The Long & Short of 3-Hour Movies

DATELINE:  Time is Short

Agreed

We have just informed well-intended friends who always recommend long movies to us, that our tolerance level has passed beyond endurance.

We are no longer putting three-hour movies on our dance card.

Gilligan’s Island started out as a three-hour tour, but turned into an epical series with TV movie sequels.

In our misspent youth, we watched Lawrence of Arabia multiple times. That was four hours a shot.  We also took in films like Cleopatra, or Ben Hur. It may be we saw them more than once.

Today long films are not a sign of epic historic proportion, like the Bridge on the River Kwai. We watched recently again Once Upon a Time in the West, which was not only long—but slow. Those oldies were fascinating, whereas today’s movies are pompous, overwritten stories by directors who happen to think of their own self-importance before the audience’s bladder.

Hitchcock thought film should err on the short side to match the human kidney tolerance. Even he exceeded our new guidelines by pushing movies to two-hours.

Nowadays we always figure there are six minutes of credits at the end. That helps if we skip that, though we are loath to do so.

We still believe the best movie is under 90 minutes. As much as we dislike Woody Allen, he had the right idea. Many of his best movies were only 75 minutes in length. Including credits.

Before you point out that we have watched many series like Downton Abbey, Bette and Joan, and Endeavour, all recently, we would point out that those are episodic and run usually an hour.

Most of the time they’re also self-contained. It took 25 years to film all of The Poirot Agatha Christie stories. We don’t intend to take 25 years to watch them. However, they are usually about an hour in length.  A few of the classics are shorter movies. More than tolerable.

The upshot of our complaint is that we are no longer in the market for epic movies to be watched in one long sitting. Our life is now counting down to a precious few days.

If we’re going to spend time on a movie, hovering over three hours in length, it had better be special.

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Is Trump a Moron?

DATELINE:  Smarting Insults

rex Smarty Pants Rex Tillerson

After Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declined to refute the accusation that he privately called President Donald Trump a “moron,” we have to investigate the ramifications.

Kim Jung Un recently called Mr. Trump a “dotard.” It seems to be open season on the mental state of the MAGA-low-maniac’s personality.

Both moron and dotard used to be early 20th century terms used by prototypical psychologists. Then, the unwashed, deplorable public took up the words—thus rendering them on the lighter side of slander and libel.

Dotard used to refer to someone with Old Timers’ Disease in the old days before punchy and punch-drunk went the way of medical diagnosis.

Moron was frequently a level of retardation before that went down the tubes to emerge as Downs’ Syndrome. A moron used to be someone with the intellectual acuity of a ten-year-old. However, we have met some fairly sharp ten-year-olds—and feel that is a bum rap.

Our deplorable education system has finally resulted in a generation of deplorable voters electing a deplorable candidate. Let’s take quotes off the term moron.

Well, you know the term is often lumped in with idiot, imbecile, fool, clod, dullard, nitwit, dumbbell, jerk, and the all-purpose loser. It’s a big tent of disparaging terms proving all roads lead to Rome. You don’t need GPS to figure out that the map is littered with wrong turns.

We know Mr. Trump is lost in there somewhere. However, we have concluded he is most likely to respond to his favored sobriquet: son of a bitch, often used to delineate and denote NFL football players who have arthritic knees or pray for deliverance from “rednecks.”  But that’s another story.

Melania Trump: All Wet Look in Texas Flood

DATELINE: Capri Pants Optional

melania

Mr. Ed knew some thing about lucky shoes. He had four of them, for all kinds of weather.

Melania Trump should take a lesson from the knowledgeable TV star. She has now reached the exalted heights of a talking horse—and her shoes may be most unlucky. The heels were longer than a hummingbird beak.

Choosing to accompany the President on a trip to flood ravaged Houston, Texas, to meet up with Harvey the 50-inch rainfall hurricane, Mrs. Trump wore black stiletto heels on her bare feet. We presumed the open-toed look was to let the water in and out as she stepped into puddles.

No one told her that sunglasses were not needed on a cloudy day. Her bombardier jacket was, however, the right touch—because critics were about to dump on her shoddy shoes. We would be the last person to suggest rubbers for Melania, or even the President, mainly because they usually will be ill-fitting for stilettos.

Holy water, whatever do the Trumps think when they go out to become the first tourists in a natural disaster, the likes of which now rival the Johnstown Flood of the 19th century?

No one expects Melania to need waders as she slogs her way through flooded streets. Indeed, we don’t expect Melania to step over any puddles as she is taking Air Force One, not a puddle-jumper.

We also expect that Mr. Trump will be as gallant as Sir Walter Raleigh who doffed his coat and let the First Lady of England, Queen Elizabeth I, walk across water like she was the anointed apostle of the Church of England. Melania did not wear a crown, only a FLOTUS hat to the flood. No irony intended.

When Mrs. Trump landed in Texas, she skipped trying to look like Jackie Kennedy disembarking with her President. She wore her hair in a pony tail, a la Mr. Ed, and she had exchanged her stiletto heels for a pair of Michael Jordan jumpers for kicks.

No, she did not bring the wet T-shirt this time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trump & Roach Motels

 DATELINE:  Hurricane Harvey Solutions

Astro

Hurricane Harvey may cause millions to flee areas about to be devastated by a Category 4 storm with winds over 140 mph.

Fear not, citizens. The Trump Homeland Security promises that checkpoints along the route will operate as usual, even if you are delayed from escaping the fury of Nature.

You must bear with the Homeland Security folks who put your life in danger because they have a job to do:  find those pesky illegals who are trying to save their lives from natural disaster.

Of course, this means you are damned if you do, and deported if you do. The upshot is that an unknown quantity of people will stay in harm’s way.

President Trump sent out one of his patented tweets that essentially said, “Rotsa Ruck,” like he was a Jetson dog.

“Good job, Brownie,” as President Bush once notoriously said as thousands died in Hurricane Katrina, and countless others suffered violence and lawlessness..

To that end, Emergency Shelters will become Roach Motels. Illegal aliens will check in—but won’t be allowed to check out.

roach motelFEMA Emergency Shelter

Yes, the storm will become the Trump Pied Piper, leading the tired and huddled masses to deeper dangers and fears.

What’s a little phobia?  Every day brings a little death in Texas where you cannot trust civil servants to be civil, or provide you with food and water unless you have papers to prove you are an American citizen.

There is no rest for those seeking refuge from poverty—or from impending doom. Your federal government is at work, like the Post Office, neither rain, wind, nor President Trump, will stop them from doing the work of the Grim Reaper.

Good job, Trumpie.

Trump’s Modest Proposal

DATELINE:  Cooking Up a Storm

trump apron strings

For a summer treat hot off the griddle, you may want to partake of a menu that caught the eye of Newt and promises a cheery Sessions of law enforcement.

The repast of yore starts with a DACA salad, with only the most tender of sprouts, with lettuce picked by illegal migrants under the hot sun.

Don’t forget to use the TPS sauce on those Haitian wings for an unforgettable dinner that Friday used to enjoy with his master Crusoe. TPS sauce can be poured onto countries like El Salvador, Honduras, and any African nation of your choice.

Home, sweet Secure Homeland, will be securer once more if you have the bug zappers in place and dis-invite any rebel republican senators who tend to be like ants at a picnic. We think the best BBQs are held behind great border walls to keep out the riff-raff.

German sauerkraut mixed with KKK-kale provides a kick that only a neo-Nazi could endure. You may want to mix that salad up with some tough police elbow grease.

Make sure you have enough alt-right to offset the Antifa pesto.  Red beets should be ready once you light the torches.

Roasted deported citizens who have a litany of civil violations always goes well with a Chianti and fava beans for those who like to watch the lamb go to slaughter. Civil rights and civilian clothes are optional.

Remember that this recipe at Kent State College once made America great. Nowadays you may want to have some congressional bicarb to hold down the dyspepsia and general sense of existential nausea after watching Master Chef Trump dump another hog into the pit.

Bone-head appetit, all you strict constructionists. The cookbook was made to be followed.

With apologies to Jonathan Swift.

Twin Peaks 3: Episode 14 Update

DATELINE:  We See Dead People

bowie

Late David Bowie With Early MacLachlan

If we have learned any lesson this season, it is there is no such thing as a spoiler in Twin Peaks 3.  David Lynch’s surreal series is moving toward its conclusion, and the old characters, however dead they may be, are still viable plot movers.

Old time fans will be glad they have hung on to the lunacy by this time. Lynch now has begun to weave clips of the original show, 25 years ago, into the new plot.

This episode featured old Lynch as FBI Director Cole recounting a dream to Miguel Ferrer as his assistant Albert. In it, we see dark-haired young Lynch in conversation with young, still-dark haired Kyle MacLachlan as Agent Cooper. Director Cole’s old partner and friend shows up from 25 years ago, and it is none other than the late David Bowie.

He is in a scene with the late Miguel Ferrer.

Dana Ashbrook is now on the Twin Peaks Police Force, and James Marshall is now a night watchman in the infamous Twin Peaks Hotel. There, he works with a British boy who looks like his son—and has been directed to Twin Peaks by cosmic forces to find his “destiny.”

Lynch continues to be a grand proponent of directing actors to stare blankly at each other. It is both insightful and hilarious. He does it best with Ferrer who notes the absurdity of the universe.

We now learn too the connection between missing agent Dale Cooper, his assistant Diane, and the weird counter-point of Naomi Watts as Mrs. Dougie Jones.

The episode is dedicated to the memory of David Bowie who probably wished he could return to reprise his role in this grandiose season.

The Stunt Man: Rush Job

DATELINE:  Mad Director Meets Madder Stunt Man

otoole

If you ever wondered what it might’ve been like to walk onto the set of legendary superstar Peter O’Toole during filming, your chance came in 1980 with the movie The Stunt Man, directed by Richard Rush.

The title is two words because Burt Reynolds sued director Rush over the title, wanting it for his movie tribute to stuntmen. They split the difference.

It’s a comedy action thriller drama Hollywood insider movie about the making of an out-of-control World War I epic anti-war movie with more explosions and killings than supports its so-called plot of the movie-within-a-movie.

It also costars Steve Railsback, in a rare heroic role as a Vietnam vet with post-traumatic stress syndrome. Fleeing from police, he wanders onto the set of O’Toole’s Eli Cross production and is immediately sucked into the ruse of taking up the role of a stunt man who was killed accidentally that day.

O’Toole knows he has a fugitive on his hands, but needs to prevent an investigation into his botched movie stunt.

Railsback was fresh off playing Charles Manson in Helter-Skelter for a movie mini-series. Peter O’Toole based his wacky director on his work with David Lean during the making of Lawrence of Arabia.

Flying around the set on a crane, O’Toole’s ego-maniacal director will risk anything to get his movie on film, including the accidental death of crew-members. Yes, this is a comedy, but not quite like you expect.

This movie probably would never be made today, even with rogue directors and winking cable studios financing the project.  Then, again, we admit that Twin Peaks was given a green-light.

When Railsback asks O’Toole why he is protecting the fugitive, O’Toole answers: “Because I’m in love with your dark side.” It makes perfect sense.

Railsback was never so handsome, and O’Toole was never quite so cuckoo.  It makes for a delicious movie, though it is about a half-hour too long.

In its earlier incarnation, it was given little publicity in its release. O’Toole commented the film was not released, “It escaped.”

 

Dreams of Younger Days Won’t Cut It

DATELINE:  Aged in Wood

 sam & blythe

I’ll See You in My Dreams is an old song, but is not the one you expect to hear in the story.

Director Brett Haley presents us with a picture of growing old in Los Angeles, if you are rich and healthy. But, don’t be fooled. It’s no bed of roses for those with privilege and pleasant lives in the waiting room for the Grim Reaper. It’s still a dead end.

Blythe Danner plays an old lady named Carol, but she is way too beautiful, even in her 70s. She also seems to be playing Diane Keaton in terms of wardrobe. After the death of her husband, she took to a retirement community, high-end living to say the least, and for twenty years filled her life with bridge club, a dog, her daughter, and a pool boy, not necessarily in that order.

Still, much is missing in life. There is a motif of a rat running around her beautiful home that drives her outside periodically.

The 35-year-old pool boy may be half her age and in one of those millennial crisis, but he sees her powerful, past talent as a chanteuse. Indeed, Danner gives a wonderful rendition of “Cry Me a River” to prove the point.

Dropping by the film are old faces, once familiar TV staples, like Max Gail, Mary Kay Place, and Rhea Pearlman, which seems to increase audience depression.

The low-budget film will not win over the young set, but who needs to? This is a bittersweet story of whether geriatric romance is worth the tumble. It is done all too tastefully, as these are not desperate, grubby people

When distinguished and wry Sam Elliott shows up with plenty of money, we realize that old age is meant to be lived with wealth and health. Heaven forefend you lose those.

There is something of resignation in the message that Haley seems to present in this highly polished movie that was filmed in three weeks. When you have old professionals, you can fly through a script.

Well-done on all levels and sobering tale of love and loss.

 

 

Dr. Strangelove and Nuclear Bombs Away

DATELINE:  Kim Versus Trump

riding the a-bomb

Slim Pickens Rides the A-Bomb into Oblivion

With all the hubbub about North Korea turning its nuclear weapons upon US and using several dozen miniature bombs to hit the major cities, we thought it was time to reconsider Stanley Kubrick’s classic 1964 movie, Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

Mr. Trump is hardly a dead-ringer for Peter Sellers who played the bald Adlai Stevenson-style president of the country, discussing nuclear destruction with his generals in the War Room.

There we find General George C. Scott fighting with the Russian ambassador, issuing the famous order: “Gentlemen, there will be no fighting in the War Room.”

With nuclear annihilation on the doorstep, back in those days, people knew how to deal with the thought of instant evaporation and annihilation in a mushroom cloud. Today friends from California are saying goodbye to loved ones on the East Coast.

We know that Donald Trump will never tell his generals not to fight in the War Room, and we can hear the placid, slightly sad tones of Vera Lynn as she sang the World War II favorite for fatalists:

We’ll meet again,
Don’t know where, don’t know when,
But I know we’ll meet again
Some sunny day.
Keep smiling through,
Just like you always do,
‘Till the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away.

So will you please say hello
To the folks that I know,
Tell them I won’t be long.
They’ll be happy to know
That as you saw me go,
I was singing this song

We’ll meet again,
Don’t know where,
Don’t know when,
But I know we’ll meet again,
Some sunny day.

Writer(s): Parker Ross, Hughie Charles, Hugh Charles
Lyrics powered by http://www.musixmatch.com

Lucy Meets Bill Holden in TV Classic

DATELINE:  Down Memory Lane

holden William Holden

When a friend bet me that the funniest TV show ever was on Amazon Prime, we could not resist to ask what it might be: she told us it was the old Lucy show with William Holden as guest.

Of course, we remembered it instantly, so indelible was its memory. It had to be fifty years since last we saw it on some endless loop of reruns that the show enjoyed for decades.

And, there it was listed as a 1954 episode on the third season of I Love Lucy. Free on Amazon Prime.

For those youngsters who have missed the wacky moment of one of the biggest stars of the 1950s showing up on a half-hour sit-com, it was something special back then. Holden was big.

William Holden had worked with Lucille Ball several times over the years earlier in their careers—and were good friends off-screen too.

So, his appearance was anticipated as much as John Wayne or Richard Widmark, who also did guest appearances that season—but Bill Holden’s was distinctive and truly the epitome of the crazy red-head’s “Hollywood adventures” when she went with her husband Ricky Ricardo for three months that year into celebrity heaven.

Her encounter with Holden at the Brown Derby restaurant turned into a spaghetti fiasco, with Holden winning a staring contest with the adoring fan. Upon embarrassment, Lucy beat a hasty retreat out of the restaurant, but knocked a waiter with a tray of cream pastry into William Holden.

Later, Lucy’s husband (Desi Arnaz) brings home a surprise guest—none other than Holden. Lucy must don a disguise to avoid recognition. Her putty nose astounds as it twists one way and then another, ultimately aflame up when Holden tries to light her cigarette.

holden & lucy

Yes, we counted about a dozen goodly guffaws, even years after knowing what was about to happen.

We can envy anyone who is about to see this little laugh-fest for the first time. Other episodes have been celebrated, but this Lucy episode was the one we truly loved.

Last Days of Warner Oland: On Anniversary of Death

DATELINE: Charlie Chan & Curry College

WO Oland in character

Ten years ago a little documentary biography was put together on actor Warner Oland. It can be found online.

We have long been a fan of his gentle, Method-acting style, immersing himself into playing (and living life) as the legendary Charlie Chan, Earl Derr Biggers’s famous detective.

Oland, with his exotic name, was the first and best of all the Chans—so much so that many thought he was Asian. His heavy eyelids made him look the part. However, he was born in Sweden, next to Garbo, one of their earliest American immigrants to acting.

Oland loved playing Chan, and even gave interviews in character—but his drinking problem seemed to have exacerbated with a doomed marriage in 1938.  On the set of his last film Charlie Chan Ringside, he simply walked off the studio lot and disappeared.

The movie was shelved, and Oland went back to his native Sweden in the pre-war turmoil of Nazi troubles. There, welcomed home by Swedes, he caught pneumonia and died. His last Chan film was Charlie Chan in Monte Carlo, a delightful performance. His close friend Keye Luke loved him as a Number One son might! Oland was cultured and cerebral.

Oland caught our attention years earlier, of course, on old-TV film festivals—but our real fascination came when we discovered he graduated from Curry College, then located in Boston as an elocution/speech school for actors.

We cut our own teeth at Curry for 30 years as a professor, of film studies, no less.

When we watched a Chan film this week, we went to the ubiquitous Youtube to find all our favorites. To our shock, we learned Warner Oland died 79 years ago the day we found a slight biographical movie called Charlie Chan is Missing: the Last Days of Warner Oland.

Charming and mysterious, Oland preferred his home in central Massachusetts, not far from our preferred home, and his wife had his body brought back to Southboro where his gravestone was the step to his beloved home in that town.

The film is short and chock full of info, but the clues to Warner Oland’s strange character disappeared with him.

Our Town Too Close for Comfort

DATELINE:  Thorton Wilder Classic

the deadDoro Mirande, Fay Bainter, and Martha Scott, stand out among the dead.

With music by Aaron Copland and set design by William Cameron Menzies, Thornton Wilder’s Our Town of 1940 is an emotional wallop, despite Hollywood’s interfering new-fangled ending. It’s the sort of thing that gave Hollywood a black eye for years.

Once the staple of high school reading lists, Our Town has fallen out of favor being the work of a dead white guy. Of course, that was the point of the play: but we now agree that Our Town is wasted on anyone young. And wisdom is never an easy lesson.

If you are beyond middle-age, seeing this again will be chilling. Instead of a homespun tale of Americana, this is a cynical and downbeat tale of birth, life, and death.

Though it starts out with amusing details of a 17-year old boy (William Holden, looking adolescent) and his next door girlfriend Martha Scott, as George and Emily. Set in 1901 until 1913, it seems like a quaint Mayberry in New England story.

Grover’s Corners was fictional, of course, set on the border of New Hampshire. Well, that’s where we live now—which certainly gave us pause. We are in the midst of the world of Our Town (exteriors filmed nearby). Wilder wrote the play while staying in Peterborough at the writers’ colony.

The setting feels more like Rindge or Jaffrey, NH, than artsy Peterborough.

The final third of the film takes place in the graveyard, brilliantly depicted with the dead (most of the cast) standing in solitary, morose fashion. It is a frightful depiction of what death means, and what life becomes.

According to this story, you have one day to re-live, as a ghost in time travel. These are trendy concepts today, let alone in pre-World War II America.

The ghosts debate that you should choose the most unfortunate day to re-live because happy times will be unbearable.

Performances are powerful—realistic and distressing. This is not a story for young people, but in 30 years they may be drawn to the play’s extraordinary insights, even those scornful diverse young critics of today.

Death is a great equalizer. The film is not tragic, only whimsical.

 

Peter O’Toole on TV in 1986

DATELINE:  Rare Appearance

Banshee

In one of his rare acting performances on the small screen, legendary Peter O’Toole took a role on a Ray Bradbury Theatre production of a short story called “Banshee.”

This anthology series ran for several years and featured notable stars in a thirty-minute Twilight Zone-style show.

Most of the summaries of the episode with O’Toole are oddly incorrect on various websites.

The man who was Lord Jim, Lawrence of Arabia, and Henry II (twice), plays an eccentric film director living in Ireland on his remote estate. He plays John Hampton, which clearly is a play on the real eccentric legendary director who lived in Ireland on his estate.

That was, of course, John Huston. The dialogue even has that lilt of Huston’s—and O’Toole wears jodhpurs and boots with swagger, to suggest Huston.

He is visited by a nebbish writer played by Charles Martin Smith who comes for a spooky interview with a script that O’Toole shreds to pieces.

Greeting the writer in the dead of night, the flamboyant director is more than a little unsettled by the cry of a banshee, an Irish female ghost, out in the dark, forboding woods around his estate. While he urges the writer to go out to find this creature who cries for death, Smith locates an ethereal beauty near a graveyard who wants O’Toole to come out.

The story was written by Ray Bradbury and seems a trifle, though highly moody and atmospheric. The show falls short of Twilight Zone quality, but who can complain when Peter O’Toole enlivens every scene.

 

 

 

 

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

DATELINE:  Old-fashioned Murder Meets Sci-Fi

MJ12kindlecover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Boy Culture TV: Sequel for the Ages!

 DATELINE:   Producers Wanted!

 BC

One of the cleverest and surprising films of 2006 is prepping to have a ten-years later style sequel with all the original cast.

If you remember the delightful novella by Matthew Rettemund turned into a top-drawer comedy of manners by Q. Allan Brocka, you may be in for a big treat. Boy Culture wants to return.

They have a deadline of 29 days to find movie producers to contribute to a new Los Angeles production that will be short TV episodes transformed into a feature-length film.

Yes, Derek Magyar will be in the film as X, with Darryl Stephens reprising Andrew, and Jonathon Trent returning with his extra-long tongue. We are being tongue in cheeky, for sure.

If you ever wondered about all those people who are thanked at the end of a movie, here is your chance to join the conga line that passes quickly while most people are ready to hit the remote button. Well, if you are on the list, you may stick around to the utter end.

It doesn’t cost much to become a recognized Hollywood producer on a big production like this. Immortality seldom reaches out to movie fans, but the filmmakers have gone the Kickstarter way. It’s how small budget, big heart movies are put together:  with love of fans.

If you have a big wallet, you might even end up with a walk-on cameo in one of the scenes. Talk about becoming a Hollywood legend. It might repay you with dinner invitations for years to come—as you explain the thrill of it all.

We hate to say what it costs to be one of the co-executive producers but the benefits of being with the cast may be your last chance for groupie rights that only X would appreciate.

Quite frankly, our favorite character was Gregory Talbot in the original: the wonderful actor Patrick Bauchau played the reclusive, well-heeled patron of the extended family of boys.

Yes, we want in on this. But we want to see the movie produced successfully and be part of a legendary hit.

When they call action, Boy Culture TV may be your calling.