Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Real Master of the Game

As the likes of Shawn Carter and Sean Combs continue to preen
and pose and export their own hype, Percy Ellis Sutton, a real
master of the game, has passed away. Sutton went to glory on
Saturday, December 26th and his was one remarkable life. The
fifteenth and last child born to Samuel ("S.J.") - a former slave -
and Lillian, Sutton, would stow away on a passenger train to New
York City on Manhattan Island, at the age of twelve, where he
would sleep under a sign on 155th Street in the Harlem neighbor-
hood of the borough he would one day serve as Borough Presi-

At age thirteen, Sutton was passing out leaflets in an all-white
neighborhood for the National Association for the Advancement
of Colored People (NAACP). By the age of sixteen he would
achive the rank of Eagle Scout as a member of the Boy Scouts
of America.

A lifelong adventurer, Sutton would take up stunt-flying on the
barnstorming circuit. He would land at Tuskegee Institute where
he would become one of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen. He
would win combat stars in the Italian and Mediterranean war
theaters as a member of the 332nd Fighter Group of the U.S.
Army Air Forces.

After attending Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View,
Texas, the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee Alabama, and the
Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia, Sutton would go on to
attend the Brooklyn Law School in the borough of Brooklyn on
the New York Islands while working as a post office clerk and
a subway conductor.

Sutton would serve again as an Air Force intelligence officer
during the Korean War before returning to Harlem in 1953 and
establishing his law office with brother Oliver and a third partner,
George Covington.

In addition to representing Malcolm X for a decade until his 1965
assassination, the Sutton firm handled the cases of more than
200 defendants arrested in the South during the 1963-64 civil
rights marches. Sutton was also elected to two terms as president
of the New York office of the NAACP.

After Malcolm's assassination, Sutton worked as lawyer for Mal-
colm's widow, Betty Shabazz. He represented her grandson, 12-
year-old Malcolm Shabazz, when the youth was accused of setting
a 1997 fire that caused her death.

Sutton became a longtime leader in Harlem politics and was a
charter member of the Harlem Clubhouse, a fraternal organi-
zation that would include four men who become the pillars of
the New York local and national politics: Representative Charles
Rangel, now chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee;
former New York City Mayor David Dinkins; former state senator
and New York’s first black secretary of state; Basil Paterson (the
father of current New York Governor David Paterson) and Sutton,
himself, who would become Manhattan Borough President.

In concert with his brother Oliver, a future New York State
Supreme Court Justice, Sutton would purchase radio station
WLIB-AM, making it the first black-owned station in New York
City. The brothers’ Inner City Broadcasting Corporation would
eventually pick up WBLS-FM before buying stations in Los
Angeles, San Francisco, Detroit and San Antonio.

Sutton and Inner City Broadcasting would purchase the famed
Apollo Theatre in 1983, beginning an extensive renovation that
would bring the hallowed venue back to its former glory. Sutton
"retired" in 1991, but his work as an adviser, mentor and confi-
dant to politicians and businessmen would continue until his

I see you, Jay-Z and P-Diddy, and I raise you Percy Sutton.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Different Kind of Blue

James Cameron has achieved a remarkable daily double. He
has spent years and boat loads of money, putting his career and
his studio at irrational risk and, once again, as improbably as he
did in 1997 with Titantic, he has snatched overarching success
from the jaws of unenviable defeat. Perhaps this is just something
he has to do every ten, twelve years or so (he was less successful
with 1989’s The Abyss). In any case, rarely have I had a more
satisfying movie theater experience than I had watching Avatar.

I have a Holy Trinity of movies: Pulp Fiction, The Matrix and The
(of these Pulp Fiction is the “holiest of the holies”). I
love these movies because as I was watching them I not only felt
as if I was plugged directly into the world portrayed up on the
screen, I felt as if I had just experienced a paradigm shift (“Was
it good for you?”).

Avatar in 3D is an awesome achievement. Many have tried to
deliver the ultimate 3-D experience and many have failed miser-
ably. Cameron has not only succeeded, he has excelled, creating
a full, real world with remarkable depth of field. Cameron uses
3-D as just another color on his filmmaking palette and does not
employ it as just another cheap trick. The 3-D objects and effects
are often as surprising as they are seamlessly integrated into the
intricately woven fabric of his story.

The story itself is familiar and universal. So many elements seen
here have been seen before and have become cultural touchstones.
If you have seen Star Wars, Aliens, Dune, any of the Terminator
movies, or read or seen any of the dragon rider books or movies,
you are prepared to be immersed in Avatar’s world. Much is
taken from Cameron’s own lexicon. There is Sigourney Weaver
essaying a Ripley-like scientist, Giovanni Ribisi in the Paul
Reiser corporate weasel role and Michelle Rodriguez in the
tough-talking female soldier role (Aliens). And there is the
strong woman of purpose (a different kind of blue Zoe Saldana)
who must give a weak man (Sam Worthington) the strength to
do what needs to be done.

There are many grace notes in Avatar. The braids that snake
down the backs of the indigenous Na'vi people are organic USB
cables and the way Cameron’s characters “jack” into their cog-
nitive world is lovely. The notion of the natives bonding with the
extraordinary flora and fauna of this alien world is at once illus-
trative, exhilarating and, often, thrilling.

Cameron has gathered an eclectic and racially diverse cast.
Worthington is Australian and Saldana, Laz Alonso, CCH
Pounder and Wes Studi can be glimpsed under their blue patina.
In addition, Stephen Lang (as Colonel Miles Quaritch) delivers
such a muscular performance, as the pragmatically evil face of
American Imperialism, you may wonder where he has been all
your life.

Avatar is powerful, moving, didactic and thought-provoking.
All in all, a singular achievement.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Countdown to the End of the World

Only three more years before the Mayan calendar - and thus,
the world - ends.

~your good buddy, rave!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Inglouriously yours

I have just seen Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds and
I am powerfully underwhelmed. The movie it most reminds me
of is Spike Lee's The Miracle at St. Anna. Both movies are
bloated and too long and show a remarkable lack of narrative
restraint. But where Anna has made $9 million, Basterds
has made $312 million worldwide.

Thinking "maybe it's me," I googled other reviews:

"I don't know if I've ever seen a revenge fantasy so willfully
messed up, sometimes offensively so."
- Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

"Clocking in at 2 hours and 32 minutes, it is unforgivably
- Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times.

"Tonally schizoid and rife with anachronisms (a David Bowie
song on the sound track, out-of-era vernacular), Tarantino's
Third Reich folly is utterly exasperating."
- Stephen Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer

All of these things are true and all of them can be said of
"Anna" (with the exception of the Bowie song).

Both movies are visually impressive (some of the images in
"Basterds" are stunning), almost painterly but, in both cases,
the heightened cinematography distracts from the narrative.
Both directors have made better movies with lesser palattes.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Curse of the Black Leprechaun

On November 30, 2009, Notre Dame University found itself at
the same crossroads it has found itself at often in the new millen-
nium, firing a head football coach and preparing to hire another
one. The last hire could not have been more disastrous and it is
illustrative that by violating their own principals and bowing to
alumni pressure when they fired Coach Ty Willingham just three
years into his contract, the university may not only have bought
itself five more years of futility, it may have invoked “The Curse
of the Black Leprechaun.”

It is noteworthy that Ty Willingham, the first black head football
coach in Notre Dame history also happened to be the first head
coach in Notre Dame history not allowed to fulfill his five year
contract. Honoring the five year contract was a point of pride
and honor for the University. Even Gerry Faust, an over-
matched ex-high school football coach, despite going 5-6 in his
first year – Notre Dame’s first losing season in seventeen years –
never winning more than 7 games in a season and finishing with
a 30-26-1 record was allowed to fulfill his five-year contract.

By contrast, Ty Willingham became the first coach in Notre Dame
history to win ten games in his first year when he went 10-3 in
2002. Willingham also suffered some ignoble firsts during his
three years as coach including getting shut out twice in one
season for the first time since 1960 (2003) and a 41–16 loss to
Purdue (ND's only home loss to PU since 1974, and the second-
worst home loss ever to PU). Still, his three year record was
21-15, and his 2004 record was an improvement over his 2003
record, giving him two winning seasons out of three and a winning
percentage of .714.

The Gerry Faust era was known as “The Bold Experiment” but
nothing, apparently, was bolder than the Golden Domers hiring
a black head football coach on the last day of the first year of the
new millennium.

On December 11, 2009, to great fanfare, Notre Dame hired Brian
Kelly, its third new millennium coach, to a five-year contract.
Time will tell if he is the new Lou Holtz or the next Charlie Weis.
Time will also tell if “The Curse of the Black Leprechaun” will
prove as long-lasting and intractable as “The Curse of Billy Goat
Tavern” that has plagued the Chicago Cubs since 1945.

Here’s hoping “The Curse of the Black Leprechaun” doesn’t last
64 years (and counting) but that it lasts long enough to serve as
a reminder to the good provosts of Notre Dame to always do the
right thing.

It's Complicated

It’s Complicated is the title of a new Meryl Streep movie and a
succinct synopsis of the dilemma facing actresses of a certain age.
Meryl Streep is sixty and, while she continues to age beautifully,
you are not impressed in the same way you are when someone
mentions that Diane Keaton is 63 or that Dame Helen Mirren is
64 (and still posing in bikinis). In other words, no exclamation
points will ensue. Still, like Scott Baio being “46 and pregnant,”
Meryl Steep headlining movies at 60 years of age is both re-
markable and noteworthy.

Not only is Meryl Streep starring in movies, she is starring in
blockbusters. Her last three movies have a combined worldwide
box office of $777 million, and that includes the relatively paltry
$50 million Doubt brought in.

How is it possible that Meryl Streep has become bankable at
sixty? Not only is she bankable at sixty, she is sixty and playing
the lead in a sex farce with two men vying to be her lover and
not one but two sex scenes although, like the fan dancer Sally
Rand, she never shows more than a little leg.

Not to digress but has there ever been a sweeter mouth out of
which to hear a foul word? Who besides La Streep could have
delivered the classic “cocksucker suit” line from Sophie’s Choice
with such casual naiveté? Who else but she could have delivered
the line “I’m a little bit of a slut” in It’s Complicated with such
coquettishness (at sixty!) that she comes across as anything but.

Nancy Meyers, reprising her dual roles of writer-director, is at
the top of her game plowing fertile ground she has plowed before
(2003’s Something’s Got to Give). In fact, Meyers is compiling
sort of a cinematic dissertation on the sexuality of post meno-
pausal women. Meyers has given Streep a great ensemble cast
including actresses of certain age: Rita (“Mrs. Tom Hanks”)
Wilson, 53, Mary Kay (Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman) Place,
62, as two of Streep’s quartet of stalwart gal pals (Molly "V.I.P."
Culver, 42, and Alexandra “In Living Color” Wentworth, 44 -
how did they get in here? – are the other two) and two former
leading men, Alec Baldwin, 51, and Steve Martin, 64, as the duo
seeking to make her the object of their affection.

It is telling that Meyers has cast the younger Baldwin as Streep’s
husband and, as her grown, toothy and very blond children, actors
Zoe Kazan, 26, Rosalie Ward and Hunter Parish, 22, who could
easily be playing her grandchildren. This is noteworthy because
like male actors her age and stature, Streep is playing a character
younger than her actual years with a co-star nearly ten years her
junior. To put this in context, in 1962, the thirty-seven year-old
Angela Lansbury played the mother of the thirty-four year-old
Laurence Harvey in The Manchurian Candidate, and Miss Bette
Davis and Miss Joan Crawford, fifty-four and fifty-seven,
respectively, had their last true starring roles opposite one
another in Robert Aldrich’s Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

The complication of the title is the continuation of Streep’s nascent
and unexpected affair with her bombastic ex-husband (Baldwin)
while she is falling in love with a sweet but once burned divorcé
(Martin). Both the twinkly Streep and the subdued Martin exhibit
exquisite comic timing but Baldwin continues his Emmy-winning
renaissance as a comic actor by stealing scene after scene (an
honorable mention goes to The Office tested John Krasinki as
Streep’s non-plussed son-in-law to be). With his increasing girth,
Baldwin appears completely at ease in his excess skin. His per-
formance as an undisciplined man temporarily freed from the
prison of his impulsive mid-life train wreck of a remarriage to a
much younger woman (an anorexic, neurotic and very scary
Lake Bell) is a joy to watch. He eats scenery the way he devours
Streep’s exquisite on-screen cooking, greedily, lustfully and

One thing that is not complicated is how enjoyable It’s
proves to be.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Precious Moment

Saw sneak peak of "Precious" last night. I have never seen anything
so soul
crushing and life affirming. "Precious" is like the maturation
of the whole Tyler Perry oeuvre. Director Lee Daniels exhibits a
sure, confident hand, something that can be glimpsed but not fully
grasped in his first directorial feature,
Shadowboxer. In fact, as a
producer, Daniels has an amazing body of work:
Monster's Ball
(argue if you will, but it won Ms. Halle Berry a best actress Oscar),
The Woodsman (Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick do amazing
work in this film),
Shadowboxer (a tight ensemble piece with Cuba
Gooding, Jr., Helen Mirren, Joseph Gorden-Levitt and Mo'Nique)
and now, his magnum opus,

It is a dark, dark place where Daniels works, deep in the heart of
Tyler Perryville.
But where Mr. Perry wrings slapstick and farce
out of his monsters, Daniels mines redemption, recognition and
In many ways, Monster’s Ball and Precious are variations
of the same theme featuring, as they do, isolated and financially
stressed mothers who take out their frustrations on their obese
children with gut-wrenching results.
One wonders what Mr.
Daniels might have wrought if he had directed
Monster’s Ball in
addition to producing it for there are none of the somewhat off-
putting elements of Berry’s performance to be found in
tight ensemble cast.

Daniels’ sure hand can be seen in the many fine, even, unadorned
performances (Gabourey Sidibe’s serendipitously sure-footed
performance is another thing altogether
– I have nothing to compare
it to).
It is always interesting when sitcom stars (Mo’Nique, Shepherd), who
are often yoked to shrill one-note emoting, are allowed to explore the upper
ranges of their talent.
It is equally fascinating to see rock stars (Carey,
Kravitz), stripped of their war paint, giving unvarnished and unaffected
Anybody who saw Carey’s blackboard screeching perfor-
mance in
Glitter can see what a difference Daniels guiding hand can make.
In my humble opinion, Les Daniels is the first black director worthy
of an Academy Award.
Precious is an amazing achievement.
(On a personal note: it was a pleasure to see actress Kimberly
Russell, an alumnae of
Head of the Class who doesn’t have an acting
credit since 2002, at work in this film).


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Con-CENTRIC Circles

In April, BET launched the CENTRIC Network to cater to mid-
dle-aged blacks (I resemble that demographic). Anyhoo, CEN-
TRIC is currently airing reruns of Homicide: Life on the

Recently I had the pleasure of watching an episode titled "The
City that Bleeds, Part 1." The first five minutes of this episode
encapsulates everything I loved about the late, great series:

Detective Mike Logan (Chris Noth) is delivering a suspect (John
Waters) who has been extradited from New York to Baltimore for
a murder he committed. Logan's disdain for "Charm City" is
palpable and that irritates Det. Pembleton's (a shockingly
"emaciated" Andre Braugher) prickly pride. He, Logan and the
unctuously smarmy Waters trade barbed bon mots about Dorothy
Parker, Edgar Allen Poe (who found their final resting places in
Baltimore) and Babe Ruth (who found fame and fortune in New

As Pembleton is leading the handcuffed Waters away he informs
him: "You're going to jail for this murder but thank your lucky
stars its not in New York City."

"Why do you think I didn't fight extradition," Waters says in his
inimitable delivery, "I may be guilty, but I'm no fool!"

I love the swagger, the trench coats and the stingy brims of
"Homicide: Life on the Streets."

And I love the actors:

Richard Belzer, as Det. Munch (and currently wasted on L&O:
), has an amusing subplot where an artist ex-girlfriend ex-
hibits nude photos of him taken duirng his sane and not-so-sober
youth: "I'm naked! My dingle is blowing in the wind!"

Andre Braugher, as Det. Frank Pembleton, is still angry, still
chain smokes and still does not suffer fools gladly while Clark
Johnson, as Det. Medrick Lewis, with his laconic lope, is still as
cool as the other side of the pillow.

(In the above mentioned episode, Pembleton and Lewis are
partnered and engage in an increasingly heated "salt and pepper"
conversation about whether or not it is okay for a white witness
to assume the shooter in a murder was black. Given the venue,
the dark-skinned Pembleton sees validity in this argument while
the lighter-skinned Lewis is offended by the assumption).

Yaphett Kotto as Lt. Al Giardello is still wearing that horrible
hairpiece and Ned Beatty, as Det. Stanley, is still a grumpy old


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Lust:Caution - cinema we can believe in

Has anybody seen Ang Lee's "Lust:Caution"? There is a scene
near the end of the movie (which is 157 minutes long and as
deadly as paint drying until folks start taking their clothes off
about three quarters of the way through) where lead actor
(Tony Leung Chiu Wai)looks toward the camera oozing love
for his consort (Wei Tang) where he looks like a doppleganger
for Barack Hussein Obama. I kid you not - if Michelle and Barack
ever sit down to watch it together, Brother President gonna get
SLAPPED - they look like they was separated at birth. Jug ears,
slicked back waves in the hair, and those almond shaped eyes
filled with compassion.

Tony Leung Chiu Wai is a huge star in Asia and that got me thinking.
There is probably an Obama doppleganger in every country. Which
makes Mr. Obama a universal archtype - one that is visually em-
braced around the world.

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Man in Full

This is It, the revelatory documentary chronicling Michael
Jackson’s rehearsals and preparation for his fifty sold-out
concerts in London proves to be both epic and melancholy. It is
clear that “This is It” was built to be both an homage to and a
recreation of Jackson’s extraordinary forty year career.

The homages include a heartfelt Jackson Five medley and the
recreations include a state of the art reimaging of Jackson’s
epic “Thriller” video. It is fascinating to see how much Jackson
had blossomed. The coltish, skittish man-child of John Landis’
“Thriller” documentary – who appeared both excited and
confused by simple proximity to improbably cute Ola Ray -
has grown into a man, baby. He employs a sure firm “man hand”
in his pas de deux with the sultry young lady with whom he re-
creates his “The Way You Make Me Feel” video. Further, his
man-ish air guitar duet with the young female guitar shero
during the fiery Slash guitar rift from the “Black and White”
video is literally Prince-esque.

This is just one of the many “who knew?” moments to be
gleamed from Kenny Ortega’s valedictory documentary. No-
where evident is the frail, sickly Michael we had been sold by the
“hater” media. This Michael, at the age of fifty, lean, tall and rock
star-ish, out dancing hoofers more than half his age, on a stage
and screen bigger than life, is a protean figure: the once and
future King of Pop; and his Majesty doesn’t do anything by half
measures. It is mesmerizing to witness the spectacle that should
have been.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Me and My Vaio

Me and my (Vaio)
Straighter than narrow
Wherever we go, every one knows
It's me and my (Vaio

I bought my Sony Vaio 15.4” notebook PC almost exactly three
years ago, today, and it was love at first sight. I purchased the
laptop on-line at Amazon.com after doing extensive research
taking into account price, esthetics and performance. 1 GB RAM,
100 GB Hard Drive, it came with Windows XP instead of Vista and
the graphics were gorgeous. The slim, sleek metallic silver laptop
was as utilitarian as it was beautiful. I loved my Vaio even more
than I loved my microwave – and I think the microwave oven is
the greatest invention of the twentieth century.

Me and my (Vaio)
Taking the high road
Wherever we go, everyone knows
It's me and my (Vaio

I took my Vaio everywhere I went. I took it to work with me. I took
it to the Original Pancake House when I ate Saturday breakfast
there. I took it to McDonald’s. I took it to Panera’s. I took it onboard
with me when I traveled on business. I took it on vacation with me.
I took it wherever I could find a hotspot.

And in the morning when I wake up
(It) may be gone, I don't know

I love my Vaio. And last week somebody stole it. Soon as I saw the
broken glass in the back door window pane, I knew it was gone.
Several other things were taken, including my HD television, two
game systems and my GPS system (“Why wasn’t your GPS
system in your car?” the officer who responded to my call asked me.
“Because I didn’t want anybody to steal it,” I answered sheepishly).
But the only thing I cared about was my Vaio.

My life was on that Vaio. One completed (unpublished) novel and
two novels in progress were on that Vaio. The entire contents of
my webpage were on that Vaio. All the digital pictures I have taken
of my children, now 21 and 17, in the last three years were on my
Vaio. Every day that passes I remember something else that I love
and will miss that was on my Vaio.

Everyone tells me I should have backed up the contents of my Vaio.
But did I mention that my Vaio had a 100 GB hard drive? Did I
mention how I took my Vaio everywhere? Did I mention how I
thought me and my Vaio would be together forever and that I could
trust my Vaio with the contents of my life?

I often wonder how the person who stole my Vaio will feel when
they discover how slow it had become or how the CD ROM drive
died a year ago or how the sound card doesn’t work right any more
and how all the sound is distorted. Sigh.

I miss my Vaio.

And we make up just to break up
I'll carry on, oh yes I will.
~Harry Nilsson (“Me and my Arrow”)

Friday, October 9, 2009

A moment in Oslo

Let me set the scene: Oslo City Hall, Oslo, Norway, December
2009. Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Barack Obama, resplendent
in his black tux and white tie and vest, steps up to podium to
accept his award. As he basks in the audience applause, Republican
National Committee Chairman Michael Steele will lurch up onto
the stage uninvited. “Excuse me, Barack!” he will say as he grabs
the microphone and shouts, “Everybody knows George W. Bush
had the best video of 2008!” The audience of dignitaries will gasp
in shocked amazement as he continues to show a total lack of
manners and civility.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Wisdom in a Beer Ad

I found my faith on an iconic Guinness Beer ad painted by artist John Gilroy. The ad features a glass of Guinness Beer topped with a smiling, self-satisfied head of foam.

(Which I have mashed up as a Prester John beer ad).

The copy reads "Proof that God Exists and that He LOVES us!"

I use that maxim every time I engage in anything particularly
decadent be it the positively sinful calorie load a cheese slattered, bacon covered bison burger coupled with the strawberry shortcake at Ted's Montana Grill in downtown Atlanta or chain smoking strippers during $5 lap dance night at the Pin Ups Night Club in Decatur, GA. In both instances I discovered there was a God and that He loved me.


Saturday, October 3, 2009

You Do What You Can Do

MacArthur "genius" award winner and famous "clown" Bill Irwin,
who has made a living by using and contorting his fluid and flexible
body, calls the human body "ridiculous."

I am reminded of a conversation I engaged my 21 year-old son in
regarding my favorite conversation starter - "What if plants created
man simply to solve their rather mundane but necessary need to
disperse seeds." My son's irritated response was "why did they
create men; why didn't they just grow legs?" To which I responded,
"Why did men create robots; why didn't they just attach mechanical
appendages directly to their nerve stems?" (Although, what I
really thought was "then they wouldn't be plants").

The answer is you do what you can do.

A funny thing I heard over the weekend pertains to the recent
discovery of another of man's earliest ancestors: one theory is
that this creature learned to walk erect so he could present food
to the female of the species in order to win her sexual favor (to
which Bill Maher snarked, "and her response was still: why don't
we ever go out?"

The answer is you do what you can do.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Intramural Silliness

There is quite a bit of intramural silliness surrounding the election
of President Barack Obama. His critics, faced with the apparently
insoluble problem of his contradictory achievement, hold rallies, act
up at town hall meetings and call names. They can actually achieve
something there and, possibly, feel less impotent.

Does anybody remember when all the Chicken Littles were screaming
“the sky was falling!” just seven short months ago? I do. I know lots
of people who didn’t vote for President Obama who were mortally
afraid then who are not as scared, today. Yes, the epoch is pregnant
– and America groans to find a new paradigm.

Straight with The Chaser

Day five of the Milwaukee Film Festival.

The Chaser (
Chugyeogja), Hong Jin-Na's dark hued meditation on corruption and redemption hones in on Young-min Jee (an excellent Jung-woo Ha), former dirty cop and current amoral pimp, with little discernable distinction between the two, over the course of one long and hellish night.

Jee is in a pickle. He is late with his payment to his over-bosses while concurrently experiencing a cash flow problem caused by an inconvenient shrinkage in his stable of available call girls. Jee believes his girls are skipping town, while still owing him money, or are being snatched and sold to other pimps. He inadvertently discovers something much more terrible is going on when his bottom girl, Mi-jinn Kim (a heart-breaking performance by Yeong-hie Seo), goes missing after he forces her out of her sick bed, away from her seven year-old daughter and into the arms of a serial killer.

The Chaser exists in a cruel, god forsaken world where evil preens in all its permutations and goodness is snuffed out at every turn. It is a grim, rain soaked place, a brutal maze of tight, rabbit-warren neighborhoods where human bunnies hop, fornicate, fight, fart, fling feces - and get felleted alive.

A kinetic, edge-of-your-seat thriller that dredges deep into the heart of the darkness of Seoul, The Chaser is must see film noir that cements South Korea place on the world cinematic map.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Azur and Asmar: the Prince's Quest

This afternoon I took advantage of an opportunity to see Azur &
Asmar: the Prince's Quest
on the big screen. Apparently, the
gorgeously rendered 3D computer animated movie with two-
dimensional, painted backgrounds and non-photo realistic rendering
has not been wildly distributed because a female character's nipples
are visible during an early breastfeeding scene.

(I admit I was initially started - but not shocked and saddened -
to see realistically rendered nipples on a brown woman's chest in
an animated movie - America is a very young country).

I was lucky to see this feature on the big screen thanks to the on-
going Milwaukee Film Festival. If you get the opportunity, run,
do not walk, to see it.

The elaborate and beautiful vistas presented in this movie are
extraordinary and the dark-haired, brown-eyed Asmar (and
his mother) are as beautifully rendered as the blonde, blue-eyed
Azur. Further, it is a captivating and engaging tale reminiscent of
1001 Arabian Nights.

I highly recommend it.


Friday, September 25, 2009

Milwaukee Film Festival - Modus Operandi

Went to see Modus Operandi tonight on the second night of the
inaugural Milwaukee Film Festival. The screening was held at the
Oriental Theater, the last remaining local movie emporium. The
cavernous theater has been converted into a two-plex, but they
have retained the ornate rococo charm of the main auditorium
which is chocked full of "oriental" kitsch - including a trio of
Buddhas, each in its own illuminated cove, on either side of the
theater and, oddly, several replicas of the mechanical woman from
Fritz Lang's Metropolis.

Modus Operandi was sold as "Sexy women, CIA agents, spies,
villains and femme fatales populate this blaxploitation-meets-art-
house story of revenge, which follows a retired C.I.A. agent deter-
mined to find his wife's murderer." Which is all true, but the whole
enterprise is so ineptly and indulgently executed that it is truly
painful to watch.

The only thing worse than the writing,directing and editing (all
by Frankie Latina, a jack of all trades and the master of none) is
the acting.

(Mr. Latina was in the theater to introduce the movie and to bask
in pre-movie applause. One of us had presence of mind to be
embarrassed, afterwards).

Watching Modus Operandi is like watching one of Andy Sedaris'
randomly brutal bikini movies without the former Playboy
Playmates - or the production values.

Watching Modus Operandi is like watching one of Russ Meyer's
aimlessly messy non-sequitor movies - without the bodacious ta-tas
(you can forgive a lot with bodacious ta-tas - witness the whole Pam
Grier oeuvre).

In other words, Modus Operandi has nothing to recommend it. Not
even the great Danny Trejo who is given precious little to do before
ending the movie by taking out a bad guy with a corkscrew to the
eye. By the time the interminable 77 minute movie ended, I wanted
to corkscrew my eyes out, too.

~(no) rave!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Moon Man Madness

Having just surfed through two plus hours of the VMAs (it is ama-
zing how quick it goes when you surf through all the commercials...
and all the rock and country acts), I am struck that Kanye West
spoiling "the moment" of a white girl is more controversial than
Jack Black telling everyone to "hold hands and pray to Lord Satan."
Only in America.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Black People Behaving Badly

Joe Wilson must have a fairy godmother because this weekend
he received his fondest wish: not one but two prominent negroes
showing their chocolate bum bums and knocking him several
pegs down as the topic du jour. First uber goddess Serena
Williams suffers an epic meltdown on, of all places, Arthur Ashe
Court. Oh, it had everything: Tall, extremely intimidating black
woman spouting foul language at a tiny Asian woman. Scary Spice,

And then there was a liberal application of Kanye pepper at the
VMAs. Let's not get it twisted. I love Kanye. I even love crazy
Kanye. I ain't mad at him. It is, in fact, my fondest wish that one
day black folks will stick together like Republicans.

Crying Liar in a crowded Senate chamber

When is it OK to cry "Liar!" in a crowded Senate chamber? The
lack of civility evidenced by South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson (in
response to President Barack Obama's comment about illegal
aliens) encapsulates the rabid nature of the disloyal opposition.
I have been lectured most of my adult life by a succession of
apologists for one Republican administration after another that
if I didn’t respect the president, I should, at the very least, respect
the office. Imagine my lack of surprise when, once again, one of
their number has proven unable to walk the walk after talking
the talk.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

What to do while visiting strip clubs in Atlanta

Things I learned in a strip club:

1. Make sure you have valid ID (not having been carded - ever -
I was surprised when I was nearly denied entry to my first
strip club (at age 53) because I did not have a valid ID with
me. As the very attractive woman at the desk told me
"All I do is check IDs! If you don't have an ID what am I
supposed to do?" A valid question).
2. Nobody strips.
3. Be courteous ("Would you like a dance?" "Why, now that you
mention it, yes I would!")
4. Keep your hands inside the ride at all times.
5. Remain seated until the ride is over.
6. Keep your tray in the upright position.
7. Always say "yes, please" and "thank you."
8. Never give a stripper a twenty dollar bill for a five dollar lap

Monday, August 31, 2009


Slang term for a score of 8 on any individual hole of golf, so called because the figure "8" resembles the body of snowman.

On May 25, 2009 I celebrated my fifty-third birthday. Five plus three equals eight which makes this my “snowman” year. Being a Gemini, I embrace the duality of this number – the futility (but, yes, the determination and dogged persistence) of taking eight extra shots to sink a putt on the golf course and the endless possibilities of the infinity sign which, for all intents and purposes, is just an eight laid on its side. My last “snowman” year (2000, when I turned 44) ushered in a near decade of futility, lost and regret. But, life being what it is: six of one and a half dozen of another, my most recent natal eight seems to be lying alluringly on its side – like a plump Botero nude.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

More Meat on Sticks

I say they should put more meats on a
stick, you know? They got a lot of sweets
on sticks--popsicles, fudgesicles,
lollipops--but hardly any meat.

I agree there should be more.

- "There's Something About Mary" (1989)

I'm going to the Wisconsin State Fair next week. The Wisconsin
State Fair not only means greasy, deep-fried foods, it means
greasy, deep-fried foods on STICKS. Below is a list of the 44
foods available on sticks this year (up from 32 last year)!



A list of the 44 foods on a stick you can eat at the Fair this year.

1. Bacon-wrapped waterchestnuts, Charcoal Grill
2. BBQ pork chop on a stick, WI Pork Producers
3. BBQ pork on a stick, Miss Katie's Dinner
4. Cajun sausage on a stick, Thunder Bay Gille
5. Caramel apples, LeTendre Concessions & Lori's Sugar Shack
6. Cheddar cheese on a stick, Crutchee-s
7. Cheese & hot dog on a stick, Crutchee-s
8. Cheesecake on a stick, Sidewalk Sundaes
9. Cherry pie on a stick, Door County Fish Boil
10. Chicken wings on a stick, Saz's At the Fair
11. Chocolate bacon on a stick, Machine Shed
12. Chocolate dipped frozen bananas, Sidewalk Sundaes
13. Coconut shrimp on a stick, Joey's Seafood
14. Cookie dough on a stick, D&T Concessions
15. Corn dogs, Multiple Vendors
16. Cotton candy, Multiple Vendors
17. Cow Pops, Ultimate Confections
18. Deep-fried crab cakes, Catfish Johnny's
19. Deep-fried Oreo cookie, M&W Concessions
20. Deep-fried PB&J on a Stick, Machine Shed
21. Deep-fried Snickers Bbar, M&W Concessions
22. Dove Bars, Double K Dairy
23. Frozen Snickers bar on a stick, Leadfoots Bar & Grill
24. Fruit kabob with or without chocolate, Leadfoots Bar & Grill
25. Hand-dipped ice cream bars on a Stick, Ultimate Confections
26. Kettle korn on a stick, Otte's Old Fashion Kettle Korn
27. Lollipops, Lori's Sugar Shack
28. Macaroni & cheese on a stick, Catfish Johnny's
29. Meatballs on a stick, Kalashian Food Service
30. Mickey Mouse bars, J&W Cedar Crest
31. Mini burgers on a stick, Derynda's Adeline's Corn Stand
32. Pork shish-kabobs, Apollo Gyros
33. Pork tenderloin on a stick, Swingin' Turkey Legs
34. Rice crispy bar on a stick, Ultimate Confections
35. Rock candy, Freese's
36. Reuben on a stick, Slim McGinn's West
37. Sausage kabob, Benno's on the Mall
38. Shish-kabob, Eleni's Greek Foods
39. S'Mores on a stick, 3-B Concessions
40. Strawberry shish-kabobs with European chocolate, Berry-Bobs
41. Swiss and Colby cheese on a stick, Mill Street
42. Swiss cheese on a stick, Crutchee-s
43. Ultimate cashew rods, Ultimate Confections
44. Ultimate pecan rods, Ultimate Confections

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Cash for Cluckers

Republicans remain tone death to the wishes of the American
people while sticking slavishly to their talking points. Rep. Jeb
Hensarling (R-Texas) uttered his “Cash of Cluckers” knee
slapper http://uhiamo.notlong.com (hailed by the Illinois Review
as “a clear articulation of the conservative view”) with total dis-
regard for the popularity of the plan. The Texas delegation is
also foursquare opposed to national healthcare even as Texas
leads the nation in uninsured. It is alarming that even when
something appears a “no-brainer” Republicans, and especially
Texas Republicans, continue to exhibit an alarming lack of gray

DNA: The Gift that Keeps on Giving

There is an old adage that “it is an ill will that doesn’t blow some-
body some good.” One case in point is the racially divisive O.J.
Simpson murder trial. The good blown in from that ill wind was
DNA testing. Scores of unjustly jailed men, mostly but not ex-
clusively minorities, have been exonerated by DNA testing.
Conversely, DNA testing has proved invaluable in jailing felons
who had previously escaped both prosecution and incarceration.
The most recent perpetrator snared by DNA is Edward Wayne
Edwards, now 78, charged in a 30 year-old double homicide
in Wisconsin. DNA: the gift that keeps on giving.

Friday, July 31, 2009

My New Man Crush

I've got a new man crush. His name is Lawrence Francis O'Donnell,
Jr. and although he has a long footprint - he has been around since
the Clinton Administration, I first became aware of him when he
recently guest hosted Keith Olbermann's MSNBC show. As of late,
Mr. O'Donnell has been all over MSNBC, particularly "The Morning
Joe" program and, to my admittedly biased ear, he is the only
pragmatic and reasoned voice in popular media today.

O'Donnell, an Emmy-Award winning producer and writer for the
NBC series "West Wing," is renown for his aggressive debate style.
He once shouted "liar!" over and over again at Swift Boat Spokes-
person John O'Neill shouted down fellow panelist Cathy Seipp on
the issue of public education and teachers.

O'Donnell refers to himself as a "pragmatic European socialist"
but more tellingly, "Morning Joe" Scarborough delights in
frequently calling him "crazy" which informs me that O'Donnell
must be the most honest white man in America.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Torchwood Pentalogy

I often argue that fiction is truer than non-fiction. The five
episodes of Torchwood: Children of Earth sum up the cruel state
of the world better than any news report I have ever seen or
read. The machinations of the power elite in Children ape what
happens in caucus, conference and board rooms all over the world,

What thought provoking stuff! Is Captain Jack's sacrifice inherently
any different than the deal the powers-that-be made with the 456?
They both made their choices "for the greater good" based on time
constraints and the information they had at hand.

And what a great juxtaposition between the choices Jack and Home
Office civil servant John Forbisher make. Earlier Forbisher had told
Jack "You're a better man than I am," but is he really? It has long
been my deeply held belief that a parent's prime directive is to
protect their children. My mantra regarding mine is "these are
mine and you can't have them."

Further, was it easier of Captain Jack to make his choice (his
daughter could not have made it) because he cannot die and has
and will see so many of his love ones perish?

I am all for plausible danger but DAYUM! are they gonna kill
EVERYBODY???? (by the by: the late great Tosh would have
figured out the frequency thing way before episode five).

The Doctor is In

I enjoyed the Dr. Who episode Planet of the Dead. The episode
was influenced by several works: a little bit Indiana Jones, a little
bit Flight of the Phoenix, a little bit Pitch Black, and sixties'
films such as Charade and Topkapi, which included Cary
Grant and Audrey Hepburn "being witty and sophisticated
together, and then running for their lives."

Michelle Ryan (late of the Bionic Woman) is bright, perky and
evanescent as Lady Christina de Souza, a totally British cross
between tomb raider Lara Croft and Harry Potter's Hermione
Granger. Headstrong and willing to dive headlong into any
situation, Christina is,ironically, the perfect companion for the
expiring and suddenly companion-adverse Doctor. Her cat
burglar's kit bag was a perfect match for the Doctor's all-purpose
sonic screw driver.

Also, British stand-up comedian Lee Evans is a hoot as the
Doctor obsessive Professor Malcolm Taylor.

To beat my personal drum, let me give shout-outs to Noma
Kumezweni as the pragmatic and by-the-book Unified
Intelligence Task (UNIT) force leader, Capt. Erisa Magambo,
Daniel Kuluuya (as Barclay) and Reginald Tsiboe (as Lou).
As people in their fifth decade drop dead all around me, I
am pleased to have lived long enough to see names like
"Kumezweni," "Kuluuya" and "Tsiboe" in the credits of an
episodic television program, albeit a British one.

Planet of the Dead is supposed to be the "last time the
Doctor gets to have any fun." If so, I enjoyed the ride.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Stupid? What he meant was "Retarded"

Tonight's episode of "Real Time with Bill Maher" (which I
watched at 3:00 am this morning) focused on the Henry Louis
Gates imbroglio and featured some hilarious takes. Some

President Obama regrets saying "stupid." What he meant was

"What kind of thief breaks into a house with luggage?"

"Airforce 1 was pulled over for a broken taillight."

"When black intellectuals strike - we take affirmative action."

Friday, July 24, 2009

Torchwood Tetralogy

I watched episodes 1-4 of Torchwood: Children of Earth last
night. Great stuff! I continue to appreciate the way people of
color - particularly black people - are seamlessly integrated
into this alternate reality - and London is a great backdrop
"character" in this drama (and, you gotta love the chutzpa of
the British - still supercilious enough to believe they are the
center of the universe - which was ridiculous even when Sean
Connery was still doing his James Bond thing).

Two things are refreshing: a) there are black people in the
"future" and (b) their integration from the bottom to the
top of society is so commonplace it is not even worth noting.
I do wish there had been more children of color represented
but that is a small nit.

I love the "fourth wall" of episodic television has been broken
down and there are actual and devastating consequences to
heroic action.

I love the ethical dilemmas presented and how quickly and
cavalierly they are dismissed by the ruling class. The notion
of oligarchy (masquerading as meritocracy) vs. true meri-
tocracy, in this context, is presented brilliantly.

It also addresses one of the hoariest and most annoying (for me)
cliches of SF literature - the willingness of a conspirator to sacrifice
millions to save a loved one (I reference Dr. Yueh in Dune and
Abe Sapien in Hell Boy II: the Golden Army). Of course it is the
right thing to sacrifice your beloved for the greater good - I know
it is the right thing to do - and, yet, I don't know if I could pull the
"save the universe as we know it" trigger if it was my sacrifice of
my son or my daughter that sealed the deal.

Oh, yeah, and the love affair between Captain Jack (John
Barrowman) and Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd) almost
rises to the level of Brokeback Mountain, and that is about
as high as man-on-man love can go in our popular culture.
Captain Jack has lived a long time and, like a western barroom
door, obviously swings both ways, but I am reminded of the
comedic question of how many heterosexual conquests a dedicated
cockhound can have before he is compelled to take a walk on
the "wild" side. Like the comedian says, "I want to know what
that number is!"

Lastly, entirely on a personal note, as a unrepentant Nipponophile,
I lament the absence of Naoko Mori's Toshiko Sato. I can, however,
be placated if she is replaced by the fetching Lois Habiba (Cush
Jumbo). I mean, how cool is it that there is a central character
named Lois Habiba? Speaking of the resourceful Lois Habiba, you
gotta love the stiff upper lip British ethos of taking haughty pride
in your position (or lot in life) no matter what it is (like a valet
calling himself a "gentleman's gentleman"). "I am a PA (personal
assistant)!" Lois states with certitude after super efficiently
delivering cointel to big eyed Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles).

Good, heady stuff! Lots to chew on!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Demolition Derby

I did what I often do before going to sleep – I turned on the
television and scanned the twenty-something movie channels
I subscribe to – and, to my pleasant surprise, I came across a
movie I hadn’t thought much about in the decade and a half
since I last saw it. The movie was 1993’s Demolition Man starring
Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes and an improbably perky and
dewy Sandra Bullock – still a year from her rocket launch to
superstardom in Speed. Not only that but the cast also includes
an equally dewy Benjamin Bratt and Rob Schneider, and the not
so dewy Dennis Leary, Jesse Ventura, veteran character actor Bill
Cobbs and Sir Nigel Hawthorne as the great architect of the brave
new world Stallone’s John “Demolition Man” Spartan awakens in
2031, thirty-five years after he was wrongfully convicted and
incarcerated in a cryogenic prison.

Literally born out of the Los Angeles riots of 1992, Demolition
presages a future where violence, sex , profanity and graffiti have
been eradicated by a benevolent overseer. Hawthorne’s Raymond
Cocteau has sanitized the greater Los Angeles area much the way
Rudy Giuliani purged New York City’s Times Square and, like the
denizens who used to ply their trade in New York’s sin city, the
undesirables of New Los Angeles have also been forced underground.
Dennis Leary’s Edgar Friendly is the leader of the unwashed and
the unwanted and is, therefore, a thorn Cocteau wants removed
from his royal paw. Long story short: Cocteau unthaws brutal
crime lord Simon Phoenix (Wesley Snipes) to assassinate Friendly;
the unwitting police unthaw Spartan to recapture Phoenix, and all
hell breaks loose.

I guess all the mesomorphic freaks of the day were making science
fiction movies in the nineties. Arnold Schwarzenegger made Total
Recall in 1990, Demolition was made in 1993 and Jean-Claude Van
Damme followed with Time Cop in 1994. There is even a wry,
grudging tip of the hat to Schwarzenegger in Demolition when
Bullock’s Lt. Lenina Huxley divulges the source of all her knowledge
about 1996: the Schwarzenegger Presidential Library. What is
interesting is that while I include Total Recall among my top five
fave science fiction movies and remember Time Cop fondly,
primarily for the late Ron Silver’s star turn as the evil Senator
Aaron McComb, I had largely forgotten Demolition Man. And that
is a shame because seen through the prism of the last decade and
a half, Demolition is a veritable time capsule of small treasures.

First of all, the movie is startlingly prescient. It anticipates both
Giuliani’s antiseptic reign (1994-2001) and Schwarzenegger’s
political ascension (2003-2009). Further, Demolition’s year
2031 is a plausible future where small, computerized, fuel
efficient cars zip around a spiffy landscape not startlingly
different from our own. Then there are the amusing grace
notes like the machines that issue citations for every swear
word uttered and spew like ticket machines at Chucky Cheese
whenever Spartan is around. Also, Demolition’s world of 2031
is a place where Taco Bell is the only restaurant to survive the
“Franchise Wars” – and all restaurants are now Taco Bells –
which is not only funny but clever product placement. What
doesn’t age as well is the cheeky notion that all of our commercial
jingles will become golden oldies on 2031 radio –because in just
fifteen years forward most of them, like “My dog’s better than
your dog (the Ken-L Ration song),” are already disappearing in
America’s cultural rear view mirror – kind of like Ken-L Ration,
itself, which is no longer produced. Still, seeing and hearing a
pianist tickling the ivories and crooning “In the valley of the Jolly
(Ho-Ho-Ho) Green Giant” in the lobby of a swanky restaurant is
still a great visual and aural gag.

Like the notion of jingles as cultural keepsakes, the fashions of
Demolition are an interesting mishmash. The “Officer Friendly”
police force of 2031 wears uniforms straight out of the Third
Reich – benign Police Chief George Earl (Bob Gunton) looks
like Hogan’s Heroes Colonel Clink - monocle and all - while
the citizenry wears unisex kimonos straight out of the Heian
Dynasty (Glenn Shadix’s Associate Bob looks and sashays on
his platform sandles like a fat geisha girl).

Lastly there is Wesley Snipes as Simon Phoenix. Phoenix is
a Crayola-colored miscreant in overalls and a Dennis the
Menace stripped shirt. With blond Mohawk, this gleeful
performance is one part Dennis Rodman, one part Steve
Urkel and one part Heath Ledger channeling Jack Nicholson.
As Rob Schneider’s peace officer protests: “We’re police
officers! We’re not trained to handle this type or violence!”
The two big action set pieces feature major mayhem but are
sort of un balanced as 31 year-old Snipes is way too frisky for
47 year-old and feeling it Stallone. It is interesting to note that
Snipes is now as old as Stallone was when he made Demolition
and, even then, you would have expected Snipes to really “lick”
Stallone’s ass (in the mangled parlance of 1996 devotee Lt.
Huxley – “kicked his ass,” Spartan corrects wearily).

That said, Demolition Man plays good like a dystopian action
movie should.

Today in Sound-Off Theater (Descent)

I have found the perfect (for me) movie to watch with the sound
off: Descent, produced by and starring film goddess, Rosario
. For your good buddy, Rave, an unrepentant acolyte
at Miss Dawson's shrine, this film is the motherlode! My girl
(and there is a hilarious outtake regarding the use of the word
"girl" to refer to grown women), Rosario Dawson is in virtually
EVERY shot (!) - with the camera lovingly lingering on every line
and curve. Those lips! Those eyes! Those thighs (and the legs
that seem to go on forever)!

Actually, Descent violates one of the prime rules of "Sound-
Off Theater": the movie has to be wretched with the sound off.
Descent is extremely watchable with the sound on - bold,
daring and full of risks, and afro-gyno-affirming in surprising
and subtle ways (the not-so-subtle subtext exists in another
telling outtake).

Yet, this is a journey told primarily with Dawson's face - her
incredible smile, her often sad eyes, her long, cat-like body,
and the knitting of her brow.

Another revelation in the film is African-British actor Marcus
Patrick who scorches the screen in the way I haven't seen a
young black actor scorch the screen - ever. His masculine self-
possession is both amazing and exhiliarating. He commands
his space like a panther. The New York Times encapsulated
his screen presence by calling him a young Burt Lancaster,
and this description is apt - as he possesses the same
physicality and masculine danger. His career should be
blowing up - but he is probably twenty years from getting
a decent role.

Descent ~rave! Marcus Patrick's career ~(no)rave!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Monday Bond

I stumbled across a mini-James Bond marathon on the
USA Network (Monday, July 13
th) consisting of On Her
Majesty’s Secret Service
, Diamonds are Forever , You
Only Live Twice
and For Your Eyes Only. I assume these
movies were bundled together because they comprise the
quartet of Bond movies featuring 007’s arch enemy Ernst
Stavro Blofeld (Blofeld also appears in
Never Say Never
, a jackleg remake of Thunderball, but NSNA is not
officially a part of the James Bond canon).

USA showed the movies in the order I have listed above,
but I wish they had been shown in the order they were
Although Blofeld makes his first appearance in From
Russia With Love
, only his hands and the back of his head
is shown.
Thunderball marks his second appearance, but
we only see his hands stroking his trademark white Persian
You Only Live Twice (1967) marks the first occasion
we get to see Blofeld’s face and we are party to virtual Blofeld/
Bond passion play in this and the two movies that follow it.

Bond thwarts Blofeld’s best chance for world domination in
YOLT; Blofeld gains a measure of revenge by killing Bond’s
wife in
OHMSS; and Bond exacts vengeance by killing Blofeld
not once, not twice but
four times in Diamonds Are Forever
(1971). Then, because Bond didn’t get it right in DAF despite
drowning Blofeld in a tub of mud, tossing him in a vat of acid,
shooting him in the head and blowing him up on an oil rig –
he has to dispatch the feline-loving fiend one last time during
the opening credits of
For Your Eyes Only.

The Blofeld angle is fine but I have a different relationship to
three of the four movies shown.
On Her Majesty’s Secret
(1969) was the first Bond movie I ever saw. Now,
when the first movie you see of any franchise is the “runt”
of the litter, it tends to skew your perspective.
I have a good
friend who still claims
Godfather 3 is the best of the God-
movies. Now, maybe I’m the one who has been riding
the bloody crazy train but choosing
Godfather 3 as the best
Godfather movie is like choosing Larry as the funniest of the
Three Stooges.
I mean, sure Larry was amusing with his
Bozo the Clown hair and his perpetual hangdog demeanor
(like he had actually read the terrible contracts the Stooges
signed with Columbia), but funnier than Moe and Curly?
don’t think so.
But I understand where my friend was coming

George Lazenby was my first Bond and I have a lingering
affection for his performance.
I was thirteen years old when
I saw
OHNSS. A sheltered child who had lived in a sheltered
world, my eyes got big watching
OHNSS. I still remember
the quip Lazenby made when a henchman on skis got churned
up by a huge snow blower: “He sure had a lot of guts.”
does it get better than that?

I suddenly had a huge Bond jones but this was 1969, before
both VHS tapes and DVDs, so I went straight to the Ian Fleming
novels, which I read one after another, in sequence.
I first saw
the pre-
OHNSS movies on network television before subse-
quently viewing them on tape and early pay television.
discovered Sean Connery’s performance in
Dr. No (the first,
and, IMHO, still the best Bond film) and demoted Lazenby

You Only Live Twice is, hands down, my favorite Bond
movie (
You Only Live Twice is also my favorite Bond novel).
As an unrepentant Nipponophile, I love the score, I love the
locales, I love the paper walls, I love the fashions, I love the
bowing, I love the taking off of shoes, I love the women and
I love the action set pieces.
Also, as written by Roald Dahl,
YOLT has a breezy urbane sophistication that many of the
Bond movies strive for but few obtain.
With current viewing it
is easy to find
YOLT highly misogynic but, in the context of a
Bond film, I found it quaint and sweet.
Everything about YOLT,
from the opening “murder” in HongKong to the Ninja invasion
at the movie’s end, is just pitch perfect.

On previous viewings I had seen little to recommend Diamonds
Are Forever besides the great Shirley Bassey rendition of the
title song, but on Monday I saw the movie with new eyes.
DAF you can already see the Bond franchise taking on the 70’s
bloat of the Roger Moore era, with pointless stunts and lots of
product placement.

DAF was my first opportunity to see the original Bond in action
as Sean Connery returns to save the franchise from the brutal
backlash after
OHMSS. I was less than impressed. Although
he was only 41 years-old at the time (Moore is 46 when he begins
the role), he is already looking a little long in the tooth.
Still, DAF
has lots of grace notes.
For one thing, the merry henchmen, Mr.
Kidd and Mr. Windt, as portrayed by character actor Bruce
Glover (father of Crispin) and jazz bassist Putter Smith, are as
droll as they are vicious.
Further, I was probably too young to
appreciate Jill St. John’s grown woman performance as jewel
thief Tiffany Case when I first saw it but,
dayum!, I sho nuff
get it now.

Last but not least, however, is seeing DAF, in the reflection of
Mike Meyers’
Austin Powers movies. When Bond shoots the
wrong Blofeld doppelganger in the head, the real Blofeld, who
has a gun in his hand, does not take the opportunity to shoot
Bond dead but
instead orders him into an elevator where he
is gassed unconscious
then placed into the drunk of a car by
the erstwhile Mr. Kidd and Mr. Windt
before being driven out
to an oil field where his body is dumped inside a length of pipe-
line that is
then buried underground the next morning where
Bond wakes up to find himself about to be run over by a
mechanical pipe cleaner. I found myself channeling Seth
Green’s Scott Evil and shouting an exasperated “Just shoot
him!” at the television screen.

But then again, perhaps I just don’t get it.