FANATICISM AND IGNORANCE IS FOREVER BUSY AND NEEDS FEEDING – Marilyn Armstrong

One-Liner Wednesday — The Monkey Trial

This is a bit more than one line. “Inherit the Wind” is one of the best movies of its kind ever made. If you have not yet seen it, I highly recommend it. Not only is it brilliantly acted, directed with a script right out of the actual trial, but it is so “now.” It ought to be “old” but it’s as current as today’s headlines.


Fanaticism and ignorance is forever busy and needs feeding …
— Clarence Darrow

The script for “Inherit the Wind” (Spencer Tracy, Frederic March, and Gene Kelly) is largely based on the actual Scopes “Monkey Trial”  held in 1925 in Dayton, Tennessee.

Inherit the Wind” (1960) was directed by Stanley Kramer. The trial was held in Dayton, Tennessee because teaching evolution had been banned by the state’s Butler Act.

You would think that we would have come a long way since then … and we did. We passed some good legislation. Civil rights and all that. We eliminated the legalized part of our national evil. But then, we started doubling back.

We’re heading down a bleak, dark road. Again. Apparently, we lack a national memory of having been here before and it ends badly. It always ends badly.

A nation led by hatred, ignorance, and fear is not seeking a happy ending.

INTOLERANCE: REEL AND REAL – Garry Armstrong

A friend today posted a review on Facebook about the film, “Schindler’s List” which he had just seen for the first time, 25-years after the acclaimed movie’s release. My friend talked about the film’s haunting power, its narrative about one man’s brave quest to save a number of Holocaust victims from death.

It’s based on a true story and Schindler holds a special place in Israel for his efforts.

Charlottesville rally

Stephen Spielberg said he made the film to honor its hero, Oscar Schindler and remember all the Holocaust victims, those who were saved and the many who weren’t.

The film — with current headlines about neo-Nazi and white-supremacist rallies in the United States and elsewhere — feels more relevant than ever. The recent attacks on Synagogues in Pittsburgh and anti-semitic incidents in Massachusetts — leave people wondering: “Have we forgotten?”

Wounds are raw from last year’s ugly Charlottesville KKK rally that claimed one life and left our President issuing comments about “perpetrators on both sides.”  Antisemitism and racism continue to be headline stories more than 75-years after millions gave their lives in a war that should have ended those injustices.

Obviously not. There have been a few “message” movies that deal with those still festering issues which many insist no longer exist. Dissidents say it’s more “fake news” from the liberal media.  So many ostriches with their heads in the sand.

The other night I revisited the movie “Crossfire” which was released by RKO in 1947, the year before the more acclaimed “Gentlemen’s Agreement” was released. This drew public attention and “surprise” about Antisemitism in post-war America.

“Crossfire” is an excellent, understated film about this virulent subject matter. Its director, Edward Dmytryk (a victim of Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s infamous “Blacklist) used the plot of a small group of GI’s, just mustered out of the war and trying to fit back into society.

Circa 1955: Studio headshot portrait of Canadian-born film director Edward Dmytryk (1908 – 1999). (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

They encounter a friendly civilian at a bar who listens to their complaints about readjustment and offers sympathy where others just tune them out. One of the GI’s — lonely for his wife and exhibiting PTSD symptoms — is befriended by the civilian who invites him home for drinks and quiet conversation.

The other soldiers – uninvited — crowd into the apartment and lap up the booze.  One of them, a very obnoxious vet — sneers at men who avoided combat, who got rich running banks and law practices. He looks at one of his confused pals and yells: “Jews, man! You know those people! They get rich while we fight and die. Jews!”

The civilian referred to as “Sammy,” is tolerant. Veteran actor Sam Levene who played many similar roles is perhaps overly patient with the bigoted GI. This is Robert Ryan in one of his most chilling villain roles.

Robert Ryan

The secondary plot has “Sammy” murdered by one of the GIs. The PTSD soldier is fingered as the suspect but we know better. Robert Young, in a pre “Father Knows Best” role, plays the tough, weary cop who sifts through all the alibis. This is one of Robert Mitchum’s early films. He is excellent as the soft-spoken, no-nonsense veteran who is suspicious of the venomous Ryan character.

Ryan is ultimately outed as he rants about “those people.” He gets what he deserves and is gunned down during a police chase on a rainy New Orleans Street.

The final scene with Young and Mitchum in conversation about Ryan’s demons ends quietly as they go their separate ways, both wondering what World War Two was really all about.

Robert Mitchum

In an early 1970s interview, Robert Mitchum remembered “Crossfire.” He was in Boston shooting “The Friends Of Eddie Coyle,” so I had the good fortune to spend a long afternoon into the evening over drinks with “Mitch.”

In a wide-ranging conversation, Mitchum recalled what it was like working in the 1940s, especially with “The Blacklist” hovering over Hollywood. He said some pals urged him not to do “Crossfire” because it would hurt his career.

“Mitch” grinned at me “You know what that was all about, Don’t ya?”   I nodded.  Mitchum continued, “There were so many hateful bastards —  there were always dissing Negroes (he looked at me and I nodded an ‘okay’) and Jews. They always thought I was with them. I had a few fights and dumped a few jobs because I couldn’t stand the two-faced bastards.”

Robert Mitchum, older portrait

I looked at Mitch and confirmed: “Not much has changed.” He shook his head sadly and ordered another round.

That was almost 50 years ago. No, not much has changed.  Not on the silver screen or in real life.

“BEING THERE” – A MODERN DAY REVIEW – Garry Armstrong

Last night, Marilyn and I watched “Being There.” We hadn’t seen this comedy from 1979 in a long time, probably years. What a difference time has made!

I recall seeing “Being There” when it opened. I enjoyed the farcical Hal Ashby film about a mentally challenged man who somehow influences high and mighty power brokers including our Commander-In-Chief and his aides. It seemed like a Capra-esque flight of fantasy in 1979.  Couldn’t happen in real life. Our political leaders couldn’t be so naïve or vulnerable. We were caught up with Jimmy Carter versus Ronald Reagan. Many laughed at the notion of an actor becoming President.

It wouldn’t happen, we smart folks reasoned with our historical savvy. No way a B-movie actor, revered for his roles as a beloved college football player and pal to a chimp named Bonzo — no way that guy could become the most powerful political figure in the world.  So we smugly thought.

Being There, 1979 poster

Peter Sellers is “Chance.” AKA Chauncey Gardner, a middle-aged gardener. The simple-minded assistant to a wealthy man who dies at the beginning of “Being There.” We don’t know much about Chance except he apparently has the mental capacity of a child. He is a brilliant gardener and likes to watch television. Chance is a sweet-tempered fellow whose world revolves around tending the garden — and watching television. He can’t read or write. He just gardens. And likes to watch …. television.

Chauncey Garden walking through Washington DC

Through a series of farcical plot twists, Chance becomes the house guest of an elderly, dying business tycoon and political king-maker (Melvyn Douglas) and his capricious wife (Shirley MacLaine).  The new benefactors mistake Chance’s observations about gardening as metaphors for Wall Street and fixing what ails our government.

The President (Jack Warden), a close friend of the tycoon, thinks Chance — now accepted as the mysterious Chauncey Gardner — is his benign Henry Kissinger. Chauncey’s garden recipes become talking points for the President’s economic directive.

Peter Sellers & Shirley MacLaine in Being There (1979)

There’s one hilarious scene in the middle of the film where the Black maid who raised Chauncey from infancy — and knows he has “rice pudding between his ears” — rails at her friends and points out that “all you need to become president is to be white.” That was a joke in 1979. Not so funny these days.

In 1979, the movie plot seemed outrageous and outlandish. In those days,  many of us didn’t believe Ronald Reagan could be taken seriously. None of us conceived of him as what we called “a president.” We would have deemed it impossible. I still do.

As “Being There” reaches its conclusion, Melvyn Douglas’ tycoon dies. At the cemetery, as he is laid to rest, the tycoon’s pals and the President’s aides quietly share anxiety about the country’s future. They don’t think the President is strong enough to lead the country out of its economic swamp. There’s a final quiet agreement that only one man can save the country, the man with the savvy garden metaphors, Chauncey Gardner.

Closing scene

The man who would be President is seen wandering through the woods and into a lake, staking his umbrella in the water, perhaps divining a miracle. The end credits roll with outtakes of Peter Sellers laughing his way through many retakes of plays on words.

Marilyn and I laughed as the credits rolled by. Then, we looked at each other. Quietly. Very quietly. Through some bizarre upside-down ill-starred event, during the heart of a perfect political storm, Chauncey Gardner became America’s president after all. Not benign — and definitely not a gardener, yet surely as stupid and illiterate.

A gardener would have been a better choice. At least he could have grown a few roses.

BOND REBOOT

Casting is now taking place for Bond 25 (working title) and Daniel Craig will return as “007.” The movie is set for a Fall 2019 release, so there will be plenty of talk for the next year about the next film and the next Bond, if Craig does not return.  In his work preparing for Bond, Craig recently visit CIA headquarters. According to the Guardian: “The agency said its motivation was ‘to combat misrepresentations and assist in balanced and accurate portrayals’ of the intelligence community.”

The Daniel Craig Years, by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

After 20 James Bond films and 40 years, EON Productions finally had something that eluded them from the start.  They obtained the rights to the first Ian Fleming novel, 1953’s Casino Royale.  The story had been adapted into a 1954 American television drama and a 1967 comedy spoof, but had never been given a serious big screen treatment.  The chance was at hand when Pierce Brosnan declined the opportunity to go on as 007.

Daniel Craig is James Bond

The change to a new Bond also meant another change in attitude at the studio now run by Barbara Broccoli, the daughter of original Producer, Albert R. Broccoli, and by his stepson, Michael Wilson.  Other studios had given their heroes a new start to great success, so why not Bond?  Comic book characters had moved away from cartoon portrayals to serious action heroes.  It was time to move Bond away from the comic quips and amazing gadgets.  With an eye towards a more faithful portrayal of the book than any of the previous Bond movies had done, Casino Royale starring Daniel Craig took the story back to the beginning as secret agent Bond becomes 007.

Interestingly, the series did retain one cast member.  Judi Dench returned as the head of MI6 and the boss of James Bond.  She sends him on his first mission to Casino Royale.  Only Timothy Dalton gave us such a serious Bond, but Craig shows less emotion than any previous version of our favorite spy.  He is serious and calculating in his efforts to defeat the bad guys and serve his country.  If you were a fan of the novels and a more serious Bond, the “reboot” might be much to your liking.

In Casino Royale, Bond must defeat the terrorist financier Le Chiffre at the Casino.  Taking away the bad guy’s money is a dangerous plan for both players.  There will be no spoiler alerts, but Bond will not escape with a few double meaning quips and hidden gadgets.  This will be a painful ordeal.

Not everything is resolved at the end of the movie which allows for something the series has not tried before, a story arc.  Elements are carried into Quantum of Solace as Bond seeks revenge for a murder and tries to learn about the organization, Quantum.  It is a more serious and more violent film than any Bond movie we have had so far.  An interesting side note is that Craig and director Marc Forster wrote sections of the script due to a screenwriter’s strike.  They did not receive screen credit. The role of Judi Dench is expanded this time out.  It make sense to make greater use of an actor of this stature.

The third Daniel Craig movie, Skyfall, may be the best so far.  It honors the Bond canon by bringing back some favorite characters in the person of new actors while making reference to times past.  This time out the story centers around  M (Judi Dench) and the challenges to MI6 from outside and in.  The only agent she can really trust to hunt down the threat is, of course Bond, James Bond.  Already in her late 70s at the time, Dench is featured in the trap that Bond lays for the bad guys and the action sequences that follow.  Javier Bardem is the evil trouble maker who is out to destroy the spy agency and get M.  The action is intense.

Skyfall picked up a collection of nominations and awards.  Adele sang the title song which you could not escape on the radio for a long time.  It won the Oscar.  Miss Moneypenny returns to the franchise.  If you have not seen it, I will leave the surprising revelation for you.  The Quartermaster (Q) returns and he is not the old-timer we were used to seeing in Desmond Llewelyn and John Cleese.  Of course, Llewelyn was a lot younger when he first appeared in a 1963 Bond film.  British stage and film star Ben Whishaw is the younger Q, much to the surprise of Bond.  He is more of a computer geek than a developer of gadgets, although he does have something for Bond.  He is the perfect 21st century Q and a clever return for the character.

Ralph Fiennes is on hand as Mallory, M’s boss, and will play a continuing role into the next feature.  Veteran Albert Finney is also on hand to support Bond in the late action sequences.  All things considered, I liked the casting, the return of certain characters and even bringing back the Aston Martin.  It is clever script writing by people familiar with the Bond legacy. It is directed by  Sam Mendes, who returns for the 4th Craig film.

If you saw the early Bond films or read the books, you knew that James Bond was often on the trail of members of the criminal organization, SPECTRE.  So it should be no surprise that the Bond reboot will find our hero on the search for information about the organization and its leader.  We find another name from the past as the leader of SPECTRE, Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

SPECTRE contains all the right elements: M, Q, Moneypenny, evil villains and beautiful “Bond Girls.”  The storyline incorporates elements from early Bond stories by Ian Fleming.  It will be interesting to see where they go from here.  Will the next storyline continue to look for elements from Fleming novels and bring them up to date?

It is impossible to compare the Craig portrayal of Bond with the previous actors.  The series “reboot” has given us a Bond for the 21st century, different from what we had before.  I think it was the only way to go.  The Connery, Lazenby, Moore and Brosnan portrayals are charming, yet dated.  Like Bond, Craig will be back.

Just for fun, even the Queen is willing to appear in a James Bond film.  You will have to click the link over to You Tube to watch, as they have now blocked it from playing on other sites.

Sources Include: “Daniel Craig visits CIA in run-up to shooting new James Bond film,” TheGuardian.com, July, 6, 2018.

RELATED:
Bond, James Bond, The Sean Connery Years, Part 1
Never Say Never Again, The Sean Connery Years, Part 2
Moore Bond, The Roger Moore Years, Part 1
For Your Eyes Only, The Roger More Years, Part 2
Bond Is Back, The Timothy Dalton Years
Goldeneye, The Pierce Brosnan Years

GOLDENEYE

The Pierce Brosnan Years, by Rich Paschall


Although Timothy Dalton had a six-year, 3 film deal to play the famous secret agent, James Bond, only two films were made.  The third was delayed by a protracted legal fight between Danjaq, holder of the Bond copyright, and a variety of parties, including mega studio MGM.  When the six years expired, Dalton walked away.  He felt it might not just be the end for him as Bond, but the series itself may be over.  Sixteen films had been made by 1989 which is a good run for any series.

While the legal battles went on, EON Productions planned to go ahead with the Bond legacy.  With Dalton dropping out, the producers called on Pierce Brosnan who had actually been considered as the one to replace Roger Moore.  His contractual agreement to a revived Remington Steele television series kept Brosnan from agreeing years earlier to the super sleuth.  In 1994 he went into production on his first Bond film, GoldenEye.

The initial Brosnan movie was the second Bond film not to take the title from an Ian Fleming story.  The original work did pay homage to the Bond creator, however, by taking its name from Operation Goldeneye.  This was a project Fleming participated in as a Lieutenant Commander in British Naval Intelligence.  Years later, after the success of the Bond stories, Fleming named his Jamaica estate, Goldeneye.  The book GoldenEye is actually a novelization of the movie.

The story finds Bond investigating the theft of a helicopter, and the attack on a Russian outpost that controlled a satellite with the “GoldenEye” weapon.  Was GoldenEye real?  Was it capable of destroying London’s financial district?  Could anyone save the day?  Pierce Brosnan brings charm back to Bond with plenty of opportunity for the double entendre.  Judi Dench now becomes M, head of MI6.  Some regulars are recast but Desmond Llewelyn returns as Q, having played the part since the beginning of the Bond films.  It is a good effort by Brosnan and he revives the series with the 1995 release after the long hiatus.  The stunts and special effects are over the top as usual, and they will again ask you to accept the improbable (if not impossible) as fact.

james-bond-movie-crazy-pierce-brosnan

For the second film, Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), can you imagine a media mogul who tries to manipulate the news to improve on ratings?  If this seems a bit more modern, perhaps it is meant to be so.  A British ship is sunk near China, a Chinese plane is shot down and the resulting tension seems to be pushing the world toward World War III. One cable news outlet is always on hand to catch the disasters as they happen.  Jonathan Pryce plays the media mogul and Teri Hatcher is his trophy wife.  Bond teams up with a Chinese agent (girl, of course) to find out what is really going on and the world will once again be saved.  Despite script disputes with studios and also with actors, the final product was a success at the box office.

The World Is Not Enough (1999) for the evil villains that populate this story.  There is no brief summary for this tale of a former KGB agent who is now a terrorist and has to be stopped after he gets weapons-grade plutonium.  Is the daughter of an assassinated businessman, who had been kidnapped but later set free, still safe?  Can Bond protect her?  Is she sympathetic to her former captors? What about M who is later kidnapped?  What about the pipeline to save a poor country?  What about Istanbul?  If you can stay with the interconnected storylines it is an engaging, if somewhat long, Bond affair.  Denise Richards is the “Bond girl.”

After many years with United Artists, MGM becomes the distributor of the Bond films.  The business dealings of MGM and it various holdings, United Artists, Danjaq, EON Productions and others has become more complicated than this Bond film.  MGM will count on Bond not just to save the world, but the studio too.

A sad and ironic side note to The World Is Not Enough involves actor Desmond Llewelyn.  In the film he seems to be training John Cleese to be his successor of Q division for gadgets.  He indicates he is not retiring and there was no intention of replacing the aging performer in the role.  Aside from continuity, he was a beloved character in the series.  Soon after the première, Llewelyn was killed in an automobile accident.  Cleese will indeed move up in the next film.

No one can kill James Bond, not even the North Koreans.  While investigating a North Korean Colonel and the sale of diamonds for weapons, Bond is captured and imprisoned but he lives to Die Another Day (2002).  Brought home through a prisoner swap after 14 months, Bond is suspended from duty but will that stop our hero?  Of course not.  Soon he teams up with an American Agent, Halle Barry, to follow the trail of diamonds and weapons from London to Cuba to Iceland.  Like some other Bond films, the climactic fight takes place on a plane and who is flying the craft?  Cleese is now Q.  Madonna has a small part and performs the title tune.  The film marks the 40th anniversary of the first feature when Sean Connery told us he was “Bond, James Bond.”

Brosnan had an option on a fifth film.  In fact he had once mentioned he thought he might like to do six films.  But he was already 50 and recalling the criticism Roger Moore took for staying too long in the role.  He decided to decline the option and move on.  This gave EON the opportunity to restart the series and go back to the first James Bond story and make the movie that had eluded them all along, Casino Royale.

RELATED:
Bond, James Bond, The Sean Connery Years, Part 1
Never Say Never Again, The Sean Connery Years, Part 2
Moore Bond, The Roger Moore Years, Part 1
For Your Eyes Only, The Roger More Years, Part 2
Bond Is Back, The Timothy Dalton Years

GUILTY PLEASURES

I think most of the things we enjoy would be counted as guilty pleasures by someone else. You might say we’ve become guilty pleasure experts.

The other night, Garry and I watched “Paris When It Sizzles” on Netflix. Universally panned, it is generally regarded as awful. Except among movie buffs — like us — for whom it is an officially designated guilty pleasure.

a-summer-place-movie-poster-1959-1020460974

We laughed all the way through it, although it isn’t supposed to be funny. It got us talking about other movies we’ve seen that were panned, but which we liked.

The one that came immediately to my mind was “Flypaper,” starring Ashley Judd and Patrick (“McDreamy”) Dempsey. It opened and closed without a single good review and made less money in its American release than I made on my last freelance job. But it cost $4,000,000 to produce.

Flypaper2011Poster

On February 27, 2013, I reviewed it on Serendipity — FLYPAPER (2011): A PLEASANT SURPRISEIt’s been getting a slow but steady stream of hits ever since. When I looked in my stats, I saw I’d gotten a hit on that review, the source for which was Wikipedia.

Wikipedia? How could that be? I clicked. There was my review, referenced by Wikipedia. Flypaper (2011 film) has two numbered references in the reference section. Number 1 is my review. What are they referencing? The grosses.

That Flypaper made a pathetic $1100 and opened on just two screens in one theater during a single weekend. Serendipity is their source for this data.

facts expert

Where did I get my information? I looked it up on IMDB (International Movie Database). Not the professional version. Just the free area anyone can access.

IMDB is, to the best of my knowledge, an accurate source. But it’s not a primary source. Clearly the financial data had to have come from somewhere else. Maybe the distributor? IMDB got the info from elsewhere, I got it from them, then Wikipedia got it from me. The beat goes on.

forever_knight_2009

How in the world did I become a source? If you have ever wondered how bad information gets disseminated, this is the answer. I don’t think this information is wrong. If it is, it’s harmless.

But a lot of other stuff proffered as “fact” is gathered the same way. Supposed news outlets get information from the Internet. They access secondary, tertiary and even more unreliable sources. They assume it’s true. By proliferation, misinformation takes on a life of its own and becomes “established” fact.

ncis-need-to-know

Scholars, journalists, historians and others for whom truth is important should feel obliged to dig out information from primary — original — sources. A blogger, like me, who gets information from who-knows-where shouldn’t be anyone’s source for “facts” unless you’ve confirmed the information and know it’s correct.

For me to be a source for Wikipedia is hilarious, but a bit troubling. How much of what we know to be true … isn’t?

GARRY ARMSTRONG REVIEWS “THE TEN COMMANDMENTS”

We did our annual viewing of “The Ten Commandments” last night. It’s an annual rite of Spring and Easter Eve here.

We watched on our hinky DVD. The discs and the player are so hinky and old that we had glitches in the climactic scenes as Moses, Moses and the freed slaves begin their bigly Pilgrimage out of Egypt. We could have watched on ABC, but they have a gazillion commercials. Not in the mood for all that advertising time.

The movie

“Ten Commandments” really is a fun event thanks to Cecil B, beginning with his on-stage intro. The curtains seemed to open slower this year. Could be the hinky DVD or maybe the curtains open slower with each passing view. We always appreciate Cecil’s humility. I’m surprised he didn’t include himself as one of the on site contributors to the events in his bigly classic.

There is so much to appreciate if you just let yourself go and enjoy as a guilty pleasure. The humongous cast. Especially the featured players in very small size print as the open credits role. I never spot Clint Walker, who I suspect was one of Rameses’ body guards. Woodrow “Woody” Strode is obvious as the Nubian King who comes to pay tribute to Pharaoh (Sir Cedric Hardwicke). I don’t know who played the sexy Nubian Queen who obviously drew the scorn of Anne Baxter. She was clearly aware that once you go Black you never go back.

Lawrence Dobkin, with a wonderful toupee, has a lot of face time as one of Moses, Moses confidantes. Dobkin, you mavens surely know, was a busy chrome dome in 50’s television. Ditto Michael “Cochise” Ansara as an Egyptian Guard. I don’t think Ansara had any lines, just a few grunts and yells.

I scanned Anne Baxter’s cortege of scantily clad girl friends. No familiar faces but they were bigly bodacious. No “sisters” in Anne’s gang. No wonder she was jealous of the Nubian Queen.

Eddie G. Robinson probably had a blast as the nefarious Dathan, a toga and sandals version of Enrico Bandetti and Johnny Rocco. Eddie G “played” everyone with that smirky smile. He and Vinnie Price were a marvelous villainous duo. Vinnie was the syndicate “John” and Eddie, the pimp.

John Carradine always looks befuddled as Aaron who takes the fall for anything that Moses, Moses screws up.

Debra Paget, the central casting White Indian Princess, is the so fetching and vulnerable damsel who will do ANYTHING for John Derek’s Joshua. ANYTHING. Wonder if she did a Playboy spread for Derek? Debra preceded Ursula Andress, Linda Evans and Bo Derek in Joshua’s photography studio.

For all our jibes, Cecil B’s special effects are still impressive in our CGI era. The Red Sea parting alone is worth a rally of cheers.

Charlton Heston and the 10 commandments

A quickie question: Why weren’t Moses, Moses hands burned when he picked up the two ten commandments plaques after God just burned them into the rocks? Follow up question: Who did the voice of God? This was way before Morgan Freeman’s time.

So let it be written, so let it be done.