The Twonky: 1st Artificial-Intelligence Movie

DATELINE:  Non-conformist Weirdo Stuff !

twonky To Twonk or Not to Twonk?

When the protagonist of your movie is a pedantic philosophy professor (the ubiquitous Hans Conreid) in 1952, you likely had a bomb of a movie on your hands. When star Conreid said this to director Arch Oboler, the temperamental auteur noted he needed a tax write-off for the year anyhow.

The Twonky was based on a Lewis Padgett short story, one of the earliest visionaries to see computers and AI as the controlling force of the future.

Robbie the Robot and Gort were the mechanical men of the age (though a primitive slave robot was at work in Gene Autry’s Phantom Empire in 1935). It was the Twonky, a creature from the future who took up life in a modern TV set.

As eggheads decried television as a wasteland back in the 1950s, it is all the more ironic that the future visitor and time traveler would end up as an animated TV set.

Though Professor Conreid finds it distasteful to be at the mercy of a trained computer that tries to fulfill every wish, it would today make for a great weekly series on TV. The Twonky is there to make life easier for humans—and to monitor them, depriving privacy and free choice.

Its comedic elements are frightful, and the man who sees it all to clearly is the college football coach, an old geyser played by Billy Lynn. He drops pearls of insight and knocks the hero for not knowing his science fiction.

Arch Oboler’s weird film is decades ahead of its time, criticized for its humor and poor technical effects, the movie is actually on the marvelous side. We enjoyed watching the Twonky climb stairs, throttle a TV repairman, and strip a bill collector down to the birthday suit.

The best moment for us, as former college professor, was when the doctor offered Professor Conreid a sedative. He demurred as he had to write his college class lecture that night—to which the doctor noted, “Oh, well, then you don’t need a sedative.”

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Do You Trust This Computer?

DATELINE: Person of Interest?

Nolan Auteur Jonathan Nolan!

It’s a loaded question, perhaps more nefarious than asking whether you still belittle women in the ERA of #Metooism! (jk omitted in earlier version).

A documentary on the doomsday likelihood that artificial intelligence is already here may be a self-fulfilling prophecy. It does not stop the filmmaker from stacking the deck.

Do You Trust This Computer features a couple of the brainiest culture commentators—and a gaggle of AI experts from Sanford and MIT.

Elon Musk (of Mars colonization fame) and Jonathan Nolan (creator of Person of Interest and Westworld, two of the most intelligent computers on the tube) offer extraordinary insights.

Nolan is so handsome that it almost seems unfair that he is brilliant too.

If you need villains, you can find them on your devices: Facebook and Google, both of whom are working on super intelligent computers that may endanger humankind.

As one observer notes, psychometrics means that computer are already able to tell your intelligence, religion, sexual orientation, and politics, from facial recognition. In the hands of dictators, or even a Trump, this could prove frightful.

An expert notes that artificial intelligence is the true psychopath: no conscience or morality to stop it from fulfilling every mission.

Autonomous robots are already out there in killer drones. If you are the target, you are dead meat. War will make AI public enemy #1. Medical robots may decide who lives and dies, as humans begin to lose all skills that have been usurped by artificially intelligent creatures.

As people come to rely on these monsters, they will have fewer skills to combat the AI abuses. They are already winning at Jeopardy, chess, and other games, years ahead of schedule.

Androids will soon look like us and have no foibles.

Do you trust your computer? It’s already too late to be suspicious if we are to believe this documentary.

That’s Dah-veed to You, David!

DATELINE:  Bloody Marat!

David & Death of Maratmarat

 

Jacques-Louis David may be at the top of a short list of great French painters of an ilk.

Alas, this documentary pegs him all too accurately for the slime-ball he was, despite his fabulous technique. Be warned: this documentary is in French—which makes the sleaze sound all the more elegant.

David & the Death of Marat deals with the most famous painting of the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror. You know, the period where they chopped off heads with aplomb.

David was one of the ring-leaders, voting to kill King Louis and his wife Marie Antoinette. He was a political advocate of assassination—unless it hit too close to home.

It seems Jean Marat, the journalist agitator, was a friend of David. He was upset when a monarchist defender, Charlotte Corday, knifed the writer in his bath (he was soaking his rotting skin).

She was, of course, another historical victim to be handed her head.

David took a while for his propaganda to coalesce. Most painters wanted to depict the rotting corpse of the martyr Marat. David was smarter, and portrayed a man serene in his death, writing for the masses.

It was a brilliant work, leaving out the more sympathetic Corday and putting focus on dead Marat with his carotid artery spliced with a dagger.

Simplicity ruled, and the picture became famous, but David’s hypocrisy for the little people seemed misplaced. He became Napoleon’s court painter—and later hid his works among his aristocratic friends (the ones he did not vote to behead).

This extraordinary documentary shows contemporary French art experts delighted with the guillotine even today. Illuminating little hour.

Yes, It’s Over, Over There!

DATELINE: Do You See What We See?

Laird Cregar

For those who have trouble understanding the definitive moments of history, science, and world politics, you witnessed on a hot afternoon in Miami in December the Fall of the Roman Empire.

Lest our metaphors shock you with their doomsday scenario, we will say it more simply: the New England Patriots have met catastrophe. Humpty Dumpty has fallen off the great wall and the Patriots cannot put him together again. Atlantis just sank into the ocean.

There will be those who say it is merely one loss on a long road of successes.

The cognoscenti will recognize that Tom Brady’s career will never recover. The team on which he plays has imploded. Its vaunted brain-trust has just been eaten by viral amoebas. You have just seen someone cough up his lung and his guts. King Kong has fallen off the Empire State Building. Satan has been cast out of Heaven.

A game that might have been won anytime in the past 20 years by the Patriots, was lost.

It is the end of the story when Cinderella loses her glass slipper, and the clock strikes midnight. It is the time you see a small, insignificant man behind the curtain who resembles Belichick in whom all New England fans trust, and he says he is not the Wizard of Oz and to ignore him.

Robert Oppenheimer said it best when the bomb when off and the clock ticked away: “I am the Bringer of Death.” Bring on a new generation of football stars and dynasties.

You cannot exaggerate too much what has happened in the world. Sometimes matters are puzzling and frightful. Here they are as clear as you can ever hope to see. Donald Trump stole the election and now you know.

Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead. The New England Patriots just sang the Swan Song of Football.

Outside the Lines: Fake or Fortune

DATELINE: Art for Art’s Sake

fake or fortune gang Culprit Among Art Gang!

Though it sounds like a bad game show, the Netflix series from the BBC about art detectives is quite intelligent and fascinating too.

The show’s misleading title Fake or Fortune does not do justice to the subjects or the experts. Fiona Bruce and Philip Mould work as a marvelous team. They are joined by historian Dr. Bendor Grovesnor who always seems to find key clues.

In essence, someone has a problem painting, without provenance or paperwork, and they cannot prove its true value, or actual artist. In comes the sharp and smart team of experts to track down the truth.

Inventive and dogged, the three detectives manage to find all kinds of evidence to show that Winston Churchill painted a scene in France, or that L.S. Lowry did a couple of small primitive works using unusual pigments.

What is most maddening about the series are the forces or powerhouses in the art world. As you might expect, these snobs are never satisfied with proof, tangible and common sense, if it undercuts their privilege and power.

As a result, many of the brilliant logical discoveries of truth are rejected by those who are threatened in their smugness as owners of definitive art houses.

Heaven forbid that you learn these pompous egos who run the art world are threatened by upstarts and those who are not rich collectors. This is a closed world of dilettantes and snobs.

The combo of scientific and technology with the historical legwork in libraries and archives makes for a pleasant and happy hour in this short series (only four episodes). You may be tempted to send a nasty email to David Coombs, Winston Churchill expert, but it won’t do any good with these inveterate know-it-alls.

 

Five, Actually Six, but Who’s Counting?

DATELINE: First Post-Apocalyptic Nuclear Movie

real star of Five Wright’s Eaglefeather

The 1951 unknown classic by Arch Oboler is called Five, about five survivors of a nuclear holocaust. It was way ahead of its time, but lost count somewhere in the post-apocalyptic shuffle. There are actually six survivors, including a black man, a baby, and a crypto-Nazi.

Director Arch Oboler was a radio writer and producer who went into movies. He was thought to be the poor man’s Orson Welles, and his movie productions were sporadic.

He used his Malibu estate to film the 1951 movie about a handful of people who come together to figure out what happened to the world. They actually surmise that it is genetic that they are immune to radiation, like those who were immune to the Black Death.

Director Oboler was a bit of a character, temperamental and an auteur who did what he wanted. His list of films is intriguing, but the real star of this low-budget film is Frank Lloyd Wright.

Yes, you got that Wright. Oboler had FLW build a mountain top aerie called Cliff House on his estate in 1941. Well, actually, they fought about it—and Eaglefeather became a truncated Wright home. Oboler filmed it from the backside to make it look smaller and more rustic.

The characters note that a rich man’s house is further down the Malibu coast: take that, Frank Lloyd Wright.

As you might expect, the film features Oboler’s particular political perspective. The villain of sorts climbed Mount Everest as a point of monumental ego, and the hero is a graduate of Harvard who specialized in literature. William Phipps has a recognizable face.

Susan Douglas is the innocent girl who goes back to the neutron bomb city to find her husband. She too is remarkable. But, the film has the feel of an early Twilight Zone episode. And, not surprisingly, Rod Serling loved Oboler’s films and used them for inspiration.

Called science fiction, the film is a character drama and low key with its racial angle and Transcendental approach. Fascinating movie.

Return to Oak Island for Sixth Season

DATELINE: Bobby Dazzler Dayton

Drayton Bobby Dazzler Himself!

Drawn back to a sixth season of The Curse of Oak Island, we start with a big two-hour opening show. There is surprisingly little of the usual repetition featured in previous seasons. The episode tells us that, at long last with the Lagina Brothers, money is no object.

Like Sherlock Holmes adventures, the latest series is just like the previous seasons. It’s a formula for History Channel Success, and they aren’t messing with it. However, they have gone BIG.

Expense is the bottom line: new headquarters, new transportation around the island, and a cast of technicians that could find a pyramid, if not build one.

There are grandiose plans, making this the biggest season and making the series the new Money Pit.

Draining swamps is merely a bagatelle.

The star is again Australian Gary Drayton with his ability to hone in on treasure with his metal detectors—and then his impressive knowledge to instantly identify in detail something the so-called expert archaeologists can only confirm with less insight.

Within a day, the treasure hunters find a large two-penny from 1797. Gold is promised, but we fear it may be a gold filling from Marty Lagina’s tooth. They are actually now looking in areas never before explored on the small island.

The slow-arriving results remain part of the show’s ponderous slow-poke approach. There may be many of these episodes, dragging out the scientific findings. Lead isotopes may reveal a cross found last season is ages old from Europe.

On the downside, heart-throb Alex Lagina only makes a small cameo in the two-hour start, and Dan Blankenship, the 90-something explorer, looks younger than ever.

 

We’re back for every episode.

American Pie and Racism

DATELINE: Stopping Black Candidates at Any Cost?

imbeciles at work Go Suck on a Georgia Peach!

Like many deluded Americans, we thought racism, like smallpox, had been eradicated. Well, smallpox is back—and so is racism, thanks to a president who encourages it.

Racism, a sign at Fenway Park said, last year is “as American as baseball.”  The sign was quickly removed, but its sentiment remains. No World Series victory deodorizes this stink.

Trump has encouraged white nationalists to arm themselves and travel to the border of Mexico to shoot unarmed women and children if they dare to cross the line in the dirt.

Your president (well, someone’s president Trump) has insulted every black woman he can find: latest is Michelle Obama whom he contends writes a book for money and must put in controversy. Those are his values all right. You only act for money. In most morality, that’s called bribery.

Trump has called every black female journalist he meets stupid, which goes with his view of black Congresswoman Maxine Waters. Gee, do we see a pattern here? Not if you live in Florida.

In Georgia, another Georgia Peach is running for governor and hates black women like his opponent Abrams. We note only that the original Georgia Peach was a virulent racist, so Kemp is in a grand old party tradition.

In the Citrus state where Anita Bryant used to spew hate, you now have resident Trump furious that his boy Rick Scott is having the election stolen. Trump’s other stooge, DeSantis, is forming a transition team to take over. It used to be called a coup d’etat, now it’s called a recount.

Racism is as American as the grandiose old party that kicked out Lincoln years ago.

It’s rather unusual for American history to have a robber baron and grand wizard rolled into one orange-hair orangutan in the “Whiter than White House.”

They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead!

DATELINE: New Orson Welles Documentary

 3 amigos Three Amigos, More or Less!

If Orson Welles spoke this epitaph, then he was prescient. However, when Peter Bogdanovich reports this at the documentary’s start, his long-time girlfriend Oja Kodar refutes it. They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead is so on target. Alan Cumming narrates among the powerful voices.

Who knows? It is a juicy start to the recent Netflix restoration and premiere of Orson’s last film:  The Other Side of the Wind.

Since the final masterpiece of the Master is a mockumentary, years ahead of its time, it seems only fair that this documentary on the making of the film over 15 years is different than most.

You may be surprised at how many illustrious people, now aged, are still with us with fond and not-so-fond memories of Welles, who was bossy and a tyrant as well as an auteur genius.

He shot what he pictured in his mind. His philosophy in the end was one of “divine accidents” during filming as sources of inspiration that makes a monumental motion picture.

Welles suffered for his art. Money was the bugaboo and taking it from the Shah of Iran’s brother-in-law was a desperately bad move. He lost all control of the movie when the country went Islamic extremist. And, the French courts also tried to keep him from the one movie that kept him alive and creative.

Is it autobiographical? Perhaps, but Welles cast his friend director John Huston as Jack Hannaford—who could be John Ford or Ernest Hemingway or even Welles himself. It could be Huston was playing Huston. It is likely another famous director of their era: Nick Ray.

Scenes were filmed in fragments, often years between takes. Yet, it flows like some insane chorus of dissonant singers.

Netflix produced the documentary and has completed the last film of Welles (reviewed separately). If you need your appetite whet, this documentary will prime your pump.

 

 

 

 

 

Who Murdered Whitey?

 DATELINE:  Inside Scoop You Won’t See Elsewhere!

Itt

Based on information leaked to us anonymously, we have learned who and how the Federal Bureau of Prisons arranged to have James ‘Whitey’ Bulger murdered.

There are 3 “drop out” US Penitentiaries in the US federal prison system. The rest of the UPS’s or “Pens”, which are the high security prisons, are called “active yards”. This is because the prison authorities know about ACTIVE and CONDONED gang activity.

The BOP likes the gangs because they divide the prison population and work with the “shot callers” (aka the gang leaders).

Gangs fall into two categories. First category includes well- known gangs, like the Aryan Brotherhood, Mexican Mafia, Tango Blast, Bloods, Latin Kings, etc. Then, there are “cars”. These are really gangs of undeclared gang members who “gang up” by State of Region of the County.

The “car” that most wanted Whitey was the “Northeast car “which Boston is obviously part of. These gang members had a hit on WB which is and was known to the BOP officials. Within this system “rats” are “crushed” which means sneak attacks by at least two or more attackers and beaten until the guards get there.

A favorite weapon is a lock in a sock or a lock on a belt along with others things like homemade knives “shanks” or “bangers”.

The active yard BOP system wide prisoners live by the “fact” that anyone coming from a “drop-out yard” (such as Terre Haute, Tucson AZ, or Coleman II, in FL), as soon as they arrive at any other USP, shall and must be crushed.

This is known to all BOP officials.

No prisoner from a drop-out yard can be allowed to enter an active prison, especially with a KNOWN CONTRACT on his head like James Bulger.

Whitey came from Coleman II, then was in Tucson with a contract on him and then wheeled in his wheelchair on to Hazelton’s active yard.

The inmates who work at the Receiving and Discharge always know in advance who is arriving because they are told. It was all planned from the beginning and despite the BOP’s obligation to “protect” those in custody, they fed him to exactly who wanted to get him…all premeditated.

The Gardener: Northwest of Eden

DATELINE:  Exquisite Nature Manipulated?

moon bridge Moon Bridge!

Should this exquisite documentary be called The Garden? No, it is named for the man who single-handedly created 20 acres of pure beauty. It’s The Gardener.

Frank Cabot is not your garden variety gardener. His family owned miles of land in Quebec going back to the 1840s. He is a patrician horticulturalist, but he designed his gardens methodically as a labor of love.

He also had the resources and independent wealth to fulfill his creative impulses to build on his mother’s estate. He wanted something with magic, mystery, passion, and surprise.

When you visit his garden, you will be stunned. The private estate is open several weekends each summer for small public tours. No group meets another. Frank Cabot believed the best wanderers in his garden went silently and in a solitary state

His book of the 1990s inspired the film entitled The Gardener.

You will hear his last interview as he explained why he made paths that led to other motifs in his horticultural symphony or sonnet. Having spent time in Japan during World War II, he made several expensive replicas of tea rooms, with staircase waterfalls.

There are bridges of all sorts, like the oriental Moon Bridge that mirrors a circle in the pool it crosses. You will step into intimate little alcoves of flowers and shrubs that open up to vistas that spread for miles.

The film is surely publicity for the actual garden, for who will not want to experience the majesty and philosophical transcending moments in person.

You will whet your appetite for a trip to Eden, called Les Quartes Vents, from a viewing of this magnificent documentary.

 

Hi-Yo, Silva!

DATELINE: Yellow Brick Road to Singularity?

Hi-Ho Silva! 2045’s Pin-Up Boy?

Oh, we were pleasantly surprised to see Jason Silva, one-time game show host for Brain Games, has been elevated to Futurist and Philosopher for a new documentary called The Road to the Singularity.

Silva is affable, charming and good-looking, all the attributes of an American TV show host. We had no idea of his intellectual bent. He does have a degree in film and philosophy and thinks of himself as a “performance philosopher.”  Well, he is no slouch.

The latest riff is on the Singularity, that ugly term to describe what’s coming down the pike, like it or not, a major cultural shift in the human race. This time it is not language or agriculture: it’s Artificial Intelligence, and it will happen within your lifetime. The brains will belong to machines, and we end up dopes.

‘Look out,’ seems to be the message: what’s on the other side of the Singularity line may be hard to fathom right now. Technology is about to take a leap—whether the human race is up to the race to keep up.

If nanotechnology and biotechnology are too small for your aging eyes, you will have robotic beings to take up the slack. Like Michio Kaku, another futurist, Silva gives us the date of 2045 for this “Rapture”.

Our metro-sexual host is a cock-eyed optimist. He sees the use of metaphor as the best means to discuss “The Singularity.” All of those consulted in this half-hour show have not one whit of worry, like a gaggle of Alfred E. Neumanns.

You will see Jason Silva gesticulate with aplomb and carry on the future will be a time for personal growth for poets and artists. Our Venezuelan hottie (who claims not to be gay), Jason Silva turns into Pollyanna before our eyes. It’s definitely an example of the singularity of AI.

Scanning the Great Pyramid

DATELINE: Don’t Scan Zowie Hotass!

 Zowie Hotass

Here’s a documentary that you won’t see on Ancient Aliens.

Scanning the Pyramids is actually a misnomer about Khufu’s Great Pyramid. Oh, they do a quick test on the bent pyramid, but the real focus is on the extraordinary discoveries they make. This is a joint expedition with scientists from France, Japan, and Egypt.

Using new technology, they want to break ground without moving a stone. Yep, they can look inside the pyramid with something called muon scans. These little items come cascading in from space in a straight line, meaning they can photograph them on plates.

This new x-ray system should tell scientists whether there are more chambers inside the Great Pyramid.

The more sensation-seeking fans of ancient astronauts and genius architects in ancient Egypt will not be happy. Indeed, our favorite media hog and Egyptian Antiquities Queen of the Nile, Zahi Hawass, aka Zowie Hotass, shows up with an entourage, sputtering his disdain for science over Egyptology.

Nothing receives a green light in his dark vision. He thinks small pebbles may be inside the new pyramid void.

Unfortunately, Hawass Hotass is a political kingpin or is that pharaoh-pinhead? He is the stamp of approval scientists must face down.

He is, shall we say, skeptical of the findings, or even of the methodology.

The Japanese physicist who pioneers muongraphics looks like a teenager, which doesn’t help. However, all three countries confirm their findings that about 2/3 up the north side, where you see a pyramid notch, there may be another great chamber. It takes two years for this research to reach fruition, but it is worth it.

No one knows what may be inside the newly discovered great void, or even what shape it takes, but it is the first major discovery in 1000 years at the Great Pyramid. It is compelling evidence and fascinating science, unless you happen to believe in the Flat Earth like Hawass.

Zulu Dawn: Daybreaker of History

 DATELINE: Big Stars, Little Pictures

Epic Stars

Grandstand Stars in Peanut Gallery!

How can you pass up one of the last epic movies of Peter O’Toole?

Zulu Dawn was made back in 1979 to commemorate the British disaster of arrogance in the Old Empire in 1879 when spear-carrying Zulu natives beat the pants off of the robust British army in their pretty uniforms,

Not satisfied with riding 600 men to their deaths in Balaclava, and not to be outdone by the Americans with the Alamo and Custer’s Last Stand, the British class society puts its considerable stupidity on the line.

Great disaster events always seem to inspire epic movies.

We have to laugh again at Peter O’Toole’s sense of the uncanny, in asking “can he do it again?”  O’Toole was Irish, which certainly was a drawback that endeared him to Welsh best pal Richard Burton, but what they really had in common was playing British heroes with feats of clay.

In this epic that runs only two hours,  O’Toole’s job is to display all the tenacious idiocy of the British aristocracy. He is wooden in this role, but the film itself is like a totem pole on race relations.

The other aspect of the movie to make us scratch our heads was the top-billing given to an American star in a British epic of folly. It turns the screw on all those English stars playing Americans.

Yep, that’s Burt Lancaster, never too shy to stretch his accents. We love nearly every attempt of Lancaster in movies from Hemingway’s The Killers to Vera Cruz to Sweet Smell of Success. This time, the epic star of From Here to Eternity and Elmer Gantry wants to go up against Lawrence of Arabia and the The Lion in Winter’s better cousin Becket.

The movie also throws in Simon Ward, who tried his hand at epics like Winston and came up too short.

Well, forget it. This movie is workmanlike, like someone followed the recipe book and never added a pinch of salt.

Lancaster here plays the role of an Irish officer, which surely had to amuse O’Toole. Their epical petticoats were showing all too deliberately. He sounds like an extra from the Fighting 69th.

If you like to see the arrogant British colonial spirit receive its come-uppance, with a cast of great English second bananas (Denholm Elliott and John Mills and Bob Hoskins), you will enjoy this. As for us, we kept waiting for Michael Caine to show up. No, he doesn’t.

Leonardo: the Mystery of the Lost Portrait

DATELINE: More Da Vinci Uncoded

Leo Mess Portrait

An Italian production, but with American voice-overs to make it more palatable to English-speaking audiences, the latest Leonardo documentary puts a focus on a newly discovered “Lost Portrait.”

Indeed, the quest by the art historian is to put the interesting self-portrait through its paces. It looks, at first, too good to be 500 years old. Only when a restorer took off the varnish and repairs, it began to show its age: cracks and scratches over the face.

We think someone tried to scratch Da Vinci’s eyes out in a cat fight.

Experts are lined up from Salerno to Naples to Madrid, each specialist offering some different angles. Facial recognition experts try to determine if all extant self-portraits (and one portrait by a Da Vinci friend) are the same person.

This latest discovery is the Lucan Leonardo, thought for a long time to be a picture of Galileo.

Still, was the wood-based picture really done by Leonardo?

He looks about 50 and one test proved the feather in his cap was added in the 19th century: wrong kind of paint. However, the rest seemed authentic to 1500 or so.

This film features some unusual and unique techniques never done previously:  police detectives actually find thumb prints on the paint and match them to fingerprints on Leonardo’s manuscript codexes.

Forensic artists use all self-portraits to create 3-D versions of his head, and forensic handwriting experts decipher the backwards words in Latin on the obverse of the painting.

There’s something odd about the eyes, but…this one is worth your time.