Saturday, May 18, 2019

Buddy Buddy Cop Cop

This is my entry in the Cops Blogathon hosted by Dubsism

I love buddy cop movies.  Most of them have two disparate characters who get on each others nerves, which kind of reminds me of my relationships with some of my male friends.  (I'm always the oddball one, in case you couldn't guess).  In 1987 Mel Gibson teamed up with Danny Glover to release the first of one of the better buddy cop movie series.  The original Lethal Weapon paired veteran police sergeant Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover), just turning 50 and on the verge of retiring with a loose cannon, somewhat suicidal sergeant, Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson), who look in on a suspicious suicide.

The movie spawned three more sequels, with additional characters coming on board over the span of the series.  Including Darlene Love and Traci Wolfe as Murtaugh's wife and oldest daughter respectively, we also got the addition of Leo Getz (Joe Pesci), a loud-mouth whistle blower turned real estate agent and then private detective and Lorna Cole (Rene Russo), an internal affairs officer with whom Riggs eventually develops a relationship in later sequels to the original movie.

Although the first Lethal Weapon introduced us to the main characters, I think by far the best of the four was the second one.  South Africa's apartheid was a popular bugaboo in the 80's, with both Cry Freedom and the British TV bio Mandela having come out in 1987.  Due to world wide public outcry the discrimination that occurred in South Africa was finally drawing to a close.

But Hollywood still had a couple of aces up it's sleeves.  For Lethal Weapon II the studio created not only a racist villain, but one who had a huge drug laundering operation in the States. Although Joss Ackland and Derrick O'Connor  basically come off as caricatures, the film has some excellent moments.

Lethal Weapon II (1989):

Opening up on a car chase (one of the best ways to open an action movie if you ask me), Riggs and Murtaugh are chasing down a suspect in Murtaugh's wife's station wagon.   The radio is alive with chatter, both from the cops and from the suspects (who are speaking a foreign language).  Upon wrecking his car, one of the suspects escapes, leaving behind a trunk full of gold kruegerrands.

Having made a complete mess of Los Angeles (as they seem wont to do), Riggs and Murtaugh are given an assignment to babysit a federal witness, Leo Getz (Joe Pesci).  Getz is scheduled to spill the beans about a drug laundering scheme that h had with some shady drug dealers.  Being Hollywood movie background, it should be no surprise that the drug dealers are the same foreigners that the cops were chasing in the first scene.

At the head of the organization is diplomatic attache Arjen Rudd (Joss Ackland) and his number two man Pieter Vorstedt (Derrick O'Connor).  They are Dutch South Africans, and Rudd in particular is fond of using his "diplomatic Immunity" to get out of any entanglements with the police due to his nefarious dealings.  And of course, we have the racist tendencies to deal with, as Rudd and his crew hate the fact that one of the officers involved, Murtaugh, is a kaffir ( a term that could easily be the N word to you and me).

Murtaugh and Riggs, being the rebels that they are, with the help of Getz try to take down Rudd and his gang.  And the South Africans do everything within their power to discourage such activity, including a spree of killing off as many of the officers involved in the investigation as they can.

Riggs begins an affair with the consulate secretary, Rika Van Den Haus (Patsy Kensit), and she reveals a few mostly insignificant details to him, but the cartel views her acts as sabotage anyway.  So it comes as no surprise when Riggs, who was captured and tossed into the ocean finds her dead body.  He also finds out that the cartel was responsible for the death of his wife (see the first film, which reveals the story, although not the details).

Ultimately it comes down to the two buddies to take on the cartel alone.  And chaos and mayhem ensue.  You just have to see the destruction of the "house on stilts", even if the scene may be unrealistic in real life.  (Either that or that damn truck has more power than I would have ever guessed a truck could have.)

Ultimately, there are some great moments, both in action and in dialogue.  Don't miss the rubber plant.

Drive safely, folks.


Thursday, May 16, 2019

Time and Time Again

This is my entry in the It's a Young World Blogathon hosted by Pop Culture Reverie

Back to the Future (1985), Back to the Future II (1989) and Back to the Future III (1990):

Marty Mc Fly (Michael J. Fox) is a typical teenager of the 80's.  He has dreams of being a rock star, getting into the panties of his girlfriend and just surviving high school.  That third part may not be so easy since Principal Strickland (James Tolkan) has an abiding dislike for slackers.  Strickland was around when Marty's father was a student at Hill Valley High School and doesn't think much of his family.

Strickland also looks down on Marty because Marty has a habit of hanging around the town weirdo, Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd).  "Doc" has a lot of eccentric ideas, and his latest thing is a time machine.

Wait a minute, Doc... Are you telling me you built a time machine...out of a DeLorean? -Marty:

Doc has a time machine, yes. Made out of a DeLorean.  (For those of you who were born post 1983, the DeLorean Motor Company made a brief blot on car history, but it was basically just a classy looking dud )

Doc built it based on an idea he had in 1955, and it took him 30 years to do it, but it works.  Unfortunately, he made it by hoodwinking some Libyan terrorists into thinking that the plutonium they stole was going to be used for a bomb, but he gave them some defective stuff and is using the plutonium to power the time machine.  And of course, the terrorists come looking for him.

Marty uses the car/time machine to try to escape, which, when it hits 88mph turns into the time machine.  Which sends Marty back to the day that Doc came up with the idea of a time machine back in 1955.

It also happens to be the day that Marty's mom and dad first met.  But along with the typical fish out of water flick as Marty deals with an 80's mentality in the 50's, there is an added twist.  Marty interferes with the meeting of his parents and instead of Mom falling in love with Dad, she falls in love with Marty.  (uh-oh).

Now Marty and his history is gradually disappearing as he has created a classic time travel paradox.  Before he and the 1950's Doc can arrange to somehow get him back to his future, he first has to arrange for his parents to fall in love, otherwise he won't have a future to get back to.

As a window into 50's teens, it does have some flaws.  (my parents were teenagers in the 50's, so I had some background to research it.  It seems more like an 80's view of what the 50's were like rather than an actual window into the 50's, but it is still fun.)

Of course, eventually Marty does manage to get his parents together and return to the present, although there are a few changes.  Nothing drastic like the future the time traveler returned to in Ray Bradbury's classic story A Sound of Thunder, but in terms of his own present there are a few changes.

Back to the Future II picks up where the first movie left off, with Doc, having returned from the (then) future of 2015 to get Marty to go with him to help save his kids.  The future of 2015 had flying cars (and imagine the disappointment when 2015 has come and gone and I still don't have a flying car...) and a myriad of other neat little things, some of which we do have.

The future Marty is living a life not quite unlike his father in the pre-time travel present of the first movie.  It is established that his dream career of being a rock star went down the tubes after an accident that occured when he was a teenager.  (Marty hates to be called "chicken" and gets into a lot of trouble throughout the second and third movies as a result.)

Marty's son, Marty, Jr. (also played by Fox) is on the verge of ruining his future because he is going to get into an illegal act with the local bully.  Marty has to pose as his son, which he can do since he is the same age.  But in the process of doing so, his girlfriend, who came along for the ride, ends up at his future home and they have to rescue her.

As an added twist, Marty, thinking only of himself, buys a copy of a sports almanac which tells the results of every sporting event from the 50's to the 200's.  But Doc makes him throw it away.  Only Biff (Thomas F. Wilson), a nemesis of his father in the 50's, now an old man, fishes it out of the trash, and using Docs time machine, takes it back to the 50's and gives it to his younger self.

Which makes for an extremely tough time when Marty and Doc return to the present.  Because they return to a present in which Biff has become top dog of Hill Valley, and the "present" is nothing like the present that Doc and Marty left when they went to 2015.  They determine that the only solution is to go back to 1955 and prevent future Biff from giving past Biff the book.

Potential paradoxes abound as Marty not only has to interact with some of the same characters but he also has to avoid running into the other Marty who is also still in the 1955 scenario.  Confusing?  Well, not if you are up on time travel theories.  Michio Kaku, a astrophysics theorist who has written about such things says they got the whole thing right in an interview on my DVD.

The second movie ends with a cliffhanger as Doc, in the time machine, is zapped by a lightning bolt and ends up in the Old West of the 1880's.  Marty is seemingly stranded in 1955, until a Western Union man delivers a message that has been held for the past 70 years to direct Marty in to how to return to the future (his present).

But in Back to the Future III, Marty ignores the future Doc's request that he not come back to get him, because he finds out that Doc was to be killed by an outlaw.  So using the 1955 Doc's help, Marty goes back to 1885.  Talk about a fish out of water.  Marty, who has decided to use the alias of "Clint Eastwood" gets together with Doc and tries to finagle a way to get the time machine back to the present.  Which is inhibited by the fact that there is no gasoline in 1885, thus no way to get the car up to the requisite 88mph on its own power.

Not only that, but Doc has acquired a love interest in the person of a local schoolmarm (Mary Steenburgen).  A schoolmarm who, by the way, was supposed to have died in a wagon accident, but was rescued by Doc before said accident occurred.

The whole Back to the Future saga will keep you on your toes in terms of it's scientific theories.  But fear not.  Even if you aren't quite up-to-date on potentials for paradoxes, it is still a hoot.

This old Plymouth couldn't get up to 88mph even with a shove by a jet engine, but it will get me home.  Drive safely, folks.


Friday, May 10, 2019

The Eyes Have It

This is my entry in the Joan Crawford Blogathon hosted by The Pale Writer and The Poppity.

After The Twilight Zone went off the air, Rod Serling tried his hand at a few other projects, including a TV western called The Loner and the screenplay for the first Planet of the Apes film.  Eventually he put is hand in the cookie jar that made a name for him with the Zone by developing an entirely new series called Night Gallery.  The premise of this series was a private nighttime viewing of some of the more odd paintings in an art gallery, shown to the audience by Serling himself.  The two or three segments in each episode stemmed off these odd paintings.

Some of the guest stars were familiar names, not only in TV but in the movies.  Joan Crawford, who starred in one segment of the pilot episode was not the only big name.  Larry Hagman, John Astin, Imogene Coca and Burgess Meredith, all familiar TV names appeared in episodes, as did Leslie Nielsen, Barry Fitzgerald, Vincent Price, Sally Field... the list goes on and on.  And a few future stars from behind the camera made some of their early work on the show.  John Badham, director of such classics as Saturday Night Fever, the 1979 version of Dracula and WarGames got his start on the Gallery as did the director of today's entry, Steven Spielberg.  (And, BTW, this episode actually predates was it commonly referenced as his debut, Duel, by a year or so.)

Joan Crawford was born in 1906 in my home state of Texas (San Antonio, to be exact), as Lucille LeSueur.  She had a remarkable career in film.  Starting out as a dancer on stage, she gravitated towards Hollywood where, within 3 years, she was getting star status.  Arguably her best early performance was in the film Grand Hotel.  She never had to look back after that.

Spoiler alert! By necessity I have to reveal the ending to this episode.  If you wish to watch the episode first that's fine.

Night Gallery (episode "Eyes" original broadcast Nov. 8, 1969):

Claudia Menlo (Joan Crawford) is a bitter, selfish woman. She has been blind since birth, but has a lot of money, so she should be happy.  But she is not.  She wants to see, even if only for a brief time.

As a result, she has made a deal with a poor shlub, Sidney Resnick (Tom Bosley).  Resnick is an inveterate gambler who is in debt to a bookie for $9000, and has made a deal with Ms. Menlo: to donate his eyes to her for the money to pay off his gambling debts.

But she needs a doctor to perform the surgery.  Fortunately her private doctor, Dr. Heatherton (Barry Sullivan) has the necessary skills.  But he refuses to do it.  That of course is no obstacle for Ms. Menlo.  She has some incriminating evidence against the doctor with which she can blackmail him.

See, some time ago the poor doctor succumbed to that evil temptation that happens to some married men.  He had an affair with a woman who was not his wife.  The result was that he got the girl pregnant, and then encouraged her to have an abortion.  And since he had a reputation and a marriage to protect, and abortion was still illegal at this point in time, the doctor to whom he sent her to perform it was less than reputable and the poor girl died on the operating table.

Ms. Menlo is not above doing anything to get her way.  She is a selfish old hag and tells Dr. Heatherton she will ruin his career and his marriage if he does not perform the eye transplant.  The doctor reluctantly performs the operation.  But not without warning his patient that the procedure  may have limited success.  At best she can only hope for about 12 hours of sight before the transplant fails.  But for this limited time, Ms. Menlo is willing to follow through.

After the operation, Dr. Heatherton warns that she should take it easy and expose herself to light gradually.  He then leaves her, intentionally turning on the bright living room light as he leaves.  Impatiently, Ms. Menlo removes the bandages quickly, but finds herself staring at the bright light of the chandelier.  Then everything goes black.

But this twist is not the final denouement.  As she stumbles around in the darkness we are gradually exposed to the truth.  There has been a blackout in the city.  Ms. Menlo has the misfortune of gaining eyesight only to be plunged into total darkness again by fate.

As day breaks, she does finally get to see.  She finds herself gazing at a beautiful sunrise.

But even as she looks at it, the operation's success gradually runs out of time.  She reaches out pleadingly as the new eyes go blind again, inadvertently pressing against her penthouse window, which is cracked from the previous night's flailing and tumbles out to her death.

Night Gallery continued in it's tradition of "just desserts", as Ms. Menlo gets a comeuppance that she truly deserves.  This proved to be one of Crawford's final appearances on film as she passed away a few years later from a heart attack, but it is one of the better late film portrayals.

Time to fire up the Plymouth for the drive home.  Drive safely, folks.


Saturday, May 4, 2019

And the Child Will Lead

This is my entry in the Audrey Hepburn at 90 Blogathon hosted bu Sister Celluloid.

It's always been hard for me to understand society's hostile view of homosexuality in the period before Stonewall.  Although I grew up raised to view homosexuality from an evangelical Biblical view (in which it is cast as a sin against God), I was also raised to accept others as they were.  Which is something of an oddity when you consider that I have gone on the right side of that equation in my life.  I am heterosexual by nature (and/or upbringing), but I accept the idea of an alternative lifestyle as being equal to my own choice.

Anita Bryant made headline news in the 70's when she campaigned for the repeal of a law that prohibited schools from discrimination based on sexual orientation.  It was called "Save Our Children" and based on some concept that "being gay" was somehow contagious.  At least that's the impression I got.  I think she thought that gay teachers had some secret agenda to indoctrinate their charges with the decision to become gay.

From the early days of the Hays Code, homosexuality had been deemed verboten; you couldn't talk about it directly and any ostensibly gay characters in a film had to come to an untimely end if they were even presented in the first place.  When Lillian Hellman wrote her play that was produced on Broadway, The Children's Hour, which she based on a real 19th century event, it was optioned by Hollywood.  The original play contained the basic premise of one of the students at a girl's school accusing two of her teachers of being lesbians.

But when Hollywood came to call in 1936,  William Wyler , the director,  had to change the name of the movie to These Three, and the basic premise was changed from a lesbian relationship to one in which one of the two women had had a sexual encounter with the other's fiance.  By 1961, some of the strictures of the Hays Code had been relaxed, and Wyler was able to film the play in it's more original form.

The Children's Hour (1961):

Karen (Audrey Hepburn) and Martha (Shirley MacLaine) are old college chums who now run a girl's boarding school.  Martha's Aunt Lily (Miriam Hopkins) helps out.  Karen is engaged to Joe (James Garner), a doctor, but she is also an independent woman.  She has postponed any potential marriage to her beau because she wants the school to be a success first, and she is reluctant to ditch Martha with the school until it can survive on its own.

Going to the school is Mary (Karen Balkin), the granddaughter  of  Amelia Tilford (Fay Bainter).  (Amelia is also the aunt of Joe.)  Mary is a spoiled child, always in trouble at the school, and a selfish conniving little brat.  She constantly uses her manner to get her way, and when that doesn't happen, she isn't above pretending to have all kinds of illnesses to manouever people into feeling sorry for her.

Karen is not one to fall for this subterfuge, however.  When Mary is caught telling a lie, Karen reacts by refusing to allow her to attend a special event.  Mary reacts with typical brattiness, but that doesn't help her situation.  So she tells her Aunt Amelia that she knows a secret about Karen and Martha.  She claims she has seen them in intimate situations (in other words, that they are lesbians).

No one believes her until Mary blackmails a fellow student, Rosalie (a young Veronica Cartwright).  It seems that Mary knows Rosalie is the resident kleptomaniac on campus, and threatens to reveal the fact unless Rosalie corroborates her story.  The result is Amelia is convinced of Mary's story and uses the information to spread the story, and most of the girls are removed from the school by their parents.

Karen and Martha decide to file a lawsuit against Amelia and they plan to use Lily's testimony to help them win their case.  Except Lily doesn't show up for the court case and the two lose.  As the impending closing of the school becomes more and more possible, Karen and Martha commisserate with each other.  Martha then reveals that she thinks she does have those kinds of feelings for Karen and is ashamed of them.

But the fact remains that the two women were not lesbians, and when Amelia finds out that Mary lied she tries to make amends with them.  But Karen is adamant that she is not going to accept the apology.  Martha, for her part, is so ahamed of her feelings she takes drastic measures.  And Karen, who has determined that Joe was not entirely convinced the rumors were untrue, chooses to break off with him.

This movie is a hard one to watch for someone who has such libertarian attitudes towards the private lives of the individual.  I feel for both Karen and Martha in the destruction of their lives; it doesn't matter whether or not the rumors were true, they should have been left alone.

The Children's Hour received 5 Academy Award nominations, although it failed to win any.  Significantly neither Hepburn or MacLaine were nominated for Best Actress.  (Hepburn was nominated in the same year for Breakfast at Tiffany's).  The only actress to receive a nomination was Fay Bainter for her portrayal of the vindictive Aunt Amelia.

The movie is a good example of the intolerance of society towards those who don't fit in to what the society at large considers "normal".  And it still rings somewhat true, even today.

Time to head home.  Drive safely, folks.


Sunday, April 28, 2019

My Favorite Sports Movie

I am a huge football fan.  (That's American Football to you readers in Europe.  We call your "football" soccer here.)  I will watch a game between two second tier college teams if I come across it on TV and there is no other football games more pressing to me.  The action is thrilling, the hits dynamic and the scores are well worth the time I spend watching them.

My second favorite sport is basketball.  I love the energy that those players have to run up and down the court, and the game can change at any moment.  Especially interesting is the playoffs, both in college (known as the "March Madness") and in professional basketball.  Like football, on any given day a team can have a streak going for them and defeat a much better team, so you never really can be sure who will win.

Third on my list is hockey.  The speed of hockey is what draws me more than anything, and a 1-0 final score is a really great defensive game.  Scoring can be higher, especially if the goalies are having an off day.

At a distant fourth is baseball.  At least with the other three sports you have a lot of action and there is some sense of when it is going to end.  Baseball never ends in a tie, however.  I saw one playoff game between my beloved Houston Astros against the rival Atlanta Braves which went 18 innings and lasted almost 6 hours.  (The longest game in Major League Baseball,  by the way, went 25 innings and lasted a whopping 8 hours.)

Baseball itself can be interesting, to a point, but there is waaaaaaaaaay too much down time between the action.  There's a reason why they call the break in the seventh inning "the Seventh Inning Stretch".  If you've been sitting down through that many innings you probably need the chance to get up or your legs might atrophy...

"So, Quiggy", you might ask, "why is your favorite sports movie about the sport of baseball?  Why didn't you pick The Longest Yard (which has some of the best football action in any football movie)? Why not Hoosiers (which is a damn good basketball film)?  Or even Slap Shot or Miracle (both of which give us some beautiful hockey action)? Or any others you might have come up with that don't involve baseball..."

Some of it has to do with my love of history. Eight Men Out beautifully captures the spirit of the times, even if it's focus is on one of the more disreputable events of the early 20th century.  (And if you want to delve into the scandal I highly recommend the book on which the movie was based Eight Men Out by Eliot Asinof.)

But the second is that it has a collection of some of the greatest character actors of the time. Some of them may have escaped your notice, and in fact when I tell people about this movie, most who are not as avid movie watchers as I am will say "Who?" when I mention almost any other name besides John Cusack or Charlie Sheen.

But just look at the some of the names.  David Strathairn plays Eddie Cicotte.  I fist latched on to Strathairn when he appeared in the Robert Redford vehicle Sneakers where he played a blind computer hacker (and did it so well I actually thought the actor was blind until I saw him in this movie, which actually preceded Sneakers but I didn't watch until after that movie).

David Strathairn as Eddie Cicotte

Clifton James plays the White Sox Owner Charles Comiskey.  James is memorable as one of only two characters played by the same actor in multiple James Bond movies.  (He plays Sgt J. W. Pepper in Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun).

Clifton James as Charles Commiskey

 Michael Rooker plays Chick Gandil.  Rooker came to prominence as the titular character in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and also appeared prominently in Mississippi Burning  and as Yondu in the recent Guardians of the Galaxy.

Michael Rooker as "Chick" Gandil

John Mahoney is familiar to many as the father on the TV show Frasier.  Kevin Tighe was one of the paramedics on the 70's TV show Emergency!  And Michael C. Lerner who plays gambling bigwig Arnold Rothstein was a runner-up for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Barton Fink.

John Mahoney (R) as "Kid" Gleason
Kevin Tighe as "Sport" Sullivan

 Other names you might or might not recognize include John Anderson, D. B. Sweeney and Studs Terkel (who was not known as an actor, but was a prominent writer in his day.)

Eight Men Out barely managed to crack the top 30 in  Digital Dream Door's Top 100 Sports Movies, beaten out by Bull Durham, Pride of the Yankees, and The Natural.  (as well, as Field of Dreams, but you can see my opinion on that particular movie here.  Other websites put up even more movies they consider better.  I'm not disparaging any of them.  But I think Eight Men Out deserves a better ranking than just a figurative "also ran".

Eight Men Out (1988):

The 1919 Chicago White Sox are at the top of their game.  Not only do they easily win the American League pennant (before 1969 only the team with the best record advanced, there were no playoffs) and were almost assured of beating the crap out the National League champion, the Cincinnati Reds in their 9 game World Series.  (Note: for several years the best of 7 games for the series was changed to 9, before reverting back to best of 7.)

Charles Commiskey (Clifton James), portrayed as a cheap penny-pinching miser has engendered a lot of hatred by the players.  He refuses to give bonuses, pays the players a pittance compared to their counterparts on other teams, and even at one point pays the players a bonus in champagne (which is flat...).  As such it easy to see how some players could fall victim to a plan to "fix" the Series.  Whether or not such players as "Chick" Gandil (Michael Rooker), "Swede" Risberg (Don Harvery) and Eddie Cicotte (David Strathairn) had any "legitimate" reasons for siding with the gamblers for what seemed better money, the fact of the matter was that the members of the team that conspired to throw the Series, something that although had not been done on such a grand level had been done in the past.  Albeit only for insignificant games during the season.

What happens is two separate coterie of gangsters try to convince a smattering of key players to throw the series.  Gandil is the mastermind of the fix on the players side, but he is at the whims of Bill Burns (Christopher Lloyd) and Billy Maharg (Richard Edson) in one corner and "Sport" Sullivan (Kevin Tighe) and Abe Attell (Michael Mantell) in the other.  Atell has close connections with bigwig Arnold Rothstein (Michael Lerner), but even Rothstein double crosses in this bait and switch atmosphere of big league gambling.

It should be no surprise that nobody can trust anybody else.  The players are promised one amount, but in the end they are only granted a pittance of the claimed payday.  The gamblers try to claim that much of the money is out on bets and that the players will eventually get paid after tey have performed their duties.  Needless to say there is some backbiting amongst the players and at one point several of them decide to say screw it, let's see if we can win.  But you know anything you know you can't double-cross the gambling syndicate.

Eventually the result is exactly the way the gamblers wanted it.  But several reporters with long-noses try to sniff out the truth behind the White Sox collapse in the series.  These include Hugh Fullerton (Studs Terkel) and the famed writer, then sports writer Ring Lardner (played by director John Sayles, who, by the way, actually looks a lot like Ring Lardner.  not sure if that's fancy make up magic or he actually does resemble the writer).

Ring Lardner
John Sayles as Ring Lardner

After uncovering enough evidence, eight former players are brought to trial.  Included are the aforementioned Cicotte, Gandil and Risberg, as well as "Shoeless Joe" Jackson (D. B. Sweeney), "Happy" Felsch (Charlie Sheen), "Lefty" Williams (James Read), Fred McMullin (Perry Lang) and "Buck" Weaver (John Cusack)  What follows is what was the trial of the century (or at least the trial of the early part of the century since it was only 20 years old at the time...)  ."Buck" Weaver for his part uses every opportunity to get himself separated from the rest since, although he knew about the fix, he refused to play anything but his best, as his record would show.  But he is denied that right.  As a result he stands trial with the rest of them.

The Eight Black Sox

Meanwhile the owners hire a commissioner to clean up baseball.  Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis (John Anderson) establishes that he as commissioner must have absolute control over his position and that the position must be for life, in order to not have the position open to playing favorites.  His first act as the newly formed position of Baseball commissioner is to ban the eight "Black Sox" for life and establishing the ground rules about gambling that the same should happen to anyone else who has knowledge of illegal gambling activities.  (Thus setting the precedent that has thus far kept Pete rose out of the Baseball Hall of Fame).

The baseball action in the movie is top notch.  Sayles could be given great credit to not only finding great actors, but ones who could pull off convincing baseball moves.  D> B> Sweeney in particular looks good, mainly because he is by nature a right-hander, but practiced hard to convince people he was the left-handed Joe Jackson.

Watch it for the baseball.  Watch it for the history.  Hell, watch it for the music.  Sayles got that right too, with some pretty good jazz numbers that befit the era.

Well folks, I'm outta here.  Drive safely.


Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Something Rotten

This is my entry in the Michael Caine Blogathon hosted by Realweegiemidget Reviews

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was a remake of a movie called Bedtime Story.  That movie starred David Niven and Marlon Brando in virtually the same roles (although the ending of the first movie was more fitting for the era and the ending of this one shows a much more twisted and cynical ending that the public had become willing to accept.  There is a new remake on the horizon (coming out next month), which has Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson in (apparently) female equivalents of the story's main characters.  The Hustle has not yet been released at press time for this blog piece however, but may appear as an addendum in the future (or may be good enough to merit one of my rare "current release" articles...)

A reminisce:  I went to see Dirty Rotten Scoundrels in the theater when it first came out.  After having watched most of it, the film broke.  By my estimation there was maybe 2 or 3 minutes left until the credits rolled.  The theater (graciously I think) gave all of the theater patrons passes to see the movie again, (or another movie), at a later date.  (I didn't actually see this one again until it was released on video.  As I recall,  I actually used the ticket to go see I'm Gonna Get You, Sucka.)

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988):

Lawrence Jamieson (Michael Caine) is a high class gigolo/scam artist.  He uses wit and charm to bilk rich women out of their money.  His main gig appears to be to convince them that he is an exiled prince from some foreign country who, along with some freedom fighters still in his former country, are fighting to free themselves of a dictatorial reign.  To this aid, he has the help of the local chief of police, Andre (Anton Rodgers) who helps convince the women Lawrence is whom he says he is.

Their are rumors of a competing confidence artist circulating the French Riviera. (Lawrence's stomping grounds of Beaumont-sur-mer is in the Riviera). The competing trickster is one whom is only known as "The Jackal".  Lawrence meets Freddy Benson (Steve Martin), a small-time grifter (one who preys on women, but thinks taking them for $20 is top hot stuff).  Lawrence is convinced that Freddy is "The Jackal" and tries to con him into traveling further down the coast instead of sicking around Beaumont-sur-mer.

But Freddy ends back in Beaumont-sur-mer.  So Lawrence, with the help of Andre,  gets one of Freddy's victims to file charges and has him jailed.  He then maneuvers Freddy to leave the Riveria and go back to America with the promise the charges will be dropped.

But on the plane Freddy finds out the true identity of Lawrence and manages to blackmail him into helping Freddy become a full-fledged raconteur.  Eventually Lawrence is able to groom Freddy into a respectable resemblance of a high-class person.  Then the two work together.  Lawrence does his usual shtick of manipulating the ladies, while Freddy becomes the backup in case marriage looms close.  See, Freddy is passed of as the nitwit brother of the prince that Lawrence portrays, thus causing the women to have second thoughts about a potential marriage.

When the going gets tough is when Lawrence refuses to cut Freddy in on the illicit gains.  It comes down to a battle to see who will win rightful domain over the territory.  Freddy bets Lawrence that the first one to extract a certain amount ($50,000 to be exact) from the same woman will win the territory and the other must leave./  The chosen victim is the newly arrived "Soap Queen",  Janet Colgate (Glenne Headly).

Freddy poses as a cripple soldier, but one whose "crippling" is purely, he admits, psychosomatic.  (It's all in his mind, even though he wants to walk, a fictional ditching by a true love being the cau, se.)  He claims there is a doctor who will "cure" him, but he needs $50,000 for him.  Step in Lawrence, who in his effort to be the one who will win the bet, claims to be said doctor.

But all is not what it seems.  It turns out that Janet is not a rich heiress, merely a young girl who won a soap company's contest and was named "Soap Queen" and given a free trip to Europe as part of the winnings.  Freddy, being more mercenary, says that he is willing to settle for whatever they can wrangle out of her, but Lawrence has a gentleman's heart and dismisses the bet.  Only to agree to "make her the bet".  See, Freddy, thinking below the neck as usual, decides that the one that gets her in bed first is the better man.  But Lawrence has different ideas about chivalry and manhood.

Stick around for the end.  I guarantee you won't see it coming.  According to director Frank Oz, he and Martin spent most of the movie production hashing out ideas on how to end it.  I will say it is a very satisfying ending.  Can't wait to see what they do with the upcoming remake of The Hustle.

Well folks, time to head back to the villa.  Drive safely, folks.


Thursday, April 18, 2019

Bridges of Destiny

This is my entry in the William Holden Blogathon hosted by The Wonderful World of Cinema, Love Letters to Old Hollywood and the Flapper Dame

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957):

Com. Shears (William Holden) has been a prisoner of the Japanese Army for quite some time.  As a result he has some small ability to manipulate the lesser officers of the internment camp.  After a burial detail  (there is a very high death rate in the camp, although not always due to the rigors of disease), Shears manages to get he and his companion put on the sick list.  It is from here that he witness the arrival of a cadre of British prisoners.

Led by Lt. Col. Nicholson (Alec Guinness), the cadre of Brits arrive marching smartly in step while whistling "Colonel Bogey's March".  (Once you hear this, I feel certain it will stick with you forever...  I heard it once about 40 years ago, long before I ever saw the movie and still remembered it when I finally watched the movie.)

Col. Saito (Sessue Hayakawa), the commander of the internment camp, informs the prisoners that they will be required to build a railroad  bridge to cross the River Kwai.  He insists that there will be no idleness, that even the officers will be required to work.  Nicholson informs Saito that the rules of the Geneva Convention specifically state that officers cannot be forced to do manual labor.  Thus begins a battle of wills.

Nicholson and his officers are punished and his men react with appropriate British tact and finesse by screwing up the building of the bridge  at every opportunity.  Eventually Saito has to break down and give in, because he is on a schedule from his higher-ups for a certain completion date, but he does it with typical Japanese "saving-face" style, by claiming he is doing it as a part of a celebration of an historical Japanese victory in a previous war.

Meanwhile, Shears and two others attempt to escape.  The two others are killed and Shears is assumed to have drowned.  He doesn't.  He gets away and eventually lands in Ceylon, where he is living a life of luxury.  Until the local British command virtually draft him into helping a squad of men go back into the jungle with the goal of blowing up the bridge Nicholson and his men are building.  Shears, as you might expect, is not too happy about it, and tries to get out of it, going so far as to reveal that he is not Com. Shears, but someone else, who had assumed the role of his dead commander to get better treatment by the Japanese.  But it turns out he wasn't fooling anyone.  The Americans had turned him over to the British to avoid any complications by having him court-martialed.

The film then swaps back and forth between Shears and his squad's attempts to reach and complete their objective and Nicholson and his men trying to do a good job on the bridge.  Nicholson becomes adamant that, despite the intent of the Japanese for use of the bridge, that he and his men will complete the bridge in good order and that it will be something that the British men working on it can be proud of.

What transpires towards the end is surprising,  Guinness won an Oscar for his role.  In fact The Bridge on the River Kwai won every award for which it was nominated except for Best Supporting Actor.  (Sessue Hayakawa lost to Red Buttons for his role in Sayonara)

Flash forward 10 years or so.  In yet another war, this time in Korea.

The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1951):

Fighting the Koreans in the conflict as a jet fighter, Lt. Harry Brubaker (William Holden) runs out of fuel and is forced to ditch his plane in the sea.  He is rescued by a helicopter crew consisting of Mike Forney (Mickey Rooney) and Nestor Gamidge (Earl Holliman).

Forney is a bit of a problem with his superiors.  For one thing, when flying, he wears a non-regulation green top hat and scarf.  And for another he is a (stereo)typical Irishnan and gets in a lot of fights.  But he is a damn good pilot, and Brubaker develops a relationship with him as a result.

Brubaker's wife, Nancy (Grace Kelly) shows up in Japan and Brubaker is given a leave to visit with her and his two daughters.  He reluctantly tells her about the upcoming dangerous mission that he and his fellow pilots will be attempting, that of taking out the crucial bridges located at Toko-Ri.  While in Japan, he also has to bail out his new found friend, Forney, because the latter got in a fight over a Japanese woman whom he, Forney, has decided he is going to marry.  But said woman has left him for another sailor on another ship.

Back on his ship, Brubaker starts to get cold feet about the mission.  His commander, CDR Wayne Lee (Charles McGraw) tells him he won't look down on him if Brubaker decides to pull himself out of the fight, but that he will be very upset if Brubaker endangers the mission by following through with basd nerves and ends up scrubbing the mission.  Eventually Brubaker does get a renewed perspective and decides to stay with the mission.

After a successful mission, Brubaker's plane is hit by enemy fire and he attempts to return to the ship before his fuel runs out.  But he ends up having to crash land in enemy territory.  A rescue helicopter with Forney and Gamidge is sent out to retrieve him.   But will they rescue him before he is captured by enemy soldiers?

Although this movie has less dramatic acting than the previous film, it still has something going for it.  It blends a documentary feel for the action in the Korean conflict.  The air attack on the bridges  are fantastic.  And despite the relative low dramatic acting, Holden does hold his own.

Well, folks time to fire up the jets and head home.  Drive safely.