by John Walters

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Nature: The Greatest Show On Earth.

Starting Five

A Second Chernobyl?

What’s that old Russian saying? Those that whitewash history are condemned to repeat it?

Apparently, no one at the Kremlin gets HBO or none of them watched Chernobyl, because Russia appears to be sliding down the same radioactive path that it did back in 1986. Here’s what we know: a failed missile test on an offshore platform in the White Sea in northwest Russia, near the small city of Nenoska, took place last Thursday. The above explosion is the result. That much is for certain.

At the time the Russians announced that two military members died in the blast and that there was no spike in radiation (that you even need to announce that sets off bells and whistles). Now, four to five days later, we know that an additional five people, all of them nuclear scientists, also perished in the blast (word to the wise: whenever you get five nuclear scientists together and it isn’t a scholarly symposium, chances are it’s not for a softball game, if you know what I mean). We know that even Russia is admitting that radiation spiked four to 16 times in the aftermath (and this is just what we’re admitting; who knows if it’s the truth?). We know that the Russians ordered Nenoska to be evacuated and then suddenly said, “Naw, don’t worry about it.” We know that doctors and nurses who treated some of the injured have since been transferred to a hospital in Moscow.

That last one is a big UH-OH.

The best onscreen buddies of 2019 may need to reprise their roles (they’ll appear as their bastard sons that no one knew about)

Seriously, Vlad. Please go back and watch Chernobyl. But don’t watch the “Killing All The Pets” episode. That’s excruciating. Anyway, they’re making all the same mistakes all over again.

Tiger Beat

For all the negative pub the Orioles receive for being so bad this season—losing 15 straight to the Yankees and falling by the score of 23-2 to the Astros on Saturday don’t help—the Detroit Tigers actually have baseball’s worst record (35-81) this season.

The above outfielder-assisted home run for Seattle’s Kyle Seager is the 10-second byte that tells you the story of Detroit’s season.

Poetry Emotion

I’d advise you to watch this entire clip before coming to a Twitter-ian judgment as to whether Ken Cuccinelli is a monster or not. A couple weeks ago I saw a Ricky Gervais tweet, not sure how old it is, in which the British comedian (he’s so much more than that, but okay) wrote, and I’m paraphrasing, “Civilization began to go downhill when feelings replaced facts.”


The Extreme Left is wrong on this one because, I’m sorry, no one gets to enter my country or my home without at least doing a fair share of the chores. If they expect that, then they are a GUEST and not a MEMBER. So, yeah, no one should expect to come here from another country and suck the teat of the hard work of their neighbors.

Of course, the Extreme Right is even more wrong on this one for two reasons: 1) because those of us who work with immigrants know first-hand that they’re the humblest, hardest-working people around (I don’t think the eye roll at a boss’ or customer’s request becomes a thing until at least the second or third generation) and 2) countless immigrants come here exactly because they are in search of work and a better life. But they may come here with almost no money and prospects. If they had money and prospects in their native countries, they’d probably not be very prone to leave.

I work with a Mexican busser named Janet. We all love her. She’s ALWAYS smiling. She’s always happy to do whatever needs to be done. On Saturdays she brings the entire staff tamales from a joint in her Harlem neighborhood. This week Janet and six family members are all driving down to Florida to visit Disney World which, for countless immigrants, represents the very best of what America is supposed to be about (I’d have told her to go hiking in the Adirondacks, but that’s me). They’re taking one vehicle. They’re SOOO excited.

We were joking at work yesterday that Disney World, the “happiest place on Earth,” is about to greet the happiest person on Earth. I can only go off my own experiences, but man, give me a thousand Janets. I also work with a white woman Janet’s age (early 20s) who earlier this summer skipped out on us as we were all doing our mandatory duty of cleaning up after bartending a party for 500. When one of our co-workers, a Haitian immigrant, asked this native Manhattanite if she was not sticking around (at that moment she was clocking out; we all had an hour’s work ahead of us), her response was, “Fuck that sh*t.” Then she headed out to a bar. If I were the manager I would have fired her on the spot.

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

But please, let’s make a trade. You take our entitled and spoiled masses yearning to piggyback off their parents’ and grandparents’ efforts.

Friends and Neighbors

We saw Once Upon A Time In Hollywood last night, and while these next two items won’t have any plot spoilers, if you are yet to see it and want to enter completely blind, then stop reading now. This is why we put the final two items, both of which deal with the film, at the end of today’s IAH!.

On to the thoughts…

–Of the few reviews we’ve read, the one that for us is the most spot-on comes from Owen Glieberman in Variety. He writes:

 It’s been a decade since Quentin Tarantino gave us an unambiguously great Quentin Tarantino movie (Inglourious Basterds).

You know the difference as well as I do, because it’s one that you can feel in your heart, gut, nerves, and soul. It’s the difference between a Quentin movie that’s got dazzle and brilliance and a number of hypnotic sequences, and is every inch the work of his fevered movie candy brain, and a Quentin film that enters your bloodstream like a drug and stays there, inviting (compelling!) you to watch it again and again, because it’s a virtuoso piece of the imagination from first shot to last, and every moment is marked by a certain ineffable something, the Tarantino X Factor that made “Pulp Fiction” the indie touchstone of its time.

Gliebermann’s verdict is that Once Upon… falls short of the Pulp Fiction and Inglourious Basterds standard. Agreed. It is a film that is far less than the sum of its parts, and while a number of those parts are delightful, the 2 hour, 39-minute film is proof positive that everyone needs an editor. No director should have total final cut on a film he’s written.

Plenty of scenes like this that, while fun, were far from necessary and left us feeling bloated.

Tarantino has made a 159-minute film in an era in which audiences fill up on 32- to 40-ounce sodas during the movies. Human kidneys were simply not built for this. I gave myself a pat on the back for having sat through this film without having taken a pee break, but I wonder how many fans will be able to do the same.

–If this is not Brad Pitt‘s best performance, it’s my favorite of his since Thelma & Louise. These are the roles he was born to play. Also, I can see that Champion spark plugs shirt becoming a popular item.

–Whoever did the makeup on Damian Lewis to become Steve McQueen deserves a raise. In the scene where McQueen is talking to a blonde actor I suppose to be either to Goldie Hawn or Joey Heatherton or Connie Stevens (which is what IMDB seems to be suggesting), he’s absolutely convincing. Now I want to see a Steve McQueen biopic with Lewis starring.

–There are a plethora of auto and L.A. traffic scenes in the film, and like me you’ll probably scan them to see if all the vehicles are authentic to the period. Tarantino knows that we live in the digitalized world of screen grabs, so he can’t hope to think he could avoid fans Zapruder-ing such scenes. From my cursory inspection, all of the cars and trucks were of the era, which must have been a herculean feat to pull off.

–For as much of a pretty boy as he can be, you have to admire Leo for going in such a different direction in this film. There’s a scene in which, at the end of it, his young co-star whispers a kind word to him. And we couldn’t agree more.

–Burt Reynolds was slated to play George Spahn but died a month before production began. Bruce Dern stepped in for him. Luke Perry does appear in the movie in a small role.

–Of course it was a satisfying scene, but nobody but nobody beats Bruce Lee in hand-to-hand combat. C’mon, Q.

–Was the Spahn Ranch scene the most compelling one in the movie? For me it was.

–The dialogue lacked the snap, crackle and pop of the best Tarantino efforts. For me the freshest line, the most classic Q moment, was the opening scene that involved the TV interview. Pitt gets off a funny line that invites you to think there are plenty more such moments to follow. There aren’t.

–Props to Tarantino for getting the little details of the history correct (you can Google Map Cielo Drive to see what I’m talking about), right down to where Sharon Tate and friends ate their final meal and also that her sister visited her on the afternoon of August 8th.

–So much I’d love to say about the climax, but any words are spoilers. So I’ll leave it alone and perhaps we’ll revisit next month. What did you think of the film, without giving anything away?

Pussycat Doll

For me, the biggest revelation of Once Upon A Time… was the big-screen debut of Margaret Qualley, who is enchanting as Manson family member Pussycat (not based on an actual person). The easiest way for me to quantify her screen presence is 50% Elizabeth Taylor (in Giant) and 50% Krysten Ritter (from Gilmore Girls).

Qualley, who trained as a ballerina and it shows, dances across the screen in every scene she has (note her footwork on the railing during the dumpster dive scene). I had no idea until after the film that she’s the daughter of Andie MacDowell and, oh my, is she everything as an actress actor that her mom never was. Mom was always a model trying to persuade us, unconvincingly, that she was her character. Qualley, 24, absolutely inhabits Pussycat (as does Margot Robbie inhabit Sharon Tate, for that matter; her performance, though short on lines, is terrific. Tate was a joyful and unself-conscious beam of sunshine, and Robbie nails it).

It must have tickled Brad Pitt, who entered the lives of filmgoers as a young, lanky and mischievous hitchhiker in Thelma & Louise, to play the person behind the wheel as Qualley portrayed the distaff version of the same. By the time she steps up to the Cadillac to utter her first line, she’s already won us–and Pitt’s Cliff Booth–over.

Qualley had a role in Showtime’s Fosse/Verdon, but this is her big-screen intro. And she was electric. We’ll all be seeing more of her.

11 thoughts on “IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

  1. Margaret Qualley was in Nice Guys, with Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe three years ago.

    As I sat in the theater, OUATIH felt like a slight disappointment, largely because it didn’t feel like a Tarantino movie without his trademark flourishes and snappy dialogue. However, in the weeks since it has grown a lot in my estimation. Many of the scenes have lingered in my mind and it’s a fun movie to think about and discuss with other people. The Lancer sequence, the Spahn ranch, and Sharon Tate at the movie are all great scenes.

    • Thanks, John. I remember the film and the daughter but never made the connection.

      I think you’re onto something and that this film is more like IG in that it has great scenes but I’m not sure it’s a great overall movie. And by that I’m setting a high bar, like Shawshank or Silence of the Lambs-great.

    • I loved this movie. The period of 1969 was reproduced precisely as it was, with so many little nuances. All of the little details that he got in there were remarkable. The scenes with Rick Dalton and the girl actress were great, as kind of a role reversal, where she is like the adult and he is like the child, and his breakdown in the trailer was also a sad if not funny scene. The twist at the end was a surprise and typical over the top Quinton Tarantino, and loved Brad Pitt’s role, as the macho hero type. You are right, the best since Thelma and Louise.

  2. WHY wasn’t that girl FIRED?! Sleeping with the boss? Is related to the boss? Or is ICE “downsizing” the rest of your workforce & that’s all you’re left as replacements? What did all the other workers think about this – THEY (& you) have to do all the grunt work & this brat sashays out of there & KEEPS her job? ‘Once upon a time’ (couldn’t resist), I too was a young worker & occasionally witnessed preferential crap like that. Because I had NO power & desperately needed to keep the jobs, I said nothing. But steamed about it for days/weeks/months, what time is it, oh yeah , more than 30 YEARS. I sometimes think that after I, er, “enter the transfer portal”, I’ll get a part-time job “for fun”, maybe during the holidays. But the truth is, I would not last a day as the 1ST instance of THAT crap & I’d be going “OH HELL NO!”. (One of my fave parts in the movie Fried Green Tomatoes is when Kathy Bates’ character “demonstrates” that youth & beauty loses out to age & treachery (& money). 😉

    Anyhoo, speaking of “brats”, did you see the blurb that some teenager from a rich family in India drove his brand new birthday present BMW into the river because it wasn’t his desired Jag? I guess it’s comforting to know that not all rich/idiotic parents intent on ruining their children & their society are American?

    • To answer your Q, Susie B, the white girl only said it to my friend and I did not hear it but I saw her say something, so I asked him what she said. He and I are old friends—10 years—so he trusts me enough to tell me. I was not about to narc on her—I did confront her about it and, you’d be surprised, kept my cool and just sort of forced her to tell me face to face that she was willing to let the rest of us down—but neither the Haitian friend nor I were about to eat her out.

      • I still don’t understand – where was the manager? Do the employees just get to leave when they FEEL like it? If she literally punched out, her timecard (or the digital equivalent these days) would show when she did so & wouldn’t the manager then SEE she left an hour early? What was your reply to her? I commend you for not going all ‘Sonny’ Cuomo on her, as I don’t know if I could.

        Back (ok, waaaay back) during my last “grunt work’ job (my college campus job), I noticed my 1st year that there were certain folks who NEVER had to work the “shit line” or clean the conveyer belts. I was a bit introverted in those days (shocking, I know) & HAD to keep that job as it paid my room & board so kept my mouth shut, but after 6-7 months, I couldn’t take it anymore & mentioned it to the student manager (the person who made all the work assignments). Nothing changed of course as he was “friends” with the shirkers. Well, after that year, *I* became FRIENDS with all the managers on my shifts & THAT crap stopped. 🙂 Did I then lean on those relationships to get out of those nasty jobs myself? NO, I did not. However, I will admit to befriending those managers specifically so NO ONE was excluded from the crap jobs. As my dad always said – two ways to skin a cat. 🙂

  3. Who, exactly, is “The Extreme Left” that favors “suck[ing] the teat of the hard work of their neighbors” in regard to immigration policy? This seems like a straw man argument that I don’t understand at all.

    • Hi Wally,

      I think I made my arguments on how I feel about immigrants pretty clear. I’m generally a big fan. However, for example, there are immigrants here illegally whose children may not even speak English and public schools are required to accept them. That does not seem fair to me. It bogs down teachers and it’s a strain on education budgets. Just one example. And before u say, “But their parents are paying taxes,@ well, some of them are. Many are not. Employers love paying these ppl off the books.

  4. M. Qualley was fan-flipping tastic. Leo was a tour de force. My favorite performance of his yet- he gets better every damn thing he’s in. As a whole, I liked it, but didn’t love it. I admit though, as another commenter said, scenes keep creeping into my brain, making me think I’ll watch it again when I can do it at home.

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