Saturday, December 31, 2016

Trey Yingst makes impressive short film of his college experiences at American University journalism school

Trey Yingst, a correspondent for One America News  , a somewhat “conservative” cable news network headquartered in San Diego, has posted a 6 minute short film on his Facebook page, which he calls “My Journalism Reel from College”, which was at American University in Washington DC.  Yingst also worked at (and actually founded with Ford Fisher)  an earlier network associated with the University called “News2Share”.

The video is (as of this writing) the first one on the page.  I would play it full screen, as the video work is impressive.  There are shots from Baltimore and St. Louis and overseas conflict locations.

The link is here.  There is a lot of direct conflict and riot footage.  I have suggested that he could work this into a documentary feature on conflict journalism, or a longer short film (for say, submission to DC Shorts film festival in September).

One could also envision a documentary about journalism and political objectivity.  Most of the major broadcast networks (as well as CNN) are viewed as “liberal”, except for Fox, which tends to feature conservative commentators.  OAN strikes me as comparable to Fox.  OAN places emphasis on getting “on the ground” stories as they happen, with interviews with people affected by local conflict and unrest from authoritarians or from disorder.  Vox produces many interpretive videos and explanatory “card stacks” but doesn’t have a cable network (yet), it  strikes me as liberal to progressive (with some fiscally conservative commentators like Tim Lee).

I met Trey at a “Your Voice Your Future” session on terrorism set up in Arlington VA by WJLA-7 in February 2015 (during a small ice storm).  WJLA tends moderate to liberal, but its owner, Sinclair (in Baltimore) is viewed as another conservative news organization. Sinclair has produced several stories on electric power grid vulnerability, trying to get the subject into the mainstream.

Yingst was arrested reporting at Ferguson, and filed civil suit, which was settled with dropping of charges, story.

For another short film, "How Sugary Foods Are Making Us Fat" (18 minutes, Journeyman Films), see my "Major Issues" blog Dec. 30, 

Friday, December 30, 2016

"Carousel": Remember the 1956 CinemaScope-55 film if you see the stage musical

I missed the stage version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “Carousel” at the Arena Stage in Washington recently (it ended Christmas Eve), but I remember the 1956 musical film (directed by Henry King) well.

David Ignatius describes the plot in an op-ed in the Washington Post on p. A19 December 30, “America’s upcoming stress test”, or, online, “Is America at its greatest what Trump has in mind?”   In coastal Maine, a factory worker girl Julie Jordan (Shirley Jones) falls in love with a carnival merry-go-round barker Billy Bigelow (Gordon MacRae). They fall into hard times and Billy dies committing a petty robbery.

I do remember the songs, like “You’re a queer one, Julie Jordan”, “If I loved you”, and (as part of a monument to heterosexuality).  The longest song is probably "Soliloquy", aka “My Boy Bill”, where Billy imagines his future kids.  We all want “My Boy Bill to be as tall and as tough as a tree” (without naming names, I can think of a few people whom I know who fit – you all know who you are if you find this post and know me) and then suddenly asks, what if his child is a “girl”.  We’ve come a long way from that, seeing women just as needing to be protected (too much the mentality in 1956), albeit as future moms, to being in the world on their own (yes, Hillary Clinton).  Another great song is at the end, “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.  And don’t forget, “This was a real nice clambake” – I think of a particular “I’m still young” 29th birthday party in West Hollywood (the Abbey, maybe) with a particular picture on Twitter of a raw shellfish dish.

The show and film open with the “Carousel Waltz”  in D Major, a boisterous and furious (vivace) bit of post-romanticism that turns into a full concert overture that deserves to be played on regular symphony concerts.

The film was shot by 20th Century Fox in “CinemaScope 55”, in full 2.55:1 aspect (today standard anamorphic is 2.35:1).   The original CinemScope for “The Robe” (1953) had been shot 2.20:1.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

"Beyond our Sight": documentary purports to explain the afterlife through NDE's with dark matter and string theory dimensions

Beyond our Sight” by Anthony Chene (2014), is an interesting 53-minute documentary that argues for the after-life, primarily by interviewing in rotation a few survivors of near-death experiences. Most were men caught in accidents;  one was a woman who recalls a botched tonsillectomy during childhood.  Most incidents seemed to happen in the Pacific northwest (Oregon).

All subjects recall the “tunnel” and the light at the end, and one man said he was told by “God” that his work on Earth wasn’t done, but that he had to figure out his own mission. (Eben Alexander's book, on Book reviews, March 30, 2013, seems relevant).

A scientist says that consciousness and what we call souls may reside in dark energy, and that the brain becomes rather like a receiver, or end-user interface computer (along with senses) to process it.

 This would tend to suggest reincarnation, but that other lives might be lived in different universes.

 He also talks about string theory, the seven extra dimensions predicted by math, and the one M-dimension (is that “time”?)  Other dimensions may be expressed in other universes where people or souls go.

Man is the only species who knows his physical life will end some day (maybe dolphins know this).

I’ve seen theories maintaining that the information in one’s consciousness gets stored on the surface of a black hole and that it gets sent there in “light sheets”.  That was in a Discover issue about four years ago, and right now I can’t find it.  But here are a few other similar references, one from “Stackexchange”, and a two references (from sci-news and livescience) where Stephen Hawking talks about information preservation in a black hole.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Remembering "White Christmas", Paramount's first film in VistaVision

Remember the 1954 musical “White Christmas” (directed Michael Curtiz).  I saw the film downtown Washington at the old RKO Keith’s.  It was Paramount’s first film in “VistaVision”, motion picture high fidelity.  The intended ratio was 1.66:1, modified later to 1.85:1 and finally 2.35:1 for an anamorphic release.  But for some years. Paramount did not have access to Fox’s widescreen Cineamscope introduced in 1953 (“The Robe”).

The plot contains  Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye as ex-Army buddies who try to help a floundering B-and-B in Vermont save itself (long before the days of AirBNB), only to find their former commander (Dean Jagger) in charge. The “Sister Act” (I’ve seen the play but have yet to see the film of that name) by Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen, and a Christmas noreaster save the place.

The music and story all seem rather "Ozzie and Harriet"-like today.

Friday, December 23, 2016

"So Dear to My Heart": grading people in life on a curve, perhaps?

Let me recall one of the first (but the very first) feature films I ever saw.  It is Walt Disney’s “So Dear to My Heart”, the animated film about Uncle Remus fables directed by Harold D. Schuster and Hamilton Luske.  It was released in January 1949, when I was in a private kindergarten (the “Brownies and Elves” thing) but I think I saw it with my parents at the old State Theater on Lee Highway in Falls Church VA, now a historical site normally used for rock concerts.

The story concerns a farm boy (hardly Clark Kent) who adopts a playful lamb. This sort of reminds me of people getting adopted by stray cats who invite themselves in.

The most famous song is “Whtcha Do with Wathca Got” (“what you do with what you’ve got”), a moral point about how we look at people.

I seem to remember an important scene on a Thomas-like train toward the end.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

"A Star Is Born": a classic (made 3 times), good to compare to "La La Land"

I still remember an AIDS benefit in Dallas in 1984, which I believe was held in Fair Park, showing “A Star Is Born”, the 1954 film directed by George Cukor, from Warner Brothers, billed as in the original CinemaScope.  I believe this was the restored version running 176 minutes.  I saw it with a “boyfriend” who was a resident physician.  He was able to get time off.

Judy Garland plays Esther Blodgett, an aspiring singer from a band, who meets a matinee idol actor Norman Maine (James Mason) who helps get her career going as Vicki Lester, even as his own life descends into alcoholism.  The film was a remake of a 1937 film by William Wellman and would be remade in 1976 by Frank Pierson.

But the 1954 film is generally considered the best, and Roger Ebert had praised it as a real PG-13 film for grownups, dealing with real issues of self-control.

The concept of the film bears a certain affinity to “La La Land” (reviewed yesterday on my Wordpress media commentary blog) and even my own screenplay script “Make the A-List” (2002).

There is a YouTube version that claims to be complete and of the 1954 film, but is really the 1937 (from Selznick International/ United Artists, but in color).

Sunday, December 11, 2016

"Pilgrimage", visit to Mecca for hajj, from NYTVR, in virtual reality

The New York Times Virtual Reality app offers a 5-minute virtual reality film “Pilgrimage”, showing what a pilgrim experiences when he goes on the Hajj in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, link, shot by Luca Locatelli.

As you rotate your cell phone in space, you sell all 360 degrees (or "2 pi radians") of a real-life visit. 

Note the link to another aerial photo of Mecca and the kaanba from above.


This is a journey that the average non-Muslim could never take or see personally.
Wiki image: By Original uploader was Mbenoist (M. Benoist) at fr.wikipedia - Transferred from fr.wikipedia to Commons., CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Saturday, December 10, 2016

"Mary Poppins": innocent animated musical from Disney won best picture in 1964, aired tonight

I do remember seeing "Mary Poppins" in late 1964, when I was going to college full time (GWU) while “living at home”, and had taken up the Friday afternoon chess club at GWU, which at the time was adding something back into my life.  This was the year when nobody could beat LBJ (not even Goldwater) and Vietnam was starting to simmer. 

I think I saw if at either the old Buckingham Theater (now a post office) or the Arlington (now a Cinema and drafthouse).  The Walt Disney musical, directed by Robert Stevenson, has a plot a little like ‘The Sound of Music”, with no politics, so it seems smaller and stagier.  Julie Andrews plays the nanny applying to take care of the Banks kids in late Victorian London, who can get everyone riding broomsticks.  The movie has long stretches (in the middle section) of typical Disney animation.  So it’s offered in just 1.66:1 standard aspect ratio, not needing the grandiose look of bigger musicals.  The music for the many songs (many of which were deleted and have never been officially released legally) is by Irwin Kostal (imdb) and is curiously uncredited (strange for a musical, in a world where licensing and copyright of music means everything, at least today).  But the film’s innocence, appropriate for the troubled days after the Kennedy assassination, helped it many win Oscars, including Best Picture.  I’m not sure whether any other Disney picture had won Best Picture up to then.

Oddly. one of my favorite songs is "Feed the Birds". 

The film was shown on ABC networks Saturday night December 10.  

Sunday, December 04, 2016

"10 Strongest Signs of Alien Life and Aliens"

Time for another short film: “10 Strongest Signs of Alien Life and Aliens”, on Be Amazed:

The “WOW” signal in 1977 has never occurred again, but the narrator mentions a repeating signal said to be from another galaxy, over 5 billion light years away.  He doesn’t mention the possible signal from Tabby’s Star, 1450 light years away, that could indicate a Dyson’s Sphere.
He argues that methane could argue for some primitive life on Mars surviving underground, and for the likelihood of an underground ocean on Europa (which was to be left alone in Arthur C. Clarke;’s 2010, when Jupiter turned leprous and into a sun). He doesn’t mention my favorite place, Titan.
The argument that organic materials and some pre-DNA have been found on meteorites is interesting,

The testimony of astronauts sounds interesting.

One other argument he could make:  on Earth, convergent evolution has produced two creatures with about the same intellect in separate envrionments: man, and the orca or klller whale (and other dolphins), so intelligent as to be regarded as “non human persons” potentially needing the protection of the law and actual rights.  Super-intelligence and sentience or consciousness may be a naturally developed component of the universe that counter entropy. The orca is pretty much an alien intelligence on our own planet whose language we should be able to crack.

Wonder, too, if just one teenager had the "powers" (like instant self-teleportation or "speed") of a young Clark Kent in "Smallville", would that men that he or she was an alien?  What would his or her legal rights be?  Donald Trump likes winners  (for "The Apprentice")-- and some day that could make him confront his own fetish on immigration -- from beyond.


Friday, November 25, 2016

"Why Are Today's People So Much Taller than Historically?"

Today I Found Out” is an interesting series of shorts, and I found “Why Are Today’s People So Much People than Historically?

The average height for males in the US is 69 inches, and the country with the tallest people now is the Netherlands (just over 72 in).  The narrator attributes increase in height to better nutrition and fewer diseases.  Whatever the morality of the situation in the early USW (slavery), the system of large privately owned land holdings improved the quality and quantity of food production relative to population (a typical libertarian argument).
Humans are wired genetically to benefit from height up to about 72-74 inches, and above that, excess height (however attractive) can become a medical liability later (sometimes it is associated with Marfan syndrome).  However, it seems that the tendency for men to grow slightly taller with time continues.  On any crowded disco, there are always a few men (usually white) over 76 to even 78 inches, towering above everyone else.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Jose Antonio Vargas: "White People" for MTV; he could face deportation under Trump (maybe?)

Jose Antonio Vargas, former Washington Post journalist who made “Documented” has made a 40-minute short for MTV, “#WhitePeople” (or “White People”, on YouTube now (July 2015).  The prevailing theme dealt with whether white people really feel any sense of identity with race, or have any sense of inherited privilege, from which some could be expected to "give back" (but the reverse of that idea seemed to be behind electing Trump). 

Vargas interviews college students and peers on various campuses and situations.  In a small town, a black person says, “everyone is nice, but we think that behind our backs they say something.”  Or, “you’re one of the good ones.”

A white male high school history teacher talks about having to level with the bad things white men did, besides slavery, to, say. Native Americans, with the Wounded Knee battle and the 1890 Lashoda conquest in South Dakota. There's a Sioux word for "greedy white people." 

The conversations try to dispel a myth that reverse discrimination denies white people scholarships. 62% of college students are white, but 69% of the scholarships are held by white students.

There is a door-knocking campaign in Bensonhusrt, Brooklyn NY to get the signatures for a block party.  Some people are afraid to answer doors because of home invasion fears.

There are fears that under president-elect Donald Trump, Vargas himself might get deported, as was written up recently in “Occidental Dissent” here,  and was spread on Facebook today.

Vargas has an important op-ed on p. 6 of the New York Times review today, "Undocumented in Trump's America".  I didn't see this earlier this morning when I first learned about the MTV film. 

The film did not get into interracial relationships, and the controversy among some people of openness to them (previous film).  Among white men, sometimes there are more differences in sexual secondary characteristics than among non-white men.  

Thursday, November 17, 2016

"The Yak in the Room": shocking short film about a campus speech codes and expulsion of a student for "passive racism"

Here’s a shocking short film “The Yak in the Room” by Nathan Gelfand-Toutant.  A white male (heterosexual) undergraduate at Colorado College gets suspended for two years (later reduced to one) after a “Yik Yak: session in which he merely said he doesn’t find black women hot.

The comment occurred in a rapid interchange, and at first the student didn’t think anything of it.  The next day he was suddenly called to a Dean’s office to face his “punishment”.  The suddenness of this reminds me of my own William and Mary expulsion n 1961.

But is saying that you are not sexually attracted to someone of a particular race, itself racism?  Theoretically I guess it reduces someone else’s reproductive chances (if you believe in the demographic winter argument – which ironically Is usually argued by the socially conservative right). 

I see evidence of this kind of thinking myself on disco floors.  If I pay attention (by watching intensely, even from some distance) to someone who fits my “Smallville Clark Kent” fantasy, sometimes another person who does not fit this fantasy (often a black female) suddenly challenges me to dance, and gets upset if I refuse.

As for the women in the film, they seem so thin-skinned.  The student’s comments in no way indicated exclusion of others from anything but a personal intimate relationship.  Yet the college was aggressive in throwing him out. 

No wonder some people on the “right” said, “enough” in this election.

This is campus speech codes gone way too far. 

The film appears on the Facebook public figure page of Milo Yiannopoulos (Nov. 3), who has been banned from Twitter.

Update: Nov 12, 2019  -- The direct link doesn't work and YouTube is private;  Linked-In has the video here

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

"Qatar's Plan to Turn the Desert Green": looks like a vision of Arthur C. Clarke

Jonathan E. Smith, an engineer, reports on “Qatar’s Plan to Turn the Desert Green” ( 9 min), from Journeyman Pictures.

The film shows greenhouse technology gradually expanding into the desert, creating a “Rama” look, as in Arthur C. Clarke.

But I wondered if greening the desert could set up an area where Syrian refugees could be resettled, in another Muslim country.

The film does show some of the opulence of Doha. 

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Doha by Ragesh Unappally, under CCSA 3.0. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Bryce Harper (Nationals' baseball star) makes a short film (maybe good for Angelika's "Pre-Show")

Bryce Harper (Washington Nationals outfielder) has made a 90-minute short film for ESPN and Yahoo! Sports, saying that Baseball (MLB) needs more emotion in the game.  I hope the link sticks.    I need to give the film an official title. “Baseball Needs More Emotion”.

You may need to be logged on to Facebook to see it.

Actually, I hope he makes other short films, like when he took a hike on the Billy Goat Trail along the Potomac at Glen Echo MD on an off day.  Or when he has breakfast at Ted’s.  Maybe Angelika Mosaic (next door to Ted’s in Fairfax VA)N can use it for the pre-show.  Lately Angelika has been showing a pre-show short about “Procrastination”, and interpretive meditation as a cure.
Richard Harmon (“Judas Kiss”, “The 100”, "The Greatest of All Time"), who likes the Fighting Irish, the Buffalo Bills, and the San Francisco Giants (why not the Toronto Blue Jays?) would like this.

Update: Feb. 5

Harper made another little film today of his own Super Bowl party and beamed it on Facebook, before the Falcons collapsed and blew the game.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

"All-American Family: Where Deafness Is Not a Disability", short film on CNN by Andrew Jenks

Andrew Jenks Entertainment has a 12-minute short on CNN Films, “All-American Family: Where Deafness Is Not a Disability”, link here or here.

The film traces a preparation of a Pleasanton high school football team in the Bay Area in California, where several members are deaf and talk in sign.  The mother is deaf, as are two sons, including Zane the quarterback, but the other family members hear.

The team prepares for a big game, and the clock counts down.  The team wins 48-0.

Of course, Malcolm Gladwell thinks that all football (at least in high school) is morally problematic because of the concussion risk.

The video above is an interview of Jenks, “The World of Jenks” on PopSugar on MTV.
By Alfred Twu - Own work, CC0, Link

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Milo lets himself get hazed in "short film" made in a lecture at Dartmouth

"Gaycon" blogger Milo Yiannopoulos from Breitbart has a two-minute short film where he gets hazed physically in front of a lecture at Dartmouth, link here.  I need to give this movie a title: "The Dangerous Faggot Milo: In Defense of Hazing".  Yes,, go ahead and put this into DC Shorts for 2017.

The "drinking" and waterboarding are not as erotic as other things I can think of.  The foam gets close.

The full lecture below on Milo's YouTube is the "feature" film.
I talk about this in Chapter 1 of my "DADT-1" book, the "tribunals" at William and Mary in 1961.  I skipped out on them. I reenact what they might have looked like in my "Epiphany" screenplay.

Of course, the lecture is a reaction to the debate on limiting fraternities and hazing on campus.

Watch also, "BBC Ambushes Milo" here.

Update: Nov. 16

USA Today reports the banning of alt-right accountsby Twitter, although Milo's (despite the claim his was canned) seems still to be there.

In fact Milo's permanent suspension had occurred some time ago, and is detailed on NPR here

Thursday, October 27, 2016

"America's Small Town in Canada": short about the Northwest Angle of Minnesota

America’s Small Town in Canada” is a CBS Sunday Morning short film about the Northwest Angle in the Lake of the Woods, a section of Minnesota that juts north into Manitoba (along its own border with Ontario).

The area exists because of an error in drawing maps in the 19th Century.

But visitors have to sign in and out with customs to leave and go through Manitoba to go shopping, along a dirt road.

There is one small public school.   There’s one large family owned fishery and boat business.
I drove to the area in July 2001 on a Sunday morning,  The dirt road is not very good.  It was actually a hot day, in the low 90s.

Wikipedia attribution link for photo by Damanan5.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

"Michael Moore in Trumpland" (Wilmington, Ohio), on iTunes

Today, I watched “Michael Moore in Trumpland” after upgrading iTunes on my MacBook.  It seems that right now the film is available from iTunes ($4.95) but I don’t see it on Amazon Prime yet.  This is Moore’s “October surprise.”  The best site seems to be here.

Most of the film (72 minutes) consists of Michael Moore’s doing a comedy routine on a well-furnished stage in Wilmington, Ohio (north of Cincinnati) , in the heart of white blue-collar “Trumpland”.

 The middle of the film is punctuated with a comic enactment of what happens on January 20, 2017 if Trump is elected.

Trump makes a good point when he tells the white middle class, OK, throw a tantrum.  I’ve had enough, of all kinds of indignities – job loss, higher premiums.  But then the fan stops a week later.  At the end, he says, hate Hillary all you like.  But vote for her.

He also mentions the right wing “demographic winter” argument, and says it comes down to “the right babies” or “more white babies.”  But actually, minorities who emigrate to the US gradually reduce fertility while living here.

Moore gets to become rich himself by making fun of the other rich.  He’s not the only one.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

"Hooligan Sparrow": Chinese try to cover up abuse of elementary school girls by a principal

Hooligan Sparrow”, by Nanfu Wang, documents the journey of activist Ye Haiyan in rural southern China (Hainan?), to blow the whistle on an elementary school principal who abuses at least six girls. In the US, this would lead to immediate dismissal, investigation and prosecution. Not in China,
  Along the way, she faces harassment and imprisonment herself.

The film also touches on the role of women in rural Chinese culture, the expectation that they will be “realistic” in finding marriage partners.  It also gets into the process by which impoverished young girls become sex workers in China.  There is the idea that in China women sacrifice for men.

The later part of the film shows a long train ride to the north,

The PBS broadcast Monday Oct. 18 on POV-Independent Lens was followed by a brief featurette interview of the director. PBS link is here.

Wikipedia attribution link by Anna Frodesiak, pd.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Sneak preview of controversial film: Distributor orders all cell phones checked in during the show

Tonight, as I left seeing “Cameraperson” (to be reviewed soon on Wordpress in detail) at Landmark E Street, I passed a security guard station where consumer cell phones, all sitting on a table identified with tickets, sat out in public.  Maybe there were some Samsung Galaxy Note 7’s.

It turns out that for a sneak preview of “American Pastoral” (Ewan McGregor), about deadly 1960s revolutionary activism, officially to be released Oct. 27, Lionsgate and Lakeshore Entertainment didn’t want to allow the possibility that a customer could film or record.  That would mean all digital cameras should have been confiscated, too.  But I have never seen this done for a sneak before.  This particular theater has cell signals blocked in the auditoriums by the architecture of the building.

In March 2012, there was a disco party called the “Black Party” at a hotel above midtown Manhattan near the hotel where I stayed to go to a LGBT bookfair.  I passed it on the way to a free dance bar (the Therapy) and overheard a speaker asking guests to check in their cell phones.  I suppose they didn’t want any photography of the show.  The event was sponsored by the old bar “The Saint”.  I have hoped that film of the event was shot legally and would be released and sold on DVD, Netflix, Amazon Prime, or the like.  I sounds like it would make a nice release for a company like TLA or Wolfe.  If someone knows anything about this, please comment.  Yes, I’m a big fan of getting valuable (documentary or live event) film distributed legally. I know of three or four other such projects in abeyance.  Yes, I would help.

In 2007, a woman was arrested in an Arlington VA theater for camcording about 20 seconds of a popular film.

Around 2014, I saw someone peddling pirated DVD’s on a NYC subway.  A woman sitting next to me actually bought one for $3, don’t remember the movie, a silly comedy.  Call it street smarts if you will, and don’t tell Donald Trump.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

"Killing Reagan" on NatGeo, recreates the 1981 attempt on Reagan ny John Hinckley Jr.. out of a romantic fantasy

Rod Lurie’s film “Killing Reagan” continues the NatGeo series on assassination attempts (successful or not) against US presidents, and aired on Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016.

Kyle S. More is chilling, so to speak, as John Warnock Hinckley. Jr.  Physically, he looks fat and formless, featureless.  He is presented as having gone off the rails mentally two or three years before attempting to assassinate Ronald Reagan on March 30, 1981.  The film shows his life during the 1980 campaign, and his reaction to John Lennon's death.   The film shows his stalking of Jodie Foster, with land line phone calls where he has to tell him not to call again.  The idea of having a job and a place he can earn in society has become replaced with a romantic heterosexual fantasy and fixation.

The assassination sequence is well done and brutal. As Brady lies bleeding on the sidewalk. The scene seems to have been done somewhere else than Washington, as are the scenes outside GW Hospital, since the exteriors don’t match what is or really there.

The film covers the dangerous confusion within the administration during the first hours. The Soviet submarines may be on the move.  The press secretary Speakes is told to get off the stage.  Reagan had walked into the hospital can collapsed. The bullet was difficult to remove, and he lost a lot of blood.

 The script implies that the use of a lot of O- blood could lengthen his recovery and possibly make him impotent, but apparently he overcame that and recovered rapidly. Cynthia Nixon played the dedicated Nancy Reagan.

Tim Matheson, 68, provides a convincingly flabby appearance for Reagan, as noted in a 1985 issue of “Christopher Street”.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

"The Chase" (1966) got me back into movie going when I was in grad school: Watch out for Bubber Reeves

I didn’t go to movies much during my undergraduate or graduate school days, but my last night in Lawrence KS at KU my first graduate school semester there in 1966, I walked from McCollum Hall (now torn down) on top of Mt. Oread to downtown Lawrence KS (the Varsity Theater) to see “The Chase”, directed by Arthur Penn, produced by Sam Speigel for Columbia Pictures.

A small town in Texas has the creeps when it learns Bubber Reeves (Robert Redford) has escaped from prison up north and is heading down.  The sheriff (Marlon Brando), the cheating son (Robert Duvall), and oil man Rogers (E.G. Marshall) fight it out.  What impressed me (but not my roommate) was how people in a small town spread rumors and get so focused on the damage that can be done by one person, and it seems like it takes a battle of the titans to do anything about it.

Another film with somewhat the same idea is "High Noon" (1952, see 2019/8/21).

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

"Blood of the Beasts", 1949 short film, shows the bowels of the slaughterhouse industry in at the "gates of Paris"

Blood of the Beasts” (“Le Sang des betes”), 22 min, 1949, by Georges Franju, makes a moral case for veganism today.  Or call it high art.  Or is this a stretch to say, as nobody took food for granted then, so shortly after WWII and Nazi occupation?  It reminds me of the class trip to France that I did not take in early 1958 in ninth grade.

The film, narrated in English, starts out at the “Gates of Paris” with a glorification of the natural squalor around, before showing a business that slaughters horses.  At least it uses an electric prod to cause instant death.  The animals are flayed and eviscerated, and workers have lost limbs in the process.

After another scene of the “gates” we see similar slaughter houses for cows and then sheep.  Some of the executions are done by decapitation. In all cases, the cooperative animals are led by their captors, having no idea that their sentience is about to end.

An old church is used as an auction center.

The workers do this to support their families, and feed the post-War French people.

Monday, October 03, 2016

"Best of Enemies": Gore Vidal v. William F. Buckley

Best of Enemies”, directed by Morgan Neville and Robert Gordon, , aired this evening on PBS Independent Lens (site).

The 85 minute documentary focused on clips of debates between William F. Buckley (the “conservative”) and Gore Vidal, especially during the 1960 elections which Nixon beat Humphrey (after LBJ bowed out).

Buckley said he had always wanted to be a politician but was born a writer, and that Vidal was a “talker”.

Gradually the subject matter turned toward homosexuality, which Vidal considered natural and inconsequential. Buckley even called Vidal a “queer” on television, which was quasi-acceptable in the 1970s.

Later there would be extensive cross litigation between the two when Buckley came under suspicion as at least bisexual himself.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

"The Prisoner of Zenda" (1952) was the first movie I saw

What was the very first movie I ever went to?

To the best of my recollection, it’s the 1952 technicolor “The Prisoner of Zenda”, based on an 1894 novel by Anthony Hope (English – book report stuff), directed by Richard Thorpe, starring Stewart Granger, Deborah Kerr, Robert Douglas, and  James Mason, same screenplay as the 1937 BW verison of John Cromwell.  I went with my parents to the old Glebe Theater near Lee Highway in Arlington. The same music by Alfred Newman was used.

The swashbuckling plot would seem artificial to today’s movie goers.  It involves a future king (in a fictitious Balkan country) with a distant relative who looks like him, and a rival for the throne of a fictitious country, who has to marry correctly to challenge the would be king. After the relative subs for him, the king is kidnapped.

I doubt I would have followed the plot very well at nine years old.  But the film demonstrates the old fashioned idea of escapist entertainment, where writers have to go way outside of themselves.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

California passes law allowing actors to have birthdates removed from imdb

California’s governor Jerry Brown has signed into a law a bill requiring websites to remove actors’ birth-dates or ages if requested to do so.

The main focus is imdb (especially imdbpro), which is owned by Amazon.  The Wall Street Journal has a story (referring to a 2012 story) on the issue by Jacob Gershman here (paywall).

Hollywood Reporter has a story by Jonathan Handel indicating that the law is probably unconstitutional.    The law applies only to paid sites where people post information, but then free sides inherit the requirement (that is imdb inherits from imdbpro).

I wonder why this information would be protected with regards to actors or actresses who are “public figures”.  Lesser known acting persons (especially women) may tend to be more affected by “casting discrimination”.  But independent films cast older actors all the time.

The information is also often present on Wikipedia.  The law does not seem to apply to Wikipedia (which is now based in San Francisco). It would not seem to apply to other sites or blogs.

Earlier there was a petition regarding the issue.

I think that the issue is related to casting diversity, which may become a sore point in casting some indie films where the original writer imagines very specific settings and people-appearances to make some scenes (especially with sexual connotations) work.

This would be particularly true of a couple of my scripts (for example, “Do Ask, Do Tell: Epiphany”, set mostly on a rama-like space station, preliminary treatment here. Very recently, there has been some indication of possible interest.

Here’s a favorite film where casting diversity has to follow the plot, “In the Heat of the Night” (1967 Norman Jewison, Mirsch and UA) with Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger.  I remember the line about “your cool body.”

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

"Marathon Man" and "The Little Shop of Horrors" are both known for their dental torture scenes

On of my favorite 70s films was “Marathon Man” (1976, Paramount), by John Schlessinger, based on the novel by William Goldman.

The greatest scene is the “Is it safe?” inquisition where Babe (Dustin Hoffman) is tortured by a dentist disguising his identity as a Nazi war criminal (Szell, played by Laurence Olivier).

Babe is a doctoral graduate student in history, Doc (Roy Scheider) is his brother, and Elsa Opel (Marthe Keller) is the girl friend, and Chen (James Wing Woo) is the rogue assassin (a kind of Pie-o-Pah).

I saw the film in midtown Manhattan in a large palace in the fall of 1976.

The other great dental torture scene comes from the first “The Little Shop of Horrors” (1960, Roger Corman), written by Charles B. Griffith, with its “masochist and sadist” scene.  This film was shown on the Saturday night “Chiller” series in 1964.  Here’s the dental torture clip.    (The remake (by Frank Oz for Geffen and Warner Brothers in 1986), as I recalled, as a musical with Audrey as the carnivorous plant didn't have that scene. It also omits the definite article.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Short film about teen entrepreneur Daniel Singer

ABC’s “Young and Gifted” series of video presents 16 year old Daniel Singer, from the San Fernando alley in Los Angeles, in “Teen Drops Out of High School to Build Social App”. 
The teenager is described by his parents as having been born an adult, who loves do build and develops things. 
The Bond App helps with meeting people  but it seems odd that someone not old enough to drink would develop an app for people to use in bars.  The iTunes link is here
Peter Thiel has scholarships to help gifted kids drop out of college and start businesses (as with Taylor Wilson, Book reviews, Dec. 14, 2015.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Michael Moore has predicted Trump will win general election

The Humanist Report with Michael Fuguerdo plays an HBO clip from Bill Maher where leftist filmmaker Michael Moore predicts that Donald Trump will win the general election (taped July 26).

Moore thinks that Trump can carry all the swing rust belt states.

Fugeurdo maintains that Obamacare would never have passed if it weren’t for Moore’s “Sicko”.

He also says that Hillary Clinton is “smarter” than Donald Trump.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

"A Video to My Future Kids", by Connor Franta: let's ponder space-time and wonder if future people really exist

OK, here’s a short film by Connor Franta (there are many), “A Video to My Future Kids”.

We can get into a cosmological, philosophical debate about how you can be responsible to people who don’t even exist yet.

But he makes the case for gay marriage (a future husband) and gay parents. He also pitches the film “Gayby Baby” which is on iTunes.

The video was perhaps shot in his home state of Wisconsin (or maybe next door in Minnesota).
Note he has trademarked his initials “CF” with a trade dress.

Maybe, Connor, Reid Ewing and Gabe the Babe could make a film together – with Reid’s dogs and the cat PsychoMikan.  I know from my own experience (back in 1979 when a cat adopted me) that animals (at least cats) really know who we are, even if they spend their days outdoors hunting and come back home when they feel like it to boss us around.   Pick a location – Wisconsin, Minnesota, Utah, California.

By the way, some other industry gossip – North Carolina no longer gives tax breaks to film companies, so filming in Wilmington (right now under a tropical storm) has stopped.  What happened to those Republicans?  McCrory is so preoccupied with bathrooms that he seems to have driven companies away.

The other rumor is that Richard Harmon (“Judas Kiss”, “The 100”), “The Greatest of All Time”, wants to pitch for the San Francisco Giants.  Can he really get major league batters (like Bryce Harper) out?  Don’t underestimate him.  That Nats could face the Giants yet again in the playoffs.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Remembering Gene Wilder's films, most of all the end of "Silver Streak"

We will all remember Gene Wilder today, as he passed away at age 83.  I actually learned this first from a tweet from Jack Andraka.

Two films in particular that I remember him for.  One was the black-and-white horror comedy "Young Frankenstein" (1974), by Mel Brooks, which I saw for $1 at the old St. Marks theater in the East Village in New York City, not too far from the Ninth Street Center when I was attending it just after moving there.  Wilder plays the mad surgeon. I don’t recall “Blazing Saddles” quite as well.

But the best film I recall him in is “Silver Streak” (1976, Arthur Hiller), where he finds romance but evades being pushed off the train, until it crashes into Union Station in Chicago.  Washington DC had such a wreck when I was a boy in 1953.

The video above shows the end of “Silver Streak”, where the railroad has unbelievable bureaucratic incompetence – filmed at an aircraft hangar and partly in Toronto, although it’s supposed to happen in Chicago – the train engineer is apparently murdered.  The other clip is “Murder in a Private Car” (1934) where people are rescued by a steam engine.

Of course, we're reminded of the real, horrific Amtrak crash in Philadelphia in May 2015.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Visit to Cumberland Gap recalls Disney "Frontierland" movies

I can remember the weekly “Wonderful World of Walt Disney”, back in my boyhood, as well as the opening of Disneyland, first in California (I would visit it the day before a job interview when getting out of the Army in 1969).

The four lands were “Fantasyland” “Adventureland”, “Tomorrowland” and “Frontierland”.  And an early “Frontierland film” would be “Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier”  (bio) with Fess Parker, directed by Normal Foster (1955).  It would be followed in 1956 by “Davy Crockett and the River Pirates” (1956).

Another favorite was “The Great Locomotive Chase” (1956)  set in the Civil War, again with Fess Parker by Francis D. Lyon.

Skip 11 years and see Roddy McDowall in James Nielson’s “The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin” about an opportunistic young man in the California gold rush.

All these movies came to mind at the Cumberland Gap Visitor’s Center where they showed “Daniel Boone and the Westward Movement”, for which I bought the DVD and will review soon on my Wordpress blog.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

"Gabe the Babe" and Reid Ewing team up for a comedy short film in Salt Lake; In Heaven (or Zion), everything is indeed fine. (Bonus: DuoSkin)

Gabe the Babe TV: Exposed” may be part of a web series, but by itself it functions well as an 11-munute mockumentary short film.  Gabe (and I guess a little brother) visit the home of Reid Ewing in Salt Lake City.  Even Reid’s dad (a well known college professor, as I understand) appears.

It appears that the home may be in the wooded northeast side of the city, toward the mountains and Park City, above 6000 feet.  Much of the city is around 4500 and looks like desert as it approaches the Great Salt Lake (with all those Mormon suburbs like Jordan Valley and Taylorsville).  If in the higher section, it would give Reid a good shot of training to pitch for the Colorado Rockies (in Denver, right at 5280 feet0.  In Coors Field, nobody can get anybody out anyway, as breaking pitches don’t work.  Actually, Coors Field would be a good site for another mockumentary, Modern style.  (I saw a game in the old stadium in 1994 one week before the baseball strike.)

Reid shows off his dogs, and says that the future of mankind isn’t just in having kids, it’s with animals, or learning to communicate with them.  I didn't see the cat ("Mikan") show up in the film.  He could have been outside hunting.  I once had a cat who adopted me at night and hunted outdoors all day and would return every night.

So how about a short film about the orca – the most intelligent animal on Earth, with a brain hardwired for distributed consciousness (or cosmic consciousness).  Orca’s can switch between individual mode and group mode, and their brains have a biological Internet connection (through Sonar) that enables them to feel one another’s pain directly.  Maybe the new innovation “Duoskin” will do that for humans.   Anyway, the Orca has a language like ours, and you would think Mark Zuckerberg would have learned it by now.

Or do a short film about the immortal jellyfish (not the extraterrestrial box jellyfish) that doesn’t have to reproduce, but achieves immortality in “Benjamin Button” style by retrogressing back to infancy and starting over.  Peter Thiel will notice.  (And neither the orca or jellyfish qualify as true “Free Fish”).

Anyway, this short film is done very well technically (they took pains to make this comedy skit look sharp) and would play well on its own in short film collections, in film festivals, especially LGBTQ.
I found the film on Reid’s Twitter feed, right next to a post about “Beauty and the Beast” (1946) which I retweeted with a post about the Lady in the Radiator in David Lynch’s “Eraserhead” (1977).
In Heaven, everything is indeed fine.

Pictures: Not exactly Danganronpa or Pokemon, but settings for the screenplay for my own "Do Ask, Do Tell: Epiphany".  If only I could raise $40 million to make it.

Monday, August 15, 2016

"The Caine Mutiny" (1954) and all memories of the Trump-like captain, through stream-of-consciousness

Here’s a three minute short film showing break dancing “Outkast: Crocodile on my Feet”, link.

I give the link because it reminds me of an ad I saw in the Washington Post in 1954 one day when my mother was taking me and an older cousin to a movie in downtown Washington.  The ad was at a theater called the Pix (with a companion called the Art), and was called “Burlesque in Harlem”.  Mother had to explain to us kids what striptease meant, given the world of the 1950s, when a two-piece showed too much.

The movie we went to see was “The Caine Mutiny” (1954, Columbia, directed Edward Dmytryk) based on the novel by HermanWouk), where Humprhey Bogart made me hate him as Captain Queeg, who was the Donald Trump of his ship.  Maybe there's even some "extreme vetting".

I feel there is a foreshadowing of Tom Cruise in “A Few Good Men” in 1992.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

"It's Up to You: Basic Combat Training": Army film recall the experience of getting drafted during the Vietnam War

It’s Up to You: Basic Combat Training”  is a 28 minute film part of “The Big Picture”, apparently shot mostly in 1966, and shown to some troops in 1967 during the era of the Vietnam War draft. The title refers to the challenge of getting through the first eight weeks and graduating from Basic.  The protagonist is in AIT and looking back (which means he "got infantry").

I took Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson, SC from Feb. 8 until late May 1968 (I spent some time in the infirmary and got recycled through Special Training Company, adding six weeks to the whole experience).  The scenery does not look like Fort Jackson; but the film comes from the “Third Army” which is HQ-ed in S.C., so I presume this was filmed at Fort Gordon, GA, nearby. In a few scenes there is light snow in the ground, and then film seems to have been shot in winter in the South.   The recruits in the film arrive by train, but we arrived by bus from Richmond.

The training shown does not quite jive with the details that I experienced (for example here) , from my own DADT-III book).  I don’t recall a long confidence course at the end, or throwing grenades during bivouac infiltration.  I recall the G-3 testing, but I don’t think we had a chemical weapons test (where reagents are placed in a certain sequence on the back of the hand).  I do recall the pugil sticks, and the hand-to-hand (which was only moderately “intimate”), and certainly the inspections.

The film starts with a curious shot of chickens -- referring to the "Chickenman", of Saturday morning cartoons of the period, and that is that is what I was called.

You can also try "Stay Alert, Stay Alive", an Army training film for Vietnam (23 min). 

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Casting of Matt Damon for "The Great Wall" raises diversity issue that seems valid for this film, but wouldn't be for mine

There is plenty of controversy over casting a prominent white male as the superhero in the upcoming film “The Great Wall”, referring to China.  Constance Wu claimed that the casting perpetuates a “racist myth”.  That white man is Matt Damon.

The film will be directed by Yimou Zhang, for Universal and Legendary Pictures.

A couple of accounts:  Variety, and Complex.  The Washington Post, in a piece by Gene Park, asks "What will it take to tear down the wall of Hollywood racism?"

Damon had been a target of the whimsical essay in the (conservative) Weekly Standard in 1999 by David Skinner, “Notes on the Hairless Man”.

Given the location of the film,  Wu’s comments do seem somewhat appropriate.  But I’d be concerned if the insistence on “diversity casting” spread to independent films with erotic subplots or contexts.  Sometimes, gender and race are simply not interchangeable.  That would be the case for my own screenplay script “Do Ask, Do Tell: Epiphany”.  Quirky fetishes can be affected by race.
Some of the controversy has spilled over into discussion at “Project Greenlight” as Adaptive Studios leads its rebirth.

What about the idea that only a "white man" can save the world?  Tom Welling, cast as the teen Clark Kent for "Smallville" (and the Remy Zero head song "Save Me") certainly at one time pandered to the northern European fantasy of physical perfection.  Not so much now as the actor has aged too quickly.

Damon, now a youthful 45, had played (at age 26) the genius kid alongside Ben Affleck and Robin Williams in Gus Van Sant’s “Good Will Hunting” (Miramax) in 1997, one of my all time favorites.
I remember seeing it in the good old days in the Shirlington Theater, long before remodeling.  Remember the line from Williams, "It isn't your fault." Will Hunting anticipated the genius of a real life Jack Andraka or Taylor Wilson.