by John Walters
” A Lot Of Death”
By this time tomorrow the number of Americans who will have died from COVID-19 in the past five weeks will have doubled the total who died at Pearl Harbor (2,403) and in 9/11 (2,996) combined. And the weirdest thing is that President Donald Trump is still making this all about him.
In just the past five days:
Thursday: “Did you know I was number one on Facebook?”
“I want to come way under the models (a reference to the casualty projections). The professionals did the models. I was never involved in a model… at least this kind of model.”
Rimshot! At the coronavirus presser.
After Pearl Harbor: “A day that will live in infamy…” –FDR
After 9/11: “I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you.” — GWB
During COVID-19: “I don’t take responsibility at all.” –DJT
Frank Bruni’s column in this morning’s New York Times examines Trump’s dearth of a soul. Myself, I’ve found there are two types of original recipe MAGA types remaining. Those who are so far lost that they’ll still not abandon him and those who simply say, “I don’t listen to the news any more,” because obviously that’s easier than saying, “I was wrong.”
I used the quote from this weekend as the hed here because it’s so Trump. In a moment that requires an artful use of language, the President reverts to his 3rd-grade level vocabulary. This is what you voted for, America.
Has someone produced one of these yet? Here’s our incipient effort:
- The Air That I Breathe …………….. The Hollies
- Miracle Drug……………………………… U2
- Keep Your Hands To Yourself…… Georgia Satellites
- Alone Again, Naturally…………….. Gilbert O’Sullivan
- China…………………………………………. Red Rockers
- Doctor, Doctor………………………….. Thompson Twins
- Masquerade……………………………… Berlin
- Love Is Like Oxygen……………….. Sweet
Help us out here. Contribute to the playlist…
Doubling Down on Dowd
Two terrific columns by Maureen Dowd in The New York Times in the past five days. Late last week, she visited (via Skype or FaceTime or some such gizmo) Larry David, for whom Shelter At Home is a lifestyle decision, for a breezy conversation about quarantining (he probably has compiled enough notes in the past month to fill Season 11) and Curb.
Then on Sunday, she put on a HAZMAT suit and took out the industrial-strength radioactive flamethrower to torch the Trump presidency, its response to this crisis, and to its insipid and cruel choice to put Jared K. in charge (“He Went To Jared”). Kushner may be Jewish, but he’s the perfect Nazi.
Saturday Night And Sunday Morning (With TCM)
Between sundown Saturday and noon Sunday —now, we’re not proud of this, but we’re not exactly ashamed, either — we watched four films, plus intros and outs, on Turner Classic Movies: Targets (1968), The Last Picture Show (1971), Address Unknown (1944) and Mrs. Miniver (1942). Observations, epiphanies and random thoughts to follow:
— Targets, directed by Peter Bogdanovich, was somewhere between a student film and a first effort. Bogdanovich was the beneficiary of a deal between infamous director Roger Corman and the prince of terror films, Boris Karloff. Five years earlier Karloff had starred in an awful film, The Terror, directed by Corman (also starring an unknown Jack Nicholson). Because the film never earned $150,000, Karloff did not receive his deferred $15,000 fee. So Corman approached Karloff and said that if he’d give him two more days of shooting, he’d get the money. Karloff agreed.
Corman told his protege, Bogdanovich, then 29, that he had Karloff. Now all he needed was a script. So Bogdanovich and his wife, Polly Platt, came up with a goof. A film that begins with Karloff watching The Terror in the screening room, pronouncing it awful, and declaring that he’d never make another picture. Then Bogdanovich crossed this subplot with the story of a freeway shooter, which he says he took from the tower shooter one year earlier in Austin, Texas, though it’s impossible to see this film without being reminded of the JFK assassination.
A great film? Not quite. But it has shades of Tarantino (of course it’s the other way around) and it gave enough people enough confidence in Bogdanovich to let him make his masterpiece, only three years later.
–I’d never seen The Last Picture Show in full until a year ago and now I’ve seen it twice. It fully deserved its eight Oscar nominations (Ben Johnson and Cloris Leachman each won in the Supporting Actor/Actress categories, and deservedly so). Between the black-and-white footage, the whistling wind, the desolate prairie and the Hank Williams tunes, Bogdanovich perfectly captures the bleakness of a dying north Texas town. He also got really lucky with casting (not sure if he or a different casting director deserves a cookie here): unknowns Cybill Shepherd, Jeff Bridges, Timothy Bottoms and Ellen Burstyn give career-making performances, while Cloris Leachman shows chops you never quite saw on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Ben Johnson is simply incredible. You won’t see a finer performance anywhere.
Curiously enough, the production designer here is Polly Platt, Bogdanovich’s wife. But during the shoot she lost her husband to the film’s ingenue, Shepherd, who was 20 at the time. Over the next few years Shepherd would date both Bogdanovich and Elvis Presley (she’s a Memphis native), ultimately choosing the former b/c The King was too reliant on drugs. Final note: Shepherd landed the part after Bogdanovich and Platt saw Shepherd on the cover of Glamour while waiting in a checkout line and Platt said, “That’s Jacy (Shepherd’s character).”
–Like Targets, I’d never heard of Address Unknown, a bold and ballsy film about Nazi brainwashing that was released in the midst of World War II. Eddie Mueller put it on Noir Alley for two reasons, as he would state after th film aired: One, because he’ll never pass up an opportunity to show off the work of director William Cameron Menzies (the man who was responsible for all the imagery you remember from Gone With The Wind) and two, because the film is so relevant today.
Yes, Eddie went there and good for him. On a weekend after Jared Kushner all but Seig, Heil!’ed his father-in-law, it needed to be said. The film, like Mueller’s comment, has the temerity to show Nazis to be every bit as Fascist and awful as you’d think, but it also takes a moment to explain from whence their mindset sprang. This isn’t just an “All Nazis are evil” film. It’s an examination of how and why they got there. If you ever get a chance to see this film, do so. It’s artistically shot, in the stark manner of Metropolis, but it’s also a gripping story.
The title won’t make sense to you until the final scene, by the way.
–Finally, we end with an MH favorite, Mrs. Miniver. It won eight Oscars in 1943, including Best Picture and Best Actress (Greer Garson). A few notes: 1) Garson’s husband is played by Walter Pidgeon, the spitting image of Don Draper. Hollywood sensed their on-screen perfection as a couple, and paired them in eight films together (quite like William Powell and Myrna Loy). However, a year after this film was released, Garson would actually marry the tall man in the photo above, Richard Ney, who played her son Vin and was 12 years younger, 2) Garson’s acceptance speech at the Oscars was 5 1/2 minutes long, still the longest in the show’s history, and it instigated the move to put a time limit on acceptance speeches, 3) Again, this film was released in 1942, when the outcome of the war was still much in doubt. There’s a moving scene in the film in which the title character tries to provide comfort to an injured German soldier. He refuses, and brags about how the Germans destroyed Rotterdam in less than a day and killed 30,000 innocent. He’s proud about it and predicts that the Nazis will do the same to England. She slaps him in the face, but unlike a modern film she doesn’t bust out a can of whupass (even though she has his gun). Only minutes later the scene is played for one of the film’s best laughs after Mr. Miniver brags about how brave he was during the Dunkirk evacuation and frets that it must have been so boring for her to be home and doing nothing.
Four great films, one long weekend on TCM. Oh, and Ben Mankiewicz is moving into “national treasure” territory.
Classic REM (Cont.)
On successive summer nights in 1985, I saw REM (in a theater in downtown Phoenix) and Tom Petty (at an outdoor pavilion off I-10 in what is now just south of Ahwatukee). We had no idea how spoiled we were.
The show above, I believe filmed in Germany, took place less than two months later. If you were listing REM’s most lyrically pleasing songs, I’d put these two atop the list. Though, as you can see here, “Fall On Me”, which would not appear until the following album, Life’s Rich Pageant (1986), was still very much a work in progress live. Something that makes each tune special: Mike Mills’ backing vocals. Also, Michael Stipe’s inimitable voice never gets enough credit. No one sounds quite like him; Mills’ ethereal vocals are a perfect complement.