Sunset – Blake Edwards, 1988

File:Sunsetsmall.JPGSunset is a movie that grows on you, or at least it has grown on us. We’ve always liked it. Now, many watchings later, we like it even more. With Blake Edwards directing and starring James Garner, Bruce Willis, Malcolm McDowell and a score by Henry Mancini, you’ve got to figure this is going to be good entertainment. And you would be right.

The story starts with Wyatt Earp (James Garner) arriving in Hollywood to consult on a new film about the gunfight at OK Corral. Wyatt and Tom Mix (Bruce Willis) strike up a friendship, then team up to solve a real life crime committed by evil movie mogul Alfie Alperin (Malcolm McDowell). There are great lines in this movie, but the best is the wonderful refrain line, “Give or take a lie or two.”

The movie makes no pretence at historical accuracy. This is fun and fantasy, historical fiction mixed liberally with guns, early Hollywood mythology and at least one classic gunfight. It’s “once upon a time” style clearly announces that this is not a movie to be taken seriously. The characters are loosely — very loosely — based on real characters but the events portrayed never happened … give or take a lie or two.

So yesterday, while we were watching another favorite Blake Edwards film, S.O.B., we got to discussing which of the characters was Blake Edwards daughter Jennifer (it turned out to be Lila, one of the young hitchhikers). Garry pointed out that she had played Victoria Alperin in Sunset and while I was looking all this up, I wandered over to Wikipedia and started reading various bits of stuff about Sunset.

What to my wondering eyes should appear but a section titled “Historical errors.” Huh? I was intrigued, being as the film never claimed to be historical, accurate or otherwise.

They actually used to have a section in Wikipedia pointing out the historical inaccuracies in the movie:

Historical Errors

The action takes place in the year 1929, the year of the first Academy Awards presentation. It depicts Wyatt Earp arriving (and later leaving) Los Angeles by train; in fact, Earp had been living in the Los Angeles area since about 1910. It depicts Earp as single, in reasonably athletic condition, and carrying on a brief romance with young Cheryl (Mariel Hemingway); in fact, Earp, who was born in 1848, had long been married to Josephine Marcus. It similarly depicts Tom Mix as single and carrying on a prolonged and uninhibited romance with his assistant, Nancy; in fact, Mix was then, and for years afterward, married to his third wife. In the course of the film, Earp says that Calamity Jane’s real name was Mary Jane Cannary; her first name was Martha, not Mary. It depicts Earp as technical advisor to a Tom Mix film of the gunfight at the OK Corral in which Mix portrays Earp; Mix made no such film and never portrayed Earp, who served as an unpaid advisor, years earlier, on some silent movies. The film depicts Earp attending the first Academy Awards presentation at a late evening dinner; in fact, the awards were presented at a brunch on May 16, 1929—four months after Earp had died at the age of 80.

Final title cards of the credits:

Title Card: …and that’s the way it really happened.

Title Card: Give or take a lie or two.

It’s at moments like this I wonder if the people who write this stuff watched the movie. This is not a documentary. It isn’t even historical fiction. It’s a comedy, set in Hollywood circa 1929. The villain is completely fictitious. Whatever relationship existed between Wyatt Earp and Tom Mix is anybody’s guess. The only fact is that Tom Mix was a pall bearer at Wyatt Earp’s funeral.

Including this section at all indicates that whoever wrote it never watched the movie or missed not merely “the point,” but everything. For the first time in my life, I actually put a note into Wikipedia:

The movie is pure fiction and the refrain line, “Give or take a lie or two,” more or less sums up the “historical” accuracy. It does not claim to be historically accurate and in fact, makes a point — frequently repeated — that this is a Hollywood fairy tale that begins with “once upon a time,” or words to that effect. Critiquing the historical accuracy of a piece of comedic fiction is absurd. The following information may be correct, but it’s entirely irrelevant to the movie. —

Since I added my note, they changed the section to indicate that the movie is not supposed to be historical. Nonetheless, they continue to correct the history except they retitled the section Historical Context. So it’s slightly less stupid now. Glad my futile gesture was not entirely futile. What is the point in correcting historical errors — or providing historical context — for a movie that makes no claim of being historically accurate?

Who writes this stuff? You have to wonder. Or at the very least, I have to wonder.

Anyway, if you’ve never seen Sunset, the chemistry between Garner and Willis is great, the dialogue is witty, the movie is both funny and occasionally even suspenseful. Willis is at his charming best, as is Garner and together, under Edwards’ adept direction, they make magic.

Give or take a lie or two.

I'm part of Post A Day 2013

A New One Just Like the Old One


English: Mariska Hargitay and Danny Pino on th...

English: Mariska Hargitay and Danny Pino on the set of Law and Order: SVU, “Missing Pieces” Episode #13.5 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s that time of year again. Fall, yes, but far more important, it’s the beginning of the fall prime time television line up.

I want to be excited about it. I want to be surprised. I want to be thrilled. Alas, I am not.

Harry’s Law,” which was one of the few bright spots in a dreary lineup, is gone and unlikely to come back.

“House” is finished, though it had a long run and it was time to retire. Still, I’ll miss it if for no other reason than it was a little bit different than other shows.

“Bones” is back, and I hope they get back to forensic anthropology and stop focusing on the sort-of marital relations of Bones and Booth.

The Closer” is gone. Its spinoff, “Major Crimes” is on, but without Kyra Sedgewick. It’s not bad, but without Kyra, it isn’t the same. It’s okay, but not terrific.

Law and Order: SVU” is hanging on though I could skip a weekly sex offender fix.

Criminal Minds”  is a good show, but I’m not always ready to watch brutal serials killers mutilating and torturing victims. It’s particularly the wrong show to watch right before trying to go to sleep.

Pauley Perrette in the season opener of NCIS.

And then, there’s “NCIS” … our favorite show that’s still going. Yay Gibbs! Yay team!. Great to have Gibbs and the team back and I wonder what he’ll be building next? Very glad Ducky is still with us. Ilya lives!

“Vegas” was pretty good, a sort of cross between “Longmire” and the old Las Vegas series that starred James Caan. It was a bit derivative, but more original than most of the other stuff. For example, “NCIS: Los Angeles” bores me to tears. It’s not merely derivative, it’s also dull.

There are, I am sure, the usual broad and mindless selection of reality shows that we have never watched and never will. They keep putting them on, we keep trying hard to ignore their existence. If I get that desperate for entertainment, just shoot me.

We still have the “Mentalist” which is entertaining. And though I haven’t seen the latest incarnations of either “Private Practice” or “Grey’s Anatomy,” both were verging on daytime soap opera last season, so they’d have to do something super special to move forward from there.

The bright spot in my entire TV year was “Newsroom” and I can barely can contain my excitement until it comes back again.

Maybe I’m just getting old, but everything seems like rehash of something I’ve seen before. I can predict the dialogue of first run brand new shows. It’s like someone has a cliché generating computer with pre-formatted scripts, just change the names and locations, and voilà, a brand new cop show, medical show, lawyer show. And each is as predictable as the last.

Yup, it’s a new season. Watching re-runs of “MASH” is, on the whole, more satisfying than watching most current shows; more interesting and less predictable, even though I’ve seen them before.

As a final comment on the state of media, Leno was just on. He made a joke about “Newsroom” and Aaron Sorkin, except the audience had never seen the show or heard of Sorkin. So Leno said “West Wing? Boston Legal? You know, really intelligent shows?” Nope, they never heard of them. “Jersey Shore” they heard of. It’s just going to keep getting worse.

As for me, I shall be reading many books this year. Lots of books.