Gods & Monsters: 20 Years Later?

 DATELINE:   Fraser, Olyphant, or Caviezel?

Whale & Monster

As part of our continuing shock at how many years have passed since certain minor classic films have been around, we were stunned to note that it is nearly that long since Ian McKellan played the director of Frankenstein, in 1957, before his suicide.

James Whale was gay, and the Bill Condon film is based on novelized account of his last days in 1957 and is titled Gods and Monsters. Partly owing to John Hurt playing a literary critic stalking a teen heart-throb in Love and Death on Long Island the year before, we had McKellan with a sunset crush on his gardener.

How true is it all?  At least we were not treated to one of those disclaimers, “Based on a true story.”

Whale had long since left the Hollywood sound stage, partly owing to box office poison. He had made some literate and funny horror films that stand the test of time: Frankenstein and Bride thereof.

With his mind slipping away from a stroke or some form of Alzheimer’s Disease, he puts his attention on Brendan Fraser, a most handsome young yardman with a flat top hairdo that is just too preciously reminiscent of the Monster designed by Whale in 1931.

Fraser, at the time, was part of a trio of actors who could have been interchangeable in the role: Timothy Olyphant and Jim Caviezel were the other two. All the same age and style.

McKellan is, as always, brilliant and plays off Lynn Redgrave as his unattractive housekeeper. He puts the moves on the unwilling Fraser, but it is all subterfuge to force the homophobic former Marine into killing him and putting him out of his misery.

A coda to the sensitive, episodic incidents in Whale’s final days, is perhaps the weakest link in the movie as Condon had no idea how to end it, that is otherwise a powerful biographical movie.

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American Pie and Racism

DATELINE: Stopping Black Candidates at Any Cost?

imbeciles at work Go Suck on a Georgia Peach!

Like many deluded Americans, we thought racism, like smallpox, had been eradicated. Well, smallpox is back—and so is racism, thanks to a president who encourages it.

Racism, a sign at Fenway Park said, last year is “as American as baseball.”  The sign was quickly removed, but its sentiment remains. No World Series victory deodorizes this stink.

Trump has encouraged white nationalists to arm themselves and travel to the border of Mexico to shoot unarmed women and children if they dare to cross the line in the dirt.

Your president (well, someone’s president Trump) has insulted every black woman he can find: latest is Michelle Obama whom he contends writes a book for money and must put in controversy. Those are his values all right. You only act for money. In most morality, that’s called bribery.

Trump has called every black female journalist he meets stupid, which goes with his view of black Congresswoman Maxine Waters. Gee, do we see a pattern here? Not if you live in Florida.

In Georgia, another Georgia Peach is running for governor and hates black women like his opponent Abrams. We note only that the original Georgia Peach was a virulent racist, so Kemp is in a grand old party tradition.

In the Citrus state where Anita Bryant used to spew hate, you now have resident Trump furious that his boy Rick Scott is having the election stolen. Trump’s other stooge, DeSantis, is forming a transition team to take over. It used to be called a coup d’etat, now it’s called a recount.

Racism is as American as the grandiose old party that kicked out Lincoln years ago.

It’s rather unusual for American history to have a robber baron and grand wizard rolled into one orange-hair orangutan in the “Whiter than White House.”

Three Identical Strangers

DATELINE: Triplets Separated at Birth

3some Reunited for a time.

Oh, a feel-good human-interest documentary? It’s called ironically Three Identical Strangers.

Not so fast. This movie is a roller-coaster that takes you to

emotional heights and depths you may not expect. It may be the most powerful film we have reviewed in quite some time: disturbing, funny, horrifying, exposing some unethical natures in our world.

Three gorgeous 19-year old men discover they are triplets separated at birth by a ruthless agency and uncaring birth mother. Eddy, Bobby, and David, are charming, but the little princes are about to face adversity.

Their tale of discovery is delightful and fun as they become 1980s media darlings, showing up on every talk venue of the era. They had found each other and nothing else mattered.

Their adoptive parents were distressed that the boys had been cruelly separated by the Wise Jewish Adoption Agency. But, the group stone-walled them and celebrated holding them at bay.

At first the boys did not care much, too overwhelmed in finding each other. Yet, as time passed, they began to see some horror in the mysterious separation.

About half through the film, you too will be shaken by the ruthless human experimentation: deliberately separating children who were twins or triplets for the egotistical study of a notable New York psychiatrist.

Even today, surviving members of the business shrug it off in an infuriating manner. Playing like Nazis with the lives of children did not bother them at all. It is revolting.

As for the boys, growing up to learn they were lab rats, may have done even more damage. The journalist who discovers the ugly secret cannot compel powerful forces to reveal why they did this nasty experiment—ripping apart children from their closest relatives.

The ultimate tragedy that befalls the triplets undercuts the happy-go-lucky age of discovery that had in 1981. What ultimately transpires will stun you.

This is powerful story-telling about crypto-Nazis in America.

 

 

They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead!

DATELINE: New Orson Welles Documentary

 3 amigos Three Amigos, More or Less!

If Orson Welles spoke this epitaph, then he was prescient. However, when Peter Bogdanovich reports this at the documentary’s start, his long-time girlfriend Oja Kodar refutes it. They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead is so on target. Alan Cumming narrates among the powerful voices.

Who knows? It is a juicy start to the recent Netflix restoration and premiere of Orson’s last film:  The Other Side of the Wind.

Since the final masterpiece of the Master is a mockumentary, years ahead of its time, it seems only fair that this documentary on the making of the film over 15 years is different than most.

You may be surprised at how many illustrious people, now aged, are still with us with fond and not-so-fond memories of Welles, who was bossy and a tyrant as well as an auteur genius.

He shot what he pictured in his mind. His philosophy in the end was one of “divine accidents” during filming as sources of inspiration that makes a monumental motion picture.

Welles suffered for his art. Money was the bugaboo and taking it from the Shah of Iran’s brother-in-law was a desperately bad move. He lost all control of the movie when the country went Islamic extremist. And, the French courts also tried to keep him from the one movie that kept him alive and creative.

Is it autobiographical? Perhaps, but Welles cast his friend director John Huston as Jack Hannaford—who could be John Ford or Ernest Hemingway or even Welles himself. It could be Huston was playing Huston. It is likely another famous director of their era: Nick Ray.

Scenes were filmed in fragments, often years between takes. Yet, it flows like some insane chorus of dissonant singers.

Netflix produced the documentary and has completed the last film of Welles (reviewed separately). If you need your appetite whet, this documentary will prime your pump.

 

 

 

 

 

Avenging Angels Kill Whitey Bulger

DATELINE: Infamy’s Bullseye?

 Jimmy  Young Whitey Bulger

We must admit that a prison sentence in a federal penitentiary is not meant to be a fun experience. However, it is not necessarily a death sentence unless lethal injection is the sentence. If you are a celebrity prisoner, you have received a death sentence in the prison systems of the United States.

So, the powers of the Federal Bureau of Prisons decided to move an 89-year old sociopathic, legendary snitch killer of the mob to a new home where death awaited in the form of greeting committee. USP Hazelton is a dangerous deathtrap for inmates, thanks to the Trump hiring freeze and incarceration of illegal immigrants.

James “Whitey” Bulger never spent 24 hours in his new digs because they killed him instantly. There was no trick or treat offered unless it was to the Death Penalty often meted out by killers willy-nilly.

Now, we figure it does not take much to kill an 89-year old on his last legs, no matter how infamous or how well he takes care. So, this hit comes off as crude when security is the name of the high-security pen in West Virginia.

We are reminded that another local villain, Albert de Salvo, was also murdered in prison. He was the Boston Strangler, or so the conspiratorial types dispute. Then, more recently, we had Aaron Hernandez, another local product, a suicide in grisly fashion, though some thought he was done in. And, who can forget gay cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer, killed in prison?

You’ll never hear the true story when fake news is the government’s stock-in-trade.

And, then there was Father Geoghan, the child molestor, who found himself strangled by a self-appointed child abuse victim judge and jury.

All this seems to indicate that prisons are not doing the job, or are taking on the role of Avenging Angel when they are merely meant to be Lucifer’s Waiting Room.

We hate to throw cold water on the killing spree offered by the federal bureau under Trump’s budget cuts, but the unkindest cut of all is to circumvent justice.

We seem to have a plethora of that going around the country nowadays.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hitler’s Mountain Retreat

DATELINE:  Serviette from Hitler’s Table

Hitler's napkin

We have a long-standing aversion to these Nazi documentaries because, all too often, they are masked celebrations of the low-point of human history as occurred in Germany in the 1930s & 1940s.

Hitler’s Mountain: Hidden Remnants, a film about the ostentatious residence of Hitler in the Bavarian mountains sounds like one of those Netflix series episodes, The World’s Most Extraordinary Homes: the Dark Side.

Well, we are happy to report that this film, French in origin, is fairly blunt about the evil that was done in such a place of beauty. Even Hitler’s waiters in white waistcoats were model Aryan coverboys.

Nazi overlord Martin Bormann oversaw the constant renovations: it was never finished. Ultimately the house above ground had 30 luxurious rooms with a titanic picture window, used as a backdrop by the Fuhrer. His stairway up to the house also served as a means to put diplomats in their place.

Most of the time, the house was the reserve of Eva Braun and her friends, where she took home movies of the luxury. After the war, most of her clothes and personal items were looted and put up for auction.

Though nearly everything above ground was bombed and then blown up again in the 1950s by the Bavarian government (which always sounds like Barbarian in this film), the greatest achievement was the underground bunker. It is actually a city, never quite finished. And it was never quite destroyed, now under lock and key for preservation. Even unfinished, its size rivaled a major subway system.

We also see the tablecloths and napkins that were used in the dining halls, as well as Hitler’s private silverware. This too is in a museum in France.

The Eagle’s Nest, reached by an elevator ride for 40 seconds, to the mountain top was never bombed, nor destroyed. Today it serves as an elegant restaurant in a rejuvenated area that features modern hotels and re-forestation of the area.

This extraordinary home will horrify viewers with the notion that it inspired Hitler’s most diabolical and vicious ideas. Home, sweet home, indeed.

 

Lindsay Graham: “I’m not gay!” with Qualification

DATELINE: The Lady Doth Protest Too Much

Graham Demonstrates Technique It’s All in the Wrist!

Not two weeks after we postulated that Trump is blackmailing Senator Lindsay Graham for his support, Mr. Graham, the Cracker from Carolina, the recently emboldened supporter of Bone Spurs Trump, protested weakly,  “As far as it matters, I’m not gay.”

Whatever does that mean?

Let us try to clarify: in a nutshell, what it means, “As far as it does not matter, I am gay.”

That is Republican-speak for “I am in the closet, and don’t try to drag me out.” It also means he is worried that Trump will out him.

Graham may not be actively pursuing his interests or engaged in any relationship right now. That means it as far as it matters. We cannot imagine a threesome of Rudi Guiliani in drag, Bone Spurs Trump, and Graham Cracker. Well, we don’t like to picture it.

He is not marching in gay pride parades, beating a drum at the Stonewall, or supporting gay legislation, as far as it matters. We have seen Republicans in the past who were exposed for the same stance, or worse, or is that less?

What is Lindsay Graham so nervous about? Well, how about them voters in his home state? He also shared his view that calling someone gay, or outing them, is “belittling people” and he does not think it “funny as it used to be.”

As they say in England, don’t laugh at the Queen.

TMZ is not known for its frivolous exposes. Nor is the National Enquirer. They are sites that reveal sordid and salacious details that some want kept in the closet. Like Lindsay Graham.

Calling Graham gay is like beating a dead horse. Outing Lindsay Graham is like putting jimmies on your ice cream cone. You still have to do the licking.

 

 

 

 

Tinker, Tailor, Puzzle-maker

DATELINE: Cold Warriors

Hardy boy

 Hunky Hardy Boy!

If you want to be challenged by John LeCarre’s masterpiece of espionage during the Cold War, you might well take in the movie version of George Smiley’s hard work in finding a mole that caused the death of Control in the British secret service.

One kingfish at the agency seems to have a direct connection to the Kremlin. Though Smiley (Gary Oldman) has been forced out into retirement with his mentor, Control (John Hurt), he must work covertly to restore the integrity of the Circus.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is for those who enjoy armchair psychology and thought-provoking shades of gray.

Through complex flashbacks, and even more complex human relationships, you will find these are not pleasant men. The cast is stellar beyond compare: Toby Jones, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ciaran Hinds, Tom Hardy, are stand-outs.

The sexual peccadilloes are unspoken, but there is a strong scent of blackmail and unspoken ties among the men. It is nearly as much a guessing game about their bedtime bedmates as it is about their political bedmates.

The complexity and subtlety of the film probably makes it beyond the tolerance level of your standard James Bond satire fans. This is the low-key, grubby, office worker mentality of the Cold War. Oldman is particularly wooden to hide his tormented feelings.

Every spy ought to be brought in from this Cold War before their tedious work drives them to distraction.

Oldman plays much older, and the young men (Hardy and Cumberbatch) had better days ahead as superstars. They could not be more stunningly attractive in 2011 and quickly made a mark with this film.

 

Ian McKellan’s Best Parts

DATELINE: Playing the Part

McKellan with Milo Parker Mr. Holmes, of course!

When the Great Thespian gathers together his early autobiographical photos and files, you know you are in for a treat. Ian McKellan sits down for a life achievement interview. It’s called McKellan: Playing the Part.

Now he has been great fodder for TV laugh talk shows for years, mostly owing to his dry wit and coming out at age 50 as a gay man during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s.

His great roles are in films like Gods and Monsters, Apt Pupil, and Richard III, though he is best loved for his superhero movies and Harry Potter junk. He is a good sport about the green screen stuff, but it’s not really acting to him.

We do see him in many rare behind-the-stage clips and playing Shakespeare on TV. He was quite a good-looker as a young man, though no one ever told him so, he admits.

He grew up at college with the likes of Derek Jacobi and Corin Redgrave. It was heady company. He admits his life has been one mostly of life in the company of strangers. Heavens, he must have relied on much kindness.

Like many middle-class Brits, he had to learn a posher accent and quickly discovered the best way to do it was hanging out at theaters. He started young, watching backstage, and appearing in any and every play as a teenager.

An interesting sidelight is that Milo Parker (costar of Mr. Holmes with McKellan) plays the actor as a boy. We presume Mr. McKellan had something to do with this casting. He thought he should have won something for Mr. Holmes—but forgot he already won a Screen Actors Guild award for something or other.

McKellan influenced many actors and stage people over the years. He has always taken some pride in that aspect of his life, which has been solitary without family or children, a conscious decision of a gay man. He has made the acting profession his family.

 

 

Hollywood: In the Beginning

 DATELINE: James Mason & Kevin Brownlow

intolerance

Intolerance Anyone?

To find the 1979 Kevin Brownlow documentary series on the origins of Hollywood is a treat. With the stirring music of Carl Davis, adapted to so many styles over the episodes, you have Brownlow’s research to find many lost clips and footage. The limited series was called simply Hollywood.

Of course, for us, the best part of the series was the narrative voice of James Mason, lending a kind of grandeur to the proceedings.

The first episode, In the Beginning, does indeed have a Biblical echo. After all, film pioneer D.W. Griffith’s epics, like Intolerance, put Hollywood on the map.

The story begins with gangsters in New York and New Jersey disrupting independent filmmakers around 1903. These producers and studios were under constant threats as the Edison company wanted exclusivity.

This led to many film producers to look for a place far from the East Coast unions and controls. It took them to California, to a spot outside Los Angeles, where orange groves dominated the mountain backdrop.

They could find every conceivable film set location within a few miles: from snowy mountains, to deserts, to mountains, to oceans.

In addition, movies required sunshine, as most films were made outdoors (even indoor sets) with open roof for light. Since Los Angeles had over 300+ days of sunshine every year, they had found nirvana.

Within a few years, the world knew the streets of Hollywood from movie settings. It became more enhanced when movie star mansions became the Newport of a new aristocracy. Pickfair was the West Coast Buckingham Palace with Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks as the ersatz American royalty.

If you want to see how the United States and its silent film industry took over the world of film art, you have Kevin Brownlow and David Gill to thank for this insightful series.

Other episodes looked at morals clauses in the budding business, stuntmen, Westerns, and comedians like Chaplin and Keaton and Arbuckle. If you love movies, Hollywood is the best series on its advent.

Body Snatchers 1979

 DATELINE: Sequel, not Remake!

snatchers 3 Peas in a Pod?

The movie The Invasion of the Body Snatchers with Donald Sutherland and Leonard Nimoy back in the late 1970s was not technically a remake, but a sequel.

Though it uses the same story-line by Jack Finney from his novel, it is slightly updated to contemporary times. Then, out of the original ending comes a running Kevin McCarthy, the original star, dashing through the streets of San Francisco like Paul Revere, calling people to alert.

The “pod people” are coming. Indeed.

This film is even more nightmarish in its paranoia than the original 1950s Commies under the bed movie.

Here the paranoia is steeped in everyone and everything. People are either inexplicably dashing to-and-fro in the background, or they are staring emotionlessly at you.

San Francisco, always weird anyhow, is the perfect backdrop for chaos and insanity.

Gathering some of the most familiar of sci-fi faces, the film puts Veronica Cartwright (Aliens) with Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park  ) and Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek) as a motley crew.

The film is surprisingly modern with the omission of Internet and PCs, which did not exist back then. However, the government control and conspiracy notions are heavy-handed. The use of public phones will be an incomprehensible throwback for young viewers who may wonder where the texting is.

Visual details are fascinating and complex. No one seems to wonder why rubbish trucks are constantly picking up  mounds of black cotton at night. This is the ultimate conspiracy theorist wallow.

If you are a conspiracy nut, then you will not have much restful sleep after watching this looney-tune of a science fiction horror. It puts together man-eating plants with the egg-head monsters of Alien.

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.

Children of Giant: Mexican POV in Marfa

DATELINE: Unavoidable James Dean Strikes Again

Children of Giant Children of Giant!

If you know anything about our Hollywood history books on the story behind making movies, you know that we would be hot on the trail of George Stevens’ 1955 classic epic Giant. 

Made On location in Marfa, Texas, with Elizabeth Taylor as an early feminist in 1920s Texas, and Rock Hudson as the laconic cowpoke who owned Reata, a cattle ranch, you are overwhelmed with James Dean who stood out on the landscape,

However much the director wants to make this a movie about the Mexican discrimination in Texas, James Dean is there to steal the movie. He dominates everything in the fascinating film called Children of Giant.

Actor Earl Holliman is still around to give his perspective, and Jane Withers appears to have declined to participate.

Director Stevens’s son, notable Hollywood producer George Stevens, Jr., offers many insights. They say little about Dean.

It was the film James Dean died making. It was a Western that showed the yellow rose of Texas was a yellow streak of Jim Crow laws against Mexicans. The children loved him, and they saw him as someone special and caring.

Today Marfa’s racism almost seems quaint, next to the horrors being inflicted on Mexicans under Trump.

New York historical novelist Edna Ferber was spot on depicting wild cat billionaire Glenn McCarthy (aka Jett Rink in the movie and book). James Dean’s makeup and style mimics McCarthy in his late middle-age.

Dean is remembered fondly by the Mexican children and adults whom he befriended in Marfa, Texas. Indeed, if you are looking for stories about Dean’s public urination in front of town onlookers, or even the tale of Dean going after director Stevens in a fight over his performance, you will find only slight nods in that direction.

Yet, as a social history document about a social history movie, you could not find a more spot-on documentary. It features townsfolk giving their insights and sharing their unusual photos.

It is nirvana for a movie maven who delights in the behind-the-scenes activity. This little PBS documentary packs a wallop and a message from the children of Marfa in 1955. Unfortunately, James Dean is still the big draw. George Stevens and Edna Ferber could not avoid him then or now.

 Dr. William Russo wrote The Next James Dean, which is available as an ebook and print work on Amazon.

 

Trump’s Deadly Numbers Game

DATELINE: Serial Tweeter?

 glow in dark pee pot

President Bone Spurs Trump, Liar Emeritus, and ace wriggler out of any blame, now contends that 2975 people did not die in Puerto Rico from two hurricane rescue missions his Administration completely mismanaged.

Let them drink those bottled waters sitting on pallets, never distributed to thirsty Americans.

In his prevaricating way, T-Rump contends that Democrats (not even the fake media this time) have inflated the death figures to make him look bad.

He doesn’t need anyone to make him look bad. He does it all by himself.

If his Mad Hatter attitude strikes you as appalling, you number among the 60% of the country who disapprove of this horse’s rear end sitting on his rear end in the White House.

He rises up only to golf and charge taxpayers with the cartload of Secret Service who must follow him hole to hole to the tune of $300,000.

The minority of racists and white supremacists who believe the island of Puerto Rico is a foreign country, not an American territory inhabited by American citizens, support Trump’s new math calculations.

In fact, when you boil it down in history, with the anniversary of terror attack on 9/11 only a few days past, you have 2996 Americans killed by two planes driven off course by terrorists. Mr. Bone Spurs, the artful draft dodger, falls merely 20 fewer dead among his derelict presidency with twin hurricanes he ignored.

Trump has killed 2975 Americans in two hurricanes that he allowed to fester without assisting the suffering.

There is something delusional about a cretin sitting in power. More reasonable people now await the day that lends itself to men with nets in white coats coming to the White House to cart him off.

Throw him some bottled water on the way out. It cannot come soon enough.

 

 

Trump on Candid Camera

DATELINE:    Pictures  of 1000 words             

warhol doubleDateNight?

President Bone Spurs, aka the draft dodger, and now liar emeritus, Donald Trump claims he has photos of James Comey and Robert Mueller up a tree, kissing.

If he has such pictures, they were obtained illegally at the least.

If he has made up this story, in the Mark Twain tradition, of great liars, then he is amoral and disgusting.

If he has seen fake photos from some odd Internet source, then he is a dupe.

Worst of all, if he believes that these two honorable men would allow photographs of themselves in compromising positions, then he is utterly deluded.

In short, he  is  totally  koo-koo.

However you  slice this baloney, Trump is a loathsome animal.  No surprises there.

There are likely a few Evangelicals who will defend this crap,

But Nazi punksters are everywhere in Trump’s  twisted world.

People  who live in White glass Houses should not cast aspersions before their first sin is revealed.

We have in our possession a photo of Mr. Trump in flagrante delicto with one Rudi Guiliani.   They have locked  lips   and Rudi is in drag.

On top of that, we also hold a photo of Mr. Trump out on a date with Andy Warhol on the way to Studio54 in their heyday.

Photos tell quite a story.