El Escape de Hitler in Any Language

DATELINE:  Old Friend Dullest

dullest

This 2011 film from Argentina is only available for streaming video and has subtitles. That’s enough to send most viewers scurrying for the remote. An Argentine film uses the Spanish title: El Escape de Hitler.

However, don’t be hasty. This little film may be a lost gem in the ‘Where’s Adolph?’ sweepstakes.

The recent Bob Baer series on History channel took many ideas from this 87-minute documentary—and left out some of the most intriguing theories.

Some rather suspenseful direction from Matias Gueilburt helps to hold your interest with effective historical movie clips, and host Carlos de Napoli is hilariously mysterious in his demeanor as he follows the trail from Nuremberg and Austrian locations to the Argentine border of Bariloche where Hitler and his bride seemingly ended up.

If the area in Argentina didn’t already have a Bavarian appeal, the local German residents went all out to make it homey. They even planted trees imported from Germany to make the local lake look even more like the Fatherland.

Our old friend from the CIA, Allen Dulles, shows up here as the man who orchestrated a deal with Hitler to have him disappear in exchange for all those rocket scientists who later put an American on the Moon. This sort of discounts all those Ancient Alien types who think Hitler jumped instead into a time machine called The Bell and took off for parts in the distant future.

So, with American cover, the Nazi murdering monster went missing while everyone looked the other way. Flown out of his bunker well before the Soviets came by, he jumped onto a U-boat and disembarked in Argentina, traveling across the country to the Andes.

If true, Hitler and his wife lived out their golden years in a remote luxury mansion with all the accoutrements of Alpine living, including their round-the-clock security and nearby airplane for a fast getaway.

It’s fascinating, if nothing else.

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Neruda’s Politics Over Poetry

DATELINE:  Chile Politics

neruda

Pablo Larrain’s other important movie this past year, besides Jackie, is another off-beat biographical drama, this time centering on Chilean poet and political activist Pablo Neruda.

The film Neruda puts its focus on a year-long period in 1948 when the poet was targeted by the Chilean government for arrest and explains his attempts to flee the country while being chased by some kind of Victor Hugo-styled police detective. Bernal is utterly breath-taking in his 1940s wardrobe.

Told from the viewpoint of Gael Gabriel Bernal as the police pursuer, you have a man of no consequence taking his identity from chasing the biggest figure in his country’s history. As the cop finally begs the audience, “I am not a supporting character,” and we feel that Larrain is in total agreement.

The film hints that the pursuer was a creation of Neruda’s paranoia or of his self-important art. We tend to support the group that prefers to remember that Nobel Prize winner Neruda was a Stalinist communist, unrepentant and disdainful of much else.

In 1948 Chile perhaps it was chichi to be an unrelenting communist chased by a relentless secret police officer. Peanut-sized actor Bernal is strikingly brilliant in his dogged role. Luis Gnecco is equal in his performance as the frumpy, profligate poet Neruda.

Americans may wonder how this uninspired-looking man could motivate his nation as a martyr, or give voice to the downtrodden, that sent many who helped him to prison. It is all part of Larrain’s poetic vision of cat-and-mouse politics.

We must admit that the notion that an unimportant pawn of political corruption drawing his identity from hounding a greater man for his beliefs is a fascinating topic.

The film is fully realized, one of two powerful political dramas this year by the South American filmmaker Pablo Larrain, now taking part in Hollywood mainstream.

Neruda will be intriguing for those of a certain socialist political bent. The rest of us will conclude Neruda and the Nobel Prize are overrated, but the movie is not.

Becket’s Unspeakable Love Story

Becket Cavorting Adults

DATELINE: Burton & O’Toole in Epical Struggle

In 1964 came the extraordinary event of a literate play turned into an epic movie. This was the Hollywood version of Murder in the Cathedral.  The more mundane play version by Jean Anhouilh was called simply Becket.  Its Broadway incarnation was a legend with Laurence Olivier and Anthony Quinn playing the leads, and exchanging roles every other night.

So, the movie version had big shoes to fill. Director Peter Glenville went out and arranged for the two biggest stars of the decade to go head-to-head:  Welsh Richard Burton, fresh off Cleopatra’s couch, and Irish Peter O’Toole, fresh off an Arabian oasis.

Everyone expected fireworks, but the two stars actually liked each other.

The movie shows it. O’Toole’s Henry II is utterly hysterical, and funny too. Burton’s Thomas Beckett is somber and sly. You will first be shocked at how young they are: the dissipation would set in, like dry rot, over the next decade.

They enjoyed their roles because, as O’Toole said at the time, in two blockbuster movies he was allowed a love interest of camels (Lawrence of Arabia) and Burton (Becket). And Burton was allowed only Elizabeth Taylor as his love interest. So, it was a natural affair between the actors.

Love interest indeed!

The docudrama goes grandiose in damp castles and Sherwood Forest, as Henry and Becket are like smitten boyfriends. That was the historical take—as no one could really figure how the Norman king and the Saxon aide-de-camp could be so entwined.

In a series of long capes, O’Toole is flashy and a hoot—and Burton’s character becomes more ethical and somber. Henry made Becket the recipient of many gifts: deaconship, chancellor, and Archbishop of Canterbury, to win his affection. Alas, it never worked the way Henry wanted, as Becket began to oppose his schemes.

Henry threw a fit in which he basically said he was surrounded by idiots, and the smartest man in the kingdom was opposed to him.

Well, the Knights took that to mean they had to relieve their king of a strange affection. As normal heterosexuals, they figured, you kill the one he loves. It’s a British tradition.

Of course, it all backfires. Henry II did penance with flagellation—and made Becket a saint, literally, by church canon. It makes for a rousing adventure and fascinating intellectual thriller.

 

 

People’s Princess v. The Queen

 DATELINE: Ten Years Later

Queen & Country

As docudramas go, Helen Mirren’s movie about Queen Elizabeth and Princess Diana is among the best.

Now ten years later, we took another peek at the film called merely The Queen, directed by Stephen Frears and written by Peter Morgan. It has that wry detail of Diana looking back at the Queen with an accusing stare.

We don’t know how the creators know what tears, angst, and emotions, were expressed when the Queen was alone.  Mirren provides all this and more. Yes, it surely makes an exciting and intimate film performance.

This is the best of Mirren’s many queen roles, and this is the best of Michael Sheen’s many Tony Blair roles. Blair has to save the Queen from herself and her noblesse oblige family. Mirren’s Queen is witty and ultimately practical, whether this is true of the real people in the movie or not.

Actors re-enacting surely provides powerful insights into the tragic event of Princess Di’s death and the reaction of Her Royal Pains in the afterlife.

We recognized an impressive Roger Allam this time, from his Endeavour TV series, playing the Queen’s personal assistant. James Cromwell is his usual acerbic character as Prince Philip.

Mirren has many stunning moments, such as her shock when the public applauds Di’s brother after giving her eulogy. The Queen’s speech left more to be desired, even with a great actress delivering the same words.

Post Traumatic Patriots Day

Wahlberg

DATELINE:  Boston Under Attack

On occasion, you encounter a movie that is a burden to watch, but you feel utterly compelled to stay the course as your patriotic duty. Such a film is Patriots Day.

We were in our hometown Boston when the horrific Marathon bombing occurred and lived through the four days of wall-to-wall TV coverage in 2013. It seems like living self-torture through post-traumatic stress to watch and relive the movie version produced and starring Mark Wahlberg. As a Bostonian, he wanted to be sure the movie had a Boston perspective.

It does, almost to a point of caricature, with accents flowering and scenes filmed mostly on location. Watertown residents preferred not to relive the mayhem in their backyards, and a different set was used for those climactic scenes of a Wild West shootout with two local residents turned terrorists.

If there is much to admire in this docudrama, police and detective work as well as FBI heroism is top of the list. In a matter of hours, starting from scratch, an entire operation and manhunt was created with tireless work from police, hospital workers, and citizens.

The film probably will best be seen years from now with more perspective on events, like the film Parkland about the Kennedy assassination, made 50 years after it happened. The raw nerves of the Marathon event are too fresh, still, to not feel abused again by what we know as familiar names and places and inevitabilities.

Hollywood fireworks are not missing here: as the shootout with the terrorists is stunning. Performances of J.K. Simmons, John Goodman, and Kevin Bacon, are appropriately underplayed. Red Sox star and local celebrity David Ortiz plays himself.

If any question remains, it is how to handle the people who were most unhelpful: Tamerlane Tsarnaev’s American wife and Dzokhar’s pothead UMass friends. Their reputations should be mud forever, according to this movie. We would say they got off far too easily.

Since this film may be the ultimate history lesson for viewers of the future, it stands as a moment in time, close enough to events, to ensure its accuracy. If we know anything from documentary history, it is that time dilutes, distorts, and changes the perception of the age’s Zeitgeist.

We think this one will pass the test of time.

Long Forgotten Executive Action

DATELINE:  Believe It or Don’t

 action

One of the most unusual of the early theoretical movies on the Kennedy Assassination was called Executive Action from 1973, a mere ten years after the event.

Already big questions had sparked big movie stars like Burt Lancaster, Robert Ryan, and Will Geer, as well as John Anderson (often chosen to play Abe Lincoln in movies and TV) as billionaire conspirators who want the President dead.

They select a patsy who is some kind of covert double agent. His name is Oswald.

Though the film claims to be somewhat fictional, it quotes Lydon Johnson at the movie start as saying he believed that John Kennedy was killed by an unknown group. This movie, made with the participation of early assassination doubter Mark Lane, is fairly courageous and breath-taking, even after five decades.

We must also express surprise at the stars who chose to play the men who want President Kennedy dead.

The film is no cheap, low-budget affair. It is well produced and directed by David Miller who made some interesting movies in the 1950s and was written by Dalton Trumbo, the famous blacklisted writer.

This returned Grandpa Walton to the bad guy roles that made him famous early in his roles, and Will Geer is notably sinister. This was also Robert Ryan’s final film.

The angles, once thought to be outrageous, have become more acceptable in recent research. The film may not be a genuine biopic or docudrama in the sense of trying to achieve 100% truth, but this may be closer than anyone thought back in the 1970s.

More than a curio, this film is downright compelling to watch.

Shot Down by History Channel

DATELINE:  Disinvited and Unvisited

Not faked

Just two weeks after airing the first episodes of their series JFK Declassified, the reprehensible History channel has pulled the show. It’s the ultimate political shell game.

That essentially means it has gone into hiatus limbo.

Though the show was mercilessly criticized for a variety of reasons, not the least was dubious history, and most often cited as having the most egomaniacal host, Bob Baer, the show has gone, disappeared like the gunman on the grassy knoll.

Okay, okay, we were in that chorus of boohoo despisers of the fake news that the CIA is feeding us fifty years after the death of the murdered president.

Yet, there is something unseemly about the way this has been handled.

History has killed the show leaving four unaired episodes. When they will appear may be as certain as the trajectory of a magic bullet.

They could show up in a month, or a year. Or never.

Leave to History to shaft their viewers. A few may have enjoyed seeing another theory, no matter how half-baked or made to order to exonerate the CIA.  Now, they will not have any satisfaction.

Perhaps it is better to be infuriated and disappointed than to have nothing. It is an appalling mistreatment of the audience and viewers of that cable lightweight, History.

Single handedly they have gone for broke on destroying anything legitimately resembling documentary.

If you want to know who killed Cock Robin, or even JFK, you might look to the people who have killed history for a profit. They run the History channel.

 

 

Who Wears a Blackhat in Cyberspace?

DATELINE:  Guess Who?

Hemsworth or Pratt or Pine  Pratt, Pine, or Hemsworth?

When a friend called to tell us he’d seen a rather poor copy of a Michael Mann movie, we had the sorry news to inform him that Blackhat, a cyber crime thriller, recently filmed, was indeed a Michael Mann film by the venerable director of Last of the Mohicans and Collateral.

The star was reportedly Chris Pratt, Chris Hemsworth, or Chris Pine. We figured it didn’t matter which one played the stalwart hacker, or disheveled hero. We were not prepared for the star to be a matinee idol in federal prison who somehow had learned the skills of James Bond and Jason Bourne by reading in his cell.

We have reached a critical mass in society when the only people who can save the country from computer crimes are already in jail. The government must come to a deal with the hacker to win his patriotic assistance. You know this is not a winning plot-line.

What’s worse is that the U.S. must team up with an American-educated Chinese communist military computer whiz to catch the cyber blackhat before he destroys the free enterprise market. Good grief.

As you might expect in this kind of movie, the story quickly changes from a thriller catching cyber crooks into a revenge tale going after deplorable sociopaths.

We won’t bore you with the details, lest we be accused of spoiling the plot. Suffice it to say, the FBI leader on the case is played by Viola Davis who is always worth watching and is the best part of the movie.

The stars of the film seem to be targets of the bad guys and are systematically picked off. We leave it to your imagination who ends up seeking revenge against the government and the cyber hacks.

We hate to pan a movie when so many good ones deserve our attention, but Blackhat has left us with little choice. Surely your time is more valuable than to be spent on this trifle.

DNA in Unlikely Places, like Burial Shroud of Jesus

DATELINE:   Scoffers, Begone!

Jesus dna      Shroud of Turin image

Leave it to the History Channel to come up with a quest with two millennial kids who look like they have been given a banana split at the local ice cream parlor. Nonetheless, The Jesus Strand: A Search for DNA is fascinating.

In all fairness, the researchers are George Busby who is a geneticist from Oxford, and his partner is Pastor Joe Basile, with credentials in Bible Studies. They are young and exuberant.

Together they decide with the upgrade in DNA research to see if there is a strand that identifies Jesus of Nazareth and his bloodline. So, before you can hop and skip over 2000 years, they are finding the DNA results from the Shroud of Turin, and the Sudarium of Oviedo in Spain, both purported to be two cloths mentioned in the New Testament.

The jet-setting research is intriguing, and our boyish scientists only betray their preconceived notions when they reject testing bones from a Jewish ossuary that could be confirmation, or denial of a connection.

Some archeological research is new as well, like the bones found ten years ago that are 2000 years old, testing from the 1st century and called the bones of John the Baptist.

They even look at nails, less likely to maintain DNA and a dead end.

Their startling results show how much can still be learned. The blood, on the two cloths, is from the same man who died in crucifixion. With rare AB bloodtype, most prevalent in Middle Eastern people, the man thought to be Jesus shows a connection to the Druze religious sect that has kept its purity for a thousand years.

Someone in his family intermarried with Druze people, likely his mother’s side. The descendants come down from the unnamed sisters of Jesus in the gospels.

Non-believers may scoff, but still find the result not inconsistent with identifying the man of the shroud. Believers may be more inclined to reject the findings that go against their dogma.

All in all, it is a whirlwind of discovery that makes for what passes for revelations in our cynical age.

Boston Celtics Compete with GOP Debate Team

DATELINE: Presidential or Green?

Featured imageJelly O’Sully for President?

The Celtics season opener went head to head with the third Republican Presidential debate. The similarities were striking.

The Celtics have fielded about as many players as there are people running for president on the GOP side. The winnowing process appears to be slow and methodical. Those we expected to fall by the wayside have held firm—and so have the candidates. Most had predicted that Rand Paul and Jared Sullinger would be playing another game before the summer was over.

Marco Rubio and Isaiah Thomas have come off the bench, but want to be starters. And the pine riders to start the season are still four Republicans who cannot crack one percent support. Brad Stevens has ten who dare to play, and four or five others who may be off the Gallup Poll come Christmas.

The Celtics are one up one the Republicans because there is one Smart player in Green. We haven’t found too many claiming to be a Smart defensive whiz in the GOP field, though all advocate a strong defense, winning the approval of Brad Stevens.

There were five steals among the Celtics in their first game, and there were five insults from the media at the debate. There are nearly as many doubters among sports media as among CNBC.

Tyler Zeller seemed to be the Kasich of the team, receiving little respect and finding himself on the end of the bench by halftime.  Dr. Carson and Avery Bradley seem to be rising stars at the moment.

If Rondo were on this team, we might have our Trump. As it is, we have to give the title to Tommy Heinsohn who trumps all know-it-alls when it comes to insight and opinion.

We have seen a bunch of road shows for the GOP debating team, but the Celtics don’t go on the road for another week.

Stay tuned.  Someone is bound to throw a brick or sling some mud before much longer.