Sunday, December 28, 2008

Jerry Lewis at High Noon

If you are like me, and you think that Jerry Lewis is never more fascinating than in the last ten seconds before his blows his stack, then RUN do not walk to where you can find a precious single episode of Jerry's legendary 1963 variety series.
It was two hours long and done live without any sign of a script with a distinctly nervous Jerry Lewis acting as host (and occasionally as house singer) in a Jack Paar style format before a live audience.
It is to say the least a bold improvisional experiment and a crackpot whim rolled up into one interminable and poorly blocked package.
What exactly gave Lewis the notion to do such a long show live is a complete mystery. No doubt he had a bracing faith in his own ad-lib abilities going back to his partnership with singer Dean Martin. Maybe Jerry was envious of the largely improvisioned rat-pack shows which was then packin' em' in at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas.
Ah but back in the day Lewis had Martin to anchor the act and give pacing and direction to the younger comics's many flights of fancy. And if that didn't work, Dean would sing and give everyone a break from Jerry.
Wisely, Jerry didn't work alone on this show opting for a dour Phil Foster as his one air sidekick, serious TV buffs will recall Foster's star turn as Penny Marshall's father on "Laverne and Shirley". Here though, Foster is simply a glowering ethnic foil who looks like he'd dearly love to bust a chair over Jerry's head. Their on air banter has all the charm and ease of hostage negotiations in Beirut.
Moreover in one hundred and three minutes not ONE comedy sketch can be seen, not one, Jerry's signature format and it is not being used at all. Frankly the artistic decisions as they play out on air seem demented.
So of course the show was an expensive flop, already cancelled at the time of this particular broadcast a fact that Lewis shares with the audience about every ten minutes as the program trudges on and on.
A bitter patina invades the whole program despite a glittering roster of guests including soprano Patricia Munsel, Sam Cook and a pre Muhammad Ali Cassius Clay who was trying to the convince the whole world that he was both crazy and invincible in the lead up to the legendary fight with Sonny Liston.
That particular interview with Jerry is a veritable wince-fest, Lewis is in a manic state by this point in the program and inadvertently he makes Clay looks judicious and wise as he the host rants on and on about the boxer's blustery showmanship.
Ali would later read a poem prophesying neatly his victory over Liston, it is the program's only truly funny moment in a hundred and three minutes of bug eyed mishaugas.
In short a mess my friends...very much a mess.
But it is also a lonely sign post to his career, already Jerry had completed his best film "The Nutty Professor" and would begin a long and ultimately unsuccessful search for a new comic persona to supplant his tired "anthro-child on crack" act. He and the zeitgeist were rapidly parting company never to reunite, and this program is a good indication of how badly Jerry had misjudged his audience's taste and patience.
Lenny Bruce had a great routine about a schleppy goyisher comedian named Frank Dell who thought he'd reach the big time if only he could play the Palladium Theater in London. Of course he bombs but on his last night drenched in flop sweat he starts shreking "Kill the Irish" at the audience causing a riot and his own deportation from England.
It is that kind of flop sweat I got off of Jerry in this DVD, trapped on stage, no script, the audience glaring at him and all he can do snarl at Phil Foster or lecture a bemused Muhammad Ali on "showmanship" the very quality his own damn show was lacking.
I heartily wish that all the episodes of this unique TV series were available on DVD< there is much to be learned from all of them.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Thanks Dan (Grabauskas)

From Clarendon Street in the Back Bay to Arlington Heights in ONLY two hours and fifteen minutes tonight!!!!
The sadistic and glacial pace of the Red Line was one thing, but you topped yourself with the giant cluster-f*ck traffic snarl in the Alewife station parking garage...sheer genius, I didn't want to eat dinner at a normal hour or go to the gym tonight or anything. I'd much rather sit in my freezing cold car burning my personal gasoline WAITING for forty plus minutes to clear the usual exit bottlenecks Fresh Pond.
One harsh lesson I have to learn and then re-learn every damn winter, and that is one good snowstorm and the MBTA is knocked for a loop like a deadbeat jobber...and the grim litany of slow-downs, stoppages and plain old crapulous service lingers for weeks at a time.
Thanks Dan, I could have WALKED to Alewife faster save for the prospect of contracting frostbite on this freezing cold night!

Happy freakin' holidays from the MBTA, cattle bound for the slaughterhouse have better expectations of timeliness.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

"Zack and Miri make a Porno" (2008)

D'ye know what I like about director Kevin Smith?
He is so charmingly naive about almost everything.
FORGET the New jersey posturing and the casual vulgarities, Smith really thinks Jay and Silent Bob live rich full lives, he truly believes that the Plenary Indulgence has a power in this world and beyond, Ben Affleck as a single father of a young daughter? A slam dunk in every way.
And fat guys in Kevin Smith and Seth Rogen as long as they can pump out the snarkage they will never want for beautiful feminine companionship...honestly what color is the sky in Kevin Smith's world?
And in the end it is sheer belief that sustains "Zack and Miri make a Porno" in which a tubby vulgarian played by Seth Rogen convinces his rare hawtie room-mate BFF Elizabeth Banks that they can stave off eviction and homlessness by producing and starring in their own amateur pornography.
All that is missing is Tinkerbelle and the fairy dust.
Oh it is a funny movie by all means, with a strong supporting turn from Jason Mewes who proves he can handle himself outside his "Jay and Silent Bob" persona, that kid could have a real career on his hands if he starts making good creative decisions sez I. The rest of the cast including Clerks alum Jeff Anderson all caper and spew expletives with great assurance...but the film's central conceit, that the only way to woo and bed your life partner is by co-producing a stroke flick with her is blissfully and even idiotically innocent.
I laughed and enjyed this film greatly but I truly dread the day when Kevin Smith is finally horsewhipped by reality, some ineffable will be lost that day.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Bettie Page, RIP

Sometimes it is best to believe the legend...Bettie Page had a hard life regardless of the pleasure her bondage and cheesecake pictures gave two successive generations. Three divorces, a long stay in a mental hospital and allegations of childhood molestation....sad stuff really.
On the other hand, name a single American Icon that had a such a vigorous cultural revival while languishing in what amounted to a padded cell?

I'm glad she was able to derive some income from the sudden renewal of interest in her cheesecake days, so many other pin up girls from that era got bupkiss.
Ah but Bettie was special, an early avatar of the still un-studied phenom of "geek erotica", fetish models, erotic comics, pornographic anime and a host of other fringe sexual interests that impact and then bounce off the mainstream quite regularly. She ha the god fortune to enjoy a vigorous revival when geek culture was becoming a big business in America.
Bettie, despite her many bondage photo shoots back in the 1950's would probably be one of the tamer items in that notional geek erotica catalogue. this would account for her ubiquitous presence on the internet from the git-go...fetishy enough but still fully dressed for the most part...a million primitive web pages were launched under the banner of the above photo.
Well rest in peace Bettie, hard times or not you are an icon whether you like it or not...hope someone mourns you as a person though.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

There is HOPE for America yet!

At a sci-fi con down at the Hyatt in Cambridge today, Story Musgrave, a retired astronaut with a ludicrous amount of flight-time logged onto the space shuttle, drew longer and more appreciative lines than did Star Trek veteran Robert Picardo or Peter Davidson, an all-up honest to ghod BBC "Dr. Who"!
And I wouldn't call Musgrave an a-list astronaut-celeb either...he was not presented with the opportunity to walk on the moon or anything like that. He merely toughed out the long slow roll out of the shuttle and flew that bad baby...a lot!
Of course the close proximity of Nerd Valhalla, M.I.T. helps...

A last word of thanks to everyone that made

the bad Poets Society '08 such a success 'd scandal this year.

Joseph Zamparelli Jr our director and nominal "celeb" reader.

And our readers:
Gene Doucette (Poetry Captain)
Sarah Bazydola
Colin Buckley
Julie Dapper
Janice Gobert
Diane Statkus
Mike Statkus

You guys rock the Bad Poets Society completely we are much in your debt...even if we will never pay you.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

At last Julia...

n about twenty four hours, the Bad Poets Society goes down for about the eight time since its inception back in 1996. Curiously I am not riddled with the usual anxieties...I've been up and down so much with this program down thru the years that I've become immune to its special brand of mishaugas.
One particular issue that crops up from year to year is who is gonna be the "anchor poet"?..that is a particular "known" bad poet whose works we can showcase three or four times in the course of a single program. We mostly do this to highlight the apex predator bad poets out there it also fills up four or so spots that would otherwise need to be taken research-heavy "new" bad poems. So it is an intellectual economy measure of a sort.
This year, I was SURE the anchor poet was gonna be a woman, the front runner being Julia Moore the infamous "sweet singer of Michigan" a profoundly inept and humorless poetess whose work compares with that of Scotland's William Topaz McGonagall on the poetical crapulence scale.
Alas, Julai didn't make the cut this year, she favors VERY LONG poems, almost too long for our purposes...but I'll keep digging for more of her work and keep proposing her for other shows, she'll make it someday. However to make the occasion I'd like to post some of her song lyrics her for the delectation of the hard core faithful:
Leave off the Agony in Style

Come all ye good people, listen to me, pray,
While I speak of fashion and style of today;
If you will notice, kind hearts it will beguile,
To keep in fashion and putting on style.
Chorus --
Leave off the agony, leave off style,
Unless you've got money by you all the while,
If you'll look about you you'll often have to smile,
To see so many people putting on style.
People in this country they think it is the best;
They work hard for money and lay it out in dress;
They think of the future with a pleasant smile,
And lay by no money while putting on style.
Chorus --
Some of the people will dress up so fine,
Will go out in company and have a pleasant time.
Will rob themselves of food, perhaps, all the while,
Sake of following fashions and putting on style.
Chorus --
I love to see the people dress neat and clean,
Likewise follow fashions, but not extremes;
Some friends will find it better in future awhile,
To lay by some money while putting on style.
Chorus --
Gentlemen on the jury decides the criminal's fate;
I pray you turn from wickedness before it is too late;
Sad, indeed, would be your friends to hear your name reviled,
Better be truly honest though putting on style.
Chorus --
Leave off the agony, leave off style,
Unless you've got money by you all the while.
If you look about you you'll often have to smile,
To see so many poor people putting on style.

Julia A Moore

You can see at once what makes Julia so special, she is sooo humorless so earnest so primitive in her rhyming scheme...any time a poet starts shaking his or her finger at hemlines and too ornate hats, you know you have a winner. Like McGonagall, Moore favored song lyrics with a particularly puritanical tone. As funny as these are to read it is almost impossible to imagine anyone singing such a joyless hectoring screed.

Meanwhile the balloon goes up on the Bad Poets Society tomorrow night please join us...


Don’t Miss this Unique Festival of Inferior Rhymes!

Friday November 21st at 8pm
The Spiegel Auditorium
56 Brattle Street
Harvard Square
Cambridge Ma.
Admission: $5 cheap!!!

November IS Bad Poetry Month!!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

College Songs...

This is one of those odes to dipsomania that made the Ivy League great and feared. the author is unknown and the sentiments are appalling even by the standards of the Turn of the Century.
Dartmouth always had a reputation for barbarism, even back during the depression if they were playing the Crimson at Harvard Stadium sensible mothers would keep their daughters off the streets til the last train left for Hanover NH on Sunday night.
back in High School I used to work as a ticket-taker at Harvard University stadium, I think Dartmouth used to cram every oaf they could lay hands on and ship them down for the game to act as a sort of cheering section of cave dwellers. I once passed thru Hanover NH on a Sunday morning, the frats were already deep into the hair of the dog what bit them.
Like I said, barbarians....
Well I will let you all read it and see if you agree.

A Son Of A Gun
I wish I had a barrel of rum
and sugar three hundred pound.
I’d put it in the College bell
and stir it ‘round and ‘round.
Let ev’ry honest fellow
drink his glass of hearty cheer,
For I’m a student of old Dartmouth
and a son of a gun for beer.

I’m a son of a, son of a, son of a,
son of a gun for beer.
I’m a son of a, son of a, son of a,
son of a gun for beer,
Like ev’ry honest fellow I like my whiskey clear.
For I’m a student of Old Dartmouth
and a son of a gun for beer.

And if I had a daughter, sir,
I’d dress her up in green;
I’d put her on the campus
just to coach the freshman team.
And if I had a son, sir,
I’ll tell you what he’d do
He’d yell, ‘To Hell with Harvard!’
like his Daddy used to do.

Gee that last stanza is CLASS all the way isn't it?

Anyway let me again note, as vulgar and bizarre as the above lyrics are, they were not nearly enough to merit inclusion in this year's Bad Poet's Society.
Which of course convenes in but forty eight hours or so...tell your friends...

The Bad Poets Society
Friday November 21st at 8pm
The Spiegel Auditorium
56 Brattle Street
Harvard Square
Cambridge Ma.
Admission: $5 cheap!!!

Boston's Best Kept Aesthetic Catastrophe now in it's eight or maybe ninth year....
November IS Bad Poetry Month!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

More Presidential Free-verse....

Given the recent hotly contested election I decided to stick with a theme tonight a present another campaign speech cut-up, this time from Lyndon Baines Johnson. Ole' Lyndon could be a real scenery chewe on the stump, some of his harangues at the outset of his political career compare favorably to the exquisite bluster of the late Governor of Louisiana Earl K. Long. Alas though when they flipped on the kleig lights Lyndon would put on his dignity act which was something akin to a Houston undertaker with a few too many deadbeat stiffs in the cooler. Much of his best Texas sized bombast is therefore lost to us...but this little gem uttered late in the midst of his 1964 Presidential campaign captures for a moment the grand Johnsonian style.

A short idyll from Lyndon Baines Johnson

"Ah jus' wish
we had as good a chance
for rain down home
as yew have here.
We have been cakin' our old cows all summer,
and we are almost out of pears down there".

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, September 25 1964

And again I note with all due humility as weird and incoherent as the above quote is, like ALL bad poetry it made perfect sense to it's "poet". And I'd also like to point out that the above "text bite" wasn't "bad enough" to merit conclusion in this year's Bad Poets Society.
To hear all the really appalling dreck we dredged up for this year drop on by...

The Bad Poets Society!!!

Don’t Miss this Unique Festival of Inferior Rhymes!

THIS Friday November 21st at 8pm
The Spiegel Auditorium
56 Brattle Street
Harvard Square
Cambridge Ma.
Admission: $5 cheap!!!

November IS Bad Poetry Month!!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Five days and counting til the Curtain goes up on the Bad Poets Society...

Still so much to do, flyers to drop, readers to finalize and of course last minute publicity...tons of details really. After eight years this event gets no easier to organize, I am however surprisingly free of pre-show anxiety. I figure I've already hit rock bottom with this sumbitch the worst has already happened.
Below is a Burroughsian "cut up" of various key sentences from Warren Harding's inaugural address in March 1921.
Harding was such a maladroit writer and speaker I've always thought that his stumblebum syntax would make a great free-verse found-art poem According I post herein for the first time "The Love Song of Warren Gameliel Harding:

My Countrymen:

Ours is an organic law which had but one ambiguity, and we saw that effaced in a baptism of sacrifice and blood, with union maintained, the Nation supreme, and its concord inspiring.

one ambiguity,

I can vision the ideal republic, where every man and woman is called under the flag for assignment to duty for whatever service, military or civic, the individual is best fitted; where we may call to universal service every plant, agency, or facility, all in the sublime sacrifice for country, and not one penny of war profit shall inure to the benefit of private individual, corporation, or combination, but all above the normal shall flow into the defense chest of the Nation.

one ambiguity,

There is a luring fallacy in the theory of banished barriers of trade, but preserved American standards require our higher production costs to be reflected in our tariffs on imports.

one ambiguity,

With the nation-wide induction of womanhood into our political life, we may count upon her intuitions, her refinements, her intelligence, and her influence to exalt the social order.

one ambiguity,

This is not selfishness, it is sanctity. It is not aloofness, it is security. It is not suspicion of others, it is patriotic adherence to the things which made us what we are.

one ambiguity,

I would like government to do all it can to mitigate; then, in understanding, in mutuality of interest, in concern for the common good, our tasks will be solved.

Whether it works or not...and perhaps it doesn't..let me nonetheless note, this poem was not considered bad enough to make the final cute for this year's Bad Poets Society. Take that as your benchmark.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Pick of the Week:

"It's a Gift" starring the great man hisself W.C. Fields screens at 8:45pm.
It's part of a "Tribute to Gerald Peary" thang...shee-it that is fine and all, but when is someone gonna execute a tribute to John L. Galligan?? I've written thousands of pages of criticism, revived fundamentally un-revivable films ("Hercules in the Haunted World, "Black Belt Jones", "The Gorilla" starring the Ritz Brothers to name but three) as well found new audiences for all kinds of titles AND presided over the Bad Poets Society, the COOLEST poetry reading Metro Boston no-one has ever heard of!


Monday, October 27, 2008

My Last Seven Movies:

In reverse order:

Appaloosa (2008) directed by Ed Harris starring Ed Harris, Viggo Mortensen, Rene Zellweger, Jeremy Irons and lance Henricksen. Great cast foiled by a languid for the man-love between Harris and Mortensen, who ought to make more westerns IMHO, they were born to the saddle, just forget the elegaic pacing willya?

Hangmen Also Die (1943) Directed by Fritz Lang. Trust Fritz to create a "Gestapo Police Procedural" around the assassination of SS Reichsleiter Reinhard Heydrich by Czech partisans. Alas fun though the film is, Brian Donlevy's partisan assassin drag's the film down...worth a look though.

Religulous (2008) directed by Larry Charles. Two things you need to remember about Bill Maher, he is an agnostic and he put Ann Coulter on the map. Take what he says with a grain of salt although the film's anti-religion slant is a nice counterweight to all those lugubrious xian dramas Kirk Cameron is throwing out there.

Righteous Kill (2008) Starring Robert De Niro and Al Pacino.
Al and Bob are NEVER more watchable than when they slum in idiot fodder for the money...never they can make the pulpiest cliche'd dreck look like freakin' Ibsen. i want them both to start making "Friday the 13th" sequels soonest.
Also this was the last film screened at the Tri Town Drive in rumored to be closing for good this year....if so it was a righteous send off.

The Story of Mankind (1957) Directed by Irwin Allen Heaven puts man on trial for being nasty and war-like Ronald Coleman and Vincent Price play defense and prosecution respectively and otherwise wander thru Warner Brothers' stock footage looking for the truth...TERRIBLE dreck enlivened by a cameo from Dennis Hooper as Napoleon and Bobby Watson's last Hitler impersonation.

If I had a Million (1932) Whacky millionaire gives stranger a million in cash to spend as they wish, WC Fields and wife buy a fleet of cars to terrorize the streets of Los Angeles. The Fields vignette is freakin' me on that.

Shelf Life (1993) D. Paul Bartel hard film to summarize, depicts a typical day in the life of three overgrown children who live in a bomb shelter in the erroneous belief the Russians nuked America in 1963. VERY weird, ought to be given wider release on DVD..."It's Mighty Car!!"

Saturday, October 18, 2008

I think the late Edie Adams must have been Nietzsche's proverbial super woman

I mean consider her record, AFTER her husband Ernie Kovacs died in 1961 she discovered he owed the IRS a quarter of a million in back taxes...any other self respecting chanteuse would have packed up and gone bankrupt in style.
Not Edie though, she put herself thru night school learned accounting and paid the whole debt off sans any help.
AFTER Ernie Kovacs died, she moved heaven and earth to make sure she retained primary custody of his children from a prior marriage...all attempts to challenge her primacy in this area ended in abject failure th' lioness wasn't gonna give up her cubs.
AFTER Ernie Kovacs died Edie found out the videotapes to his many many tv programs (he was a pioneer in the early use of videotape) were being wantonly erased by thrifty TV networks. Accordingly she booked herself onto cruise ships, stooged for the Rat Pack in Vegas made an endless string of movies all so she could generate the scratch to BUY back Ernie's work from the broadcasters. What we have of his programs today is directly the result of Edie's one woman campaign to preserve her late husband's legacy back in the 1960's.
Whotta woman....

I guess it is only AFTER bad stuff happens that we find out if we are any good at all.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Shaved my beard off Friday morning...

it was grey, even turning white at the roots...being all of eighteen years old my beard could have gone down to town hall and registered to vote.
Time for a change...right now though I am in "beardless denial", every guy I know who shaves his whiskers goes thru a paranoid stage where they immediately wanna grow it back poste haste..."shavers remorse" as it were.
A week later though they are all like "Beard? What beard?"

Friday, September 19, 2008

I don't care what anyone sez...

The Queen Elizabeth II is a freakin' has class, dignity, character and is as sleek as it was when it was commissioned in 1969. Those other so called cruise liners that tie up at the Black Falcon Terminal here in South Boston, are nothing but bloated Motel 8's dropped down on a boat's keel.
And they have MERMAIDS painted on the sides...vulgar and tasteless.

Anyway, Farewell to the QE2...class all the way, who'd a thunk the real Queen Elizabeth the Second would outlive the ship named in her royal honor?
The house of Windsor has some long-tailed genes lemme tell yuh.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Mark your calendars...

The Bad Poets Society RETURNS Friday November 21st at 8pm at the Spiegel Auditorium of the Cambridge Center for Adult Education...admission a paltry $5 for a cornucopia of the world's worst verse!
We are so deep into our bad poetry research it is appalling, the stacks may be huge but we are always open to any recommended substandard poesy....

Watch this space for details!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Pick of the Week

"Major Dundee" a pre-"Wild Bunch" Peckipah western is screening at the Harvard Film tonight at 9:15pm...and it stars that monolith of man, Charlton Heston. A very tempting offering to say the least.
And the Tri Town Drive in has a superb double feature this weekend, "Death Race" (a re-make of Corman's "Death Race 2000") with "Tropic Thunder, certainly the funniest movie I've seen all summer. The only complication is the weather forecast, a tropical storm is supposed to blow thru tomorrow and that makes the drive in a chancey propostion, but day-um that line up is worth checking the weather channel for updates I think.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Tropic Thunder (2008)

Who knew Tom Cruise harbored such gruesome anti-semitic notions?

As "Les Grossman" studio chief for Ben Stiller's overblown Viet Nam war epic, Cruise is bloated, vulgar and a sort of Jewish sasquatch gone mad on power.
Man can he cut a rug though....
Hitler used to dismiss the Jews as "cunning semi-apes", clearly this is the image Cruise had in mind when he was getting in character to play Grossman.
Yeesh the man still resents all those arguments Spielberg gave him over the merits of psychotropic pharmacology on the set of "War of the Worlds".

Well what of it, the movie IS gut-busting funny, as Brandon T.Jackson, Jay Baruchel, Jack Black , Robert Downey Jr and Stiller all essentially play extreme parodies of themselves as a motley team of a-list actors forced into a firefight with a jungle Southeast Asian drug gang.
Got to hand it to Stiller this time, normally he is a comic narcissisist a'la Jerry Lewis this time however he cuts in his co-stars for a big piece of the humor-action...this is a big artistic step forward for him bringing Ben that much closer to the land of the Gods lorded over by Chaplin and WC Fields.
Particularly enjoyed Jack Black who seems to have decided that his character (a beefy gross out comedian) was nothing more than the sort of actor he'd be if he had made easy-money career choices. In that light, when you see the film pay close attention to the trailer one of Black's faux-comedies...
As for the beef with the developmentally disabled, the r-word gets used freely in this film but only as signifier for the toxic self worship of A-list Hollywood actors.
My only regret is that I did not see this at the Drive In, woulda been well worth it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Othello (Shakespeare & Co Lenox Ma.)

RUN don't walk to see "Othello" out at the S&C's "campus" in Berkshires!
As the Bard's A-list tragedy's go, Othello can be a problem, most productions telephone in the race angle and just let the modern sensibility do the rest. As far as casting goes, you have to hit a trifecta, a strong but not ludicrously bombastic Othello, an Iago who doesn't come off as "Dr. Zachary Smith" and a Desdemona who isn't a bimbo in a whimple.
It is much harder than it looks believe me.
None of that is at issue with S&C's current Othello it is a strong production all the way through.
John Douglas Thompson was born to the part in the fashion of the late Paul Robeson, he is confident, soldierly, manly but fatally cursed with credulity when faced with Iago's subtle Venetian trickery. Most actors when they are called to fake an epilectic seizure, Othello's fugue of despair and jealousy, would come damn close to looking foolish...not Thompson though, he looks like he is dying down there on the floor.
Michael Hammond is also seemingly born to play Iago, full of false good fellowship and a sort of blankfaced false loyalty...Othello is simply no match for him when it comes to this sort of conflict.
And then there is Merritt Janson's Desdemona, as clueless and guileless as her poor Iago she tries a few subtle tricks of her own to get Cassio back into Othello's favor, and for her favor she ends up dead. Janson plays it straight up the middle and wisely avoids the easy path of dimwitted Elizabethan victim.
After the show I ran into a few old friends from my drudgework days at IBM, one of them had never seen Othello before and asked "Is it always a thru the wringer type experience?"
I replied "It is when done right".
Trust me, S&C's "Othello" is done right...I haven't seen the Moor executed at this high a level since Johnny Lee Davenport played him at the old S&C "Stables Theater" at the Mount.
Orson Welles once opined that all good theater is "written on the air" so make tracks for Lenox my friends whilst the air is still good.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

If Vince McMahon and World Wrestling Entertainment

ever got the contract to produce the opening ceremonies for the Olympics, the final product would much resemble the spectacle put on by the People's Republic of China friday night.
The "runner" on the flying harness looked pretty awesome until I remembered that poor Owen Hart fell to his death using a similar aerial gimmick at a WWE show oh so many years ago.
Oh and there would be more bra-and-panty fights...all staged under the noses of the world's leaders.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Alias Atlas Carnegie

The whole Clark Rockefeller affair puts me in mind of a old Simpsons' episode wherein Homer decides to legally change his name as he now shares nomenclature with a idiotic comedy relief character on TV. Before settling on "Max Power" he conjures with "Hercules Rockefeller" among other odd monickers.
SO I dunno obviously "Clark Rockefeller" is an alias, but I suspect a Homer Simpsonish turn of creativity here from "Hercules Rockefeller" to "Clark (KENT) Rockefeller"...subtle big guy, real subtle.
George Orwell once lamented the decline of the "good old fashioned english murder" usually executed in a locked room with plenty of clues to bedevil Scotland Yard. Orwell was incensed that such good solid Sunday afternoon sport had been superceded by gruesome anatomical mayhem of a low and crude sort.
Here in America, kidnapping once the province of the Symbionese Liberation Army and Hollywood celebrities also degenerated into the sordid weapon of last resort in U.S. divorce cases.
Ah well at least the kid is okay and got to see Baltimore's upscale waterfront.

But frankly the man looks like a freak, you wonder how the hell dubious dingbats like this ever get to the altar to begin with.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Pick of the Week

Clearly "Danger Diabolik" at the Brattle Theatre tonight and high camp euro-thriller you can see this weekend for the money.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Dark Knight (2008)

A lot of sequels simply suck it up and server more of the same in larger more expensive quantities, excess of this kind has sunk the hardiest of film series, think of the "Indiana Jones" canon if you doubt me.
And then occasionally, some sequels go deeper, harder, crazier even, here "The Bride of Frankenstein" can be enrolled with honor, also "The Dark Knight".
Oh don't get me wrong, the film has it's problems, the plotlines are too numerous, the script writers all decided for some inexplicable reason that The Joker's first outing HAD to occasion the creation of Batman's other nemesis, Two Face no matter how badly this marred the storyline...and as usual the film has something akin to three very shrill climaxes.
But...the acting is uniformly excellent thru out, nobody so much as winks at the camera once...nothing is held and not one false or smug note was sounded.
Everyone out there in cyberspace is going into ecstatic convulsions about the late Heath Ledger's performance (very much a bookend to Max Shreck in "Nosferatu" or Anthony Hopkins' as Hanninbal Lector) as the Joker...but let me just note that Aaron Eckhart comes within an ace of stealing the show as Harvey Dent (The future Two Face) and Gary Oldman's Police Chief James Gordon plays it as a worn flint of man...the grand batman freakshow has only just begun and already he is overwhelmed.
Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachel Dawes the inevitable love interest is right in there throwing haymakers in a role previous phoned in my Katie Holmes.
The diff between the two performances is stark and simple, Gyllenhaal rides a beast called talent while Holmes has a cute show pony called "celebrity".
Alas and alack amidst all this stellar wattage, Christian Bale's Batman is merely fine in every respect, angry tough, stoical and full of coiled doubts as to the efficacy of his mission even as he goes on and on busting heads....hard to outdo the competition this time around.
It is indeed a violent and even nihilistic film DON'T bring the kids this is at last as dark and as brutal a Batman as the popular cinema can tolerate. There is no Robin, No Batgirl and only the faintest scintilla of hope.
Appropriately we saw it at the Tri Town Drive In, the biggest remaining outdoor screen in Massachusetts and for setting alone it was worth the $17 per carload price. We even managed to "part the clouds" so to speak and dodge a savage thunder storm just before the film started.
Drama indeed.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Pick of the Week

hands down it has to be "The Dark Knight" at the Tri Town Drive In in romantic Leominster tonight...on a strong double bill with "Get Smart".
Sure, the Mendon Twin Drive In is cozier with better amenities, but the Tri Town's HUGE outdoor screen is made for super hero actioners like "Batman the Dark Knight".
Check out the link to the left, hell gawd willin' and da creek don't rise I'll be there.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

"an Old Fashioned Chinese Fire Drill" (apologies to all the Chinese persons out there)

went down at the Alewife Red Line station today.
A simple disable train had as usual backed the T up to North Cambridge but just as the matter was straightened out...the starters went completely to pieces, offloaded everyone on Track B's train and put them on the Track A train, as that was "the next one out". These passengers were then packed in like sardines and thus were fuming when the train they'd just exited then blithely pulled out of the station.
The MBTA made it up to us though, we were treated to a fifteen minute delay interrupted by a bleating voice on the PA insisting this was an "Ashmont Dorchester" train.

Twice a week now it seems the Red Line treats me to a spectacles like this, either symphonies of delay and torpidity or service ineptitude to do no credit to teachables at the Fernald School.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Hancock (2008)

"Hancock" WANTS to be great movie, not just a summer blockbuster but a real film with a heart and a story. Alas the script is a clumsy somehwat underwritten mess, half comedy half superhero opera with a definite "Spiderman" motif none of which ever exceeds the sum of it's parts.
As such the movie is at best an "interesting failure" enhanced with a strong plot twist at the forty five minute mark. In fact that plot twist is too damn strong and really felt like a desperate last minute re-write of the screenplay.
Honestly, I had a flashback to "Ratfink a Boo Boo" there fore a minute.
Mind, you Will Smith as a maladriot dipsomaniacal superhero, "Hancock" is great as usual but not even his formidable charisma can deliver the film.
Jason Bateman sort of scuttles around the edges as Hancock's appallingly naive' PR guy and the plot never quite gets around to generating appropriate villainage (vitally important in today's superhero genre, it is the diff between "Superman II" and "Catwoman").
As for Charlize Theron, what can I say? She must have demanded a huge pay day for a role that any "Smallville" actress out on haitus could've execute in their sleep.
But what the hell, they tried to do something different that much is clear, and I'll give Will Smith big props for bringing back solid film acting to the sci fi film genre after nearly a generation of Arnold Schwarzenegger's graceless one dimensional performance style.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

"My Son John" (1952) reviewed (briefly)

The HFA was kind enough to screen this 1950's anti-communist rarity a few weeks ago, indeed I think I've been waiting a full fifteen years to see it as it is unavailable on VHS or DVD or anything...hell even my favorite video bootleggers don't have it!
Well for once it was worth it, Helen Hayes plays a coying somewhat deluded middle class mom who slowly discovers her bright Ivy League educated son, the rising man in the State Department is in fact a Soviet Spy.
Unlike a a lot of the other anti-communist movies of the era, "My Son John" delves into the whole notion of Ivy League perfidy, that well educated young men were themselves vulnerable to KGB recruitment. Senator Joe McCarthy helped put this cliche on the map when he went after Secretary of State Dean Acheson and some of the allegedly bright young men around him back during the Korean War.
It's a sort of red-baiting soap opera enlivened by a strong performances from Hayes and the title star Robert Walker who died before shooting concluded. This required the director, Leo McCarey to use stock footage and out-takes from Hitchcock's "Strangers on the Train" to finish off the final reel! This is why "John" must deliver his final recantation before the graduating class of his alma mater via tape recorder complete with beatific spotlight on the machine as the late spy drones on about the possibility that they grads themselves were already under KGB surveillance.
Why this film isn't more generally available is a mystery to me....hell they don't make em' like this no more.

Pick of the Week:

The Brezhnev era Russian 'western" "The White Sun of the Desert" (1969) which screens today at the Coolidge Corner today at 1pm. Legend has it the director simply imbibed all the Joh Ford iconography and then simply exported the whole western setting to the Russian Civil war complete with bandits and wild tribesmen and a stern hero on horseback.
Should be interesting.
(In Russian with English subtitles)
Let the record show though, that when Channel Zero was in residence at the Coolidge Corner Theater, we were the first to start screening contemporary Russian cinema as a means to excite the interest of Brookline/Brighton's sizable Russian expat population.
We did well with it and were looking around for new titles to screen when we were tossed out. Nice to see the Coolidge Corner has taken up with the notion.

Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin is dead...

the heavens do quake.
I can recall with the simplest nostalgia that dozens of guys I knew growing up slavishly imitated Carlin's tone, inflection and demeanor...he was a very common influence for a lot of high school kids growing up in the 1970's. For all his irreverence (and that was a consider component of his personality) Carlin was an ubiquitous presence on television for years, yes he hosted the first "Saturday Night Live" but does anyone else remember his guest appearance as a DJ on Welcome Back Kotter? Lenny Bruce once famously observed, "I'm a hustler, as long as they are willing to give, I'll tak!e".
And of course Bruce's shadow falls long over George Carlin's career it was Lenny's free form act that inspired Carlin to go solo and start really pushing boundaries on stage.
There however, the two men diverge, Lenny ultimately destroyed himself, whilst the tide of his career dropped Carlin safely down in Malibu sans appreciable damage to his sensibility.
At least until last night when the squarest of square maladies, heart disease took Carlin's life at age 71.
Should satirists die in bed? Or is that just their secret fantasy?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

"Pick of the Week"

Clearly it is "My Son John" seminal anti-communist McCarthy era film that was coincidentally Robert Walker's last film.
Helen Hayes plays the cloying mother to a nice young man who just might be a Soviet Spy!!!
For some reason "My Son John" has never been released on VHR or DVD nor does it circulate on the bootleg circuit making it an authentic rarity from the 1950's.

"My Son John" screens at 9pm tonight at the Harvard Film Archive 24 Quincy Street in the teeming heart of Harvard Square Cambridge.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Grace Note in Fresh Pond

Like a damn fool I accidentally left my huge trade paperback copy of "The Impossible Mencken" (a compilation of his newspaper columns)behind at Whole Foods in the Fresh Pond Shopping Center.
Sure enough I went back after supper and some kind soul had left it at the customer service desk, no fuss no bother no theft more importantly.
So kudos to Whole Foods it is patronized and run by honest people.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Sure enough...

Swarms of little blonde girls from the suburbs came lopin' thru Alewife Station this morning clutching trade paperback Harry Potter books bound for Harvard's Commencement wherein JK Rowling is scheduled to speak.
More than a few were being escorted by beaming parents...I guess they though hooking school to attend the augustan proceedings at Harvard constituted extra-curricular educational enrichment.
Still and all that, maybe I'm an old cuss, but I just can't see JK Rowling making much of an impression as a commencement speaker at Big Red. She is quite literally standing on a platform where George Catlett Marshall once proclaimed a new world order...what will Rowling discuss? Broomstick aerodynamics?

Oh well hope the rain lets up.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Picks of the week

Clearly it is tonight's double bill at the Harvard Film Archive, The Shaw Brother's Five Deadly Venoms with King Boxer both martial ars classics.
I'm definitely in for "King Boxer" tonight at 9pm and hopefully I can see "The 14 Amazons" on Sunday.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Sighted at Alewife Station this morning

A real live nun.
Elderly to be sure but walking to the trains sans assistance.
Hell they are all elderly these days, nuns and priests...not sure where they get any of them anymore.
Good lord I think it has been thirty years since I've seen a young nun (under the age of fifty I mean)and I went to parochial schools where nuns did swarm freely.
I guess it is a sign of the times.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Redlining on the Red Line....

In case Dan Grabauskas is wondering, if there is a debilitating fire at Downtown Crossing, then it does indeed take about ninety minutes to walk from South Station to Central Square in Cambridge minus some drag time due to an untimely downpour on the Longfellow bridge.
Not that I minded, I got a chance to walk thru the financial district and relive my days as an ill-paid messenger for a great metropolitan corporate law firm. Hell it awakened in me a passionate desire to work downtown once again, the smell of money is ever in the air and the women are prettier all around.
As I walked past the State House I idly conjured with the notion of dropping in unannounced on my state representative and perhaps scouring his office for the inevitable hidden bottle of bourbon.
The plan foundered when I couldn't recall if the Great and General Court was in session moreover I didn't feel like hiking across the Common to find out.
At City Hall I ruled out knocking on Tom Menino's door to see if he had a spare bicycle or scooter I could borrow and at Beacon Hill I had to fight back the urge to hump up to Louisberg Square to see if Senator Kerry wanted to grab a slice at the Hi-Fi Pizza in Central Square.
Nope I just tromped over the bridge singing the occasional show tune on the way.
My days in college theater stood me in good stead tonight, I know a LOT of show tunes for a mangy old straight guy as at the time I thought I might have to hike all the way to Alewife.
Finally caught a bus in Central Square and made it home a mere three hours after leaving Drydock Avenue in South Boston.
"We MUST do this again some time!" I gushed to the MBTA starter in Harvard Square.
He got it, he laughed.
Frankly though, I've made better time in the midst of apocalyptic snowstorms.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

When Steven Spielberg runs out of ideas, he tends to dial back to an obnoxious infantalized view of family life a'la "Hook" or worse "A.I."
When George Lucas runs out of ideas (which is pretty damn often), he tends to recapitulate certain favored action set pieces from his earlier films, the interminable light saber duels that climaxed ALL the Star Wars prequels for example.
So when these two men collaborate in an identical state of idea-less torpor, the result is "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull".
Otherwise known as a two hour long snoozer that drags poor Karen Allen out of an undeserved retirement and then frantically tosses communists, "Chariots of the Gods" rubbish and an AWFUL performance from Cate Blanchett into the pot to spice up something that went flat years ago.
Mind you, I think it's good to acknowledge that Harrison Ford's Indiana Jones is now pushing sixty in a the post WW 2 America, it's even nice that his leading lady is more or less his own age (Karen Allen) but Jesus this film both frantic and dull a waste of both actor's time in every way.
Meanwhile up in the production office, both producers indulge their worst tendencies, Spielberg trots out "Indy-as-a-man-who-needs-a-family" nonsense while Lucas just restages his favorite car chases like a model train enthusiast gone mad on crack.
The result is junk and not even fun junk, it was enervating junk.
Granted "Crystal Skull" isn't as bad as "Temple of Doom" but it is nevertheless a film that will in time dilute and dim the charms of the original "Raiders of the Lost Ark" very nicely indeed.
Hell why all the "Indiana Jones" sequels anyway? I mean other than the fact that Hollywood's greed usually favors short money and proven commodities?
The more I think on it, the more I realize that the original "Raiders of the Lost Ark" was a freak of nature, a strange hybrid union of Republic Serial's pacing and relentless focus on action enhanced with A-List actors and's inherently ephemeral nature (all speed all sound no depth) meant it could never really perpetaute itself as a series of films.
Not that George and Steven haven't tried and tried and tried....
Honestly, skip this one it's a joyless motion picture in every way.
However with all due respect, let me note that last night the Mendon Twin Drive In was PACKED like a sardine can with families intent on seeing this film...and all during a summer season where gas prices may hit $4 a gallon as well. So some good came of it for the fine people behind the Mendon Twin Drive In.

Friday, May 23, 2008

In my Capacity as a Marshal of the Commonwealth

I hearby decree May 23rd 2008 as "Squalus Day" and enjoin all citizens in Massachusetts to recall in their thoughts and prayers those service-persons who died during peacetime.
They made an equal and ultimate sacrifice, they should be remembered.

Long Live the Commonwealth

Long Live the Republic

My gym

is located in a hotel on route 128...lots of wedding receptions happen there, baby showers etc.
Last night a certain tony suburb's High School senior class had a graduation dinner for the class of '08.
The young ladies were all "dressed to the nines" (as my old man would put it) in dresses and heels, floral prints, make up the whole schmeer.
The young men however were uniformly clad in untucked button down shirts, sneakers and a smattering of baseball caps.

The gap in expectations was immediately and vividly apparent.

Class all the way kid, class...all...the...way.

Kidding congrats to all grads this year, stay safe.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

An MX Missile named "Big Brown"

My Ghod but my horse roared down the track like a corvette gone mad on crystal meth! Honestly, race horses are renowned for their stoicism but I swear I saw looks of consternation and raw amazement on the equine punims of the competition!
Yes, Big Brown has won the Preakness easy thus setting up dynastic triple crown hopes for the Belmont Stakes in three weeks. Watch the hype on that, it'll be toxic and ludicrous I promise you.

Meanwhile is it some sort of regulation in thoroughbred horse-racing that each owner has to have a skinny bottle blonde wife in a preposterous hat with two uneasy step kids by her side?
I mean this must be like ALL Preakness owner's home situation in a nutshell.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

JK Rowling to speak at Harvard's Commencement on

June 5th 2008.
Given the way Harvard Square went nuts when "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" was released we can no doubt expect to see co-eds tarted up in "sexy schoolgirl" gear and rest of the graduating class sporting Harry's trademark national health spectacles.
Maybe even a Dumbledore or two, false beard and all.

Frankly, Ms. Rowling is an odd choice from my perspective...I mean she is standing where once George Marshall proclaimed the western alliance and Alexandr Solzhenitsyn denounced the USSR.

We have lived thru interesting times, and now these are the consequences.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Iron-Man (2008)

Is a plain fun movie all the way thru, billionaire Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) assumes the identity of the high-tech armored Iron-Man to track down who is selling his own weapons to terrorists.
Frankly the plot is entirely incidental, it is akin to more coherent and worthwhile version of Ang Lee's "Incredible Hulk" storyline. Mostly it works by not falling into the pitfalls blazed by "Daredevil, The Fantastic Four, the aforementioned Hulk etc etc.
Where Iron-Man rocks most excellently is in the solid casting, Downey, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeff Bridges play it absolutely straight up the middle, no mugging, no vaudville turns and no pretentious rubbish either.
This is important in a film about a crimefighting billionaire who uses an electromagnet to treat his cardial shrapnel wounds and features Gwyneth Paltrow outrunning a fusion explosion in strappy high heels.
Nope, Marvel has a winner here, my only question is this; How can Tony Stark operate sorts of computers and high tech design gizmos without everything wigging out from the powerful electromagnet implanted in his chest?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Idle thought on having been exposed to the "Speed Racer" trailer in Burlington last night....

Think of the millions of dollars Hollywood has devoted to convincing us that Christina Ricci is a sex symbol and a talent of the first rank. Cankles? A spoon face and uninspired performance technique...RUBBISH mere triffles, Christina is a STAR howls Tinseltown.
Her publicist must have unusual powers of persuasion thass all I can say.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Titicut Follies (1967) directed by Frederick Wiseman

This is a nasty little movie.
But an important one, it holds a mirror up to the casual cruelty and indifference of the staff at the Bridgewater State Mental Hospital circa 1966.
Hell it did too good a job, a judge slapped a gag order on the film citing patient privacy a concern that also prevent most of the citizenry of Massachusetts from seeing what sort of crude lowlifes had infiltrated the hospital's guards and orderlies.
We are talking about a cruel bunch of oafs here, paunchy, balding, ill-educated, prone to gruesomely teasing the inmates complete with the beady gaze one associates instantly with a patronage pay-triot.
if you want to see what a state senator's cousin or nephew looks likein his natural habitat, see this movie.
Local film critic Paul Sherman deserves maxi-kudos for reviving this film down at the MFA this weekend.
As part of the self generated publicity for his new book "Big Screen Boston" Sherman is also screening various Boston-centric films around town during May and June.
The stand out of the lot is "The Friends of Eddie Coyle" a local crime noir classic starring Robert Mitchum that has yet to be released on DVD or VHS for that matter. It is playing at the Coolidge Corner June fifth, and is well worth the effort....I strongly recommend attendance and buying Paul's new book for that matter it is a very well researched work.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Big Brown wins the Kentucky Derby...

blew past the competition like an MX Missile on Crack.


I backed a winner!

After years of triangulating the stats, playing the stable, playing the jockeys, betting on the weather and consulting the I-Ching, I went with a big brute and 5 to 2 favorite who hated losing.
And all from a lousy post position as well.

A doff of the old hat as well to the late Eight Bells, euthanized after breaking both front ankles in the straightaway....condolences to his backers, jockey and all those who wanted him to win.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Am I the only person on the internet who recalls

when Iron-Man was a knee jerk anti-communist?

Beating up the Viet Cong, quoting Lyndon Johnson...bashing spies etc...I mean Iron-Man was a commie-smashing icon for a while there. Then one day roundabout 1965 Marvel Comics Editor in Chief Stan Lee discovered how well Marvel comics were selling on campus and he threw out all the "Better Dead than Red" stuff.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

"The Man who Invented Mars"

there is an article by Nancy Zaroulis about 19th century Brahmin-astronomer Percival Lowell and his obsession with the planet Mars in the Sunday Boston Globe Magazine.

Let the record show though, that in February of 1997my co-writer Jon Haber and I wrote an column on the exact same topic under the exact same title in the now defunct "Editorial Humor".

We make no accusations, it has been eleven years after all since we wrote that particular "It's All True" column and the world runs on coincidence and irony.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Dear Ghod....

Bacon Salt.....

Low calorie...bacon salt!
And the crowning touch?
It is supposed to be kosher!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

FYI I got my car searched by the TSA and the MBTA Gendarmes this morning

down at the Alewife T-station's parking garage.
I'd a declined and moved on, but the cop directing the sweep of my car was as cute as a button and looked like she needed a break with an onerous task.

Seriously though, I wonder what is up and why the Federales are in on the deal?
This is the third time since January that I've seen high profile security swarming the Alewife Red Line.

Again whassup with that?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Paul Sherman has a new book out

"Big Screen Boston" out May 3rd 2008, he is blogging about it hyar.

Paul has always been a good writer the book ought to be worthwhile.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Where else but in San Francisco can one see

a musical based on the 1924 Leopold and Loeb "thrill killing"?
Boston would prove stony soil indeed for "Thill Me The Leopold & Loeb story", that is even assuming you could find a venue that would tolerate the project.
Too bad Stephen Dolginoff's music & lyrics are strictly wanna be Sondheim and the play's central conceit Leopold deliberately bungled the crime to keep Loeb to himself in death or in prison is unimpressive.
For all that it was well acted, William Giammona's suave sociopathic Loeb is particularly memorable, but the play itself is distinctly second rate. Ultimately though, it was worth it, stuff like this just doesn't play in Boston...part of it is the frankly gay content part of it is our regional artistic torpor...the real risk-takers just can't get a toe-hold here.

On the other hand, Russell Blackwood down at the hypnodrome south of Market Street is doing the lord's work by the bay. The "Thrillpeddlers" group are systematically reviving the lost genre of grand guignol one acts for a modern audience. Trust me, a risk like this would NEVER make the art's listings in Boston!
And god-damn if they joint wasn't packed, of course, they hedged their bets with Noel Coward's little known "The Better Half"... can't go wrong with Noel can you???
Who knew Coward wrote for the Grand Guignol's London theater?
I had to go to San Francisco to discover this! I'd be an octogenarian before the news got to Boston believe me.
Anyway Coward's gay romp thru the groves of adultery and divorce was a nice curtain raiser for "the Old Women or The Crime in the Madhouse" a sort of gilded age splatter movie complete with useless psychiatrists and dopey nuns and that all before the blood starts running.
Honestly the whole project leaves me deeply envious...I wish Channel Zero had half so much going for it. What kills me though, is that the Thrillpeddlers" were set up in back of an antique store, and they were SOLD OUT!! And doing good business with wine and beer, a project like this would be dead on arrival in Boston!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

"Refusenik" (2007)

Laura Bialis spent five years shooting and editing this documentary detailing the world wide movement to free the Soviet Jews and allow them free passage to Israel.
It is a dramatic even heartbreaking story, but foremost it is a tale of activists and activism in America. From their initial bid to convince mainstream Jewish opinion of the righteousness of their cause to their decentralized but effective lobbying efforts all over the nation.
And in truth, they had good reason to press their case, the USSR was probably the last nation in the West to practice systematic anti-semitism. Josef Stalin was clearly preparing a vast blood purge of the CPSU in 1953 that would have included a nation-wide anti-Jewish pogrom. Only his timely death in March of 1953 prevent this catastrophe from happening. His successors a dumb and crude bunch were perfectly happy to treat the jews as second and even third class citizens according to the time honored rules of repression in Russia.
Thus truly serious people had good cause to worry about the fate of the jews in the USSR.
It's a twenty year story about a group of students and housewives who re-wrote the rules on diplomacy in this country, until the whole Refusenik mishaugas few activists over and above the Viet Nam war demonstrators took on the foreign policy of both the USA and USSR in such a specific and critical manner. As such they remain the model for international issue politics to this day, anti apartheid activists, pro-Tibetan groups and such-like all owe the campaign to free Soviet Jewry a debt of gratitude.
The movement to free Soviet Jews stands out as a unique and fragile example of bipartisanship, no other mode of "issue politics" included everyone from Edward M. Kennedy to William F. Buckley in it's ranks. It exactly the sort of unity you rarely see in US politics and perhaps with good reason.
I had the good fortune to meet Ms. Bialis in San Francisco last week, she is articulate with an encyclopedic knowledge of her topic. At present "Refusenik" lacks a distributor, it is nonetheless slated to run in Boston next month at one of the Landmark theaters, I urge all and sundry to see this film.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Drive Ins are Open! The Drive Ins are OPEN!!!


Serious cineastes will recall the dire predictions last summer that the Tri Town the Emperor of Massachusetts Drive Ins would be closing for good, well the Cassandras will have to spin their crystal balls again cause' th' Tri Town is open for business this Friday!!


Once More Unto the Breach Dear Friends, for God Saint Roger Corman and th' Movies!!!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

California Screamin'

If the City of San Francisco wants to make lavish use of me in a tourism advertising campaign, they are free to do so, just fly me back on the public's dime and I'll squawk lively as to how much fun I had in Fog City.
Truly, William S. Burroughs is right, the sky in California seems to be made of translucent blue paper...ah but so is H.L. Mencken, who claimed the wind off San Francisco bay was a sort of bracing tonic the first thing in the morning.
If you get up early enough, you can watch the sun rise over one of those fantastic cliff-like avenues, along the top will creep tiny human silhouettes like primitive animation. If you grab a cable car to surmount said hills watch for wizened chinese grandmothers remorselessly plodding up hill chain-smoking all the time.
Unfortunately, at the end of the cable car line you are left at "Fisherman's Wharf" a bloated gaudy tourist trap featuring all sorts of expensive nautical attractions, overpriced restaurants and the like. It is akin to Hampton Beach at full summertime gallop on a James Cameron style budget.
Honestly the City of San Francisco ought to hire grizzled actors to stand around in seamen's garb muttering "Yarrrr matey tis th' black spot!" would suit the atmosphere perfectly.
The best thing to do, is go early in the morning, avoid cable car crowds, buy a cup of tea for too much $ at Starbucks and watch the sea lions loaf in the harbor. These are huge bruisers with a indolent attitude towards life, they bark incessantly and lie around in the sun shamelessly.
They act like California is lucky to have them and as such suit the atmosephere perfectly.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Charlton Heston is Dead...

An Axiom of the Cinema passes on.

I wonder if they can detach that old musket from his hands in time for the wake?

Oh that was cruel, but a variant of it will be Letterman's opening gag tomorrow night so think of it as preview....

I mock Heston, he was a truly a third rate actor with the stony charisma of fine statuary lovingly polished, he was a hopeless character player (any time he was to do an accent, watch out!) but for all that he is literally in some ten or eleven movies I love. Planet of the Apes, The Omega Man, the 10 Commandments, Ben Hur, Soylent Green, Skyjacked, Airport '75, Midway, Earthquake, 55 Days at Peking, Khartoum, The Naked Jungle...its a long list believe me.
Never did such a limited talent do so much so well.
And what the hell, he did right by Orson Welles insisting that the Sifu should direct "Touch of Evil", that alone should get him marked down in the "book of life".
Heston may have been a gun-worshipper but he was loyal to his friends and he stuck his neck out good and far on behalf of civil rights when the rest of Hollywood was muttering on the sidelines.

He will be missed.

I'd conclude with the usual bromides about Heston being the last of an extinct breed but honestly he is naught but the Iron King for such ambitious second raters as Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzeneger.

A goodly portion of female backsides

spilled out into the hallway on Friday, it was unavoidable as they were all crowded breathlessly into W.E.'s cubicle to watch the New Kid's on the Block's reunion on the Today Show...artfully streamed live on

You wouldn't think NKOTB would have much of a footprint with any women these days, but to that 25 thru 30 cohort their charisma clearly lingers and has even picked up some strength.
I heard more than a few vows to secure tickets.
I'd mock the whole mishaguas except these are women I respect, in fact the steely eyed realist who trained me was practically cooing at the computer screen as Donnie Wahlberg waved at the Today Show Aud.

Now the dude I wondering about is their former Manager, Maurice Starr? Is he still around and in the mix? That guy had class, at his imperial high noon he swanned about Boston decked out like new jack Field Marshal complete with a gold lame' Sam Browne Belt and jack boots...all bought with money made off the NKOTB.
Class all the way.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Spaceship from the original Planet of the Apes film (1968)

has its own website, somewhere in there BTW there is a very detailed list of the prime contractors who allegedly worked on this entirely fictious spacecraft.
Local boosters will be proud to know M.I.T. plus several local corporations played the prominent role in evolving the "Icarus".

Sunday, March 23, 2008

My Last Eight Movies...

All screened on VHS in a vain effort to clean out the acculmulation of casettes that has built up in my "Closet o' Movie Wonders"

"The Great Gabbo" (1929) Too static but a fun film starring Erich von Stroheim as a crazed ventriloquist. If there is a less music-hall like persona to be found than Stroheim's Prussian hauteur I'd like to see it.

Convention Girl (1935) A slight gangster drama built around the steel pier in Atlantic City, forgettable save for a rare straight turn by Shemp Howard as a mobster and some footage of the classic seaside side show acts including a diving horse routine.

Spite Marriage (1929) Buster Keaton's first and best talkie as a meek tailor who somehow marries a bombshell stage actress. After this Keaton's productions took a nose-dive at the comedy adverse MGM's studios, which is sad because of the lot Keaton should have made the transition to sound with no problem...he was that talented and confident. Alas the studio didn't give him the proper support and so Buster Maximus languished.

Seven Angry Men (1955) Raymond Massey that Axiom of the US cinema stars as John Brown with Dabs Greer, Guy Williams and Jeffrey Hunter as his sons...need I say more?

No Way Out (1950) starring Richard Widmark and Sidney Poitier. There were plenty of social type dramas in the 1950's as this film is desperate to prove. Poitier stars as a young hospital intern whose attempts to save the life of the brother of a notorious bigot occasions a race riot. the film is glib and naive, but Poitier is thoroughly charismatic and Widmark is at his scenery chewing best through-out. I believe that this film alos marks Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis' simultaneous film debut.

The Jokers (1966) Why isn't this film on DVD? Oliver Reed and Michael Crawford play a pair of upper class British ne'er do wells who hatch a plan to steal the crown jewels purely for the hell of it. And what the hell, they succeed then having carried the day in style they start pranking on each other. Very funny film and a rare comedy that makes good use of Oliver Reed and his neanderthal glower.

Deaf Smith and Johnny Ears (1973) When it came to spaghetti westerns, Mexico turns up a lot as a historic setting for some reason, herein Anthony Quinn plays a heroic but deaf gunslinger who is trying to prevent a coup in Sam Houston's short lived Republic of Texas. He gets translation services out of his sidekick played by Franco Nero. On paper this ought to be a gathering of the Gods, in fact, Quinn telephones it in and Nero overacts shamelessly in a bid to compensate. Even Pam Tiffin as a hooker with a heart of gold excited no interest.

Corruption (1968) A dreadfully miscast Peter Cushing stars as a surgeon who is using deadly transplant techniques to treat the facial scars of his super-model fiancee'.
Sound vaguely familiar it's "Eyes Without a Face" sans poetry, drama, class or a decent scare scene.
If you are a horror film fan, skip it, if you are a Peter Cushing fan, forget "Corruption" even exists.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Sighted at the Alewife T-Station Parking Garage, fourth level

A Transit police squad car idly parked at the end of a row with a transit cop idly drinking coffee and idly reading the paper behind the wheel.
Never seen one in the garage before...I can't say it made me feel any safer but then one hardly worries about safety at 8am in the morning at the Alewife MBTA Station's parking garage.

I wonder what it all means...if anything?

Monday, March 17, 2008


A phantom and infamous Boston based PSA from my days of working the 7:30am to 4:30pm shift at Polaroid has turned up on Youtube.

I can't think of a rockier rock bottom to hit than being a full time "Chow Daddy".

This a shorter PSA than the one I remember, there was a longer even cheaper version that featured Chowdaddy singing his "nutritious lunch" rap.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

I haven't been to the movies in two months sad to say...

and my one expedition to the legit theater came a cropper, but Jeezus my bibliophilia is running rampant!

Consider my book purchases for the past seven days:
"The Scarlet Empire" by David M. Parry a pre-WWI anti-socialist dystopian novel.

"How Fascism Ruled Women Italy, 1922 - 1945" by Victoria De Grazia...seemed a natural given my abiding interest in Blackshirtism.

"Hitler: The Survival Myth" by Donald M. McKale Okay this one at least is a Birthday gift for a friend but still eminently readable.

"The Tweed Ring" by Alezander B. Callow Jr. Well...what can I say, machine politics interests me.

"The Skeptic: The Life of H.L. Mencken" Terry Teachout...I could've got this one from the library, but I heard good things about it.

"The Plotters" by John Roy Carson...this is a work of non-fiction decrying the alleged possibility of a post WW II resurgence of fascism, fine but the damn thing was published in 1946 which seriously jumps the gun to say the least.

"The Impossible H.L. Mencken" edited by Marion Elizabeth Rodgers...Okay so yes Mencken was a germanophile, but he is so damn quotable and he is the only real all out stylist in the political game til the brief imperial high noon of Hunter S. Thompson.
His description of a brief encounter with William Jennings Bryan on the streets of Dayton Tennessee during the Scopes trial is a model of abbreviated hilarity.

I blame McIntyre and Moore in Davis Square , they are having a 30% off moving sale all this month, I also blame the Book Rack in Arlington Center because they ALWAYS have something I wanna buy ALWAYS!!!
How can I say no to opportunties like that??? It is their fault for TEMPTING ME!!!!
All bought second hand as well, so I can't even complain about the lack of bargains...

DAMN I have to stop this is getting out of control I have limited shelf space...

Sunday, February 24, 2008


starring Ellen Page is up for all sorts of Academy Awards tonight, I like the film quite a bit, mostly because the lead figured out how to underplay almost everyone else in the cast without losing her centrality to the storyline. For a younger actress this is no small accomplishment, imagine the sort of histrionics we'd have accepted from Kirsten Dunst if by some temporal accident she'd played Juno?
My only question is whether or not Ellen Page simply lucked out here in finding a script that suited her talents or is she really that good?
Consider the case of Broderick Crawford, who won an Oscar as Best Actor in "All the King's Men" circa 1949m within a few years he was serving out his dotage in the TV show "Highway Patrol" far from the Hollywood A-list.
But what the hell, I wanna think well of the kid, she avoided tons of tempting actor pitfalls in Juno...she could be the next Jodie Foster or she could be the next Tatum O'Neal.

Monday, February 18, 2008

$46 dollars and three hours of my life down the drain...

If I had to warn you all away from a Shakespearean production this year, I'd have to settle on the A.R.T.' s Julius Caesar now running down in Harvard Square. Bloated, loaded up with inpenetrable symbolism, rife with robotic acting and glacially paced at a torpid three hours plus, this has to be one of the worst Shakespeare productions I've ever seen, and I've seen a lot of BAD interpretations of the Bard in my time.
I'm not sure what Director Arthur Nauzyciel had in mind, but it looks like he told his Brutus (one Jim True-Frost) to stare at the audience and recite the lines sans emotion or any of the actor's skill behind them. Sara Kathryn Bakker does as well as can be expected in the double role of Portia and Calpurnia but then she apparently ignored the whole "play it way android" meme
Otherwise the whole cast seems to execute on this mechanistic level, reciting, not acting...and they are SLOW reciters at that, what when they are not creeping around on stage like arthritis sufferers or listening rapturously at an inexplicable Jazz Trio complete with chanteuse.
If you are wondering why the play clocks in at three plus hours you can start with the above listed elements and do the math.
Orson Welles electrified Broadway when he dressed Julius Caesar up fascist regalia and got the whole thing down to about ninety minutes with no intermission so the legend goes. The A.R.T. isn't satsfied until it can double that running time no matter how many inappropriate song or dance interludes have to be hammered into Shakespeare's play til the damn thing rings up finally as ART!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Cultural Note...

Let me assert quite freely that the Old Country Buffet in the Medford's Meadow Glen Mall is NOTHING but a gastronomic whore-house and an invitation to the deadly sin of GLUTTONY.
There are FIVE Buffets, plus a desert counter, pink lemonade and soft serve ice cream....the siren call to bloated self indulgence is as blatant as any I've seen this side of the old Combat Zone.
I ate like a starving government mule....undoubtedly the "build your own taco" alone took a day off my life.

The joint ought to be picketed, they picket Planned Parenthood...gluttony is a sin isn't it?????

And the prices were very reasonable, Jesus Lord isn't THIS a sign of the end times?

Leave some money in your budget for new pants, yer gonna need them afterwards trust me.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

"I Am Legend" (2007)

This is a mis-named movie, The title refers to the seminal 1954 science fiction novel by Richard Matheson, but in fact the film itself is more or less a remake of "The Omega Man" (1971) itself a heavily re-written adaptation of the above book.
What unites both films is the strength of the core performance, Cinema's eternal rugged individualist Charlton Heston was born to play the Last Man on Earth, Will Smith cast in the same role opts to do about five variants on the pain of irreparable isolation. It is a great acting job to say the least that deftly elevates what is in the end, mediocre material.
The credits give screenplay props to John and Joyce Corrington, who adapted "I Am Legend" in 1971 turning it into "The Omega Man" for better or worse, turning protagonist Robert Neville into an US Army germ warfare expert and de-emphasizing the obivous vampirism of the infected remnants of humanity.
Hope they got a nice check for their troubles.
Meanwhile the current film is well worth seeing, mostly because Will Smith really is that good.