The Long & Short of 3-Hour Movies

DATELINE:  Time is Short

Agreed

We have just informed well-intended friends who always recommend long movies to us, that our tolerance level has passed beyond endurance.

We are no longer putting three-hour movies on our dance card.

Gilligan’s Island started out as a three-hour tour, but turned into an epical series with TV movie sequels.

In our misspent youth, we watched Lawrence of Arabia multiple times. That was four hours a shot.  We also took in films like Cleopatra, or Ben Hur. It may be we saw them more than once.

Today long films are not a sign of epic historic proportion, like the Bridge on the River Kwai. We watched recently again Once Upon a Time in the West, which was not only long—but slow. Those oldies were fascinating, whereas today’s movies are pompous, overwritten stories by directors who happen to think of their own self-importance before the audience’s bladder.

Hitchcock thought film should err on the short side to match the human kidney tolerance. Even he exceeded our new guidelines by pushing movies to two-hours.

Nowadays we always figure there are six minutes of credits at the end. That helps if we skip that, though we are loath to do so.

We still believe the best movie is under 90 minutes. As much as we dislike Woody Allen, he had the right idea. Many of his best movies were only 75 minutes in length. Including credits.

Before you point out that we have watched many series like Downton Abbey, Bette and Joan, and Endeavour, all recently, we would point out that those are episodic and run usually an hour.

Most of the time they’re also self-contained. It took 25 years to film all of The Poirot Agatha Christie stories. We don’t intend to take 25 years to watch them. However, they are usually about an hour in length.  A few of the classics are shorter movies. More than tolerable.

The upshot of our complaint is that we are no longer in the market for epic movies to be watched in one long sitting. Our life is now counting down to a precious few days.

If we’re going to spend time on a movie, hovering over three hours in length, it had better be special.

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Alfred Hitchcock & Agatha Christie: Never the Twain

DATELINE:  Giants in Separate Corners

   agatha       hitch

Recently the question came to us: Why did the two great forces of mystery and suspense never collaborate?

The answer may be surprising. They were both highly successful, popular and beloved: one in film and one in literature. They were both British, lived and died around the same time, and trod the same grounds of creativity.

A few claim Hitchcock was a misogynist: but his greatest collaborators were women (apart from his wife Alma). He enjoyed the works of Daphne DuMaurier (Rebecca, The Birds) and Patricia Highsmith (Strangers on a Train).

Apart from that fact, both Hitch and Agatha loved to use the setting of trains for their greatest works! Hitchcock could have directed Witness for the Prosecution in 1957, his peak, and most think he did direct it:  but it went to Billy Wilder who used Hitch’s techniques to great effect. Hitchcock could have directed Ten Little Indians in 1945, but chose to avoid the Christie works altogether.

Hitchcock told Francois Truffaut that he disliked the genre of the ‘who done it.’  He found it antithetical to his idea of what made for cinematic story-telling. He likened the genre to a crossword puzzle, with revealing clues as the main point of the story. It was bread and butter for Christie, but Hitchcock hated the notion and revealing the killer at the end of the story.

You may think two of Hitch’s intriguing films, at the least, were of the who done it school:  Psycho actually revealed who the killer was, but not in the way you expected it to be in the final reel. Stage Fright was one of Hitch’s least favorite films and he filmed it because he was told it was a Christie story, but turned out to be one of his weakest entries.

In Shadow of a Doubt in 1943, Hitchcock had two minor characters discuss how to murder each other—and referred to Hercule Poirot, the Belgian detective of Christie, in less than flattering terms.

It’s almost tragic that Hitchcock did not direct Witness for the Prosecution or Murder on the Orient Express to see how he might have handled the material. Both films are brilliant stories and wonderful films, but the echoes of Hitch are omnipresent.

So, we were left without any collaboration between the two greats of 20th century murder mystery. It’s not much of a mystery, but it is a tale of audience misfortune.

Holmesian Logic Applied to the Las Vegas Shooter

DATELINE: The Third Man or Stephen Paddock?

Welles as Third Man Welles as Harry Lime

A few friends have asked us to apply Sherlockian logic to the Las Vegas shooter case that has baffled so many people—and confounded police.

Authorities find Stephen Paddock a conundrum that defies profiles created by criminologists.

We deduce, first of all, that investigators have been probing deeply beyond obvious facts. The obvious often is deceptive and will mislead investigators.

After all, it was Sherlock Holmes who famously said that you need to eliminate all the impossible factors—and whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

We must ask ourselves, what is served by misery, violence, and fear?

Paddock’s actions justify a private revenge, making his secrets all the more imponderable.

So, what can we deduce about the man who had millions of dollars from life as a high roller? He was confident in the risks and his odds of beating them.

Paddock was a fugitive from the law of averages.

This was an angry man who felt disrespected by society, despite his success as a gambler. He felt his status as an older, white male gave him no advantage in terms of respectability. As the sands of life passed by, he was dissatisfied with his lot. He hated time. It was cheating him.

Over the years, he found the ease of beating the system put him above law and society. He won millions of dollars by playing games against those he felt were dolts of society.

Paddock mistrusted other people—and had no need for their assistance. He worked alone in his problem-solving. People were manipulated to serve his own goals.

Paddock was a coward. He could not face the people he loathed—those who found happiness in simple living. He preferred the edginess of risk-taking. Thus, like infamous fictional killer Harry Lime, he took up a high position to commit his crime.

If you recall, Lime looked down on people from the perspective of a Ferris-wheel where his victims looked like “dots.” The film is The Third Man. It was easy to dehumanize those who would die if they are merely squirming dots in a dark night.

The armaments at his crime scene suggest he knew this could be a “glorious” Waterloo for him, but the use of cameras indicate he planned for the possibility to beat the law of averages to kill again.

Is Cam Newton a Maroon?

DATELINE:  All Routes Lead to Idiocy

cam

In case you have forgotten, Cam Newton reminded you that it’s his picture you find next to the expression “Dumb Jock” in the Encyclopedia of Sports Idiocy.

In the immortal words of the great American philosopher Bugs Bunny: “What a maroon!”

Yes, Cam did it again at a press conference. He told everyone how funny it was to hear a female sports reporter talk about routes. Cam’s favorite movie is Where the Boys Are—because he knows the route, having gone that route many times for a few bucks.

Women never talk to Cam about anything of substance. In fact, Cam is more at home with the boys and shop talk where the only playbook he reads is mostly x and o demonstrated.

He is just another pretty face in a bubble head to match his bubble butt.

Cam will never be caught with a pencil behind his ear like a nerd. We doubt that he knows how to hold a pencil or can work anything out on paper.

Yes, Cam is extremely beautiful to look at, but you probably can’t take him many places unless he is on a leash and you have your doggie bag with you.

If football ends tomorrow for the Giant Fig Newton, he can always use those amazing talents to star in gay porn where a giant brain is the least of your worries.

Don’t get us wrong: we find Cam easy on the eyes and we have enough brains for the two of us.

Is Trump a Moron?

DATELINE:  Smarting Insults

rex Smarty Pants Rex Tillerson

After Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declined to refute the accusation that he privately called President Donald Trump a “moron,” we have to investigate the ramifications.

Kim Jung Un recently called Mr. Trump a “dotard.” It seems to be open season on the mental state of the MAGA-low-maniac’s personality.

Both moron and dotard used to be early 20th century terms used by prototypical psychologists. Then, the unwashed, deplorable public took up the words—thus rendering them on the lighter side of slander and libel.

Dotard used to refer to someone with Old Timers’ Disease in the old days before punchy and punch-drunk went the way of medical diagnosis.

Moron was frequently a level of retardation before that went down the tubes to emerge as Downs’ Syndrome. A moron used to be someone with the intellectual acuity of a ten-year-old. However, we have met some fairly sharp ten-year-olds—and feel that is a bum rap.

Our deplorable education system has finally resulted in a generation of deplorable voters electing a deplorable candidate. Let’s take quotes off the term moron.

Well, you know the term is often lumped in with idiot, imbecile, fool, clod, dullard, nitwit, dumbbell, jerk, and the all-purpose loser. It’s a big tent of disparaging terms proving all roads lead to Rome. You don’t need GPS to figure out that the map is littered with wrong turns.

We know Mr. Trump is lost in there somewhere. However, we have concluded he is most likely to respond to his favored sobriquet: son of a bitch, often used to delineate and denote NFL football players who have arthritic knees or pray for deliverance from “rednecks.”  But that’s another story.

Environmental Hottie: Leo DiCaprio

DATELINE:  Floodgates are Now Open

With flooding and natural disasters occurring now three and four times a year instead of once per century, we thought it was time to take a look at it Leonardo DiCaprio’s documentary called Before the Flood.

We are already way ahead of you. We also laughed at the notion that DiCaprio, a semi-self-educated actor, is an expert in global warming. Yet, because of his fame and celebrity, the United Nations made him a special Messenger of Peace on the issue.

AT the UN, they listened to his speech with more rapt interest than at global warming scoffer Donald Trump.

DiCaprio begins his documentary with a litany of FOXNews expert ridiculing him for his so-called expertise. So we give him credit for recognizing that one. However, he follows it by a notorious plug for his movie The Revenant.

What can you expect from a child whose parents put Hieronymous Bosch’s notorious painting of hell  and paradise over his crib?

DiCaprio is no newcomer to the issue of climate change. He goes back to video clips over 20 years ago in which he meets with Al Gore, Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, and shows his interest in the environment, using his fame as a passport to open doors.

With Irma and Harvey and Maria and earthquakes, DiCaprio is beginning to look like a prophet in the wilderness.  He says the real profits are from billionaires with fronting organizations like the fake news-media and politicians who deny global warming. Yep, that’s called biting irony. Fake media cuts two ways.

The entire term “global warming” is a misnomer. Actually, it is not warming; it is extremes in the weather.  And there’s no denying we have that lately in Irma, Harvey, or Maria.

The question is whether it’s caused by man made fossil fuel, or by forces of the universe yet unknown. Blame it on ancient aliens.

With the concept of expertise getting the short shrift in American culture for the past half century, it’s not surprising that experts are denigrated. It’s not popular to be one of the elite intelligentsia in a democracy of boors.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re a scientist, an artist, or just an ordinary PhD.

You will be ridiculed for being different.

In 21st century America, you are persona non-grata. You might as well go out into the wilderness and start crying.

The people for whom this documentary is meant to educate have already Hit the remote button to shut off the screen.

In that sense, this is all a waste of time.

Turf Time Beats Star Gate for Patriots

 DATELINE:  Belichick Mows Fake Grass

 


Lean and hungry Cassius speaks some rather profound lines in Julius Caesar: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but ourselves.”

In a normal universe that might be true, but we are talking the world of Gillette Stadium in Foxboro where the Caesar of Sports, Bill Belichick, would beg to differ. Walt Whitman might like blades of grass, but we never guessed Belichick would agree with him.

As for fake Brady news, he would rather cut his teeth on broken mirror glass than play on fake turf.

After a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Chiefs, Tom Brady and company are fully embarrassed. But, don’t blame your stars, and they won’t blame themselves.

The fault, dear Brutus, and dear Belichick, is in the turf.

Yep, you guessed it:  The Patriots have ordered the old turf be torn up and replaced immediately. The old turf was installed in May at great expense. Some “players” called it too soft. Heavens, not soft! The Patriots are not looking for a Beauty Rest mattress.

Tom Brady may hawk the mattress in one of his hilarious commercials, but the Pats like it hard.

There is likely only two people who could exercise the power over the Kraft family to insist the turf ‘n surf dinner be taken off the clubhouse menu. They are the same tandem that can veto new artificial grass.

That is Coach Belichick the Great, and his acolyte Tom Brady the Ageless.

Yes, indeed, we may have voted to legalize grass in Massachusetts, but don’t let that have an impact on the Patriots. Off with the turf.

A new sod will replace the new old sod. Some old sod will do the work in time for the next home game. If they lose again, you may have to look skyward: the only blame left is in the stars.

No, not those stars.

Twin Peaks at a Crossroad, or at a Dead End?

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.

Penultimate Twin Peaks

DATELINE: Down to the Finish Line

peaked

We’re going round the bend, literally, and figuratively, on the new David Lynch marathon in surreality, Twin Peaks.

For sixteen hours we have seen Dead People, People from Another Dimension, Weirdos, and maddening loose ends as well as standard plot holes. That’s the bargain with Lynch.

The recent show has started to blow up loose ends and loose characters, thankfully not waiting until ten minutes before denouement to drive the entire cast off one of the twin peaks of the title. So, Kyle MacLachlan has snapped out of his doldrum-idiot Doppleganger Dougie, and evil D.B. Cooper has dispatched his illegitimate son with electrifying alacrity.

In the meantime, Lynch has discovered a new star, Eamon Farren. Let’s hope he fares better than Dana Ashbrook or James Marshall in the next 25 years.

What more can be expected? Oh, Cooper’s assistant, long lost Diane turns out to be some kind of spirit from beyond, her connection to Dougie’s wife, Naomi Watts, now ignored in a puff of smoke and gunfire.

We saw Don Murray, formerly the leading man for Marilyn Monroe in Bus Stop, looking spry as he pushes 90 and thanked by Cooper for lending his old Hollywood fame to the tale.

There was a shoot-out in one of those foreclosed Las Vegas communities that didn’t make much sense. But, we never expect much sense.

When Cooper regains his wits, he is able to say, “I am the FBI,” with all the swagger fans of the show wanted to hear. Perhaps Sheriff Michael Ontkean will make an appearance in the final show.

Whatever will the final two-hour monstrosity of this TV Guernica give us? We know that Sherilyn Fenn has a revelation while looking in the mirror.

Twenty-five years passing will do that.

 

 

 

Trump & Roach Motels

 DATELINE:  Hurricane Harvey Solutions

Astro

Hurricane Harvey may cause millions to flee areas about to be devastated by a Category 4 storm with winds over 140 mph.

Fear not, citizens. The Trump Homeland Security promises that checkpoints along the route will operate as usual, even if you are delayed from escaping the fury of Nature.

You must bear with the Homeland Security folks who put your life in danger because they have a job to do:  find those pesky illegals who are trying to save their lives from natural disaster.

Of course, this means you are damned if you do, and deported if you do. The upshot is that an unknown quantity of people will stay in harm’s way.

President Trump sent out one of his patented tweets that essentially said, “Rotsa Ruck,” like he was a Jetson dog.

“Good job, Brownie,” as President Bush once notoriously said as thousands died in Hurricane Katrina, and countless others suffered violence and lawlessness..

To that end, Emergency Shelters will become Roach Motels. Illegal aliens will check in—but won’t be allowed to check out.

roach motelFEMA Emergency Shelter

Yes, the storm will become the Trump Pied Piper, leading the tired and huddled masses to deeper dangers and fears.

What’s a little phobia?  Every day brings a little death in Texas where you cannot trust civil servants to be civil, or provide you with food and water unless you have papers to prove you are an American citizen.

There is no rest for those seeking refuge from poverty—or from impending doom. Your federal government is at work, like the Post Office, neither rain, wind, nor President Trump, will stop them from doing the work of the Grim Reaper.

Good job, Trumpie.

Trump’s Modest Proposal

DATELINE:  Cooking Up a Storm

trump apron strings

For a summer treat hot off the griddle, you may want to partake of a menu that caught the eye of Newt and promises a cheery Sessions of law enforcement.

The repast of yore starts with a DACA salad, with only the most tender of sprouts, with lettuce picked by illegal migrants under the hot sun.

Don’t forget to use the TPS sauce on those Haitian wings for an unforgettable dinner that Friday used to enjoy with his master Crusoe. TPS sauce can be poured onto countries like El Salvador, Honduras, and any African nation of your choice.

Home, sweet Secure Homeland, will be securer once more if you have the bug zappers in place and dis-invite any rebel republican senators who tend to be like ants at a picnic. We think the best BBQs are held behind great border walls to keep out the riff-raff.

German sauerkraut mixed with KKK-kale provides a kick that only a neo-Nazi could endure. You may want to mix that salad up with some tough police elbow grease.

Make sure you have enough alt-right to offset the Antifa pesto.  Red beets should be ready once you light the torches.

Roasted deported citizens who have a litany of civil violations always goes well with a Chianti and fava beans for those who like to watch the lamb go to slaughter. Civil rights and civilian clothes are optional.

Remember that this recipe at Kent State College once made America great. Nowadays you may want to have some congressional bicarb to hold down the dyspepsia and general sense of existential nausea after watching Master Chef Trump dump another hog into the pit.

Bone-head appetit, all you strict constructionists. The cookbook was made to be followed.

With apologies to Jonathan Swift.

So-So-Soviet Solaris

DATELINE:  Solaris (1972, Russian version)

solaris  Breughel painting

The original Andrei Tarkovsky film called Solaris has been hailed by many sci-fi fans as the greatest fiction ever made. This is the Soviet version of 2001: A Space Odyssey, according to many.  It was remade with George Clooney in recent years to great jeers.

This Soviet three-hour epic drama of dreams and memories takes place mostly in a space ship orbiting a mysterious planet called Solaris. There an ocean of living mass can take human minds and create ghosts or hallucinations of flesh and blood to haunt the three cosmonauts.

We must be losing our touch because, though the film deals with quantum physics and string theory decades before they were discovered, the Soviet film is largely a snooze-fest.

Parts of the film are intriguing, and much of it is highly cerebral. However, there is a 90-minute movie lurking among the ponderous and pointless scenes of traffic jams and nature walks.

Made before computers changed the landscape, the film manages to ignore the Kubrick innovations with computers, a film made several years earlier. Both films share an existential crisis or two, and puzzling moments of metaphysics, if that’s your thing.

One might laugh at the notion of shooting thousands of books into outer space nowadays. The payload must have been a killer. There is quite a library aboard the Russian spaceship.

Our favorite scene must be the three-minute sequence that lingers silently on one of our favorite paintings by Breughel, ‘Hunters in the Snow’, which hangs in the Soviet ship as some kind of commentary on the difficulty of survival. We have a copy in our library and ponder it now and then.

The payoff of the film is hardly Twilight Zone worthy and may not satisfy the previous exposition. Yet, maybe you are among those who will see this as a great movie. We, alas, are standing in the other line, waiting for Godot.

 

A Quiet Passion: Emily Dickinson Revealed

DATELINE: Dickinson in Amherst

Nixon with Jennifer Ehle

So seldom do we find a movie made out of the epheremal that we want to celebrate. A life of Emily Dickinson is bound to be considered still-born by many modern types.

Cynthia Nixon stars as Miss Dickinson, a reclusive poet whose internal life was as intense as it was empty.

A strong individual, she eschewed church and social niceities for the grandness of her poetry, which was disparaged and ignored during her lifetime.

In an age of movies for noisy and thoughtless audiences, this film will test the true mettle of those with interior lives. It is magnificent in wit, genteel details, and brilliantly directed by Terence Davies who also wrote the script.

This contributes to a singular vision.

Just the bravura scene where they age before a photographer, morphing Emily from Emma Bell to Cynthia Nixon is stunning.

This is a film of nuance, and the actors have the opportunity to show how the lives of the Dickinson family and friends were inspiration enough to make Emily a great poet, unknown to those who lived with her. She considered her life “minor.”

Standouts among the cast certainly must acknowledge Keith Carradine as Emily’s stern, but supportive father—though their differences and debates on God and church are touched by wit and deeper insight.

One might compare this film to the classic great films of Ivory-Merchant so many decades ago. And, those were made for a miniscule audience of literate film lovers. How few of us are left today?

Let’s just feel some joy that a magnificent movie has been given to us: it’s a great gift to enjoy privately. It provides a chance to avoid computerized cartoons based on that weird genre of the “graphic novel” that dominates movie production in the 21st century.

A warning to sunshine poetry lovers, Emily led a most unhappy life–and the film does not flinch from that fact.

 

WordPress, Wherefore Art Thou?

DATELINE:  Biting the Hand That Feeds Us Tofu Turkey

Tofu   tofu turkey

Almost as juicy as our Tofu Turkey Award, we were just notified by WordPress that this is our seventh anniversary.

We almost expect the locust to descend upon our readers.

Every once in a while we realize that there are awards out there for blogs, but as Ella Fitzgerald used to sing, “But Not for Me….”

Yes, indeed, bloggers are writing songs of love, but not for me.

We heard there are real WordPress awards out there, but they are as mysterious as the Men in Black for us.

Fear not, fearless readers. We will continue for another seven years writing movie reviews on weird movies, pushing our bad books, and berating Tom Brady. If we are not mistaken, seven years is about the same length of time for those with bad luck when you break a mirror.

Thank you, WordPress, for reminding us.

 

 

Nova’s “Ancient Computer” Beats Ancient Aliens

DATELINE:  Ancient “Theories” 

 hair

After seeing dozens of documentaries on extraterrestrials, and all those gods from outer space shows, we wanted to find a traditional science program that looks at one of the biggest issues among the mysterious discoveries of modern times.

We found that Nova, the PBS series, had a program on an ancient computer, discovered off the coast of Greece in 1901. It’s reportedly 2000 years old. It took five decades before somebody discovered that it was a technological marvel.

We were eager to see how Nova would discuss this ancient computer without once mentioning extraterrestrials, visitors from another world, or some other manner that denigrates human intelligence.

We were not disappointed. The show attributes this device to Archimedes. He lived in Sicily over 2000 years ago and the Romans captured two devices he had built. Apparently this laptop computer-size device was among the items confiscated. It’s a computer that predicts the future.

Done with a series of cogs, the machine can foretell future eclipses by using prime numbers on each of the cogs with interlocking teeth.  This actually provides a 19-year calendar.

If you watch Nova, and not Ancient Aliens, you will come to believe this was a work from a genius and lost to history because almost everything was invented in isolation.

Modern day scientists are astounded that this item was invented at all. On the other hand, they are loathe to admit it might have come from as a toy from some little gray space man. The one-hour show is well worth your attention.

We still prefer the Ancient Aliens theory.