Depp is Really a Dope

 DATELINE: Actors & Politics

Tonto Means Dopey Depp Johnny Dope

They don’t call him Johnny Dope for nothing.

The semi-intoxicated movie star named Johnny Depp called for the assassination of President Trump at a British music festival this week. He compared himself to another actor named John Wilkes Booth.

That comparison raises Depp a few steps above his talent range.

Wilkes Booth was a noted actor of stage, known for his good looks and his explosive talent. Depp has always fallen short on both levels.

Booth, of course, assassinated President Abraham Lincoln with a group of misfits he assembled. There’s no doubt the Depp probably can muster up a group of misfits from his devotees. That’s his likely fan club.

As far as actors killing presidents is concerned, we believe Booth was a better actor, but as Depp brags: he’s a better liar than Booth. Heavens, there is no end to his talent: until now.

Threatening to kill a president you disagree with is a new low even for Hollywood liberals.

John Wilkes Booth was a great Shakespearean actor even at a young age. However, Booth was dead at 27, after a manhunt by authorities. Depp is still alive and kicking and pushing 60.  After his recent comment, nobody will be chasing him, especially film producers.

We also believe the Depp has never really tried Shakespeare, which separates the actors from the drunken liars.

The Secret Service is said to be aware of Depp’s Kathy Griffin moment. If we are lucky, the man who has played Tonto will be sent into retirement, not a moment too soon. His performance was an insult to all Native Americans.

In case you’re wondering, Tonto is Spanish for stupid. That may be the highlight of Johnny Dope’s career. Put it on his tombstone.

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Original New York Terror Movie

DATELINE:  Classic Thriller

 

Matthau

Taking of Pelham One Two Three, from 1974, is a masterpiece

Directed by Joseph Sargent, it holds up after 40 years of action thrillers have passed into oblivion. Twenty-five years before 9-11, it showed New York City in full terrorist mode. Of course, back then, it was not called “terrorism,” but when a gang of dangerous criminals hijacks a subway train, the word fits.

Acutely written and underplayed by a bunch of New York actors, the leading transit policeman is Walter Matthau, a man give over to snippy one-liners and packaging disheveled frumpiness. He is at the top of the game here. And, his sidekick is Jerry Stiller, not Jack Lemmon.

Indeed, the passel of familiar faces from TV and movies of the era is a who’s who cast: James Broderick, Tony Roberts, Dick O’Neill, Kenneth McMillan, Dolph Sweet, Tom Pedi, and Doris Roberts. For the most part they throw out some zinger lines to break up the tension.

The bad guys are gems: Hector Elizondo and Martin Balsam, of course, effective as always, but Robert Shaw added another villain portrait to his growing gallery as the mercenary ringleader. His end rivals his work in Jaws the following year.

New York City is magnificent as itself, harsh, bustling, dirty, cynical, and unique.

To watch a well-put together suspense thriller, you may be surprised to learn it won next to nothing in awards, a few nominations, but nothing from Oscar land. They didn’t take terror films lightly back then, and this one dishes out some great entertainment along with the speeding subway trains and crashing police cars.

Neruda’s Politics Over Poetry

DATELINE:  Chile Politics

neruda

Pablo Larrain’s other important movie this past year, besides Jackie, is another off-beat biographical drama, this time centering on Chilean poet and political activist Pablo Neruda.

The film Neruda puts its focus on a year-long period in 1948 when the poet was targeted by the Chilean government for arrest and explains his attempts to flee the country while being chased by some kind of Victor Hugo-styled police detective. Bernal is utterly breath-taking in his 1940s wardrobe.

Told from the viewpoint of Gael Gabriel Bernal as the police pursuer, you have a man of no consequence taking his identity from chasing the biggest figure in his country’s history. As the cop finally begs the audience, “I am not a supporting character,” and we feel that Larrain is in total agreement.

The film hints that the pursuer was a creation of Neruda’s paranoia or of his self-important art. We tend to support the group that prefers to remember that Nobel Prize winner Neruda was a Stalinist communist, unrepentant and disdainful of much else.

In 1948 Chile perhaps it was chichi to be an unrelenting communist chased by a relentless secret police officer. Peanut-sized actor Bernal is strikingly brilliant in his dogged role. Luis Gnecco is equal in his performance as the frumpy, profligate poet Neruda.

Americans may wonder how this uninspired-looking man could motivate his nation as a martyr, or give voice to the downtrodden, that sent many who helped him to prison. It is all part of Larrain’s poetic vision of cat-and-mouse politics.

We must admit that the notion that an unimportant pawn of political corruption drawing his identity from hounding a greater man for his beliefs is a fascinating topic.

The film is fully realized, one of two powerful political dramas this year by the South American filmmaker Pablo Larrain, now taking part in Hollywood mainstream.

Neruda will be intriguing for those of a certain socialist political bent. The rest of us will conclude Neruda and the Nobel Prize are overrated, but the movie is not.

Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl: The Assignment

 DATELINE:  Singular Revenge Tale

michelle rodriguez  Ultimate Tomboy?

You won’t find many gender-bending mob hitman movies out there, but Walter Hill has directed and written the best one: The Assignment.

Literate, clever, and intelligent, as well as violent, this film manages to answer the question raised by the old Barbarians song.

This is a revenge tale with a twist of lemon. Frank Kitchen is one of those androgynous, bearded killers who looks like Ralph Macchio in most scenes and a bit like Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront in a few others. Even as an attractive woman, Rodriguez still looks like Ralph Macchio.

The actor playing Frank is Michelle Rodriguez who in a clever bit of computer effects has a full-frontal nudity scene as a young man. She has the posturing and macho attitude to play the killer who meets the wrong doctor.

Also gender-bending is Sigourney Weaver, as a tough masculine female plastic surgeon who decides, beyond experimentation, to have revenge on the mob killer who murdered her brother. She drugs him and turns him into a woman. Yes, castration and breast implants do not make the girl quite.

Since Weaver’s doctor loves Edgar Allan Poe, she leaves the calling card “Nevermore” next to the gender-bent Frank, left with nasty instructions in a cheap hotel room.

Tony Shaloub is around as a psychiatrist investigator who has to hear the story from Weaver in a strait-jacket while in a mental hospital. She cannot convince anyone that she did the sex operation on Frank and he really exists now as a woman.

Weaver and Rodriguez have a few good scenes together, especially when she admires her plastic surgery by commenting that Rodriguez is attractive in a “shop girl/waitress” way. Tony Shaloub compliments Weaver for her “cheap theatrics” in her confession.

Good performances and a good script make this action revenge flick way above the pack of gender-bending tomboy movies.

MacBird Outdid Trump as Caesar 45 years ago

 Julius Trump?

DATELINE:  Shakespeare in Absentia

We have seen many updated versions of Shakespeare over the years. Indeed, we enjoy seeing the Bard transported to new locations and timeframes. It often electrifies the message that has become stale to modern audiences.

We have seen Shakespeare set in Nazi Germany (Richard III), in the world of bikers (Coriolanus), in the world of independent film students (Hamlet), a corporate boardroom (Othello), and now we find a stage production of Julius Caesar in American politics.

The Shakespeare in the Park production makes Caesar a lookalike Donald Trump who hath grown ambitious. He has that chock of blond hair weave and an overlong red tie. He also has a bloated ego.

The man who would be emperor is assassinated by senators with knives, just like 2000 years ago. How much progress we have made in politics?

This version has created a firestorm, causing corporate sponsors to try to stifle artistic expression by withdrawing support. It’s a tempest in a teapot.

We think back to the Vietnam War days—and back then we must have been less sensitive because Macbeth was presented on stage in the form of MacBird.

That little ditty suggested that Lyndon Johnson had been behind the assassination of John Kennedy. In this cruel satire, without the Shakespearean tongue, the Scottish thane Macbird and his wife, Lady Bird, are party to a ruthless series of killings to rise to the top of the nation. Was Lyndon not born of woman?

We recall amusement about seeing a dumb tasteless play that presented President Johnson portrayed for conspiracy theorists  as Macbeth, but it did not quite engender the furor that President Trump has exemplified in a Caesar mode.

Satirizing politics of the moment has become a dangerous business. Just ask Alec Baldwin or Kathy Griffin who claim they are subject to social anger on social media.

So, too, Julius Caesar has created a debate—not about politics, but about art. To be or not, we’ll wait for the movie version.

Is It Real??? or Just Another Movie!*

realkindlecover cover pictures include real and fake!

DATELINE:  New Book of Movie Reviews

Ossurworld wants to announce that a collection of reviews and commentaries on documentaries, docudramas, and biopics, is now available on Amazon.com for discerning movie fans and smart readers.

If Pontius Pilate asked, “What is truth?” he’d be accused today of being a fake news critic…We have mixed up the real documentaries with those based on a true story in this compendium. You likely can guess when you have a real documentary on your hands, but not always. Sometimes it’s a biopic, or a docudrama, or just speculative facts and opinion. Sometimes the film is a masterpiece, and sometimes it’s just another movie.

We are sure that Ossurworld will start giving these away with a set of dishes sometime in the future. We think these reviews are swell, sometimes even funny. We hope you will too.

*Includes a few TV reviews.

 

Becket’s Unspeakable Love Story

Becket Cavorting Adults

DATELINE: Burton & O’Toole in Epical Struggle

In 1964 came the extraordinary event of a literate play turned into an epic movie. This was the Hollywood version of Murder in the Cathedral.  The more mundane play version by Jean Anhouilh was called simply Becket.  Its Broadway incarnation was a legend with Laurence Olivier and Anthony Quinn playing the leads, and exchanging roles every other night.

So, the movie version had big shoes to fill. Director Peter Glenville went out and arranged for the two biggest stars of the decade to go head-to-head:  Welsh Richard Burton, fresh off Cleopatra’s couch, and Irish Peter O’Toole, fresh off an Arabian oasis.

Everyone expected fireworks, but the two stars actually liked each other.

The movie shows it. O’Toole’s Henry II is utterly hysterical, and funny too. Burton’s Thomas Beckett is somber and sly. You will first be shocked at how young they are: the dissipation would set in, like dry rot, over the next decade.

They enjoyed their roles because, as O’Toole said at the time, in two blockbuster movies he was allowed a love interest of camels (Lawrence of Arabia) and Burton (Becket). And Burton was allowed only Elizabeth Taylor as his love interest. So, it was a natural affair between the actors.

Love interest indeed!

The docudrama goes grandiose in damp castles and Sherwood Forest, as Henry and Becket are like smitten boyfriends. That was the historical take—as no one could really figure how the Norman king and the Saxon aide-de-camp could be so entwined.

In a series of long capes, O’Toole is flashy and a hoot—and Burton’s character becomes more ethical and somber. Henry made Becket the recipient of many gifts: deaconship, chancellor, and Archbishop of Canterbury, to win his affection. Alas, it never worked the way Henry wanted, as Becket began to oppose his schemes.

Henry threw a fit in which he basically said he was surrounded by idiots, and the smartest man in the kingdom was opposed to him.

Well, the Knights took that to mean they had to relieve their king of a strange affection. As normal heterosexuals, they figured, you kill the one he loves. It’s a British tradition.

Of course, it all backfires. Henry II did penance with flagellation—and made Becket a saint, literally, by church canon. It makes for a rousing adventure and fascinating intellectual thriller.

 

 

Return to O.J. Unnecessary

DATELINE:  Guilty Even If Found Not Guilty

Rick Investigator Rick Levasseur

Before there was Aaron Hernandez shooting up the serial killer sports figure, there was O.J. Simpson who slaughtered his way into fame after doing light comedy in movies and heavy sports in youth.

Now O.J. is back with several examinations of his alleged crimes. One is enough for us. The 6-part miniseries documentary/crime expose is called Is O.J. Innocent? The Missing Evidence.  Yes, some people think the jury was right.

During the course of an overwrought investigation, it became clear no one wanted to re-open this case. We were astounded that Nicole Simpson’s sister and Ron Goldman’s father stood for additional tormenting interviews. Were they paid for their time?

It was rumored way back at the time of the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and waiter Ron Goldman that the real killer was O.J.’s son. Yes, the story was a kind of Mildred Pierce in which the parent is willing to take the blame for the crimes of their child.

As hard as it is to picture O.J. Simpson as Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest mode, he seems tailor-made to save his troubled son, or more likely to throw him away. On the other hand, theorist William Dean was hell-bent on finding the “true” culprit whom he labeled Jason Simpson, O.J.’s son.

With glossy production values, the miniseries documentary features Martin Sheen as narrator. Chief honcho William Dean selects two matinee idol types, right out of central casting as forensic psychologist (Kris Mohandie) and former police sergeant (Rick Levasseur) as his leg men. They couldn’t be cuter if you cast real actors.

Bill Dean has been enterprising for years: he took possession of Jason Simpson’s diaries and hunting knife out of a storage locker. It sparked his manhunt attitude like something out of Hugo’s Les Miserables.  He is a dogged Javert.

Showing up to provide insights include Dr. Henry Lee and Detective Tom Lange from the original case. They give both sides of inept police work. No one from the prosecutor’s office would bother with this investigation.

The two boy-toy crime busters try to reach reclusive Jason Simpson, and he is stalked by private detectives hired for the series, showing only a rather sad, downtrodden, and unhappy man, but is he a murderer?

Ultimately Jason Simpson’s time-card from his job at the time of the murder would prove to be the investigation’s high-point. Yet, we ended up nearly as disgusted by the rehash as all the surviving original people.

Was any of this necessary?

 

Post Traumatic Patriots Day

Wahlberg

DATELINE:  Boston Under Attack

On occasion, you encounter a movie that is a burden to watch, but you feel utterly compelled to stay the course as your patriotic duty. Such a film is Patriots Day.

We were in our hometown Boston when the horrific Marathon bombing occurred and lived through the four days of wall-to-wall TV coverage in 2013. It seems like living self-torture through post-traumatic stress to watch and relive the movie version produced and starring Mark Wahlberg. As a Bostonian, he wanted to be sure the movie had a Boston perspective.

It does, almost to a point of caricature, with accents flowering and scenes filmed mostly on location. Watertown residents preferred not to relive the mayhem in their backyards, and a different set was used for those climactic scenes of a Wild West shootout with two local residents turned terrorists.

If there is much to admire in this docudrama, police and detective work as well as FBI heroism is top of the list. In a matter of hours, starting from scratch, an entire operation and manhunt was created with tireless work from police, hospital workers, and citizens.

The film probably will best be seen years from now with more perspective on events, like the film Parkland about the Kennedy assassination, made 50 years after it happened. The raw nerves of the Marathon event are too fresh, still, to not feel abused again by what we know as familiar names and places and inevitabilities.

Hollywood fireworks are not missing here: as the shootout with the terrorists is stunning. Performances of J.K. Simmons, John Goodman, and Kevin Bacon, are appropriately underplayed. Red Sox star and local celebrity David Ortiz plays himself.

If any question remains, it is how to handle the people who were most unhelpful: Tamerlane Tsarnaev’s American wife and Dzokhar’s pothead UMass friends. Their reputations should be mud forever, according to this movie. We would say they got off far too easily.

Since this film may be the ultimate history lesson for viewers of the future, it stands as a moment in time, close enough to events, to ensure its accuracy. If we know anything from documentary history, it is that time dilutes, distorts, and changes the perception of the age’s Zeitgeist.

We think this one will pass the test of time.

Twin Peaks Returns from the Dead

 DATELINE:  Will the Real Harry Truman Ever Show Up?

twin peaks

In the immortal words of James Cagney, “what have we got he-yah?”

Yes, Twin Peaks has returned after 25 years. For a story that hinged on a murder of a lead character who is dead from the first moment, we find the new show starting with long-dead Laura Palmer in flashback telling Agent D.B. Cooper that she will see him again in 25 years.

That marvelous opening music is back.

Well, he-yah we are.

It doesn’t take long for the Lunacy to set in.  Director David Lynch clearly is ready for his old series to begin afresh. Dead actors are as apparent has dead characters. All you can do is hold on for as long as possible, until vertigo sets in or a bad case of dyspepsia forces you to give up.

Lynch has made very few films over the past 10 years but now in one season, he’s going to do the equivalent of nine feature films. However, he clearly is enjoying himself.

You will see A glass box under observation by three cameras controlled by a mysterious billionaire not named Trump. You will find two dead bodies mismatched in a bed. You will find the magnificent Douglas firs of Twin Peaks echoing like the towers of New York City with wind between them. Lynch can do things like that.

The series Twin Peaks has now reached cult status in mythical terms. It was always a cult show from its opening moments 25 years ago. Now it is off the charts. For 18 hours.

If you’ve never seen the show, you will be as confused as anyone who has seen all of the early episodes from the original two-year run 25 years ago by the end of the first hour.

The best we can do is monitor the situation and present you with updates. You can’t spoil anything that’s based on rot setting in. Fear not.

Long Forgotten Executive Action

DATELINE:  Believe It or Don’t

 action

One of the most unusual of the early theoretical movies on the Kennedy Assassination was called Executive Action from 1973, a mere ten years after the event.

Already big questions had sparked big movie stars like Burt Lancaster, Robert Ryan, and Will Geer, as well as John Anderson (often chosen to play Abe Lincoln in movies and TV) as billionaire conspirators who want the President dead.

They select a patsy who is some kind of covert double agent. His name is Oswald.

Though the film claims to be somewhat fictional, it quotes Lydon Johnson at the movie start as saying he believed that John Kennedy was killed by an unknown group. This movie, made with the participation of early assassination doubter Mark Lane, is fairly courageous and breath-taking, even after five decades.

We must also express surprise at the stars who chose to play the men who want President Kennedy dead.

The film is no cheap, low-budget affair. It is well produced and directed by David Miller who made some interesting movies in the 1950s and was written by Dalton Trumbo, the famous blacklisted writer.

This returned Grandpa Walton to the bad guy roles that made him famous early in his roles, and Will Geer is notably sinister. This was also Robert Ryan’s final film.

The angles, once thought to be outrageous, have become more acceptable in recent research. The film may not be a genuine biopic or docudrama in the sense of trying to achieve 100% truth, but this may be closer than anyone thought back in the 1970s.

More than a curio, this film is downright compelling to watch.

Antidote to Perry Mason and Precursor of Law & Order

DATELINE:  The Defenders

son & father defenders

The precursor to Law & Order, and arguably the best legal show ever on television, The Defenders has finally come to DVD with its first complete season. Back in 1961, you had a choice of two shows going head to head: Perry Mason with Raymond Burr—and the more socially conscious, New York-filmed show with E.G. Marshall and Robert Reed as his son.

Back in those days Reed played Ken Preston, and was considered an up-and-coming dramatic star. You may wonder why he chose to move into sit-com after seeing him here. E.G. Marshall was an unusual lead character, a highly paid lawyer who often gave bad advice or even made a bad decision. Unlike Mason, Marshall’s Preston even lost cases often.

The show remains remarkable, topical, and intelligent, ready for discovery by a generation that likely never heard of it. However, they will know the guest stars. It reads like a litany of New York stage actors and movie stars in their early days.

In the first few episodes, the show tackled mercy killing, traumatic stress disorder, multiple personalities and legal insanity, and drug addiction. It shocked audiences of the early 1960s.

It also gave many actors a chance at a serious television drama in the wake of the Golden Age of anthology shows. You will see Gene Hackman and Jack Klugman in one drama, another with 1930s character actor Frank McHugh and Western star Clu Gulager. Also on tap is Frank Gorshin playing a nightclub imitator of movie stars with multiple personalities—one who has committed murder.  And, almost in premonition of his future as the father of the Brady Bunch, Robert Reed plays opposite 9-year old Richard Thomas in his pre-Waltons days.

A prison show featured an unbilled Godfrey Cambridge and a costar Ossie Davis with Gomer Pyle’s Frank Sutton as a psychotic rioting prisoner.

The first season is now available, but future seasons were considered even higher quality by viewers. This is a treat that should not be missed by Law & Order fans—and those who appreciate solid drama. And, E.G. Marshall was always marvelous.

Shot Down by History Channel

DATELINE:  Disinvited and Unvisited

Not faked

Just two weeks after airing the first episodes of their series JFK Declassified, the reprehensible History channel has pulled the show. It’s the ultimate political shell game.

That essentially means it has gone into hiatus limbo.

Though the show was mercilessly criticized for a variety of reasons, not the least was dubious history, and most often cited as having the most egomaniacal host, Bob Baer, the show has gone, disappeared like the gunman on the grassy knoll.

Okay, okay, we were in that chorus of boohoo despisers of the fake news that the CIA is feeding us fifty years after the death of the murdered president.

Yet, there is something unseemly about the way this has been handled.

History has killed the show leaving four unaired episodes. When they will appear may be as certain as the trajectory of a magic bullet.

They could show up in a month, or a year. Or never.

Leave to History to shaft their viewers. A few may have enjoyed seeing another theory, no matter how half-baked or made to order to exonerate the CIA.  Now, they will not have any satisfaction.

Perhaps it is better to be infuriated and disappointed than to have nothing. It is an appalling mistreatment of the audience and viewers of that cable lightweight, History.

Single handedly they have gone for broke on destroying anything legitimately resembling documentary.

If you want to know who killed Cock Robin, or even JFK, you might look to the people who have killed history for a profit. They run the History channel.

 

 

Tom Brady’s Get-Rich Scheme

DATELINE: Co-starring Julian Edelman

 home Tom & Julie at home

The Boston Convention Center will be hosting an event on June 8 to guarantee Tom Brady will get richer quick. You will have your wallet deflated instantly.

Yes, the improbable Tony Robbins has roped in the Patriots star, and his sidekick, Julie Edelman, as guest speakers at his money-making extravaganza.

For $3000 you will receive priority check-in, which means Homeland Security will laugh at you. You will also have lunch in the Diamond Lounge, but Tom and Julie will be long-gone by then.

For $3000 you will sit in the Diamond Stage area and have a meet and greet with Tom and Julian. If you chose the $200 gold seats, you will be so far away from Tom that he couldn’t throw a pass to you with a bazooka.

This is billed as a “Systematized wealth plan.” Indeed, someone will be making big bucks off your ticket. And don’t ask for a refund. They claim you will love the event, but there are no money back guarantees. If Tom comes down with dyspepsia and misses out, so will your credit card.

How long will Tom speak? Our guess is about as long as the zeros in Tom’s bank account.

You will also receive Tony Robbins’ new book, which will be on the remainder table at Amazon in about a month.

We have learned that Julian has written a children’s book.  Beware, mom. It’s about a squirrel named Jules who collects big nuts. Most of them will be at this event.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trump to Nominate Roger Goodell for FBI?

DATELINE:  Whimsy & Humor

illuminati

With the big news out of Washington that President Trump has fired FBI Director James Comey, the speculation has run rampant down to Foxboro about the next man Trump may select for a grueling Senate confirmation hearing.

And, the word around is that President Trump’s good friend, Bill Belichick, might be the grandest choice to head the crime fighting agency.

Trump appears ready to buck the past precedent to hire a man who relaxes in his mother’s old dresses.

Belichick shares a disdain for talking to the media that Trump admires—and no one knows better how to deal with fake news than the head coach of the Patriots.

Of course, first choice Tom Brady wants to keep his job with the Patriots. The FBI director receives a contract to play for ten years—and Tom expects to be around Gillette Stadium for at least a dozen more seasons.

Considering the problems of a Watergate type trouble that Trump may find himself, it would surely be good to find someone familiar with Spygate, Bountygate, and Deflategate, to head the FBI job.

That leads us to the unfortunate conclusion that the best man for the job could be Roger Goodell. We don’t know if he wears dresses in his spare time, but we won’t bet against it.

Trump should nominate Goodell for the post. He can keep Belichick on ice until the head of the CIA job opens up.