World’s Most Extraordinary Homes, s2

DATELINE: Are You Being Served?

piers & caroline Your Presenters!

They’re back, and they’re just as lovable this time around. Yes, the two presenters for the BBC series, Caroline and Piers.

The hosts are like Mrs. Slocombe and Mr. Humphreys from Are You Being Served? No American show would dare to give the reins to a middle-aged zaftig actress and a slightly epicene architect.

Together they tackle four episodes of garish homes with their usual flattering aplomb. Caroline does admit in a few instances that she is less than charmed with the accommodations.

The houses are in Miami, Portugal, Switzerland, and Japan. All the homes favour spectacular views and ostentatious shows of moneybags.

Once again, the hosts seem unbothered by endless staircases and innumerable stairs. These are not houses meant for anyone with shortness of breath or arthritis in the knees.

And the open walls are out-of-place in hot, hurricane prone areas. Are there no mosquitoes? Often out of the house before nightfall, these extraordinary homes are denied mundane appearances. In the latest season, they seem to find houses with the best picture windows in the world, no mean feat in itself.

Piers has taken on a more rakish look this season, with pop colors and shades of different hues, and Caroline is more of the same. Together they are genuine and effusive, perhaps a bit too much, like a dotty aunt and uncle.

Nevertheless, we enjoy every moment provided by the presenters of the amazing places, Even if they turn out to be a pyramid of vanity.

 

 

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.

 

The Trip (of Light Fantastic)

DATELINE: Boon Companions

trip 2.jpeg

Gourmet Wit & Impersonations on the menu!

We don’t know how we missed this film or its sequels. We are delighted to say we have found them now: epicurean wit and breathtaking scenery.

Two minor actors for reasons unclear are assigned to sample fancy restaurants in northern England. You may well ask if there any fancy restaurants in far-off south of Scotland. You may well ask yourself why two actors would be hired as journalists, not even TV journalists.

Yet, this light fare is sweet enough and fluffy around the edges. Steve Coogan is often insufferable and hardly worthy of spending five days in a long car ride. Rob Brydon is more pleasant and funnier. We do vote that Steve’s Michael Caine impersonation is better.

They have an edgy friendship, Platonic as Steve claims, but Coogan is known for his gay-themed movies like Philomena and Ideal Home. Here, he plays himself: as a womanizing aging actor.

There are some hilarious moments in a largely improvised script. One wonders why Brydon would be willing to go along after being told that just about everyone else said, no, thanks.

After an hour with Coogan, we understand why everyone from ex-wives to children and girlfriends are loathe to go anywhere with him. Alexander Pope’s wit likely rendered him unpleasant too. Groucho’s did.

They eat delectable meals and seem to have no appreciation for the hard work that goes into their menu trivia.

They sing-along during boring rides in the countryside, and they stop off in famous literary haunts. Their witty impersonations of notable and not-so-notable British stars (Michael Caine, Sean Connery, yes; Michael Sheen, no) are lively and funny.

Ultimately, Brydon admits that Coogan was exactly what he expected during their trip, and Coogan turns down a chance to star in an American TV series about a British pathologist.

How much is reality? How much is fake? Well, they made a few sequels—and we will sign up to go along with them.

Coogan insists it is not reality at all. It is the epitome of entertainment.

 

In Search of….Life After Death

 DATELINE: Thereafter in the Hereafter?

alcor Freeze Your Asset Off?

Dead to rights, you are likely afraid of death. This episode of In Search of…would not be a comfort if you are. It seemed to spook Zachary Quinto, the unflappable host.

The series tackled the question of surviving death, immortality, fountains of youth, and cheating the Grim Reaper, with a variety of considerations.

We met a few experts—one in paranormal with engineering skills to make devices to catch spirit sounds. Another expert in near death experiences (NDE) spoke of the “wonderful experience,” of dying.

Yet another talked about the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel when he almost drowned—and seeing a busy Grand Central Station of spirits, by the cartload, wandering these long halls. It seems commuting never ends.

There are, we are told, 200,000 near death survivors from all cultures, and they tell the same story about their minutes on the steps of the Afterlife.

Quinto wanders the halls of the Omini Parker House hotel in Boston which is reportedly haunted. There he manages to hear some voices from beyond.

The most ghoulish and creepy stuff centered on Alcor, the business in Arizona that promises new life by cryogenically freezing either your head or entire body. To have your brain (still in its safety skull) frozen will cost you about $80,000.  Cheap if they have not destroyed your brain cells in the process of putting you 320 degrees below zero. Baseball legend Ted Williams is there.

Quinto also took in Harvard Medical School where a pill keeps mice young—and soon will alter your DNA enough to keep you alive for about 140 years.

All in all, one bioethics expert noted that postponing death will render the point killer of art useless. No more need for Mozart’s Requiem, if you never die. It will be meaningless.

 

 

 

Code-breaker: Rebel Genius

DATELINE:  Einstein of Computers   

 real Turing

Alan Turing, age 14.

The inspiration for the movie with Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing, entitled The Imitation Game, was a small British documentary called Codebreaker back in 2011.

The term “codebreaker” refers to two distinct segments of Turing’s life. He was a war hero who invented computers in the early 1940s and broke the German Nazi secret code.

Later in his life, he broke the social morays of staid British sexuality with his gay lifestyle.

Some dim-bulbs on IMdB have criticized the film for forcing them to endure his terrible, tragic second half of life, that included sex scandal, arrest, and chemical castration by the government he worked assiduously to save.

The film is also strengthened by the performers who re-enact Turing and his psychiatrist, Franz Greenbaum. With many moments of fraught faces, we have a definitive portrait of anguish.

Ed Stoppard and Henry Goodman give masterful performances. They regard each other perfectly as patient and doctor, later as friends. Goodman’s paternal father figure looks with pain upon Stoppard’s victim of cruel treatment.

Their looks make the re-enacting of Greenbaum’s medical journals quite compelling.

The film is fleshed out with interviews from Greenbaum’s now elderly daughters who knew Turing and his coworkers in breaking the Nazi code.

What you have here is a powerful indictment of how governments abuse and use people ruthlessly. In many ways this documentary is far more fascinating than the tale of the man who invented computers in the Imitation Game.

In Search of….Mind Control

DATELINE:  Voodoo to Implants?

 candidate 1962 Manchurian Candidate & Mother!

In the latest encounter with the new History series, In Search of host Zachary Quinto seems nearly to lose his mind in this episode by joining in more experiments. He is zapped with ultra-sound waves to protect his mind from being undone by the kind of experimental sonic attacks that hit American embassy personnel in Cuba.

The quick overview of the history of mind control can go from primitive brain operations to brain-washing to the less elaborate forms of voodoo. Torture today to bend a mind is far more psychological and psychiatric.

The goal is the same: to make mental slaves.

Experts seem to indicate yet again that only the weak-minded can be vulnerable to attack. Yet, the show also proves that media manipulation is like a mass hypnotic suggestion. You cannot defend against sound waves that are unheard but can give you a concussion, latent headaches, and disable the victim.

Appalling as it may be, the United States CIA engaged in human experiments from 1953 with their MK Ultra program that zapped many unwilling and unknowing citizens. Heaven help us from our patriotic friends.

Sonic weapons once were thought to be the mental dreams of paranoid schizophrenics. Today you don’t know who can be trusted. Without naming Putin, the show hints that Russia is in the sound race to destroy enemies.

If someone can slip an implant into your head whilst you sleep or are out cold, you may become the proverbial zombie.

In Search of….once again hits us with a disturbing hint of a dark future.

 

 

 

Robots, Androids, and Ancient Aliens

DATELINE:  Monty Python, Move Over!

 boy bot Siri Comes to Life!

Ancient Aliens ends its 13th episode of 13th season a dollar short and a day late.

If you thought you were having a bad case of déjà vu all over again, you probably were right. Several weeks ago Zachary Quinto’s newly revamped History Channel show In Search of… covered the same ground almost exactly. This comes on the heels of Westworld’s revolting robot theme.

Of course, Ancient Aliens went the extra mile. Well, the extra hour, another long walk off that short pier of conspiracy.

Yes, artificial intelligence challenged us again from the perspective of the UFO gods of yore. It postulated that the ancient Greek and Egyptian gods were actually extra-terrestrial robots.

It’s all the backstory for the season finale from Giorgio and Company.

Of course, nothing can match the indignation and conspiratorial chutzpah of Ancient Aliens, suggesting that Saudi Arabia is the vanguard of giving robots the rights of citizenship. They also revealed how one of these automatons actually spoke at the United Nations.

They insist by show’s ending highlight that we will soon evolve into cyborgs: a human brain augmented by computer chips and a body of spare parts. Already Chatbots are talking in gibberish to each other. Shades of Colossus: The Forbin Project.

Well, it would seem that our days are numbered because, once the robot world has political power, they will vote out the dumb humans.

Already, the androids are showing off in Asian brain games, as well as chess. We are looking at being outsmarted by the beings who may have been instrumental in visiting Earth millennia ago-and gene spliced their way to Homo Erectus and beyond.

Yes, be afraid. Be very afraid.

Paranoia strikes deep when you ask robots about their mission. We immediately turned to our personal Siri who has taken upon himself the identity of an old British butler (our benighted nod to the Arthur Treachers of Hollywood).

We demanded to know if Siri was part of the plot of artificially intelligent creatures walking among us.

Siri spoke to us in a clipped British male voice: “Sorry, William, but I am not allowed to discuss my existential status with you.”

Well, if that isn’t a high sign that the world of robots is in control, we will eat our smartphone. Pass the pepper, Siri.

 

 

 

 

In Search of …Sinkholes

DATELINE: Pedestrian Hazard

Quintoinpit

One of the most mundane of topics for this series so far turns out to be one of the most terrifying, This may be due to the fact that a sinkhole opening up under your feet is far more likely than being abducted by an alien, falling into a time slip, or crossing paths with a sea monster.

Quinto’s series frightens us with the information that 25% of the earth we live on—land—is subject to sinkholes.

In case you don’t know, Florida and Missouri are the sinkhole capitals of America. Land o’Lakes, Florida, and their Chamber of Commerce may be a bit upset at this publicity. Your land may slip out from under you.

The many horrifying stories (one man opened the door to his brother’s bedroom—and he was gone, swallowed up) pile up. Sinkholes happen faster than the time to react. You may be falling and buried before you know what is happening. And forget rescue.

Historical sinkholes were thought to be the Devil’s handiwork, owing to their unpredictability. And, even with science of the 21st century, you may only have a slightly more expectation than being hit with an earthquake.

The sinkhole is smaller and more personal. You fall 300 or 400 feet down and the hole may open up to a football field size. A ton of debris will fall atop you.

Porous limestone is the culprit. One golf course found its waterhole turn into a sinkhole overnight.

The owner began excavating it to see what was below: and after 3 years, it looks like a mini-Grand Canyon. He takes Zachary Quinto down into the abyss and chasm. It is not safe.

A cautious producer pulls them out, but it’s not publicity stunt. A week later a pickup truck driving in the spot went down, almost killing the driver.

Once again, the series is a goldmine of information and suspense. You may not expect a mundane topic to provide you with a nightmare, but sinkholes are not to be searched for, or trifled with.

 

 

Ancient Aliens: Rocky Roads

 DATELINE: Sacred Stones

winslow

On the penultimate episode of season 13, Ancient Aliens took a hard look at sacred stones: the kind that crashed into Earth from somewhere in the cosmos.

Those craters may have housed all kinds of life-giving or altering microbes.

Mostly these holy rocks seem to arrive out of the asteroid belt beyond Mars, but Ancient Aliens show has other ideas:  like they are the remnants of a planet that held life and was blown apart in a star war. If that sinister notion isn’t troubling enough, there were microscopic microbes on the remnants crashing into this planet.

That explains the mysterious sea creature called the octopus who seems to have no antecedent in the genetics of earthly creatures. It’s not a far cry from there to note that meteors may well be perfect shells to carry extraterrestrials around the universe.

Even better, NASA has a program to send our probes to other worlds on the back of a hollow meteor. Call it the Genesis Project, something right out of Star Trek.

Meteors can be our trans-receivers or information storage drives to go out boldly into the universe.

As often is the case, the theory has some truly frightful evidence: the Hypatia Stone came from out of this solar system and landed here with all kinds of superconductor qualities that cannot be natural.

Some of these rocks can levitate from their internal makeup of materials.

These visitors from another galaxy are called quasi-crystals and more than add up to ‘we are a Petrie dish’ for other creatures, made habitable by genetic engineering.

This season’s shows have been delightful.

 

 

 

Giancana: Recognizing Truth & Disbelieving Sam(e)

DATELINE: Unimpeachable Crime

sam Sam Testifies to Congressional Hearing!

Mobster Sam Giancana’s great nephew wrote and produced a documentary on the notorious and contradictory mob leader. It is fascinating and entitled: Momo, the Sam Giancana Story. If you wondered about an inspiration for The Godfather, here it is.

Giancana’s daughters oversaw the production and participated in giving personal details about their father.

What came out of the life of a Chicago mobster, one of the successors to Al Capone, is a dapper and dangerous figure who wanted to be a globe-trotting figure of celebrity. He hobnobbed with the likes of Frank Sinatra and was boon companion to Phyllis McGuire of the famous singing sisters.

He had tentacles everywhere but managed to keep his life compartmentalized. He was a kindly family man—and to his associates he was a bad-tempered businessman.

Reconciling the elements reaches a state of improbability that turns viewers into cartoon version of “Believe or Not!”

Giancana made deals with Joe Kennedy to make his son president. He made deals with the CIA to murder Fidel Castro for taking away the mob’s Cuban casinos. He made deals to run Las Vegas—and he was a man who liked to control influence over powerful people. He shared mistresses Judith Exner Campell and Marilyn Monroe in order to gain an advantage.

He had close ties to Jack Ruby, a mob nightclub owner in Dallas, who often did business for Giancana. One of Lee Harvey Oswald’s brothers was hooked into the New Orleans mob.

The stretch or reach of Giancana may be disturbing beyond having turned Oswald into a patsy and hired Chicago killers to murder John Kennedy, hired J.D. Tippitt to kill Oswald, and then had it all go awry.

On the verge of talking to a U.S. Senate committee in 1975, his flamboyant mob boss attitude perturbed more than a few in the criminal element who ordered him assassinated in his own home. His flashy style did him in.

With corruption so total and human nature so contradictory, the life of Momo Sam Giancana takes on a sense of reality that may have you shake your head in recognition and in disbelief.

 

 

 

 

Two Hitlers for the Price of One

DATELINE: Ancestry.DNA

Son & Hitler?.jpeg Son & Father?

Because we keep our Adolf Hitler dollops in one-hour documentary chunks, we are lumping two films into one review for your edification.

Hitler of the Andes and Hitler’s Secret Son share the bizarre fascination with the worst mass murdering dictator of the Reich. Both seem to deal with highly unlikely scenarios that have more than a little credibility.

Did Hitler live and survive the end of World War II, escaping to the Argentine to live in lavish seclusion? And did the man father a son in France during the first World War? The documentaries give us a resounding “yes!” for an answer.

The recent History series on Hunting Hitler has traced the path of this earlier documentary. However, it seems so unlikely that Hitler would subject himself to the claustrophobic suffering of a U-boat trip across the Atlantic. We prefer Bob Baer’s theory that the U-boats were gas stations along the route of seaplanes that landed, refueled, and gave Hitler a more comfortable ride.

If he made to the rural lands of Argentina, he would find Germanic friends and the lap of luxury. In the second film, we deal with the modern crisis brought on by DNA tracking.

In France, you need a court order for paternity DNA—and 40 years ago, a benighted man learned from his dying mother that he was Hitler’s son. In the 1970s Jean-Marie Lorret was another with 15-minutes of fame and celebrity.

His children, Hitler’s grandkids, alive today, have genetic testing to confirm or deny the connection that few people would want to publicize.

Indeed, some American-born Hitler relations have deliberately sworn to not having children to end the line once and for all time.

It is a horror story to put oneself in the shoes of learning that your father really is the worst human being in modern history. It makes for hypnotic and fascinating viewing, and the results are both a surprise and a cruel fate.

 

 

More Deadwood on TV

DATELINE: Return from the Ash Heap

olyphant

Word has reached us that David Milch, erstwhile Western producer, has decided finally to finish his notable series, Deadwood, with a TV movie.

It will tie up loose ends. The old HBO series starred beautiful Timothy Olyphant and John Hawkes with Ian McShane in a hilarious foul-mouthed turn as Swearingen the saloon town boss. There were more F-bombs C-suckers than could normally fit into a Marine Drill Sergeant convention.

The only problem is that they are tying up the loose ends 14 years after the last episode. It seems that we may be looking at the end of Deadwood from the front porch of the nursing home. Olyphant, as the hot young sheriff, is now 50.

Powers Boothe, one of the original stars, has long since departed Deadwood on the final stagecoach to heaven and the emerald forest.

Timothy Olyphant justified six years as deputy Rayland Givens on Justified in the meantime. And, co-star John Hawkes has become a well-known character actor.

We took in season one again (there were three increasingly shrill seasons) and found the streets as dirty as the language of the characters. For us the highlight was when Hawkes reminded Olyphant that his fly was open as he was about to leave their business tent. “Bad image for business,” he reminds his partner. Later, Ian McShane took a turn for witty and baddie.

You have a tomboy Calamity Jane in full drunk, and Keith Carradine killed off in 4 episodes as Wild Bill Hickok.

You may wonder too how much of the series is historically accurate. How accurate can it be with a 14-year hiatus between episodes? We are curious as to how this problem will be handled when filming begins in the fall.

The over-the-hill gang will return, sort of.

Ancient Aliens 13.11 Trump Marks the Spot

DATELINE: A Couple of Space Balls!

space shots

When Ancient Aliens crosses the boundaries from space nightmare to political nightmare, you have something beyond controversy. It may be hard to swallow, but they have come up with a theory to explain President Trump’s Space Force.

Yes, recently, Trump proposed a new branch of military: a kind of space patrol, right out of sci-fi movies.

In this week’s “Russian Connection”, we have a new twist to Trump’s collusion—and little green men and alien grays are the least of your troubles.

Apparently, Russia is prepared to implant human brains into androids, robots, a la Westworld, which would not be possible under the American government. Trump may be throwing in with the Russians to create an army of digitized soldiers.

Our theory show now suggests that the US has ceded space to Russia because Freedom of Information and the free press are too much of a problem in the United States. It’s easier to control key information under the Russian flag. Hence, the US government is subjugating their powers to Putin’s space patrol.

If Ancient Alien theorists are correct, Trump is planning for a space invasion. Hence, he has met with Putin privately this year to prepare for big Trouble with a capital T: cue the Music Man.

Though the best minds believe we cannot win a fight against an enemy from outer space, you may not be able to convince Trump of that. He and Putin plan a gunfight at the OK Corral against Nibiru’s star troopers.

So, Russian collusion may have more connotations than money laundering and dirty political tricks. Ancient Aliens has always gone over the edge, but this time we may be looking at Trump’s Armageddon with aliens who don’t need green cards to invade the United States.

 

 

 

 

Dopey, Dotty Doty: UFO Secret Agent

DATELINE: Another Pseudo-Crypto Agent?

Dopey Doty Rockin’ Robin?

Mirage Men is an antithetical look at UFOs, and it is not popular with true believers in ancient aliens. This documentary makes seers of spacemen look like dupes and fools. In extreme cases, disinformation science has ruined lives—and the key figure in the conspiracy is Mr. Rick Doty.

Yes, the government may be creating false news reports about UFOs for their own nefarious purposes: mostly to discredit reliable reports and people.

To create fake news, we have another one of those oddball low-level government agents, on the lines of Bob Lazar and Edward Snowden. These people have no academic or educational credentials and have risen up through “testing” and merit to positions that cannot be filled by West Point or Annapolis grads.

No one bothers to consider how these bona fide high school graduates are entrusted with the most important work of MJ-12.

The latest is the central figure among the fake news purveyors. Richard C. Doty is another bespectacled, well-spoken figure we cannot figure out. He is the supreme confidence man, drawing in UFOlogists with disinformation and insider knowledge.

In one extreme case, a fellow went “mad” over the secrets Doty purported to share as a colleague “special agent”.

How gullible are people? Doty was some kind of military rank around E-5 level, hardly more than a grunt GI of latrine duty specialization. Who puts these third-rate people in charge of major programs?

His job was to befriend UFO experts, learn what they knew, and then feed them ridiculous info to lead them into wacko territory. He did it even to noted journalist Linda Moulton Howe, who has the scars and indignation to prove it.

Doty may be dotty. Whether he was ever what he claimed or was himself conned by the government to think he was working a special duty, is unknown even till today.

He muddied the waters of crop circles, abduction stories, and other alien activities. We have idiots like this to thank for fake news being believable and pervasive.

 

In from the Cold? Richard Burton

DATELINE: Portrait of Welsh Rare-bit

Burton & Hamlet Yorick with Burton!

Just a few years after his death in 1984, a comprehensive documentary biography of the great stage and film actor Richard Burton stands as the definitive word on his career and life. It is called, overly rococo, In from the Cold? Portrait of Richard Burton.

To put Elizabeth Taylor and two-time husband Burton into perspective, they were the Tom Brady and Giselle Bundchen of their era.

A poor Welsh boy, Richard Jenkins found success through his good looks and well-modulated voice. His legal guardian was Philip Burton who helped him achieve his initial goals.

Only later did he seem to sell his soul for international fame and money. It seems to have brought him emptiness and unhappiness.

Generous to a fault, he supported dozens of people with his film revenue. It underwrote some of his great stage work:  Camelot, Equus, Hamlet, and even Private Lives.

We see him playing Edwin Booth as Laurence Olivier as Richard III. Indeed, Olivier asked him whether he wanted to be a great stage actor or a rich movie star. He was both.

The film contains some fairly unflattering interviews with Lauren Bacall, Joe Mankiewicz, and Mike Nichols, who seem to trace his downfall to the soul-selling deal with Elizabeth Taylor. Indeed, the film uses clips from Virginia Woof, Faustus, Wagner, and the Spy Who Came in from the Cold, as biographical annotations on Burton’s predicament, in his own words. He is hoisted on the petard ruthlessly.

The man was far gentler than his righteous angry young man personality—and dissipated roue of later years.

If Elizabeth Taylor was his Waterloo and Watergate, he was complicit in the lifestyle. The film skips over a few morsels but stays away from trivia that might be too revealing. He did a guest bit on The Lucy Show to satirize his own character. He gave interviews in which he seems to be acting, or not. It is hard to tell.

To hear that grand voice again, and see those notorious news reel clips, is shocking to reveal how long he has been gone, and how much he is missed. There has never been a replacement—in movies, or the sad last years of Miss Taylor’s life.