Is This the End of Tom Brady?

DATELINE: One Bad Game Spoils the Barrel of Apples

botox forever

 We don’t want to be the last ones on the bandwagon. So, here goes….

On Monday night against in Miami Dolphins, the fans of Tom Brady had their first ugly glimpse into the future. The crystal ball may be more cracked than a mirror in Brady’s den.

The TB12 Method has failed us!

If you wondered what an aging Tom Brady looks like in terms of football success, you saw it first hand in the catastrophic loss to the Dolphins on Monday night. It looked a bit like Death on Miami Beach. He could not convert a third down and his passes never reached their mark.

Back in the day when Brett Favre started to go sour, we believe something similar happened.

Is anyone thinking that Brady can age overnight like a ripe melon? At what point does the milk in your refrigerator actually begin to curdle?

Have we reached the curdling point of Brady?

In case you’re wondering about what happens when the Belichick Empire falls, Jimmy G is on the other side of the country on the West Coast, winning games there for the foreseeable future. The man sitting next to Brady is aging Brian Hoyer who couldn’t cut it as a starter on other teams. And, the future is Tom, whether he has lost the directions to the Fountain of Youth, or not.

If age has suddenly caught up with Brady and his magic elixir has run out, the season will be going downhill rapidly. We should remember that even the unsinkable Titanic went down in two hours.

 

 

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Stone’s Throw to Consequence in JFK

DATELINE: Movie History Literally

 Kirkwood's Grotesque  

Twenty-five years after Oliver Stone’s conspiratorial extravaganza, with more Kennedy assassination documents released weekly, it may be time to re-consider JFK.

The movie has become legend—and now checks in at a length worthy of Ben Hur or Lawrence of Arabia. Yet, that still is not enough.

The movie is the ultimate docudrama, providing theory and re-enactments about the death of an American president in Dallas in 1963. Many of the arcane details that made Stone’s movie seem fantastic have become ingrained into the epitome of fake news turned into fake history. As Pontius Pilate once succinctly put it, “What is truth?”

Stone takes the same approach as Jim Garrison: he uses the system to present ideas, in some ways abusing the process and going outside the usual parameters.

Oliver Stone went for the sensational: casting the most minor roles with notable, famous actors. It gave credence to the view that many people, especially celebrities, agreed with his perspective of the facts. He believed Clay Shaw was an assassin’s conspirator.

On top of that, he even cast the aging Jim Garrison as Chief Justice Earl Warren interviewing Jack Ruby in his prison cell shortly before his fateful death from cancer. Tommy Lee Jones made a dandy Shaw, and Kevin Bacon sizzled as the ersatz Russo.

Garrison’s conspiracy case against Clay Shaw, New Orleans businessman with a salacious private life, was built on reports from Perry Russo, who died in 1995 shortly after the movie was released. But, the Russo character turned to stone, or a pillar of salt, suddenly called Willie O’Keefe, a gay hustler who put Lee Oswald into the maelstrom of New Orleans double agent gay life. Russo always claimed he was maligned, but not by his associations.

Whether the connected dots actually mean there was conspiracy, or just coincidental dots connecting, may never be known with witnesses wiped out by accidents, murders, illness, and mystery deaths over the decade after the Kennedy assassination.

We are far more likely today to accept a movie as our historical reference than ever before. With that, Oliver Stone’s well-produced film gains credence. The viewing public who won’t read history are clearly condemned to accept re-enactments in a movie.

Garrison’s case was a case of self-delusion, or invisible and secret government sabotage.

Our friend Jim Kirkwood covered the original trial and befriended Clay Shaw, but Jim always had a penchant and soft spot for killers and those accused of unsavory acts. He called his book on Clay Shaw and Jim Garrison by the appropriate title of American Grotesque.

When we tried to bait him over drinks about the Clay Shaw case in the 1980s, he wouldn’t bite. It left us uneasy then, and later when the JFK movie came out, we were confounded. Jim Kirkwood was gone to the undiscovered country and so was his insider knowledge.

Today, when the latest documents hint at deeper, uglier, unpleasant details, we wish Jimmy Kirkwood were still here to see us dangle on the hook of conspiracy.

Stone’s JFK throws us for a loop still.

Dr. William Russo has written two timely books: Riding James Kirkwood’s Pony, on Kirkwood’s life, and Booth & Oswald, on the assassins.

Jaylen’s Grief

DATELINE:  Mourning StarBrown

Trevin with Jaylen a few weeks ago.

Boston’s Green Lantern, aka Jaylen Brown, went to Scottdale, Georgia, for his friend’s funeral on Saturday. Though a plane is scheduled to take him to Indianapolis to play that night with the Celtics, no one is sure whether Brown’s emotional state will allow it.

This bravery in the face of melancholia is right out of the Isaiah Thomas playbook, referring to the death of that Celtics’ player’s sister during the playoffs last season.

Everyone lauded the steely resolve of Thomas to go out and win one for his sister. That, of course, did not stop the Celtics from trading him away during the off-season, not long after.

Business transcends even death in the world of pro sports.

Now Jaylen Brown has faced the media repeatedly with his own demons of death haunting him. It might be horrible enough as a young person to deal with emotional horror in private, but to face the onslaught of heartless media may be asking for valor beyond nature’s requirements.

Brown himself said he would have preferred to stay alone in his room. Being an introverted chess player, the Celtics superhero in the making has been able to compartmentalize his grief. He has even found the spirit of the dead motivating his performance on the court.

As for the lost friend, Trevin Lamont Steede, we remain kept in the dark. Brown’s friend died a week before he apparently heard about it. There were apparently no warning signs or dreaded expectations.

Steede won a high school award for sense of humor and played 1-on-1 with Brown during a recent visit. He seemed in good spirits and good health.

The introspective Jaylen seemed open and personable with his late friend, as one would expect with a private relationship, not meant for public consumption.

The mysterious events in the life of Jaylen Brown may haunt him for his career. Kevin Garnett lost his best friend suddenly as a young player—and his character became encased in a hard demeanor for years.

From Sunset Boulevard to New England

DATELINE: Gloria Swanson’s Late Career as Artist

swanson4

This year’s holiday treat was to discover a 1974 painting done by legendary screen actress Gloria Swanson, hanging in the parlor not far from our Thanksgiving dinner table.

If you recall, Miss Swanson made one of the all-time comebacks in movies when she starred in 1950 with William Holden in Billy Wilder’s classic tale of Gothic Hollywood, called Sunset Boulevard.

Her final scene remains chilling and pathetic, as she descends the grand staircase of her old Hollywood Hills home in final madness and tells the director, “I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.”

swanson2

Who knew that nearly 25 years later, Norma Desmond was painting acrylic oil scenes as a hobby?

We encountered her 1974 rendition of an old, faded gray barn on this holiday 43 years after she painted it, hanging proudly in the home of an art collector and movie fan where we enjoyed an invitation to dinner.

How intriguing that the creative juices of Swanson, a macrobiotic diet advocate, emerged from this sad landscape. It is a giant picture, three feet in height and four feet across. The colors are muted, like a silent movie depiction.

Dilapidated in the snow, fallen in disrepair and probable despair, the old barn stands proudly alone. Its carriage door is ajar, broken open, letting whatever creature wanders by to enter its cold and empty interior.

It seemed to us to be a place along the “Road Not Taken,” that lovely poem by Robert Frost who lived a few miles away in New Hampshire. Miss Swanson presents us with a scene that comes right of out Thornton Wilder’s Our Town (which was also set a few miles away, in fictional Grover’s Corners).

Miss Swanson’s picture, painted while she lived in New York, a dozen years before she passed away, now has a special place in the home of a long-time fan. We think she would be happy to hear how much this work from the last days of her life, largely unknown, is appreciated.

We felt privileged to stand before it to reflect on life and the passage of time.

Ghost with the Most: His Sad Story

DATELINE:  Haunted and Haunting

ghost story

One of the most original and singular movies we have seen in recent years is A Ghost Story.

Using the trite metaphor of a ghost in a white sheet, the main character gives his perspective as a ghost over time in the cosmos. He’s a ghost because he is tethered to the spot where he must haunt.

Along for the ride are Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara as a married couple who live in the haunted ranch until tragedy splits them.

If you ever wondered whether a great performance could come from a white sheet with a couple of slits for black eye holes, you will have your answer in this film. The main ghost haunts you in ways you never expected: which means you can forget about the usual scare tactics. This is a serious commentary on death and the lingering presence of the departed among us.

The film is short and compelling as the ghost suffers mostly from being unable to affect human affairs of the living—and how time passes without any discernable force.

There is some heartbreak in what the ghost must endure for eternity—as well as the people who invade his space, driving him to try to scare them away.

Eerie, lyrical, melancholy, the film by David Lowery likely will “bore” your typical boorish audience who will want the usual chills and clichés associated with haunted house movies. You will not find those here.

Instead, you have a masterful, touching look at the agony of Death, faceless and ignored by most people around him.

If we could put this movie on a scale, it rises to one of the most powerful and affecting works of film art we have seen in a few years. We do not make such statements rashly. Such movie events are rare and deserve your full attention.

Frantz: Elegiac Film Experience

DATELINE:  Rare Gem

frantz

Sensitive, intelligent, cultured films like Frantz manage to be amazing discoveries for those who find such an artistic gem. It’s beautiful, with hints of classical sounds from Rimsky-Korsakoff to Mahler. It is in both German and French, with English subtitles.

It’s black and white, with occasional bursts of faint pastel.

That said, the audience is down to a handful of discriminating aficionados of movie-making.

This film manages to be fascinating in its plot and full of surprises. In 1919 after the war, a lovely German woman discovers a Frenchman leaving flowers on the grave of her dead fiancé. It is a mystery that never fully unravels until the turn of events is a reversal of fortunes.

The story is one of serene melancholy, elegiac in its mourning and works for anyone who loses a soldier to war.

A Frenchman in Germany after World War I encounters cultural hostility—and when the German girl goes to Paris, the reverse holds true. In the beginning, slowly the dead soldier’s parents appreciate the Frenchman who claims to be a friend to their son, meeting him in Paris before the war where they both shared an interest in the violin.

You may rightfully be suspicious of what is behind the obvious facts. You might also be quite wrong when you jump to conclusions. The dead soldier story can be traced back to a 1932 film made by Ernst Lubitsch called Broken Lullaby.

Pierre Niney is so peculiar as Adrien, the French ami of Frantz, that you may find his performance is, in itself, a red herring—and Paula Beer is so enchanting as the dead man’s heartbroken fiancee that the audience must feel her tragedy.

Yet, it is director Francois Ozon who is the mastermind behind the pieces so beautifully woven together—music, images, emotions.

You might encounter such a film experience rarely nowadays. Frantz is a haunting masterpiece.

Remembering Peter Christian Fry on 9-11

PeterPeter & his daughter

 

On the anniversary of 9-11, with all the memorial services, only one name from that tragic day rings in my head. He had been one of my students at Curry College in Milton, Massachusetts, in the mid-1980s. His name was Peter Fry.

Peter died in 2 World Trade Center. He worked for a global securities company—and always took his early morning coffee at Windows on the World. We presume that’s where he was when the plane hit the Tower.

No one wants to dwell on the horrible few hours on that day.

Instead, I always recall the tall student who took the seat near the door in the front row of all my First-Year writing classes. He took three with me: Language Skills and the two Writing Workshop basics. He was likely the best student in the class, the most dedicated, never missed one of my classes.

He held the distinct honor of being the first student to come to one of my classes barefoot. In exchange, I went to his lacrosse games. During Parents Weekend, I had the pleasure of meeting his lovely parents—straight out of central casting, it seemed to me.

Since I also was coordinator of the skills center, he often came to my office and served as a tutor. My connections to him seemed odd—like the time I ran into him at the local mall. Peter Christian Fry stood out from hundreds for me.

So, the terrible day that the Dean said to me that Curry had lost a student at the Twin Towers—someone who pre-dated his tenure at the College, I was in shock at the name:  Peter. How could it be optimistic, charming Peter.

He was part of the Program for Advancement for Learning at the College and his mentor over there was a priest fondly called Father Joe Arsenault who later married Peter. We later commiserated over the loss, and Joe told me that Peter recalled me as one of his favorite professors at his wedding to fellow alums. It was chilling to hear years later.

There is a flat stone memorial to him on Cape Cod at the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge. It was put there by his wife because it was one of their favorite spots for him and his two little daughters. Some who go there actually feel his spirit or presence in that place of peace and beauty. It does not surprise me.

A few years ago I would have scoffed at spirits remaining among us, but in recent years I have written two books on the spirit who lives at my home. He died on the Titanic and his family owned my property. It seems terrible tragedy releases good people.

There was a plaque in the classroom commemorating the Titanic victim where Peter sat, near the door. How strange it now seems to me that these two young men died under infamous circumstance and were both there in that room at one time. Peter always sat near the plaque to the lost young college student named Richard Frazar White.

Spirits are good people who have the freedom to go wherever they want in the years after their lives.

Richard White and Peter Fry died too young, full of promise, and for the rest of my life, I shall be touched by them. I remember.

Celtics Send Cousin IT Packing to LeBronWorld

DATELINE:  $$ Talks to Celtics

 Thomas & Tom In Happier Days

Wowie Zowie, the Celtics are not letting the Patriots run for another championship without a Boston competition. We may have to renew our season tickets to the Celtics this year.

It now appears that Isaiah Thomas, Cousin IT himself, who has worked assiduously to improve the team and lure free agents to Boston, now is being sent to the glue factory in Cleveland. He became a folkhero for playing a day after his sister died–and his just reward has come in payback form.

Yes, Cleveland’s the place where both Kyrie Irving and LeBron James want to escape from more than ever.  It is tantamount to Napoleon’s exile island.

Thomas reportedly has a bad hip. As any senior citizen can tell you, a bad hip is the first indication that a nursing home in Cleveland may be on your itinerary.

Kyrie Irving will come to Green-land where Brad Stevens is the coach of choice for superstars who want to be appreciated.

Together with Gordon Hayward, we may have quite new 2007 dream team when Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett showed up and chewed up the league.

Now we understand why Danny Ainge held off on bringing Hayward to Boston for a dog and pony show. He had another big star in the wings to join in the fun. Whether another big star may be in the offing seems unlikely, but this is now the year of unexpected Trumps, and not always in bridge.

We still wonder where the big men are, as Danny keeps dispatching them to Westworld, or some other limbo.

If Kevin McHale is not coming out of retirement, perhaps we will yet see Kevin Durant in green. In the meantime, the Boston Celtics ask, “What have you done for us lately?”

 

 

 

Last Days of Warner Oland: On Anniversary of Death

DATELINE: Charlie Chan & Curry College

WO Oland in character

Ten years ago a little documentary biography was put together on actor Warner Oland. It can be found online.

We have long been a fan of his gentle, Method-acting style, immersing himself into playing (and living life) as the legendary Charlie Chan, Earl Derr Biggers’s famous detective.

Oland, with his exotic name, was the first and best of all the Chans—so much so that many thought he was Asian. His heavy eyelids made him look the part. However, he was born in Sweden, next to Garbo, one of their earliest American immigrants to acting.

Oland loved playing Chan, and even gave interviews in character—but his drinking problem seemed to have exacerbated with a doomed marriage in 1938.  On the set of his last film Charlie Chan Ringside, he simply walked off the studio lot and disappeared.

The movie was shelved, and Oland went back to his native Sweden in the pre-war turmoil of Nazi troubles. There, welcomed home by Swedes, he caught pneumonia and died. His last Chan film was Charlie Chan in Monte Carlo, a delightful performance. His close friend Keye Luke loved him as a Number One son might! Oland was cultured and cerebral.

Oland caught our attention years earlier, of course, on old-TV film festivals—but our real fascination came when we discovered he graduated from Curry College, then located in Boston as an elocution/speech school for actors.

We cut our own teeth at Curry for 30 years as a professor, of film studies, no less.

When we watched a Chan film this week, we went to the ubiquitous Youtube to find all our favorites. To our shock, we learned Warner Oland died 79 years ago the day we found a slight biographical movie called Charlie Chan is Missing: the Last Days of Warner Oland.

Charming and mysterious, Oland preferred his home in central Massachusetts, not far from our preferred home, and his wife had his body brought back to Southboro where his gravestone was the step to his beloved home in that town.

The film is short and chock full of info, but the clues to Warner Oland’s strange character disappeared with him.

Our Town Too Close for Comfort

DATELINE:  Thorton Wilder Classic

the deadDoro Mirande, Fay Bainter, and Martha Scott, stand out among the dead.

With music by Aaron Copland and set design by William Cameron Menzies, Thornton Wilder’s Our Town of 1940 is an emotional wallop, despite Hollywood’s interfering new-fangled ending. It’s the sort of thing that gave Hollywood a black eye for years.

Once the staple of high school reading lists, Our Town has fallen out of favor being the work of a dead white guy. Of course, that was the point of the play: but we now agree that Our Town is wasted on anyone young. And wisdom is never an easy lesson.

If you are beyond middle-age, seeing this again will be chilling. Instead of a homespun tale of Americana, this is a cynical and downbeat tale of birth, life, and death.

Though it starts out with amusing details of a 17-year old boy (William Holden, looking adolescent) and his next door girlfriend Martha Scott, as George and Emily. Set in 1901 until 1913, it seems like a quaint Mayberry in New England story.

Grover’s Corners was fictional, of course, set on the border of New Hampshire. Well, that’s where we live now—which certainly gave us pause. We are in the midst of the world of Our Town (exteriors filmed nearby). Wilder wrote the play while staying in Peterborough at the writers’ colony.

The setting feels more like Rindge or Jaffrey, NH, than artsy Peterborough.

The final third of the film takes place in the graveyard, brilliantly depicted with the dead (most of the cast) standing in solitary, morose fashion. It is a frightful depiction of what death means, and what life becomes.

According to this story, you have one day to re-live, as a ghost in time travel. These are trendy concepts today, let alone in pre-World War II America.

The ghosts debate that you should choose the most unfortunate day to re-live because happy times will be unbearable.

Performances are powerful—realistic and distressing. This is not a story for young people, but in 30 years they may be drawn to the play’s extraordinary insights, even those scornful diverse young critics of today.

Death is a great equalizer. The film is not tragic, only whimsical.

 

Shooting the Messenger?

 DATELINE:  Drama at Its Most Gripping

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In 2009 director Owen Moverman teamed up Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster as captain and staff sergeant whose onerous duty is to inform people that their loved one has been killed in action. The story is The Messenger, about those who deliver the worst news to the official next-of-kin of America’s fallen soldiers.

It is horrific duty and makes compelling drama. Foster takes on a sympathetic and unusual role of heroic character, next to hard-ass officer who also must keep up regulations as a defense mechanism as civilian next-of-kin receive life-altering news.

The job is standard operating procedure, militarized and standardized. In years past there was only an impersonal telegram of bad news. Today it is the human face on inhumanity.

Everyone acts differently to the news, just as everyone acts different to death. They don’t know these people and enter only as minor, nearly dehumanized, figures delivering major news.

Ethics, pity, and duty, come to a crossroads as these soldiers face the most painful of all parts of a solider’s life: his death from combat.

You could say this is an actor’s film, and Moverman is clearly an actor’s director. He gives the performers some highly charged, internal and external emotional moments. It is riveting to watch heroes suffer and do what most of us could never want to face. The actors prove their abilities.

Young Staff Sergeant Montgomery has difficulty with maintaining an impersonal and unemotional attitude. On the other hand, Captain Stone, with a name to symbolize what looks like a callous demeanor, takes his job harder and buries the pain deeper.

Without characters making bad decisions, you likely never have a conflict in war movies. These are not automatons, but real men re-living post-traumatic events repeatedly. 

The film is too emotionally charged to be depressing or sad. An ultimate catharsis makes this a literate man’s war film.

Collateral Beauty: Time for Love & Death to Take a Holiday

 Mirren Kills'em.jpg Mirren Kills’em

DATELINE:  Bereavement Hallucinations

Every once in a while a movie comes along that invites insult and derision. This time it is  Will Smith’s dramedy called Collateral Beauty.

It has echoes of so many other, better stories, that we aren’t sure where to begin the diagnosis.

From the trailer you might believe this is a fantasy film on the lines of Love, Death, and Time, Meet in New York. You’d have been deceived, sort of.

A depressed man, dealing with the death of his child of six, has business associates that want to have evidence to commit him to a looney bin.

So, they arrange for actors to play Love, Death, and Time, to pay him a visit. It’s Gaslight—but as Helen Mirren, playing Death, discovers in the course of the movie, no one remembers that classic film, known for its good acting. No one will remember this one for that same reason.

When you start out with some of the most unlikable characters all woven into one plot, you are already behind the Oscar voting. Will Smith knows about being overlooked for a good performance—and lets his natural gray hairs show his love for acting this time as the movie lay dying.

We presume this is a cautionary tale—but we aren’t quite sure if we are being warned about sneaky business partners, cruel fate, or bloated self-pity. There is plenty of that stuff to go around in this movie. Just call it a sentimental journey.

Here’s the rub: you probably will watch it and hate yourself in the morning, which may be the opposite emotion the film wants you to have. It preaches at the audience enough to cause a backlash.

You may actually begin to think those “actors” playing at Death, Love, and Time, may be the real thing, like a coven of witches hanging out in the Big Apple for laughs.

At one point, Helen Mirren says, “This is not Noel Coward. It’s more like Chekhov.”  Yes, the movie never falls short on lofty pretensions. You could do worse.

James Dean Died 60 Years Ago Today

DATELINE: A Small Tribute

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Would the ultimate Rebel Without A Cause actually be 84 today if he had lived? It is unlikely he would have survived the 1960s or the 1980s with his lifestyle.

Yet, we still think of his eternal adolescence, painful youth, and promise lost.

This week as a tribute to Dean we decided to give away copies of our caustic biography of the star, THE NEXT JAMES DEAN. The book featured some insider knowledge of Dean never published before—or since. One fan accused us of snapping a photo of his dead body for the cover image.

Then we took on all the imitators, clones, and clowns, who tried to emulate James Dean. Some were guiltless victims of studio publicity, but many went slightly bonkers trying to emulate him.

Dean made ten times the number of TV shows as his movies. And, most fans probably have not seen hours and hours of his live TV performances. Some are stunning, years ahead of their time.

Few fans know that ghoulish Alfred Hitchcock decided to film one of his seminal suspense scenes at the site of Dean’s deadly car crash. Yes, that desolate stretch of highway is where Cary Grant is chased by a crop duster in North by Northwest. Well, it’s actually a model, a drone by today’s standards.

Fans may not know that the same stretch of road is thought to be haunted by the ghost of Dean and his mysterious and missing death car. Each year on September 30th, around 6pm in the sunset, you can hear a sports car racing down the highway, but end up in a crashing sound. It is the ghost car of Dean.

Fox News is now reporting the car has been found, hidden away behind a false wall to prevent it from killing new victims.

We thought Dean was deader than a door-nail by now. One of his few surviving contemporaries thinks he won’t last. Yet, when we put our e-book up for free taking in honor of James Dean, about 300 fans downloaded our testimonial book. We were delighted.

There were no strings, catches, or tricks. We just gave the book away to dedicated fans. We think Jim Dean of Indiana would have approved.