What Would It Look Like If Hollywood Tried To Give The Troglodytes What They Want To See?

The recent furor over the large audience for Roseanne Barr’s tv show and the rumor about Fox resurrecting Last Man Standing got me thinking about what it would be like if TV and the Movies produced a certain amount of product every year for troglodytes like me.  And let me try to be precise.  I don’t mean generic action or sci-fi shows where the eighty-pound magic girl kung-fu-fights her way through acres of white South African and Serbian villains.  And I don’t mean family drama about blue collar guys who clean up after a hard day on the construction site and strut their stuff on the local drag-queen circuit.

So that’s what I don’t want.  But what would I prefer?  You know, it’s been so long since there was a choice other than weirdo-liberation of the week tv that I actually have to imagine what it would be.  Well, for a start how about a tv family where Mom stays home with the kids and Dad goes to work?  And how about a family where everyone is heterosexual or even better let’s just say normal?  And how about the words gay, lesbian or trans never come up?  And imagine if there are no disgruntled minorities aggrieved about the name of the school being Washington or Jefferson?  And how about if no one forces the boys’ baseball team to add a girl to the squad for “fairness?”  And imagine if we never have to hear about “Black Lives Matter” or “White Privilege?”  Suppose gun control and hate speech are unknown ideas?  And just to round things out, if we never mention Obama, Al Gore or Climate Change I’ll be happy.

You know what was a pretty good sit-com?  “Home Improvement” was actually almost perfect.  Innocuous comedy, family warmth and chemistry between the actors playing the family.  What else do you need?  And here’s a thought, when Tim Allen already has a popular family show on tv, why not try supporting the show instead of cancelling it when it’s near the top of the ratings for its viewing night?  ABC, you are truly hopeless.  Walt Disney must be spinning in his grave.

Now as for action-adventure, just have Americans blowing up foreigners and space aliens and pretty much I’m there.  Did I mention I don’t need any sexual weirdos or racial politics?  Good.  Try to remember it and I’ll go see your movies.

But who am I kidding?  Hollywood would rather go broke than support normal values.  They have too many friends in the LGBTQ weirdo network to turn back now.  So, this whole arc must be allowed to reach its inevitable conclusion.  In a few more years when Hollywood has completely lost the normal people someone will start over with the things I mentioned above and low and behold the people will beat a path to their door.  Hopefully that will put the last nail in the coffin of Hollyweird.

23MAR2018 – OCF Update

Well, I’m back in the saddle at work again and catching up here on the site.  I’m halfway through Robert Silverberg’s Lord Valentine’s Castle (hat tip to Tom) and should have the review soon.  And based on the story so far, I think I’ll read the other two books at some point.  I have some movie and tv reviews coming up very soon.  I’ve got over a thousand photos from the Southwest to edit and rate so I should have a few photo posts coming up soon.  The political situation is like some kind of crazy kaleidoscopic nightmare.  It sounds like Ray Bradbury’s formula for his stories, “The trip—exactly one-half exhilaration, exactly one-half terror.”  And now we know just how many women are willing to admit to having sex with Donald Trump.  I guess he was right about them letting him grab them.  But they do seem to have been paid for the experience.  Trump truly believes in capitalism.  Well at least he wasn’t attacking them like Slick Willie.  Either way things seem to be going well.  The Republicans are afraid of losing the House, blah, blah, blah.  Well they are pretty lame so anything is possible.  But they really should embrace populism and try to show some backbone.  It is the smart move.  I still have to read some of the political columns I missed but whether there is something important to share remains to be seen.  From my point of view Trump needs to clean the stables and drain the swamp.  Then he can move onto policy.  And he needs to punish the sanctuary cities and send the illegals home.  And finally, Justice Kennedy, go away, now!

William Shatner – A Demigod of Bad Acting

Over the course of over fifty-five years of television viewing I have become jaded and much of what I once felt was entertaining has lost its thrill.  For instance, as a young kid I was convinced that “The Twilight Zone” was not only great acting and entertainment but also intellectually dazzling.  I thought that “Flipper” was top-notch adventure and “Lost in Space” was cutting edge science fiction.  Ah, youth.

But one thing has remained constant from the early sixties to the present day.  And that is the Shatner.  From my first sighting of him on the Twilight Zone as the panicked lunatic on “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” to his every close-up on the original “Star Trek” TV series to his every career iteration he has distinguished himself as the World’s Greatest Bad Actor.  No one can compare.

And along the way I’ve cheered him on.  I thrilled to the scene where he agonized about “losing command” when the transporter separated him into “Good Kirk and Bad Kirk” and he knew that “Bad Kirk” was muy macho and he, “Good Kirk,” was a wimp.  I was transfixed as marooned Kirk shouted up to the sky, “KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!!!!!!”  And I fought back the nausea listening to his riveting rendition of Elton John’s “Rocket Man.”  It’s been a wild ride.

But his greatest role is one that few have seen or remarked on.  In 1984 he starred in a made for tv movie called “Secrets of a Married Man.”  In it he is an engineer who is going through a mid-life crisis.  His job is on the line due to a difficult project.  He’s stressed out and his wife is busy with the kids.  He starts having sex with hookers.  There are a number of hilarious Shatner overacting scenes that turn what is supposed to be serious problems into over the top comedy.  In one scene he’s in the shower and looks down and starts spazzing out and choking out the words “Oh my God!”  In the next scene his doctor is telling him he just has a rash on his genitals and he shouldn’t worry.  Another gem is Shatner driving down the main street with his wife in the car next to him and all the hookers are calling out greetings to him by his first name (Chris) and him claiming that it’s some kind of standard hooker greeting.  Ah, if only the Oscar went to the deserving.

But time is running out.  Shatner was born March 22, 1931.  In a few days he’ll be 87.  One day soon the world will wake up to the news that the Shat is no more.  And on that day, I will morn.  But in the meantime, it’s comforting to know that in this world of relativism and revisionist propaganda the gold standard for something has stood the test of time and will be there immortalized in all its tacky splendor, the life work of William Shatner.  Well done Shatner, well done.

Darkest Hour – A Movie Review

I remember as a kid seeing Winston Churchill’s funeral televised.  I knew who he was from the old early morning presentation of Mike Wallace’s “Biography” series.  I knew he was our ally during WW II and that he had rallied his country when the rest of Europe surrendered to the German military juggernaut.  Later I read some of his speeches and read about his earlier history during WW I.  But I didn’t imagine at this point that a good movie about his time as Prime Minister would come my way.  I am happily surprised to have been mistaken.

I finally got a chance to watch “Darkest Hour” tonight.  It has the look of a period piece and the feel of a film made from a stage play.  There are set pieces and dialogs and very little filmed outside of buildings.  I didn’t think Oldman was given a close resemblance to Churchill and the difficulty of understanding him when he is mumbling during certain scenes is considerable and I think purposeful.  And there is a particular scene in a subway car that is completely fictional and that includes a Jamaican man in the scene who seems to have been added for the sake of diversity or inclusion that seems anachronistic.

Put all that aside.  I thought it was a great evocation of the desperation of the time and the fateful choice of Churchill stepping into this darkest hour of British history.  His flawed and idiosyncratic personality rubbed almost everyone the wrong way and his pugnacious courage was at odds with the war-weary British government in the post-WWI era.  His relationship with Neville Chamberlain and King George VI are highlighted to show how he contrasted with those in government but the evolution of the war and the need for someone with the will to persevere in the face of Nazi blitzkrieg success becomes his inevitable platform from which to energize the Parliament and the people of England to take up the frightening struggle of all-out war.

Many of the scenes take place in underground bunkers where military and government teams are meeting and analyzing incoming war reports.  There is a definite claustrophobic feel in much of this.  And the frailty of Churchill’s age is highlighted when he seems overwhelmed by the infighting within his own war cabinet.  But all of this only magnifies the achievement when he resolves on what will be his path forward and what must be done.  The final speech in Parliament is stirring.

Highly recommended.

Inside Man – A Movie Review

For the most part, the Millennial Generation is composed of hopeless nincompoops whose taste in movies, television and books is so vapid and cretinous that being boiled in oil would be preferable to watching one of their picks.  But there are exceptions.  I work with a young fellow who has demonstrably received an education that includes many of the elements of the Old School.  He has a good grounding in history and science and is acquainted with the western canon of literature.  Without a doubt he leans far more to the left than I do but paraphrasing Churchill a man in his twenties who isn’t a liberal has no heart.  Well about a week ago we were talking about crime dramas and he asked me whether I like the “caper” movie genre.  I assumed he was going to mention Ocean’s Eleven or a Guy Ritchie film.  But he said it was a movie with Denzel Washington as a New York City Police Detective negotiating a hostage crisis during an abortive bank robbery.  It sounded interesting.  I like many of Washington’s movies.  As an expat New Yorker, I’m sort of a pushover for New York City stories so I was interested.  But then he said it was a Spike Lee film.

I had never, up to that point, watched a Spike Lee “joint.”  I consider him a race hustler who has built his reputation by fanning the flames of black animosity toward white people.  All in all, I consider him a jerk.

In my reaction to my young friend’s suggestion I mentioned these feelings.  He did his best to assure me that this was a pure crime drama without any hint of racial justice propagandizing.  Based on his past track record of good sense, I begrudgingly decided to give it a shot.

So last night I watched it.  It was good.  It was very good.  Full disclosure, there were a few minor race hectoring flourishes that added nothing to the story.  But they did little to harm the story either.  I looked at them as involuntary reflexes that Spike Lee probably didn’t even know he’d added.  But they were minor and didn’t spoil the story.

The movie is a very good caper.  I won’t spoil any of the plot but will just say that there are lots of balls in the air and several interesting major characters and lots of minor characters doing interesting things.  Denzel is the star of the movie outside of the bank and Clive Owen is the star inside the bank.  Other relatively big-name actors are Christopher Plummer, Jody Foster and Willem Dafoe.  Washington’s cop partner is played by Chiwetel Ejiofor whom I know from his role as “The Operative” in “Serenity.”  And lots other unknowns do good work as the hostages, cops and criminals.

So, knowing that Spike Lee made this picture does detract from my enjoyment of the film.  I begrudge the African music he adds at the beginning and end.  I take points off for those flourishes of racial sniping I mentioned above.  But after all that I am forced to admit it’s a very good caper film.  I recommend it to anyone who likes this genre.  It’s highly enjoyable and skillfully constructed.  Well done Spike Lee?

 

OCF Classic Movie Review – Charles Laughton – Part 1

So instead of looking at a movie, let’s switch it up and talk about an actor. Charles Laughton was a British actor of Hollywood’s Golden Age (1930s and 40s) who lasted into the 1960s.  In most cases this was fairly rare.  And that is because most of those actors back then were movie stars who depended on good looks to bring in the audience.  Once they hit forty parts started drying up.  Not Laughton though.  He resembled, and as he got older, more and more closely resembled, a toad.  Because of this he never depended on his looks to garner success.  He was a truly versatile and skillful actor.  As I’ve stated recently we are inside the month-long pre-Oscar movie festival on TCM.  Many old classics are being shown daily.  Over the weekend I watched two Laughton movies in one day.  In the morning I watched him in “The Private Life of Henry VIII” and that night I watched him in “Mutiny on the Bounty.”  The only thing that King Henry and Captain Bligh have in common is that they were both English.  The characterizations, appearances and mannerisms are worlds apart.  And yet both characters are memorable and believable.  And the same can be said for the multitude of characters he played over the years.  He was the Hunchback of Notre Dame, an American senator in the Cold War era, the Roman senator Cicero, an English barrister, the Emperor Claudius, a British butler in the old Wild West, Captain Kidd the pirate, a hobo, a ghost, a henpecked husband who murders his wife and even a horror movie mad scientist.  His versatility allowed him to create entertaining characters in a comedy, drama, tragedy, history or any combination of the above.  In fact, it was sometimes the case that a poor movie would still be worth watching just to see Laughton do his stuff.  Laughton movies that I have enjoyed for at least his efforts include:

1)            Mutiny on the Bounty (highly recommended)

2)            Witness for the Prosecution (highly recommended)

3)            Advise and Consent

4)            The Private Life of Henry VIII

5)            The Hunchback of Notre Dame

6)            Ruggles of Red Rock (a very silly but enjoyable comedy)

7)            Spartacus

8)            The Canterville Ghost (a WWII comedy)

9)            Island of Lost Souls (an early horror movie)

 

Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman – A Science Fiction Movie Review

(Reviewer’s Note:  I watched this movie almost three weeks ago and put it aside without finishing it because much better things were going on.  Now that I’ve decided to finish it, I find that I’ve forgotten some of the details.  Please forgive any vagueness or inaccuracies.  Merciful forgetfulness has shielded me from a vivid memory of this dreck.  But believe me when I say that this movie is as bad or worse than I represent it.  Enjoy.)

As a worthy successor to a recent review (One Million B.C.) I have another TCM .  Here is a movie that cries out for mockery.  It has a plot so weak that I believe the writer must have been either a heroin addict, a congenital idiot or a democrat.  This was a year after sputnik launched so the UFO is a big silver ball.  The alien is a giant and he more or less fills up the whole ball.  He’s a big bald-headed guy wearing a short dress that looks like it was stolen from the costume closet of the movie Spartacus.  For some reason that probably didn’t even make sense to the writer, the giant is searching for diamonds.  Alright, so much for the science fiction, such as it is.  Now for the human interest.  Harry and Nancy are a married couple with problems.  Nancy is rich and has problems involving drinking and mental instability and Harry has a wandering eye for the ladies.  When first we see him he’s at what looks like a diner with a blonde vixen named Honey wrapped around him complaining about how his rich wife won’t give him more money to spend on booze and trashy women.  Honey is sympathetic.  He has a plan to get Nancy’s money by having her committed to a mental institution.  Honey is sympathetic again.

Switch scenes to Nancy driving along the roads of some southwestern landscape, cactus, sage brush and sand in all directions.  She seems sad and drunk.  And as she sadly, drunkenly drives along she sees giant sputnik flying around in the sky in a completely unconvincing imitation of anything moving through the air.  Eventually it lands on the road in front of her.  Nancy brakes into the shoulder and witnesses a truly unconvincing special effects portrayal of a fifty-foot alien coming out of a forty-foot sputnik.  Most of the scene centers on Nancy screeching uncontrollably and trying to avoid the giant as he tries to paw her with his six-foot-long giant hand.  Later on, we’ll learn that he somehow knew she was wearing a big diamond on a necklace.  So, after a short encounter Nancy runs off leaving her car and stumbles into town.  Telling the sheriff about the giant increases her reputation for being nuts.  The sheriff tells his deputy to find Harry and tell him to bring Nancy home for a rest and a visit to the head shrinker.

Meanwhile Harry is now ensconced with Honey and bribes the deputy to say he couldn’t find him.  Hearing Nancy’s story from the deputy gets Harry and Honey thinking that their big chance to have Nancy permanently locked up in a rubber room is at hand.  They celebrate by going to Honey’s hotel room.

Eventually Harry goes to claim Nancy at the sheriff’s office.  She nags at him until he agrees to go back for her car and see if her story is true.  They find her car but the alien comes back.  Harry fires a few rounds at the alien then bolts in fear.  The alien catches Nancy and Harry drives off without her.  Harry returns home and discovers that the alien has returned Nancy.  She is lying unconscious on the roof of the pool house.  She has scratches around her neck and her diamond is gone.  Later on a doctor tells us that there are obvious signs of radioactivity.  Science!

Now the sheriff decides he must act.  He and the deputy agree to go out to where her car was and prove that there was nothing strange going on.  Unfortunately, when they find her car they also find the space ship.  The sheriff and the deputy go inside the space ship.  Here they walk through a few rooms that seem to be sized for normal humans.  And so, we have to ask ourselves how exactly does this giant fit in this space craft?  In rough dimensions it appears that he would have to be curled into a fetal position just to fit into the diameter of the ship.  And that is supposing that it was completely hollow.  How would that allow these walls and floors to exist?  And thus, my theory that the writer was a congenital idiot.

In one room they find a bunch of diamonds.  Nancy’s diamond is there.  They theorize on the scientific reasons why the giant wants diamonds.  Science!  When the giant returns they battle him with a pistol and a shot gun.  I think I remember they blow either him or his space ship up with the shot gun.  But I’m not sure.  I think I was starting to lose interest at this point.

Doctors are summoned and Nancy is sedated.  Harry plots putting poison in her IV drip but before he has a chance to she becomes a fifty-foot woman.  Of course, all we see is her giant hand inside a room in the house.  Eventually she goes berserk and breaks through the roof of the house and goes on a rampage looking for Harry.  Now she is dressed in an impromptu fifty-foot brassiere and mini-skirt supposedly fashioned out of bed sheets.  And all things considered she looks pretty good!  At this point I reflected on the comparison between pretty and gigantic Nancy and normal sized but skanky looking Honey.  Sure, the disparity in size might lead to marital difficulties but her huge size would guarantee that Harry would be pampered by his huge wife like some kind of rag doll, probably carried in her apron pocket and fed huge crumbs that collected on her clothes as she ate her huge meals.  Well, enough of this random speculation.

Nancy goes on a rampage through town looking for Harry.  Finally she pulls the roof off of the diner and finds Harry and Honey cowering in a corner.  Nancy crushes Honey and grabs Harry in one hand and walks away.  Finally the sheriff fires his shotgun at Nancy and hits an electric substation which explodes and kills Nancy.  And Harry is dead too, although it’s uncertain if he dies from the explosion, the fall or from being crushed by a death spasm in his wife’s hand.

I ask you, is there a more ridiculous movie?  Some will point to “Plan Nine From Outer Space” as a paragon of bad movie making and there is much justice in that.  But compare the budgets of these two movies.  “Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman” had a budget of $80,000.  Looking at Plan Nine it would surprise me if $500 was expended.  Unless you can claim that Plan Nine is one hundred and sixty times worse than Attack then you must admit that pound for pound, Plan Nine is a better movie.  So, let’s hail Attack of the Fifty-Foot Woman as the movie that provided least for the money expended.

 

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931 Version) – A Classic Monster Movie Review

This is not part of the Universal Monster series.  Paramount made this film and Frederic March was a pretty big star at the time so this movie was made as a serious literary drama.  That’s not to say that the movie doesn’t contain scenes and effects taking advantage of the hedonistic exploits of Mr. Hyde.  It does and to a degree that shows that this is during the pre-code period.

The plot follows the usual story line and we witness the happy, virtuous and talented Dr. Henry Jekyll metamorphose into the bestial sadistic Mr. Hyde.  And we follow as Jekyll’s life and fortunes come crashing down.  And of course, everyone around him is destroyed in the catastrophe.

The story by Robert Louis Stevenson was supposed to be about the duality of the human soul.  The theory holds that the evil side of the human psyche is also the active/vital part and the good is the passive/weaker part.  And in a sense there is truth in that.  Our basest instincts are thoroughly hard-wired and are inseparable from the rest of our selves.  Bottling up those instincts eventually leads to them bursting out in a destructive explosion.  The saner course is to train and channel the energies of the brute and tame them to our better nature.  So that’s the philosophy.

Now about the movie.  Well it’s kind of fun.  There are all kinds of outdated special effects and some hammy acting on display.  But it’s a pretty well-done production.  I think it’s an entertaining old monster movie.  And I like it better than the later version with Spencer Tracy and Ingrid Bergman.  I recommend it to fans of old monster movies.

 

Topper – An OCF Classic Movie Review

The pre-Oscar TCM movie festival continues so I decided to re-watch Topper.  This is without a doubt one of the goofiest screwball comedies of the 1930s.  Cary Grant and Constance Bennett are George and Marion Kirby, a young married couple.  They’re rich and they live a wild life.  They stay up all night dancing and drinking and driving around in a crazy fin-backed whale of a roadster.  Their banker is a middle-aged mouse of a man named Cosmo Topper.  Topper has a proper wife who wants Topper to get up at 8am and go to bed by 11pm and have lamb on Sunday and steak on Tuesday and boiled vegetables on Wednesday.  She expects him to be the respectable banker so she can be part of high society.

When George and Marion show up at Topper’s bank one morning for a business meeting you can tell that all three of them think that Topper’s life is not much fun compared to the Kirbys.  Driving back from the meeting George is characteristically driving like a madman around some hairpin turns when he gets something in his eye and crashes them.  Staggering out of the wreck George and Marion gather their senses and realize that they have died in the crash and are now ghosts.  Taking stock of the situation they realize they don’t have any good deeds on their records to allow them to expect admission through the pearly gates.  The scene dissolves with the ghosts themselves dissolving into invisibility.

In the next scene Topper is at home with the missus.  We witness the boredom of his respectable existence.  At this point a mechanic shows up with the Kirby’s repaired sports car.  Both the mechanic and Mrs. Kirby remark on how mismatched this car would be for Topper.  His pride is stung and he takes off with the car.  The car gets the better of him and he crashes it at the same spot that the Kirbys crashed.  The Kirbys make their presence known and Topper eventually gets over his fright.  The rest of the film is the tale of the Kirbys trying to humanize Topper and make his life happier.  This is the good deed that they hope will get them into heaven.

With a plot this frothy everything depends on the characterizations of the stars.  Cary Grant and Constance Bennett are at their witty best bantering together while teaching Topper to be a man and not a mouse.  Roland Young brings his characteristic upper-class Englishman’s mumbling confused manner to his portrayal of Cosmo Topper and Billie Burke as Mrs. Topper is the outraged prim and proper wife who needs to learn that a husband still needs to be a man.  An uncredited part has Hoagy Carmichael playing the piano and singing for the happy couple.  All in all, I’d say this is a goofy comedy that from my point of view provides good entertainment.  The story sails along and even the minor characters are well done and add to the fun of the story.

I give this movie 4 out of 5 stars.

2001: A Space Odyssey – A Science Fiction Movie Review

(Warning, this whole review is one long spoiler.  In my defense this movie is 49 years old.)

The only good thing about The Academy Awards is that for the whole month before, TCM plays many good (and not so good) old movies.  Last night I watched 2001.  As the exit music was finishing it occurred to me that this was the first time in almost fifty years that I had watched the movie from beginning to end.  Back in 1968 I attended the film in a large theater in Manhattan as part of a class trip.  At the time I was a sci-fi fan but I distinctly remember becoming incredibly bored during the “Infinity” sequence.  And sure enough, last night I found my eyes glazing over as I waited for Keir Dullea to stop making funny faces and show up in Versailles.  And then it also occurred to me that it was actually a very, very good movie.  So, let’s talk about it.  You already know I don’t like the “Infinity” sequence.  But I find the rest of the film is excellent.  Not everybody cares for Kubrick’s style in film-making.  There is a great deal of stylization and idiosyncratic imagery that bothers many people.  And without a doubt it is highly un-naturalistic.  In fact, the ape men were the most realistic as personalities.  The other characters are decidedly wooden.

But without a doubt this movie is an amazing spectacle.  The matching of images to the musical soundtrack is perfect.  The sequences of space ships landing and maneuvering are shown as if they were dancers in a ballet.  The “Dawn of Man” sequence is riveting.  I could believe that the actual event was very much like the portrayal (minus the monolith of course).  It captured the essence of human ingenuity.  The desperate and sordid circumstances of that ingenuity ring true.

And then there’s HAL.  I hate HAL.  I always have.  But he is the perfect Frankenstein Monster.  And the arc of his crime and punishment is, for me, a thing of hideous beauty.  His relations with the astronauts are as creepy and dishonest as some Dickens villain, something like Uriah Heep.  Some people feel sadness when Dave lobotomizes HAL and reduces him to the level of a two-year-old singing “Daisy.”  I never shared that sadness.  I guess I’m more Old-Testament.

So, that brings us back to the “Infinity” sequence which sucks.  But following it we have what I call the “Versailles” scene where I guess Dave lives his life out as a captive of the monolith makers.  This is weird and I guess necessary to set up the conclusion.  Dave dies and is reborn as the next stage of human evolution.  And he is returned to our solar system and the picture ends with him floating above earth to the sequence of “Thus Spake Zarathustra” and “The Blue Danube Waltz” playing us out.

In sum we have a fifty year old movie that is still visually stunning, that addresses the inexplicable advance of savage animals to the brink of interplanetary travel and the frightening prospect of facing our masters in artificial intelligence.  What’s not to like?  Well he could have added a few good-looking space babes but nobody’s perfect.