Tuesday, June 27, 2017

When Film Critics Go Wild

Somebody asked me if I had stopped reviewing movies here because it's been over a month since I did.   Well, frankly, it's been that long since I went out to one.   There is a decided lack of fare that interests me.

That said, there was a recent film that I missed which I recently caught up to on demand.   I had read lots of wonderful notices back in February when "Get Out" was first released.   It's still resounding with some writers who list it as one of the top 10 movies to be released so far in 2017.  What better way for me to make my triumphant return to movie reviewing?  

Indeed, "Get Out" is yet one more example of how people overreact to the diversity push in Hollywood.  It's remarkable how folks bow down and kneel to the likes of Tyler Perry who produce fairly mediocre stuff.  Because, at the end of the day, "Get Out" is not remarkable screenwriting or directing in any stretch of the imagination.   But it is viewed as such because an African-American wrote and directed it.

In this case, the person at the helm is Jordan Peele, who is part of the popular-with-the-kids comedy team, of Key and Peele.   I've seen Key perform separately and was not impressed.    And this production by Peele, while mildly entertaining, is certainly not the historic epic that film critics want you to believe.   Because, at its core, "Get Out" is nothing but a rehash of a horror movie.    Due to its subject matter, "Get Out" is really nothing but "The Stepford Wives Go to Harlem."   You don't remember "The Stepford Wives" with Katherine Ross?   Well, by all means, catch it out...instead of "Get Out."

Okay, to review this movie, I will be giving away some spoilers.   It's your choice to read on or not.  I might be saving you some dough in the long run.   This film starts out in a way reminiscent of "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner."   The White girl, Rose, is bringing the Black boyfriend, Chris, home to meet her super-suburban and rich parents played with pomp and much circumstance by Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener.   They're okay, Rose assures Chris, because they were both big Obama supporters.

As Chris looks around, especially at the Black help employed on the estate grounds, things don't look right.   The Black folks don't act Black, he tells his best friend on his cell phone.   Now, the buddy is a very intelligent TSA agent, which you know doesn't really exist in the real world.   Nevertheless, in much the same vein as the women were turned into robots in "The Stepford Wives," the White folks in "Get Out" are transplanting ______ of _________ into the heads of __________.  Fill in your own plot twist.

I guess film critics are falling over themselves with praise because this is apparently some monumental sociological statement.   In reality, this is nothing more than a goofy horror flick that is predictable as all get out.   And one reviewer went as far as saying that "Get Out" was a wonderful depiction of the violence being perpetrated on Black people by the White population.

Come fuckin' on.   You've seen this all before and "Get Out" brings nothing new to the table.

LEN'S RATING:  Two-and-a-half stars.

Dinner last night:  Grilled beer bratwurst.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Monday Morning Video Laugh - June 26, 2017

Everybody loves a June bride.

Dinner last night:  Rib eye steak and pan roasted tomatoes in balsamic jam.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Sunday Memory Drawer - "Most Kids Your Age Work During the Summer"


Today's title include the immortal words of my father when I turned 16.   That was an indirect way of saying I needed to find a job.   In reality, I didn't have to look far.

This nondescript street corner in Mount Vernon was the site of a monumental moment in my history.   Yes, the first time a kid my age worked during the summer.  

My first employment ever was literally around the corner. In the winter before my neighborhood chums and I all hit the 16 digit in age, we were excited to see a huge job opportunity start to get erected within a block of our homes. A Carvel Ice Cream store was going up on the property of the local car wash. As a matter of fact, it was a business expansion for the car wash's owner, some ugly creep named Jerry Rattner (he's got to be long dead, so I have no worries using his name). Jerry had the physical appearance of Frankenstein's monster with a personality to match. He probably fancied himself as this big business tycoon. And perhaps he was if you considered that one city block to be the entire universe.

Despite the ultra scary nature of Jerry, the local kids, including my good friend Leo and I, started to stalk him about when the store would be open. Jerry would always grunt the same reply.

"This summer. Come back then."

We chased this dude like showgirls would pursue Flo Ziegfeld. And, always the same garbled answer from the guy with bolts in his neck.

"This summer. Come back then."

Gotcha, Mr. Tall, Dark, and Gruesome.

Eventually, summer on schedule came. And most of us got hired to be the store's staff. I remember the very hot July night when the store first opened. We were decked out in Carvel whites with those stupid paper hats. And the place was packed to the seams as if nobody had ever seen before a two-scoop ice cream cone. One customer blended into another and we were all dizzy by the end. All the while, we had our Incredible Hulk of an employer standing nearby to critique our work. And concentrate on our mistakes.

"Whoa, that's too much whipped cream on there!"

"Whoa, cut the banana in quarters!"

"Whoa, stop giving all the pretty girls extra stuff!"

I wanted to say, whoa, fuck off, you bastard.

Amid all this hubbub, I developed a very real fear in working up one item for sale. It ultimately became a phobia that I needed to conquer and fast.

I was absolutely petrified if anybody ordered a Brown Bonnet.

You might remember that particular treat. A soft ice cream cone which is covered in this chocolate sauce that hardens on contact. You can actually buy the junk now in supermarkets under the brand name "Magic Shell." Well, Brown Bonnets were a very tricky thing to make. First, you swirl the soft ice cream onto a cone. And then you quickly dunk it in the sauce. Except I would always lose the ice cream in the mix. The cone came out without the custard. And this pretty much screwed up the sauce as there was now this glob of ice cream in the can.

"Whoa, that stuff is expensive. You're killing me here!"

Whoa, if only I could kill you right here...


The whole experience for me was torturous. Hours before the store would open to the public each day, you were on duty making all the "fresh" products that were sold in the freezer case. Parfaits, Flying Saucers, the 32 or so flavors of ice cream that were in vats displayed to customers. You'd stand with a tub in front of one of the custard machines. As vanilla ice cream dripped into the vat, you would periodically spoon something else in to create all the wonderful Carvel variations. Spooning in cherries. Voila, Cherry Vanilla. Spooning in chocolate syrup. Voila, Vanilla Fudge Swirl. Spooning in chocolate chips. Voila, Chocolate Chip.

"Whoa, that's way too many chocolate chips in there!"

Fuck off, shithead.

You'd go home at the end of the day, smelling like chocolate. You'd lay in bed at night and dream of the repetitive motion needed to make a cone. Over and over and over. And, throughout your sleep, you'd hear Jerry's voice telling you how you just screwed up one more time.

I lasted only the summer and no more. While my friend Leo actually thrived there as a manager and essentially funded his college education right through grad school, I realized that I was much better off on the other side of the counter. Licking the cone and wondering why there weren't more chocolate chips in the ice cream.

The following year, I moved onto another summer job. But, you will simply have to wait one week to hear all about it.  

Because, after all, kids my age needed to work during the summer.

Dinner last night:  Hamburger.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - June 2017

Released forty years ago this month.

Dinner last night:  Stir fry vegetables.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Every Old Protest March Is New Again











Dinner last night:  Hamburger and cole slaw.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Dial It Down

Okay, this is long overdue.

Let me preface this all by saying that I am NOT a fan of President Donald Trump.  Nor was I a fan of Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.  Sad to admit that it was my intense dislike of both that had me not pulling either lever last November.

Going back further, I was definitely not a fan of the woefully-in-over-his-head Barack Obama.  Once everybody gets over their political correctness, history will show him to be one of the more mediocre people to hold the top office.   I definitely was also not a fan of George W. Bush or Bill Clinton or George H.W. Bush or the second term of Ronald Reagan when our country was likely being run by Nancy Reagan, Merv Griffin, and some psychic in Bel Air.

Devouring 20th Century Presidential history books as I do, I can pretty much declare that my favorite Chief Executive over that time is John F. Kennedy, largely because he exhibited the admirable composite of being socially liberally and fiscally conservative, which would be me.

But, while I am largely not a fan of many of the people who sat in the Oval Office, I am definitely a fan of the concept of President itself.  I hold what that job is supposed to be as dear and I view it with great reverence.   That's what I was taught by my parents and my grade school teachers.  Regardless of the party, you held whoever was in that office to the highest regard.

Of course, some of the respect began to wear off as the actual Chief Executives started to demean the position themselves.   Nixon's lunacy.   Clinton blowing his saxophone on late night gab fests.   Obama making regular appearances on comedy shows.   And, of course, Trump acting a regular Twitter fool on a daily basis.

While the last five or so Presidents have played a large part in reducing the reverence of this very important job, we all haven't helped.   The manic-depressive, bi-polar state of our populace has also contributed to the complete desecration of the office of President of the United States.

That said, I have never seen or heard in my life the type of violent vitriole that is rampant today.   Social media amps up the anger and it was not long after his election that I actually saw a Facebook friend of mine openly discuss that Trump should be assassinated.

Are you fucking kidding me?

Meanwhile, on the aforementioned Facebook, I also see a lot of other vile behavior from other friends that I would expect more from.  Cartoons, funny pictures, willy-nilly sharing of completely bogus news and theories from the likes of Breitbart News and Occupy Democrats.   Or you get on your Facebook page carefully edited clips from Sean Hannity, Rachel Maddow and Trevor Noah.  A few of my Facebook friends share the rants and ravings of the no-longer-relevant Dan Rather, who literally and inexplicably began one piece by saying he was an avowed independent.  To say Rather is unbiased is like saying a Kardashian sister passed alegbra in high school.

Can I suggest that, in lieu of reading or absorbing all this garbage, you read a book about one of the people who held this office over the past hundred or so years?   I invite you to my home and you can borrow one of my three dozen or so volumes.

Okay, this is America and free speech should be our most cherished right.   Every one is entitled to their opinion.   And all of these thoughts should be tolerated not spit at.  A level of civility was begun by our founding fathers, but, alas, that has been thrown out the window with the baby, the bath water, and the crib.

Look at how the line has been crossed in the past two weeks.  D-list comic Kathy Griffin, who is as funny as a seven-car pile-up on the Harbor Freeway, holds up a bloody head of the President.   New York's Central Park stages a version of "Julius Caesar" where an exact replica of Donald Trump is assassinated on stage to cheers.  Of course, the pinnacle of ugliness came last week when some nut job shot up a bunch of Republican congresspeople as they practiced for a charity baseball game.

Are we proud of ourselves?   Especially when celebrity dopes like Madonna say that the White House should be blown up.  Charming.   Let's keep that disgusting rhetoric going.   Because, as history shows, we are not the most open-minded nations on the earth.   We have indeed resorted to violence to change the direction of our government.

There have 45 Presidents in our history.   That's not a lot.   Of that total, there were four Presidential murders...McKinley, Garfield, Lincoln, and JFK. Percentage-wise, that's high.   Meanwhile, there have eight other assassination attempts during the lifespan of America.   Andrew Jackson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Harry Truman all got shot at.   President-elect Franklin Roosevelt was riding in a car when a gunman took aim at him.   The other passenger, the mayor of Miami, took the bullet and died.  

I'll keep going.  Gerald Ford got shot at not once but twice from the likes of Sara Jane Moore and that Manson chick Squeaky Fromme.   George W. Bush had a grenade thrown at him which malfunctioned.   And, of course, Ronald Reagan came very close to death when he got nailed by the president of the Jodie Foster Fan Club, John Hinckley.  

My count of both completed and attempted assassinations is 12 and that's over 25 percent of our Presidential roster.   When you think about that, I get a sick feeling in my stomach because I was always thought this was a peaceful and great nation.

You hate Trump?  Fine.   Likely, his arrogance will trip him up and the courts will decide his fate.  Or you pray that there are better options in 2020 and you vote him out the way the founding fathers designed this mousetrap.   But, in the meantime, dial it down!  Instead of putting up stupid cartoons or sharing the misguided thoughts of some moronic pundit, take some time and clean out a clothes closet for a donation to Goodwill.   Post a notice about a lost dog in the neighborhood.  Or do something else that helps us all in the community.  What you're doing on social media is just wasting everybody's time, including yours.

Civility is on life support in America at the moment.   But, perhaps, we can all engineer a miracle.

Dinner last night:  Barbecue beef platter at the Dodger game.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

This Date in History - June 21

Happy birthday to Bernie Kopell.  Everybody remembers him from "The Love Boat," but I fond recall him as...see below.

1307:  KULUG KHAN IS ENTHRONED AS KHAGAN OF THE MONGOLS AND WUZONG OF THE YUAN.

This must mean something to somebody.

1582:  ODA NOBUNAGA, THE MOST POWERFUL OF THE JAPANESE DAIMYOS, WAS FORCED TO COMMIT SUICIDE.

Daimyos sounds like a new yogurt.

1621:  EXECUTION OF 27 CZECH NOBLEMEN ON THE OLD TOWN SQUARE IN PRAGUE AS A CONSEQUENCE OF THE BATTLE OF WHITE MOUNTAIN.

Big news I suppose if you're Czech.

1734:  IN MONTREAL, A SLAVE KNOWN BY THE FRENCH NAME OF MARIE-JOSEPH ANGELIQUE IS PUT TO DEATH, HAVING BEEN CONVICTED OF SETTING THE FIRE THAT DESTROYED MUCH OF THE CITY.

Well, that sounds like a fair punishment.

1749:  HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA, IS FOUNDED.

Was it lost?

1788:  NEW HAMPSHIRE RATIFIES THE CONSTITUTION OF THE US AND IS ADMITTED AS THE NINTH STATE OF THE US.

Primaries to come.

1798:  IRISH REBELLION - THE BRITISH ARMY DEFEATS IRISH REBELS AT THE BATTLE OF VINEGAR HILL.  

Vinegar Hill right next to Mount Olive Oil.

1848:  IN THE WALLACHIAN REVOLUTION, ION HELIADE RADULESCU AND CHRISTIAN TELL ISSUE THE PROCLAMATION OF ISLAZ AND CREATE A NEW REPUBLICAN GOVERNMENT.

It's amazing how much world history I don't give a shit about.

1898:  THE UNITED STATES CAPTURES GUAM FROM SPAIN.

Why??

1905:  AUTHOR JEAN-PAUL SARTRE IS BORN.

Still waiting.

1915:  THE US SUPREME COURT HANDS DOWN ITS DECISION IN GUINN VS. US, STRIKING DOWN OKLAHOMA GRANDFATHER CLAUSE LEGISLATION WHICH HAD THE EFFECT OF DENYING BLACKS THE RIGHT TO VOTE.

No, Trump is not trying to undo this.

1921:  ACTRESS JUDY HOLLIDAY IS BORN.

And she just died on This Date in History - June 7.

1921:  ACTRESS JANE RUSSELL IS BORN.

I had lunch with her once.  Mike drop.

1925:  ACTRESS MAUREEN STAPLETON IS BORN.

Gets mentioned here solely because she was in "Bye Bye Birdie."

1932:  COMPOSER LALO SCHIFRIN IS BORN.

Still with us.   The genius who wrote the themes to "Mission: Impossible" and "Mannix."

1933:  ACTOR BERNIE KOPELL IS BORN.

...because he played Siegfried on "Get Smart."

1942:  A JAPANESE SUBMARIE SURFACES NEAR THE COLUMBIA RIVER IN OREGON, FIRING 17 SHELLS AT FORT STEVENS.

Because bombing Oregon was so strategic during World War II??

1945:  WORLD WAR II - THE BATTLE OF OKINAWA ENDS WHEN JAPANESE FORCES COLLAPSE.

And that's what you get for bombing Oregon.

1947:  ACTOR MICHAEL GROSS IS BORN.

The Michael nobody remembers from "Family Ties."

1952:  PILOT WOP MAY DIES.

Included here only because the name made me laugh.

1957:  ELLEN FAIRCLOUGH IS SWORN IN AS CANADA'S FIRST FEMALE CABINET MINISTER.

If you insist.

1963:  POPE PAUL VI IS ELECTED.

Probably the biggest nose of any Pope.

1964:  THREE CIVIL RIGHTS WORKERS ARE MURDERED IN MISSISSIPPI BY THE KLU KLUX KLAN.

No, that wasn't Donald Trump riding the third horse.

1970:  PENN CENTRAL DECLARES BANKRUPTCY, LARGEST EVER US CORPORATE BANKRUPTCY TO THIS DATE.

That was no way to run a railroad.

1980:  COMPOSER BERT KAEMPFERT DIES.

Wrote "Swingin' Safari," the very first theme to TV's "Match Game."  So there.

1982:  JOHN HINCKLEY IS FOUND NOT GUILTY BY REASON OF INSANITY FOR THE ASSASSINATION OF US PRESIDENT REAGAN.

You talking to me?

1987:  ENGINEER MADMAN MUNTZ DIES.

Also a name that made me laugh today.

2001:  ACTOR CARROLL O'CONNOR DIES.

Sheer brilliance as Archie Bunker.

2003:  AUTHOR LEON URIS DIES.

Really Exodus.

2005:  EDGAR RAY KILLEN, WHO HAD BEEN ACQUITTED FOR THE MURDER OF THOSE THREE CIVIL RIGHTS WORKERS, IS CONVICTED OF MANSLAUGHTER WHEN THE CASE IS RE-OPENED.

It's about time.

2009:  GREENLAND ASSUMES SELF-RULE.

If you want something done right...

2015:  BASEBALL PLAYER DARRYL HAMILTON DIES.

Maybe there will be a Broadway musical about him.

Dinner last night:  Bratwurst at the Dodger game.