Monthly Archives: March 2013



These endless smoking bans and tax hikes are making me bitter.  A Norwegian professor named Bharat P. Bhatta says that fat people should pay more for airline tickets because they create more jet-fuel consumption.  Ten years ago, I would have said that was mean-spirited.  Not anymore.






Evidently, there are only two issues that warrant media attention these days:  gun control and gay marriage.  I don’t own a gun and I’m not gay, so I do not, as they say, have a dog in these hunts — at least, not directly.  But all of this babble about “fairness” and “equality” is a joke to single Americans — gay and straight.  Here’s why.

(The article addresses single women, but most of the points apply to single men, as well.)






It’s not often that I agree with the talking heads on Fox News and on MSNBC.  Dr. Keith Ablow (above), a talking bald head, was singing my tune when he said government should get out of the marriage business:  “That means:  No preferential treatment at tax time, no preferential treatment for married folks by insurance companies.  Everyone should be treated as an individual.”  Meanwhile, over at MSNBC,  Bob Franken was proposing pretty much the same thing:  time to dump unfair benefits for married people.






Tilda Swinton sleeping in a glass box at a museum.  Performance art, or mental illness?




Bill Carter of the New York Times has praise for Barbara Walters, who is said to be retiring next year:  “She was doing interviews with every big figure in the news at that point in her time.  She was part of that whole shuttle diplomacy era, flying back and forth in the Mideast between Begin and Sadat and all the other big figures, like Castro and Gaddafi and all these very famous figures in history.”

Depressing, because now we have Dennis Rodman doing that job.




Here are pictures of Jeffrey Toobin getting clobbered outside of the Supreme Court.  I don’t know about you, but I enjoy seeing Jeffrey Toobin getting clobbered.




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I love Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining — even though the man who wrote the original story, Stephen King, does not.  I have never understood King’s disdain for the 1980 film adaptation of his novel.  King’s stories, after all, have been bastardized on screen many times (sometimes by King himself), from Sleepwalkers to Thinner to Maximum Overdrive.  And yet, this is the movie that rankles him?

But much as I like Kubrick’s movie, my admiration is nothing compared to that of some fans, five of whom describe their Shining obsession in Room 237, a documentary about hidden messages in the film.  Or so these people believe.




According to these conspiracy theorists, who have laboriously studied the movie (often frame-by-frame), Kubrick, a meticulous filmmaker, planted subliminal messages throughout his movie.  The Shining, they say, is an allegory about the Holocaust (look how often the number 42 appears!).  Or, The Shining is a commentary on the “white man’s burden” — a burden our ancestors relieved by committing genocide against the American Indian (see those cans of Calumet in the background of the pantry?).  But wait:  Kubrick is the man who helped the United States government falsify footage of the 1969 moon landing, and the evidence of that hoax is scattered, confession style, throughout The Shining.

A problem with Room 237 is that there are so many conspiracy theories proposed that they tend to cancel each other out.  Assuming Kubrick did insert subliminal comments about the Holocaust, did he also plant messages about manifest destiny, and about Apollo 11?  Not likely.




Personally, I was intrigued by the patterns in the carpeting of Kubrick’s Overlook Hotel and their alleged symbolism.  Then again, if you are going to spot Minotaurs in pictures of snow skiers on the wall, you might as well analyze every other picture on the walls of the hotel — or every cloud in the sky, for that matter.  Wait, someone does analyze the clouds … and spots Kubrick’s “face.”

When I was in college, I took a film class where we studied Hitchcock’s Psycho.  I noticed something in a scene in which Norman Bates disposes of evidence by pushing a car into a swamp.  As the vehicle sinks, Hitchcock shows a close-up of the license plate, and we can clearly see the letters “NFB.”  In my class paper, I speculated that the letters might be a wink from the director to his audience:  NFB = Never Find Body.  My professor loved this theory and gave my essay an A.




But who knows?  Maybe the letters NFB were completely arbitrary.  Maybe The Shining is simply a great horror film littered with continuity errors and an art director’s whimsy.  Sometimes a monkey tossing a bone into the air is just a monkey tossing a bone into the air.       Grade:  B




Director:  Rodney Ascher   Featuring:  Bill Blakemore, Geoffrey Cocks, Juli Kearns, John Fell Ryan, Jay Weidner, Buffy Visick   Release:  2013



Can you see the electrical cord for the TV?  Of course not, because there isnt one.


                                                      Watch Trailers  (click here)




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Going in to an “evil kid” movie, you know it’s just a matter of time before all hell breaks loose.  In Come Out and Play, a low-budget remake of a 1976 Spanish cult film, the evil kids eventually do come out and play — but the wait is a bit of a drag.

Ebon Moss-Bachrach and Vinessa Shaw play young Americans who are also in a holding pattern.  Beth, seven months pregnant, and husband Francis decide to enjoy some pre-baby free time by vacationing at a picturesque Mexican island.  When they arrive at Punta Hueca, there are children playing and fishing off the dock.  Upon further exploration of the village, Beth and Francis make an unsettling discovery:  There are, seemingly, only children on the island.  Where are all of the adults?




(The director of this film is a strange character called “Makinov” who seems to have one or two bones to pick with the world.  In a YouTube video, Makinov shields his face beneath a hood, a la pick-your-favorite-serial-killer, and rants against modern society.  During the end credits of Play, Makinov dedicates his movie to “the martyrs of Stalingrad.”)

Think what you will of Makinov the politician, the man knows how to stage a creepy scene.  When children perch atop a fence lining a village street, silently watching as Beth and Francis pass by, they resemble nothing so much as the ominous crows in The Birds, at rest on a schoolyard jungle gym between attacks.  Makinov, like Hitchcock, takes something that’s everyday normal — children, birds — and turns it into an object of fear.  When you do something like that, you run the risk of generating unintentional laughter; to his credit, Makinov generates suspense.




But this movie is not The Birds.  Despite an eerily effective soundtrack, arresting visuals, and a pair of surprising plot turns, Come Out and Play simply takes too long to get to the fun stuff.       Grade:  B-




Director:  Makinov  Cast:  Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Vinessa Shaw, Daniel Gimenez Cacho  Release:  2013




                                                            Watch the Trailer  (click here)




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I’m not sure why everything isn’t filmed in New Zealand.  Sure, Southern California has nice beaches and nearby mountains and a big city, but … New Zealand — have you looked at pictures of New Zealand?

Sundance Channel is airing a seven-part miniseries from director Jane Campion called Top of the Lake, a crime drama filmed in New Zealand.  Elisabeth Moss plays a young police detective who, while home visiting her cancer-stricken mother, gets drawn into the case of a missing 12-year-old girl who also happens to be five-months pregnant.




The plot is a bit familiar (at least through the first three episodes):  Robin Griffin (Moss) is basically Clarice Starling, a conscientious cop trying to conduct serious business while battling male-chauvinist colleagues and her own personal demons.  When you’re telling an oft-told tale like this one, it helps if your supporting characters add luster.  And boy, do the supporting characters add luster to Top of the Lake.

Peter Mullan is rough, gruff, tough and — surprisingly — quite funny as the apparent villain, a drug lord named Matt Mitcham, father of the missing girl and several adult sons with biblical names, if not leanings.  Holly Hunter is also in the cast as the spiritual guru of a tribe of middle-aged women living in “Paradise,” a makeshift commune that is, unluckily, located on land that Mitcham considers family territory.




(I’d like to add that David Wenham, as Griffin’s sort-of boss and potential romantic interest, also lends wonderful support to the drama.  I’d like to say that, but I have to be honest:  With his mumbling delivery and heavy New Zealand accent, I couldn’t understand a word that Wenham said.)

Campion, sharing directing duties with Garth Davis, lets the actors and story proceed at a leisurely pace, but don’t equate “leisurely” with tedious; this mystery takes unexpected turns and has a chilly, pervasive sense of doom.  But the real star of the production is New Zealand — the spectacular mountains, hills, and lakes.  These stunning vistas put Hollywood, California, to shame.      Grade:  A-




Directors:  Jane Campion, Garth Davis   Cast:  Elisabeth Moss, Peter Mullan, Thomas M. Wright, Holly Hunter, David Wenham, Jacqueline Joe, Gavin Rutherford, Jay Ryan, Genevieve Lemon, Robyn Malcolm   Release:  2013




                                       Watch the Trailer and Clips (click here)





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Black Hysteria Month


Like O.J. before him, Tiger Woods is rebounding from scandal with the help of a blonde from Minnesota.  Tiger’s courtship techniques, well documented in text messages to a former flame in 2009, seem to work well for him.  Did the Woodsman dust off some of the charming gems reprinted below to woo Lindsey Vonn?






Oprah is reportedly doing a sex scene in an upcoming film called The Butler.  Guess I’ll go ahead and cancel my cataract surgery, because I’d hate to accidentally see that.






“I’m only in my 60s.  I’ve got a nice long life ahead:  big plans.” — woman in AARP commercial

I don’t usually wish physical harm on people, but if a bolt of lightning struck this smug woman, strutting through the woods as if she owns the world, I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it.




TV Report Card


Vikings — moderately entertaining, but no great shakes

Bates Motel — moderately entertaining, but no great shakes

Top of the Lake — moderately entertaining, but … the jury is out

Here’s the problem with AMC’s The Walking Dead.  The zombies are slow, stupid, and about as life-threatening as a June bug infestation.  The only time these sluggards pose a threat is when you are dumb enough to do something like sleep in a tent, outdoors in the woods.  Early on in this series, the heroes — you knew it — slept outdoors in tents in the woods.

Meanwhile, on The Americans:






It’s been awhile since we checked in with the gang at Survivor:






Hmmm … did someone on The Big Bang Theory get a boob job?


The Tenure Turbulence




Dumb Quote of the Week

“Lena Dunham, for instance, is totally great at being naked.” — Libby Gelman-Waxner in Entertainment Weekly.  If we need any more proof that men and women are from different planets, this quote ought to do the job.






Who is this Roma Downey, a producer of History’s The Bible?  Is she the one who chain-smoked and hosted that 1980s talk show?  Or is she the actor who got sent to jail and drug rehab?


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by Glenn Frankel


It’s funny how you can sail through life thinking that you are reasonably well-versed in popular culture, yet be oblivious to certain landmark events (or movies).  I lived for 20 years in North Texas, but had never heard of Cynthia Ann Parker, a legendary frontier girl who was abducted by Comanches near Dallas in 1836, and whose kidnapping became the basis for John Ford’s classic western, The Searchers – a movie I have not seen.

Frankel’s book is an ambitious attempt to link Parker’s story, Ford’s movie, and America’s tortured racial past, but it’s only somewhat successful.  Searchers suffers from the same disease that afflicts so many other historical books:  the author’s obligation to include genealogical minutiae of interest primarily to other historians.  Yes, I’m intrigued by Cynthia Ann’s tragic life – but please don’t bore me with details about her uncles and aunts.


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Myrtle Manor “Wiener Girls” Chelsey and Lindsay (see below)




Facebook honcho Sheryl Sandberg made the rounds plugging her new book, Lean In, in which she preaches that women can “have it all.”  Or so I heard — do you really think I read this stuff?

I figured that superwoman Sandberg, as part of her having it all, lays claim to some virile, race-car-driving husband.  Or possibly a pool-cleaning boy toy.  Here are two pictures.  Guess which dreamboat belongs to Sandberg.


Clooney          Goldberg






It was rather rich to see that anti-bullying crusader, Anderson Cooper, in Rome as part of the media’s collective kiss-ass over the Catholic Church’s latest  P.O.P. (protector of pedophiles).




TV Report Card


Growing on me:  The Americans on FX

Beginning to lose me:  Welcome to Myrtle Manor on TLC

The two shows do have one thing in common …


Myrtle4         Americans




If I am ever on trial for my life, I will instruct my lawyers to reject any gravel-voiced, older females during jury selection.  I notice that on Nancy Grace’s program, an inordinate number of callers are gravel-voiced, older females, and they often seem to harbor vast quantities of hostility.  None of these angry ladies on my jury, if you please.

I picture these women at home, a glass of whiskey in one hand and a Camel in the other, glaring bitterly at their television screens.  Sort of like a couple of women on a well-known animated sitcom …







It’s been much too long since we’ve heard from my favorite celebrity grouch, Daniel Craig.  Happily, Craig was in a New York supermarket when he encountered a picture-snapping fan.

“Is watching me food shopping with my wife really all that interesting to you?” Craig reportedly screamed as he snatched the offending camera.  That’s my boy.




Will someone please explain to me the popularity of Justin Timberlake?  Are boundless energy and ubiquity the same thing as genuine talent?


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I suppose a psychologist can explain the link between humor and horror, and why so many of us seek a mix of the two in our movies.  Why, for example, did we want Abbott and Costello to meet Frankenstein?  I can’t answer that, but I do know that my favorite parts of the Evil Dead films come when bug-eyed Bruce Campbell ventures into slapstick, Looney Tunes territory.

So what a treat it is to discover Dead End, a bottom-of-the-Walmart-bin gem from 2003.  With all of the cheesy, low-budget horror out there, how does a good one like this escape notice?




If you haven’t seen it, and I’m guessing not many people have, the story is this:  The Harringtons, composed of all-American mom, dad, son Richard, and daughter Marion, along with Marion’s boyfriend Brad, are on a Christmas Eve road trip to grandmother’s house — or so they think.  In reality, or perhaps unreality, they are on a road trip to hell.  Things begin to go sour when dad stops to offer a lift to a “lady in white,” an ethereal blonde with a baby who is inexplicably wandering the woods.

The woman is not what she seems, the baby is not what it seems, the road is not what it seems, and before long each Harrington is not what he or she seems.




The plot does veer into horror-film cliché, but Dead End’s wit and comic performances — especially by Ray Wise and Lin Shaye as the bickering, hapless parents — are priceless.  It’s inspired lunacy, what you might get if the Bundys from Married … With Children showed up in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.            Grade:  A-


DeadEnd4       DeadEnd5


Directors:  Jean-Baptiste Andrea, Fabrice Canepa   Cast:  Ray Wise, Lin Shaye, Mick Cain, Alexandra Holden, Billy Asher, Amber Smith, Karen S. Gregan, Sharon Madden   Release:  2003





                                               Watch the Trailer  (click here)




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I’m not sure why, but something that Hollywood used to be pretty good at — the moody, psychological thriller — seems to have migrated south of the border.  It’s been 14 years since M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense, and those of us who prefer an O. Henry twist to special effects and gore have had to get used to reading English subtitles.

And so we have The Hidden Face, a Spanish-Colombian production in which a rippling pool of water in a sink is more significant than any number of bloody hatchets — and way more entertaining.




Adrian (Quim Gutierrez) is a rising star with the Bogota Philharmonic Orchestra, a young conductor whose good fortune does not extend to the women in his life.  When his live-in girlfriend (Clara Lago) goes missing, Adrian finds solace first in alcohol, and then in the waitress, Fabiana (Martina Garcia), who serves his drinks.  But the police are suspicious, and so is Fabiana when things start to go bump in the night at the rented mansion she begins to share with Adrian.  Is there a ghost in the house?

The Hidden Face is short, sweet, and satisfying, like an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents with South American scenery and South American nudity.  There is nothing profound about it, but it sure beats bloody hatchets. *          Grade:  B+




*  Note:  Beware the trailer for this film, which inexcusably reveals a major plot twist.

Director:  Andres Baiz   Cast:  Quim Gutierrez, Martina Garcia, Clara Lago, Maria Soledad Rodriguez, Jose Luis Garcia, Marcela Mar, Humberto Dorado   Release:  2011




                                            Watch the Trailer If You Must  (click here)




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I watched the premiere of Welcome to Myrtle Manor on TLC.  There.  I said it.

Heaven help me, but I enjoyed the damned thing.  Pictured above is series regular Roy.  Roy is a hairdresser.  Pictured below are Myrtle Manor residents Anne (left) and Miss Peggy.  Miss Peggy is an exhibitionist, and Anne is … well, Anne.  Let’s all hope and pray that there are no tornado scares at the trailer park.








Let me see if I have this straight.  Decades after the Vietnam War, Jane Fonda still gets spat on by angry veterans and denounced in Congress, but Dennis Rodman gets a pass for his love-fest (above) with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un?











OK, America, let’s go ahead and legalize discrimination against smokers.  But while we’re at it, let’s also make sure that your fat husband can’t get a job and your alcohol-guzzling wife gets fired, because they are making the cost of my health insurance go up.




Quote of the Week


“John Boehner can barely control his caucus.” — MSNBC’s Karen Finney.  I know how Boehner must feel, because there are times I can barely control my caucus.




More good news for job-seekers:  They are still seeking a proofreader at The Huffington Post.




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