes was accused of sexual harassment and resigned from the ABT. Nothing in the film indicates this issue.

Season 2 End of World War II Gold

DATELINE: No Gold Strike This Year!

With the series finale at two separate episodes, there seems to be little to accomplish with Gen. Douglas MacArthur took out 20,000 tons of gold to help finance the CIA without government oversight. A once-promising series evolved this year into another fake reality series.

They also learned that there is grave danger digging where the CIA has its bank account.

So, with some trepidation, we are looking to see if there will be a third season. If John Casey has his way, he will expend his team and find a new group for the third season. Last season’s smoke bomb indicates an opening in the mountain—and they go to it. They cannot figure out its purpose, but it is clearly an air tunnel likely built by American POWs, misused by the Japanesee.

There is now another heavy machine digger with no explanations of where the others disappear. Ruining equipment and pushing men are considered a blow to the search, not idiocy. For two or three episodes, they had a woman operator, but she is inexplicably absent suddenly.

With Rick Hurts issuing hard labor orders to the operator, we can see why she was relieved of duty: it would look like harassment if she were the underling. We are left wondering how many people have been brought into this “covert” treasure hunt.

Bingo and Chuck McDougald warn them to be careful. Deaf ears? There are no bodyguards or armed protectors—and Casey hears of the threats to their operation undaunted. That’s no surprise as this guy has now proven himself to be obsessed and insensitive to anything that will undermine his goal.

Following immediately came the grand finale of season two, looking almost exactly like the end of the first season.

Locating an ancient temple is surely an archaeological treasure, but they don’t care. Go for the gold!

Five months of digging has led to a key moment that may contain either a treasure chamber—or a third profitable season.  Several maps are on former American Clark Air Force Base (no digging there) and in a historical tourist area of Manila.

To hedge bets, Bingo surveys all the islands and finds one on a corresponding map, 700 miles from Manila and directly south of Tokyo. It is next season’s goal, having figured the expense and time at the Luzon mountain are about to be undermined.

Helicopters, always black and unmarked, ominously survey the mountain discovery. The cast went to the far off island to avoid any confrontations, if they ever really existed except as a device to heighten suspense.

Vatican and Third Reich Wholly Unholy

 DATELINE: Vatican Coverup

 Sunday school Nazis!

You can figure that Pope Pius XII will not be a candidate for sainthood anytime soon. If half of what this French documentary contends is the truth, the pontiff of World War II was a fairly reprehensible being.

Even today the Vatican refuses to declassify its Nazi documents that show collusion.

According to this account, the Pope and his minions at Vatican City were not anti-Semitic (which is a racial prejudice), but they were simply irrational religious zealots who blamed Jews for the death of Jesus.

When you have Hitler trying to win over the Vatican and trying to show his Nazi regime actually was based on Christian principles, you have twisted logic and those willing to accept it. Bishops were given the privilege of joining the Nazi party (heretofore Catholics were banned from this) in the early 1930s.

The Nazis quickly put priests in Nazi uniforms and made them chaplains on the Russian front.

Pius XI was not as thrilled with the Nazis as his successor who happened to be the Vatican’s German ambassador for a dozen years. When XI died three months before the war started, Hitler had his man in Pius XII who never met a Nazi he didn’t like.

By 1943 Pius heard reports from his spies that the Nazis were killing hundreds of thousands of Jews. He said nothing—even when everyone thought he might condemn murder. He didn’t.

When the war ended, the Vatican’s work with the Red Cross just started to warm up: they managed to procure passports for Dr. Mengele and Adolph Eichmann as well as Klaus Barbie, to move to South America. It was Pius Xii’s right hand cardinal who orchestrated this.

If you want to be infuriated, disgusted, and horrified, this documentary Unholy Alliance: Vatican and Third Reich  will certainly make you sick to your stomach.