Thursday, April 27, 2017

Johnathan Demme ("Philadelphia") passes away from cancer


Director and screenwriter Johathan Demme, who gave us “Philadelphia” (1993) and “Silence of the Lambs” (1991) has passed away at age 73 of esophageal cancer. The New York Times obituary is here.

He was about five months younger than me.

The film “Philadelphia”(written by Ron Nsywaner, from Sony TriStar Pictures) stars Tom Hanks as a gay lawyer Andrew Beckett who sues a law firm that employed him for discrimination for having HIV.  He will go on to succumb to HIV.  The film did have a shocking scene involving Kaposi’s Sarcoma.



I remember seeing the film on a bitterly cold Saturday in early 1994 at the old Pentagon City complex in Arlington.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

"The Ten Most Dangerous and Extreme Railways in the World"



Here’s a nice 10-minute short from Facts Factory, “The Ten Most Dangerous and Extreme Railways in the World”.


 
One of these is a railroad in Thailand, where housing obstacles in a poor neighborhood are removed so that a train can pass.  There are three trains through the Andes, one in Peru used to be the highest in the world.  There are a couple of funiculars or cog railways to go up steep grades (Mount Washington NH didn’t make the list).  There are a couple in Bangladesh and India where people ride on the roof and fall off.
Or try this one.


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Lucille Ball's long trailer fetish


I used to like situation comedy (like “My Little Margie” even more than “I Love Lucy” on old black and white television), but I remember at about age 10 my mother took me to see the Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz comedy “The Long, Long Trailer” (1954, MGM, directed by Vincente Minelli) downtown Washington at the old Columbia theater. (Remember, in those days, the theaters were the Capitol, the Palace, and the Columbia).  (There are just two "Long's", not three.)

Nicky (Desi Arnaz) and Tacy (Lucille Ball) start their honeymoon in the trailer than Tacy wants to live in so that life can be a perpetual honeymoon.  (My own parents had done Shenandoah National Park in 1940.) Nicky wants a traditional single family home (and these were the days of suburbanization and tract homes).  But the honeymoon in the trailer becomes harrowing indeed.  I remember laughing out of my seat when Lucy fell in the mud.



The honeymoon disasters will challenge their marriage (as will rumors of other women), but not necessarily more than in the “I Love Lucy” sitcom.  It seems now that the 1950s attitude about marriage was rather condescending.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

"The Official 11-Year Time-Lapse Movie of One World Trade Center"



Here’s an uplifting short film for today, fitting as I spent the last two days in NYC.

The Official 11-Year Time-Lapse Movie of One World Trade Center” by EarthCam (which has other similar videos).


Note how the crane is placed on top of what has already been completed, in a repetitive process.  It must have started in 2004.

It rather reminds me of playing with toys.


An early screenplay attempt by me, “American Epic” (2002), was centered around the plans for rebuilding the World Trade Center site. 


Monday, April 17, 2017

OK, here's a short film made out of a chess game


I’ll let this chess game count as a “movie” once: “Magnus Carlsen vs. 2027 Player: 6 Things to Learn”.



Carlsen is the World Champion Chess Player right now, ay age 26.  Here he is playing an expert in a speed game or simultaneous.

It’s an English opening, and Carlsen leaves the books quickly with a bizarre wing move, and proceeds to completely outplay his opponent with “pawn shredding” and developing wing pieces without moving them.

Here’s another game against a B Player (link).

It's a Pirc defense, and neither side wanted to stay in the books.

Carlsen sees chess as sports or athletics.  Imagine him playing shortstop for the Chicago Cubs. Oh, Europeans don't play baseball, they play soccer. Look up his images on Google.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

"The Student Prince", based on the Romberg operetta, was the first film I saw "alone" as a child


The first movie that I ever saw alone was the musical “The Student Prince” (1954, MGM) directed by Richard Thorpe.  I saw it on a Saturday afternoon in the old Glebe Theater in Arlington in the summer of that year, just before I turned 11.  An attendant got after me for running down the stairs from the balcony.  The film is in "AnscoColor" and Cinemascope, an early film from a company other than Fox in the process.

The movie is based on the operetta by Sigmund Romberg, and there was a legal battle over the use of Mario Lanza’s voice for the songs in the film (check Wikipedia).



But the story is about love vs. family duty, and about introversion.  In 19th Century Germany, still broken into duchies,  long before “The Great War” (PBS recently) Prince Karl (Edmund Purdom) hasn’t done well in courting a princess Johanna (Betty St. John) despite a rigorous life in the military (warning of what could be to come). His grandfather (Louis Calhern) sends him away to university in Heidelberg to learn social graces.  Wouldn’t he need those in the military?  I found out that I did when I went through Army Basic in 1968.  He falls in true love with Kathie (Ann Blyth)  But when his grandfather dies, he must face the idea of marriage (to Johnanna) for political survival as a king.

An old idea, indeed.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Rhine by Felix Koenig, CCSA 3.0.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

"The Greatest Show on Earth" (1952) didn't envision the end of the Circus today


The Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus will close down at the end of May 2017, and the company even says that the change in the family unit is one of the reasons.  It’s not supposed to be a victory for animal rights, as in this ABC story. You could compare this to the Cirque du Soleil, which I saw in Minneapolis in 2002.

But there is a classic film about the circus, “The Greatest Show on Earth” (1952), by Cecile B. De Mille

The film has a massive train wreck scene where a motorist drives into it trying to “stop the train” and is killed instantly; many animals escape.


The plot is a little contrived, as the circus director Brad (Charlton Heston) engages “Sebastian” (Cornel Wilde) creating personal conflicts among the staff.  And then there is the mob outside.

I saw the film at about age 9 with my parents in a “neighborhood” theater

Monday, April 03, 2017

Rialto and StudioCanal will re-issue "The Graduate" in a new digital format


Rialto Pictures and StudioCanal will re-release a 4K print of the 1967 classic comedy “The Graduate


The comedy presents Dustin Hoffman as a recent college graduate who falls in love with both “Mrs. Robinson” (Anne Bancroft) and her daughter (Katharine Ross).



The original film came from MGM  and Embassy Pictures and was directed by Nike Nichols.  Much of the filming took place in Beverly Hills.  I believe I saw it when I was home from graduate school for Christmas in 1967, just a month before finishing my MA at KU and then entering the Army as a draftee at age 24.

Monday, March 27, 2017

"Susan Slept Here": 1954 comedy shows when a screenwriter needs to have his own skin in the game


The 1954 romantic comedy “Susan Slept Here”, directed by Frank Tashlin and based on the play by Steven Fisher and Alex Gottlieb, might just barely fit into today’s controversy over hosting people.

Dick Powell plays Mark Christopher, a struggling screenwriter, who lets the authorities leave him in charge of a female juvenile delinquent in his apartment, with his motivation to use her story as subject matter for a movie script.  Is that a good reason to support someone, to have your own skin in the game?



He winds up marrying her in Las Vegas (imagine this in today’s gay context, maybe with immigration or asylum seekers) and the movie winds up in the Sierras.

It was a garish Technicolor production that I barely remember seeing with my parents at age 10 (in the days when movies had short subjects first, and had to come to the neighborhoods).

Saturday, March 25, 2017

OAN's Trey Yingst interviews Sean Spicer, and it's like a short film


I’m going to treat this as a short film, "OAN Sits Down with Sean Spicer", link here .  OAN is a “moderately conservative”, center-Right news site in San Diego.



The ten minute video shows the young White House correspondent, Trey Yingst, 23, interviewing Sean about the job of press secretary.  Working for Donald Trump to spew his message must be the worst job in the world.

But Sean says he was honored to get the position on Dec. 21 when Trump called him in to his office in Trump Tower, after Trump had worked for the campaign.

Trey Yingst had helped start “News2Share” at American University in Washington DC as an undergraduate and reportedly skipped classes to do conflict journalism. Has reported from overseas locations like Gaza, Rwanda and Ukraine.

Yingst nearly always gets called on by Spicer in conferences and asks blunt questions.
 
I still wonder, will Donald Trump some day invite Troy McClain into the administration?  Troy “took one for the team” on The Apprentice during its first season.

I can name some people who would get through all of Donald Trump's "boardrooms" on "The Apprentice" and get "hired".  How about Richard Harmon, Timo Descamps, Jack Andraka, Taylor Wilson, and Trey Yingst.  Seriously, Trump really did attract good people to "The Apprentice".  (Not so much celebrity appearance -- although all the people I listed are celebrities now, but weren't always.)  I wish he could do that as well as president as he did when hosting his own show.   If I were president. I would peer vet all my cabinet appointments and judicial nominees -- against universities, law schools, professors, tech or engineering companies, military commanders, and the like.  I'd have the best staff ever.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

"Nuclear Power Play" trio of films at DC Environmental Film Festival at Carnegie Science Center


The program “Nuclear Power Play” at the DC Environmental Film Festival tonight (March 22) at the Carnegie Science Center on 16th St NW opened with two important shorts:
 
Nuclear Winter” (12 minutes),produced by the Pulitzer Center grant winner Kit Roane and produced by Retro Report, traces the debate on extreme global cooling that could result from the dust cloud after a nuclear war.  The debate started in 1983 (about the time Ronald Reagan proposed Star Wars), and was spurred by Carl Sagan.  Now there are proposals to reverse climate change with a “nuclear winter” idea by clouding the atmosphere with sulphite particles. The short film has a couple excerpts from “Dr. Strangelove”.  Even a limited nuclear war, like in the Middle East, would have a huge effect in contaminating the rest of the world.   The New York Times also offers the film on YouTube.



As Pentagon Overhauls Nuclear Triad, Critics Advise Caution” is a PBS report on the Pentagon’s upgrade of the three components of its nuclear capacity:  submarines, long range bombers, and ICBM’s.  It is also produced by a Pulitzer Center grantee, James McIntyre (in the QA afterward).  There is a general impression that continuing upgrade of all three tiers increases tensions because it increases the expectation that the US really could (as under Trump) use these weapons – but Obama was quite vigorous in supporting the weapons system.

The program also included the 73-minute documentary “City 40”, Samira Goetschel, about the hidden city Ozersk, Russia, which provided nuclear weapons during the Cold War and still has political vestiges of secrecy under Putin today.  I have a review on Wordpress from having watched it on Netflix here

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Book self-publishing services connecting to pitch-fest for film development


iUniverse (arm of Author solutions) recently announced it was offering a service to help authors develop their books into screenplays and enter them into “PitchFest” events, link.

While this is interesting, I have already developed a screenplay, called “Do Ask, Do Tell: Epiphany”, along with Hauge analysis (link).  My material is so eclectic that it doesn’t lend itself to cookie-cutter techniques.

I recommend people interested in movie development also look at Project Greenlight (Feb. 10), as well as try to find screenwriting clubs in their cities (Minneapolis-St Paul was excellent when I lived there).  Try also to get to know IFP chapters (in Minneapolis it is IFPMN).  In some cities, clubs can arrange table readings and stage readings (they were done in the Jungle Theater near Lake Street when I lived in Minneapolis).  Try to get to know the production facilities (in Louisiana, Georgia, Texas, as well as Vancouver and Toronto).
 
There is a certain culture in the indie film world as to what kinds of  "domestic comedy" or "dramedy" scripts get somewhere.  The Duplass Brothers seem to get this right.

Some of the younger actors and producers and directors seem quite approachable on Facebook and Twitter – even given Hollywood’s “Third Party Rule”.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

"Fast Five" (aka "Fast and Furious II") airs on NBC, pure action genre


Back to stereotyped commercial crowd pleasers tonight. Or maybe Nielsen-ratings pleasers.
NBC aired Universal’s 2011 spring genre action film “Fast Five” (previously “Fast and Furious II”), directed by Justin Lin, tonight from 8 to 11.

This seems to be about bad guys chasing each other.  The story concerns ex-cop Brian O’Oconnor (the late and handsome Paul Walker) teaming with ex-con Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) to regain their own freedom and that of street racers, against a rogue businessman (Trump?) and federal agent (Dwayne Johnson), with most of the action in the streets of Rio, Brazil.



But the film starts with a spectacular bus crash on the Arizona interstate, and then there is a scene where an Amtrak train is destroyed at a bridge that appears to cross Lake Powell.  The tag team jumps into the lake and we don’t see what happens to the train. The bridge would fall, just like in “Cassandra Crossing”.

The action scenes are well staged in both the slums and beaches of Rio.

The film has a long epilogue and preview of future sequels.

Wikipedia attribution link for Rio picture by Chelsyyuan, under CCSA 3.0. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Unusual video short film exhibit at Smithsonian Hirshhorn in Washington DC; non-profit documentary or art film will need more private support under Trump's budget "manifesto"


On the way to a screening of “Voices of Chernobyl” (to be reviewed soon on my Wordpress blog) at the Ring Theater downstairs in the Hisrhhorn Museum of the Smithsonian in Washington DC tonight.

 I found another video exhibit downstairs of unusual experimental short film.



Here's the inventory:

Agniezska Polska: “I Am the Mouth”; Helen Marten: “Orchids: Or a Hemispherical Bottom”; Ed Atkins:”Warm Spring Mouths”; Josh Kline: “Patriot Acts”; Ian Cheng: “Emissary in the Squat of Gods”.  Kline’s video included an animation of a speech by Barack Obama.

The Smithsonian could certainly come under pressure in Donald Trump's budget (as will PBS), and need more private sources of sponsorship, funding and investment.

Vox called the president's budget proposal a "Manifesto".  Is that an allusion to me, since my first book (DADT-1) was always called "The Manifesto". 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

"Stranger Fruit" at SXSW will provide a controversial video of Michael Brown's barter before his death in Ferguson in 2014 n


Since I moved most of my movie reviews to Wordpress, I don’t usually “preview” films that I expect to see later, but I do think this is appropriate for “Stranger Fruit”, directed by Jason Pollock, showing at SXSW in Austin TX, shows new footage of Michael Brown in a convenience store in Ferguson MO before he was shot by Darren Wilson in August 2014 ,leading to the explosion of the Black Lives Matter movement.  (This video seems to refer to activity hours before the shooting.)

The claim is made that barter of small amounts of marijuana in exchange for tobacco products is common in convenience stores in poorer neighborhoods and is not usually of concern to police.

However, local prosecutors have disputed the film’s claims.



The Washington Post has a story on the controversy by Kattie Mettler here.

SXSW site is here.  I can't find the film's own site or Facebook page yet.

The fact pattern certainly suggests that Brown did charge Wilson’s car and that Brown’s own behavior when first approached by Wilson (which sounds hard to explain) contributes to what happened later. However, here is a recent article on Wilson’s remarks.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Ferguson protesrts Aug. 14, 2014 by Loaves of Bread, CCSA 4.0.


Tuesday, March 07, 2017

"Voyage of the Damned": the journey of Jewish refugees in the MS St. Louis in 1939


Given the reinstitution of Donald Trump’s “Travel Ban 2”, this might be a good time to recall the 1976 film “Voyage of the Damned”, directed by Stuart Rosenberg based on the book by Gordon Thomas.

The long film (155 minutes in theaters, 182 in video reissue) traced the voyage of the MS St. Louis, which departed Hamburg in May 1939 with about 937 passengers, mostly Jewish refugees, on what turned out to be fraudulent papers issued in Cuba.  The ship, when turned away from Cuba (after joyous passage) after allowing only 29 passengers to disembark, tried to head for Florida (where FDR, not yet fully appreciative of the Nazi threat, turned them away) and then Canada and then the UK (which took over 200 passengers) before returning to Antwerp.  It’s estimated that over 200 refugees would die in Nazi concentration camps, many in Poland.



Stars included Faye Dunaway, Oskar Werner and Lee Grant.

I remember seeing the film around Times Square (I was living in Manhattan) a few days after Christmas 1976.

The film was distributed by Avco Embassy in the US (a quasi indie company then) and J. Arthur Rank in the UK (well established in European films in earlier times).

Wikipedia attribution link to P.d. picture of boarding in Hambrug taken in 1939.  I have visited Hamburg once, in 1972.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

"Quantum Theory" and the movement of consciousness among dimensions (and "The Paradox of Procreation")


Quantum Theory Proves Consciousness Moves to Another Dimension at Death” (9 Min) is a mouthful or words for a title from this little film strip from UFOMania.



It’s based on a book “Biocentrism” by Robert Lanza.

Does consciousness create the physical universe, or is it the other way around?

Well, practically all religion will accept the idea that God created the universe, perhaps at the Big Bang, and made all the physics constants just right for life.  Or we may be living inside a statistically improbable occurrence.

Procreation would seem to imply creating new conscious beings by conscious choices (of mates).  That implies that living beings have some discretion in how they change the Universe and reverse its entropy.

Nevertheless, some kind of consciousness had to pre-exist (God).  Is it reasonable that a filament of consciousness of sentient being continues after death, maybe in the unused dimensions of string theory, maybe bound to dark energy  Maybe the information from each life layers a black hole..

So then maybe that consciousness re-assembles and attaches itself to the microtubules inside the neurons of another newborn baby, for reincarnation.  But then the parents are no longer practicing procreation.  Instead, they are facilitating life for a “being” who already exists and needs another chance.  Childlessness (and homosexuality) seemingly denies these beings future incarnations.

There seems to be a reconciliation in the idea of distributed consciousness – bees and ants have it, but so do orcas and dolphins, to some extent.  Humans experience it maybe as eusociality, or maybe something like the “wisdom of the people” which authoritarian politicians want to exploit.  Somehow to learn what this is, you need walk in someone else’s shoes.  If you’re a gay man, you want to sit in your lover’s lap (like a particular scene in “The Dark Place”, Dec. 2, 2014 here). Or maybe you can be a young filmmaker who meets his older self (like Danny in “Judas Kiss”) and has sex with him, never to mention it again.  Or maybe, as Reid Ewing once said, you can counsel your younger self.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

"Moonlight" wins best picture after amazing last-second fumble at the Oscars 2017; "O.J.: Made in America" is an unusual Oscar winner in documentary


Jimmy Kimmel acts presidential enough tonight at Oscars 2017 in the Dolby Theater, it all its wonderful balconies and geometries.   He tweeted the real Donald Trump, and he didn’t have his running mate, Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant.   Jimmy Kimmel would be competent to serve as president of the United States.  How about James Franco?

The most important award tonight in my parlance was to “The White Helmets”, for best documentary short, a riveting documentary of volunteer rescuers in Aleppo.  For short live action, the Academy preferred the student solidarity in the Hungarian film “Sing” to either of the two films dealing with refugees (like "Silent Nights"). .



For best documentary feature, the Academy took the unusual step of awarding to what is essentially a TV series,  Ezra Edelman’s “O.J.: Made in America”, for ESPN’s “30 for 30” documentary series (over 5 hours).  But a reduced version is supposed to be available for theaters soon.  I’ve seen only portions of it, having remembered living through the radio talk shows (like Vicky Jones) in my car in the 1990s.

Mahershali Ali has won best supporting actor for the dramatic “Moonlight”, coming of age of a gay black man in a difficult neighborhood of south Florida.

The Salesman” is the only foreign language film I have seen so far this year.  Ashgar Farhadi could not be present to accept the award.   A statement was read in absentia, a strong protest of Donald Trump’s recent immigration 7-country ban, and the award was accepted by Iranian astronaut Anousheh Ansari.

Babyfaced Damien Chazelle’s “Lala Land” was mistakenly announced best picture.  But some sort of pro-football fumble of the cards, and "Moonlight" actually won (Washington Post story).   I would have picked “Arrival” (Qz analysis).

The Chicago Tribune’s  list of the winners is here.

I remember the 1998 awards (“Titanic”) when I dispatched my crutches for the first time and spent the evening at a party at the Oprheus in downtown Minneapolis.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

"5 Things that Will Happen when Aliens Arrive": short


Strange Mysteries has a 14-mnute short film “5 Things that Will Happen When Aliens Arrive”.


This isn’t one of those cheesy web sites that make you load a new page and ad to see the next “thing”.

Stephen Hawking is mentioned.  The upshot is that an advanced alien civilization might make a brief, non-aggressive visit, depart, and leave us alone.

Hawking's own views are much more guarded.  European conquests of the New World did not work out well for native populations.

One obvious problem could be the introduction of alien pathogens.

The conclusion of my screenplay script “Titanium” poses such a situation, as would the sequence “Prescience”.

Friday, February 17, 2017

"The Tender Trap": 1955 musical monument to heterosexism


Maybe few movies (at least musical comedies) from the 1950s demonstrate old fashioned “heterosexism” as the 1955 Cinemascope romp “The Tender Trap” directed by Charlie Waters, music by Jeff Alexander.

Frank Sinatra plays Charlie Reader, a 35-ish bachelor and theatrical agent in New York. The comic plot ensues when his friend Joe (David Wayne) visits from Indiana, when Joe wants to end his boring marriage to Ethel.   Charlie wants Sylvia (Celeste Holm), a classical violin player.  Joe wants her too.  In the mean time, Julie (the late Debbie Reynolds) a singer) would like Charlie to settle down, marry her, and let her become a stay-at-home mom.  I once experienced something like that with heterosexual dating around 1971.


Member the song, “Love is the Tender Trap.”  My own father used to say, “One day, blue eyes will confuse you.”  Now that might sound quasi-racist.  My first roommate at William and Mary was befuddled by my non-reaction to normal porn.  “You should be ….”   And then, having someone deped on me this way was supposed to trap me, and remain exciting.  It wasn’t.

I rather vaguely remember seeing this with mother and cousin, at a time when I was getting into movies.  I think Cinemascope had just come to the neighborhoods then.

Here's another, detailed take on this movie.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

"Tower": a riveting re-enactment of the Texas Tower shooting in 1966


Tower” (2016, about 84 min), directed by Keith Maitland, is a riveting reenactment of the University of Texas Tower Shooting perpetrated by Charles Whitman on August 1, 1966.

The film, from Kino Lorber, was broadcast on PBS Independent Cuts on Tuesday, February 14, 2017.

Whitman would later be found to have a brain tumor on autopsy.

The film is largely animated, much of it in black and white.  The film reenacts the experiences of several victims, mostly in animation, sometimes with black and white footage of the event.  One of the most prominent is Clarie James, the first shot, who was 8 months pregnant.  Her boyfriend was shot and killed instantly. The baby would not survive. Another was a paperboy Alex Hernandez.

One pair of young men was playing chess in a rented house when they heard the shots.  White resigned the game.

One civilian, Allen Crum, a former Air Force gunner, assisted police in the difficult counterattack, which ended the rampage in 96 minutes. He declined payment for his day of being deputized.

The film opens with a popular song in 1966 that I remember hearing at the University of Kansas, where I was a graduate student then, “Monday Monday”.



The film was followed by a 10-minute featurette with glimpses of several other recent mass shootings, and with discussion of the recent Texas concealed carry law, which allows concealed handguns by licensed owners on the campus of the University of Texas. The film showed a particularly handsome male Pd D graduate student packing his weapon before going to class on a bicycle.

Wikipedia attribution link for older picture of University of Texas tower by Larry D. Moore, CCSA 3.0.

There was a TV docudrama "The Deadly Tower" by Jerry Jameson in 1975 which I vaguely remember seeing.

PBS also showed a trailer for “Newtown”.

Monday, February 13, 2017

"Generation Zero": Stephen Bannon's 2010 documentary attempts a "moral" explanation of the 2008 financial crisis


Stephen K. Bannon’s 90-minute 2010 documentary “Generation Zero” (from “Citizens United”) attracted the attention of Fareed Zakaria, who gave the link in a recent op-ed in the Washington Post “Stephen Bannon’s words and actions don’t add up”.

Bannon attempts to connect personal morality to policy and the progress of history.  But for most of the film, it really is about the “privatization of capitalism” – that is socialism for the rich, and capitalism for the poor.  Piketty would not disagree.  Call it “casino capitalism”  (or “extreme capitalism” or shareholder capitalism as opposed to stakeholder capitalism).  The end result is that most “average Joe” workers get left out (and become prime pickings for Donald Trump’s “populist” mass movement).


Bannon does begin by sketching some historical epochs, and the way people grew up with different attitudes about their own sense of personal responsibility, and openness to sharing responsibility with other generations.

The history theory involves the theory of “turning”, that is, Neil Howe’s 1997 book “The Fourth Turning”.

“The Greatest Generation” had to endure hardship (the Depression) and War, and nurtured the idea of stable social structure, through the family, where people accepted responsibility for past and future generations, and where older people in a structure were respected for their experience (and given “authority”).  The “Awakening”, from 1966-1986, saw young adults, somewhat sheltered by their parents, insisting on more individualism, becoming hippies and then materialistic yuppies. You got known or measured by the attraction you could draw to yourself, or by what you could buy.  From 1987-2007 came the Unraveling, as a result of a society that measured everything with money.  The Financial Crisis of 2008 created the Fourth turn.

But one basic problem, as Bannon presents it, that government shielded individuals from a sense of moral hazard – which led to taking enormous risks with other people’s money, pushing large mortgages on people who could not afford them, and then securitizing the debts (and then getting the bailouts -- starting on doomsday, Sept. 18, 2008).  The same idea comes across with government debt and runaway entitlements.

Bannon does not bring religion into this film.  He does suggest on a broader level that individuals need more moral compass than they have.

Bannon mentions the ideas of writer and community organizer Saul Alinsky ("Rules for Radicals", 1971).

But it is the current “Generation Zero” of young people that will have to start over.

Update: March 8

Right now, CU seems to prefer that consumers obtain this film from a donation site, link.here.  (I have ordered it with two other films.) The official site is here.   The YouTube link in the Washington Post article is no longer available.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Clive Barker sponsors contest at Project Greenlight Digital Studios


Project Greenlight is back.

First, I have to admit that I haven’t kept up with some of the recent smaller contests. I’ll have to come back to these soon (right now, Oscar-nominated shorts are on my mind).

But British novelist and now LA-filmmaker Clive Barker will offer $300,000 to help the winner of a new horror contest produce a horror film at Project Greenlight Digital Studios.  The contest is called “Real Fear”.



To enter, contestants need to provide 1-3 minute “elevator speech” concept videos, from Feb. 13 to March 17  There is a series of steps in the selection that culminates in June, as explained in Hollywood Reporter in a story by Aaron Couch.

Clive Barker’s mammoth 1991 novel “Imajica” (on the scale of “Lord of the Rings”) is supposed to be getting set up for filming as a sci-fi series.  I still think this visionary novel (with Byzantine subplots, many of them with LGBT overtures and a major transgender character Pie ‘O’ Pah, set on five worlds of which Earth is one, and finally deconstructing our hollow Heaven) lends itself to Imax 3-D treatment.  I would think a studio like Lionsgate or Summit would have noticed this opportunity before.

My screenplay “Do Ask, Do Tell: Epiphany” (set on a space station near Titan) works for sci-fi but is not horror in the sense that this contest wants.

I would wonder if the short “Augustine: Killer Toy Robots” (Oct. 29, 2015) with Reid Ewing could be expanded as a contest entry.   (I presume that the films are live-action and not animated, although I could also wonder if something with Danganronpa is possible.)  I don’t know whether concept that had been short films could be accepted.  Another idea could be to make a feature out of Carter Smith’s “Bugcrush” (Jan. 29, 2008), or, better yet, a sequel.  What did happen to poor little Ben in that final scene?

Thursday, February 09, 2017

"Matt and Blue: Adopting as a Same-Sex Couple": short film on male gay couple adoption in Arizona since Obergefell



Peace to the World: Matt and Blue: Adopting as a Same-Sex Couple.”


A young male couple (both late 20s) in Jordan AZ (near where the Mogollon Rim starts, I think), reasonably stable with a desert home and jobs,  describes how they adopted a son (shown once).  They had to take any person given to them at one point, and have the child live with them for six months.  They had to deal with a legal battle (despite Obergefell) as to whether both men could be legal parents, or whether one was a stepparent.

They also discussed the need for foster parents.

They also interviewed another male couple in Arizona, Kevin and David, who appeared to have three kids.

I’ve been in the Phoenix area many times, visited Tonopah for “Understanding” conventions with Dan Fry back in the 1970s, and am familiar with Flagstaff, Sedona, the northern plateau and Grand Canyon, and even the Painted Desert.  I once visited Heber, the site of Travis Walton’s supposed UFO abduction. But I don’t know if I’ve been near where this couple seems to live.

By Robert Graves Loy - Robert Graves Loy, Attribution, Link

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Short films at the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture


Today, I did get into the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture at 12:30 PM, before the 1 PM walk-up line;  there was no wait.

There are several “films” in the museum.

The most interesting “film” was a set of 1500 interview clips in a mural on the top floor, “Question Bridge: Black Men” by Chris Johnson.  The men talk about the idea that they grow up being expected to learn the practical skills related to becoming men who can protect women and children and provide for families.  They also talk about the idea that it isn’t cool to be “smart” in low-income black areas.  They even say that being smart is equated with being gay – with not giving you family any babies.  (We can ask Jack Andraka, undergraduate Stanford cancer researcher, if being smart is equivalent to being gay.)

There are various other little theaters in the museum. There is a little victory “Double Victory” that talks about the paradox of a segregated Army during WWII, when blacks weren’t allowed to be pilots.

I can mention the 1996 HBO film “Truman”, directed by Frank Pierson, with Gary Sinese, which dramatized Truman’s integration of the military in 1948.



A few other short films were:

Reconstruction”, which depicted a late 19tn century here domestic terrorism and the Ku Klux Klan kept blacks in quasi-slavery. It puts bad karma on white people.

Black Liberation and the Vietnam War” which really could have hit the unfairness of the draft and student deferment system even harder.  John Kennedy had once said he didn’t want an all volunteer Army because he claimed it would be an all-black Army.  Kennedy had also wanted to defer all married men.

The Death of Martin Luther King, Jr.” in April 1968 happened while I was in Special Training Company in Army Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson, SC.  We were on “red alert” to make a show of force in downtown Columbia.  No, we never went.

T Too, America” presents a late night interview.
In the lower level there is a placard, "The Paradox of Liberty".



Friday, February 03, 2017

"Seven Brides for Seven Brothers": a monument to patriarchal heterosexuality, or family fun?



Here's another boyhood memory. I actually liked "musicals" then, but some of them were obviously much weaker in concept than others.
I vaguely remember seeing the musical “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”, directed by Stanley Donen, music by Saul Chaplin and Gene De Paul, lyrics by Johnny Mercy.  This was a relatively early CinemaScope picture, from MGM (not Fox), with AnscoColor.

But the plot, set in the Oregon backwoods in the 1850s, would sound misogynistic today (maybe it would appeal to Donald Trump).



When Adam (Howard Keel) clumsily looks for a bride and finds Milly (Jane Powell) in town and brings her back,  he brings her back to the woods and she encounters his six brothers, who also want wives.  She teaches them to be tidier and more refined around women (in other words, how to "court" the "weaker sex").  But a plot ensues where the brothers kidnap other women, after their “masculinity” is challenged by nerdier rivals in town.  The story seems like a “brains vs. brawn” dichotomy, but this time the brawn wins.

It’s hard to see how this was regarded as wholesome family entertainment in 1954.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

"Guinea Pig: Mermaid in a Manhole": a Japanese cult horror film found online


Guinea Pig: Mermaid in a Manhole” (2002, directed by Hideshi Hino, “Gini piggu: Manhoru no naka no ningyo”, 58 min) is a camp Japanese horror film, that could get revived as a cult or midnight film.

The link to see it free right now is here.  I had some trouble with the video player hanging and stalling a lot.  The subtitles are in French, and the dialogue is very simple to read.  The film is shot in the old 1.37:1 aspect and looks extremely low budget.

The film opens with an image of a “Chuckie” doll in a sewer (remember “Child’s Play” (1984)).  An artist (Shageru Saiki) investigates the manhole and finds a mermaid, an brings her up to his tiny upstairs apartment.  Her body disintegrates quickly with sores and worms.  The artist uses her body fluids as paint, in an exercise that seems to make fun of Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray”.  It gets pretty gross, with the vomiting scenes (remember Roman Polanski’s "Carnage" (1/14/2012”), but when she dies, he dismembers the body.  The blood flows through a leak to an apartment below, and a young couple calls the cops.  He winds up in a mental institution, looking like a manhole, as the authorities say she died of cancer. (OK, we have American Carnage, and Japanese Carnage.)



Reid Ewing (a fan of Danganronpa, based on Japanese manga) found this link and shared it on his Twitter feed.  I’d love to see him do more short films (like in the “It’s Free” series) again.  They would fit into a dialogue on open access (which Jack Andraka has been pushing relative to science fair researchers.)  But I suppose we could see a Danganronpa movie some day (there are plenty of such “movies” extracted from the game series on YouTube now). .

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Milo Begins Construction on the Wall


Milo Yiannopoulos has made a satirical gay fashion film for “Breitbart Films”, “Milo Begins Construction on the Wall”.


Look at the nice bodies, some of them hairy, others smooth. Too many tattoos.  Breitbard has an accompanying article here.

Seriously, I wonder, if Milo making fun of The Wall (like the Austrian film, linked here on Blogger), or making fun of the objections to it.  He isn’t born in the US, but Milo might actually make a decent head of state.  Let him replace Bannon as Trump’s national security adviser.
Still, all the controversy about Milo, seems to be his rejection of political correctness and “crybaby” attitudes.

Here’s a CNN video on what it would take to build the wall.  About 1200 miles of the 1900+ border is unfenced. And in some areas illegal traffic is a real problem.

Wikipedia attribution link of El Paso-Juarez, my MWilliams151, CCSA 3.0.  I visited it and drove a rent car into Juarez in 1979

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

"Taylor Wilson": new lecture video from Clinton School of Public Service (I call this a movie where science "trumps" politics)


I don’t often propose that YouTube lectures be reviewed as “films”, but this 47-minute address and QA by 22-year-old physicist Taylor Wilson, recorded around Nov. 15. 2016 (about a week after Trump’s electoral win) at the Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock, AR

The video would have been more effective if shown with slides, but Taylor has plenty of these on his own site, particularly “Expeditions”  (My own short story in DADT-III is called “Expedition” – coincidence).  You have to click through to see the various galleries.


Taylor grew up near Texarkana, AR but moved to Reno to go to the Davidson Academy.  He has gotten support from Peter Thiel.  I believe his labs are at the University of Nevada in Reno.  The dress is informal, and his facial features bear a striking resemblance to those of his mother. Brian Williams had done an outdoor hike interview of him (Major Issues, Nov. 7, 2015), exploring desert and caves for radioactive elements in western Nevada. .

Taylor is most famous for building a small fusion reactor at home at age 14, as explained the book about him by Tom Clynes (book reviews Dec. 14, 2015).

Taylor talked about his idea that the power grids could become more secure if decentralized by having a lot more small underground local reactors.  Many of these could be fission reactors, with new designs.

He also talked about futurism and space travel.  He did mention the medical issues associated with prolonged weightlessness of low gravity, which can include eyesight loss.  He thinks Mars should be settled before the Moon.  Is it OK to live at 40% gravity but not 18%?  One question not mentioned is artificial gravity, which can be generated with centrifugal devices, but applies only to objects in contact with the surface. I have to deal with this idea in my screenplay “Do Ask, Do Tell: Epiphany”.
Wikipedia attribution link for picture (pd) of Reno with University.



Also, the Oscar nominations for 2017 have been announced this morning, here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

"The End: Inside the Last Days of the Obama White House": CNN Films makes this a real movie


CNN Films releases a “movie” tonight, “The End: Inside the Last Days of the Obama White House”.  Ironically, ABCNews offers a commentary here,

CNN’s own rather festive link with many video clips is here.

The film starts with a recitation of the night that Trump won the election, scoring more runs with fewer hits (by analogy to baseball) with a realization coming over everyone gradually after about 10 PM.  The sun did come out on November 9, and President Obama gave a pep talk to a sad-faced audience.

A lot of the film does show the niceties around the White House, including the kitchen staff that stays there during many administrations.


 
The film did not get into the sensitive issues of actually transferring power – how do you keep the Pentagon running as defense secretaries change, how do you keep the chain of command in those minutes right around the swearing in, how do you keep intelligence services and federal law enforcement when leadership changes.  And it looks like not all the cabinet will be in place.
 
The title of the film looks odd as a blog posting title.  No, I expect more postings here.  But a president Trump could trample on user-generated content online over certain security arguments, given what has happened.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Local book-film club revisits "The Secret Garden"


Last night, the book club in the Westover Market considered the novel “The Secret Garden” (1910), originally published in serial form, by Frances Hodgson Burnett,  Having seen the movie “counted”.  In fact there have been three films, but the best known is the 1993 British film directed by Agmieszla Holland for Zoetrope (Francis Ford Coppola) and Warner Brothers.  To the best of my recollection, I saw it in the old AMC Bailey’s Crossroad’s complex that year.  But the movie and novel has some other intermittent connection to my life.  In 1961, in the summer, I was taking “Notehand” in summer school, and we made a field trip to GW in Washington to practice notehand on a lecture on children’s literature, and I think this book was discussed.  Sometimes this book is taught in high school English (probably ninth grade).



Then, back in 1998, I went to some kind of fireworks show in Minneapolis with some other people from the Libertarian Party of Minnesota.  I think this was a separate event from LGBT festival in Loring Park.  The college student who had set up my lecture on my first book at Hamline University was there, and for some reason mentioned this book and movie.  I can’t quite remember the context. He had read Nietzsche’s “The Gay Science” but I don’t recall any connection.



The story seems to be about childhood self-indulgence, of the Rosenfels “eternal feminine” kind. A girl Mary Lennox (Kate Maberly) is growing up spoiled in a British family in India.  When she is playing with her toys, an earthquake shatters the home and kills the parents.

She gets sent back to England to live in a manor run by a distant, schizoid uncle Craven (John Lynch). But she become enamored to the wonders of the place, especially a magic garden.  She meets a quasi-disabled cousin Collin (Heydon Prouse) whose physical weakness is a bit like mine.  Is it psychological and a kind of malingering or cowardice or anxiety personality disorder?  Apparently his birth drained his mother (as did mine).

But as the movie progresses, the wonders and healing of the garden itself take over.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Vertigo: the greatest of all time?


I’ve seen Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” twice, have the Blue Ray DVD, and most recently saw it in a theater in 1996 with a 70 mm reprint of the original 1958 Paramount VistaVision film (distribution changed to Universal with the reprint).
Is it one of the “greatest of all time”?  (Sorry, Timo, Richard Harmon isn’t in it.) The film is famous for its treasure-hunt plot and its use of mistaken identity (or perhaps deliberately forged) as retired police detective Scotty (James Stewart) falls in love with a woman he is hired to stalk, loses her once in a famous staircase and belfry tower jump, then finds her and chases her all over again.

The film opens with the rooftop scene that does conform to the expectations of conventional screenwriting, to put the hero or protagonist in dire trouble right at the very beginning.  Then there is a long conversation with Midge (Barbara Bel Geddes) in a San Francisco apartment, that seems talky by today’s standards, before he meets the shipping magnate Gavin (Tom Helmore), who hires him.

The bifurcation of the film with the first jump scene gives it a two-part “Op. 111” structure (“Body Heat”, in 1980, would do something similar).  Scotty also has to deal with the idea of cowardice after he supposedly failed to act at the first jump.

The obsession with Madelaine (Kim Novak) reminds me of a sense of loss that happened earlier in my life (1978).
 
Don't forget Bernard Herrmann's creepy score, especially the opening theme.
 
San Francisco has the charm here that only hints of its future as a “gay” city. I would first see the city in December 1966 as a grad student.

Wikipedia attribution link for p.d. picture of Castro Street today.

Monday, January 09, 2017

LGBT film wins best drama at Golden Globes; Meryl Streep's speech; Sophie's Choice


Last night Jimmy Fallon hosted the Golden Globes.

For “La La Land” to win best musical or comedy was entirely expected, but for “Moonlight” to win best dramatic film is quite remarkable: an LGBT film (and African American) film set in a troubled south Florida neighborhood, dealing with gangs and drugs, too,  It reminds me of my visit to Belle Glade in 1986.  I wondered if a film like “Judas Kiss” could ever win such an award, but then it occurred to me, that in films like “Judas Kiss” and “The Dark Place”, the gay characters are too clean-cut and establishment.  Even Shane Lyons fits the stereotypes of conventional attractiveness (even if he evolves into a real life Milo).

I like the way they gave a nod to Canadian actors, like Ryan Gosling.  Include Gregory Smith and Richard Harmon in the mix.

Then there is the issue of Meryl Streep’s speech, about Donald Trump’s propensity to humiliate others.

Well, Trump tweeted back, that he never mocked a disabled reporter (and his opinion that Meryl Streep is overrated), and here is one of his defenders:

Vox explains it this way. (Aja Romero).



I’ve imagined that Meryl Streep could play the high school principal in the backstory sequence (“The Sub”) in my “Epiphany” screenplay based on linking together my three DADT books in a sci-fi setting.

I remember particularly the horrifying backstory scene near the end of Alan Paluka’s 1982 film “Sophie’s Choice” with Streep as Sophie. Roger Ebert had said that this was not just another concentration camp story.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Milo's own "Ghostbusters"


I don’t normally do “guest reviews” on this blog (I am inviting them on my Wordpress “Bill’s Media Commentary”) , and I see that I never wrote even a “tidbit” review of Ivan Retiman’s 1984 summer comedy “Ghostbusters” (1984) (with Bill Murray and Dan Akyroyd), which I do remember seeing at Northpark in Dallas, I think on a Saturday afternoon.  The film would be followed by “Ghostbusters II” (1986) and “The Real Ghostbusters” (1989), like "The real Donald Trump".

So now in 2016 the franchise starts over with a film by Paul Feig for Columbia Pictures, with an all female cast. .



But I’ll link to bad boy Milo Yiannopoulos’s naughty review on Breitbart, with it’s catchy title, “Teenage Boys with Tits: Here’s My Problem with Ghostbusters”, as if it were a guest post.  Yup, Leslie Jones might have amplified the Twitter insult, resulting in Milo's being banned, to help sell the movie. But thanks to Milo, I don't need to bother with it.

Milo's message: stop whining. Stop pimping your victimhood.  More recent interview on ABC News here.

Will there be a documentary about Milo soon?

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Recalling some little known Disney movies from the 50s, especially "The Sword and the Rose" and "Stormy"


I was actually a fan of Walt Disney movies when I was a boy, and I followed the opening of Disneyland in 1955 (wouldn’t visit it until 1967) and even “Doodyville” about the same time. 
There are a couple of curious classic Disney films that everyone has forgotten.

One of these is “The Sword and the Rose” (1953), directed by Ken Annakin, which would be shown in two parts on the Disneyland show in late 1955 under the original title of the 1900 Charles Major (Edward Caskoden real name) book “When Knighthood Was in Flower” (a swashbuckling best seller), which had been filmed once in 1922 (Robert Vignola).


I rather remember the 15th century period spectacle.  But the story concerns a plan for Mary Tudor (Glynis Johns) to escape a forced arrange marriage with a French King by escaping to America, about the time of Sir Walter Raleigh, during the time of Henry VIII.  Arranged marriages sounds like an important topic now, given the modern debates over the privatization of marriage (even same-sex marriage). 

I also remember the idea of chivalry -- the way men supposedly protected women in that society.
  
There was 40-minute short around 1953 that I was with my mother, “Stormy”, about a race horse.  I can’t find reference to it now.  It was a short that went along with a cartoon feature (Ii think it was “Peter Pan”).

A good movie to mention today also is “ Lady and the Tramp” (1955), the first animated film made in Cinemascope.  (Today, most animated films seem to be made in standard aspect 1.85:1).  The story concerns a romance between farm cocker spaniel Lady and a mutt from the wrong side of the tracks.