Monthly Archives: May 2012

by Marie Belloc Lowndes
                                                             
Lodger


Lowndes drew inspiration for this 1913 novel from the Jack the Ripper slayings, but the authors genius lay in whom she chose to play her protagonist:  a frumpy, middle-aged landlady.  Just as Dostoyevsky placed readers inside the guilty mind of Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment, Lowndes puts the psychological in “psychological thriller” by lodging us firmly within the rattled thoughts of “Mrs. Bunting,” an oh-so-proper English maid who grows increasingly paranoid, fearful, and – hold on – attracted to the mysterious gentleman who takes rooms at her boardinghouse … and who also takes late-night walks” through the fog-shrouded streets of London.

Lowndes draws parallels between the way we deal with horror in the abstract (visits to the “Black Museum” and Madame Tussauds are good fun) and the reality of having a serial killer in your house (not so fun).  Above all, The Lodger is a testament to the power of suggestion, because not knowing what’s in the lodger’s handbag is more chilling than actually knowing.

 

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Standing

 

This Week’s Irritants

 

Standing ovations:  When you give standing ovations to all performers, no matter how mediocre or awful they might be, there is absolutely no motivation for the performers to excel.  Why should they, when they are treated like rock stars for average performances?  If it’s a so-so performance, go ahead and applaud — but keep your fat ass seated.

 

*****

 

Diet

Diet books:  I have never understood their popularity.  Throughout human history, there have been two ways to stay in shape, and two ways only:  portion control and exercise.  No fun at all, but the only way to stay slim.  And yet millions of people continue to waste money on these asinine books.

 

*****

 

Hungry Cho2

 

CNN bimbo Alino Cho (the woman with a speck of dirt on her lip, above) did a report on the lurking dangers of … the office break room.  Seems there are lots of germs in break rooms.  Cho reported on a study paid for by Kimberly-Clark, which just happens to be a cleaning-products company.  Two thoughts come to mind:  1) Somehow, our ancestors conquered the New World, often subsisting on things like grubworms and wild berries.  With that perspective, the office break room fails to strike fear in my heart.  2) If Cho’s report frightens you, you’d better damn well vote for the Democrats, because Republicans are anti-regulation, including, presumably, health regulations.

 

Food

No Kimberly-Clark products for these folks.

 

*****

 

Storm

 

CNN reported on something that might or might not be a story, maybe in August, but maybe not, possibly in Florida, but possibly not.  CNN asked this burning question:  What if a hurricane hits Florida during the Republican National Convention in August?

Oh, gosh.  What if lightning strikes me as I sit here typing on this ke–

 

*****



Bill

 

Bill Clinton caught hell for posing with porn stars (above).  But seriously … aren’t these women, presumably hard-working taxpayers, better citizens than the Wall Street fat cats who usually pose for pictures like this?

 

*****

 

I am in an especially foul mood today, because it was a sad week for disco.  Yes, you heard me:  I said IT WAS A SAD WEEK FOR DISCO.  We lost Donna Summer and a Bee Gee.  In my humble opinion, disco, that much-maligned musical marvel of the ’70s, was topped only by The Beatles in toe-tapping excellence.  Love to love you, baby.

 

Donna

 

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 by Ernest Hemingway

Feast


I wonder if this Hemingway memoir would have such a legendary reputation if the people populating its pages were lowly Bill the bartender, Carl the concierge, and Connie the coat lady, as opposed to Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and other luminaries from the “lost generation.”

I say that because the stories themselves, derived from Hemingway’s life in 1920s Paris, aren’t all that intriguing – at least on the surface.  Hemingway has lunch with a poet; Hemingway edits a woman’s manuscript; Hemingway goes for a walk; Hemingway has lunch with another poet.  And the celebrated artists we meet through “Papa’s” pen come off less mythic than all-too-human:  We learn that Ford Madox Ford had body odor, and Fitzgerald suffered from penis-size anxiety … if you believe the author, who claimed to be a stickler for truth.

But Hemingway’s writing style grabs and holds.  His voice is strong yet remote, as if he noticed everything but none of it really affected him.  He describes a person or situation, and then sums it all up with some pithy, perfect observation, and suddenly those mundane sidewalk strolls and lazy lunches become compelling.

 

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Rampart

 

Rampart     See Woody snarl.  See Woody cry.  See Woody puke.  This is an “actors’ movie” if ever there was one, and Harrelson is very good as a crooked L.A. cop, but you still need a story, and Rampart’s plot is threadbare and unpleasant.  Release:  2011  Grade:  C

 

*****

 

Corman

                                                 

Corman’s World     For decades, Roger Corman has been Hollywood’s crazy uncle, the embarrassing relation who tells dirty jokes at dinner and insists on shots of whiskey for dessert.  Corman made B movies, but his list of protégés is impressively A-list.  Jack Nicholson and Martin Scorsese are just two of the Corman graduates who pay tribute in this entertaining, clip-filled documentary.  Corman himself never graduated to the Hollywood big-time — a fact not really explained in this movie.  Release:  2011  Grade:  B

 

*****

                                                  Asylum


Asylum Blackout     My bar is at ground level for low-budget horror movies, but this one isn’t half-bad.  Here is what Asylum has going for it:  1) characters with some depth; not a whole lot of depth, but more than we usually get when kids hang out at cabins in the woods (in this case, the kids are trapped in a mental hospital when the power goes out);  2) some genuine suspense;  3) an intelligent screenplay, albeit a tad too smart for its own good near the end;  4) ominous settings;  and 5) a good, creepy villain.  Release:  2011  Grade:  B

 

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Adapt

 

That Nicolas Cage, you never know what to expect from him, do you?  Just when it seems that he will appear in nothing but junk for the rest of his career, he wins an Oscar or stars in an acclaimed movie like Adaptation.  I haven’t seen this, but the critics adore it, and critics are never wrong … are they?  Watch it for free by clicking here.

 

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Carson

 

I’m going to make a point of watching American Masters.  Monday’s biography of Johnny Carson was tremendous — enlightening, and more than a bit sad. You can watch it for free at the PBS Web site.

 

*****

 

Larry    Gutfeld2

 

It must have been a slow news week for MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, who on Wednesday went after Fox News court jester Greg Gutfeld.  Gutfeld raised O’Donnell’s hackles by making fun of chef Mario Batali, who was living on a food-stamp budget to protest potential cuts to the program.

“Kinda makes you wonder what the ‘Greg Gutfeld Foundation’ has done lately,” O’Donnell raged.  “These people [Gutfeld and his guests on Red Eye] think Mario Batali deserves to be slapped around.”

Gutfeld is a quick-witted little twerp, but he’s often guilty of the same ploy he accuses Bill Maher of using:  blurting out some vile comment and then playing the “comedian card.”

However … unlike the independent Maher, Gutfeld also plays shameless kiss-ass for his masters at Fox, in particular Bill O’Reilly.

 

*****

 

Tatum

 

I don’t think Entertainment Weekly much cares if it appeals to people like me.  The cover this week features Channing Tatum and his male stripper pals.  EW’s second major story this week is about a woman who designs costumes.  This is not manly material.

I would return to Newsweek or Time, but Time has a breast-feeding teenager and Newsweek has a homosexual politician on their covers.

Perhaps Playboy.  Does Playboy still publish a magazine?

 

Time  Newsweek2

 

*****

 

People magazine paid $800,000 for pictures of Jessica Simpson’s baby.  This is a picture of a baby:

 

Baby2

 

Many newborns in the animal kingdom are cute, such as puppies and bunnies.  Human babies all look the same — ugly, wrinkled, and like Winston Churchill.  And yes, that includes your baby.

 

Winston

 

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Shame1

 

Shame is an emotionally wrenching portrait of modern-day sex addiction and features a powerhouse performance by Michael Fassbender.

Just kidding.

Here is a more accurate lede:  Shame reminded me of masturbation — self-indulgent and meaningless.  Its star, Michael Fassbender, shows his penis and, consequently, critics are hailing his performance as “fearless” and “brave.”

At least a good session of self love lasts no more than 15 minutes, whereas this pretentious drama from director Steve McQueen drags on for an hour and 40 minutes.

Shame is one of those tiresome “damaged people” films, with mournful piano music and actors who wear haunted expressions.  When they wear anything at all.

There are lingering shots during which the audience is expected to reflect on what it’s just witnessed.  Sex addict Brandon (Fassbender) jogs and jogs while his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) has sex with his boss in Brandon’s apartment.  Sissy, a struggling nightclub performer, sings a complete rendition of “New York, New York,” presumably to give us time to ponder the fact that Sissy isn’t likely to “make it” — anywhere.

 

Shame2Shame3

 

Mostly, I grew bored during these interminable scenes and instead pondered what might have been in the actors’ film contracts.  Did they void “non-nudity” clauses so that they could perform full-frontal scenes in this movie?  Had any of them seen a really good film about addiction, such as Days of Wine and Roses?  Why does Brandon masturbate so much, when he apparently has no trouble picking up chicks in bars?

Nothing in Shame makes us care about these characters.  Brandon’s a handsome, well-paid office drone who lives in a nice Manhattan crib.  Sissy is a moderately talented, attractive singer.  Apparently Brandon and Sissy are Irish kids who somehow wound up in New Jersey.  That’s as much as we learn about them.

Shame delivers sermons about the usual crap — sex for sex’s sake is sad and destructive; addicts have trouble connecting emotionally with others.  Along with the graphic sex scenes, this is material that might have been daring in the 1960s, but today is just a pointless jerk-off.       Grade:  D+

 

Shame4

 

Director:  Steve McQueen   Cast:  Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, James Badge Dale, Nicole Beharie, Lucy Walters, Mari-Ange Ramirez, Loren Omer, Hannah Ware, Elizabeth Masucci, Rachel Farrar  Release:  2011

 

Shame5 Shame6

 

Watch Trailers and Clips (click here)

 

Shame7

 

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Moon

 

Early in Moon, actor Sam Rockwell turns his back to the camera and scrubs down for a brief shower scene – but no, silly goose, that’s not what the title refers to.  Sight & Sound sums it up:  “Moon is an old-fashioned sci-fi movie in the best sense: far more psychological drama than space opera, dispensing with overweening CGI and loud flashy action sequences.”  Watch it free of charge by clicking here.

 

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rachel maddow         Coop

 

Maddow, Cooper Moving On

 

Count me among those surprised observers when, in the wake of revelations about Mitt Romney’s bullying of a gay student when both were in high school, Anderson Cooper announced plans to leave his lucrative anchor job at CNN to join Romney’s presidential campaign.  Cooper’s decision was nearly as eye-opening as the announcement earlier this week by Rachel Maddow that she will be leaving her post at MSNBC to join the fact-checking gang at PolitiFact.com.   Good luck to both of you!

 

*****

 

Smart people seem to get more respect in England than they do in this country.  In Britain, people turn on the telly to watch a tall, scrawny guy who is virginal, a genius in his profession, and a social misfit.  This is what he looks like:

 

Ben

 

In the U.S., we turn on the telly to watch a tall, scrawny guy who is virginal, a genius in his profession, and a social misfit.  This is what he looks like (on the left):

 

 

THE BIG BANG THEORY

 

*****


Stern3

 

This is a picture of Howard Stern.  He didn’t do anything particularly newsworthy this week, but next week Stern begins his stint as a judge on America’s Got Talent.  I have a feeling he will be gracing these pages from time to time, so get used to seeing his mug.

 

*****

 

Legs1

 

I’ve been curious about how Fox News managed to talk liberal stalwart Bob Beckel into taking a seat at the table on The Five.  Beckel is forever outnumbered and out-sniped by his four conservative co-hosts.  But then I realized that someone at Fox was clever enough to ensure that Beckel is always seated right next to the “legs chair.”

 

Legs2        Legs3        Legs4

 

*****


Snidely1    Zygi

 

The governor of my state actually thanked Snidely Whiplash, aka Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, for blackmailing Minnesota taxpayers into building a new stadium for his team.

Wilf rhymes with MILF.  But’s it’s not Zygi who’s getting screwed.

 

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