Sunday, July 29, 2007
Fact Number One:
According to the Personality Diagnostic Checklist for Mental Disorders developed by the World Health Organization, a PSYCHOPATH can be defined as anyone who exhibits these six character traits:
1. Callous unconcern for the feelings of others
2. Incapacity to maintain enduring relationships
3. Reckless disregard for the safety of others
4. Deceitfulness: repeated lying and conning of others for profit
5. Incapacity to experience guilt
6. Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors
Sounds about right.
Clearly anyone who single-mindedly pursues their own wills and desires, who lies repeatedly, who inflicts harm without reference to conventional morality, who breaches social and legal standards and does this without any sense of guilt fits perfectly the profile of a psychopath. Sounds like Alberto, Scooter, Teddy and that doggone Vick fellow doesn't it?
Fact Number Two:
In the late 18th century the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the business organizational model known as a "corporation" is legally a person.
If so, what kind of person is it?
According to Director Mark Achbar and Co-director Jennifer Abbott, the corporation, like a psychopath, is callous to the needs of others (including other corporations), lies repeatedly, inflicts harm without emotion, breaches social and legal standards to get its way and does not suffer any guilt whatsoever.
Don't laugh -- Achbar and Abbott make a fairly convincing argument in what has become Canada's most successful documentary ever. Clearly Michael Moore does not have a monopoly on presenting controversial, compelling and provocative insight into a contemporary topic. Although the film is overly long and, at times, annoyingly repetitive, one cannot help but wonder if the demise of Communism might not have helped foster another heartless, godless totalitarianism that threatens our way of life in America -- government of the corporations, by the corporations and for the corporations.
THE CORPORATION makes a compelling argument that, more than ever, commerce and profit rule and thus corporations have become the dominant economic, social and political force in most parts of today's world. Such overwhelming power in the hands of those who run companies vs. those who run governments, according to the filmmakers, has egregious consequences for one and all since the sole overriding goal of any corporation is simply to maximize profits for the shareholders and to maximize the salaries for the top CEOs -- everything else is window dressing at best. Forget about "the common good" -- a multitude of well paid lobbyists no longer influence our politicians, they have even begun to actually write the legislation they want passed.
Yes, we can beat around the Bushes all we want, and that is certainly a fun, entertaining activity, but it isn't the White House or Congress that rules America, it is corporate greed.
Ticker tape -- not ballots -- prevail.
Friday, July 27, 2007
One of the all-time great movie lines occurs in BILLY ROSE'S JUMBO, a 1962 M-G-M feature that takes place in and around a circus. In the film Jimmy Durante is trying to sneak past a policeman with an appropriately named Jumbo in tow. The suspicious cop stops him and asks, "What are you doing with that elephant?"
Durante's classic response: "What elephant?"
Talk about denial.
Forty-five years later I was reminded of this scene when I first read about the remarkably secret construction of the largest, most opulent embassy on the face of the earth. When completed it will equal in size the entire Vatican, so gigantic, in fact, that I'm told it will become the only diplomatic outpost ever to be visible from space.
Say "hello" to the new American Baghdad Embassy.
Twenty-one buildings spread over 104 acres, complete with a beauty shop, a barber shop, a gym, a spa, tennis courts, a movie theater, the largest swimming pool in the country and restaurants serving US food chain favorites.
Apparently our Department of State wants to supersize everything, not just a Happy Meal.
Of course, the embassy will have its own water wells, electricity plant and wastewater treatment facility, thus making it 100% independent from any and all city utilities. That's smart, since the embassy is presently the only major U.S. construction project in Iraq that is even remotely on schedule.
The current cost to American taxpayers is a staggering one-half billion dollars. That's a pretty penny especially since the embassy is conveniently located along the banks of the Tigris River within easy mortar fire range of anti-US forces in the capital. Some have already called this compound "Mortaritaville." Others have labeled it the "Fortress of Folly." One-half billion dollars is a lot for what will surely become an irresistible bull's-eye. At least the roof is being heavily reinforced in deference to that little incident in Saigon some years ago.
Yes, one-half billion dollars for construction and another $2.8 billion earmarked for "operations" in the year 2008. Just think how many "Shoot-N-C Targets" that will buy you at Cabela's. No wonder the current administration continues to keep this White House Elephant under wraps and doggedly denies any kind of planned permanent plantation (for lack of a better word) in the Middle East.
As Jimmy Durante would say, "Inka dinka do."
Yes, there's denial. A whole lot of denial as well as this interesting comment by President Bush during his infamous "Mission Accomplished" speech: "We're helping to rebuild Iraq, where the dictator built palaces for himself, instead of hospitals and schools."
I guess the hospitals and schools will come, eventually, perhaps even "undeniably."
Goodnight, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are...
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
If it's Tuesday, this must be bedlam...
According to the bio posted at www.imdb.com, Tuesday Weld first began her career as a successful child model. At nine years of age she suffered a nervous breakdown. At ten she started drinking heavily. One year later she started having affairs. And at age 12 she tried to commit suicide.
Lord have mercy. (This trumps Paris, Lindsay and Nicole combined.)
One more tidbit -- at fourteen a Hollywood magazine reported Tuesday's measurements to be 36-19-35. No wonder she was once the apple of Dobie Gillis' eye.
PRETTY POISON stars Tuesday Weld and Anthony Perkins in a cult classic that broke new ground when it was initially released in 1968. Never before had white-bread, Middle America looked so deranged. Perkins is perfectly cast as a damn near certifiably crazy, tormented arsonist possesed with far-fetched flights of fancy. Compared to Weld's character, however, he's the "normal" one.
Weld plays a perky, fresh-faced, All-American, flag-waving, squeaky clean, innocence personified small town sweetheart who transforms into an utterly unrepentant, scheming killer. The scene of her sitting nonchalantly on the submerged head of the elderly security guard is erotic, shocking and deliciously perverse. Pretty, pretty poison indeed.
Based on Stephen Geller's novel, SHE LET HIM CONTINUE, and adapted for the screen by Lorenzo Semple, Jr. (best known as the screenwriter for THE PARALLAX VIEW, THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR and, especially, TV's BATMAN), PRETTY POISON has influenced a host of filmmakers over the decades. David Lynch and Quentin Tarantino are just two names that come to mind.
PRETTY POISON was director Noel Black's theatrical debut. His subsequent career was almost exclusively relegated to television, however, where he directed such shows as HAWAII FIVE-O, McCLOUD, KOJACK and several MOW's including QUARTERBACK PRINCESS and PROMISES TO KEEP. This seems surprising to me; I cannot help but wonder why he wasn't offered more feature film opportunities.
As for Ms. Weld, she is famous for the number of major motion picture projects she turned down: LOLITA, BONNIE AND CLYDE, TRUE GRIT, CACTUS FLOWER and BOB & CAROL & TED & ALICE. In explaining these decisions, she once said, "I do not want to be a huge star. Do you think I want success? I refused BONNIE AND CLYDE because I was nursing at the time but also because deep down I knew it was going to be a huge success. The same was true of BOB & CAROL & FRED & SUE or whatever it was called. It reeked of success." Success may have spoiled Rock Hunter, but not Ms. Weld who ultimately succeeded in living her life exactly like she wanted.
One final note regarding Tuesday Weld --
When asked what drove her into seclusion in the 1970's she answered, "I think it was a Buick."
Zelda Gilroy couldn't have said it better.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
I've long had a secret desire to yell "FIRE!" in a theater, but have refrained from doing so because of the repercussions. When A SCANNER DARKLY opened in 2006, I missed my chance -- movie patrons were fleeing this self-proclaimed dystopian miasma en mass within the first ten minutes. Oh well, I'm sure Robin Williams will be releasing another film sometime soon and so I'll probably get at least one more opportunity.
Austin auteur Writer/Director Richard Linklater is the man responsible for adapting Philip K. Dick's semi-famous novel that focuses on the cyclical nature of addiction and the erosion of individual privacy in a suburbia just around the corner. Heady stuff, indeed. Surprisingly, Mr. Linklater misfires more often than a 1970 Ford Torino in Chama, New Mexico. This is quite unexpected since Linklater is unquestionably one of the most talented filmmakers around; by far the best residing in the so-called Live Music Capital of the World.
Well, no one is perfect.
The film stars Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey, Jr., Woody Harrelson and Winona Ryder whose likenesses were altered via an interpolated rotoscope technique that must have been developed by Roto-Rooter. This is the same annoying special effect used in the deplorable Charles Schwab commercials which ran a year or two ago. At least Chuck's TV ads only lasted sixty seconds; A SCANNER DARKLY plods along at 100 minutes. This may not sound like much, but you would swear this is significantly longer than the gestation period for a rogue elephant.
A key ingredient within the underlying story is a drug referred to as "Substance D" because it induces "dumbness, despair, desertion and death." Except for the "death" part, this pretty much describes A SCANNER DARKLY. If you're looking for a satisfactory head trip, you best look elsewhere...Chama, perhaps, where the smoke in the air isn't exclusively from the Cumbres & Toltec Railroad.
An aside: One of the first rotoscoped Charles Schwab commercials featured Suzanne Savoy, a close friend, a terrific actress and an even better person. Should any casting directors happen to stumble across this posting I sincerely hope they will consider Suzanne for their next project. One can do no better.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
There was cause for celebration yesterday in Los Angeles when two of the oldest, largest and most notorious gangs in America found themselves pushed aside as the crime lords of La La Land.
Well, the CRIPS and the BLOODS are no longer Public Enemy #1 and #1A thanks to the leadership of one Phony Mahony. With the stroke of a pen on a heretofore blank check the Archbishop of Los Angeles has successfully protected his multitude of minions who "prey" (not "pray") on young boys and girls from having to submit themselves to any kind of court proceedings and, heaven forbid, the incarceration they so justly deserve.
Isn't it great what $660 million can do? The PAPAL PEDOPHILES remain free and, apparently, above the law, both spiritual and secular.
Of course, Archbishop Mahony was only following orders from the top -- Pope Benedict XVI -- who is just the latest in a long line of "popentates" who protect the "rank and vile" not only in Southern California, but worldwide. (At last count the Roman Catholic Church has paid out over $2 billion dollars to sexual abuse victims and their families. This appears to be only the beginning...)
So, what's next?
Here's an idea -- How about electing Michael Jackson as the next Pope?
Pope Michael VII (there have apparently been six Pope Michaels throughout history) would make a dandy leader of the Papal Pedophiles. All that's needed is a little velcro inside the headband of the Official Mitre to help hold it in place, move the Apostolic Palace from the Vatican to Neverland, serve Communion Wafers in the likeness of Fred and Wilma Flintstone and let the party begin. Everyone under thirteen is invited!
(Yes, a behind is a terrible thing to waste...)
Monday, July 16, 2007
REIGN OF THE FALLEN is definitely among the very best "fan films" produced to date.
By definition, a "fan film" is a film (or, most likely, a video) that is inspired by a movie, television show, comic book or a similar source that is created by fans rather than by professional filmmakers. These productions are invariably low budget efforts and the vast majority are so poorly made they are unwatchable.
Credit must be given to Writer/Director David McLeavy and Producer Jonathan Wang who have demonstrated incredible perseverance and talent in elevating the fan film genre to new heights. Shot in twenty days over a period of two years, REIGN OF THE FALLEN has the look of a Hollywood feature. This is essentially a samurai movie set in a STAR WARS milieu, and despite the ridiculously low budget of $7,000, the cinematography is superb, the sound design is fantastic, the production values are solid and the special effects are more than credible. (You'll not believe this entire film was shot in "The Garden State").
One hates to quibble over such a remarkable cinematic achievement, but it must be pointed out that David McLeavy's talent on screen is no match with what he accomplishes off screen. By casting himself in the lead role he has done a major disservice to his project. It is not so much that he is a terrible actor, he's simply ill-suited for the part. A dead ringer for Bobby Labonte's left tire changer is not the look or the persona of a Jedi hero. And don't even get me started on the supposedly prized necklace that is featured prominently. At best this looks like a trinket purchased at a Wig-Wam curio shop in Tucumcari.
As with all fan films, REIGN OF THE FALLEN cannot be sold commercially due to copyright issues. Instead, I encourage you to download the film for free at www.reignofthefallen.com.
Steven Spielberg may not be too concernced, but I believe Satchel Paige made a good point when he said, "Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you."
'Tis true...and what I see making gains are talented, dedicated young filmmakers like McLeavy and Wang who are the Spielbergs of the not too distant future in a galaxy not so far away.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Step aside Dubya, it looks like the world has another "Great Decider" -- in this case it is none other than Pope Benedict Arnold who has reasserted the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church saying that other Christian communities are either defective or not true churches because Catholicism provides the only true path to salvation.
"Christ established here on earth 'only one church' and the other communities cannot be called 'churches' in the proper sense because they do not have apostolic succession," i.e. the ability to trace their bishops back to Christ's original apostles.
According to the World Christian Encyclopedia (2nd Edition), there are over 33,000 Protestant denominations in 238 countries representing over 590 million people.
Pope Benny has decided you are all "defective." Apparently this is proof positive that the Pope is, in fact, holier than thou...
(Can't help but wonder just what kind of smoke ascended from the chimney atop the Sistine Chapel on April 19, 2005.)
Thursday, July 5, 2007
"You don't have to have a point to have a point." Little Oblio, THE POINT (1971)
SCHULTZE GETS THE BLUES is one of the most unusual films you will ever see. The pacing is extremely slow, the dialogue almost non-existant and the overall style is so understated you will initially find yourself asking, "What's the point?"
Plenty. Forget the popcorn and pass the strudel...
Some things just take a little extra time before they succeed in taking you in, and first-time Writer/Director Michael Schorr makes a remarkably impressive debut in this unforgettable character study of an aging man who is forced into early retirement. Horst Krause plays the title character, and his droll, deadpan performance will definitely win you over if given the chance. This is a film about loneliness, boredom and the healing power of music. In this case it's good ol' zydeco music that captures the imagination and the dying spirit of an amateur German accordion player with little to live for now that he's saddled with nothing but free time on his hands. As Schorr so poignantly points out, retirement often is a dead end road with nothing to offer along the way. This is especially true if you have been working in a salt mine, literally, all of your life.
SCHULTZE GETS THE BLUES ultimately becomes a "road picture," similar in tone to Richard Farnsworth's endearing THE STRAIGHT STORY (1999). One main difference, however, is that director Schorr relies almost entirely on "mise en scene" to tell his story, something that is both rare and rarely well done. Mis en scene literally means "putting into the scene," and while there seems to be considerable misunderstanding regarding the meaning of this cinematic technique, it simply indicates that much of the story unfolds within the confines of a series of long-held, static shots. The information viewers need can be found in the background and in the foreground and in people/things moving into and out of most scenes as opposed to a series of edits each with a different angle or viewpoint. This second cinematic style is known as "montage" and it is by far the dominant technique used by filmmakers worldwide. Given what is called "today's MTV generation," rapid-fire montage editing will continue to dominate for years to come. Ich wunsche, dass dies nicht wahr war. (Sorry about the missing umlaut.)
Schorr deftly reveals through his leisurely-paced series of static shots a skilled sense of composition, a confident grasp of visually-induced narrative economy and a sharp, insightful eye for detail. He also provides a surprisingly generous portrait of American hospitality when Schultze is sent to my home town of New Braunfels, Texas to represent his East German village at the annual Wurstfest celebration. Sadly, Schultze fails to take the stage despite being warmly accepted by everyone he meets, giving cinematic credence to the saying, "In New Braunfels ist das leben schon!" Yeah, right...
Schultze may have failed to take the stage in New Braunfels, but he succeeds in sailing to Cajun country where, ultimately, his journey (secular and spiritual) takes a surprising turn. As I previously indicated, SCHULTZE GETS THE BLUES is a very unique viewing experience. Like the blues, this is a film you will "feel" first and find meaning later. Maybe much later. But it will come...and you will get the point.
(For another example of mise en scene filmmaking I refer the reader to Otto Preminger's HURRY SUNDOWN (1967). What Mr. Preminger is able to convey within each wide-angle shot is amazing. You owe it to yourself to see what I mean).