Last Saturday, I saw a man running a shell-game on the L. The first player, obviously the shill, won $100. A group of onlookers cheered and applauded. Then several of them got fleeced. There are still people who don't know this is a con. SMH
Prior to Saturday, I hadn't seen a shell game or 3-card monte on the L in over 20 years. Coincidentally, our local NPR station reported on L-train shell games and 3-card monte earlier this week.
Various news outlets are suddenly reporting on Trump's Catholic problem. Among Catholics, Hillary is leading Trump by about 25 points. I have thoughts about why that is, but no firm opinions. Some say it's about ethnicity and immigration, but I think there is more to it than that, and I'll leave it there.
Last night, we watched the series finale of the Night Of. I give it a strong recommendation, though I'm still sorting out the meaning of some themes they incorporated. It's a single-season, 8-part HBO series, so no huge commitment. You can probably catch it soon on Amazon, if it isn't already available there.
Don't Think Twice explores the undercurrent tensions that surface in an improv group when one member of the company makes it to SNL. The film begins with a documentary-style presentation that almost imperceptibly takes on the feel of a non-documentary film as the story unfolds. Fears of failure, loss of identity and unconscious rivalries barely hide behind humor that is at times quite cruel. Don't Think Twice could easily be about the wearing psychological tensions experienced by professional actors as they reach their late 3os, 40s and 50s, watching as some peers make it to the big time and others don't. -- 9/10 stars.
Don't Breathe is a horror-thriller about a home burglary gone awry, and it isn't pretty for a trio of young burglars who find that getting out of the house they targeted is far more difficult than it was getting in. Thriller and horror are not my favorite genres, but it was well-crafted and well-acted, so I enjoyed it. 8/10 stars.
I should begin this review with the caveat that I don't like film reviews, and I try not to read them. If I'm interested in a film for whatever reason, I just go see it. I don't like having plot points given away, or too much revealed in general, by reviewers or trailers. But I do like to talk about movies, and Dr. X has asked us to share our opinions, so here goes. For people like me who don't want to know anything beyond a recommendation, read no further; just go stream "Holiday" from 1938 right now. For those who want to know more, I've tried to be pretty vague about the details, and just stick to why I think this is a very awesome and unique picture.
A few nights ago we watched "Holiday," starring Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn, directed by Hollywood great George Cukor, released in 1938.
Based on the play of the same name staged in 1928, and the first film adaption from 1930, here's the set-up: Cary Grant is a young, self-made business man engaged to an heiress, who has a kooky sister, played by Hepburn. This _must_ be a breezy, screw-ball, romantic comedy, right? It certainly is, but not in the way we're used to, if we're fans of "Bringing Up Baby" or "The Philadelphia Story." These characters aren't full of just romance and fun; they also experience disappointment, and grief, as they struggle to find themselves. These are themes more familiar from "Lost Generation" fiction, such as "The Razor's Edge" or "The Sun Also Rises," to name two. This perception is underscored by the presence of Lew Ayres ("All Quiet on the Western Front," 1930) as Grant's alcoholic playboy soon-to-be brother-in-law. However, the world had changed a good deal since the writing of the play, when search for self had taken a back seat to searching for a job in the depths of the Great Depression.
In our own somewhat desperate times, Grant's character initially comes off as frivolous, and Hepburn's as mawkish, as they probably did to their contemporary audience (the film was not a hit at the box office). As the film goes on, however, their struggles become more concrete, and a new layer is added to their story, built on its post-WWl ennui--that of the rising tide of Fascism, both the kind in far away places, and the controlling, bullying forces within their own family.
But this by no means a grim night at the movies. It's extremely fun, with loads of humor and charm--Cary Grant even does a few impressive physical tricks from his days as an acrobat in vaudeville.
I highly recommend this film, 9/10 (extra points for co-starring the always enjoyable Edward Everett Horton). It is currently available streaming for a fee on YouTube, iTunes, and Amazon Video, though not, unfortunately, on Netflix. It is only on DVD within collections, not as a stand-alone disc.
The cash-strapped State of Illinois is economizing. Former state comptroller, Judy Baar Topinka, died in 2014. Rather than toss millions of preprinted envelopes, her successor blacked out Topinka's name and had her own name squeezed in above Topinka's.
I appreciate the photo contributions I've received from readers over the past few years, and I was thinking that I'd like to do the same with film reviews. Of course you may continue to share your thoughts on films in the comment section, but I'd also welcome reviews that I could offer as freestanding guest posts. Reviews can be brief (a paragraph) or much longer if you're inclined to delve deeply. It doesn't matter if I've already posted my own review. Any film, from vintage to recently-released, is eligible. The film can be in theaters, on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon. Any type of analysis would be fine-- psychoanalytic, artistic-aesthetic, or just a damn good story -- whatever you're interest or wheelhouse. If you're inclined to participate, drop an email: drxblog at gmail.
My next review will be Don't Think Twice, which is in theaters now. We saw it last night. If you've already seen it, feel free to submit a review and beat me to the punch.
Anthropoid is a mostly non-fiction account of the 1942 assassination of SS General Reinhard Heydrich. Heydrich—Hitler's third in command and the ruthless military ruler of occupied Czechoslovakia—is considered by many to be the worst of the murdering worst in Hitler's high command. Anthropoid was the name of the London-directed operation to take Heydrich out.
The film begins with a pair of parachutists dropped into Czechoslovakia, left largely on their own to hook-up with local resistance fighters and with other pairs dropped from the air to support the operation. The first part of the film reveals the extraordinary challenges faced when the leaders of the plot attempt to assemble the team in an atmosphere of great fear and extreme mistrust. Everyone is a presumed Nazi mole, a civilian rat or a collaborator.
Once connections were established, the lead operatives were again left on their own to develop a plan for killing the heavily-guarded Nazi general.
The assassination itself was not without controversy. The resistance fighters on the ground knew that Heydrich's killing would result in massive retaliation against Czech civilians, so, to this day, there is disagreement about whether Operation Anthropoid was misguided.
Although many professional reviewers disliked this film, I strongly recommend it. One reviewer criticism was that the set-up was too slow. I get restless easily, but I wasn't bored at all. On the other hand, many reviewers heartily approved the extended final scene of a violent standoff in a church, while I felt the brutal scene was gratuitously drawn out. However, after seeing the film and reading more about the real events, I changed my mind about that. Evidently, the church scene was a reasonably accurate rendering of the violent 6-hour standoff at Prague's Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius. If you see this film as an action-adventure film, I suppose you wouldn't like the first half, but if that's what you're looking for, go see Jason Bourne or some other 3D festival of crashes and explosions.
At the end of the film, I was left feeling stunned. More than a few people seated nearby had tears streaming, but this was not a manipulative or sentimental tearjerker. Writer-director Sean Ellis conveyed the abject horror of the events surrounding Operation Anthropoid, as well as the unimaginable heroism of people who fought the ruthless Nazi occupation, knowing that they would in all likelihood die for their cause.
The #SaysWho man is Donald Trump's attorney and Trump corporation executive, Michael Cohen. You may remember him as the man who drew national attention because of his claim that, legally, there is no such thing as rape in a marriage.
He's also remembered for threats he made when the Daily Beast was planning to write a story about Ivana Trump's now disavowed claim that Donald Trump violated her in a way that felt like rape:
“So I’m warning you, tread very f---ing lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be f---ing disgusting. You understand me?”
“You write a story that has Mr. Trump’s name in it, with the word ‘rape,’ and I’m going to mess your life up…for as long as you’re on this frickin’ planet…you’re going to have judgments against you, so much money, you’ll never know how to get out from underneath it,” he added.
Cohen then goes on to threaten the Daily Beast with a $500 million lawsuit akin to the one Trump hit Univision with after it pulled out of televising Miss America following his controversial immigration comments, as well as threaten the authors Tim Mak and Brad Zadrozny.
“So you do whatever you want. You want to ruin your life at the age of 20? You do that, and I’ll be happy to serve it right up to you.”
Cohen concluded: “I think you should go ahead and you should write the story that you plan on writing. I think you should do it. Because I think you’re an idiot. And I think your paper’s a joke, and it’s going to be my absolute pleasure to serve you with a $500 million lawsuit, like I told [you] I did it to Univision.”