Broken Hearts Club, 20 Years Later

DATELINE: Sexy Romantic Comedy?

stellar cast

Of all the weird elements of the Broken Hearts Club is its subtitle, a Romantic Comedy.  It is nothing of the sort, but rather a version of a gay sex farce. That takes nothing away from its polished and entertaining qualities.

The other oddity, still years later, is the cast of all-straight men, mostly at the start of their big careers, and all playing mincing gay boys of different stripes. It’s like one of those World War II platoons with different ethnicity and stereotypes.

The cast is stellar, including Timothy Olyphant (of Deadwood and Justified) giving a slightly off performance that nearly convinces us he is gay. Of course, his kissing abilities are hot, but he has been married for years.

So has Dean Cain as the Lothario of the group and Zach Braff as the gayest queen.

The ragtag friends work part-time in some capacity or other at Jack’s a gay friendly restaurant in Los Angeles, and they play softball for the business. This gives the actors a chance to prance around in queenly fashion.

When dramatic moments are called for, the actors are highly polished and strong, even in their disappointments with love. They seem to avoid falling into bed with each other, but when it happens, look out.

Greg Berlanti writes and directs with aplomb and wit, though stereotypes are required. The young men are all 20-somethings, in the tail end of the AIDS crisis and not really part of it.

We would like the director to do a sequel and show us these men and their dissipated lives at age 50. It might prove more instructive, if not frightening, to see what happens to handsome gay men in middle-age.

Tripping Again with Coogan & Brydon

 DATELINE: Another Sequel, not Deja Vu

 tripping

No, you didn’t read this movie review last week here.

What more can you ask?  Beautiful scenery, lovely music, and witty conversation. Yes, those two British actors (one with 2 Oscar nominations) are back to delight us.

We have skipped the second trip to Italy for now and cut to the chase with Trip to Spain. These two marvelous performers can hit the road and still hit their marks. This is another followup to their British series, The Trip, condensed and made into a feature film. No, it’s not a mid-life crisis movie, despite what the New York Times claims.

They seem to make the films every three or four years, which is just about right. They are reality-based, as the stars play themselves, notable thespians and comedians on a journalistic journey for the New York Times as food critics, or culture commentators.

With each stop at a breathtaking locale, Steve Coogan foams at the mouth with his erudite knowledge. Heaven help you if you know more or have enough. Rob Brydon can match him every mile, and that makes them chemically compatible.

Each morsel is back-lit with some of the funniest conversations this side of reality. Coogan notes how sorry he feels for anyone who thinks this stuff is not scripted and fully ad-libbed. It’s likely a circle within a square is outlined and the two drop in their witticisms.

However, the impressions make all the difference over the meals. When they argue over who does the best Mick Jagger impression as he plays Hamlet, you have moments that will knock fans of Noel Coward into the aisle.

Coogan remains prickly, but Brydon manages to break him up several times this trip, which may not have been planned.

If Coogan reminds us of ourselves, then we have had a bittersweet lesson. Sheer delight awaits the viewer.

 

 

 

The Wilder Sherlock

DATELINE:  Sherlock Takes a Bath!

 Stephens & Blakely

When master auteur Billy Wilder (who gave us gems like Sunset Boulevard, Some Like It Hot, One Two Three) gives us his take on Sherlock Holmes, we are ready for something unusual. So, we overly anticipated watching his film The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.

All that promise seems to go up in a cocaine dream as an overlong movie that could be half-an-hour shorter and more succinct, maintaining the early humor.

Wilder puts all your standard Holmes patter into the pot (Mrs. Hudson, Mycroft, and irritation with Dr. Watson’s stories). That stuff is quite amusing.

The first third of the film is filled with the kind of humor you expect from Wilder—sophisticated, sharp, and delightful. He raises the ugly specter that Holmes and Watson are consenting adults—and he makes more comprehensible, Holmes turning to his seven-percent solution.

Funny bits with the Russian ballet, and boring cases about midgets, make us think we are entering a funnier world than Conan Doyle envisioned.

Colin Blakely is a delightful Dr. Watson, and Robert Stephens protests too much about being a woman-hating fop. He plays Holmes with a tad flamboyance, disdaining deerstalker hats and women equally. He is more than a fop. We are almost in panty-waist territory.

Christopher Lee is around as a more peripatetic Mycroft, showing up in places other than the Diogenes.

Wilder cannot throw away a line. Midgets come back to haunt us, after one bad joke. And having Queen Victoria seem to resemble a Munchkin is over the top and under the height limit for small talk.

Throw in the Loch Ness monster of sorts, and you have something that would later be taken as gospel by the Robert Downey school of Sherlock acting and writing.

We wished the Private Life of Sherlock could have been taken for better, not for worse. We remain loyal in sickness and health, good and bad.

 

 

How Many Oscars to Put Up a Billboard?

DATELINE:  Ebbing Tide!

McDormand

Two major Oscars went to the star actors of Three Billboards Near Hibbing, Minnesota, or was it Ebbing, Missouri?

We think the ridiculous title seemed laughable at first, but becomes seriously apt by the end.

Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell play borderline sociopathic and violent characters who are held in check by the small-town sheriff played by Woody Harrelson.

Audiences have been deeply bothered by a racist cop (who may be latently gay) and vindictive mother of a murdered girl who become, weirdly, sympathetic, owing to the brilliant performances of Oscar winners Rockwell and McDormand.

The audience faces a story wherein characters repent and try to mend their nasty ways. It’s not looked upon with much favor. It becomes far worse if they turn into outright vigilantes, leaving us with complete moral and ethical ambiguity. We seem to forget Bruce Willis has just released his remake of Death Wish, the ultimate film about taking the law into one’s hands, just to entertain us.

The Oscar winners are surrounded by other tour de force actors, playing small-town Missourians to the hilt. And, there were likely no other stars who could have played the leads: we doubt that Meryl Streep or Tom Cruise could have pulled it off with such aplomb or lack of glamour.

The story has absurdist elements that make for that most deplorable of all genres: dramedy or black comedy, with fewer and fewer laughs along the way.

Perhaps life is not so black and white as good guys and bad after all, but our movies usually refuse to reflect this. This film challenges its audience to live with moral ambiguity in their art, as well as in life.

This is the first movie in quite some time in which characters mention Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde in the same scene, among other quirks, making this the most intriguing film of the year.

 

 

 

Alabama: Home of Vixen Lolita Teenagers

DATELINE: Roy Humbert Humbert Moore

Lolita

Actress Sue Lyon as 14-year-old Lolita in 1962

You have to feel sorry for Judge Moore: he was constantly being tempted by a series of Alabama-style Lolita temptresses.

Alabama has once again thrust itself into the laughingstock of the United States. Not since George Wallace tried to block little girls from going to school have we seen such paleo-imbeciles, excepting Jeff Sessions testifying in Congress.

Are they all so backward as Judge Roy Beanbag Moore, the crypto-Nazi who disdains every scandalous sin except his own?

Alabama has thrust itself to the forefront of backward backwoods people—sort of like Afghanistan politics in America.

We knew for sure that you might find someone standing in the doorway, blocking the schools in Alabama, but we never suspected that Judge Moore was sizing up the undergraduate sophomores in the high school as potential “dates.”

Yes, a man who wants to be in the US Senate has a past worthy of a man in the Roman Senate 2000 years ago when emperors and senators could buy teenagers for sex without recrimination.

Alabama might serve as the headquarters for pedophiles in politics. At the least, it is the newly discovered capital of Nabokov’s Lolita-ville.

We did not know it was still possible in Alabama to hold court like a combination of Roman emperors and Ozark hillbillies.

However, Judge Moore has drawn parallels to himself and the Holy Bible. Alas, he missed the point that the man interested in young nubile girls was Herod Antipas—and his intended was step-daughter Salome. Now that might better serve as the metaphor of choice for Moore supporters.

The price this time for victory may be Trump sending Sessions back to the Senate, appointed by the Alabama governor, payment for creating a special prosecutor to investigate and to jail his political enemies. It’s the price of good people doing nothing.

Those paragons of virtue and defenders of morality at Breitbart News have sent undercover operatives to dig up dirt on the accusers, or make up dirt if that is the only other alternative.

We have already recommended Alabama as the Neanderthal’s vision of making America great again. Welcome to the new America that starts to resemble Nazi Germany.

 

 

Dr. Strangelove and Nuclear Bombs Away

DATELINE:  Kim Versus Trump

riding the a-bomb

Slim Pickens Rides the A-Bomb into Oblivion

With all the hubbub about North Korea turning its nuclear weapons upon US and using several dozen miniature bombs to hit the major cities, we thought it was time to reconsider Stanley Kubrick’s classic 1964 movie, Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

Mr. Trump is hardly a dead-ringer for Peter Sellers who played the bald Adlai Stevenson-style president of the country, discussing nuclear destruction with his generals in the War Room.

There we find General George C. Scott fighting with the Russian ambassador, issuing the famous order: “Gentlemen, there will be no fighting in the War Room.”

With nuclear annihilation on the doorstep, back in those days, people knew how to deal with the thought of instant evaporation and annihilation in a mushroom cloud. Today friends from California are saying goodbye to loved ones on the East Coast.

We know that Donald Trump will never tell his generals not to fight in the War Room, and we can hear the placid, slightly sad tones of Vera Lynn as she sang the World War II favorite for fatalists:

We’ll meet again,
Don’t know where, don’t know when,
But I know we’ll meet again
Some sunny day.
Keep smiling through,
Just like you always do,
‘Till the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away.

So will you please say hello
To the folks that I know,
Tell them I won’t be long.
They’ll be happy to know
That as you saw me go,
I was singing this song

We’ll meet again,
Don’t know where,
Don’t know when,
But I know we’ll meet again,
Some sunny day.

Writer(s): Parker Ross, Hughie Charles, Hugh Charles
Lyrics powered by http://www.musixmatch.com

Sizzle Fizzle Melt Down for Holden & Hepburn

 DATELINE: Paris When It Sizzles

melt down Holden & Hepburn

With the godawful title of 1964’s Paris When It Sizzles, you have two glorious stars of the 1950s on the cusp of making lesser films.

William Holden plays his patented, jaded screenwriter (shades of Sunset Boulevard) with a drinking problem made light (though Holden went into detox during filming).

Hepburn hardly fits the role of a typist secretary in a Givenchy wardrobe, but the film is spritely written in Noel Coward witty style and gives us a bad movie within the less bad movie, using the play-within-a-play device.

Genres of grade-B films are broadly satirized, including Holden in the Dracula role for a few laughs. It’s an insider laugh, but we thought he should have costarred with his pal Lucille Ball as the secretary, but Hepburn is lover-ly.

Noel Coward actually is in the film as a movie producer, and he does have a marvelous scene with Holden. The cast is populated with unbilled names like Marlene Dietrich, Mel Ferrer, with Sinatra singing the fake movie title song, and Fred Astaire singing for a Hepburn scene.

Why did Audrey Hepburn hate it so? It probably was fun to make, and it is fun to watch when she calls Holden a well-preserved middle-aged man, or when he compares the movies Frankenstein to My Fair Lady.

Another notable star of the ‘50s plays “the second policeman,” in the fake movie and is reminded he is not an important character. He too is delightful, though we won’t spoil it by naming him.

George Axelrod’s script is flippant, and Paris is definitely there in the background. We enjoyed it, but it falls into the category of a most guilty pleasure.

 

 

Twin Peaks, Trump Plains, & Celtics Lows

DATELINE:  LeBron James as Laura Palmer, Trump as D.B. Cooper

glowing orb

Chicken or egg? We can’t figure out if the Trump Administration has prepared us for the new series Twin Peaks, or whether Twin Peaks has prepared us for the continuing weirdness of the Trump presidency.

When we see President Trump putting his hands on a glowing orb, we know there is a conspiracy of billionaires to control the world. Of course, it is merely a futuristic ribbon-cutting scene from the most recent Star Wars movie. Either that, or it is opening a gateway to an alternate universe, like the plots of Twin Peaks.

By the same token, we feel as if watching the Cleveland Cavaliers with the Boston Celtics is like knitting by Madame Defarge while royalty is having their heads chopped off.

On Twin Peaks, agent DB Cooper has returned to the northwest after disappearing for 25 years. That David Lynch has such a sense of humor.  So far, McLachlan has not rubbed any glowing orbs, but has kissed dead Laura Palmer (Cheryl Lee).

On the Celtics, little Cousin IT (Isaiah Thomas) and AB (Avery Bradley) are from the same neck of the woods in Washington state which happens to be the setting for Twin Peaks. It could explain a lot about how the Celtics are playing like Laura Palmer’s body wrapped in plastic.

Even stranger, we were amazed to see Kyle McLachlan and Sheryl Lee looking just like they stepped out of a 1990s TV show.  It becomes even more amazing when David Lynch has to inject a phrase at the end of every episode of the show that the episode is dedicated to the memory of one of the cast members who is now dead. We mean really really dead dead, like the log lady Catherine Coulson and the FBI agent played by Miguel Ferrer.

As for the dead Celtics, they are merely playing in an alternate universe, sort of like Twin Peaks 25 years later. If there is a glowing orb in the NBA, they better start rubbing it now. Lebron is no Laura Palmer.

Twin Peaks Returns from the Dead

 DATELINE:  Will the Real Harry Truman Ever Show Up?

twin peaks

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

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

That marvelous opening music is back.

Well, he-yah we are.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom Brady Heads Kentucky Derby Delegation

DATELINE: Derby or Bust

QB fest

In an annual rite of spring, the Patriots are putting all their eggs in one post-Easter basket.

This year Tom Brady is again hosting a planeful of players at the Kentucky Derby. Last season he took Gronk, among others, who is left off the guest list this time. Perhaps there was a conflict with his Wrestlemania commitments.

This time Brady has fellow QBs of the Patriots, Jimmy G and Jackie Bissett, as his seconds and thirds.  Pardon us if we worry about putting Brady’s QB backups in the same private jet traveling cross country in this age of NFL QBs retiring to do broadcasts.

Don’t even ask how much it will cost Tom to foot the bill for this annual vacation for his pals. Thank heavens his wife is rapidly approaching billionaire status.

We aren’t sure of the wisdom of putting the Designated Survivors all on the same jet to Churchill Downs. Hasn’t Bill Belichick been watching that miniseries with Kiefer Sutherland?

The Patriots are even going so far as to allow a former Patriot quarterback to tag along (photos by Scott Zolak, now a publicity hound for radio and TV broadcasts).

We expect to see more hats than Hedda Hopper wore on the recent series about Bette and Joan worn by our Patriot attendees. High fashion is a de rigueur component of the Derby pre-game festival.

That’s nothing for Tom who often wears clothes by Tom Ford, former fashion designer to the stars, and now film director of weird movies like Nocturnal Animals.

To meet that side of the guest list, you can find nocturnal animal Julian Edelman (subbing for Giselle).

Impostors, Great & Small

DATELINE: Smarmy Smarty-pants

smarty smarmy Tony Curtis at Play

Tony Curtis was sliding into a different phase of his career by the mid-1960s. One of the earliest of these odd, new films, was titled The Great Impostor. Here he played Ferdinand Demara, a man who pretended to be a doctor, a priest, a teacher, and did other jobs—superbly, according to witnesses.

He was, first and foremost, a fake and a fraud. Yet, the movie of 1961 plays him as a fun-loving prankster, not a man guilty of identity theft.

Never having seen this motion picture, we were compelled by a neighbor who revealed she was a student of the Great Impostor in high school in Winchendon, Mass. He went by the name of Mr. Thorne and was an excellent instructor before authorities took him away.

This all-star picture features Karl Malden, Gary Merrill, Edmund O’Brien, Arthur O’Connell, Frank Gorshin, Raymond Massey, Robert Middleton, and a plethora of familiar faces from TV of the 1950s and 1960s. It was also directed by notable Robert Mulligan. There was nothing shabby here—except the attitude.

Curtis always had a regrettable habit to turn smarmy with an overbite of sugar when he was let loose. Here, his character goes beyond having no idea that he is far worse than a childish mischief maker. Alas, the movie also has the same problem.

A man with a brilliant memory and intelligence, Demara demeans people in authority by his pretense, as if the vanity of small-time bureaucrats deserves come-uppance. Curtis savors the chance too readily.

Isn’t there too much contempt for patients he operates upon? For religious rites of devout people? For patriotism of American soldiers? Demara amuses himself with his own shenanigans—and we are along for the ride.

Tony Curtis is in his own world of acting here; the audience is immaterial when it comes to his brash and frivolous performance.

As a depiction of an era and its values, this movie hits home, but as my neighbor said of her meeting with the real Demara, he was no Tony Curtis.

 

 

Tom Brady & Giselle Host Gala at the Met

 DATELINE:  La Dolce Vita

 duke & duchess of Foxboro   trevi

Duke & Duchess of Foxboro Smooching like Marcello & Anita

The ashes and embers of the late Aaron Hernandez from cremation have not even cooled off for Tom’s  dead pal and occasional murderer.

Yet, Tom Brady is running up and down the grand staircase at the Met Gala, dressed in a nattily Tom Ford designed dinner jacket with matching bowtie.

Brady is single-handedly bringing back the concept of metrosexuality. As for Hernandez, let the dead bury the dead.

Together with his wife Giselle Bundchen, the New England Patriot power couple appears like a New York power couple, not our suburban couple from Foxboro, Glendale, or Brookline. You’d almost think Tom played for the Giants.

Staying at their Manhattan co-op apartment, they fit right into the New York art scene. Tom and Gisele can play the Duke and Duchess of Windsor until they’re in their 70s.

Why mingle with the hoi polloi like Julian Edelman and Gronk when you can hobnob with the swells at the Met?

Indeed, the mighty Brady couple are playing together like the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, over a decade younger than the Boston power couple. Of course, pretension in the society pages is a great deal more fun than eating buffalo wings at the Super Bowl.

Tom and Gisele are posing like Young Love for the adoring fans and cameras.  You almost have to ignore the onset of middle-age when they show up.

We almost felt like they were turning the clock back to the 1950s single-handedly. Where is Federico Fellini when you need him? We expect Tom and Gisele to stroll fully clothed into the Fountain of Trevi in Rome as their next publicity stunt.

Old-Time Screw-Ball Comedy from the Jack Benny Vault

DATELINE:  Lost Satire

Fred Allen

In the 1940s movies drew its fledgling stars from the ranks of radio comedians—like Bob Hope, Jack Benny, and in 1944, they called upon sharp satirist Fred Allen. Barely recalled nowadays, he came upon the movie world as an unlikely iconoclast, especially during the patriotic days of World War II.

Yes, in the world of major studios, to have someone biting the hand that feeds him was a rare event. It’s in the Bag was middle-aged, baggy-eyed Allen’s debut on the big screen.

Allen rakes American foibles over the coals with the best of them—and it was a strange treat to see small-time American business, intellectuals, politics, lawyers, police, hotels, and middle-class morality under siege.

Allen takes on greed in America as his main target. He plays a flea-circus owner whose grand-uncle leaves him millions in a last will and testament. Of course, his uncle’s corrupt lawyer (John Carradine) and business partners have swindled the old man out of the money—and have had him bumped off.

For odd reasons, it sends Fred Allen on a quest to recover money hidden in an old heirloom chair he has given away. In his travels he meets Jack Benny (playing a vain skinflint named Jack Benny).  He flatters Benny by telling him, based on Jack’s radio show jokes, he thought he was a much older man. Benny counters that he will be of voting age next year.

It’s in the Bag is cynical and sharp, dispatching opening movie credits by Allen as a bunch of names you’d find in a phone book, or hangers-on relatives of the movie’s producer. He yearns for the day when movies will dispatch opening credits completely.

It’s not a great movie, not even a great comedy, but it is an unusual gemstone that puts a timeless, irreverent, insouciant, iconoclastic spin on dumb-founded American culture. No wonder we were charmed by it.

 

 

 

 

Round Seven: Feud, Crawford Down for Count

DATELINE:  Series on Bette & Joan Continues…

Real Feud

A re-teaming of Crawford and Davis in a second movie was never going to work, despite filming on location in Louisiana and hypocritical attempts at camaraderie by the stars.

Joan Crawford soon went on strike by feigning illness.

Feud, the series with Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon, spends the penultimate episode on the crisis during Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte. The two stars seemed to realize their careers were never enough to compensate for their shortcomings in personal life. Yet, they continued to self-destruct personally.

Interestingly, the miniseries puts more focus on the failed mother-daughter relationship between Bette and BD. We never see Christina Crawford interact with her mother, despite the famous Mommie Dearest legend.

The episodes rely heavily on the bad karma and worse characters that emerged from the slice and dice books done by the two daughters of the stars in subsequent years. Bette and Joan were done irreparable harm by the tell-all, revenge books by their progeny.

We told Miss Davis in 1986 that the BD Hyman book would never have a lasting impact to assuage the aging and distraught star. We don’t think she believed us, but responded politely to the reassurance. How wrong we were 31 years ago.

As for the episode in the sweep of Hollywood vindictiveness, we never hear why Bette nixed Vivien Leigh for the replacement for Joan—likely because Leigh won the coveted Scarlett O’Hara role that Bette wanted. It is also stated that Loretta Young and Barbara Stanwyk turned down the key part in Charlotte because they were friends of Joan.

The emergence of Olivia De Havilland as the new co-star likely was the result of her ties to Bette, though even Livy suggested they call her sister Joan Fontaine to take over from the other Joan.

Juicy gossip has become the printed legend of whatever happened to the two star subjects of Feud. The knock-out punch should arrive in the final episode.

 

 

Brady & Gronk Chase Their Tales

DATELINE:  Dumb Opening Acts

 re-stolen jersey

When an aging 40-year old superstar QB chases down a superstar tight end coming off back surgery, you have the potential for a Super Nova.

This is the kind of tale told when you sit around a campfire and explain it to your grandchildren at the end of the 21st century.

In space terms, that’s one Big Bang.

If you see stars falling out of Super Bowl LII, you may think Belichick’s mantra of “One More,” could take on all the elements of Greek tragedy.

If you like your bangs with medical accoutrements, you may be in a body cast up to your earlobes with a cast of super stupid stars.

Instead of the Alpha, jock humor will be the Omega of the Patriots firmament.

Many fans, and Bob Kraft too, must have looked aghast upon the Great Chase of Brady after Gronk who re-stole the infamous Super Bowl jersey. Only Bob Kraft saw millions of dollars going down on the Fenway short right field.

If you want to steal the fire from heaven, you could end up in Hades.

The last time we saw a chase like this, it was in a Buster Keaton silent film about the Civil War called The General. The old locomotive went into the drink—and that was that.

Imagine losing your two biggest NFL stars at an MLB ceremony. It would be like Hertz giving Avis a bunch of flat tires. If you want to kick the tires on Brady and Gronk, you might wonder how they manage to run the field when Tony Romo retires the same day at a median of their ages owing to injury.

On the other hand, you might like the feistiness of the young pup Brady, having discovered his second childhood, and the quick, nimble recovery of a man prone to back pain. You may like to live dangerously.

Fortunately, the Great Fenway Chase was about as scripted as a Three Stooges skit about a week back.