Coogan & Brydon & Tristram Shandy

DATELINE: Early Teaming of Coogan & Brydon

 Cock & Bull.

If you truly want the roots of the duo of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, you need to go back to 2005 and the costume drama they almost made. Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Storyis a fascinating Fellini-like motion picture. You will even hear music from Fellini’s 8 & a Half.

It is only ancillary about the Laurence Sterne novel. It is about trying to make a movie about it. From the opening scene of Rob and Steve in make-up having a witty repartee to the end of the film when they do their Pacino imitations after a viewing of rushes, you have the basic motif of theTrip pictures.

Tristram Shandy’s behind the scenes take over after nearly half-an-hour of the novel narrative. Debates brew about how to play it, amidst the personal crises of the actors. Roger Allam shows up as the thankless agent of Coogan.

Director Michael Winterbottom set the course five years before the first of the trip films. In Tristram, they argue over leading role status, their looks, and already Steve Coogan playing himself (in variation) has sex scandals brewing in the media.

Coogan plays Tristram and his father, as the film never really goes beyond his birth and early childhood. Rob plays his brother/uncle. When Steve arranges for Gillian Anderson to join the cast, it doubles Rob’s role. Steve’s ego is mortified at what he has done.

This is a semi-friendly rivalry that would be more fully studied in the four subsequent semi-fictional films in which they continued to play movie versions of themselves.

Trump’s Confederate Roots

DATELINE:Pass the Buttersworth!

Is there an official tally somewhere?  Just how many slaves does Donald Trump own?

Trump will miss Aunt Jemima when she’s gone.

Based on his vehement defense of Confederate generals, flags, and plantation mentality, we presume he is the last slave owner in America. Or, are we mistaken? Those people surrounding him are zombies, not slaves.

Maybe it was Fred Trump, the KKK wannabe wizard, who owned the slaves or treated his workers like slaves.

The brain dead seem to gravitate to the man whose billions of dollars may well be in Confederate currency.

Throw anyone in jail who dares to malign Gone with the Wind.

Donald Trump may be the only person in the United States who is standing on the dock awaiting the arrival of  Mississippi gamer boat, Waiting for the Robert E. Lee, of Al Jolson fame.

No doubt Trump prefers Jolson in black-face singing, “Mammy,” as he pours Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup on his Uncle Ben rice.

He likely hums “I Wish I Were in Dixie,” before going onstage for his notorious political rallies.

Jeff Davis would be proud. John Wilkes Booth would not shoot Trump.

Jerry Jones & Bill Belichick: Birds of a Feather

DATELINE:  Systemic Problem in NFL

The two foremost social thinkers of the 19thcentury remain powerful symbols of racial injustice:  the NFL now claims it did not listen to those uppity black players who believe they are living in an unequal and unjust system of police rioters.

The two biggest symbols of the NFL –Jerry Jones and Bill Belichick—have maintained their deafening silence on the subject of George Floyd and racial brutality.

Their defenders claim that, in private, both are dismayed that their black players are not happy.  But, they are not moved much more than Trump on the scale of justice. Oh, yes, they are both MAGA men.

In the Massachusetts senator debate last night, Joe Kennedy, grandson and great-nephew of Robert and John Kennedy said the Patriots ought to sign Colin Kaepernick. Fat chance: that white snowball in hell belongs to the NFL.

Oh, yes, Robert Kraft is a Trump supporter too.

Defenders of the symbols of NFL victory lappers will never come out and admit their worlds are backward and their views are racist.

It’s hard to draw any other conclusion in the face of such rampant ostrich head burying.

There are those rednecks who line the streets holding automatic weapons as a show to intimidate peaceful demonstrators. There are those resemble the Boston Strangler who put a knee to the neck of the helpless victims but wear police uniforms or NFL neckties.

85% of America think the country is out of control. Among the minority here are Jerry Jones and Bill Belichick: they are always in control, even if your civil rights are thrown out the window.

These are members of the Orange Pips.

Acorn Falls from KKK Tree

DATELINE: KKK and Fred Trump

New York March of the KKK on Memorial Day, 1927!

President Trump practically gave himself a hernia in his latest apoplectic denial to the Twitterverse. He denies vehemently that his father attended and may have been arrested at a Klu Klux Klan rally (one of those big events Trumps appear to like) in Brooklyn in 1927. It came only a few years after KKK burned down a black neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in the notorious Wall Street Massacre.

Trumps like to repeat history.

Police are pictured above rounding up the usual suspects.

Donald Trump may deny till he is blue in the white hood, but there was a parade of Klansmen on Memorial Day in 1927—and police took five or six stalwart marchers aside. The big issue is whether Fred Trump was detained, or simply arrested.

We also don’t know if he had a deluxe Klan robe.

Whether the President’s father’s wizard-style caused him to be detained or arrested is a matter of, you guessed it, inflammatory semantics. They didn’t have stun guns back then, or Fred Trump might have been knocked on keester. Fat keesters also run in the Trump family.

Apparently, to be detained by police, your questioning must be “brief and cursory,” and after that, if you seem to be suspicious, they can arrest you.

Whether there was probable cause is the big issue. Knowing the Trump family, we suspect that “probable cause” is their middle name.

Police records are not being provided to the media from the arrest, but newspaper accounts are rife from the era. We provide one picture here from the Brooklyn fake news media.

Twenty years before the President’s birther records were faked, his father was one of six dubious marchers who were pulled aside for belligerence and racial intolerance (that’s the suspicion).

Whether Nature or Nurture, we now have more evidence, however circumstantial, that the acorn does not fall far from the Grand Wizard’s old oak tree.

Anatomy of a Male Ballet Dancer

DATELINE: Not in the Movie!

  Gomes has an ‘S”for scandal.

Despite the salacious title, you will see the male ballet dancer, but not much of his on-stage anatomy. And, you will not hear about the sex charges made against him.

Marcelo Gomes is one of the foremost contemporary dancers, and he does allow an inside look at his life, but you will not be going into his most private life.

His name is pronounced or mispronounced all too often: he is Marshelo Gomess, not like the Marchello Gomez.

He professes a hope to fall in love one day (on the backside of his career as a dancer in his 30s, we may think time is running out.

By all accounts he is the most proficient, modest, technically correct dancer of the age. Ballerinas love that he only performs to make them look better.

Marcelo has all the problems you might expect: he was an oddity, the only boy in ballet school growing up. He was clearly talented from the get-go. He is a genius in his work, and in his personality. He grew up in Brazil and never spoke English until he was 17. He sounds like he was born in Poughkeepsie.

His father and he are alienated, though they meet pleasantly in the film. However, the elder will not attend any performances, and the reason is not explored.

He studied in Paris and picked up French instantly. His great problem nowadays is injury. When he dances at St. Petersburg, he is overwhelmed to see Nijinsky’s rose petal costume from Spectre de la Rose,but he hears a bone crack when he dances Giselle.

He knows that his career is on its last legs, and he is already preparing to become a choreographer in his post-dance days.

As a personable and most untemperamental man, he came out on magazine covers, still shocking to many even today. He has a pet dachshund, and there is no boyfriend to be seen in this film. If you think you have a chance with him, this is your time for a pas de deux.

Apart from the creepy title, we thoroughly enjoyed this marvel of the modern dance world—and the film too. Alas, shortly after the film’s release, Gomes was accused of sexual harassment and resigned from the ABT. Nothing in the film indicates this issue.

Season 2 End of World War II Gold

DATELINE: No Gold Strike This Year!

With the series finale at two separate episodes, there seems to be little to accomplish with Gen. Douglas MacArthur took out 20,000 tons of gold to help finance the CIA without government oversight. A once-promising series evolved this year into another fake reality series.

They also learned that there is grave danger digging where the CIA has its bank account.

So, with some trepidation, we are looking to see if there will be a third season. If John Casey has his way, he will expend his team and find a new group for the third season. Last season’s smoke bomb indicates an opening in the mountain—and they go to it. They cannot figure out its purpose, but it is clearly an air tunnel likely built by American POWs, misused by the Japanesee.

There is now another heavy machine digger with no explanations of where the others disappear. Ruining equipment and pushing men are considered a blow to the search, not idiocy. For two or three episodes, they had a woman operator, but she is inexplicably absent suddenly.

With Rick Hurts issuing hard labor orders to the operator, we can see why she was relieved of duty: it would look like harassment if she were the underling. We are left wondering how many people have been brought into this “covert” treasure hunt.

Bingo and Chuck McDougald warn them to be careful. Deaf ears? There are no bodyguards or armed protectors—and Casey hears of the threats to their operation undaunted. That’s no surprise as this guy has now proven himself to be obsessed and insensitive to anything that will undermine his goal.

Following immediately came the grand finale of season two, looking almost exactly like the end of the first season.

Locating an ancient temple is surely an archaeological treasure, but they don’t care. Go for the gold!

Five months of digging has led to a key moment that may contain either a treasure chamber—or a third profitable season.  Several maps are on former American Clark Air Force Base (no digging there) and in a historical tourist area of Manila.

To hedge bets, Bingo surveys all the islands and finds one on a corresponding map, 700 miles from Manila and directly south of Tokyo. It is next season’s goal, having figured the expense and time at the Luzon mountain are about to be undermined.

Helicopters, always black and unmarked, ominously survey the mountain discovery. The cast went to the far off island to avoid any confrontations, if they ever really existed except as a device to heighten suspense.

Vatican and Third Reich Wholly Unholy

 DATELINE: Vatican Coverup

 Sunday school Nazis!

You can figure that Pope Pius XII will not be a candidate for sainthood anytime soon. If half of what this French documentary contends is the truth, the pontiff of World War II was a fairly reprehensible being.

Even today the Vatican refuses to declassify its Nazi documents that show collusion.

According to this account, the Pope and his minions at Vatican City were not anti-Semitic (which is a racial prejudice), but they were simply irrational religious zealots who blamed Jews for the death of Jesus.

When you have Hitler trying to win over the Vatican and trying to show his Nazi regime actually was based on Christian principles, you have twisted logic and those willing to accept it. Bishops were given the privilege of joining the Nazi party (heretofore Catholics were banned from this) in the early 1930s.

The Nazis quickly put priests in Nazi uniforms and made them chaplains on the Russian front.

Pius XI was not as thrilled with the Nazis as his successor who happened to be the Vatican’s German ambassador for a dozen years. When XI died three months before the war started, Hitler had his man in Pius XII who never met a Nazi he didn’t like.

By 1943 Pius heard reports from his spies that the Nazis were killing hundreds of thousands of Jews. He said nothing—even when everyone thought he might condemn murder. He didn’t.

When the war ended, the Vatican’s work with the Red Cross just started to warm up: they managed to procure passports for Dr. Mengele and Adolph Eichmann as well as Klaus Barbie, to move to South America. It was Pius Xii’s right hand cardinal who orchestrated this.

If you want to be infuriated, disgusted, and horrified, this documentary Unholy Alliance: Vatican and Third Reich  will certainly make you sick to your stomach.

 

 

Morgan: Seat Yourself

DATELINE: Paraplegic Love Story

Perhaps the weakest part of this low-budget character study is its bland title that gives no quarter to the subject: a paraplegic young gay man who decides he will race in a wheelchair, damn the consequences. The film is titled Morgan, like a dozen other stories and does not help to distinguish it.

Leo Minaya is effectively cute and a good actor who holds the center stage on the story and its difficulty in playing someone bound to a chair. Second, the story has a gay love story angle, but it is refreshing in not overwhelming us with gay sex, which is always a central part of these kind of stories.

The protagonist’s handicap status would be a game-killer in most tales.

Oh, somewhere in the middle we have the obligatory love scene, but the real conflicts are about a stubborn athletic competitor who is given life’s bum rush. He resents it and begins to ruin the remains of his life through his anger and obsessions.

When he announces he wants what he deserves out of life, his boyfriend tells him, “Maybe you already got it.”

The cast is small and rather humble in their roles (a black woman best friend, a doting and kindly mother, an officious doctor to remind him he can no longer have ejaculations).

The gay component takes a backseat to the sad reality of a small-time life that requires big-time adjustments.

Perhaps unrealistic on some levels, like finding true love that has staying power, the film chooses to be ultimately optimistic and illustrating that one can adjust to adversity.

Director and writer Michael Akers has presented a vision that deserves to be seen. Leo Minaya truly dominates the film and is exactly what you want in his performance.

 

 

 

 

Pointless and Pointed at West Point

DATELINE:  Drinking Underhanded?

Only Trump could confuse West Point with Waterloo. Water, water, everywhere, but he could hardly raise the glass to drink.

Your racially insensitive president (according to black Republican Sen. Tim Scott, SC) insisted that the young officer graduates of West Point be called back from home for a two-week isolation period. They had to do it as it was an order. He wanted to have them listen to his speech sitting shoulder to shoulder, no distance or masks for them.

More than a dozen cadets in the class have tested positive for COVID-19. They didn’t take their hydroxy swigs.

Yes, in a month of disasters, Trump managed to create another in his re-election bid.

These feckless West Point graduates also would be denied having family and friends in attendance by presidential order. No wonder the applause meter was broken at the ceremony—and Trump was about as flat as you ever heard him.

If matters were going from bad to worse, you had a president who displayed now more strange symptoms of a malady of unknown origin.  It underscored his inability to stand still at the graves of the Unknown Soldiers at Arlington on Memorial Day.

At West Point Trump could not pronounce words like Douglas MacArthur. He could not lift a bottle of water to his lips with one hand: he needed two hands, which showed that the sound of one-hand clapping is strictly Zen in this administration.

He also had trouble negotiating the ramp down from the dais. Trump was angry when people suggested he was a doddering old man who needed assistance. It reminded many of his catcalls to Hilary when he said she was not healthy enough to be president. He claimed the ramp was wet (no rain had fallen) and there was no guard-rail to hold onto.

Those who have called the POTUS a madman, a psychiatric mess, and worse, now were able to note in excusing the Commander in Chief that he showed all the characteristics of a man with a neurological disorder.

Something akin to a brain tumor.

This tumor rumor set Trump into a Twitter tirade, which is exactly what you’d expect from a man with a brain lesions. Next, he’ll be on the roof of the White House shooting a rifle aimed at Democrats.

Is there no one to take Trump to have a brain scan? It may be a thankless job, made more difficult by finding where they put his brain.

Deadly Companions Before Parent Trap

DATELINE: Steve Cochran Died 55 Years Ago!

Steve Cochran with Brian Keith.

Before Walt Disney cast them as estranged parents of Hayley Mills in The Parent Trap,  Sam Peckinpah wanted them as the estranged couple in The Deadly Companions.

Even in 1961, it was rare for a woman to be the top-billed star in a Western. It happened rarely, usually with Barbara Stanwyck or Joan Crawford.

This time Maureen O’Hara, the best leading lady for a half-dozen big stars like John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart, took on the role of hard and angry dance hall girl.

In the Deadly Companions, Brian Keith shoots O’Hara’s son by accident, killing him. When she wants to take the coffin to bury him in a dangerous town across Apache Territory, no one will help her –except Brian Keith. They are not boon companions.

Joining them somewhat unwillingly are Chill Wills and Steve Cochran as a couple of ex-Rebel bank robbers.

The reasons for the assorted bunch to stick together is hardly altruistic—or particularly believable. It does make for a singular Western in sea of oaters ending the decade. It predates the Clint-Leone spaghetti versions by a few years—and is the first film directed by Peckinpah who would turn to violence as a motif to keep up with the meatball brigade in the next ten years.

You have a chance to see that Keith was a solid leading man, not a TV star, and that Steve Cochran was cast perfectly as a  scoundrel. He was gone too soon after this film, and Chill Wills phones in his usual seedy kook bird version of his usually likable uncle.

We are reviewing the film on the 55thanniversary of Cochran’s death in 1965. He still looked youthful here and was always a classic bad guy. His death was peculiar in the movie and in real life too, as he was on a yacht floating for ten days because no one aboard could sail it to a port.

Crossing Rachmaninoff with Villani

DATELINE: Grand Music

Flavio in concert.

Some disparaging commenters have called Flavio Villani a mediocre talent who is the subject of a documentary on his effort to play Rachmaninoff’s Second Concerto with a symphony orchestra.

It takes a snide and cowardly person to label Villani anything but brave and courageous to make such an effort. To tackle that difficult and breathtaking piece of music in a concert is like throwing a touchdown pass at the Super Bowl.

And, the sports metaphor certainly applies to Villani who came late to music—but found himself challenged and gripped by becoming a pianist of classical order. He left his native Italy and went to study in New Zealand at age 26.

His efforts are documented in this little film that shows him walking on the beach, admiring nature, cooking, and living a normal middle-class life while he ruminates on the power of Rachmaninoff’s intimidating piano composition.

We see him practice alone, practice with a second piano, and prepare for this first attempt to play with a symphony. It is daunting, and he is committed. A gay man, alienated by both classical music and his personal life, he is a man in exile in New Zealand. He returns home triumphantly, reconciling with his family before the big concert.

We see and hear snippets of the First Movement and almost the entire Third Movement on the big night. Whether he made a single mistake or several, we might never know, so complex is the concerto. The music is staggering, dramatic, and ultimately a melodious work of genius. He acquits himself admirably.

If you have never heard this concerto, you have missed one of the great experiences of life.

If someone without as much passion and heart want to knock his efforts, they reflect on their own base misunderstanding of the human condition.

This little story of one person’s integrity and decency is a beacon in the dark world of today’s inhumanity.

 

 

 

Orson Welles in a Western?

DATELINE: Have Horse, Will Travel.

 Orson, Horse Optional.

When we saw the listing, it was beyond credulity! Can it be that Orson Welles made a Western?  Even worse than that, the film is listed as a “tortilla-Western,” made in 1969.

The film is called Tepepa. It would appear that the film never made it to the United States for release—probably to Orson’s great relief.

Well, if there was a chance to see Orson on a horse, we needed to view it and give a report to faithful fans. No, he did not direct this Spanish-Italian production. It was made when he took all kinds of roles for the money to bankroll his own films. This was done for a few dollars more without Sergio Leone.

You cannot expect much—or have we grown too cynical? The film is a dubbed mess, some of it in English, some in Spanish, and some in Italian. Dubbing was optional.

Welles does not appear on a horse. The tortilla setting is Mexico, beautifully filmed in clean, clear settings. And, the Western is actually set in 1920. This gave Welles the chance to ride around in an antique red automobile, obviously a man of the future.

He plays some kind of prison commandant, or colonel of the villainous order. He is the foil to Tomas Milian who plays some kind of revolutionary folk-hero in the Che Guevara mode.

The movie’s director reported that Welles was most disagreeable on the set—and particularly nasty to his costar. Yet, they had merely a few scenes together. Mostly, Welles appeared opposite blond John Steiner who played a British doctor who also wants to kill the revolutionary hero who raped his girlfriend.

One of the main characters is a Mexican boy who serves as a ping-pong ball between the other actors. As for Welles, you’d expect he’d phone in his scenes and act with nonchalance. Though he mumbles some lines in disdain, he actually gives a nuanced performance, as if he can’t help himself. He clearly enjoys playing the baddie and savors each moment. He chomps on a stogie and is half-apologetic for his evil.

No, this isn’t Citizen Kane,and it’s not even For a Fistful of Dollars, but it is an hysterical historical gem with Orson Welles. We hooted openly.

The Most Racist President in U.S. History?

DATELINE: Trump Tweets Nazi Soldiers on US Flag!

 Yes, Trump Tweeted It in 2015.

In case you buried your head in the sand like the Republican ostriches in the United States Senate, President Adolph Trump has been bolder each day in his brazen racist attitude.

His latest example of tone-deaf racism has been to maintain the names of United States forts that honor men who owned slaves and fought against the Union of Lincoln.

He earlier supported keeping the Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond on its pedestal. He likes to hum that wonderful tune by Stephen Foster about a Mississippi barge named after the Confederate slave holder.

In case you wonder where Trump’s racism is going next: we suspect that he may rename some American military bases after men who dominate the public daring to oppose them. Look forward to Fort Eichmann, Fort Rommel, and Fort Hitler, to be training spots for stormtroopers meant to keep Trump as president for life.

Trump is also going after that Black Lives Matter bastion of left-wing terrorists: the Roman Catholic Church. He believes that a 75-year old peace protester is a “provocateur” who staged his own cracked skull.

There’s a cracked skull in here, but we think it was cracked running into the White House bunker. If we recall, Hitler’s bunker and Trump’s bunker share the safety from registered voters and pollsters.

Joe Biden said on late-night TV that he expects that, if Trump loses in November, he may resist leaving the White House and will need to be dispatched. We hope it happens swiftly, or Biden may find himself locked up (right after Trump arrests Colin Kaepernick), as if he were president of a banana republic.

The Mad Mad Mandela Effect

DATELINE: Wild Theoretical Movie!

  Robin Lord Taylor.

David Guy Levy has directed, written, and presented us with a highly clever paranormal mystery movie. It’s able to straddle the world of presenting us with dubious Internet info interspersed with a fictional movie. It is highly entertaining and thought provoking.

A young father loses his daughter to a drowning at the beach—and goes into a philosophical crisis that upends his world. Indeed, he begins to think his world is simulated reality in an attempt to reach the spirit of his dead child.

It threatens his sanity and worries all those around him, including his gay best friend (Robin Lord Taylor, once again in a creepy performance).

The Mandela Effect is a theory that mass memory errors are not misremembered events, but seepage from a parallel universe (like Jif Peanut Butter, or it is Jiffy Peanut Butter—or is Mr. Moneybags called something else without a monocle here and now). We all have these strange false memories that cannot be explained.

Some of us are clairvoyant and may think we are part of the interdimensional brigade. You may not be seeing ghosts, merely interlopers from a parallel universe.

Particle simulations being what they are in computers, the hero Brendan (Charlie Hofheimer) is increasingly drawn into a parallel universe where everything is a Looney Toon. He meets the designer of a quantum computer at a local university, and it resembles the Monolith out of Kubrick’s Space Odyssey, and it may be exerting forces on events.

As a computer programmer, Brendan tries to overload the godly computer of quantum physics to blast through to a parallel universe. Considering its low budget, this is a a clever, intriguing, and ultimately thought-provoking sci-fi paranormal entry coming in at under 90 minutes of dangerous ideas.

 

 

 

Lost Gold Claims a Shocking Discovery

DATELINE: Shocking Allegations!

MacArthur & Truman!

 

With all the hyperbole and exaggeration around this season and the unpleasant and arrogant John Casey who did in his first-season team, it is no surprise that there is a “shocking discovery” on the latest episode.

The expert miners involved once again overrule Casey, feeling he has jumped to conclusions about how easy it will be to find the treasure vault.

The father-son miners are concerned that their robotic dig of a parallel tunnel may uncover gases that can overcome the men.

At the second dig, they have found rope that is clearly not old enough to be from World War II. It is blue nylon, indicating that their dig is not the first. They are finding modern digging tools. Another successful treasure hunter would not have publicized his discovery.

They now think one of three boxes of gold or treasure has been found and taken, but two boxes remain—based on the McDougall map.

Bingo Minerva is hot on the trail of rival searchers back in the United States. He has been encountering dire threats about their safety and a conspiracy that supports covert operators. A New York Times reporter suggests that it is General Douglas MacArthur may have been one o those who found treasure. He at least shared the info with President Harry Truman.

Allegedly Truman and MacArthur used the treasure money to fund U.S. operations against the Soviet. They had over 20,000 tons of gold at their disposal.  It is certainly shocking to learn that the POTUS and his Supreme Commander were taking treasure at will for their nation’s covert operations.

They are warned this search is dangerous. Then, there was carbon dioxide and monoxide that can kill fairly quickly. They have to flush out the poisonous air.

There are sensational shocks this week for sure.