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.