Butt-Slapping Reaches New Bottom

DATELINE: Hard Knocks?

 Culprit caught red-handed.

You know society has hit rock bottom when pro athletes now are being tossed out of games—and arrested—for going for the formerly acceptable cheeky assault.

We cannot recall when butt-touching went public in our sports arenas. It must be a carry-over from hauling ass around the gym. Once upon a time, it was considered a means of expressing male “affection.”

We are unsure if we have ever seen this activity in a gay bar, but we believe that it will now be forbidden even in the inner sanctums. Queer as Folk avoided such behaviors. But, Downton Abbey’syoung butler may be guilty.

A pinch on the cheek used to be quite continental, but continence has reached a new plateau when it comes to below the belt buckles with knuckles.

OBJ recently slapped the butt of a mall cop, or pardon us, arena security after a college game. It was the locker room and one can almost explain how these things become viral.

The alleged hard-ass cop took umbrage and wanted to sock OBJ, but held his piece instead. New Orleans used to be a place when Fat Tuesday meant any buttock passing was slugged. No more!

Now, former Celtic Jae Crowder was innocently standing at the free throw line, ready to cut loose when Tristan Thompson, apparently without Iseulte by his side, added insult to injury by shocking Crowder with a tap on the buttocks.

You’d think he’d been given an injection of penetrating flu vaccine. Crowdah jumped like he fell into a bowl of hot chowdah.

Tristan Thompson claimed it was a means of bonding between former teammates. Heavens, high fives and man hugs, all now chaste and robotic, are the new currency. No one is paying for their erogenous zone to be invaded, and short of a porno film, we don’t expect to see this impact on our cable television when we are not on the LOGO network.

We remember when a crime was committed if your fist hit the tip of another’s nose. Now, the blow is lower than the standard for congressional oversight.

We believe the five-second rule should be enforced. If your food falls on the floor, you can still eat it within five seconds of being retrieved from any dirty crevice.

We hold that a slap on the butt that does not linger or return for second helpings should be excused with heart-feltmea culpa.

Slapping a bun of steel of your pro athlete of choice may be injurious to your digits. And spare us a fist pump.

New England Legacy: Video Cheating?

DATELINE:  The All-Seeing Video Eyeball

Spygate crashers?

What’s with video cheating and Boston’s managerial brain-trusts? Their genius may be all in the eye of the camera.

We have somehow come to accept every sordid charge that Bill Belichick somehow in some way has cheated his way to win six Super Bowls. From Deflategate to Spygates 1 and 2, he seems to appear in sequels more than Rocky.

This is now the New England championship ring of truth around the world. World champs here come from the bottom of the barrel. The ring is worn on the wrong finger.

And if you had any doubt, you had only to note that now Alex Cora, winner of the 2018 World Series for the Boston Red Sox is up to his video eyeballs in cheating for both the Houston Astros and the Red Sox.

He was awarded the Sox job, it now appears, on the false pretense that he was a mastermind of winning. Well, it now appears he was indeed the mastermind—of a video spy scandal in Houston as their coach. The manager and his general manager have now been fired as a result.

Cora is hiding in plain sight. MLB states he is being investigated for making a video conference room in the Red Sox clubhouse for cheaters to view signs and other insider activities of the opposing dugout.

How long Cora stands up to this withering accusation is anyone’s guess! Chances are, like Belichick, he will hunker down and figure winners never face punishment. Don’t look for Cora to resign in disgrace any more than Trump will for his impeachy behaviors.

Those old interviews in which Alex Cora waxed eloquent on his admiration for Bill Belichick now take on sinister tones.

No, it will be for the true-blue Red Stockings front office to fire him. Will they? It now seems like he may fall under the New England umbrella of winners never quit and winning is the only deodorant. Managers like Casey Stengel belonged to a different century and a different club.

Boston Stars Join Police Lineup in California!

DATELINE: Wine Chaser?

Call it Selfie Destruction?

Julian Edelman is preparing for off-season surgery by jumping on the hood of an expensive car in Beverly Hills. It’s called drunken vandalism.

Only in Beverly Hills is jumping on a MB SLK considered a misdemeanor.

Now arrested for vandalism, he will appear in the airport courthouse next month—that is, if he’s out of the hospital and Bill Belichick’s doghouse.

Tom Brady’s close chum was out celebrating not being in the Super Bowl with a bunch of former Boston stars; Danny Amendola (his usual mate and partner in crime, and the unusual addition of Paul Pierce, notably of the Celtics Past).

One can presume the stars were imbibing beyond the limits of good sense.

It may be that Edelman is planning to jump ship and is checking out the teams on the West Coast (he is originally a Bay butt). If he is on a mission to scout out teams for Brady, they may be going there in tandem. He may be practicing his jump skills by jumping on car hoods.

We presume Pierce is a technical advisor, and Amendola (as always) is a partner in crime and unnatural activities. They have also done Mexico last year on a skateboard tour.

The latest scuttlebutt from the butt buddies of Edelman is that he will have at least 2 surgeries to repair damage from his insane play at age 34. It’s enough to figure that Bill Belichick wouldn’t take him back or give him a plug nicklel for his future.

No wonder Tom is sending him out to test the TB12 market in the Bay area. Unfortunately, Julie has been derailed in Beverly Hills, a far cry from the Raiders  franchise. Josh McDaniels can have Cleveland! Give the Brady Bunch something of Hollywood.

The Peter Pan Syndrome is alive and well in anyone who thinks they can play NFL football beyond a certain age. How low can down-low go?

Boys from Brazil: Where the Nuts Are

DATELINE: Hitler Clones 

 Peck as Mengele!

Back in the day, Ira Levin was one hot writer. He was knocking out Broadway and movie hits with aplomb, and writing novels too. He was entertainment and controversy, wit and delight. Apart from Death Trap, he gave us Boys from Brazil.

One of his least favorite set-pieces was the novel and movie about Josef Mengele. How short-sighted they were back in those days. The main criticism centered on Atticus Finch, the hero of all things American, being done up as a pasty and hideous looking Mengele. Yes, sir, that’s Gregory Peck in the lead role, horrifying.

He is magnificent, but back then he was stung by severe criticism. His performance may be one side of over-the-top , but when you ae playing one of the evilest fiends in history, it’s hard to pull back.

The cast is utterly astounding

Playing the old Jewish Nazi hunter whose efforts have gone past relevance is Laurence Olivier. Even Peck’s Mengele has no respect for the old-timer who warns young and hunky Steve Guttenberg to get out of Paraguay before there is one less nice Jewish boy. In an early role, Guttenberg is a sacrifice to plot, replaced by his clone John Rubinstein.

James Mason, who always accounted for Nazis of varying stripes, plays a Prussian aristocratic Nazi. Every nuance of his performance, especially with Peck, is a subtext of delight. And, you have to stand back in sheer horror at a gala soiree of Nazis in Paraguay in the 1980s.

Throw in a passel of well-known character actors—from Anne Meara and Uta Hagen to John Dehner and Denholm Elliot—and you have a hoot of acting. What other movie features two 70ish stars in a dirty, knock-down fight to death at the climax?

Yes, Ira Levin knew how to entertain and write a film that was 40 years ahead of its time.

What brought the fiercest criticism was the crypto-science of the age: genetic research! The public could not accept Mengele’s theories that he could clone humans—and create a new Master Race leader. How silly they were back then! It would only take 30 years to make the story less crypto.

The boys back in Brazil were hardly your run of the mill Nazi party members: Mengele was after the big fish. He had enough DNA from Hitler to make a bunch of them from now until kingdom come!

Today, that is cutting edge. It’s quite a movie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Patriots Receive Their Come-Uppance!

DATELINE: The Empire Collapses 

 

Many Patriot haters have waited 20 years for the moment. The parallel in history may be the Fall of the Roman Empire: the barbarians are at the gate, and Belichick and Brady are fleeing the chaos.

The Mighty Patriots have struck out.
There is no joy in Mudville or Foxboro. The Pats have lost their bye week—and probably their souls.
If anyone is stunned by the Dolphins beating the Pats, you have not been paying attention. For weeks now Tom Brady has been playing like a man who will be at quarterback until he is 50—in the sandlot league.
Bill Belichick is like one of the Magnificent Ambersons: he is receiving his come-uppance.His vaunted defense looked like Swiss cheese and most of his players will leave in free agency. Even Brady is expected to go out with a bang elsewhere.
History runs in cycles, and the Patriots have been top dog for a couple of decades, but now they are heading back to the rubbish pile years of the 1970s. They may spend the next two decades as outliers in the AFC.
We expect that Josh McDaniels and Julian Edelman will jump ship. Already the Florida authorities are emboldened to file new felony charges against owner Robert Kraft for human trafficking, however preposterous that seems.
Now they will feel Miami is on a roll.
On the eve of an ice storm in New England, the New England Pats may be entering a new Ice Age. The berg has hit their flank—and the unsinkable franchise has sprung a leak.
About 20 members of the team are ready for free agency—and don’t let the door hit your rear on the way out.
Don’t cry for the Patriots, Argentina. Tom will be playing there next season.

Whose Roy Cohn Was He?

DATELINE: Ethel’s Killer

 Master of Slime.

You may be aghast at the idea that Roy Cohn managed to be so powerful and so hidden in the open. He was adviser to Joe McCarthy, Ronald Reagan, and his final resulting horror, Donald Trump.

His philosophy borders on evil incarnate: he claimed to hate hypocrisy and was the biggest hypocrite around. Now, the man who put together the shocking Studio 54 documentary turns his research on Cohn. The result is unnerving and frightful. Roy Cohn, claims the movie, was dangerous, like a caged animal: open the cage at your own risk.

Most people may know Cohn from Angels in America,the play and movie in which he is depicted as haunted by Ethel Rosenberg whom he assiduously worked to have executed as a Russian spy. Today, Donald Trump lamented that he could find no lawyer like Roy Cohn to defend him against impeachment.

Yet, the lessons of Roy Cohn now are shaping America. And Cohn died of AIDS in 1986, Words like evil, Machavellian, ruthless, despicable, permeate the film, and he had a tendency to become infatuated with tall Nordic blond men (the last of these was Trump). The Army-McCarthy hearings were an attempt to impress his companion, David Schein.

He made big money by getting John Gotti, crime boss, off from a murder charge—and became the mob mouthpiece. Trump, with his own crime connections, took to Cohn like a duck to water.

Among his strongest defenders are convicted political trickster Roger Stone, a long-time friend, Barbara Walters whom Cohn said he wanted to marry, and Donald Trump, his protégé. When he needed character witnesses, all these people came to his aid.

When he was dying of AIDS, denying it emphatically to Mike Wallace in an interview, Ronald Reagan pulled strings to put him in an experimental drug program.

Cohn was reprehensible, and this biography doesn’t help his reputation or those guilty by association.

 

 

Lafayette: We are Still Here!

DATELINE: Not Honored in France 

It’s seems this one-hour documentary is built on the assumption that no one remembers the Marquis de Lafayette. It starts out with the premise that history books have somehow cut his name from the important people of the American Revolution.

Lafayette: the Lost Heronever was lost. He was always there, always a hero, always known. He was the youngest Major General in American history: 19 years old.

So, all those Americans who have gone to France to rescue it in times of trouble, shouting out, “Lafayette, we are here!” have simply confounded fellow citizens.

There are about 50 cities named after the French officer around the United States.

Lafayette did not lose his own head in the French Revolution mainly because he eschewed the royal trappings of France. Yet, he was royalty and one of the richest men of the country. He had open access to the King who did lose his head.

Lafayette was, most surprisingly, a rebellious teenager. We don’t mean growing up: we mean he shocked Gen. Washington when he arrived in Philadelphia because he was 19. Yes, he bought his own ship, paid for his own army, and bought his commission. But, he believed in the American dream of freedom and democracy. He taught himself English to be able to speak to Americans.

 

You have to be surprised that he danced with Marie Antoinette at a ball and was laughed at for his bad dancing. You have to be shocked that he had dinner with the King of England’s brother—who also supported the American colonists.

He was super-rich and had influence at the French court and was married at 16. So, when people call him a man, we are puzzled. When the re-enactor looks like he is 40, we are non-plussed.

Yes, we were shocked at how little we knew about this boy leader who turned out to be the son Washington never had. When he visited America on its 50thanniversary, he scooped up some dirt from Washington’s grave: he wanted to buried with some American soil in France.

The French, of course, moved his American bought statue from a place of prominence in Paris to a backwater location. He is without honor in his own home.

We must say we are seldom amused by our lack of knowledge, but this documentary amused us.

 

 

 

 

Kremlin Letter: Postage Due

DATELINE: IMF Gone Wrong

  George Sanders Goes Out in Flames! 

In 1970 if you wanted a thinking man’s spy thriller, you went to a film based on John LeCarre, and if you wanted a thriller with twists, you went to Mission: Impossible. If you wanted laughs, you turned to James Bond.

If Huston wanted to do Mission: Impossible,he needed the music. This movie version is rife with sex talk and use of sexual blackmail as part of the work habits of spies.

All these spies are retired and go by weird nicknames or coded identities. No matter.

So, it figures that John Huston would manage to straddle the fence and give us a spy thriller that has all these elements—and the imprimatur of one of the great directors: John Huston.

The Kremlin Letteris sheer, unadulterated  nonsense with twist of logic that defies explanation. Yet, it is glorious in its location settings—and startling cast of giants.

You will see in no particular order: Orson Welles, Max Von Sydow, Raf Vallone, Richard Boone, Dean Jagger, and Patrick O’Neal, and in a career killing performance—George Sanders in drag.

We don’t know if this movie led to Mr. Sanders’ untimely exit in Spain shortly after making this movie. He claimed he was bored. Well, we never saw him offer so much energy than as a piano-playing crossdresser in a gay club.

There is talk about two gay characters hooking up: Welles and Sanders. That would have been worth the price of admission, but the film really devolves into one of those sex-talk double-cross twisters.

What has any of this to do with retrieving a letter that seems worthless (but everyone will kill for it). That’s the old McGuffin of Hitchcock.

And Huston had turned to appearing on camera by then—and again gives himself a role in the picture. No spies come in from the cold, and everyone has a license to kill.

We knew this was going to be a treat from the opening credits. Huston still had the juice in those days—and could deliver a real movie in a world of nouveau auteurs.

 

 

 

PATRIOTS RECEIVE THEIR COME-UPPANCE

DATELINE: Shot Down at the Not-Okay Corral  

Many Patriot haters have waited 20 years for the moment. The parallel in history may be the Fall of the Roman Empire: the barbarians are at the gate, and Belichick and Brady are fleeing the chaos.

The Mighty Patriots have struck out. Cue Jim Morrison to sing “This is the End.”

There is no joy in Mudville or Foxboro. The Pats have lost their bye week—and probably their souls.

If anyone is stunned by the Dolphins beating the Pats, you have not been paying attention. For weeks now Tom Brady has been playing like a man who will be at quarterback until he is 50—in the sandlot league.

Bill Belichick is like one of the magnificent Ambersons: he is receiving his come-uppance.His vaunted defense looked like Swiss cheese and most of his players will leave in free agency. Even Brady is expected to go out with a bang elsewhere.

History runs in cycles, and the Patriots have been top dog for a couple of decades, but now they are heading back to the rubbish pile years of the 1970s. They may spend the next two decades as outliers in the AFC.

We expect that Josh McDaniels and Julian Edelman will jump ship. Already the Florida authorities are emboldened to file new felony charges against owner Robert Kraft for human trafficking, however preposterous that seems.

Now they will feel Miami is on a roll.

On the eve of an ice storm in New England, the New England Pats may be entering a new Ice Age. The berg has hit their flank—and the unsinkable franchise has sprung a leak.

Don’t cry for the Patriots, Argentina. Tom will be playing there next season.

Dark Side of DNA Test Kits

DATELINE:  DNA Results You Don’t Want

Brass Spittoon Like Grandpa Used!

For all those dozens of heartwarming stories about family reunions owing to genetic testing, there is a cautionary side that is quite ugly. And, I have found it in my DNA.

Spit in a tube may be the truest metaphor for some genetic results. Before you swab your inside cheek for the holiday result, let me give you some advice.

I have dozens of people now on my “cousin” list, some of whom have asked me what I know about my grandfather on my mother’s side. I tell them nothing. When I do tell them what I know, they never again bother me. They are as horrified as I.

It seems this man who is now my genetic and biological grandfather is an anonymous fiend who raped my grandmother over 90 years ago in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She was one of several victims in North Cambridge.

Dutiful woman, my biological grandmother did not abort the child that was the result of a rape assault. She gave up my mother for adoption instead. She thought she knew who the rapist was because police later arrested a man named Farrell.

Several Cambridge woman identified him, and he went to prison for life. It now appears his life was ruined and reputation in tatters unfairly and unjustly. He was indeed innocent. He fought his conviction for fifty years, but died in a Massachusetts prison, convicted as a rapist.

Now, I am the living DNA  proof this man was innocent.

It is an appalling burden. Names cannot be changed to protect the innocent, but the hundreds of new-found cousins are actually daily reminders that they are living in a fantasy world: one of their blood relatives was a sexual predator who escaped punishment for more than a few rapes.

Oh, like in a good James Cain novel, he went to prison for something else. He was called the Moonlight Bandit, a cretin who police could identify as a robber of small businesses because he was seen in bright moonlight.

Two issues jump out at me every day: the notion of not having an abortion means that generations down the line will now face unpleasant family ancestors. And second, that I am nothing like this man: yet,  how much genetic code is in me?  I think how little I resemble these new “family” members. Thank heavens.

If you want a cautionary tale about illegitimate children being foisted on others as theirs, you will find it sadly enough in your DNA testing kit. Beware.

Mike Wallace Reporting

DATELINE: Titan of TV

Mike Takes on Bette!

Mike Wallace is no longer here with us, but thankfully we have an astounding biographical documentary called Mike Wallace is Here.

He took on all kinds of interviews: politics, show business, crime, and assorted miscreants. He didn’t always as the hard-as-nails interviewer: he started out as a pitchman and game show host. He thought he had a face for radio.

There is some truth that he was more showman than journalist, but he ultimately played a journalist until he lived the part. Many hard-nosed CBS types did not respect him at first, and he suffered an interloper’s reception from them.

Yet, his early black and white smokey interviews on late night raised the bar for insider insights. Whether it was Eleanor Roosevelt, Drew Pearson, or some Mafia thug, he asked the questions you never expected. Perhaps it was the start of rude journalism, but he took umbrage of the Bill O’Reilly school of shout and shake.

It was with 60 Minutes that Wallace will likely be remembered mostly. But interviewers like Barbara Walters and Morley Safer owed their styles to him. When they turn the tables on the old Wallace, he is undaunted. He was shocked when CBS abandoned its muckraker style because of checkbook journalism. Mike was never that.

Questions he might ask Larry King or Barbra Streisand are not in his personal repertoire of response. He suffered personally because he put career ahead of family. He knew it and operated in full cognizance of his luck.

When he became depressed in old age, people were shocked. Didn’t he have ice water in his veins? Johnny Carson said he had that taken out years earlier so he could function in public. Wallace treated Gen. Westmoreland and Putin alike, as he was a democrat of truth.

If you were not interviewed by Mike Wallace, you may have lost something in history. He had a knack of putting celebrities and historical personages like Nixon in their perspective of humanity.

This is Mike Wallace is a stunning, delightful documentary, and we have to miss him. He nailed Trump before he was 40 and showed us what was in store.

 

Master of Dark Shadows: Dan Stevens or Jonathan Frid?

DATELINE: Halos For All?

  Stars Jonathan Frid & Joan Bennett

 Perhaps it is more than amusing that the production company of Dan Stevens actually produced a documentary about Dan Stevens and his ground-breaking soap opera, the gothic Dark Shadows.

We expected that you’d have full participation of the original cast and crew—and the treat, or horror, is to see these young actors in their twilight years. Yet, it is fun too.

Many are gone of course: like Frid, Joan Bennett, and the marvelous Grayson Hall (barely mentioned).

Stevens himself was an ad-man who went to producing a golf show—and had a dream for a gothic serial. Never did he expect it to be a daytime hit for kids with sympathetic vampires, tormented governesses, and cross-time crossover storylines.

Who really made Dark Shadows a hit? Was it the producer with the classic hard edge or the gaunt actor who played the reluctant vampire? Well, you know who produced the show and produced the documentary. Frid did not join the cast until nearly a year had passed, but with him it zoomed to cult status.

There was recently a fiftieth anniversary shindig with survivors like David Selby, Lara Parker, John Karlen, Jerry Lacy, and so many other favorites. They all grew up as actors on that show as much as their audience grew up. The show had bad sets, primitive special effects, and sometimes awful plots badly acted. It was of no consequence to fans.

Frid and Stevens ultimately came to loggerheads, and Stevens was better able to move on to Winds of Warand other films. It is a trip down memory lane.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carthage: A Bad Roman Holiday

DATELINE: Rome’s Unbuilt Day

 Hunky Scholar!

You have to love Dr. Richard Miles, not your usual host of these archaeological dig histories. We dig him and are dismayed that he gave up a media career to stay in academia. If you want history with a twist of lemon, try Carthage: the Roman Holocaust.

Miles is your quintessential media hunk—with credentials to kill for: Cambridge University, notable scholarship, and a presence to walk among the ruins with sharp observations.

Make no mistake, Dr. Miles has an axe to grind: he does not like the Roman Empire. Indeed, what they did to Carthage he compares to Hiroshima. They obliterated a city brick-by-brick for defying Roman authority. They attempted genocide on a people after 150 years of war. Talk about overkill.

Wearing an assortment of t-shirts and jeans, Richard Miles stops his perambulations now and then to smirk into the camera with one of his zinger one-liners.

Miles walks miles and miles before the end of this saga.

He is not shy about gruesome details either—if you want the uncivilized and unvarnished tale of two Punic Wars.

Dr. Miles puts emphasis on two individuals, one from Carthage and the other from Rome. They turn out to be metaphoric representations of the mind of ancient political and military philosophy: which is not too far removed from contemporary times,

In the corner of Carthage you have Hannibal. Miles shares many little-known details about the man with elephants at the gates of Rome. He was the bogeyman that terrified Rome for the rest of the Empire’s length. He was their worst nightmare come true.

On the other hand, you have the master race Roman version of Hitler in Cato, the jingoistic and nationalistic white supremacist of the Seven Hills. He wanted only the utter destruction, annihilation, and decimation of the arch-rival for Rome.

You can view this priceless documentary in two parts or one long one on Prime. Alas, Dr. Miles forsook a career in TV and moved on the Australian and the University of Sydney where he seems to prefer academic administration.

In our experience, there is not much difference between the Roman Empire and college admin than in a Roman holocaust.

30 for 30: Judging Richard Jewell

DATELINE: Dumb Media

  Heroic Richard Jewell

As we await the viewing of Clint Eastwood’s new movie, Richard Jewell,we took in a short documentary from ESPN that was produced in 2014 for their award-winning series30 for 30. It had the ancillary attraction of being a story about the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

Richard Jewell was a heavy-set Southern man in his 30s who wanted to be a police officer, posed with weapons, lived alone in a rustic cabin when not living with his mother. He was one-step away from being a mall cop: he hired on as part-time security at the Olympics. He spotted a suspicious backpack, cleared the area before it went off, saving hundreds of lives.

Then, one suspicious former employer called the FBI and said he was an egotistical nobody with hero wishes. Suddenly a modest, unattractive man became the epitome of a lone Bubba Bomber. The media hounded him, made him run gauntlets, peppered him with questions about his fake heroism.

Jay Leno and Tom Brokaw joined the chorus of FBI and Atlanta Journal Constitution media hacks. They never apologized when 88 days later the FBI cleared him. Several years after that another man, the notorious Eric Rudolph, pled guilty to the bombing and went to prison for life.

Jewell was there to see justice done, though it was elusive for him. The media sneered at him. And they still do.

Few apologies and retractions followed Richard. Centennial Park in Atlanta never acknowledged his heroic action. The slime-ball newspaper ACJ still attacks Jewell through the new Eastwood movie.

Jewell enjoyed Clint’s movies—and his mother is grateful for the new film. Alas, Jewell himself died in 2007, likely driven to death by stress and pain—despite being cleared.

The ESPN documentary at 22 minutes is a succinct overview of justice denied, justice perverted, and justice delayed.

Micro-Budget Thriller: Ascent, Going Up!

DATELINE: High Quality Thriller 

 Stephen Buchanan as suspect!

 

It was shot in two weeks with a miniscule budget, but without expensive special effects, you can have a shocking and well-produced supernatural horror. The Ascent will surprise, delight, and amaze.

With intense closeups and perhaps one of the cleverest screenplays this side of Sherlock Holmes, you have a Latino LA detective (Miguel Perez) playing Henry Cardenas whose brilliant psychological insights solve cases and bring criminal confessions.

He is on the verge of setting a new police department record of 75 confessed homicides: when he comes face-to-face with a daunting murder, allegedly committed by a koo-koo bird who insists he is Lucifer’s Kid Brother, making Charles Manson look like a fallen angel.

The performances are to die for:  especially Miguel Perez as the cardiac detective of heavy-set middle-age, not your usual Holmesian type. His banter and back-and forth with the suspect (Stephen Buchanan) as the egomaniacal suspect covered in blood is utterly fascinating.

You don’t need a big budget with sharp delineations and even crisper dialogue—as suspect and interrogator match wits and switch positions. You know something is amiss when the suspect knows the detective’s name is Henry without being told.

The Ascent  features a descent into hell by elevator that requires only improv acting style to achieve its horror.

Director and writer Tom Murtaugh will require monitoring in the future. We don’t know whether it will be possible to match this kind of style if he’s given a big budget to handle.

If you are in the mood for a smart movie that will test you, this is the gem of the year.