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.

 

In Search of …Atlantis & Quinto

DATELINE: First Season Success

atlantis 

The grande finale of the Zachary Quinto series that has impressed us each step of the season is billed as a two-parter but is really merely an extended two-hour episode.

Sending Quinto off on the quest puts him squarely in the Mediterranean Sea. The stopovers include Greece, Crete, North Africa, Sardinia, and all spots that might be an island—or not.

We start, as per usual, with doomsday sayers and crack-pot experts, but Zak finds some level-headed researchers to set the course.

Once again the actor has a great adventure or two, diving into open sea when he really is not a fan of it. He climbs into old, dank tombs too. He is a gamer in the search, and we believe him that he really has an interest in these notions.

Atlantis is not an island, but an empire. There are 51 points of discovery that Plato offered researchers—and matching up spots to the clues is the name of the game.

Quinto learns along the way that the Atlantans may be the progenitors of Rh negative blood types. These folks have a bunch of characteristics, but he is most intrigued by the pointy ear theory (his only reference to Spock in the new series).

He is clearly fascinated.  And he is willing to learn he too has Rh negative blood, possibly an Atlantan. It is a good way to make the host and producer of the show truly a meaningful part of the formula.

Ancient ruins, recently excavated, indicate that meteors, floods, tsunamis, or other natural disasters could have buried Atlantis. It need not be under the sea, but under tons of earth.

For that reason, Atlantis might be a landlocked place, with rivers circling it, as in Morocco.

If you want to end the first season on a high note, the History show is the perfect coda—and likely will cause fans to demand another season with Zak.

 

 

 

The Trip (of Light Fantastic)

DATELINE: Boon Companions

trip 2.jpeg

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.

 

Code-breaker: Rebel Genius

DATELINE:  Einstein of Computers   

 real Turing

Alan Turing, age 14.

The inspiration for the movie with Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing, entitled The Imitation Game, was a small British documentary called Codebreaker back in 2011.

The term “codebreaker” refers to two distinct segments of Turing’s life. He was a war hero who invented computers in the early 1940s and broke the German Nazi secret code.

Later in his life, he broke the social morays of staid British sexuality with his gay lifestyle.

Some dim-bulbs on IMdB have criticized the film for forcing them to endure his terrible, tragic second half of life, that included sex scandal, arrest, and chemical castration by the government he worked assiduously to save.

The film is also strengthened by the performers who re-enact Turing and his psychiatrist, Franz Greenbaum. With many moments of fraught faces, we have a definitive portrait of anguish.

Ed Stoppard and Henry Goodman give masterful performances. They regard each other perfectly as patient and doctor, later as friends. Goodman’s paternal father figure looks with pain upon Stoppard’s victim of cruel treatment.

Their looks make the re-enacting of Greenbaum’s medical journals quite compelling.

The film is fleshed out with interviews from Greenbaum’s now elderly daughters who knew Turing and his coworkers in breaking the Nazi code.

What you have here is a powerful indictment of how governments abuse and use people ruthlessly. In many ways this documentary is far more fascinating than the tale of the man who invented computers in the Imitation Game.

The Eagle: Too Gay or Not Gay Enough?

DATELINE: Blue Man Group?

blue man group Whose Slave Is it?

Back in 2011, Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell commenced a series of roles in which they seemed to be walking on the wild side of homoeroticism. In one of their early incarnations, they went gladiator school for us.

The Eagle has over 400 Amazon Prime reviews—and only two picked up on the bromance tell-tale marks.

Like the Mechanic with Bronson and Jan-Michael Vincent and probably Top Gun with Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer, the Eagle is about two men in an intense bromance—with all the bedroom scenes on the cutting room floor. You may gnash your teeth, or breath a sigh of relief.

You are left with a Roman Empire story about a handsome soldier and his slave-boy. Uncle Donald Sutherland knowingly buys the lad for his nephew Marcus. Later, Esca (Jamie Bell) reveals he has taken an oath of honor never to leave Marcus (Tatum). It’s about as close to nuptials as you lay it on in Ancient Rome.

The two go on a spiritual journey to recover the Roman Eagle lost by Tatum’s father in a battle in northern England where the Briton savages reign beyond gay Hadrian’s wall.

When they arrive, we have a switcheroo: in the land of beautiful men covered in blue dye, Bell is the master and Channing the slave. How their bromantic fortunes bounce.

The savage blue Britons also dance magnificently, the best we have seen English men dance since, well, Billy Elliot.

A few critics disbelieved Tatum and Bell were lovers in the script, as there were not enough smoldering looks to convince them that something was afoot. Since there are no closets in Rome or Britain of the age, we are unsure whether they were hiding there.

With intense battle scenes and violence, we have here a seminal bromance movie that will warm the cockles of your heart. It’s also the best Roman slave movie since Spartacus.

In Search of …Sinkholes

DATELINE: Pedestrian Hazard

Quintoinpit

One of the most mundane of topics for this series so far turns out to be one of the most terrifying, This may be due to the fact that a sinkhole opening up under your feet is far more likely than being abducted by an alien, falling into a time slip, or crossing paths with a sea monster.

Quinto’s series frightens us with the information that 25% of the earth we live on—land—is subject to sinkholes.

In case you don’t know, Florida and Missouri are the sinkhole capitals of America. Land o’Lakes, Florida, and their Chamber of Commerce may be a bit upset at this publicity. Your land may slip out from under you.

The many horrifying stories (one man opened the door to his brother’s bedroom—and he was gone, swallowed up) pile up. Sinkholes happen faster than the time to react. You may be falling and buried before you know what is happening. And forget rescue.

Historical sinkholes were thought to be the Devil’s handiwork, owing to their unpredictability. And, even with science of the 21st century, you may only have a slightly more expectation than being hit with an earthquake.

The sinkhole is smaller and more personal. You fall 300 or 400 feet down and the hole may open up to a football field size. A ton of debris will fall atop you.

Porous limestone is the culprit. One golf course found its waterhole turn into a sinkhole overnight.

The owner began excavating it to see what was below: and after 3 years, it looks like a mini-Grand Canyon. He takes Zachary Quinto down into the abyss and chasm. It is not safe.

A cautious producer pulls them out, but it’s not publicity stunt. A week later a pickup truck driving in the spot went down, almost killing the driver.

Once again, the series is a goldmine of information and suspense. You may not expect a mundane topic to provide you with a nightmare, but sinkholes are not to be searched for, or trifled with.

 

 

National Enquirer, Catching and Killing Bad News!

 DATELINE:  Laughing Pecker?

Laughing Cavalier Cavalier Enquirer?

Pick a peck of David Pecker.

Not since J. Edgar Hoover have we heard of “secret files.”

Well, they’re baaack!

David Pecker picked a peck of pickled poodle politicians. The peck of Pecker picks were pols who parlayed their hidden scandals into political careers, like Duncan Hunter (R) California, and Chris Collins (R) New York, your typical corrupt Congressmen now indicted and refusing the resign.

It appears that the owner of American Media, the National Enquirer dirt rag, and friend to Donald Trump, has a safe filled with signed “catch and kill” contracts. Mostly they are used to pay poor Pecker ploys and protect Trump loyalists.

Yes, the Laughing Peckerhead collects salacious stories and kills them by paying big bucks to whistleblowers—who cannot then publish their truth anywhere. It is how he protected Donald Trump from hookers, payoffs, illegitimate baby-momma stories, and heaven knows what other Russian mob ties.

Recently, Special Prosecutor Robert Meuller picked on Pecker for immunity for his pretty poison pens.

Now we learn that the spineless, gutless Congress may be filled with people blackmailed by Mr. Peckerhead who has dirt to keep them quiet. Yes, he catches and kills a scandalous tale and then turns around and sleazily demands obedience to him, not the United States Constitution.

It sounds like he has taken a page out of Putin’s compromising videotape series of Moscow nights with potty pee players.

Hoover was said to have files of recordings, depositions, and other evidence of wrong-doing at the FBI for decades, insuring his power.

If you have a whistle to blow, Pecker protects by paying to kill the catch and then turns around and demands a favor—like support Donald Trump (or be ruined by his private stash of stories).

Now we learn that David Pecker has picked a peck of peccadilloes out of the pockets of pusillanimous politicians.

Giancana: Recognizing Truth & Disbelieving Sam(e)

DATELINE: Unimpeachable Crime

sam Sam Testifies to Congressional Hearing!

Mobster Sam Giancana’s great nephew wrote and produced a documentary on the notorious and contradictory mob leader. It is fascinating and entitled: Momo, the Sam Giancana Story. If you wondered about an inspiration for The Godfather, here it is.

Giancana’s daughters oversaw the production and participated in giving personal details about their father.

What came out of the life of a Chicago mobster, one of the successors to Al Capone, is a dapper and dangerous figure who wanted to be a globe-trotting figure of celebrity. He hobnobbed with the likes of Frank Sinatra and was boon companion to Phyllis McGuire of the famous singing sisters.

He had tentacles everywhere but managed to keep his life compartmentalized. He was a kindly family man—and to his associates he was a bad-tempered businessman.

Reconciling the elements reaches a state of improbability that turns viewers into cartoon version of “Believe or Not!”

Giancana made deals with Joe Kennedy to make his son president. He made deals with the CIA to murder Fidel Castro for taking away the mob’s Cuban casinos. He made deals to run Las Vegas—and he was a man who liked to control influence over powerful people. He shared mistresses Judith Exner Campell and Marilyn Monroe in order to gain an advantage.

He had close ties to Jack Ruby, a mob nightclub owner in Dallas, who often did business for Giancana. One of Lee Harvey Oswald’s brothers was hooked into the New Orleans mob.

The stretch or reach of Giancana may be disturbing beyond having turned Oswald into a patsy and hired Chicago killers to murder John Kennedy, hired J.D. Tippitt to kill Oswald, and then had it all go awry.

On the verge of talking to a U.S. Senate committee in 1975, his flamboyant mob boss attitude perturbed more than a few in the criminal element who ordered him assassinated in his own home. His flashy style did him in.

With corruption so total and human nature so contradictory, the life of Momo Sam Giancana takes on a sense of reality that may have you shake your head in recognition and in disbelief.

 

 

 

 

In Search of Time Travel

DATELINE: Your Time Slip is Showing
time
Zachary Quinto’s series continues to impress—with a general dollop of skepticism among his research in the latest intriguing episode of In Search of…. We are sent scrambling with no time to waste in time travel.

Taking on the notion that Einstein felt relative confidence about, Quinto talks to a man who claims he has indeed time traveled under the secret government program started by Nikola Tesla.

Yes, there are more Tesla coverups than versions of H.G. Wells’s Time Machine or The Philadelphia Experiment.

Quinto knows of what he speaks. After all, he did two movies in which, as Spock, he time traveled to meet Leonard Nimoy who also hosted this same series in the distant past.

We already feel like we have gone back to the good old days.

Quinto travels to Liverpool where incidents of “time slips” have sent individuals to different times and places momentarily. This apparently is caused by infra-sound (low frequency noise that harms or effects the brain). Theories abound in terms of paranormal, suggesting everything from other dimensions to ley lines. Ghosts may be time travelers, joining us, or causing us to join them.

Time, we learn, is an unknown, even moreso nowadays with the LHC and quantum physics changing the landscape of the universe.

Fear or strong emotion also has an impact on time’s passing—as Zachary discovers upon jumping out of a plane (with chute).

Of compelling episodes, this one manages to be scientifically based, even with one man claiming he was sent out under Tesla’s early work, and another who is locating places where the time slippage is commonplace.

Sentinels of Ancient Aliens, 13.9

DATELINE: Here’s Mud in Your Moai

 moai

In the latest episode of the series Ancient Aliens, Giorgio Tsoukalos has been teamed up with another regular, David Childress, and they went to the South Seas, Easter Island and the Marquesas to find the usual suspects: mythic gods who were really extraterrestrials. Don’t give these Rapa Nui a bad rap.

“The Sentinels” is your standard episode, but now features Giorgio as a central analyst with a variety of associates. Of the 900 Moai statuary on Easter Island, only seven face the ocean. These 36 feet tall monoliths are right out of a Kubrick movie.

These giants are presumed to be literal depictions, facing out to another location—which happens to be the Marquesa Islands. Our intrepid theorists visit and consult with others. They find similar legends about giants, in flying turtle disguise. The ancient astronauts were called Tiki, and that is no con job.

Thousands of years ago these cosmic turtles seemed to have arrived along the ley lines in the South Pacific. Of course, it is a short jump to make these islands a series of space ports from where spaceships came and went, impressing natives.

As for those Moai, they appear to be giant hybrids. They fled the Marquesas because they were hunted by the Polynesians as a delicacy: their brains were thought to have immortality imprinted.

The eyes of the Moai may hold the key to their abilities, and the large hats they wear are loaded with cryptic messages.

Nothing new emerges in this episode, but it is another piece of ancient history that indicates modern science is missing a few more links than they care to admit.

 

 

 

In Search of…Fake Smarts

DATELINE: Bots Nobody Should Love

boy bot

Zachary Quinto was duly surprised and unnerved by the scientists he met to discuss artificial intelligence. It would appear it is already too late to stop it from taking over the world. In Search of went looking at bots and the bottom line of artificial intelligence.

Nearly every computer-generated scientist found Quinto’s questions “valid,” but not one had the interest to consider stopping his own work. It seems that artificial intelligence may control the world within a decade.

Quinto visited a place called RealDoll where they make $8000 robots in the guise of buxom women with bee-stung lips. As an after thought, there was also a young male bot. You can program emotional reactions, but they are smarmy—like their creator.

Quinto felt that giving robots the power to choose who lives and dies might be a problem when they take over military systems. No one else in authority had much to say about it.

Of course, androids or robots have their uses in dangerous situations—with bombs, radiation, or delicate surgery. Yet, giving them to power to make decisions could mean they access our Facebook page to determine whether we are worthy.

Indeed, Facebook scientists created robots who quickly went out of control last year, making their own language and freezing out their creators. Be afraid.

The host once again came across as highly intelligent, bewitched and bothered by the developments. When he drove an Uber car that went through a red light, he tried to have the scientists discuss whether the robot would save the pedestrian or driver, they couldn’t or wouldn’t give an opinion.

This was an impressive hour, but not comforting.

In Search of…., 1.3 Monsters of the Deep

DATELINE:  Quinto Re-Imagines!

sam Suffering Sam, Aussie Boy!

The re-imagined Leonard Nimoy series, now with Zachary Quinto, is back on top with episode 3 of the updated version of In Search Of, on History.

You cannot quibble with the need to update the old 1970s series. Much has been added to the lore, and cryptozoologists never existed back in the old days.

By taking a look at monsters of the deep, the show takes Quinto to Australia where nearby oceans are 4 miles deep –and only 1% of the ocean has been explored.

His first interview is with a cute Aussie boy who was mysteriously bitten all over his legs by some unknown carnivore when he stood in a foot of water.

The attack is horrific and takes up some true detective work to learn it may be a tiny creature (actually hundreds) that emerge during full-moon.

We are delighted with Quinto’s follow-up ability to question those he speaks to. He is both informative, knowledgeable, and quite personable in putting people at ease. He is also clearly a cut above in the intelligence quotient.

He can speak to fisherman, teenagers, and scientists with equal aplomb. When he ends up in Fort Lauderdale, he is able to banter with a man who has discovered a new species of ocean creature.

It is bewildering and frightening to see all the denizens of the deep that have created mythic monster stories. And, we give Quinto credit for diving right into the ocean where blue spotted octopi have deadly toxins.

This was a goody.

 

 

Last Call to Titan, All Aboard

 DATELINE:  Earth’s Next Home

 Titan

 It only looks like Mars.

Not to be confused with remembering the Titans. We are now talking about the Titanians, a group of people who will be scientists and adventurers to colonize the Titan Moon of Saturn.

This little documentary, made in France, but is international in flavor—using scientists from the United States and NASA, as well as ESA with experts from England and France.

Last Call to Titan is a riveting little documentary.

From the odd perspective of a narrator telling the story of how Titan was discovered and colonized, we have a different approach to a science documentary. It works on its own strange planetary level.

Leslie Clack is the British narrator who is obviously speaking to us from the perspective of 200 years hence. He is from a place that is far removed from Earth and has its own laws and culture. Those who move to Titan will never be able to return to Earth because the changes to the body by gravity would kill anyone who dared to come back.

Most will be born there and not want to come here.

Titan has an opaque atmosphere, mostly methane, and extremely cold (180 degrees below zero).  Yet, with diving suits, not space suits, people would be able to move around more effortlessly.

The early photos and exploration of Titan by the Cassini-Huygens mission are the real call of this hour-long show. It is a fascinating place with oceans, lakes, rivers, and a coastline worthy of a European spa town.

New propulsion systems are under creation that would cut the trip to Titan to six months. However, you still need to be slightly anti-social to survive the loneliness—and being stuck with a bunch of weirdo scientists as your boon companions.

Last call indeed.

 

 

 

 

Alas, Poor Yorick and Poor Shakespeare

DATELINE:  Heads, You Lose!

cursed

Shakespeare’s Tomb is a marvelous documentary that deals with the case of the headless Bard of Avon.

Back in the 18th and 19th century, they were graverobbers who wanted the heads of famous people and in Yorick fashion, they took the skulls from older graves. Phrenologists were also collectors who were interested in having a genius skull in their study. You could so easily read the bumps in the cranium.

You may be surprised to learn that Shakespeare put a curse on his own grave, which is located in the holy Trinity Church in Avon—not the more protected Westminster Abbey.

You may also be surprised to learn that Shakespeare put a curse on his own grave, which is located in the holy Trinity Church in Avon, as if he had an inkling that someone would want his head on a silver tray.

One of the most fascinating documentaries in a long time takes the opportunity of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death to examine his strange burial—and possible vandalism of his resting place in the late 1790s.

It may well be they took the graverobbers took a wrong turn, and grasped the head of Ann Hathaway, in a shroud only three feet deep, next to Shakespeare.

For unknown reasons, this purloined skull was dumped at another church where it has rested without a body in a charnel spot.

Forensic experts studied the discovery and concluded that it belonged to a woman. The documentary makes little of that wrong head, but she was the right age to be Shakespeare’s late wife who is buried next to him next to him in a shallow grave.

Apparently, Holy Trinity Church tried to cover up the problem by putting a new stone over Shakespeare’s dug  up grave and not telling anyone. Ground penetrating radar allows the film crew to examine Shakespeare’s grave without opening it.

Good detective work and charming hosts of the show make this little hour-long documentary is brilliant and worthy of your attention.

 

Odd Couple 2, Bittersweet Reunion

DATELINE: Original Stars, 30 Years Later

grumpy old odd couple

Grumpiness as a Joy to Behold!

The two men who single-handedly created a movie/TV franchise of Neil Simon’s comedy classic stageplay, Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, returned twenty years ago, aged in the wood, to reprise their roles as Oscar and Felix.

We discovered Odd Couple 2 to cheer us so many years later.

We confess to having missed this event when it happened, and we were surprised to find it available now on streaming format. It is, however, a sad and bittersweet experience to behold. The two great stars keep their chemistry, but age has sapped them of vitality. It is like watching Laurel and Hardy in their final film.

Time is never kind.

Oscar and Felix have been separated for nearly twenty years, though they made the original film in the late 1960s, and the sequel is 30 years later. They are brought together by the marriage of Felix’s daughter to Oscar’s son.

Jokes about slobs and neatniks have been replaced with a series of old age jabs and dollops of humor.

More than ever these grumpy old men (Lemmon & Matthau) epitomize Oscar and Felix, as if the aging process has turned them into fine wine.

The storyline is filled with pratfalls and lowbrow situations as the two men battle each other’s foibles in the California desert, trying to make it to a wedding.

Though the situation is forced, you must see past that and simply enjoy the actors as they return to their beloved characters, not missing a beat, not letting age and time distract their timing and their experience.