Heads Up, Tails Down: Pats & Celts

DATELINE:  Twilight Zone Meets Jaws

With an ice storm on the horizon in Boston, the two championship franchises, the Celtics and the Patriots, were also out of town and out of luck. Every great team has its up and downs.

After our ill-timed braggadocio, life gave us a cold slap in the face with ice pellets. Alas, it was too cold to make lemonade out of the fiasco that befell the Patriots and Celtics on Monday night.

We could not imagine these were the same teams that had been so impressive game after game. What on earth happened to the bright lights?

Miami and Chicago laid the expected victors a harsh dose of reality. No one is perfect, not even Bill Belichick or Brad Stevens.

If ever there was a night for Tom Brady to yell at Josh McDaniels this was it. If ever there was a night for Jaylen Brown to keep wearing his goggles, this was it.

Alas, Brown discarded his glasses and Tom Brady made nice with Josh.

When Jayson Tatum is unable to hit three-pointers and Tom Brady throws an interception and only has a handful of passing yards in the first half, you have crossed through the looking glass. In this case, it’s the mirror Tom Brady broke.

The Chicago Bulls are the worst team in the NBA, and the Miami Dolphins are the toughest opponents the Pats ever face in Miami. Brady has his worst record in 18 years against the Dolphins.

We have to admit the Patriots were without Gronk, who was suspended, and the Celts were without Kyrie Irving who needed some rest.

No matter where Boston fans turned, they were on the edge of the Outer Limits.

Both teams, known for their defensive finesse, showed it wasn’t their night. It was reminiscent of On the Waterfront, when Brando’s boxer complained his brother told him to lose, “It wasn’t my night!”

At half-time we were ready to become fair weather fans for our two teams.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday Night Football, Basketball, and Ancient Aliens

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From Sunset Boulevard to New England

DATELINE: Gloria Swanson’s Late Career as Artist

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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.”

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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.

Trump’s Blatant Racism

DATELINE: Inexcusable Lapses of Judgment

Michigan J. Frog

If you need more than one example to prove that Trump is a fetid racist (on top of a dozen past examples), we have compiled a list of the latest evidence that Donald Trump is unfit to be president of the United States.

He is a blatant and unremitting in his bile. Perhaps he is not a white supremacist, as that entails belonging to a set of social pairings that he has avoided.  However, he has shown a disdain for anyone who happens to be a person of color. We will ignore all his obsessive, continuous, illogical attacks on Barack Obama.

Case in point number one: this week he managed to show his lack of humanity (perhaps another disqualifying characteristic) by suggesting he should have let three college basketball players rot in a Chinese jail for ten years because no one wants to kiss the ring of the reigning monarch.

On top of that, he took on the notorious imbecile LaVar Ball in a battle of twitter -tweetie bird brains. Suffice it to say, there is no honor in bashing LaVar Ball. It’s like kicking a dog with three legs. If Trump wanted to illustrate that he is a vile human being, comments such as this do it.

Oh, please, to those who cry it’s only Twitter. It creates a social condition among the uneducated and dumb supporters of racist notions

Next, Trump is calling for the complete suspension of Dallas Cowboy player Marshawn Lynch. Here is another least popular figure in sports who happens to be black. Lynch sat in Mexico City during the American national anthem, but stood for the Mexican anthem. He hardly seemed to be protesting much of anything. Another imbecile to equal Trump’s IQ on patriotism.

And, finally, there is Steph Curry, a basketball champion who was disinvited from the White House for not supporting Trump. Some have defended Trump by saying that the President did not even realize Curry is “high yellow” (a light-skinned black person).

The only high yellow Trump approves is in in his hair and the streak running down his back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Return of Martellus?

 DATELINE:  Patriot Resurrection Possible

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Martellus Bennett, the tight end who danced with the cheerleaders at the Super Bowl last season, and bailed out of the Patriots for Green Bay, is now available.

Is Bill Belichick interested?  It may well be, based on Bill’s past history; he loves to resurrect the dead.

Martellus (Don’t Call Me Marty) Bennett has been a flop out there in Frost Bite Falls, and with no great QB (Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone) to sustain his antics, he may be ready for Tommy Time.

Poor Martellus has been bereft and without any TDs—or friends.  He played seven lackluster games with the Cheese Packers. With some disagreement about his medical condition, and with a threat he will retire after eight more games, Bennett made himself available to other teams when Green Bay sent him packing.

He needs to reconnect with the Brady bunch to regain his equilibrium.

The sudden move reminds us of the strange situation with the Pittsburgh Steelers a few years back who released a certain player for the Patriots to pick up just in time for a playoff run.

Now, the dire need of another tight end could mean that Belichick is considering more reunions.

He just brought back Lazarus Brian Hoyer from the dead San Fran 49ers.

So, returning a Gronk complement from the Cheesey Green Bay team seems rather likely.

Can Danny Woodhead be far behind? Might Rob Ninkovitch come out of retirement?

Bennett, fan of sci-fi, author of a kid’s book before Julian Edelman, savant of nothing in particular, was a delight in the locker room for his teammates and a media darling.

Will Belichick take another oddball tight end to go with the masterpiece of TEs, Gronk? We hope so.

The Beguiled: Clint in Hothouse Drama

DATELINE: Back to the Original

beguiled

With a remake of The Beguiled (to be reviewed separately soon), the 1970 Thomas Cullinane (a distant relative of ours) novel directed by Sofia Coppola, no one mentions the classic Don Siegel version. It was an unusual role for Clint, under his mentor director Siegel. It was a strange movie under any conditions.

A Civil War Yankee is given refuge at an odd girls’ school in the South where the genteel women are as gothic and grotesque as you’d find in a Bronte novel. Led by Geraldine Page as the head mistress and Elizabeth Hartman as her right-hand man, as it were, you have more sexual tension than suspense. Page’s character may be more than a victim of incest and more than a friend to other women.

In an age of heightened mistreatment of women in Hollywood, this film starts with Eastwood’s character telling a 12-year old girl she is old enough to kiss, and he promptly lays one smooch on her.

The women who give him sanctuary are hardly saints. Their menagerie of captured creatures includes a broken winged crow and a turtle, kept in restraints, like Clint’s Union corporal.

Siegel taught Clint something about character-driven movies, which have become better accepted than Siegel’s efforts over 40 years ago.

Now a new version ignores his ground-breaking efforts, though Stephen King was likely inspired by the plot.

When you cross Charlotte Bronte, Tennessee Williams, and Stephen King, you surely have something bizarre.

Nearly 50 years later, The Beguiled qualifies as an exhibit in the hothouse collection.

Trick or Treat, Belichick Style

 DATELINE:  Yes, We Have No Bananas

Did Bill Belichick just put a razor blade in Patriot fans’ apple?  Or like the serpent in the Garden of Eden, did he simply offer the Apple to the Sodom and Gomorrah team of America?

Shock waves continue to reverberate around New England as the man in the Grim Reaper costume goes door to door, locker to locker, looking for another trick to pull.

Tom Brady, youthful optimist, wished another of his long-term second-bananas the best of luck. Poor Jimmy G will need it with the band of merry losers out by the Golden Gate.

The revolving door of quarterbacks likely means that Belichick has another sleight of hand at the ready before the end of trade deadline. We are not privy to the inner machinations of the Machiavelli of football.

We would suggest that Drew Bledsoe will not come out of retirement for the Patriots. Their last-ditch quarterback replacement always was Julian Edelman who is now wearing his costume for the big Day of the Dead festival in Foxboro.

We already let the black cat out of the bag before tossing him into the Charles River by mentioning the name of Brian Hoyer, long-time Shemp to the stooges who wait in vain for Brady to grow old.

Brady is smiling like Alfred E. Neumann because he knows that he will never age and will never lose a step.

Does Robert Kraft have Colin Kaepernick’s smartphone number on speed dial? We await the special prosecutor investigation of the Jimmy G deal.

Vampires Cast No Shadow

DATELINE: Nosferatu Legend

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Back in 2000 John Malkovitch and Willem Dafoe decided to make a comedy biography about the making of F.W. Murnau’s classic silent film, Nosferatu.

The movie is called Shadow of the Vampire, but it’s really about the world of shadowy silent movies, right up there with behind-the-scenes movie magic like in Singing in the Rain.

The main theory behind this wacky movie is that legendary director Murnau found a real vampire to pretend to be Max Schrenck and play the hideous creature of supernatural lore. He wanted to document the life of a real vampire.

Malkovitch played Murnau as one of those Prussian nightmares of autocratic ego. Dafoe took on the role as Schrenck, or Nosferatu who allegedly wiped out the crew one by one as Murnau tried to film his Translyvania polka.

The conflict between temperamental director and lunatic actor is certainly inspired: Murnau tries to punish Schrenck for his lack of cooperation by refusing to give him “closeups” or denying him “makeup.”

Along for the parody are Cary Elwes in his best blond-haired Aryan cinematographer and Udo Keir as the flighty producer.

However, the best moments are when two lead actors go over-the-top and head-to-head in a Method-acting free-for-all. Try crossing Sunset Boulevard with The Bad and The Beautiful and you have some idea of what you will be in for. Just roll your eyes and roll with the punches.

Murnau was, in Hollywood Kenneth Anger vision, a prissy aesthete whose dalliance with his chauffeur ultimately drove their car off the road in a fatal accident a few years later, but that’s another movie yet to be made.

Director E. Elias Merlinge went beyond the call of talent on this one, but it did give Dafoe an Oscar nomination for munching on bats and clicking his long fingernails.

Well, it’s a hoot and satire of Hollywood biopics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Body Doubles Required at White House

DATELINE:  Ultimate Fake News

The latest White House outrage centers on the bizarre theory that President Trump trots out a body double for Melania. It never hurts to have a spare First Lady for the most mundane duties.

You may wonder if the First Lady is indisposed, or so fed up with the public appearances that Mr. Trump has hired a legion of doubles to accompany him in photo ops and to disaster zones.

We know that Trump has a history with doubles: he was known to associate with a dubious and conceivably fake Andy Warhol.

We also have seen evidence that Trump was not averse to having his picture taken with a fake Michael Jackson. Mr. Trump even owns a fake Renoir that he passes off as the real thing.

Body doubles for politicians are a long-standing practice. We have heard that Saddam Hussein often sent out body doubles for appearances he deemed too dangerous for the real thing. There was even a movie about the body double of Adolph Hitler during the war, who suffered assassination, thus fulfilling his duty to protect the Fuhrer. The movie was called The Strange Death of Adolph Hitler and came out in 1943, two years before the alleged fake death of the real Hitler.

It would be quite easy to send in the fake Melania in spike heels and baseball hat over a wig with oversize Jackie O sunglasses.  The President would not have to worry about her slapping away his hand when he tried to grab hers.

Body doubles are in the great tradition of fake news, and Mr. Trump is the prime purveyor of fake in the world today.

 

 

 

 

 

Odd Observations and Unusual Insights on Pats Loss

 

smashing mirror Breaking a Mirror

 

DATELINE:  Tom’s Foolhardy Mirror Smash

It’s a long way from Tipperary to the Super Bowl, and the Patriots were just ambushed out of the gate.

Cursed and crushed, the Patriots lost Super Bowl 52 in the first game of the season.

Roger Goodelle came to Gillette Stadium, saw the Patriots, and conquered the fans.

Off-hand observations soon turned into season-ending injury.

Tom scoffed as he smashed a mirror several months ago. Today, who’s laughing?

After losing Edelman in preseason, the Patriots started the season by losing Edelman’s replacement, Danny Amendola. Then,  you throw in the defensive star Donte Hightower, and your recipe for disaster is complete.

This is not a disaster on the Lines of Harvey or Irma, but make no mistake, a Category 5 hurricane named Fate just blew away the Patriots in their home turf.

It didn’t take long for the new season rot to turn  the Patriotic Belichick alchemy from gold to chaff.

Roger Goodell gave a Boston interview in which he admitted, “I’m not a football expert.” Yes, and he’s paid nearly $30million per year by the NFL.

That will certainly keep his status as no expert in the sport.

Gronk seems like a changed man. Well, anyhow, he appears to have changed his ways. During some runs, we could clearly determine that Gronk wasn’t wearing any underwear. We are not sure what this does for Tom’s advertising job for Under Armor.

As for the replacement seat of Julian Edelman, we noted that the open place on the bench next to Tom Brady was immediately taken by Danny Amendola, though he did not sit as close to Tom as Julie.

With an injury prone seat next to King Tom, no one will want to sit there for the rest of the season.

We began to keep a checklist of how many times the announcing duo mentioned that Tom Brady is 40-years-old. There was also a reference to Ponce de Leon. Next week the word of the day may be retirement.

 

When You Admit Ghosts Haunt Your Home

DATELINE:  Not Exactly Living Here

I don’t see dead people.  But, my home is indeed haunted, and I hear them moving about all the time.

Friends begged me not to reveal to the public that I live in a house with four ghosts (or technically three ghosts and one spirit).

They told me repeatedly that a tell-all book about paranormal will open me up to ridicule and charges of being more than just another eccentric author.

They claimed it would damage my “serious” nonfiction about Hollywood history and biographies (now will be considered another form of channeling).

Since publishing my true story about learning how the spirit world has fingered me, I hear repeatedly the chorus: “Have you had a stroke?”  or “Are you off your meds?”

Some accuse me of demeaning the victims of the Titanic for suggesting that, just because my ghosts used to own my neighborhood (literally, the whole street), as they were rich.

Yet, I have become protective of my friendly ghosts: they include the former housekeeper of the White family for 50 years, named Addie; a 55 year-old well-to-do-businessman, likely another Titanic victim; a young man who was apparently murdered in the neighborhood some time ago; and my main contact, Richard, who went down on the Titanic when he was 21-years old, on a vacation trip after graduating from Bowdoin.

Why me?

As a retired college professor (literally true), I try to tell the reasons in the book, but it may become lost in the sensations of revealing too much. However, I will continue to resist the numerous requests from those who want to visit me to see ghosts.

No, my home will not be an open house on Halloween, and I do not try to contact Houdini by séance regularly.

William Russo is the author of Ghosts of Mill Circle, now available on Amazon in both ebook and paper format. He also wrote Tales of a Titanic Family, Audie Murphy in Vietnam, and numerous other nonfiction biographies.

Unwell in a Kafka World: A Cure for Wellness

DATELINE:  Not exactly Obamacare

Dane DeHaan

You have to admit that actor Dane DeHaan usually chooses the most peculiar films and roles available to young stars.

In this movie, A Cure for Wellness, he manages to look rather unwell, doughy, and pooped out. That surely goes against the grain of buff, health-addicted, superheroes among his generation of leading men.

Director Gore Verbinski’s Kafkaesque tale is creepy enough for horror, surreality, and German expressionism, rolled into one hyper-barbaric chamber for eels.

A young executive of a billion-dollar corporation is sent to retrieve its CEO from this strange Swiss clinic where clients go to take “the waters,” a cure for what ails you. It’s either that or go to jail for white-collar crime.

Like clockwork, DeHaan’s Lockhart arrives at a Swiss mountaintop roach motel where people check in, but never apparently check out.  Instead, they are put through a health regimen worthy of Tom Brady’s personal trainer.

Jason Isaacs as Volmer runs the place like the reincarnation of a mad Teutonic baron two centuries ago. He will kill you with kindness.

The cure is worse than the illness—but DeHaan seems more than willing to stick around. We’d be suspicious the moment they kept insisting you drink the water. And, alas, your cell phone won’t work in this altitude.

The hydrotherapy seems a bit on the extreme side, but sado-masochism never had it so healthy.

The atmosphere is suitably Germanic, if not germ-free. We are told that Adolph Hitler was at the spa location, Castle Hohenzollern, for a cure during World War I. How fitting, indeed. It makes Last Year at Marienbad a pleasant stroll.

The film is not for dummies, and one of the attendants is reading a Thomas Mann novel about a health spa where people are convinced they need treatment, whether true or not.

If there is a drawback to this movie, it can be found in the length of the film. We have grown unaccustomed to movies pushing two & a half hours, which is a sure sign they are considered “important” by the makers. There is apparently no cure for this.

Peter O’Toole on TV in 1986

DATELINE:  Rare Appearance

Banshee

In one of his rare acting performances on the small screen, legendary Peter O’Toole took a role on a Ray Bradbury Theatre production of a short story called “Banshee.”

This anthology series ran for several years and featured notable stars in a thirty-minute Twilight Zone-style show.

Most of the summaries of the episode with O’Toole are oddly incorrect on various websites.

The man who was Lord Jim, Lawrence of Arabia, and Henry II (twice), plays an eccentric film director living in Ireland on his remote estate. He plays John Hampton, which clearly is a play on the real eccentric legendary director who lived in Ireland on his estate.

That was, of course, John Huston. The dialogue even has that lilt of Huston’s—and O’Toole wears jodhpurs and boots with swagger, to suggest Huston.

He is visited by a nebbish writer played by Charles Martin Smith who comes for a spooky interview with a script that O’Toole shreds to pieces.

Greeting the writer in the dead of night, the flamboyant director is more than a little unsettled by the cry of a banshee, an Irish female ghost, out in the dark, forboding woods around his estate. While he urges the writer to go out to find this creature who cries for death, Smith locates an ethereal beauty near a graveyard who wants O’Toole to come out.

The story was written by Ray Bradbury and seems a trifle, though highly moody and atmospheric. The show falls short of Twilight Zone quality, but who can complain when Peter O’Toole enlivens every scene.

 

 

 

 

30 Days of Night: North to Vampires

DATELINE: Beautiful Josh Hartnett Alert!

 Josh Hartnett

Director David Slade gave us the pretty vampire of Robert Pattinson in that sugar-pop vampire series, but has turned in an uglier version with 30 Days of Night. Here in Barrow, Alaska, when the sun sets, the vampires have a long winter’s feast.

It’s a claustrophobic experience to be cut off from the rest of the world with an army of hungry vampires.

Josh Hartnett has never looked prettier in this 2007 movie, but he seems to fall apart, as the film proceeds, thanks to makeup effects. He’s the sheriff of a cold, little town in the northern most latitudes of the United States. He goes from clean-shaven to scraggy, to—well, we won’t say.

Most of the residents don’t have a clue what the plague is that is attacking them as night must fall.

These are Nosferatu Nasty vampires, led by black-eyed Danny Huston speaking some weird language of vampires, in sub-titles no less. Huston wins the creepy award.

As one of those pick’em off one by one movies, you watch the little town of 150 or so dwindle to a precious few.

Ben Foster starts things off in one of his patented creepy roles, but once those superhuman vamps start flying like flakes in a blizzard, you figure that the movie will be over in thirty minutes.

Humans are resilient—and fight back, rather hopelessly.

The film is a little different than you might come to expect from the genre, and that makes it highly watchable, despite the blood-letting.

This didn’t win any Oscars, but it might have entertained a few people over the years. We have discovered it later than it deserved. But, better late than never. Go north, vampire hunters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is Aaron Hernandez Mansion Haunted?

DATELINE:  Ghosts at Home

armlessinattleboro  Police Remove Hernandez from N. Attleboro Home in 2013.

Realtors hate to answer this question because it puts a damper on buying possibilities.

Shortly after he was taken away on murder charges, his common law wife moved out. The house owned by the convicted killer of Odin Lloyd has basically been empty and on the market since then. This week the house listing price was dropped over $200,000 to the price Hernandez originally paid:  $1.3 million.

The North Attleboro house may indeed be haunted, not only by Hernandez, but by one of his victims who spent time there: Mr. Lloyd, the murder victim.

Having lived in a haunted house, we know something about the likelihood. Unlike the Hernandez case, our realtors did not know that our home was part of the estate of two victims who died on the Titanic. We quickly learned the house was not exactly empty—and investigation showed who might be here exactly.

Our spirits are friendly, probably loved the street they lived on—but true ghosts are bound to a location from their lives. They are likely trapped on Earth, refusing to move on to another astral plane.

Apart from prospective buyers, the only people who have spent time at the Hernandez house in North Attleboro were jurors, judge, and lawyers from the first murder trial. No one wants to give the house an overnight stay. We wonder what could be there to prevent visitors from making a permanent home in the mansion.

Even in our house, there was initial resistance from the spirits who knocked down hanging pictures and made bizarre noises. They still take umbrage at unexpected company. We have had overnight guests who heard footsteps coming to their bed—checking them out before moving away to another part of the house.

Is Aaron Hernandez still stalking the rooms of his North Attleboro manse?  We wait for the brave souls who choose to live there to give us the answer.

 

Author William Russo has written two books on the subject:  The Strange Case of Aaron Hernandez and Haunting Near Virtuous Spring, about ghosts from the Titanic at his own home.

Life Begins Again for Alien Blob

DATELINE Nice Guys Finish Last

Meeting the Enemy--It's US! Pods Unite!

LIFE should never be confused with L I F E. The two movies are like night and day. Each film had some bright leading men. The first had Dane DeHaan and Robert Pattinson, a couple of actors you always play dubious characters.

The other film stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds, a couple of actors who are completely nice guys, all the time. The second L I F E is a science-fiction movie and the bad guy is a pipsqueak space alien who feeds on humans.  This allows the leading men to play like vanilla ice cream, melting slowly. Fear not: the second L I F E film is far better than the first, blank space not withstanding.

Daniel Espinosa who gave us the chlllingly depressing tale of a Russian child molester, Child 44, directs this intense combo of the Blob Meets Alien. And, it’s a doozy all right.

Because the science nerds in this film are so serious and the science is so accurate, this tale becomes more horrifying and realistic as a group of bland astronauts finds a one-cell lifeform from Mars that rapidly grows into a threat to the human race—while still on the space station.

It’s all familiar, yet fresh in a more disturbing way in the hands of Espinosa. You have your vanilla ice-cream ethnically-diverse heroes looking to follow protocol. It didn’t work in the Thing from Outer Space in 1950, and it won’t work for these guys.

If you enjoy a good squirm in your seat movie, you have one here. However, there is a considerable amount of weeping among the crew—and gnashing of teeth, rather than decisive action.

If you want to bemoan the state of today’s film plots, you need only wonder how much different this picture would have been if John Wayne had been among the crew.