Pascali: No Man an Island

Dance & Kingsley Top of Acting Game!

 DATELINE:   Extraordinary Movie

Over 30 years ago, we missed Pascali’s Island, one of those “think piece” movies that have already become an extinct movie genre. It was too good for Masterpiece Theatre in 1988, and it is too smart for audiences today.

It’s a spy story set in the Ottoman Empire of 1908 where a lowly informer, Pascali (Ben Kingsley), toils without much appreciation, stuck in a backwater.  Into the mix comes a British archaeologist Bowles (Charles Dance) who immediately charms artist Lydia (Helen Mirren). You won’t trust any of them from the earliest moments.

Mirren was not yet big enough to have her name over the film title, but this is a 3 character drama of high order. Performances are stunning, and direction from James Dearden is top-drawer, and you won’t find a more spectacular setting or production.

It’s apparent that a minor functionary spy is in over his head when it comes to stolen antiquities. He knows he is caught in the middle of intrigue with a Pasha who will execute and ask questions later.

The Greeks are ready to overthrow the Sultan and a bloodbath of revolution is ahead for Pascali, though he won’t accept this fate.

Kingsley is marvelous as the man with nightmares, and spying that borders on voyeurism as he watches Dance and Mirren cavort naked. His own peccadilloes entail the Turkish bath boy who resembles, not accidentally, the 2000 year old bronze boy they dig up and plan to steal.

Kingsley is a tortured soul as Pascali works against himself and ultimately must find meaning in meaningless acts of violence. This is a brilliant film, worth waiting thirty years to see. Alas, there will likely be few more in this genre.

The days of moral turpitude being punished may be over in movies, and in life. This movie hales poetic justice .

 

 

 

Ancient Aliens Take on Noah & the Great Flood

Ganymede: Boy-napped!

 DATELINE: They’re No Angels!

You can call this week Land of the Giants, Part 2. After looking at the Big Deal of Big Men around Campus, we turn now to a Biblical evidence of angels and cutting problems down to size.

Ancient Aliens love a tall tale. This week we continue to rattle off pie in the sky.

The theory is that Noah was a giant albino, genetically engineered to save mankind from a group of unpleasant giant aliens. And, for good measure, those angels were actually physical beings working as messengers.

So, we have Enoch and some of the first alien abduction stories. This includes Zeus boy-napping Ganymede with a giant eagle for more than prurient reasons. It was truly abduction with an abusive angle.

These are dangerous texts not meant for everyone’s eyes. So, the Hebrew and Christian Bibles were much smaller than the Book of Giants that predates Genesis. It seems those Big Boys weren’t playing nice, being cannibals of human flesh. Noah had to rid the world of these pests.

And, Noah had help: 200 Watchers, who were angels with clipped wings. They were using misunderstood technology to ferry around the world. The Great Flood is more likely to be indicated by geological evidence.

If you’re wondering why there was a Great Flood after the Great Pyramid, you have to look for solar flares that melted the ice caps and flooded the world. This burnt layer is 50 feet deep all around the world, proving the theory, say the alien theorists.

Enoch took off with his alien buds, but announced he’d return eventually.

 

 

 

Kardashians in Green

over the hump?

DATELINE: Butt, butt, butt…

Tristan Thompson is in our hearts and minds lately. So, we may ask you if you are over the Hump.

The Boston Celtics now have signed their second Kardashian husband. Those fans of the Hump may well recall the time Kris Humphries played in Boston.

It’s not enough they have reached a new bottom line.’

When the Hump stepped on the court in his first few games, he was largely booed by the Celtic crowd, which puzzled coaches in Green. Then, someone told them to watch TV and read the tabs.

Oh, it dawned on them that they had just stepped into reality that is surreality. Tristan wants to know if there are good eateries near the Boston Garden. He is planning to feast on chicken.

Now, we have again a crack in the Celtics Under-armor.

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.

Thompson, you may have forgotten, was hit with a butt-slapping penalty during a low-blow  in his career.

We cannot recall when butt-touching originally 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.

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.

Another Kardashian news tidbit: he will be coming to Bean-town with his wife.  We predict they will love Boston as much as Giselle and Tom Brady who couldn’t escape fast enough before another winter hit.

A few years ago, Tristan Thompson was in town with the Cavs and shocked Celtic Jae Crowder with a tap to the butt. It nearly disencombobulated the Celtic. Love taps to the buttocks are reserved to close locker room pals.

Whether Thompson will be arrested for assaulting good taste again with a tap to the keester will be under the microscope when he reaches Boston.

In the meantime, ain’t we got fun?

 

 

Classic Game Show

Your New York Panelists

DATELINE: Whose Line?

If you want to see what high-powered cerebral entertainment appeared on Sunday nights in 1955 on your television, you can look up What’s My Line?  It is in glorious black and white, which is a shame, but technically that was its limit.

The show’s title has lived on longer than the show, as a punchline and as part of cultural heritage. We tuned in to a random episode from the first season to see what this upper-crust New York game show was all about. It was not for kids even back then.

We were not surprised in many ways. The panel is decked out in dress clothes, obviously out on the town in Manhattan earlier for dinner. They are also not your usual young, demographic and telegenic pretty airheads.

You have a fairly high-powered group: Bennett Cerf, a publisher, and Dorothy Kilgallen, a Broadway muckraking journalist. The other woman on the panel was Arlene Francis, whose career as a singer was long gone. They were joined by satirical Fred Allen. The show’s host was another journalist, John Daly.

The money given to guests is downright insulting. If the panel tries to guess the occupation, each “no” answer wins $5. Maybe it was worth more back then.

This is middle-aged fun for late on the weekend on your TV back then. The so-called lines of the guests are odd, always, and the highlight is a special celebrity guest who must use a fake voice as the panel wears masks.

This is not a dumb group, and they know how to frame a question and narrow done the selection of jobs. We cringe at what a modern version of this might be like! Back then, audiences were literate, older, more inclined to modest humor and good-natured ribbing. It’s a long-gone America.

It’s worth looking at if you’re a senior citizen wanting to have a nostalgic moment. Otherwise, you will be horrified and bored.

 

 

Escape from Devil’s Island

co-star/co-author Jan Merlin

 

DATELINE: 1973 Blaxploitation Movie

 Jim Brown’s prison movie about the 1917 French island prison came before the prestige movie with McQueen, titled Papillion. They had overlapped during filming, but the speed of Roger Corman could not be matched. He was not interested in “art.” He wanted a product that might titillate audiences

I Escaped from Devil’s Island  had all those ingredients.

The film began on a high note: Jim Brown is dragged from his cell in the tropical prison to a makeshift guillotine. He is about to be beheaded before the credits even roll. No flashback was required because the sado-masochistic guards had set this up, knowing a general amnesty for all French prisoners had arrived and no one would be executed. It was cruel kindness.

Of course, this Roger Corman quickie was called a blaxploitation film, geared toward making black audiences approve of a black hero. It’s hard to realize Brown was really doing trail-blazing work, and perhaps the other shocking part of the movie was the open homosexual relationships in the movie. The gay characters are in eye-makeup and are called “fancy boys,” who have boyfriends like James Luisi and Chris George. Rick Ely played the pretty boy who has his nipples tortured in one scene.

Jan Merlin, in eyeglasses, played the leader of the political prisoners—and a communist, which was a true work of performance since Jan was a Republican. For him it was another character unlike his cultured, soft-spoken self,  playing at abrasive, uncouth villains. We must confess to be transparent that Jan co-authored many books with Ossurworld.

The “F” word is used surprisingly often for the first time in movies here, often just to discuss homosexual relations. And nearly every male to male encounter is fraught with both sexual and sadistic overtones.

Once the escape plan takes hold, the movie seems to peter out. Yet, films like this paved the way for leading men of the future like Denzel Washington.

The film deteriorates toward the end with a chaotic fireworks display in a city to help the escapees flee authority.

The best performance in this movie was given by Acapulco, the Mexican resort town, playing Devil’s Island.

Candlelight Dinner with Patriots

 DATELINE: Hot Time in New England

When we heard a wife of a New England Patriots player has denied her husband had dinner out with another player, we became intrigued.

The wife is always the last to know, and in New England, your sports radio maggots can be found under foot everywhere.

Yes, Cam Newton and Stephon Gilmore may be the most beautiful men on the team: each is a star on the opposite side of the ball. Heavens, is it a match? Did Gilmore take pity on lonely Cam whose family is half-way across the country?

We know that if Cam had dinner with Julian Edelman, it would be playing favorites, supplanting himself in the heart of Tom Brady’s former matchmate. However, Cam is too smart for that: he keeps his dinner companions outside the arena where you might be called out for being out with a favorite.

Stephone and Cam may be up a tree, but they are not out.

No one is posting an incriminating photo over sushi. No one is finding them sharing a bucket of chicken wings.

 And, now Gilmore’s wife has weighed in, denying that she is a co-respondent or a woman scorned. She never admitted she was hiding under the dinner table, or the bed. But she knows the true story, at least according to what her husband tells her.

Oh, both men will be back in uniform for Sunday, and no one is asking if they will be sharing a Big Mac or an Egg McMuffin in the pre-game morning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

Broken Noses, Unbroken Style

DATELINE: Weber’s Boys

Bruce Weber, as a film-maker and fashionista, made a career of studying masculinity in all its forms. He started with a young boxing coach named Andy Minsker and his latest is a bio-doc about Robert Mitchum.

In between during his long career, Weber has run into the wall of many from his generation: the values and relationships with male models he created in the beginning have not held up to today’s more overly sensitive accusers.

Yes, Bruce Weber has suffered charges of sexual harassment from a dozen or more men who might have let it slide years ago. Today, money-struck and fame-driven revenge pulls these guys into a world of accusations, both dubious and false.

In Weber’s first movie, Broken Noses,he took on a lookalike to jazz beauty Chet Baker. This young man, born in 1982, had been a teenage boxing champ—and coached other adolescents in how to box.

Today with horrors over concussions and other masculine pursuits deemed too violent, that world of homoerotic attraction is far more dangerous for other reasons, like being a Boy Scout leader.

Minsker was adorable, charming, and could likely win followers with his easy-going personality. His image on T-shirts from youth still may bring him fame. Weber made him into a book of photos—and relentless celebrity.

The film in black and white from 1987 is hypnotic and staggering to think it could never be made today. Even back then, the Olympic people warned boys to avoid Weber. Andy Minsker was utterly intrigued by the alarms and pursued Weber.

Interestingly, Weber next went on to do a film  Let’s Get Lost  on Chet Baker right before the jazz great met a hideous end.

As for Broken Noses,you might see more than the surface and inclinations in that regard are like reading Tarot cards. You may see something insightful, or you may just go off the deep end.

These young adolescents were part of a norm for the 1980s, and they were the last of a breed. Soon political correctness and re-defined masculine codes would end this world of seductive youth.

Weber’s career has its notoriety and its sublime beauty, and to see Broken Noses thirty years later is like looking at an extinct animal in the wild.

You may fall out of the orbit of Weber’s men and boys, but you cannot deny his sociological and psychological truisms.

Altmanesque

DATELINE: Great Director Documentary

A biographical film on the life and work of Robert Altman uses a touchstone word, “Altmanesque,” as the word asked of all his most famous stars. Their inarticulate explanations may reveal more about the paucity of their vocabulary than about the notable filmmaker in the simply titled Altman.

He began TV work on schlock like the Whirlybirds,but learned the craft.

A man who never caved in on his principles, he was fired from movies and TV shows regularly for extending the bounds: he was thrown off Combat and Bus Stop.Those episodes look tame today, but were shockers of moral depravity back in the early 1960s.

When he confounded Jack Warner by having overlapping dialogue during an argument between two actors, he was banned from the studio. He did not play by silly rules, and today those rules look so silly that we laugh about it.

Altman had tremendous loyalty too, and often worked with the same actors. He was an actors’ director more than anything else: putting their ease of delivery at the top of movie success.

His most famous movies were twists on the usual genre, like Western film, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, or fantastic Brewster McCloud. MASH put him on the box-office straight and narrow. He went up and down, always interesting, but not until 1990 and The Player did he wake up the movie world.

His Oscar was honorary for a lifetime of achievements, but his films were variable, so different that each became the favorite of different people.

 

 

 

 

 

Hey, Jude! Sherlock Holmes 1991!

DATELINE: Teenage Jude Law

When picking a random episode to view (and rev-view many years after first seeing it), we settled on Jeremy Brett’s definitive performance in Case Book of Sherlock Holmes. The episode is titled Shoshcombe Old Place.

Back then there was an attempt to film every short story faithfully. It was something they fell short of accomplishing when Brett died with about six stories left to produce.

The 1991 episode is about a stable of racehorses on an estate. Almost immediately in the opening, we were struck by a young actor, likely about 18, very pretty indeed. He wanted to be a jockey and approached the crusty middle-aged bachelor whose sister owned the estate. The horse master was cool to the young man who looked at him with more than yearning for a job.

Later, one of the caretakers went to Holmes and Watson with a distressing story of something not quite right at Shoshcombe. The sister was very ill, and strange events troubled the caretaker. Holmes chose to dig into it.

With a staccato delivery of lines that is nothing short of breathtaking and hambone, Brett manages to steal every scene he is in as he figures out the mystery.

Jude Law sealed his fame 20 years later as Dr. Watson in a series of bad movies, but here he is most amusingly in drag most of the show—and even shows some homoerotic interest in his boss. Interesting to say the least.

Our ends never know our beginnings. How fortuitous to have picked this marvelous episode for a peek.

Apt Pupil Outruns Mentor

DATELINE: Crypto Nazis in Suburbia

Bryan Singer, director of Apt Pupil,first ran into hot water, not because of the subject matter that indicated Nazi youth were living in American suburbs, but because he filmed teenage boys in the high school shower after gym class.

This 1998 film should not be forgotten for more important reasons.

High crimes differ in every culture. Singer’s point made Stephen King’s novella more horrific than the original story where the FBI could identify your garden variety mass killer with a profile. In this film version an All-American boy on a bicycle discovers the old man in his neighborhood is no innocent immigrant, but a fugitive Nazi killer from Auschwitz.

It was an era when immigrants were welcomed into the United States at the border, no matter how dubious their credentials. After all, safe haven is often de rigueur for evil-doers.

Instead of turning the reprobate into authorities, the kid wants to be tutored in the fine art of Nazi supremacy. It was a wild idea twenty years ago, but today with neo and crypto Nazi supporters all over the landscape, we might discover this budding monster wins some sympathy. How many shooters in recent years were teenagers with MAGA caps?

Performances make this essential two-character drama into something special. Ian McKellan plays an older Nazi and Brad Refro is the innocent-looking teen. The sophistication of Refro’s work makes his early death a far greater loss to acting. Each star is brilliant as we watch their subtle sexually charged father-son jamboree.

At one point, Refro as Todd buys a Nazi uniform for his pal to see him march around. McKellan dryly announces, “I see I have been promoted.”

The revelation that Refro’s youth may be worse than the Master comes at different points for some audience members. You could think that the kid is a victim of a powerful influence, but his treatment of his high school teacher Mr. French who discovers the ugly secret is far more stinging than the headlines of today’s child abuse cases.

Who can you trust in this world? Everyone uses a façade to shield their hideous criminal intentsions.

Up to the ending, McKellan’s Nazi thinks he can outsmart the American Nazi, but the freedom of choice in the United States makes for a far more dangerous brand of Fascism, as we now know from Trump’s campaign for a second term.

This is a chilling look at Nazis, homegrown and imported.

Jack Benny & Marilyn

DATELINE:  An Innocent Age

Back in 1953 for the first show of his second season, Jack Benny garnered the biggest name and biggest star of the year:  Marilyn Monroe. It was called the Jack Benny Program.

As all the set-ups in the Benny program were at the expense of Jack’s delicate ego, he took the barrage of raps and insults with his usual aplomb.

You might be ready for some outdated racial profiling when Rochester showed up: Eddie Anderson always played Jack’s valet who goes with him everywhere and calls him “Boss.” Here they go to Hawaii, and we find Jack lugging all the luggage with no Rochester.

Jack sits on the dock, ready to leave, while flower leis are given to all the departing guests for their generosity, kindness, and friendship. Alas, even a dog gets a lei, but not Jack. Finally a delicatessen owner shows up and gives him a lei of chicken livers. He is warned to be careful of the seagulls.

We learn too that Jack is carrying Rochester’s luggage because he was late for the ship.

When Benny falls asleep on deck, he dreams about the star he saw that night in a ship’s nightly movie: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes megastar, Marilyn Monroe.   And, in one of her designer gowns, she drops into the barcalounger recliner next to Jack in his dreams.

She professes her love for him despite their age difference. She points out she is 25 and he is 39, but in 25 years she will be 50, and he will still be 39. She is enchanted by his big blue eyes.

It was Monroe’s first TV appearance as a guest star (we don’t count her TV commercials, satirized in All About Eve).  She is lovely and charming, and so is Jack.

You simply don’t have that kind of weekly series surprise, even with cable nowadays. It was a gentle treat of a bygone era, and a lovely little escape from today.

 

 Fright Night Revisited

DATELINE:  Vampire Classic from ’80s

Sarandon & Jeffreys

Has it really been 35 years since Fright Night rejuvenated modern vampires?

It was Tom Holland who wrote and directed it, looking like a B-movie for TV show of the week, apart from the nudity now and then. By today’s cable movie standards, this is rough, however still holds up as entertainment with a modern twist.

Two points of amusement remain unflappable: Roddy MacDowell and Stephen Jeffreys. They survive in name for sheer wacky performances. MacDowell plays an aging movie star who used to play vampire hunters in his heyday, and Jeffreys plays a teenage Jack Nicholson on uppers. He later reneged Hollywood to do gay adult films for a while, though that is now denied with a half-baked story that it was his evil twin brother.

The vampire is demure and stately Chris Sarandon, looking like he wandered into the wrong California suburb. Yes, the vampire has taken a house in a Leave It to Beaverpart of town where you can peer into the next-door windows. It seems like he’s asking for teenage trouble.

Stephen Jeffreys steals the big scenes: he becomes clearly the gay victim of Sarandon’s vampire. His two delicious scenes are with Roddy as they battle.

For MacDowell with his hair fake-frosted, this was a last grand role, and he makes the most of it. Director Holland was lucky to have the veteran star in his movie.

There is no scrimping on special effects at the finish, and you have a sunny California vampire tale.

The film was originally set to star Vincent Price, not McDowall, and Anthony Michael Hall, not Jeffreys. And, we still haven’t figured out what Sarandon’s boyfriend is supposed to be.

In the whatever happened mode, William Ragsdale is the star juvenile lead. He’s cookie-cutter good enough. Yet, he is thrown up against two scene-stealing actors who rob him of the movie. The film is considered a classic nowadays.

Endeavour’s Seventh: Crime Goes On!

DATELINE: Night at the Opera

 Shaun Evans, not Groucho.

To kick off the seventh season of egghead murder mystery, Endeavour once again turns to star hotshot, Shaun Evans, to direct the first episode of Endeavour.

He is even better the second time around: with aplomb when it comes to set-ups, color, and the new modern police office settings. He seems to have wasted time filming in Venice for a few scenes that could have been faked without much notice in a studio. Producers even created an opera for the clueless.

The series has grown darker, starting with Endeavour’s heavy narrative opening about the comedy and tragedy he is about to face. Even his boss, Thursday, is now fed up with grisly killings and his humor is turning sour while Morse goes on vacation to Venice.

The episode is over-wroughtly titled “Oracle” when “Psychic” would have done well.

It’s 1970 now, and a waitress at the New Year’s bash is killed walking home from work. It is the heavy-handed start of women’s equal rights—and it is played historically nasty. Most men of the era saw it as a fad and did not take it seriously. If you use this show as history, you see something far more sinister.

Crime goes on, even at Oxford’s new fangled psychic research center where remote viewing experiments are in their infancy.

The red herrings, as usual, pile up in this show, which now have caught Roger Allam’s Thursday short-tempered.

Endeavour (Evans) remains the kiss of death, or so we suspect, as he succumbs to an operatic affair in Venice that is over before vacation ends.

There are a few intrigues that may trip you up: an old former classmate, a millionaire bon vivant seems gay and has an interest in Endeavour, and who could blame him? However, it is the petty jealousy of fellow detective Jim Strange (Sean Rigby) that is most amusing.

Psychic research is given a once-over effectively here and respectfully. If you don’t have it, you can’t fake it—and the ending is going to be a surprise for most.

The series is now in serial form, not self-contained mystery. The three-parts will meld into one.

 

 

 

 

 

Maugham: Rain in the Face

DATELINE: Somerset

Willie Maugham was one of the most successful of writers in the 20thcentury. He wrote one short story, “Rain,” that made him over one million dollars in the 1920s. You could say he was the rich man’s Truman Capote.

A short documentary gathers together some rare photos and film clips of his high-living. It’s called Revealing Mr. Maugham. But it is mostly apologetic for his transgressions and motive to write for money.

Maugham suffered from a stammer that made him less media attractive—but like Capote, he wrote about the gossip he heard, transforming the mud in novels. He was no great writer, like many contemporaries (James Joyce, Virginia Woolf or even Noel Coward) but he made big bucks and commanded movie versions (The Razor’s Edge).

Being secretly gay, he never played out or up his personality like Capote. Yet, he was notorious in his world travels to seek gay pleasure spots around the world. His “secretary” was actually his lover and procurer.

Maugham learned about human nature at medical school where he studied with Dr. Bell, the model for Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. And, his understanding of sexuality was scientific and ahead of its time.

He was scarred by his brother Harry’s suicide over a homosexual scandal—and it may have sent Maugham into the closet for the rest of his life.

His companion Gerald Haxton helped him create Cap Ferrat, the idyllic “Fairyland,” that Edna St. Vincent Millay declared one visit. Her insight is not in the film. Nor does the film tell us of the monkey gland injections to maintain his masculine vigor in old age to host boys, boys, boys.

The documentary tries hard to give Maugham literary chops, but he was interested only in fame and money, whether as a playwright or as a story writer. Yes, he wrote spy stories before LeCarre and Greene, and he was an actual spy for the British government.

Yet, he became in senility a rather unpleasant, vindictive and manipulated old fool of his new “secretary,” who managed to steal everything through poisoning Maugham’s old mind.

The documentary shows how one can outlive his own standards.

Farewell, Marie Antoinette

DATELINE: Odd Sex Life of a Queen

Off with her reader’s head.

If you rely on the trailer for Farewell, My Queen,a French historical drama about the week the Bastille was attacked and started the French Revolution, you will think you are looking at some kind of Lesbian revisionist history.

Before rolling your eyes, you should give this film a view.

Of course, some believe the real Marie Antoinette was bisexual, and others think she was accused of this in an effort to try to denigrate her character. It was, after all, considered a moral leprosy to be gay a hundred years ago.

In fact, if you stick around for this film, you will be hooked into an intriguing study of the people who worked at Versailles, the underlings and minor functionaries, who received word their lives and livelihood were now in jeopardy with a list of beheadings of those associated with the monarchs.

By staying outside the riots and beheadings, this drama shows how people in the court were horrified and terrified of their own fates. Those who worked in person with Marie Antoinette are the truly endangered. One such girl is her librarian reader, a plain-looking young girl who finds herself devoted to the Queen to her ever-lasting detriment.

The depiction of a strata not usually seen is fascinating, but shows too how deadly it could be merely to be a servant of the King and Queen. Marie Antoinette’s haughty love interest is a woman of great beauty—and the ultimate order of the Queen to her reader is to be bait to help the royal mistress escape France.

You may find yourself riveted to mad decisions of Louis and Marie Antoinette to endanger themselves by refusing to flee when they had the chance. Others desert Versailles, and some commit suicide rather than be sent to sure death by the mobs. If you are intrigued by side stories of history, this film will be fully satisfying. In subtitles that caused us to miss the Austrian accent on the French-speaking Queen (Diane Kruger).