THE HOLIDAY SEASON – Garry Armstrong

It isn’t depression.  It isn’t anger or melancholia. Maybe, it’s just a case of the “blahs,” the post-Christmas brain drain.

Last Night, Marilyn and I were doing our usual Christmas ritual of watching a classic, old holiday movie. We started with “A Christmas Story” which is always good for laughs. Darren McGavin is a treasure as the embattled but nice Dad. Peter Billingsley’s “Ralphie” captures a little of all of us when we were kids.

We were still smiling as we went to our second feature, “Holiday Inn”. This is the 1942 version (the year many future legends made their début on the world stage): Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire with lots of Irving Berlin classics including “White Christmas” making its début with Crosby, pipe smoke billowing, crooning in familiar style.

There are problems with “Holiday Inn” which we usually ignore but really couldn’t this year. The biggest is the Blackface act with Crosby and cast singing “Abraham” to mark a holiday. I left the room as the scene began and found chores to do until the next scene.

Blackface — which has stirred new controversy — has always troubled me deeply.  This classics movie lover usually fast forwards through similar scenes in beloved films from old Hollywood where racism was a staple and white stars would usually laugh benignly at the characters played by Black actors. The Stephen Fetchit, Amos ‘n Andy factor.

An old friend emailed a few days earlier, expressing her distaste for the “Holiday Inn” scene. It had made an admired film unwatchable for her. The racial controversy took a back seat as we enjoyed the rest of “White Christmas,” it’s creaky plot and great music. But it left us both feeling uneasy.

I had “A Christmas Carol” (The Alistair Sims version) ready for our holiday movie trifecta. Marilyn said she wasn’t in the mood for any more holiday movies after “Holiday Inn.” I usually stand up for old movies but I instantly knew what Marilyn was saying.

The Blackface scene reminded us of much of what’s wrong in our world now.  You can’t escape it by watching another old movie. The melancholia had settled in. We had striven all day to keep our minds off reality and just enjoy Christmas.  We couldn’t maintain the happy glow. I was reminded of Commander-In-Chief Donzo’s insensitive remark to a child about believing in Santa Claus.  All of the bad stuff started to march forward in our brains.

We settled on watching “Midsomer Murders,” a BBC series we’ve grown to love in recent years. That was the temporary Rx to our blahs as the dogs found their second wind and raced outside to bark at the moon, serenade our neighbors, and irritate the bejesus out of me now that I can hear them with my Cochlear implant.

Marilyn and I discussed some upcoming stuff and, clearly, we had lost the thin veneer of holiday cheer. We touched on my overfeeding the dogs which we’ve discussed before and I have ignored.  It endangers the furry kids’ health.  Marilyn’s point is on target even as I used their begging as an excuse to shirk responsibility.  The mood was clearly changing as we tried to engage our attention on “Midsomer Murders”.

The dogs provided some humor with their barkathon, my racing in and out to admonish them with no real success. I focused on Duke who was the main noise culprit. At one point, Duke raced into the crate before I could order him to do so as punishment.  We all laughed at the silliness of the moment. I think some of our good humor was restored as Christmas night drew to a close for us.

It’s still interesting how quickly things can change compared to the yesteryear world of Ralphie and “A Christmas Story”.

FRANK CAPRA – THE ODD BOID – Garry Armstrong

I was thumbing through an old magazine when I remembered this one. Don’t think I’ve ever shared it.

Early in the 1970’s at the Boston television station where I worked.  The newsroom was on the third floor and we had a lobby receptionist who looked and sounded like Thelma Ritter.

The phone rings at my newsroom desk. It’s the receptionist in the lobby.  “Hey, Geeery,  got a guest fer ya.  An old guy. Odd ‘boid.’  Sez his name is Frankie and he’s gotta book fer ya.”

Frank Capra

I was puzzled.  Didn’t have any celeb guests booked.  Who was this “Frankie?”

“Geeery, Hon. Ya still there?   Frankie’s got this book fer ya?  Whadda I do, Hon?”

I was still puzzled.  I didn’t play the ponies and I didn’t know any bookies. I asked him to send the guest up on the elevator, then I raced out to meet him. The elevator opens and out steps … FRANK CAPRA. I simply stared with my mouth wide open.

Capra laughed at me. “Hi Garry, will you interview me?” Capra continued laughing as I continued to stare.

Mr. Smith Goes To Washington – Frank Capra, Director

Of course,  we went out for a few drinks afterward. He shared some great stories about working with Harry Cohn at Columbia.  Capra had “director’s final cut” in all his contracts.

Harry used to go wild. He wanted a different ending for “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.” Frank told Harry where to go.

HISTORY VERSUS TRUTH – Marilyn Armstrong

How’s your credibility doing these days? 


We watched “Serenity.” Again.

It’s a consolation prize, a followup movie to the all-too-brief television series “Firefly.” We loved it. It went a small distance to answer the questions left in the wake of the premature ending of what should have been the best ever science fiction television show.

serenity_movie_poster

Nathan Fillion was a fine, dashing, surprisingly believable hero. He was just un-heroic enough to be witty and upbeat, but brave enough to save the universe.

Despite spaceships and a futuristic planetary setting for the movie, it’s a western. It’s “Tombstone” and “The Magnificent Seven.” A dollop of “Ride the High Country.” It is every thriller, western, and space opera you’ve seen. “Star Trek,” “Star Wars” and “Forbidden Planet,” too.

serenity_8

It’s based on “Firefly”, currently available on Netflix and Amazon Prime — so if you haven’t seen it and you like science fiction and/or westerns and/or thrillers, you can’t help but love this.

Heroes curse in Chinese. Some have super powers or maybe they aren’t superpowers, but they sure do seem pretty super to me. Beautiful women, handsome men. Terrific pseudo-science that you are pretty sure you almost understand because it uses familiar gobbledygook language.

Serenity movie cast

No warp drive. I suppose that means that going from galaxy to galaxy on a whim isn’t going to happen. No one exactly says where the story takes place. It’s a “terraformed” planetary configuration that you would call a solar system, except that technically, there’s only one solar system because there’s only one “Sol.”

And then The Hero, Mal Reynolds, Captain of Serenity, said it. He’s the kind of guy you probably don’t want mad at you, so when he came out with a line this terrific, I wrote it down on the back of an envelope before I forgot it. I knew I would write about it.


“Half of writing history is hiding the truth.” Spoken by Malcolm Reynolds, Captain of the “Serenity.”

I read a lot of fantasy, science fiction, thrillers, steampunk and weird mysteries involving some kind of magical or futuristic technology. But I also read a lot of history, recently a lot of history that essentially debunks all the history I read in the past and makes me completely rethink everything I thought I knew. Tony Judt’s “Postwar” was one such book, but there have been a bunch of others. Some of them I’ve reviewed or otherwise written about. Others, I will talk about eventually.

serenity movies firefly science fiction 1024x768 Fillion

When Mal Reynolds talks about “hiding half the truth,” it sums up history as most of us know it. We learn the “mythology” of history. It can also be a complete lie. There’s half the truth — and then, there’s a complete absence of any truth.

We are told what is true and for most people, it is easier to accept what we are told as “The Truth” rather than make an effort to find out what really happened.

History (mostly) is the stuff the winners say is true.  Author Dan Brown said:


“History is always written by the winners. When two cultures clash, the loser is obliterated, and the winner writes the history books-books which glorify their own cause and disparage the conquered foe. As Napoleon once said, ‘What is history, but a fable agreed upon?”


Sometimes, what you hear as “history” is a truth which never happened, but which losers need. It soothes guilty consciousness and makes it possible for them to “move on” and thus pretend the past never happened.

Every nation has a dark past. No nation is guiltless. In no country have the victors treated their victims with kindness and charity. There has been slaughtering throughout the world. Whether your particular people got slaughtered or not is pure luck of the draw.

It’s always an interesting philosophical question: Who draws the straws? Why us? Why them? It’s one of those “ultimate” questions and there is no answer.

History isn’t credible as taught. The history we hear in school has nothing to do with telling later generations what really happened. It ought to be but actually, it’s about getting everyone to believe a story that supports the current power structure.

Debunking those stories comes later when a changed power structure requires a different story.

Nathan Fillion Hero

Take your history with many grains of salt. Not because I said so, but because Mal Reynolds said so.

He saved the universe, so he ought to know.

FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

The Roger Moore Years, Part 2 – Rich Paschall

After four successful outings in the 1970s as British Secret Agent 007, James Bond, Roger Moore was back in the 1981 film, For Your Eyes Only.  The title does not refer to secret documents.  If you have not guessed the meaning (really, Bond fans?), you will have to wait until you get near the end of the movie to hear the famous line.

While the previous film, Moonraker, was a success at the Box Office, it was also expensive to make for its time period.  The special effects looked okay, but the science fiction romp directed by Lewis Gilbert was remarkably improbable, even for Bond.  It was time to move on. John Glen, who had already worked on three Bond movies as film editor, was now in charge of the new production.

for your eyes only posterAs was often the case for Bond films, For Your Eyes Only does not take much more that the title from the short story on which it is based.  This time it is a rather complex story of not just an effort to avenge the death of a fellow agent, but also to find an Automatic Targeting Attack Communicator that was on-board a sunken spy ship.  This of course means underwater intrigue, which we have seen before.  But this time it is done a little better.

If it does not resemble the Bond creator’s story, you can still give the studio credit for a more intelligent story.  Follow along closely, it is not just a tale of chase scenes or under water battles.  We are once again treated to an Academy Award nominated song.  This time it is Sheena Easton’s turn to provide a memorable number.

The fourteenth Ian Fleming book contained two short stories in the 1966 publication.  Later editions of the book contained two other short stories that had appeared in magazines a few years earlier.  It was the final book by Fleming.  The story Octopussy was updated for a feature of the same name.  Now instead of being about Nazi gold, it is about Soviet jewels.  There is also an attempt by a rogue Soviet military officer to create conflict, perhaps war, between the superpowers.  The British super agent needs to figure out what is going on and stop it.

The 1983 movie was the 6th Roger Moore film.  All of the Bond tricks and chases are on display in what should have been the last Moore film.  It was well done and of course Bond saves the world from a nuclear explosion and possible war in Europe.  Rita Coolidge sang “All Time High” as the Bond theme song.

In a surprise move, another studio planned to bring out a rival James Bond film in the same year.  It seems Fleming had used a failed storyline developed years earlier with two others, as the basis of Thunderball.  When the others were granted their rights to the story, they wanted to cash in as well.  Another studio, who could not use the same title by the way, decided to put out the Bond film. They were presented with one challenging problem, among the many that would arise.  Who would be Bond?

Sean Connery was back as James Bond in the rival film, Never Say Never Again.  They were wise enough to include the fact that Bond (Connery) was much older now and perhaps past his prime.  Still, he is smart enough to know how to save the day.  Meanwhile an older Roger Moore is performing heroics as if he was a much younger man.

Moore returns for a final turn as 007 in 1985 in A View To A Kill, which almost borrows the title and virtually nothing else from the short story, From A View To A Kill.  The story first appeared in 1959 and was collected in the book, For Your Eyes Only in 1960.  The movie goes elsewhere than the short story.

By now it is impossible to believe that the 57-year-old Moore is capable of the athletic feats attributed to Bond in this storyline.  I am glad to see a man this age is still attractive and the object of desire.  I guess it is a bit of a fantasy.

Christopher Walken is a good villain, as you might imagine.  Grace Jones is his companion, whom Bond is successful at seducing at one point.  Perhaps the black and white physical relationship was a bit ahead of its time then.  Maybe audiences were ready for it.

It is remarkable how often Bond escapes the clutches of Max Zorin (Walken), but he does. That leads to the unlikely battle at the end.  I will save the details in case you have not seen it.  The obviously 80s film has a theme song by the obviously 80s Duran Duran.  They must have been trying to attract a younger audience with that.

Reviewers were not kind to A View To A Kill, although I thought it was better than some of the other Moore films.  Roger Moore himself would later state that it was his least favorite film.  Perhaps he knew he stayed on for one too many.

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

Roger Moore passed away last year at the age of 89.

Tuesday: “Bond Is Back, The Timothy Dalton Years.”

“SAN ANDREAS FAULT” – THE MOVIE WHERE EVERYTHING HAPPENS – Marilyn Armstrong

Last night, tired of the endless depressing, appalling, horrible news from around the world, Garry played a movie he had previously recorded.

San Andreas Fault is not merely a disaster film. It is every disaster film you have ever seen in one film. It’s earthquakes that will turn Kansas into the Pacific beach capital of the nation. It’s crashing buildings, towering infernos, the hugest omigod tsunamis. We get to see the bravest heroes and most craven cowardice.

It’s all there.

The crashing bridge

Every cliché from every disaster movie made in this and the previous century includes a lot of movies.  Worse, I’m pretty sure we’ve seen all of them, but we’d never seen this one before.

I think it was originally filmed in 3D. Everyone said it was drivel, but it made more than $300,000 million at the box office, so clearly drivel sells well.

Crashing cruise ship

It certainly sold well at our house last night. When the intended second husband of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson‘s wife (Carla Gugino)  played by Ioan Gruffudd (aka “The Asshole”) abandons Rock’s daughter to her fate, trapped under fallen cement in a parking garage, it’s no less than you expect from the cowardly CEO of a major corporation.

Hollywood crashing

We know they are cowards because … well …that’s what they always do in the movies, right? Have you ever seen a brave, manly CEO stand up to anyone or anything outside a boardroom? Especially when they are trying to marry the hero’s ex-wife who we all know should be with the hero.

Even though The Hero can’t utter a coherent sentence (and probably hasn’t since he came back from The War (insert name of war here), he’s a hero (with medals to prove it) and would never run, not even when a million tons of water and a complete cruise ship is about to fall on his head.

The Rock watching everything crash

So. Finally. The family reconnects. The entire west coast is smoldering ruins covered by about half the Pacific Ocean. There isn’t a bridge, a building … nothing. Total, absolute devastation everywhere.

Garry is giggling to himself.  Because he knows. I know. We both know. It’s coming.

The Rock, arm around his wife, his daughter saved, is gazing over the wreckage of the world and Garry murmurs … “Now, we rebuild.”

Beat. Beat. Beat. Pause.

And THEN The Rock says: “Now, we rebuild.”

Garry collapsed into laughter. The last time he laughed that much was when Trevor Noah had Ben Carson on the show and Trevor did a better Ben Carson than Ben Carson. Garry was still howling while the credits rolled.

A perfect ending.

san-andreas-fault-with-dwayne-the-rock-johnson-000

We’d seen the world end. We’d see the best, the bravest. The worst. We’d seen the most depraved cowardice imaginable and in HD wide-screen.

But now, we rebuild. We have to rebuild … because … SAN ANDREAS 2 is coming! As the headline says, this will finally allow The Rock (who no longer calls himself “the Rock”, so you have to call him Dwayne) to punch an earthquake.

No cowardice allowed!

HORSE SENSE – BY TOM CURLEY

Marilyn and Garry wrote a blog a while back about watching one of their favorite movies, “Rustler’s Rhapsody.” It’s also one of my favorite movies. They introduced it to me.

I’ve seen it dozens of times and I  love introducing it to any friend who hasn’t seen it before.

It’s a very loving parody of all the great western movies of the 30’s and 40’s.  An ode to the singing cowboy. The closing music over the credits is one of my all time favorite songs, “The Last Of The Silver Screen Cowboys”. I swear to God I tear up a little every time I hear it.

I was one of those little kids with the Roy Rogers cowboy hats and a pair of six-shooters.

Every day when I was four or five, I’d strap on my six guns, put on my hat and go out in the backyard and do my “patrol.” You’d be amazed by the number of bad guys and rustlers I ran off my property. When I’d come back home (my back porch), my Grandpa would have already left me my “lunch.”

A single Necco Wafer. We ran a lean ranch.

I listened to the song again after I read the post and it got me to thinking.

There’s a great line in the song that says “Roy, and Trigger, we loved you. And Hoppy we saved all our dimes. Saturday afternoon double features. And we sat through each movie two times.”

I’m tearing up again. They acknowledged Trigger, but what about the other great horses? Silver, Scout, Buttermilk, Topper, Buckshot, Wildfire, and of course, Champion, the Wonder Horse.

Think about it. The horses were really the smartest ones in the movies. Silver was always pulling the Lone Ranger out of the river after he falls off a cliff and is unconscious. Scout is always getting Tonto out-of-town at the last minute after the townsfolk finished beating the shit out of him because the Lone Ranger sent him to town to get some “information.”

I’ve often wondered what they thought about their riders, seeing them doing the same stupid things over and over again.

TRIGGER: Silver, Scout, hey guys! What’s up?

SILVER: Same ole, same ole. Just pulled the Ranger out of the river again before the bad guys found him.  Fifth time I’ve had to do it this month.

TRIGGER: How’d he end up in the river this time?

SILVER: Same reason as always. Got his head grazed by a bullet, fell off a cliff, and knocked himself out. You’d think he’d learn.

SCOUT: Humans, very hard to train. Take my guy, Tonto. The Ranger is always sending him into town to get some “information.” And every time he does, the townsfolk beat the shit out of him, knock him out. I have to drag his ragged ass back to camp. You’d think by now he’d say “Fuck you Kemosabe, you go to town and get the shit beat out of you.” But no, not Tonto. A real type-B personality.

SILVER: What about your guy, Trigger? What does he do that annoys you?

TRIGGER: Not much really. I do get tired of having to rear up on my hind legs and whinny every time we leave to go somewhere. I mean, most of the time there’s nobody around to even see it. What’s the point?

SILVER: I hear that. My guy does that all the time. Drives me nuts.

SCOUT: Tonto tries to do that too. I just ignore him.

SILVER: So, Trigger, I got a question. I’ve always been curious. Is Roy, uh, how do I put it? Um, gay?

TRIGGER: What?! No!

SCOUT: Not that there’s anything wrong with that!

TRIGGER: Why would you think that?

SILVER: Well, I mean, come on. Look at how he dresses. He’s very stylish for a cowboy. And he’s into musical theater. He sings in every one of his movies. I’m just saying …

TRIGGER: What about your guy? He basically wears a unitard!

SILVER: Point taken.

SCOUT: Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

TRIGGER: And what about Dale Evans?

SILVER: Could just be his beard. Ever seen them kiss?

TRIGGER: Well, no, but…

SILVER: The only one I’ve ever seen him kiss is you.

TRIGGER: Hey! I’m a confident heterosexual horse!

SILVER: So that means’ you’ve done it with Buttermilk?

SCOUT: Oh, I would so tap that filly. She’s hot. Get em up, Scout!

TRIGGER: Uh, well, not yet but ….

SILVER: Look, it’s all cool. There’s something else I’ve always wondered about. Why is it that all the people in the towns ride horses — except Pat Brady, who drives a broken-down World War II jeep?  What the hell is that all about? What year is it, anyway?

SCOUT: And why do you make Bullet run alongside the jeep? I mean, we’re built to run 30 to 40 miles an hour. He’s just a German Shepard! Why not let him ride in the jeep?

Hey Roy, I can run fast, but give me a break!

I guess these are questions that will never get answered.

And for the record, I am not suggesting that Roy Rogers was gay. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!)

I was just horsing around.

WHAT’S THAT SOUND? – Marilyn Armstrong

Borborygmus: a rumbling or gurgling noise made by the movement of fluid and gas in the intestines.

bor·bo·ryg·mus \ ˌbȯr-bə-ˈrig-məs \


RDP #65: BORBORYGMUS


Grumble. Glurg. Pow. Blub.

Does anyone remember the scene at the beginning of “The African Queen” with Humphrey Bogart really hungry, sitting at the table with Katherine Hepburn getting delicate sandwiches and tea while his stomach belched and roared and gurgled? Who knew there was a word for that.

This is what I love about English. We have a word for absolutely everything … except a few from other languages for which we do not have words. Like “davka” which means “Doesn’t it just figure … ” and actually was originally German, but slipped into Hebrew.

Or “meerpesset” — actually a Dutch word — which means the kind of outside porch on a kitchen which is enclosed on three sides with one side open, often used to store things (and frequently enclosed to make a very bright closet … or, if there’s another building or pole, a good place to hang the laundry in the summertime.

But mostly, English has a lot of words and a lot of tenses and a lot of ways to say the same thing with a slightly different feeling, depending on which word you use.

We used to have grammatical rules and things like “punctuation,” but we have abandoned grammar. Eliminated adverbs and tenses, especially complex past tenses. I mourn the loss, but since so much of the language has been reduced to emojis and abbreviations which are known only to those under age 20, I suppose I should be happy we have words.

I’m sure I’ll find some use for borborygmus. I will certainly try very hard to find one!