Altmanesque

DATELINE: Great Director Documentary

A biographical film on the life and work of Robert Altman uses a touchstone word, “Altmanesque,” as the word asked of all his most famous stars. Their inarticulate explanations may reveal more about the paucity of their vocabulary than about the notable filmmaker in the simply titled Altman.

He began TV work on schlock like the Whirlybirds,but learned the craft.

A man who never caved in on his principles, he was fired from movies and TV shows regularly for extending the bounds: he was thrown off Combat and Bus Stop.Those episodes look tame today, but were shockers of moral depravity back in the early 1960s.

When he confounded Jack Warner by having overlapping dialogue during an argument between two actors, he was banned from the studio. He did not play by silly rules, and today those rules look so silly that we laugh about it.

Altman had tremendous loyalty too, and often worked with the same actors. He was an actors’ director more than anything else: putting their ease of delivery at the top of movie success.

His most famous movies were twists on the usual genre, like Western film, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, or fantastic Brewster McCloud. MASH put him on the box-office straight and narrow. He went up and down, always interesting, but not until 1990 and The Player did he wake up the movie world.

His Oscar was honorary for a lifetime of achievements, but his films were variable, so different that each became the favorite of different people.

 

 

 

 

 

Jack the Tailor of Beverly Hills

 DATELINE: You Are What You Call Yourself!

 Clothes Make the Man!

Upon first coming across a one-hour documentary on a fashion store in Beverly Hills, we thought it was one of those vanity documentaries, produced by its subject. Jack Taylor was a 90-year old high fashion artist from old Hollywood days.

The film is a tad old, with Taylor gone in 2016 and his main supporter, Mike Douglas, a decade before that. Yet, we are always eager to catch up on our past misgivings.

Jack Taylor hardly needs publicity, and business is dying out as his A-list celebrity patrons pass away. He would soon follow and take an era with him. He was the man who tailored all those magnificent suits worn by Cary Grant from the 1930s till his death. Grant would order a dozen suits at time.

We wondered if there were any celebs who’d go on camera for a commercial appearance—and there were plenty of men: Mike Douglas, Hal Linden, swore by Jack Taylor. Monty Hall wore a different outfit every show on Let’s Make a Deal, all created by Taylor.

He made clothes for Elvis, Sinatra, Charles Bronson, and so many men. He was not easy either. He would tell them not to eat or put on weight. His suits were meant to show them off at their best shape. His most obstreperous client was Jackie Gleason who needed 3 sizes, because of his weight changes over weeks and months.

Taylor would tell them to eat only half the plate at the restaurant. He did not do alterations, or sew the suits. He has a 60-year tailor for that: he has worked for Taylor for sixty years. He’s in his 80s. But both lament there are no tailors any longer.

We are looking at the extinction of men’s fashion. There was no endangered species list: men’s suits and ties were dinosaurs when the political landscape changed its pants.

Clothes for men nowadays are off the rack at best, and China imports at worst. Jack Taylor knows his world of well-dressed men is fading away. He thinks the 1940s were the last gasp, but the war killed it at that point. And, the 1970s turned into a fashion death knell for men’s clothing with jeans and t-shirts as the extent of wardrobe.

We never expected to be fascinated at expensive clothes, being a recluse who never makes public appearances. However, celebrities still know a good suit is essential, but they are going to have a hard time finding anyone to replace jack Taylor.

Remembering Leonard Nimoy!

DATELINE:  Family-Based Eulogy!

  Nimoy with Quinto.

A few years after the original and amazing Mr. Spock passed away, his daughter Julie has come up with a biographical documentary about Leonard Nimoy.

Such loving family portraits are often good for the soul and avoid messy scandals and unpleasant issues. There is no mention here of Nimoy’s period of hating Mr. Spock and trying to avoid the character. Instead, we see how he comes to embrace the icon and play him even in the Zachary Quinto remakes! Nimoy steals the movie.

In such a tale of life, we were surprised at what we had forgotten: Leonard was a Bostonian who grew up near old Scollay Square, though he calls it the West End and says he was a street kid in a tough neighborhood. Well, yeah, it was the red light district of Boston for years! He never reveals that!

He went to Pasadena Playhouse at 18 and stayed in California forever after that. He did return to Boston to do a few plays in later years (Fiddler on the Roof, etc.).

The early years of struggle with dozens of guest roles on TV and working as a cab driver (where he met fellow Bostonian JFK once as a passenger), are quite fascinating.

His daughter has a criticism of her father: his two-pack a day cigarette smoking that gave him COPD. It ultimately was a death knell, though he lived until 83 years with the condition.

Fans will be delighted with how this creative and versatile artist lived and worked: he was poet, director, actor, and above all else at the end, a highly emotional family man. He joked how his ancestors were aliens to America and came to this country, but he was born in America and went to Hollywood and became an alien.

Nice little film.

 

 

 

 

 

Albert Speer Finally Exposed

DATELINE: Out for a Walk.

So many of these so-called Nazi documentaries are secretly honoring the monsters of World War II.  With reluctance, we tuned into the last episode of The Last Secrets of the Third Reich.

This mini-series is not apology for Nazis and it rightfully exposes the evil banality and shenanigans of Himmler, Rommel, and Speer, a nasty Nazi trio.

This hour-long insight into Hitler’s architect and “best friend’, surrogate son, took Albert Speer apart, piece by piece. He was the only high-ranking Nazi not to be condemned to death at Nuremburg trials. He spent 20 years in comfort in prison at Spandau, and then made millions with his apologetic autobiography.

He was a clever man who manipulated people his entire life, from Hitler to judges, down to history. He never admitted his guilt in the Holocaust though he went to Auschwitz and used slave labor on his projects to prolong the war.

He also had a secret collection of stolen art-work that he hid for decades and sold at auction in 1981. He must have known he’d escape into old age.

From being Hitler’s likely successor to being a patrician German version of the “good Nazi,”  Speer spoke English like a Hollywood casting agent’s dream of a Nazi out of Stalag 17. He was reprehensible for being even more of a hypocrite and role model for Germans who didn’t know there were Nazis in their government.

Herr Professor Speer, as he was known among Nazis, owned about 30 fine artworks worth millions, and he also sold his personal sketches by Hitler. He made himself rich in retirement on the lies and dubious morality of being a contrite Nazi.

Speer spent the last free years of his life, doing a batch of interviews and rehabbing his reputation. Many bought his act, but this bio film does not let him off the hook. He was a revolting faker.

With clips of the stolen art collection, rare interviews and horrifying photos of Hitler and Speer cavorting as friends, this is one Nazi documentary that must be seen to be believed.

 

 

 

 

 

Humming a Tune

DATELINE: Tiny Speedster

 

The littlest birdie in the world is the hummingbird, and you have David Attenborough ready to spill the beans in the heartbeat in this documentary from 2012 called, Hummingbirds.

When in flight, their hearts beat around 1200 beats per minute. When they sleep at night, they go into a suspended animation that leaves their hearts beating 40 times per minute. It takes them half an hour in morning to wake up—and they are prime choice for predators in this condition.

They must eat every fifteen minutes to keep their prodigious lifestyle. Besides flower nectar, they go after little bugs. They avoid bees whose sting could kill them.

These remarkable mammals are the fastest, smallest, and most amazing of creatures: they came about ten million years after flowers and adapted to become the cold morning pollinator. Insects could not do the job.

The hummingbird also is the most acrobatic flier in the world: he can fly backwards and upside down, unlike any other bird. Though they seemed to be most closely tied to South America and Brazil, they moved into the Andes Mountains soon thereafter—and a micro-version went to North America.

They must eat every 15 minutes to keep up their energy, but there are so many mysteries about how they live, no scientist can say for sure.

They migrate thousands of miles to Texas each year—and then must fatten up to make a flight across the Gulf of Mexico where there is no rest, no food, and no information on how they do it.

But this film is stunning for the beauty of the birds that have iridescent feathers that explode in color when they are combative. Slow motion photography grants an opportunity to see what is too fast for the human eye normally.

 

 

 

 

 

Monster Quest Returns

DATELINE: Favorite Back After Hiatus

“Serpentine Creatures,”  is the new special from the old classic series Monsterquest  that concluded its four-year run a few seasons ago. You can’t keep a good monster down, unless he is hiding under water.

Since Loch Ness has been done to death and debunk, the show moves on to other copycat sea creatures that have become landlocked in lakes since the dawn of prehistory.

We always liked the old series that took a serious attempt to uncover the stories behind some outlandish reports. And, now it has returned for a limited time on History Channel. Catch it for a mesmerizing few shows.

To investigate newer phenomena, the show does a ping-pong between the two coasts of Canada, ignorning Nessie and Champie entirely. We are given relatively new information about Ogopogo in British Columbia and Cressie in Newfoundland.

The theory espoused by more reputable scientists, not those who call themselves crypto-scientists, is that these are giant eels about twenty or thirty feet in length—and still ferocious.

Ogopogo is highly active with a half-dozen sightings every year still—and the show’s producers think their best chance to catch something is here. At least one expert wants to extract a tissue sample for DNA. Good luck, there.

Perhaps the best expert is author Arlene Gaal who has written three books on the subject and sounds down-to-earth and reputable.

The Monsterquest teams seem highly inept. They know what they are supposed to do, but helicopters do not arrive when called—and divers mysteriously go silent in the deep. Perhaps it is part of fake suspense for the audience, but the real result is sheer contempt for the half-baked efforts.

Oh, nothing is found—but they promise to return because you know there is a creature hiding there in the underwater caves and sinkholes. And, yes, we will likely return to watch again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

UFOs: The Secret History

DATELINE: (well, not so secret)

Be Still, My Earth.

Though it is billed as having new information, it really has only a new and amusing perspective.  The film is irreverent in many ways, through use of movie clips and the laconic narration of its clever director.

We are happy to report that, unlike many cheapskate directors who save money by doing their own voice-overs, this director is actually a fairly good voice and speaks with intelligence and drama. David Cherniak directs with aplomb. He also led the film for the recent look at Bob Lazar in late middle age, revisited. Don’t hold it against him.

UFOs: The Secret History  is indeed a history, but with few secrets. It does have a plethora of marvelous clips from classic sci-fi films as part of its narrative.

His hilarious insights that are new include the notorious “pelican” theory that Kenneth Arnold in 1947 actually saw pelicans flying in formation at 1700 mph and called them saucers.

Yes, a scientist tells us this with a straight face.

When it comes to more serious matters, director David Cherniak still chooses photos that are unusual, not ones you’d see on Ancient Aliens. He does give us a a fresh take on Orson Welles, Roswell, Project Grudge, and the usual litany of UFO incidents that brought us to a wholesale government coverup.

He also plays on the notion that seeing UFOs was psychological, part of the J. Allen Hynek approach, which was code for saying the viewer of such events had a psychological problem. Even Hynek was turned into a buffoon over “swamp gas.” Well, yes, being called a nutcase is distressing.

One turning point is hardly secret: abductions of Betty and Barney Hill of New Hampshire, the template for lost time and sexual abuse by space creatures.  There is no secret about the Travis Walton case, but it grabbed worldwide attention, as did the appearance of elderly Jesse Marcel who was at the Roswell crash in 1947, blowing the whistle.

If there is a secret here, that may be the hybridization plan of aliens to take over the Earth in subtle fashion by genetics. Oh, that secret…

 

 

 

 

 

Unidentified Finale, Part 2

DATELINE: Biting Audience Hand

 Elizondo

The series may smell its own doom and climbs out of the box in which it has placed itself for two seasons:  instead of video footage of UFOs, the show switched to alien abduction stories.

Lou Elizondo calls abduction of Americans an “act of war,” and an attempt to regain audience support. Like John Casey on World War 2 Gold, Lou Elizondo may be pushing out his costars. He takes the reins completely in the final two shows of the season.

The victims of close encounters are all, of course, former military non-coms who have retired and now are willing to speak their stories. Nearly all are serving at nuclear facilities when they had their bad meetings and missing time.

At least one witness adds a new wrinkle: that the UFO was gaseous with no sharp edges and had changing colors. The witness was left with odd burns from the encounter, but military tests are never shared with him.

These vets often mention black-outs and sleep paralysis.

Host Elizondo talks to one expert, Dr. Susan Clancy, who completely shreds and debunks all these witness experiences as “false memory.” Elizondo readily accepts this.

She insists that the belief of these memories is important for validation for an individual whose life is devoid of meaning. She also takes a shot at Dr. John Mack of Harvard who came to accept abduction as real.

In a last-ditch effort to throw a sop to the fans who usually are faithful to these kind of shows, Elizondo claims there are real physical effects to these witnesses. It may be too little too late.

Elizondo notes that there are six billion earth-like planets in the galaxy and may have “brothers and sisters” of the human race. The final few minutes become a desperate plea to continue the investigations, but History channel may more than likely pull the plug on this series.

UFO Cover Up on Unidentified

DATELINE: Mellon as Head of Ops

We’re not sure who’s covering up what and if you think you will have clarification on this series, Unidentified, which delineates military investigators and UFO cases, you will find yourself going down (or up) another rabbit hole.

Our intrepid hosts, insiders at the Pentagon, who are tied into the Navy release of actual pilot video of mystery craft in the sky, will not exactly give you the answer you want.

This series may have just realized it is poisoning its own audience with listening to UFO drivel (or alternative theories) it never believed to begin with: the experts cited continued to say that all UFO stuff is disinformation put out over their secret programs, including drones that now shoot out of submarines and return to their source under water. It explains submerged craft or USOs.

The military apologists also contend that the radar is now filled with technical ghosts, phantoms that appear on screen but are not real to hide the real aircraft.

And the AF is playing mind games with the US Navy, taking their information after eating them up with experimental encounters with mystery UFO-but really US top secret aircraft.

If the technology is far superior to anything belonging to the US government (as host Skip to My Lu Elizondo contends), we are in big trouble. The is now on the defensive or is that offensive, attacking the government who feeds it for hiding more videos.  Information at the Pentagon is now routinely confiscated by Air Force honchos, riding roughshod over other military branches.

So the series is fighting back to retain its unhappy UFO audience who are fervent believers. The hosts now claim that is is impossible that Area 51 is a base of fake UFO operations and saucers that are of this Earth, not so galaxy far far away.

We’ll see if this response is too little too late to save the series from becoming a coverup in itself.

UnXplained at Center of Earth

DATELINE: Under the Earth

 Brain Waves/underground acoustics?

Put Jules Verne’s Journey aside, UnXplained  is taking Shatner to the center of the Earth. In the series volatile up and down quality, this episode is a gem.

This show looked at the phenomenon of underground habitations, both natural—and man-made. The first stop in Turkey uncovers a labyrinth of rooms, a city actually, that could house 20,000 people. Conservative estimates suggest it is 1000 years old, but some say it is closer to 12,000 years. Who built this before the Pyramids, and why?

If you think we don’t have the technology today to accomplish this, you haven’t heard about the multi-layers of Area 51 or the cavernous living areas of Cheyenne Mountain, both military zones.

The experts (physicists from Ancient Aliens  like Drs. Travis Taylor and Mike Dennin) will tell you about a secret high-speed rail-subway system running clear across the United States.

If there is a nuclear winter, or a new ice age, the elite will be saved. The rest of us may not fare so well.

The show also visited a necropolis, an acoustic marvel in Malta where voices are enhanced, or seeming come out of the crypts of the dead. It almost sounds like Gregorian chanting from the netherworld. Actual recordings are played on this episode.

Shatner does mention Jules Verne toward the end, and his mid-19thcentury novel that may not be as fictional as some claimed. He even had a crystal world under the Earth, which has recently been discovered as real.

These giant crystals are hundreds of feet long from centuries of growth, and weigh tons. Humans cannot spend more than 15 minutes in their habitat because of heat and high humidity. You will be cooked alive.

The crystals are containers for microbes from outer space, not earthly, and they have been in suspended animation for 50,000 years inside the crystals. Uh-oh.

Subterranean worlds may be part of the “hollow Earth” syndrome, which has been dismissed by experts both as a fact here on our planet—and even the Moon.

This UnXplained  was truly worth the title.

 

 

 

UFOs VERSUS Nukes on Unidentified

DATELINE: Nuclear Clearance

 Nowhere in particular.

 Malmstrom AFB in Nowehresville.

The series that consults only military sources, retired witnesses to UFOs, has a remarkable credibility. As hosted by two former government officials, you have a rudimentary sign of “official” interest.

Trying to engage senators and other elected people still seems almost impossible. They go to Washington, D.C., and suggest that high ups are not interested (Trump dismisses UFOs in one short comment).

They also consult with former Sen. Harry Reid, now ill with cancer, but a spearhead of investigation with AATIP a decade ago.

What we have here is” UFOs and Nukes”. But, the show is alarmist by saying it is UFOs versus Nukes. Is there a spy operation? A monitoring by some unknown force? The notion of UFOs seems fairly certain: ridicule aside, they are unknown flying objects. That does not mean little green men.

However, as one military expert said: they don’t obey the laws of physics, so you cannot expect them to follow the laws of politics.

There seems to be more danger from their ability to observe secret missile bases like Malmstrom in Montana. There, UFOs apparently shut down missile silos. If they can shut down your nuclear missile system, there is a problem, Houston.

And, they are also seen often around nuclear power plants on the Canadian border near Maine.

The show worries about all this, fearing something ominous. And, they ask, rather frightfully, who will be held accountable for botching this?

With more and more former military men willing to go public, this series becomes more important in the quest to determine what is going on in the universe, or right here in the U.S.

Trapped in a Volcano

DATELINE: Horrible Ending

 Start of Eruption,White Island.

This one-hour news documentary from New Zealand is not a metaphor for anything social or political. It is a real examination of a horrid tragedy in December of 2019: on White Island, one of the rare active volcanoes in the New Zealand area, erupted suddenly with tourists on the rim of the crater.

It’s a once in a lifetime chance to see a volcano blow its top up close. It’s one-time because you will not survive the experience. The news film is called Trapped in a Volcano.

White Island supports a cottage industry of interested viewers. You can reach there by boat from nearby islands, or by helicopter service (several companies flew regularly a few people willing to pay a large fee), and the Royal Carribbean ocean liners went by and sent out dinghy-loads of passengers. Yes, thousands have gone there and lived to tell.

Not much warning or fear accompanied the visits by business tours even though the volcano is the entire island and erupted a mere three years ago. It has constant venting and ground is covered in yellow sulfur rocks, Steam is generally 200 or 300 degrees along the paths up the rocky terrain.

Famous news pictures showed a flow of dust and smoke billowing off the island and chasing a boat of tourists who departed ten minutes before the volcano blew. Another boatload was on the shore and was caught.

Going back, they saw a few struggling people covered in gray dust. Helicopters dispatched to do a rescue and found one copter smashed, all occupants who had landed were dead. Tour guides were dead. Nearly two dozen victims.

A lawyer representing families on the cruise ship were not told how bad it was by authorities on ship. Nor were they warned about the dangers of such a visit to White Island. Their lawyer said that was the cruise ship responsibility.

We would argue that before going there, we’d do our homework, and seeing live venting is not a good sign. Ballistic rocks fly out of the crater at 100 miles per SECOND. You cannot escape if the volcano decides to claim you.

Call it folly or vanity. Call it rich people’s privilege. We stand by the old-fashioned, unsympathetic term. It was plain stupid to go to White Island.

Triangulated Triangles: Identified

DATELINE: Unidentified: America’s UFOs

The use of triangle shaped craft by some entity seems to have gained traction on the series Unidentified: America’s UFO Investigations.

 

In the second episode of the second season, AATIP’s Luis Elizondo and Chris Mellen tackle the issue of mysterious black triangles now dominating the UFO scene.

For decades we have heard of saucers, then orbs, then tick-tacks. Now we find that the predominant military sightings are of silent, slow-moving craft of varying sizes, some as big as football fields. They are usually cloaked from radar. We can only note that most triangular shaped ships are designed by terrestrials here on earth.

Why would extra-terrestrials simply change their design in the past few decades? It’s illogical, if not unlikely. Of course, those saucers were crashing all over earth for decades. Perhaps the space creatures have smartened up and are designing safer space crafts.

Once again, notably, the witnesses are all highly reliable and credible military men who have retired and are now willing to come forward. It gives this show far more believability than so many others.

Mellen’s troubling conclusions are that, if unknown visitors are inspecting American territory, there is a big problem of national security and motives.

In the 1980s a massive sighting occurred over the Hudson Valley, not far from New York City. No one can fathom the legal and moral decision of the government to fly experimental craft over a populated area. It leads to a frightful conclusion: they are not US airships.

It is ultimately a distressing conclusion that these triangular ships could be like Cortes landing among the Aztecs. They had no idea how dangerous and deadly to their civilization this interloper would become.

Super Senses on UnXplained

DATELINE: Best Series on TV?

 Eric Plays!

William Shatner is in wry form again as the series UnXplained  actually tackles another unusual subject with some interesting insights. This time the show’s topic deals with how several individuals have made up for a lack of one sense (blindness, deaf, etc.,)with enhanced other senses.

This is more than someone learning to rely on what’s left when Nature has denied them the full range of sensory perception. The handful of interview subjects are not your usual subjects—and that gives the series yet another fresh approach.

A blind man who lost both eyes as a child to cancer make clicking noises, a form of sonar, to locate objects around him—and can makes a drawing or map accurately as to what is in his world when he walks around or ride a bicycle. It’s called echolocation, and some may disparage it as luck, he clearly has a new sensory approach that is nothing short of paranormal.

Another example, from the deaf world, is called synesthesia or synesthetes, people who may not hear noise or sound, but experience colors, and strange noise, to make up for their lacking. It is amazing to think that sound has color to define it.

Old-hand experts from our usual History Channel shows, Dr. Michael Dennin and Dr. Travis Taylor, are around again to discuss the physics of cross-connected senses. And, it is ground-breaking when it comes to these show topics.

Another victim of lack of senses, who feels no pain, explains the dangers of daily life when there is no pain sensitivity, which is called a genetic malfunction. He also explains he has so many injuries since childhood that it is now a blessing to be pain-free. To have it restored would mean he would not function at all.

Another premature infant named Eric Paravicini given oxygen in abundance to survive turns into a musical maven who at age 5 had memorized thousands of songs and now can play the piano like a virtuoso. The drawback and price for these “talents” is that forms of autism deny a full and satisfying existence.

Shatner is clearly in awe of this episode’s subjects—and we have to admit this was a startling and fresh approach, again putting UnXplained  at the top of the heap of History series.

Unidentified: UFO Investigations

DATELINE: Second Season UFO Investigations

 Elizondo.

You could surely knock us over with the return of this series. Now in a second season, Unidentified: Inside America’s UFO Investigations was certainly one of the interesting miniseries History provided last year. It featured two prominent former government officials: Chris Mellen, a defense minister and Luis Elizondo who ran the Pentagon UFO program that released actual UFO footage to great excitement.

We did not expect to see it again.

Luis Elizondo was in charge of the notorious AATIP program at the Pentagon.

The first show of the new season entails “UFOs in Combat,” though it only tackles living witnesses of the past fifty years, we know that orbs in World War II were inexplicable and thought to be Nazi weapons.

Now both men who are key hosts of this series have left the government to seek fame and fortune as informants of the UFO phenomenon. They are likely the most interesting, if not trustworthy, of experts these kind of shows present.

Elizondo interviews decorated American soldiers from wars of the past 50 years, going back to 1966 Vietnam. Here, in case after case, they witness these “tick-tacks” an allusion to the shape of the object. They are elongated or circular like an orb.

One expert calls them part of the 21stcentury technology or “angels” that are decoy devices around aircraft to deflect missile attacks. But this technology does not extend back 20 years, where it has been witnessed.

Another expert essentially questioned the mental stress of these patriots and claimed they were suffering from lack of sleep, fear, and other factors. The show’s hosts reject this out of hand.

The series seems to be covering the same ground as in the first season, but it is cracking open new testimony and information.