Russian Agents in The Serpent

DATELINE: Cold War Star Vehicle Still Resonates

the serpent

If deals with the Russians worries you, we found the perfect movie: The Serpent, a movie from the height of the Cold War that you may have missed. We are not sure it even played in American theatres.

We remain stunned by the stellar cast:  Henry Fonda, playing the head of the CIA, a version of Allen Dulles; his counterpart from England, in the person of Dirk Bogarde, and Farley Granger as Fonda’s aide-de-camp. Also around is 1940s star Robert Alda (yes, Alan’s father) as an interrogator of Russian defector Yul Brynner. Virna Lisi is around as  femme fatale. This concoction was directed by French master Henri Verneuil.

This is wishful John LeCarre, pulled from the bottom drawer of your spy genre. Yet, it is compelling to see the stars walking through the CIA headquarters in the age before computers.

We loved the scene of Brynner wired up for a lie detector test. He has more cables on him than an Xfinity technician, including a facial harness that Mr. Ed once wore.

We are shown the hard-working CIA agents at Langley—and it is hard work because they have to read stacks of newspapers and listen to radio broadcasts. There are computers in the CIA, but forget unobtrusiveness. These computers pre-date Marshall McLuhan. Not one is smaller than a two-story house.

Brynner plays one of the Kremlin bigwigs thrown out of power by Brezhnev in the mid-1960s—and he has plenty to tell the Americans, if they deign to trust him.

The Russians were pulling the wool over the eyes of Americans when Trump was a young entrepreneur without a thought of collusion.

By lending their considerable presence to the shenanigans, you have something more than a low-budget spy drama. We hesitate to call it a thriller. It could more rightly be labelled a sleeper. We certainly enjoyed it.

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Nero Trump: USFL’s Revenge

DATELINE: The Sky is Falling

 USFL

Nero Trump with his USFL star Hershel Walker

If the New England Patriots played in a domed stadium, we would be tempted to say the roof is caving in.

Instead, we are more like a giant Chicken Little, running around, in a panic, reporting to Patriot fans everywhere.  We wish we could be more like William Dawes or Paul Revere, making that midnight ride.

We would be calling out as we rode down Mass. Ave. in Cambridge, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”

In the Foxboro Empire of the once powerful and mighty New England Patriots, it’s beginning to look a lot like the fall of the Roman Empire.  The Huns are at the gates of Gillette Stadium, and it is no longer a safe haven where Patriots could their victories.

Our latest Caesar, Emperor Nero Trump, our lord of the flies, is presiding over the fall season. And the Patriots are in for a big fall.

Robert Kraft, member of the Three Stooge NFL owners’ consortium, may need to Stooges take a knife to his bath where all good members of the NFL family of owners cut their wrists.

It’s beginning to look like the NFL needs to find a Spartacus to stand up to Laurence Olivier Trump.

In the meantime, the Patriots are in decline as Roger Goodell always wanted. Yet, his intentions may be thwarted by the President who once was blackballed by the NFL and not allowed to own a team like the Patriots. Who remembers the USFL?  Perhaps only Donald Nero Trump.

With his Patriot friends, Nero Trump is out for blood from the NFL.  If you recall, some decades ago, they froze him out of the owners’ circle and denied his attempt to become an NFL owner in 1986 with his USFL team.

Revenge is sweet, three decades later for the President who was denied a chance to own an NFL team like the Patriots.

Melania Trump Suffers from Bookworms

DATELINE:  Beauty Meets the Beast

Melania

Immigrant-come-lately Melania Trump will find no sanctuary in one of the biggest sanctuary cities in the United States. They have put her on ICE.

Our beautiful and exotic First Lady has run headlong into a beastly book monster.

A librarian in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has rejected any overture of kindness from the First Lady—and has not shown her American hospitality in the least.

In an age when most young people are not encouraged to read and won’t do much reading, except on Twitter where sentences are limited to 140 characters, a self-righteous librarian has decided to burn the books gifted to her library in Cambridgeport.

Mrs. Trump sent to the library about a dozen books written by Dr. Seuss as part of a gift she dispersed around the nation.

Melania would read them to her young son, Barron, several years ago and thought they would be a wonderful gift to any well-stocked library.

She didn’t consider they already had some editions, and she didn’t consider maybe she should’ve sent them to an underprivileged library of some wayward public school without much resource.

Nor did Mrs. Trump suspect that among liberal activists, Dr. Seuss is now considered even more suspect of being a secret racist–and hiding it in plain sight of the Grinch.

This gave a liberal librarian the opportunity to say nay– and throw kerosene on the books and bric-a-brac at the First Lady.

Not since Joseph Goebbels took over the libraries of Nazi Germany have we seen such anti-intellectual attitude. And this, from a librarian who prefers to read children books about same sex pecadillos and union organizers.

Mrs. Obama often read the Dr. Seuss books to young students during her visits to school children when she was First Lady. Somehow between Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Trump, the books in question became racist. At least in the mind of one liberal librarian.

So, banning books now has moved directly into the most liberal bastion in America:  Cambridge, Mass., where we once lived as a child—and hated Dr. Seuss as a sidelight.

Little did we know that indoctrination was part of our education.

Mrs. Trump now has been infected by bookworms.

 

 

Stranger Bedfellow: Peyton Manning

DATELINE:  Super Bowl Hay Woven into Political Gold

At one point during the heyday of Tom Brady, way back when he was young, everyone thought that the future for Tom Brady, Donald Trump’s quondam friend would be a career in politics. He had the red hat and he had the swagger.

Trump even lobbied him as a husband for Ivanka a dozen years ago. Tom’s certainly a better catch than Jared Kushner.

There was inevitable talk he would seek a role in political office in Massachusetts, though the state is probably a tad more liberal for him than his actual politics. Tom doesn’t need deodorant because avocado ice cream smells better than it looks.

However, the Trump people may be more delighted with that pizza-slinging huckster-cum-politician Peyton Manning.

The man who plays more golf with Trump than Brady is a rank conservative icon. Yes, word is out that Tennessee may be needing a new senator next year–and Peyton Manning has a “Hail Mary” chance and pass in his future.

Considered highly popular among those who never kneel except in church, and well-known not just for his on-field antics, but his off-field commercials, he knows something about sound bites.

Jingles and jingoism are not alien to Peyton. Nationwide Insurance and health care are up his passer rating. Just ask him to hum a bar or two.

We wait to discover whether his conservative ultra-right positions will sit well with the American public in general.  We know they will likely sit quite well in Tennessee, where the Beverly Hillbillies originally hailed—and where bluegrass is unusually red around the neck.

Politics makes strange bedfellows, and nothing could be stranger than to find Tom Brady still playing in the NFL– and Peyton Manning in the United States Senate.

Trump Takes on Superstars of Sport

 DATELINE:  Trump Begins to Rival Dumb & Dumber

Dumb America    King Trump Wears the Crown Well

As one of the Deplorables who voted for President Trump to be our leader, we are frankly becoming more alarmed and embarrassed by our selection.  

Once again at one of the Nazi-style Putsch rallies, Mr. Trump called out and called for firing of any NFL athlete who takes a knee during the National Anthem.  He also slandered private sector workers by calling the knee-jerk protester:  “a son of a bitch.”
 

We are not fans of this particular choice of protest at professional sports events, and certainly not a fan of Mr. Colin Kaepernick, the main instigator. However, we do tend to believe that people have a right to vote and speak freely.
 

If you’re keeping track, this is yet again another case of Mr. Trump calling for a private citizen to be fired from his job for political speech. Not coincidentally, all of these people are black or people of color. That strikes us as disturbing. That does tend to put a dark hue on the President’s darker feelings. Whether you work for ESPN, or the NFL, you have a right to express yourself. 

Trump also denigrated basketball champion superstar Steph Curry by rescinding an invitation given to visit the White House. Curry is what you might call “high-yellow,” the lightest form of being a person of color. Trump did not rescind an invitation to Tom Brady who also did not attend the White House rally. 

Trump’s tirade has caused strange bedfellows to join hands: Roger Goodell has called the President divisive and ignoring all the good done by NFL players. And LeBron James, on the NBA, had more choice words for the leader of the world. 

We are beginning to become worried that the President of the United States wants to dismantle the US Constitution.  

And, as someone who claims he is against white supremacy is he certainly is the pin a boy for that philosophy. 

We suspect we’re not the only ones who were horrified when the president of the United States refers to American citizens as “sons of bitches.”  while advocating firing these concussed people of color who work outside the government. 

Pardon us for saying “yikes.” 

No Crying Jag for Crying Game

 DATELINE:  Sexual Politics in the IRA

 jaye

 

Twenty-five years ago, The Crying Game was nominated for Oscar’s Best Picture and co-star Jaye Davidson was a nominee for supporting star. Davidson stayed in movies a few more years before deciding to drop out, disliking the attention.

Director Neil Jordan made his reputation with the movie and worked deliberately since, with Interview with the Vampire standing out from his oeuvre.

The Crying Game uses the terrorism of the Irish Republic Army as a backdrop for sexual politics.

The impressive cast is so young and fresh: Forrest Whitaker as a British soldier, Stephen Rea as his abductor, Miranda Richardson as a firebrand radical, with Jim Broadbent—and, of course, Jaye Davidson as the striking main squeeze of Forrest Whitaker.

The film is two distinct halves: the capture of the victim and his ordeal, and Rea’s escape to England to find Whitaker’s paramour (at the request of the prisoner).

Twists of the plot and turns of the body politic make for Jordan’s unusual take on how radical agendas may be dwarfed by the personal foibles of the participants.

If someone spoiled the story-line for you, curses on them. You need to see this to figure it out—and the clues are omnipresent from the easy friendship between Rea and Whittaker, to the odd Metro bar where Dil sings after daywork as a hairdresser.

Where Rea’s IRA escapee seems too easily manipulated by the women around him, the women are forceful and willing to take charge.

Jordan throws pop music handily into the plot—from Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman,” to the ultimate, “Stand by Your Man,” sung by Tammy Wynette. There is subtext here, mostly found in the song of the movie title, lip-synched by Davidson effectively in one scene.

Watching the film, you will know why it was all the rage a generation ago—and remains topical and effective today.

 

Not John Wayne’s Searchers

DATELINE:  Ultimate Patsy

bocover Booth & Oswald

The 2017 documentary takes an unusual angle to examine the Kennedy Assassination by focusing on the many, many private researchers who have devoted their lives to uncovering the truth.

They have fought valiantly against slander, libel, and the CIA stooges who have denigrated their work. These include a mostly aging group, including forensic doctor Cyril Wecht, and the late searchers Mark Lane and John Judge.  These three exemplify a group that has taken on history’s blinders.

If you don’t think something is hidden, then you don’t know that most important documents are sealed for another 25 years. Most of the culprits who either were responsible for President Kennedy’s death, or covered it up, will be way beyond earthly justice.

The CIA has admitted there have been hundreds of journalists working for them, some exclusively on denigrating any attack on the Warren Commission, the voluminous monstrosity created by CIA Director Allen Dulles who hated the Kennedys. Trump is right about the fake news and corrupt media: it starts with the Kennedy cover-up with media plants.

The documentary takes direct aim at the excusers of conspiracy. Indeed, the notion of “assassination buff” or “conspiracy theorist” was coined by the CIA and its minions to put a negative connotation on those who disagreed that Oswald acted alone.

The documentary pulls no punches in putting a shame on Dan Rather for his early lies and Gerald Posner for continuing the sham.

Meticulous private investigators are now aging and falling by the wayside. It was the plan all along—when the heretics die off, all that will be left is the coverup story.

Fascinating compilation of searchers, researchers, and fading information is well-worth the attention of a new generation.

ultimate patsy

Unsolved History: Death of Marilyn 1962

DATELINE: Carted Away

carted away

So long, Norma Jean

The old Discovery series holds up as a marvel of scientific accuracy. Take, for instance, their 2003 look at the strange circumstances surrounding the death of legendary actress Marilyn Monroe.

As the third episode of the second season, it may be worth your streaming download to put to bed all those conspiracy theories that she was murdered for threatening the Kennedy brothers (President and Attorney General) that she would reveal secrets about UFOs.

The episode brings together a witness from the original autopsy, a pharmacologist, and a forensic psychiatrist. It also pulls together a brilliant re-enactment and actual photo evidence.

Since the location of her death, a modest cottage in Los Angeles is now a parking lot, they build the room in which she saw her last minutes of life.

Using old mimeographed photos, as the originals are gone, they decorated the room to a minute detail: it was a stark, non-glamorous location filled with clutter. It had no decorations or artwork to express personality. It was the ultimate banal chamber of a drug addict without concern for the world.

Marilyn eschewed her usual sleeping pills and took just about all of Nembutal that she had purchased the day before.

Her body could have been re-arranged, or moved, but the series proved she locked the door—and went about her grim task.

One researcher insists that she was given drugs through an enema to kill her—but the show proved that the drugs would dissolve in her system within 20 minutes, time enough to put her out before death descended within an hour or so.

Occasionally one must view one of these historically and scientifically accurate episodes to sweep away the hysteria and legend.

In under one hour, History Unsolved resolves plenty.

Nikola Tesla: More than Meets the Eye

DATELINE:  Under Appreciated Genius

Tesla & sparks

PBS produced a documentary on the mysterious genius born in 1856 whose inventions seem to include Star Wars Defense Initiative and particle beam death rays.

Its title is Tesla: Master of Lightning, and he used electrical currents to win a war with Edison, light up a World’s Fair, and made himself glow in the dark.

We may never know the whole story as Tesla’s notebooks disappeared when he died in 1943. Were they stolen by Nazi spies? Russians? The FBI?

A recent little book by Ralph T. O’Neal III came to our attention in which Tesla’s stolen secrets are the McGuffin of an extra-governmental conspiracy in something called Shadow War: MJ-12 Versus the Vatican.

MJ12kindlecover

The final segment of the PBS film seems to hint at futuristic, Jules Verne technology created by Nikola Tesla.

The man came out of nowhere, Croatia in 1884, and immediately became enemies with Thomas Edison, J. Pierpoint Morgan, and Guillermo Marconi. That’s quite a climb to infamy when a poor immigrant hobnobs with the greats of the 19th century a few years after arriving in New York.

Trump would not have let Tesla into the country if he tried to enter today.

The documentary and the life of Tesla almost seems like science fiction—but it is tragedy and enigma wrapped in a bit of showmanship by the great inventor.

Most today know the name Tesla as a progressive car. He was much more than that, and you may owe it to yourself to learn about a man who eschewed fortune and lost his fame.

M-J 12 Versus The Vatican, Book Review of Shadow War

DATELINE:  Old-fashioned Murder Meets Sci-Fi

MJ12kindlecover

A new writer has entered the scene with a work of fiction about the growing belief that there is a shadow war occurring with secret government technology.

This new book by Ralph T. O’Neal, III, contends that the Vatican is at loggerheads with the top-secret extra-governmental agency called MJ-12, a body that knows something about space aliens they refuse to tell the public. They may know as much as ICE may know about regular aliens in America. This may be Trump’s world of espionage, technology, and shadow warfare.

Mt. Graham Observatory in Arizona is the central location of the tale about two agents, one from NSA and another from FBI, who find themselves embroiled in an old-fashioned murder mystery two miles high.

With altitude sickness complicating the shenanigans of MJ-12 holding a secret meeting with the Vatican about their infra-red telescope and its discoveries, you have personal motives of characters undermining the technology.

Without giving too much away in the plot, the books uses something called “FotoFootnotes” that take the story to a level not quite seen in graphic novels. You have consistent images and explanations of the estoterica of the storyline.

Throw in the endangered red squirrels of Arizona and a bizarre transgender genius named Bel Esprit, and you have all the makings of an Agatha Christie-style tale.

The story is quick-moving and often dotted with humorous asides, but it will take the reader to an enjoyable, thrilling reading experience.

 

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.

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.