Dangerous & Repressive Pakistan

DATELINE:  Gay as a Misnomer

Mawaan

Charming, affable, and entertaining Mawaan is a British citizen of Pakistani descent who decides to go back to his native land to see what it would be like to live there as a gay man. The documentary is chilling.

Twenty years ago, a Pakistani student told us that there was no gay life in Pakistan. If the religious fanatics learned of your sexuality, they would come in the night to murder you. End of story. No one would care.

Now years later, Mawaan’s visit basically discovers not much has changed. The British performer bravely takes in two of the biggest cities on his research: Lahore and Karachi where gay people live in abject terror that they could be discovered and stoned to death, blown up, or simply brutalized.

Mawaan spent two weeks there—and probably learned more than he cared to know. In the rural areas where he did not go, the worst extremists may reside and terrorize anyone with sexual behavior that diverts from traditional culture.

When Mawaan visits an imam, who is learned and civilized, he visibly flinches at the revelation that the young visitor is gay. His best advice is to leave the country, not an option for most gay Pakistanis.

Indeed, gay life exists, as it has for centuries, in secret. The designation MSM (Men Sleeping with Men) actually accounts for many because poor men cannot afford prostitutes and Muslim women are above sexuality. They end up sleeping with each other.

It is not a pretty picture with secret chambers in the darkest ghettos where such life takes place.

Gay parties are held in secret—and HIV health centers exist in fear that someone could throw a bomb at them at any time. We remained in awe at the courage of Mawaan to visit places in the most dangerous cities in the world.

This little documentary provides  extraordinary insight into repression and cruelty that still spawns hope in so many desperate people. Mawan is to be commended for uncovering the truth and showing the world the harsh life of gay people in Pakistan.

 

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CGI Removes Kevin Spacey from Upcoming Movie

DATELINE:  All the $ in the World

 oops, not so fast     (Remove the name please.)

Ridley Scott has announced he will replace Kevin Spacey as J. Paul Getty in his already filmed movie, All the Money in the World.  Its trailers already released with Spacey will be revised.

This is a new wrinkle: replacing an actor in a film without bringing in the rest of the cast, re-shooting dozens of set scenes, or otherwise delaying the project much.

Through the miracle of computer generated effects, the face of Christopher Plummer will be overlaid atop Kevin Spacey, creating an entirely new character’s image in scenes the rest of the cast never filmed. Their reactions in the script will be to the original actor, now erased.

The notion that actors and their roles are now subject to recasting at any point may change the direction that films take. Imagine: you can take an older film and remove a bad performance with another actor’s impersonation.

Spacey has been deleted because of his detriment to box office, no other motive can be found. To insure the movie will not be judged on the foibles of Spacey, someone else—namely older and safer Plummer will suffice.

We doubt that Spacey will replace himself with another face in his TV movie Gore, now shelved.

No matter that this bit of casting likely improves the entire film because Plummer will play the grandfatherly Getty, a billionaire cheapskate who didn’t want to pay the ransom for his kidnapped grandson.

Through the magic of computer effects, we can see a plethora of bad actors taken out of the role after working and being paid. If the director finds his original choice was not so good, he may re-cast with impunity.

Directors may now take advantage of some hot young star and replace the original with a new face for reasons of finance, politics, or just box office.

We expect to see the resurrection of James Dean or Marilyn Monroe in a new move when their heads are placed onto other bodies. It’s around the corner, movie fans.

Curse of Oak Island: Season 5, Starting Gun

DATELINE: On the Money

oak island

Our cruel skepticism has been dumped on its head into the Nova Scotian Bay of Fundy. The Curse of Oak Island is back–and better than ever.

As Season Five opens with the death of young Drake Tester, off Oak Island of some unfair seizure, the pall of mortality hangs on everyone—from 94-year-old Dan Blankenship to the younger generation of treasure hunters. Young men of good character are not supposed to die before old, cynical adventurers.

Yet, this season on the show, there is finally something tangible and within grasp. We are still left with anguish over the enterprise that boasted a seventh person had to die to solve Oak Island’s mystery. The Lagina brothers never expected the youngest of their treasure hunters would be the one.

In the meantime, safety went to the forefront with the notion of sending a diver down 170 feet into a small shaft. With the bends and hypothermia likely dangers, the diver nearly exceeded his safety limits. It made for dramatic reality television, but also made obvious how the obsession for treasure is dangerous.

Metallurgist Gary Drayton, Australian expert, found another artifact that could be as much as 400 years old on an island no inhabited back then—making this season compelling television viewing.

The two-hour premiere seemed to be the most professional in the history of the search. This gives the quest some highly charged foreshadows.  However, at the end of the night, as it has for all their efforts, technology fails for reasons unknown. Call it a curse.

Whatever Oak Island is hiding, it has a deep and abiding reluctance to reveal itself to the nosy eyes of the camera—or to the adventuresome spirit of a team of adult “boys” as they call themselves.

We won’t miss an episode.

The Princess & The Gangster: Margaret & Bindon

DATELINE:  Truth as Shocker

bindon Snapshot of Margaret & Bindon

John Bindon was a 1970s British character actor who played a series of dangerous thugs in movies like Performance (with Mick Jagger & James Fox) and Man in the Wilderness (with John Huston & Richard Harris).

He was also real-life gangster in London, a violent shakedown artist. He mutilated and thrashed men and abused women. His acting chops were not far removed from his life on the street.

There was one big difference for him:  when he met Princess Margaret, the royal bad girl before Princess Di, he was smitten. She had a thing for younger men. They vacationed together in posh resorts and spent time in magnetic attraction. She never met anyone quite like the witty mobster.

He was a Jekyll/Hyde character:  he could be as witty as Oscar Wilde—amusing the Princess often, or as scary as Jack the Ripper—chopping off an arm of another mobster in retribution.

His life, as it was, is show-cased in The Princess and the Gangster—a documentary that reveals how Margaret, sister of Queen Elizabeth, immersed the Royals in scandal.

When it was rumored that he had compromising photos of Margaret in flagrante delicto—the British secret service threatened him with extermination if he were to breathe a word or sell the pictures.

When he went on trial for murder, someone pulled strings—and he walked free, the jury compromised apparently.

When he died of AIDS before he was 50 in the scourge of the 1990s, the crime world was shocked. Yes, he was known for his foot-long talent, which he displayed often in bars to win bets, but he must have used his prowess on more than the Princess and a few queens.

It is a staggering story, deftly told in this short film.

Shakespeare on Oak Island: Cracking the Code

 DATELINE:  Hooked on Oak Island Treasure?

With the fifth season of The Curse of Oak Island set to be aired with the perennial amateur archeologists, Lagina Brothers, we took in an international documentary that comes in the back door of Oak Island.cracking

A Norwegian-British documentary named Cracking the Shakespeare Code is annotation on the TV series.

Snob PhD, Dr. Robert Crumpton is a skeptic when it comes uncovering a conspiracy theory on authorship of the Shakespeare plays. His counterpart, a Norwegian organist named Petter Amundsen believes he has discovered secret codes in an early complete folio of Shakespeare plays that puts us squarely in the swamp of Oak Island.

Like the Bible Code, this documentary hints of a complex system that ties identity of the Bard to pagination counts and letter counting and geometric designs on the pages of a 400-year-old Folio.

Bizarre numerology shown in the documentary may have you scratching your head. After all, there have been 50 or 60 real authors suggested for the Shakespeare plays.

We are not so far removed from the notion that the name Will Shakespeare was a stage name, a pen name, or nom de plume of some other Elizabethan.

Indeed, most amusing of all is the idea that Queen Elizabeth is the father of the Shakespeare mystery, and true author of Hamlet and other classics of the “Elizabethan stage.”

Back to the documentary so complex and twisted that we wonder why anyone would go to the trouble to hide anything in this manner.  It is an enigma within a cryptographer’s nonsense.

The payoff for unraveling the conundrum may be the core of a peeled onion: nothing ultimately matters, except Shakespeare plays that stand alone and apart from any purported real authors: Francis Bacon and Henry Nevill.

These researchers ultimately end up on Oak Island, ignoring the famous cable TV series of the Laginas, who own most of the real estate on the island. The Laginas are most certainly uninterested in mercury-plated manuscripts written by Shakespeare. Rick Lagina does make a guest appearance here.

We wonder what kind of dimwits would bury documents in a swamp and think they’d be waterproof for a couple of hundred years. Why hide this stuff in the first place? Who knows? Maybe the Curse of Oak Island will tell us this season.

None of this documentary matters, of course, when you combine an authorship mystery with a treasure hunt. You fill two hours tantalizing notions and test our resolve.

To be, or not to be….  Ah, there’s the rub.

Stay Tuned: We plan to review every episode of the Curse of Oak Island this season, starting next week.

Dark Legacy: CIA & Bush Take Their Lumps

DATELINE:  Who Dunnit?

Bush:Kennedy

In the week that Donald Trump released the long-hidden Kennedy Assassination documents from the National Archives, we decided that revelations never quite meet the theories spawned. The hidden truth was never put into a government memo.

So, we took in one of the most outlandish and yet frightening of all Kennedy murder conspiracy films: Dark Legacy.  This is a three-Hankey movie: John Hankey wrote, directed, and produced this disturbing documentary and conspiracy theory.

This time it is CIA-centered George Bush, the 1st one to be president, who in the 1960s worked for and led (as J. Edgar Hoover called it) ‘some misguided anti-Castro people.’ Bush later was director of the CIA, but his family had dark ties to CIA director Allen Dulles (fired by John Kennedy months before the assassination). Dulles was the fox in the chicken coop when he was appointed to the Warren Commission.

The coincidences pile up about who knew whom. We waited breathlessly to find out that Oswald took in a monthly allotment from the FBI, and that Jack Ruby was on Richard Nixon’s congressional staff in 1947.

The film borders on accusing the CIA of trying to embarrass J. Edgar by putting one of his operatives into the center of the conspiracy to kill Kennedy.

We think it unlikely the recent papers released under Trump’s order will embarrass the Bush family—or even Ted Cruz’s father (allegedly an associate of Oswald). However, the dots connecting so many famous names will rattle you.

This little conspiracy documentary borders on overkill, but however improbable the conclusions, the facts hint at possibility.

Making of a Shower Scene: 78/52

DATELINE:  Psycho Freshly Showered

78:52

A documentary about one of the most influential films of the 20th century may be simple and surprising. After all, how much can you say about about 2 minutes of a shower scene in Psycho? There were 78 set ups and 52 cuts, making for the title.

The title numbers refer to the numbers Alfred Hitchcock needed to create the horror of a notorious film murder.

You will be definitely surprised at what you learn here. Out of the entire movie, the impact can be boiled down to Hitchcock’s brilliant construction of this scene that brought a culture to a turning point, created a slasher genre, and has become endemic to horror and fate.

The film gathers together a group of interested parties who seem to be at some seedy hotel, their comments filmed in black and white, appropriately enough.

Oh, there are enough clips of Hitchcock speaking for himself: but the film also finds the body double of Janet Leigh, now an old lady, who for seven days, endured the shower scene’s filming. Marli Renfro also was a Playboy bunny cover girl.

Also gathered are various film editors, sound editors, and directors to comment on the script, storyboard, and constraints offered by Hitch.

The film also interviews Osgood Perkins, son of Anthony Perkins, and Jamie Leigh Curtis, daughter of Janet Leigh. As a bonus, there is a montage of the many satiric and homage film clips to the most infamous shower scene in movie history.

You will be impressed by the details that the Master of Suspense considered while making this sequence, down to the selection of the painting over the Peeping Tom hole made by Norman Bates to watch Marion Crane.

For those interested in history and art, this film is quintessential Hitchcock to be added to your knowledge and collection.

 

Be sure to read ebook Hitchcock Freshly Showered for a study of the complete oeuvre of Hitch. For smart readers on Amazon.

Environmental Hottie: Leo DiCaprio

DATELINE:  Floodgates are Now Open

With flooding and natural disasters occurring now three and four times a year instead of once per century, we thought it was time to take a look at it Leonardo DiCaprio’s documentary called Before the Flood.

We are already way ahead of you. We also laughed at the notion that DiCaprio, a semi-self-educated actor, is an expert in global warming. Yet, because of his fame and celebrity, the United Nations made him a special Messenger of Peace on the issue.

AT the UN, they listened to his speech with more rapt interest than at global warming scoffer Donald Trump.

DiCaprio begins his documentary with a litany of FOXNews expert ridiculing him for his so-called expertise. So we give him credit for recognizing that one. However, he follows it by a notorious plug for his movie The Revenant.

What can you expect from a child whose parents put Hieronymous Bosch’s notorious painting of hell  and paradise over his crib?

DiCaprio is no newcomer to the issue of climate change. He goes back to video clips over 20 years ago in which he meets with Al Gore, Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, and shows his interest in the environment, using his fame as a passport to open doors.

With Irma and Harvey and Maria and earthquakes, DiCaprio is beginning to look like a prophet in the wilderness.  He says the real profits are from billionaires with fronting organizations like the fake news-media and politicians who deny global warming. Yep, that’s called biting irony. Fake media cuts two ways.

The entire term “global warming” is a misnomer. Actually, it is not warming; it is extremes in the weather.  And there’s no denying we have that lately in Irma, Harvey, or Maria.

The question is whether it’s caused by man made fossil fuel, or by forces of the universe yet unknown. Blame it on ancient aliens.

With the concept of expertise getting the short shrift in American culture for the past half century, it’s not surprising that experts are denigrated. It’s not popular to be one of the elite intelligentsia in a democracy of boors.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re a scientist, an artist, or just an ordinary PhD.

You will be ridiculed for being different.

In 21st century America, you are persona non-grata. You might as well go out into the wilderness and start crying.

The people for whom this documentary is meant to educate have already Hit the remote button to shut off the screen.

In that sense, this is all a waste of time.

Feud: Ryan Murphy & Olivia DeHavilland

DATELINE: Creepy Producer

 

coda

The spry legend, Miss Olivia DeHavilland whose Oscars outnumber anything Ryan Murphy will ever compile, has fired another volley at miniseries Feud: Joan & Bette, created by Mr. Murphy.

Right before the series is about to reap Emmy glory for its hilarious and entertaining depiction of two movie stars in a death throe struggle like scorpions, more turns of the screw emerge.

Miss DeHavilland’s character, ‘herself’ it appears, is a mere supporting figure. Yet, she does not like how she is portrayed. In a deposition through her lawyers, she tells the world she never called her sister, actress Joan Fontaine, ‘a bitch’ to any director or producer.

That may mean she used to term privately among friends, or even to hapless Joan Fontaine’s face, but her point is the script and series misrepresented her behavior. She said: “The false statements and unauthorized use of my name, identity and image by the creators of Feud have caused me discomfort, anxiety, embarrassment, and distress.”

Yes, being violated is like that, no matter what your age.

Murphy’s glad-hand attitude demeans Miss DeHavilland by calling her “Olivia,” despite her age, her position, and the fact that he never has met her, let alone sought her permission to use her as a figure in a docudrama.

In blatant admission, Murphy’s mouthpieces claim: “The fact that the words attributed to her and the purported endorsement are false does not transform the character into anything other than an exact depiction of de Havilland.”  Hunh?

That’s quite an admission: they know they have misused her by having her say words she never uttered, but it’s all for the profit of Ryan Murphy—and to give us viewers a few guffaws.

We wish to point out that Miss DeHavilland is a real human being, not an emblematic symbol like the White Whale, appearing in a work of fiction.

Murphy is betting that the 101-year old Oscar winner may pop off at any time—thus giving him the last word, which he will have anyhow as time will likely bestow on him the honor to be standing at the end of all this mess.

In all likelihood, the arrogant TV producer probably thought DeHavilland was already dead—and it didn’t matter how he used her identity.

What the old legend is showing here is that identity theft can occur in many ways:  when you profit from stealing someone’s personality, you’re a thief, Mr. Murphy. But, as Hollywood producers go, that is no crime at all.

 

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 in Dealey Plaza

DATELINE:  Photos at Kennedy Assassination

Dealey

Once again, the 2004 TV series Unsolved History provides a definitive look at mysterious events in history, this time at the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

This time the old standby streams some of the juiciest and most impressive technical analysis of your standard conspiracy theories.

This time they look at the 30 camera angles from 30 known photographers that covered the 45 seconds leading to the murder of President Kennedy. There could be other, lost, withheld photos, heretofore unknown.

From the opening moments when they show their models in orange coats standing on location where the actual cameras were located as a limo drives past, you will be hooked.

Interviewing a few surviving photographers, but mostly their children who now as old adults pass on what their parents saw at Dealey Plaza as they took pictures.

As historical record, this 45 minute show about a 45 second moment in history is compelling and fascinating.

If there is any complaint, it is that the images move by too quickly to see the truly odd details. We kept wondering about the odd men who slowly walk in the opposite direction of the panicking crowds.

This insightful episode brings and merges all 30 still photos and color movie pictures together into a montage for 45 seconds that is not for the squeamish. It does show a graphic, hideous murder.

To the show’s credit, it recognizes that amateur photographers had no idea they were about to enter the annals of history—and their amateur mistakes prevent any resolution of the crime.

Culminating in the Zapruder film, the ultimate montage is staggering, given warnings that the subject matter would be upsetting to viewers. Indeed, so.

 

Apologies to Oak Island Treasure Hunters

 DATELINE: Revising the Original Review

 

Unlike a bad penny, the Oak Island treasure never turns up.

When last we reviewed Curse of Oak Island, we were in a less than kind mood. The onerous tones of the opening remain, telling us that six men have died searching for the pirate treasure in Nova Scotia. And legend insists that a seventh will die.

We now suspect the seventh victim will be the audience, dying of old age.

Yes, the show remains intriguing. We feel like an addict, called back to the bad stuff by enabler Rick Lagina.

The best parts of the show always are the detective work, often leading nowhere. Don’t let that stop you. But most of all, we enjoy the old-timers who were there 50 or 60 years ago—and still are caught up.

Dan Blankenship is now 93 years old, but is spry, witty, and the best part of the series. He lives on Oak Island and brings a unique perspective to the American searchers.

The Lagina brothers have always been smarmy, but this season Rick is overdone by his younger sibling. Once a tightwad, Lagina is now prepared to dump millions into digging up the money pit.

The show must be reaping more revenue than we suspected. The real treasure is cable TV ratings.

We must confess we are hooked. Bring on the snake oil. Show us another murky video of gold glimmering 150 below the surface. We have signed on for another season, enjoying it like a return to boyhood.