DATELINE: From Wine to Cigarettes
‘Swedish’ lady sells coffee!
We now interrupt your viewing pleasure for a word from many, many sponsors from the alleged Golden Age of Advertising. For you more historically-minded, but young readers, that’s apparently the 1960s when this documentary collection of old black and white commercials dominated the airwaves.
The World’s Best Commercials is a misnomer at best. It was surely the Era of Advertising.
Your favorite TV show or movie was at the mercy of two or three minutes of sales pitches with a curve ball—or maybe that’s a screwball.
Yes, you may have the mad impulse to turn the channel, but you are facing 90 minutes of unrelenting, idiotic, culturally-altering advertisements, often lasting a minute in length. You will see rare cigarette and wine commercials, complete with marching cigarettes (after all, LS/MFT).
Attention spans were greater back then, or sponsors fewer.
In any respect, you will shock your sensibilities to learn about the Swing-Ding in which kids give themselves a self-propelled concussion with a tie-on toy. You wil meet again the “Swedish” Mrs. Olson who hucksters Folger’s coffee. You will learn that Miami is a hotspot as America’s Riviera.
And, without any organizing principle, or narrator, you simply sit back and are hit repeatedly with an endless barrage of products, many that are now gone (we think) or evolved into something else. We saw Baggies in three sizes. They were all the suburban rage back then, when you could pour silver dollars into them—and they would not rip or shred.
Several times we were moved to get up and go to the bathroom.
This compendium has nothing to do with quality, but likely what was readily available to the producers of this collection. Were we the only masochists who would force this stuff upon ourselves? If you are a student of sociology, marketing, or sociological marketing history, this film will thrill you.
This stuff is campy and may have even been humorous in its day.
You clearly see what was on the minds of the people controlling the purse-strings in those days: suburban Mom. Kids, husbands, pets, all were at her whim to purchase or allow such items into the home. If you want to know who the big powers of the era were, this little ad ditties will tell you.
Pay TV reportedly was to end this blight on America’s vast wasteland of free TV.
DATELINE: Another Oddball Western
Tony Meets Jack at Gay Bar?
The Western lone rider is the loneliest guy this side of the Maytag repairman in the 1950s.
After appearing as the despicable gunfighter in Shane, there was only one place to go for Jack Palance: revisionist hero from hell. So, he was cast as the good guy in The Lonely Man. This was a trend, as Ernest Borgnine had just transformed into an Oscar-winner after a villainous streak. Rod Steiger was around the corner.
In 1957, the way to do this was to play either a wronged teenage son or a well-meaning father. The James Dean phenomenon was at work: so, they cast Anthony Perkins as the fey son, long separated from his gunslinging father (called an ‘aging’ gunfighter).
Perkins plays it so silly as rebel with a cause that James Dean would have laughed. He likely would have laughed too that mid-30s Palance was considered aging as a father to mid-20s Perkins. It could have been Tab, but Tony will do.
Yet, that was the style of those days. Daddy didn’t know best, but he tried.
And, you use the baritone country music of Tennessee Ernie Ford instead of Tex Ritter.
Some bad guys are unremitting: Neville Brand, Lee Van Cleef, and Elisha Cook. They are planning on gunning down Palance first chance that comes their way. Elisha Cook’s revenge comes after Palance gunned him down in Shane.
Brand would turn goodie on TV within a few years, but it would take Van Cleef more than a decade to turn to goody-two-shoes roles. All are in their evil-doer prime here.
If you have a strong sense of homoeroticism in this movie, you are not paranoid. Palance “picks up” his son in a bar for the price of a drink. Perkins boasts anyone can have him at those prices. These guys are all interested in their male on male relationships over all else.
As a piece of Hollywood Western ersatz history, this film is a true curio.
DATELINE: Time, Relatively Speaking!
At least in theory!
We admit to having a soft-spot for those mockumentaries that can fool us with their close imitation of traditional documentary form.
When you enjoy a steady diet of history through re-enactors, you certainly can grow complacent.
We tip our cap to Ricky Kennedy, director and creative force behind History of Time Travel, an ingenious little film that manages to weave a connection between reality, history, and outright fiction. He does it seamlessly and with a flourish of subtlety.
The historical overview is utterly perfect, but the focus on one “scientist” and his sons with an obsession for tripping up with a time machine takes on a large focus. Yet, that too is a sharp decision for pop appeal.
Not only are the conventions of movie-making and re-enacting spoofed, so are the so-called experts who seem both vapid and convincing: he cites professors from Harvard, Yale, and MIT, and throws in a couple of fake best-selling authors to spout their insider knowledge.
Interviews are interspersed with “home movies” from the 1940s. Oh, the technology existed, and that does ring truthful, but a few glitches in costumes and set will tip off the anachronistic lark to careful viewers.
We half-expected Dr. Strangelove to show up on the MIT faculty, and we are always receptive to a setting of Cambridge, Mass., our ancestral home.
People who like to find continuity goofs receive their come-uppance at the hands of this director. Without selling the store, we would advise any time travel theorist to pay attention to moveable props. We enjoyed the coffee mugs and backdrops: the doctor’s coffee pot is an amusing target.
Short and pithy, this 2014 film would be on the highlight reel of any proud film writer and director.
DATELINE: Blowhard Comedy
For most of his career, actor and comedian Jack Benny blamed a movie called The Horn Blows at Midnight for ruining his movie stardom. In fact, he never made another movie for decades, succeeding on a newer medium called TV.
In some ways he was a re-actor, mostly playing off situations and people. Having a personality with notable quirks; vanity, greed, among his most notorious deadly sins, he was mostly asexual and devoid of anger issues.
Here he is faced with irony after irony: he drinks Paradise Coffee that ‘helps you sleep’. He is too ineffective to start the doomsday scenario.
As a milquetoast, he was the antithesis of heroic post-World War II men–those tough guy approaches bordered on psychotic (all the major stars went from their usual roles to a more sinister version in the years after the war).
That bring us to Midnight: where and when Benny is a second-rate angel in heaven given the task of blowing Gabriel’s horn (Heaven’s real star’s too busy) at midnight in New York City to end the corrupt world of a small planet called Earth.
It is whimsy gone mad. Nearly every joke is told twice. It almost becomes a Warner Brothers Bugs Bunny cartoon. Yet, the film was directed by action helmsman Raoul Walsh. It used fantasy special effects and had a cast to die for. Yes, that is the original pantywaist Franklin Pangborn, and yes, that is Margaret Dumont from the Marx Brothers. Oh, yes, that is Robert Blake as a kid. Yes, that is every notable second-banana in second-banana roles. They are wonderful to behold.
It is not much more than a mild, simple whimsical tale with a few digs. Worse yet, the gimmick of the movie is blatantly false, which undercuts its sharpness. We won’t tell you if Benny falls asleep too often.
It was not a bad film, but no one went to see it—and Jack took it personally. Of course, it does not help when Jack tells the audience that, if he saw this stuff in a movie, they would not believe it. They didn’t.
Benny retired from movies. His last starring vehicle is a diversion for the cynical, harsh times that followed World War II and the burgeoning Cold War. It also fits for us today in a mad, mad, mad world of Trump daily crises.
DATELINE: Two Lumps?
You have here a comedy of manners about the hellish life of a man whom everyone presumes is gay. This includes his mother and brother, and sundry supporting characters in the tale entitled Coffee Date.
You have here the classic misunderstanding and crossed identity.
Jonathan Bray certainly is an actor one might presume is gay. We know that his costar, Wilson Cruz, is a well-known gay actor who specializes in playing gay characters anywhere called upon. Here, he is a well-heeled owner of a beauty salon—and an excellent catch for anyone looking for a boyfriend.
Bray grows increasingly indignant and strident that no one will listen to his shrill protests too much and too often that he is straight (including to his ex-wife who insists she had nothing to do with his apparent conversion therapy).
Shirley Kirkland (coproducer and playing the smother) becomes increasingly unsympathetic. Bray’s slob brother (Jonathan Silverman fallen onto hard times) sets him up with an Internet date with unknown sex identity named “Kelly.” Silverman’s role grows more and more unbelievable.
NO pictures are exchanged on a truly blind online date, as if to heighten the preposterous nature of the film. When Bray meets Cruz, it is amusingly homophobic, but shrill as it continues.
There is some subtext about how a friendship can occur between a straight man and an adoring gay one. If the audience accepts the premise, you have low-brow Oscar Wilde and the importance of being earnest if not disingenuous.
A plethora of cheesy gay films has hit the streaming lists, leading one to wonder how and why they are made: usually about teenagers and first gay love & death. We are spared that tripe here.
We have steered clear of those irksome tales and sampled more mature characters in search of a purpose. This trifle boasts more staying power than most. It is more than tolerable. However, as per usual, we give our caution…
View at your own risk.
DATELINE: Coogan & Brydon in Italy
The Trip to Italy is the middle piece of the trilogy of mockumentaries by Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. The Trip to Italy is directed by Michael Winterbottom again, and he condenses the film to the best bon mots uttered during the two-week business holiday.
These minor British TV stars are on the verge of making it big in American movies, and they are thrown together for another series of adventures by the media. They are temperamental actors who seem not to enjoy each other’s company.
However, they are amusing together. It’s said that Abbot and Costello were not friends but were a business association. So, it is here. This is the business of growing older with wit and aplomb.
The conceit of the journey is to visit great Italian restaurants and trace the expatriates Byron and Shelley along the way.
Coogan and Brydon compete over everything, especially to show which one has more talent and is more successful. They do imitations of Hugh Grant, Roger Moore, Michael Caine, and Sean Connery, over dinners to die for in exotic coastal Italian tourist spots.
Not much is sacred here in their barbs, not even the dead at Pompeii.
You may not be used to intelligent conversation like this. You certainly wonder how they could not enjoy their mid-life crises while living La Dolce Vita.
Not everything is fun, as there is a downbeat inner core to the cavorting. They might die happy in one of these spots, but we doubt it. They sabotage their own trip, their friendship, and seem to have a grand time of indifference, their personal existential crises.
We are happy to have a chance to be a fly on the walls of their discontent.
DATELINE: Boon Companions
Gourmet Wit & Impersonations on the menu!
We don’t know how we missed this film or its sequels. We are delighted to say we have found them now: epicurean wit and breathtaking scenery.
Two minor actors for reasons unclear are assigned to sample fancy restaurants in northern England. You may well ask if there any fancy restaurants in far-off south of Scotland. You may well ask yourself why two actors would be hired as journalists, not even TV journalists.
Yet, this light fare is sweet enough and fluffy around the edges. Steve Coogan is often insufferable and hardly worthy of spending five days in a long car ride. Rob Brydon is more pleasant and funnier. We do vote that Steve’s Michael Caine impersonation is better.
They have an edgy friendship, Platonic as Steve claims, but Coogan is known for his gay-themed movies like Philomena and Ideal Home. Here, he plays himself: as a womanizing aging actor.
There are some hilarious moments in a largely improvised script. One wonders why Brydon would be willing to go along after being told that just about everyone else said, no, thanks.
After an hour with Coogan, we understand why everyone from ex-wives to children and girlfriends are loathe to go anywhere with him. Alexander Pope’s wit likely rendered him unpleasant too. Groucho’s did.
They eat delectable meals and seem to have no appreciation for the hard work that goes into their menu trivia.
They sing-along during boring rides in the countryside, and they stop off in famous literary haunts. Their witty impersonations of notable and not-so-notable British stars (Michael Caine, Sean Connery, yes; Michael Sheen, no) are lively and funny.
Ultimately, Brydon admits that Coogan was exactly what he expected during their trip, and Coogan turns down a chance to star in an American TV series about a British pathologist.
How much is reality? How much is fake? Well, they made a few sequels—and we will sign up to go along with them.
Coogan insists it is not reality at all. It is the epitome of entertainment.
DATELINE: The Real Poop!
After years of Upstairs/Downstairs and Downton Abbey, looking for a water closet, we find the BBC on the job and off the pot.
Yes, your upper-crust bathroom humor is alive and well.
A British documentary called The Toilet: An Unspoken History actually speaks volumes in a dry wit fashion, providing all the poop for your chute. Having a staid British narrator makes the puns about toiletry all the more eye-rolling.
Our host travels around ancient ruins, poking his nose into latrines and down old drop-offs, making more double-entendre than in a Mae West film festival. Those openings in the castle wall provided more than a draft. Yes, this is an eye-opening experience.
Jolly old England’s history of the Crapper and Queen Elizabeth’s elaborate john are all examined up close. In some manor houses, the chamber pot was kept in the dining hall—and you didn’t have to miss a morsel of your meal.
You may find a discussion and visual aid of urinals less watered down. In some cultures, the urinal has a center bull’s eye of a bumble bee: in Latin the word for bee is ‘apis.’ There’s a joke in there somewhere.
From ornate porcelain bowls, to the outhouse with three seats, of differing sizes, The Toilet makes for a Goldilocks of choices. No, families did not commune together, but you could find that one size did not fit all. Hence, you looked for the right dumping point.
After a while, you may begin to say TMI: too much information about privy moments and sanitary selection, up to and beyond the sponge on a stick, or colored pieces of wool with an aloe vera soothing texture.
Sitting on the serious part, the documentary explains how Bill Gates and his foundation are looking to eliminate use of water in toilets—turning waste into zapped gas power. And, Third World countries are still dangerous places, owing to poor bathroom facilities.
Yes, this amusing documentary is on streaming service for those with the wherewithal to expel the impurities, leaving you flush with the bloom of a water closet and relieved of laughter.
DATELINE: Nod off Elm Street
We find the subject of sleep paralysis fascinating, having experienced it as a small child. The experience was so frightful that we recall every minor detail and our fear.
So, of course, a documentary on the topic would be illuminating and helpful. This is not the film for that. The Nightmare from 2015 is a snooze-fest.
No wit, no snide comments, no satiric barbs, could help us review this atrocity. Anything that makes it remotely interesting is a disservice on our part.
Rather than give bad reviews to films, we usually ignore a movie and move on to other, more interesting efforts. However, this particular film is probably the worst one we have encountered in many years. We cannot allow it to pass without notice.
The filmmaker uses no experts. He cites no authorities, and he puts together a cheap horror movie on the fly, pretending to be something more. He may be good enough to pull this off.
With a minor sample size of eight individuals, none of whom appears remotely professional, intelligent, and only recently drug-free, he allows them to mumble on and on about the sleep paralysis they suffered.
They strike us as rejects from a casting call for Friends. It looks like millennial night at karaoke. If you want your audience to empathize, make sure they do not deviate from the narrow profile for your demographic appeal. What a bunch of losers.
Intersperse these accounts with cheap theatrical shadow figures and worse animation to indicate neurological turmoil.
You won’t believe a word of these “actors” giving an audition for the director who knows what a profitable movie looks like.
Terrible. A disservice to the subject.
DATELINE: End of Season: Hell Freezes Over
Tom to Rescue?
For all those youngsters who are asking the old-timers, when was the last time the New England Patriots played in a Frostbite Falls condition on New Year’s Eve? We have no answer.
Our history books don’t go that far back. Our memory is a collective fog, frozen in time.
We have no doubt whatsoever that Tom Brady will be wearing his long underwear for today’s game against the Jets.
Tom has some specially made long-johns that the Navy SEALs wear when they dive. Let’s hope the Patriots don’t take a dive in the 0° temperatures. That’s 0, none, nil, nothing.
Baby, it’s cold outside.
We are sure Tom Brady would prefer to wear his UGGs boots this frigid afternoon, but those are not regulation NFL.
We believe he gave all his teammates UGGs boots for Christmas again this year. There’s not much thinking when you give a product you endorse as a gift. Tom’s big problem is finding UGGs in clodhopper sizes for all those king-size teammates.
Actually, we are looking forward to the toasty game in the late afternoon with the Celtics.
Though they play on the parquet floor covering hockey ice, it will be warm indoors. Even if some nitwit takes off his shirt in the Boston Garden, he will not be rushed to the hospital as will those fans at Foxboro’s frostbite falls stadium who inevitably will try the stunt.
Bundle up all you Minutemen. The time has come to freeze your derrière off.
DATELINE: Rematch With the Pats & Bills Coming Soon!
The good-natured bon vivant Gronk has transformed suddenly from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde.
Beloved by children, and deemed safe for children, he has now taken on the mantle of being dangerous and locked away from those supporters. He may find himself the object of parental controls on the cable remote.
On top of all this, he may lose $2 million in bonus payments under his Patriot contract.
Whether coffee chain, Drunken Dognuts will keep him as a spokesperson may be a bigger issue now on the breakfast table and a test of Gronk’s viability and survivability.
We do not believe he has reached the Kevin Spacey level where he will be CGI removed from future Patriot games, but Belichick may give him more distance in the off-season.
Gronk’s new sudden unpopularity may win him an endorsement from President Trump, a man who likes crypto-Nazis who go against the grain. He has now membership in the ICE-colored storm troopers of Trump.
In an age of racially charged tension, Gronk has gone from the great white hope to a man with a black hearted soul. He has become another white man assaulting a black man. He goes to the top of the Most Wanted List by Black Lives Matter with one pile driving splash.
Gronk has always had carte blanche from the Patriots, and they like to paint themselves as the victims of every scandal.
Like his best friend and teammate Tom Brady, Gronk is challenging the legal determination. Unlike his friend Brady, Gronk has already and quickly admitted his guilt.
Confession maybe good for the soul, but it may not help with followers on Twitter, Facebook, and other childish social media.
Gronk has always been perceived as a big dumb lout, but fun and likable. He has now crossed for thin red line in a year in which football fans are dropping like flies over trivia.
Like the NFL version of Scrooge, Gronk has given a concussion to another player during the season of giving. He’s liable to find himself the recipient of many unhappy returns.
DATELINE: Man & Myth
Gronk Down for Count
Notable New England Patriot cheapskate Gronk will lose at least $280,000 if he is suspended for the next game. As you might guess, this is anathema to a man who never touches his salary and lives off his endorsement money.
Far worse, he is due for bonus money based on the number of catches and touchdowns. Losing a game means big bucks down the drain. And yet, this may be the silver lining of a man who has now created a reputation for playing dirty.
Why suddenly did Gronk decide to pile drive a Buffalo Bill in front of his family and friends? They were all present to see the hometown boy and Bills fan of his youth.
Perhaps he thought it was in the tradition of being thrown onto tables during tailgate parties (a big, brainless tradition in Buffalo where friends throw a drunken nitwit onto a burning table to watch his back break).
So, as you might expect, Fiesta Gronk is making an appeal not to be suspended for pile-driving the man who intercepted the pass meant for Gronk. He put the Buffalo Bill 1 foot into the ground. The poor schmuck, number 27, now has a concussion. When King Kong steps on you, you are usually dead. He should count his blessings.
Whether Ebenezer Gronk will recover his money or will have to do more Dunkin’ Donuts commercials ad nauseum, only commissioner Godell and his Fair Play for Cuba Committee knows for sure.
Instead this gives ground got unpaid vacation, and it gives him time to prepare for the bigger game into weeks with the Steelers. We are sure smarter heads will tell Gronk to take the suspension.
Dare we say this to Gronk? It’s only money.
DATELINE: What Year Indeed
If Trump were president of Twin Peaks, and not David Lynch, we think all of those dead characters would’ve been sent back to purgatory tout suite. There is no place in this world for Dreamers, unless it is the sunny side of the Twilight Zone.
Most of the final episode is spent in Purgatory, or driving on desolate roads through Texas. We couldn’t tell them apart.
We saved our best for last. Unfortunately, David Lynch did not. So, we have watched the final episode, and there is less to report than usual. There is, however, more than meets the eye.
We love an aimless road trip. Call us a sucker for Waiting for Godot. We still are waiting. Now we have been joined by Laura Palmer and Agent Cooper.
Call us sympathetic: we understand that Agent Cooper and his assistant Diane have not seen each other in 25 years, and it is only natural that they spend a good portion of the last episode in bed having sex. However, based on her final reaction, it was unsatisfactory to her too.
This left Agent Cooper in a quandary, not to mention all the long-suffering viewers. He walked fast between those long red curtains to visit a one-armed man, Leland Palmer, and trees with a talking head. Therefore, it’s only natural that Cooper and Laura, end up together, driving to nowheresville fast. It’s a dream couple.
In an effort to save Laura Palmer, who now has amnesia to go with her middle-age, she and Cooper end up in an unrecognizable Twin Peaks. Cooper tells Laura that it’s in Washington state, not D.C.
As the clock winds down, Agent Cooper now is as befuddled as the rest of us. He asks Laura Palmer what year it is. Her response is out of the Fay Wray school of screaming responses.
Is it lights out finally? Will we have to wait 25 more years to find out that everyone is dead and no one cares much anymore?
We love Twin Peaks. Next time we will bring a picnic basket.
DATELINE: Confounded Yet Again
If you walk with David Lynch, you play with fire.
Despite our wishes, David Lynch did not put the entire cast in a bus and drive it off a cliff at Twin Peaks. Perhaps he should have.
If you thought everything would be wrapped up as the story seems to end (as if ever possible), you’re looking for a Christmas present under the wrong Douglas fir tree.
Everything comes full circle, and Twin Peaks brings us right back to the first episode 25 years ago. There, you will find a rewrite, revisions galore, to the original story, as agent D.B. Cooper returns to meet Laura Palmer before her fate. His mission seems to be to prevent the murder that started the entire 25-year odd odyssey.
Thank heavens Kyle MacLachlan and Sheryl Lee have not changed one whit. They play themselves 25 years ago, no mean feat. And they don’t look too bad in the process.
Lynch does assemble the entire cast in the Twin Peaks police station, and there seems to be some kind of paranormal activity with spirits, smoke, and bad lighting.
However, unless you own some kind of Ouija board or crystal ball, you will not understand what on earth is going on. As a Greek chorus, the mobster Jim Belushi standing there for no good reason also asks the question, “What the hell is going on?”
The actors themselves look befuddled as they perform the scene. Well, as long as the paycheck doesn’t bounce, actors will perform in any tripe being of any stripe.
This episode ends with the late Jack Nance being fondly remembered at the end of the credits this time, “in memory of.” Yes, he starts the original series once again by not finding the dead Laura Palmer wrapped in cellophane on the shore.
Alas, the more things change, the more they remain the same.