Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Yesterday I was lucky enough to catch one of my all-time favorite movies thanks to my Dish Network subscription. KING OF HEARTS (aka LE ROI DE COEUR) is a remarkable anti-war film directed by Philippe De Broca which stars Alan Bates as a WWI Scottish infantryman sent to a French village to disarm a bomb left behind by the retreating German army.
Private Charles Plumpick is an odd selection for the highly important job since he is merely a carrier pigeon specialist with absolutely no training when it comes to defusing explosives. He does speak French, however, so his Commanding Officer "volunteers" him for this dangerous assignment. The brilliance of this insightful, surreal cult allegory rests primarily on the premise that by the time Pvt. Plumpick arrives all of the regular villagers have fled to escape the impending detonation. They not only leave their homes and shops, they also leave the gate to the insane asylum open so the inmates will be able to fend for themselves. Within hours every one of the "lunatics" has assumed a role in the village and the absurdist fun begins.
The screenplay by Daniel Boulanger is based on a short story by Maurice Bessy. It is a light-hearted romp with a surgically penetrating point of view which asks: "Who are the real lunatics?" Is it those who just hours ago were incarcerated in a mental institution or is it the English and German soldiers who slaughter one another simply because they are ordered to do so?
De Broca and company provide a clear-cut answer. One of the many profound lines of dialogue comes from one of the lunatic villagers who, in the aftermath of the horrific battle in the town square which mows down in a hail of gunfire every soldier and officer from both armies, quips: "Don't you think these actors are going a bit too far for a game?"
As we all know, war is not a game; but it can definitely be insane.
Other highlights include the lilting, yet highly evocative musical score by Georges Delerue and the casting of Genevieve Bujold in one of her first major screen appearances. She captures your heart...and I defy anyone to take their eyes off her when she is in a scene. Any scene, anyone -- man or woman.
Tomorrow, Thursday, December 29, Turner Classics will air another absolute must-see motion picture, Stanley Kubrick's PATHS OF GLORY starring Kirk Douglas, Adolphe Menjou, George Macready and Ralph Meeker. This is a another stunning antiwar film which will also remain in your heart and in your mind for a long, long time. Set your clocks to 5:30 p.m. Central time.
Saturday, December 24, 2005
They've done it again.
This week another egregious ruling was made by our favorite governmental agency. For reasons that verge on being unfathomable, those wily wildebeests at the United States Treasury Department have banned Cuba from participating in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.
For those of you unfamiliar with the WBC, it is an exciting new event for baseball fans worldwide. Sixteen national teams will compete in this international tournament comprised of many of the biggest marquee names in the game, each playing for their home country. Among the 400 all-stars committed to play are Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Tadahito Iguchi, Omar Vizquel, Vinny Castilla and Alfonso Soriano.
Missing from the fray, however, will be the island nation of Cuba where their "field of dreams" is perhaps only second to our own. This is an outrage and a black mark in the world of sport as well as in the world of international diplomacy.
Many baseball fans have called the New York Yankees "The Evil Empire", especially those residing in Beantown. I say there is a more insidious evil among us -- it is the IRS and their brethren at the Treasury Department who have decided to stick their nose where it doesn't belong. In fact, the legitimacy of this fascist decision is so irrational I must assume Adolf Schickelgruber is spinning in his grave.
Even Yogi Berra is speechless... What must Cookie Rojas think???
(Yes, that's none other than Fidel Castro on the mound in Havana's Field of Dreams)
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
MR. & MRS. SMITH
Brad's the pits. Script fails.
More plot holes than bullet holes.
Beware Jolie's lips.
This big screen orgasm should have been titled MR. & MRS. SMITH & WESSON given the the bullet count and the array of rapid-fire weaponry deployed during the interminably long third act. Still, some will find the film worthy of a Blockbuster rental if just to see Angelina Jolie's big, juicy lips. Freak shows like this are mostly a thing of the past, but thanks to wide-screen aspect ratios and letterbox DVDs one cannot help but revel at those rosy reds. Personally, I find them abhorrent -- kinda like one giant crimson-painted caulfilower stacked above another. Yep, they are that large, that lumpy and that creepy. Makes me glad to know that I'm not a trailer hitch...
Wednesday, December 7, 2005
Last night CBS aired my absolute favorite Holiday Season television special -- "A Charlie Brown Christmas."
This truly remarkable program was first broadcast on Thursday, December 9, 1965. Forty years later, this uniquely simple, heartfelt production has become the longest-running animated television special in history.
There are two especially remarkable things about "A Charlie Brown Christmas."
One, of course, is the sprightly and poignant jazz riffs by composer Vince Guaraldi -- a smooth trio composition (piano, bass and drums) which form a perfectly balanced accompaniment for Charley Brown's kid-sized universe. Simply put, the music has become an established musical trademark which continues to provide smiles and smiles of recognition worldwide. Perhaps Jon Hendricks, the poet laureate of jazz, described Vince's music best: "Vince is what you call a piano player. That's different from a pianist. A pianist can play anything you can put in front of him. A piano player can play anything BEFORE you can put it in front of him." Unfortunately, Vince Guaraldi passed away on February 6, 1976, at the age of 47.
The other truly remarkable thing is that actual children were used for the voices of all the favorite Peanuts characters (excluding Snoopy whose voice was that of Director Bill Melendez). In fact, many of these children were so young they delivered their lines phonetically, not even understanding what it was they were saying.
While it may be true the kids delivering the dialogue may not have understood what it was they were saying, rest assured that PEANUTS creator Charles M. Schulz fully grasped exactly what was being said. You see, towards the end Linus reveals to Charlie Brown the true meaning of Christmas by quoting Luke 2:8-14 from the King James translation of the Bible. Mr. Schulz was met with considerable reluctance regarding the insertion of such an overtly religious, Biblical reference. When confronted about this and facing considerable pressure to give in, Schulz reportedly won everyone over by saying, "If we don't do it, who will?" Who will, indeed? And that, friends and neighbors, is another reason why this television special is truly "special."