31 October 2008

Raise Your Hands if You Remember Walking

This was really embarrassing. Earlier this evening I was walking in the crosswalk and found a car stopped in the middle of it, parallel. I had to walk around the car and outside the crosswalk to continue on my way. The passenger door opened as I walked by nearly striking me. I immediately apologized to the driver and passenger, “I’m sorry, I thought this was a crosswalk,” was my smart ass bon mot.

So it seems crosswalks are to be taken over by cars now. I’ll have to stay away from them in the same way I avoid sidewalks. Pedestrians used to be able to stroll on sidewalks before they became the sole preserve of cyclists, joggers and the odd skateboarder (is there any other kind?).

I guess the only place to “walk” is across parked cars or by leaping from rooftop to rooftop. I’m just worried about a whole vertigo deal. I’ve got a friend in San Francisco -- Scotty I calls him -- who’s got a deuce of a vertigo problem. He used to be on the SFPD until he let a uniformed cop fall to his death. Last I heard Scotty was dating some blonde dish. Hope it works out.

Walking is so passe anyway. It’s going the way of the rotary phone. I miss the rotary phone in a purely nostalgic I-don’t-really-mean-it-way. Among the greatest improvements of my lifetime is phones. The whole touch tone business is a time saver and don’t you just love speed dial?

Caller ID is a real gift. Answering the phone used to be russian roulette. It could be your best girl or a telemarketer -- who knew for sure? You’d excitedly pick up the phone thinking it was a job offer only to hear a creditor prophesize your doom unless you paid up but quick. Sometimes with caller ID all you can see is a number and you get into the whole “who the hell is that” business. Thankfully that quandary can be handled by good old voice mail, another thing we didn’t have when I was growing up (around the Bronze Age if you must know).

Best of all is the cell phone. You can call from anywhere. At the grocery store and not sure if you’re out of limburger cheese? Call the better half and ask her to check the fridge.

We live in age of miracles, ladies and gentleman. Phones in our pockets. Phones that can take pictures, even record sight and sound. The missus has an iphone so she can check the internet on her phone and listen to tunes. I’m fine for now with a phone and ipod that are sold separately. I’m such a dinosaur.

Which brings me back to this whole walking thing. The car in the crosswalk might have been the clincher for me. I gotta get me a jet pack.

30 October 2008

Lennon in Heaven

I'm subbing in a 7th grade art class at a ritzy San Francisco private school. (More on this place and other related issues another time.)

Kid name of Walker showed a girl, Caroline, his drawing. She said, "it looks like John Lennon in heaven."

I thought that had a wonderful ring to it -- John Lennon in heaven. Lyrical.

It also seems quite appropriate. If there is such a place in the after life I'd think the former Beatle would have to be a very serious candidate for entrance. He was, after all, about nothing if not peace. Giving it a chance was an important theme of his. Heaven and peace are synonymous in my book.

Weird how some fundamentalists will claim that heaven is solely reserved for those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their lord and savior -- he loves you, by the way. If you don't accept him well, sorry, you're going to burn in hell for eternity where there'll be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. Meanwhile though, he loves you.

I haven't reached any of my own conclusions about Edens in the after life but am firm in believing that if it exits, chaps like John Lennon should feature prominently.

Ironically there some very famous Lennon lyrics in which he asks people to imagine there is no heaven--"above us only sky" -- and no hell. Of course his whole point was not to debunk the existence of such places but to prompt people to use their imaginations. Imagining is of course far more than making up stories or fantasies in your head. It's really about seeing alternatives and recognizing possible consequences. Try imagining how someone is going to feel before making a comment that may be hurtful. Imagine the repercussions of your country's invading another. Imagination is a vastly under utilized human tool. Lennon saw that and he also saw that people hadn't resorted to peace often enough. One wonders if that message will ever get across.

Yeah...Lennon in heaven. I can totally see that.

29 October 2008

Tis the Season For Political Films, Tra La La La La La La La

Not sick of politics yet? (Seriously, after months...what am I saying, two years of this political campaign you're not sick to death of it? What, you been in a cave all this time?) Or if you'd just like a less reality based view of U.S. politics, how about a movie? Hollywood has churned out scads of films that depict our political process.

Some of these films are downright educational in their depiction of political campaigns or the workings of government. Some are morality tales (morality, in politics?) revealing the dark or bright sides of homo sapiens entrusted with a power.

Good political films can enlighten and entertain. Here are some of the best.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) For the two decades I taught U.S. History I always followed our study of the Constitution by showing Frank Capra's Mr. Smith. Invariably many students would initially groan at being subjected to an old black and white movie. There would also be some who had trouble with the slang and idioms of the late Thirties. But by the movie's end classes would often break into applause and sing its praises. I even managed to convert some students into fans of classic cinema. Mr. Smith succeeds because of the power of its twin messages: 1) Elements of our government can be controlled by dark forces seeking power and wealth through corruption and manipulation that subvert our democratic process and even our freedoms of speech and press. 2) Our government contains within it the all that is necessary to rid us of such influences and one person can make a difference. Of course, many critics of the film only see the the first message and miss the more important and inspiring second message. Interestingly, Mr. Smith was banned by both communist and fascist countries. The movie is not completely accurate in its depiction of a filibuster but does give viewers a sense of how the senate works, how laws are made and how certain protocols are important. It includes brilliant performances by Jimmy Stewart as Smith, Claude Rains as a morally conflicted senator and Edward Arnold as the ultimate political bad guy. The cast also includes Jean Arthur, whose character’s transformation from cynic to believer is one of the film’s highlights. Thomas Mitchell is excellent as a hard bitten old reporter. Smith’s valiant effort to save his fledging career and expose corruption through a one-man filibuster is a cinematic masterpiece.

The Candidate (1972) Absolutely, positively the best movie about a political campaign yet made. It's 36 years old and not a bit dated. Michael Ritchie directed this story of an idealistic young attorney picked to run a supposedly doomed campaign for the US Senate. Redford was the perfect choice for the part and was excellent in the lead role. However it is Peter Boyle and Allen Garfield who really shine as the savvy insiders who run his campaign. Melvyn Douglass appears as the candidate's father, a former governor. Also noteworthy is Don Porter as the Ronald Reagan-like incumbent. He spouts platitudes and bloviates about nothing in a style characteristic of post Eisenhower Republicans.The Candidate has at times a documentary feel to it as it follows Redford's campaign to whistle stops, debates, and the boudoir. The movie includes one of the great closing lines in all of film.

The Contender (2000) A flawed film but nonetheless an interesting take on high power politics. Joan Allen stars as an appointee to replace a deceased vice president. She would be the first female vice president and seems a reasonable choice. But a powerful senator played by Gary Oldman (damn, he's good) wants to derail her appointment in favor of the governor of his state who supposedly attempted to rescue a drowning woman and is thus a hero. Or is he? There's a lot of intrigue mixed in to the Contender turning what could have been a rather pedestrian story into a thriller. Viewers can decide for themselves if it all works. I think there's little doubt that the film does explore political gamesmanship at the highest levels. Jeff Bridges is wonderful as a Clintonesque president. The real mystery of the movie is why he didn't feature more.

Advise & Consent (1962) This time the new appointee is for Secretary of State and Henry Fonda stars. At two and a quarter hours it packs in a lot, a helluva lot, about political maneuvering. It's an excellent primer on American government and features a terrific cast. Besides the aforementioned Fonda, Paul Ford, Walter Pidgeon, Charles Laughton and Peter Lawford are senators. Franchot Tone is the president and Lew Ayers the veep, Gene Tierney, Will Geer, Burgess Meredith and a young Betty White all appear. Otto Preminger provided the workman like direction. While The Contender sacrificed steak for sizzle, there's certainly a lot of meat to Advise and Consent. There was even a subplot about homosexuality (in 1962?).

The Great McGinty (1940) Any movie list is enhanced by a Preston Sturges film. Here's the story of a mendicant (Brian Donlveay) who earns a few bucks on election day by repeatedly voting at various polling stations -- for the same slate, of course. Next thing you know the machine hires him as muscle. Lo and behold its not long before he raises to the position of governor with stops along the way to serve as an alderman then mayor. But wouldn't you know it? The machine's dirty dealings are found out and he an his cronies have to take it on the lam. The usual wonderful Sturges company appears and here includes Akim Tamiroff as "The Boss." He couldn't be better. This marvelous story flies by in under an hour and half. One of Sturges' six great films.

W. (2008) You can't rent this on DVD -- yet, but it's still theaters. An all-star cast led by Josh Brolin as the current president feature in Oliver Stone's take on the rise of George W. Bush up to the first year of the war in Iraq. It's a fascinating look at how a seeming failure and spoiled rich kid can become president. There's also a lot about how decisions are made at the highest levels, who makes them and why. How W. will be perceived in years to come is anyone's guess but right now its an important look at how a the USA got in such a fine mess.

Washington Merry-Go-Round (1932) Lee Tracy plays Button Gwinett Brown (seriously, that's the character's name) a freshman Congressman out to rid Washington of corruption. The Depression is in full swing and the Bonus Army still camps in the capital providing a powerful backdrop to our story. Not surprisingly our hero runs up against opposition (what, you thought cleaning up Washington should be a snap?). His unwillingness to compromise his principles and his brutal honesty are refreshing if not politically prudent. It's an intelligent story, lacking the scope of Mr. Smith but worthy in its own right.

Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940) Why not a little 19th century American History too? You could do a lot worse than director John Cromwell's look at Honest Abe from Kentucky rail-splitter to president- elect. Raymond Massey is just fine as Lincoln and Ruth Gordon (especially given her later work) is fascinating to watch as Mary Todd Lincoln. Gene Lockhart was an interesting choice for Stephen Douglas, but he makes it work. So much of American politics is informed by the story of Lincoln that this modest effort deserves a look. It's fairly accurate and Massey is a more than passable Lincoln.

Bullworth (1998) And now for something completely different. Warren Beatty directed and starred in this offbeat look at a powerful but suicidal politician who adopts hip-hop culture to express his disillusionment with the political status quo. Halle Berry co-stars (a strong selling point in itself). The crazy thing about Senator Bullworth's transformation is that he starts doing what no real politician can do -- speak the truth as he sees it. The movie is thus able to give an unflinching and revealing look at the failure's of our political system, its hypocrisy and failure to meet the needs of the neediest.

The Last Hurrah (1958) Director John Ford and actor Spencer Tracy combined for this study of a politician on his last legs. Like great athletes, even mediocre politicians sometimes don't know when enough is enough. The power and the glory are too intoxicating. Tracy plays an incumbent running for another term as mayor of an unnamed U.S. city. It's a surprisingly cynical film for Ford, made fairly late in his own career. Donald Crisp, James Gleason, and Pat O'Brien help give The Last Hurrah an authentic Irish American political machine feel. There's humor and insight in this somewhat dark film.

Others To Consider: Dave (1993), The Dark Horse (1932), State of the Union (1948), The American President (1995), Gabriel Over the White House (1933), and Primary Colors (1998).

27 October 2008

The Public Enemy, It's Not Just About the Grapefruit

"I wish you was a wishin' well. So I could tie a bucket to ya and sink ya." - Tom Powers as played by James Cagney in The Public Enemy (1931).

First of all, that doesn't make any sense. How do you sink a wishing well? Secondly, anyone who would say such a thing is likely a real jerk. Thirdly disregard the first point and realize the second one is irrelevant.


Here's the thing about cinema. You can take the story of a gangster like Tom Powers, even show him shoving a grapefruit into his girlfriend's face, and create a thoroughly compelling story. Hell, you even end up rooting for the dirty rat.

Public Enemy is, in my estimation, a great film. The then-young Jimmy Cagney gives a performance that even he was only able to equal a couple of times (Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) and White Heat (1949)). At first look he may just seem all snappy dialogue and tough guy bravado. But watch him move. Cagney is as graceful as a ballet dancer and as powerful as a running back. No actor has ever looked more comfortable in his body. Watch him lean against the bar and give a confederate the affectionate air punch to the jaw. Watch him squire around Jean Harlow or run from the cops or just walk into a room. He's mesmerizing.

Powers is an uncompromising character in the uncompromising story of a gangster's raise. Director William Wellman (the best director you've never heard of) tells a story filled with sex and violence and death. But it's mostly all off camera (modern directors, take note). When Cagney shoots a former boss who betrayed him, we hear the shots but watch Cagney's partner react. In one of the best scenes you'll ever see we watch a grim faced and determined Cagney stride purposefully into his rivals' lair. We watch him disappear into the building and are left to listen to the ensuing shots and screams. Even the slaying of a horse is off camera, though audible.

We don't need to see people getting shot. We do need to see Cagney -- and we get lots of him.

Public Enemy doesn't really moralize. Sure it shows the rise of street punk to his inevitable fate and no this is no glamorizing of the gangster life. But the story is more documentary than fable. The reality of it stylized only by Cagney's performance.

Hollywood has produced some terrific gangster films from Little Caesar (1931) to Goodfellas (1990) with many before after and in between. The Public Enemy rates with the best of them. Like others of it genre it gives the vicarious thrill of rooting for the outlaw. We can imagine doing what we want, taking what we want, not bound by society's conventions. Usually there is an anti hero to root for. He (invariably it's a man) doesn't just break the law but does it with panache. Maybe he's handsome, he can even be charmer, usually he's quite smart. He probably loves his dear old ma too.

But the best of them, like Cagney's Tom Powers, have got charisma. Anyone interested in Cagney, the gangster genre or good films, will want to see The Public Enemy. And not just once.

24 October 2008

Republicans, You Got Served

Obama responds to the negative with a brilliant speech. Here is the passion, the clarity and the message of unity that the Republicans can't grasp or even understand.

This was in Richmond, Virginia October 22, the former capital of the Confederate States of America. Over 140 years after the end of slavery we are on the verge of having an African American president. One who inspires hope to a nation beat down by the politics of cynicsm and division. The Republicans are bereft of ideas and have no response, they continue to resort to personal attacks unable to even envision a counter message.

Goodness, even an old crumudgeon like me believes. I haven't had such a sense of hope since the early Seventies.

"With All My Heart I Still Love the Man I Killed."

You did not just say that, Bette.

But she did. And to her husband, no less! In William Wyler's The Letter (1940) the late oh so great Ms. Davis gives one of Hollywood's greatest performances. It doesn't seem the slightest bit subjective to write that. She is transcendent.

How to do describe Davis' character, Leslie Crosbie? How about utterly shocking? Totally audacious. Amoral. Calculating. Deceitful. With such a proper veneer no less. One that no one can seem to see through.

But how about this: Is Leslie Crosbie a cold blooded killer or hot with passions that lead to adultery and murder? How about both?

Has anyone ever lied so artfully, even at the point of being found out? Then played for sympathy so adroitly? We don't know whether to wish Leslie death or every happiness. As Leslie, Davis bewitches the audience, even at the distance of 68 years on the relatively small screen of a TV set. Masterful.

I watched The Letter for perhaps the fifth or sixth time just now and plan many more viewings. It's a mesmerizing film. But no performance, no matter how great can bring one back to a movie again and again. There's so much more to the film. For one, Davis draws great performances from her co-stars such as Herbert Marshall as her cuckolded husband. The poor man takes everything at face value, has the innocence and faith of a child on Christmas Eve. Marshall plays the poor sap perfectly but never drops the sophistication. A lesser actor would have made the man maudlin or cloying. But we needed to like the guy to make Davis that much more of an utter fink. Watch Marshall when informed of the cost of the letter. For several beats his face betrays nothing. He allows the shock to slowly settle in. Poor guy.

Gale Sondergaard is brilliant as the victim's Eurasian widow. So seemingly sinister, saying so much with her eyes while uttering nary a word. I don't recall any actress doing quite so much with so few movements in so little screen time.

Rarely talked about in discussions of the film is James Stephenson as the family friend and attorney. He's on to Davis early courtesy of the incriminating letter. He provides a moral center, despite betraying the ethics of his profession. His first duty is to save his client and his ability to compartmentalize the whirl of contrasting facts and emotions is astonishing. Stephenson plays him perfectly. He's all urbanity and practical wisdom.

But it is Davis around whom all others orbit. It's a performance made grand by subtlety. The sly quick look. The slight pause, the slighter inflection while concocting or confessing or just passing the time. But does Leslie Crosbie ever just pass the time? Davis gives meaning to all her words, all her moves.

When we first meet Leslie Crosbie she is emptying a revolver into a man who is tumbling down the steps of a veranda. Look at her face. Utterly passionless. Cold and hard. Soon she's swooning, playing the victim for the police, the lawyer and her husband, weaving her story so effortlessly and thus gaining their immediate sympathy, even respect.

In prison she is stoic but, when confronted with the existence of the letter, able to think on her feet and create anew, tossing in a literal swoon for good measure.

Davis must have realized that in Leslie Crosbie she had a role that she could sink her teeth into. But Bette likely knew how easy it would be to foul it up with board emotions. So she faced the supreme challenge of doing so much without seeming to do a lot. The character and her words were shocking. Davis had to let the words have power. She respected the words, the direction, the camera, her co- stars. In The Letter Bette Davis embodied her character, that world, the milieu. She became.

Art is making something look as special as it is.

Bette Davis as Leslie Crosbie in The Letter is great art.

23 October 2008

Trick or Treat or Movie?

Halloween is just around the corner (how's that for hokey intro!). Many of us old geezers no longer play dress up. And if the kiddies are too old to trick or treat (at least with parents in tow) we're free to stay at home and enjoy a scary movie or two.

Hollywood has been churning out horror films since the silent era. Sadly, the genre has recently morphed into slasher films that emphasize gratuitous gore. But there's still plenty to choose from from days of yore. Here's a sampling of choices for your Halloween viewing pleasure.

Bride of Frankenstein (1935) Not just the best of the classic horror films of the Thirties, a wonderful film in its own right. The great James Whale's direction along with an intelligent script for a seemingly preposterous story outshine even the magical performance of Boris Karloff. Colin "it's Alive!" Clive is the now conflicted scientist and Elsa Lanchester is the blushing young bride. But Ernest Thesiger as the evil Dr. Pretorious is an absolute scene-stealer. This is a must-see film.

Frankenstein (1931) How about a shout out for the original? While out shined by the sequel its still an excellent film. Clive, Karloff and the prototype of the angry mob star. Excellent cinematography and some touching moments highlight this classic.

The Old Dark House (1932
) It was a dark and stormy night. Let's see a group of travelers seek refuge from a driving rainstorm in a forbidding looking mansion. What could go wrong? You'll see. The residents are a decidedly odd lot with a temperamental butler. Amazing cast including Melvyn Douglass, Raymond Massey, Gloria Stuart, Charles Laughton that man Karloff again and the delightful Thesiger (watch and listen as he offers his guests potatoes). This is my third straight Whale selection. Obviously he had the Gothic horror story down cold.

Alien (1979) No, no, no it's not science fiction it's a horror film. This time the role of the haunted mansion is played by a space ship and the victims/heroes are astronauts. This does not change the fact that all the elements of the horror film are at work. While the Alien is terrifying (and set the standard for many years to come) it's those moments when it is lurking off screen that are tense and scary.

The Exorcist (1973) I was reading the book in college on a weekend when my roommates all happened to be out of town. I slept in the living room with lights on and though not a religious man I've worn a cross around my neck ever since. The movie is just as frightening even after repeat viewings. An innocent young lass is possessed by the devil (don't you just hate that). Satan is profane, duplicitous and oh so dangerous. A great film by any standard.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) I like this better than the original (my God I've got a sequel and a re-make on this list, who'd of thunk). An absolutely terrifying concept expertly done by director Philip Kaufman. Alien clones are invading bodies and the human race is in peril. Will star Donald Sutherland save humanity or fall victim to this alien plot? The very notion of retaining your human form but your mind being taken over is chilling (hey, that sounds like Scientology!).

Psycho (1960) I know you've seen it a few times already but like a lot of Hitchcock's finest it gets better with each viewing. It never loses its suspense (how did Hitch do that?). Just don't think about it in the shower. Janet Leigh and Vera Miles star along with the creepy Anthony Perkins and his..um "mom.."

Young Frankenstein (1974) Why not some Halloween chuckles? I've never been a huge Mel Brooks fan but I love this film. This is, of course the classic send off of the Frankenstein film with Gene Wilder as the doctor and Peter Boyle as the monster. The all star cast includes Teri Garr, Cloris Leachman and Marty Feldman as the funniest Igor you'll ever see.

The Ring (2002) What's this? I have a film of recent vintage? Yes. I obviously quite liked it. It's a mystery as much as a horror film (many scary movies are) with an intelligent plot. The opportunity to enjoy Naomi Watts is a plus. She's both a great beauty and a great actress.

The Shining (1980) If he'd a mind to Stanley Kubrick could likely have directed a lot of good horror films and Jack Nicholson could have starred in them. Their respective directing and acting styles lent themselves to the genre. The Shining is proof. A family of caretakers in a snowed in mountain resort. The father goes bats. Supernatural events take place. Kudos to Stephen King's story and Kubrick's adaptation of it.

Omen (1976) What could possibly be scarier than the anti-Christ? I can't think of anything either. Gregory Peck is an American statesman who's got the bad fortune of being the anti-Christ's father (and you thought your kid was a little devil). Richard Donner was the perfect man to direct this. It's got grisly deaths, tension and excitement and maybe a little something for bible thumpers and agnostics alike to think about. There are sequels and remakes aplenty but stick to this, the orignial.

Rosemary's Baby (1968) What could be worse than fathering the devil? How about giving birth to it? That was Mia Farrow's lot in this wonderfully scary Roman Polanski film. The worst part is that everyone seems to be in on it. Not knowing whom you can trust is scary stuff indeed. What's really scary is when there's such a sense of normalcy but you gradually discover something is amiss. Horribly so.

Dracula (1931) We close with this absolute classic. No one will ever be better in the title role than was Bela Lugosi. His performance is one of the reasons that this Dracula version ages so well. A seductive and intelligent demon is the worst kind to deal with. Repeat viewings only increase the film's allure.

21 October 2008

This W Stands for Wow

Try to forget for a moment the "who" of Oliver Stone's newest film, W. and concentrate on the "what."

The "who" of course is our current president, his family, cabinet and vice president.

The "what" is the story of one man's rise from alcoholic ne'er-do-well to the office of United States president. It was an amazing transformation.

I have never for one second been a fan of George W. Bush. According to a poll of historians on the History News Network 61% of historians rate him the worst of this country's presidents. Given the state of the economy, Iraq, our world standing etc. etc. etc., that's pretty hard to argue with.

W. does not rehabilitate Bush in any way but it does humanize him in a manner I'd not have thought possible. While he will remain to most of us a bumbling idiot, thanks to Stone we see that he is a well intentioned one. Every step of the way Bush has held to his convictions and persevered. True, the country would be far better off if he'd have quit, but that's not in his nature. One can even admire him for pulling himself up by the proverbial bootstraps. He went from flop to the top.

Ahh but there's the rub. Could he have done it if daddy was not a wealthy and powerful politician himself, one who himself had risen to the presidency? Not a chance.

(Conservatives who bemoan affirmative action conveniently forget all the special privileges attendant to those born rich.)

Of course Bush's relationship with his father is a central focus of W. Stone's film posits that George the younger's rise to, and motivations once at, the top have been shaped by a most curious father-son relationship. George bristled at his father’s seeming favoritism for brother Jeb and of his father’s constant haranguing. But George used that very scolding as motivation and it quite possibly shaped policy decisions, particularly with regard to Iraq.

Okay now to the "who". As he’s done before, most notably with JFK (1992), Stone pulled together a stellar cast. Their challenge was to play familiar public figures who have appeared nightly on TV for eight or more years. Without exception the performances did not lapse into caricature. For example Richard Dreyfuss veritably embodied Dick Cheney, capturing his look and manner without a touch of mimicry to his portrayal. The passing of the test was evident thusly: after initially thinking, “wow, Dreyfuss sounds and looks just like Cheney,” I soon forgot I was watching an actor "playing" Cheney.

Meanwhile Jeffery Wright (surely one of our most underrated actors) looked and sounded considerably less like Colin Powell, but was brilliant in his role just the same. Toby Jones as Karl Rove was similarly inspired. Thandie Newton’s portrayal of Condi Rice was eccentric but enjoyable. James Cromwell and Ellen Burstyn as Ma and Pa Bush were excellent. Elizabeth Banks may have been too pretty for the part of wife Laura. Happily the most notable performance was the most important one, Josh Brolin as the title character.

Brolin pulled off Bush over a 30 year period capturing the look, the manners, the voice. I would think having to act as a famous person would be one of the greatest challenges an actor could face. You have to register emotion in such a way that is consistent with your understanding of a character and will ring true with millions who have watched the real life version of that character for many years.

Brolin was as successful a George W. Bush as Cate Blanchett was as Katherine Hepburn in The Aviator (2004). That’s the highest praise I can offer.

W. the movie follows W. the person from the time of a fraternity hazing at Yale in the late Sixties through the first year of the Iraq war. The story is not strictly chronological. Stone deftly shifts back and forth from Bush's presidency to his younger days. We see everything from Bush the party animal to Bush the congressional candidate to Bush the oil rig worker. We see how these events shaped or or were overcome by the sober born again Christian Bush. As president we see the internal squabbles and power broking that led to the greatest disaster in American political history -- the current war in Iraq.

Would a wiser man not influenced by the likes of Dick Cheney have taken a very different path after 9/11? And how much did his father's disinterest in taking Iraq during the Gulf War play into W.'s determination to oust Saddam Hussein? The answer to the first question is an obvious, "yes." According to W. the movie the second question is very much open to debate.

A lot of people will stay away from W. because they’ve had just about enough of the real life Bush. Others will give it a miss because they like the man and fear another hatchet job on him.

W. is not a hatchet job. Though some on the right will doubtless find it somewhat unflattering I believe it a fair portrayal of the man and events as they are generally known. For those on the left fed up with him, this may be a good way to remember George as he -- thankfully! -- leaves public office in a few months. It does not hurt to see someone long demonized, shown as a person. Audiences will not grow fonder of him but they will perhaps appreciate that there is a human being behind the gaffes. That Oliver Stone pulled this off is a testament to an outstanding film maker.

20 October 2008

Fine, And You?

I stopped at Safeway on the way home to pick up a few groceries and a 30 day youth bus pass for youngest daughter.

At the check stand the clerk asked me how I was doing.


The bagger, who put my three bags worth of items into five bags, also enquired after my health.

I assured him too that I was, “fine.”

With the checkout process at an end the clerk informed me that I would have to go to another check stand with the receipt to lay my mitts on the bus pass. I wearily complied and went over to check stand three which evidently has a monopoly on the store’s bus passes.

There I was met by a friendly checker who was curious to know how I was.

I allayed his fears by letting him now I was, “fine.” Though to be honest by this time I was not “fine” owing to being asked so insincerely so often about my health which is in fact quite robust these days, thank you very much. Meanwhile my quick stop was being turned into an endurance test.

Finally the clerk at check stand three gave me a 10 ride youth bus pass.

I was not amused. I told the blighter I required and had asked for the 30 day variety.

“That’s what’s on the receipt.” He stated as if I was up to know good. “I wanted a 30 day pass. When the other guy asked me if that’s what I wanted I said, ‘yes,’” I replied, perhaps a little testily. The manager was in the area so he intervened.

Turned out I’d have to take my receipt back to the original check stand to get the receipt I really needed for the bus pass I really wanted.

“So I have to carry my bags back over there, give him this receipt, get rung up again, carry my bags back here and give you the new receipt?”


Ask me how I am now.

While waiting at the original check stand I took advantage of the time to re pack my groceries and save two bags.

You’re welcome, Safeway.

Anyway it was ultimately a happy ending as I left the store with my purchases, including the 30 day youth bus pass youngest daughter required. Plus I'd had the opportunity to assure three different people that I was, "fine."

18 October 2008

Boris Karloff and Sandy Baron Together For the First Time!

Name a movie that features Boris Karloff, Peter Bogdanovich and Sandy Baron.
What's that you say? No such film exists.
Okay wiseguy, run to your local video store and rent Targets (1968).

Told ya.

Karloff stars with Tim O'Kelly (yes, the Tim O'Kelly). This was Bogdanovich's directorial debut and he also co-wrote the screenplay and appears as a director. And by the way his acting in Targets is terrible. If he had anything to do with casting himself than it was the mistake of his career.

So Bogdanovich plays a director. Who did the then aging former horror film star Karloff play? Why an aging former horror film star, of course. Talk about typecasting.

Sandy Baron played a hip, long-haired disc jockey. For those of us who well remember Baron's appearances on Seinfeld or in Woody Allen's Broadway Danny Rose, seeing him in Targets is a real hoot.

What about this O'Kelly chap, you ask? He is of course the film's clean cut young mass murderer.

Hold it a second here. We've got a movie with a has been actor, a director, a DJ and a mass murderer?


Here's the kicker: it's actually quite good.

The young Master Bogdanovich, then not yet 30 years old, wanted to make a film loosely based on the notorious Charlie Whitman who a few years prior had nested in a tower on the University of Texas campus with a sniper's rifle and killed over a dozen people while injuring several score more. The legendary B Picture producer Roger Corman promised to back him if...He included Karloff in the film and used footage from a five year old Corman filled called The Terror (1963). Bogdanovich saw a gift horse that he was unwilling to look in the mouth. But he had to turn his Whitmanesque story into one that included Karloff and some old horror film footage.

No problem.

Okay. Now guess what now famous actor appeared in the footage used from The Terror?

Whoever said Jack Nicoholosn move to the head of the class.

Ain't Hollywood grand?

So despite this bizarre sounding story and the director's own bad acting this is a good movie? I think so, yeah.

Needless to say the story of Karloff's character and that of the mass murderer converge at the end in a satisfying resolution. Better still is the inner cutting Bogdanovich did between the two stories.

Targets is no masterpiece but at 90 minutes it's well-paced, intriguing and Karloff is marvelous, despite his ill health at the time of filming.

I believe I can also safely say that it is the only film ever to include Bogdanovich, Karloff, Baron, footage of Nicholson and James Brown -- no, not the James Brown..but still.

By the way, Targets, a story featuring a sniper, was released shortly after the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy. It tanked at the box office. Evidently timing is everything.

14 October 2008

Sex and the City's Most Notorious Fan

Am I the only one to find this surprising? In Osama Bin Laden's latest tape, just released today, he dedicated his entire time on camera to a review of the film version of Sex and the City (2008). Apparently he was a huge fan of the HBO series and absolutely loved the movie.

Frankly I was stunned. It just didn't seem like something a Muslim of his stature would be interested in. But he claims to be ga ga over Kim Cattrall (I've never seen the film or TV show but I do quite fancy Kristin Davis). In his review, Bin Laden speaks of his great love of New York, up scale living, and the exploits of -- as he put it -- the girls. "I find the whole concept remarkably inventive," Bin Laden said. "The characters are real and played true but of course are funnier, smarter and sassier than your normal city gals."

Also in his review Bin Laden mentioned how all the principle cast are friends on his Facebook page. I checked and sure enough they are. Interestingly Bin Laden felt it necessary to add this to review: "Look, don't be thinking I'm gay just because I'm obsessed with Sex and the City and similarly with Project Runway. I'm still all man and I've got a hard on for Cattrall to prove it. And oh by the way, death to America. Peace out everyone."

I still cling to the notion that Bin Laden is the world's leading terrorist and should be brought to justice ASAP, but he is a bit more human to me. Also I'm not going to be so quick to stereotype or make cultural assumptions.

Yet the oddest thing I've learned about Bin Laden over the years -- and I'm sure most of you know this -- is that his nickname is "Goober." It comes from the fact that he is a huge fan of George "Goober" Lindsey of Andy Griffith Show fame. Again I guess I'm guilty of generalizing about Muslims. For all I know there's a big Shiite-Sunni split over Goober and Gomer Plyle.

A final thought on this is that maybe the CIA could use Kim Cattrall to lure Bin Laden away from his cave. Worth a try.

12 October 2008

How To Enjoy Your Day Despite Having a Cold (Hint: Answer Involves Movies)

What does a chap like me do when sidelined by a nasty cold? Shouldn't it be obvious? Sofa + DVD player = productive day despite achiness, chills, headache.

After pouring through the Sunday New York Times without the depth I normally dedicate to this pursuit (the local San Francisco Chronicle's Sunday edition does not require a similar commitment in time, save to weed out all the advertising supplements) it was time to make a viewing choice.

I needed a comfort movie. One I was well familiar with and was rewarding but not too demanding. Something along the lines of Taxi Driver (1976) or No Country for Old Men (2007) wouldn't do. I needed something lighter. Perfect choice: Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933). A movie to fit any mood. And sure to provide succor to the ailing.

People like Guy Kibbee, Joan Blondell and Ned Sparks are good company when one is down. Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler are especially easy to take when an illness has hold of the body. Warren William and Aline MacMahon are perfectly delightful and a young Ginger Rogers is a wonderful bonus. In addition to the convivial characters there is a charming story line liberally spiced with laughs and handsomely supplemented by songs and Busby Berkeley dance numbers.

During Gold Diggers I decided on a quite natural second feature: Bonny & Clyde (1967). You see the connection, don't you? Oh come on, of course you do! There's a perfectly natural tie-in. Those of you know don't shout it out.

What movie is on the screen when do Bonnie, Clyde and CW Moss slipped into the movie theater after the botched getaway from the bank robbery involving CW?

Right! Extra credit for those of you who knew.

Yes, I see your hand back there. What's that? How is Bonnie & Clyde a comfort movie? Good question. I suppose part of the answer is that it isn't. But it was such revolutionary film making and remains so fresh and vibrant today that watching it lifts the spirits. I know, I know, there is blood, Estelle Parsons screaming, Gene Hackman dying and issues related to the Depression are touched upon, but there is an exuberance to Bonnie & Clyde that, along with its humor, qualifies it as suitable sick day viewing.

Here's something that occurred to me during the movie: The release of Bonnie & Clyde was closer in time to the events depicted than we are today to the release of the film. You say you don't get it? I'll restate. The movie came out about 33 years after the death of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker. We are currently 41 years removed from the film's release. Makes ya think. (did me anyway.)

No, young man, I do not remember the real Bonnie & Clyde and stop snickering. I did, however see the film when it first came out. I remember my Dad taking me on a Friday night to the UC theater in Berkeley. One of this city's many now defunct theaters. (One supposes you have to at one time been funct to achieve defunct status.)

Okay I have a confession to make. I left something out....

Wait, there's more!

Also watched an episode of Foyle's War on DVD with the missus. It's a Sunday night tradition of ours. I promise to devout a post exclusively to this wonderful British series in the near future.

So while allowing my body to recover I accomplished quite a lot. Watched two great films and an episode of a terrific series.

Perhaps tomorrow I'll feel better and get other sorts of things done. I hope so. But I doubt I'll enjoy my day any more than I did this one.

11 October 2008

Ziggy Stardust Helps With Homework

I'm currently "rocking out" to classic David Bowie. I'm working on a paper for my class in Cross Cultural Communication (okay so right now I'm taking a break to write this). The wife has "West Wing" on the telly. I hate that show. I think its the totally unrealistic rapid fire dialogue with everyone being so bloody smart 24/7 and speaking as if reading from a script. I don't want to hear it while I'm trying to write so I put the headphones on and have Bowie blasting in my ear. Bliss.

Part of the allure of listening to this and similar music from bygone days is that recalls those bygone days. Bowie takes me back to junior year in college. I thought Bowie was really deep then and I'd achieve enlightenment by listening to him (I thought that about a lot of music). Now I just think he sounds really good. I've long since given up trying to find enlightenment from rock music. Or any other kind of music for that matter.

Truth to tell I'm not all that keen on enlightenment anyway. It was a big deal when I was young. I guess its a big deal when everyone is young except for Young Republicans. I guess what's big to them when their young is how rich they're going to be when their old and electing people who will further the aims of the well-to-do.

If I were to seek enlightenment I think I'd just redouble my reading and watch less sports. It'd be cool to have more reading time, but I don't feel a burning desire to achieve enlightenment. Frankly I no longer know what it would mean. Just to contradict myself I am understanding more about me, different cultures and the world through the two classes I'm taking: Cross Cultural Communication and Linguistics for ESL teachers. I have the same professor for both courses and here's a shout out to him, Dr. Steven West. He makes ordinary blokes like yours truly smarter just by yakking at us. He gets us to think and talk. Hmm, so maybe education, whether formal or not, is the key to enlightenment.

I'm taking these classes towards an ESL certificate to go along with all of the other educational crap I have (two BAs and MA a teaching credential, since you asked). The certificate along with my EU citizenship could land me a job teaching English in Europe some day soon. Maybe in Paris where the family and I will be spending Christmas this year. (Stay tuned to this blog for posts from there.)

I like being a student now. It's a lot easier to learn when you've got a lot of life experience. I'm more patient now. More open to ideas. More eager. And I'm not drinking massive quantities of alcohol on weekends or any other time.

So I've babbled here a bit and have not mentioned movies. Fair enough here we go: earlier today I watched a 1934 comedy starring Carole Lombard (God, she was gorgeous) and May Robson called Lady By Choice. It was pretty bad. That's okay, Lombard more than made up for it in umpteen other films.

Okay, I've got to get back to my paper. Bowie still singing to me. The wife still watching West Wing. Life is pretty good.


09 October 2008

12 Movies From the Last Depression to Help You Through the Next Depression

Is another Great Depression just around the corner? Or is prosperity? Who cares? If the bottom totally falls out of the U.S. economy maybe we'll see some of the same kind of great cinema that both mirrored and helped America through the last such crisis.

As the Depression took a toll on the US through much of the 1930s Hollywood was Johnny-on-the-spot with a passel of films reflecting the crisis. These same movies often eased the cares of struggling Americans. Here's a sampling of that wonderful fare.

1. My Man Godfrey (1936). The ultimate Great Depression screwball comedy stars William Powell and Carole Lombard. Powell is Godfrey "rescued" from a hobo village to serve as butler in Lombard's wealthy but wacky family. A bit of social commentary gets mixed in with the laughs.
2. Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933). The ultimate Great Depression musical. This Busby Berkeley choreographed film plays up the forgotten man theme, adding great songs and comedy in the bargain. A stellar cast is led by Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler and Joan Blondell. Thrill to the strains of Ginger Rogers singing "We're in the Money" in pig latin.
3. Grapes of Wrath (1940). No laughs or songs here. This John Ford classic is a superb film adaptation of John Steinbeck's novel about Okies escaping the Dust Bowl for what they hope will be a new and improved life in California. Henry Fonda is Tom Joad. His closing speech is one of cinema's great moments.
4. Sullivan's Travels (1941). Preston Stuges wrote and directed this hilarious spoof of Hollywood. It also takes a look at the depression. Joel McCrea stars as a famous film director who wants to see how the other half lives. He befriends the lovely Veronica Lake. The two take to the rails where lessons are learned and laughs abound.
5. I Am A Fugitive Form A Chain Gang (1932). Mervin LeRoy directed this scathing look at a Southern state's prison system. Paul Muni is the escapee. While the film focuses on a morally corrupt criminal justice system it is also a powerful look at the depression. As effective today as it was upon its release. Based on a true story.
6. Wild Boys of the Road (1933). One of the classic pre code message films. Here the focus is on the how the depression ripped families asunder. Youngsters leave home to be less a burden on the family and perhaps help support them. William Wellman masterfully directed a cast of relative unknowns. Why don't they make more movies like this today?
7. Stella Dallas (1937). The quintessential tear jerker stars Barbara Stanwyck as the title character. Stella is a single mom who sacrifices everything for her daughter in already tough times.
8. Rafter Romance (1933). Ginger Rogers and Norman Foster play roommates -- but it's not how you think. They share a bed but not at the same time. One works a night shift the other the day. The story is predictable but fun.
9. Modern Times (1936). What's a little economic down turn without The Little Tramp? The inimitable Charlie Chaplin wrote, directed and starred opposite Paulette Goddard in his last silent feature (there's sound but no yakking). The two find love amid poverty, homelessness, prison, and tedious jobs. Their dreams, love and pluck see them through.
10. Easy Living (1937). Preston Stuges wrote, Mithcell Leisen directed, Jean Arthur, Ray Milland and Edward Arnold star. Joblessness, high finance and sudden wealth are all explored. Laughs are provided and romance wins out. Not only a diverting little comedy but some keen commentary as well.
11. Possessed (1931). It stars Joan Crawford and Clark Gable early in their careers when they were particularly attractive. Crawford is from the proverbial wrong side of the tracks and is determined to join Gable on the other side. She quickly manages that feat but complications ensue.
12. Heroes For Sale (1933). Another powerful Wellman film. Heroes looks at the effects of the Depression on one man in particular and thousands in general. One of the most underrated films of all time.

08 October 2008

Tell It Like it Is

Why do we hide?

In our culture people spend so much time putting up fronts. Everyone is facade and pretense acting as they'd like others to see them. I don't believe we trust ourselves. We want to be liked so very much that we create a persona that we think will please the greatest number of people. Our true identities get buried.

It's like we're all running for political office saying and acting in the way that'll get us the most votes. What are we afraid of?

All this came to mind when I happened upon the blog of a young lady who writes about her life openly and honestly. What a concept. It's all there and its thus fascinating. She is not a great athlete or a renowned actress (yet) and she is not involved in any extraordinary activities. Or is she?

If we are truly alive to all of life's offerings. If we are loved and love in return. If we engage in this world we are truly doing the extraordinary. Fame and fortune are but one possibility of many in enjoying a rich and fascinating life.

Today she posted the news that she got a job as a receptionist at an animal hospital. Other posts have been about drinking, dates, sex and her Paris obsession. This is life and its grand stuff when told clearly and honestly. And she's careful too to keep it about herself. No gossip, nothing mean spirited.

Here is the magic of 12 step programs. People show up and say what's going on for them. What's happened and how they feel about it. It's curative and compelling. When we focus on the minutiae of our lives -- small talk -- we gain no insight nor share any. But when we explore what we're doing and our reactions through this magical experience called life we're giving one another a great gift. People sound so damn smart in a 12 step meeting because they're speaking from the heart and not trying to impress anyone. Now that's impressive.

Imagine if we could all be honest with each other. No, I don't mean saying things like, "yes that dress does make you look fat," it's okay to fudge on that one. I mean really reveal what's going on. This is what great novels do. They give us a look into another's mind and shared experiences and world views. Great comedians do the same thing. Movies are a also a vehicle for such truth-telling.

We all focus on on our differences, and build walls between each other because of them. How about looking at what we have in common and building bridges? And about those differences. Can we spend a little time being open to them? Trying to understand one another. Won't happen unless we can be honest with each other.

So here's my clarion call for creating an interactive culture of people talking, and writing openly. If we are all true to our real selves we'll be much more interesting and accessible to one another.

Great wisdom comes from great honesty. Being honest with ourselves and others.

07 October 2008

Stayin' Alive

"Nobody's prepared to die for a principle."
"That's why the Nazi system works."
From The Counterfeiters.

What price would you pay to stay alive? Would you help your enemy? The same enemy that has brutalized you and killed your wife, or parents or friends? How far should a person go to preserve their own life when that's all they have left?

These are some of the questions asked in The Counterfeiters (2007) the most recent winner of Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film. Director Stefan Ruzowitzky's film is another in a very long line of excellent films exploring topics related to World War II. This is the true story of a counterfeiting operation run at the behest of the Nazi regime by prisoners, many Jews transferred from such concentration camps as Auschwitz. It remains the biggest counterfeiting operation ever It successfully produced millions of British pounds and some American dollars. Ultimately it was too little too late to significantly prolong the war or change its course.

The Counterfeiters centers around a Russian Jew named Salomon 'Sally' Sorowitsch who was arrested before the war for -- what else? -- counterfeiting. His colorful criminal life in Berlin is told much too quickly. The Counterfeiters is the rare case of a film that is too short, giving glimpses where we'd like a longer look.

Inevitably the audiences witnesses Nazi cruelties that are de regure in any film of this nature. Capricious violence, sudden executions, back breaking labor and sadistic Nazis not only make for powerful cinema but also for accurate history.

Sally is transferred from the Mauthahausen concentration camp to the relative comfort of the camp where the counterfeiting operation will take place. He is joined by other prisoners who the Nazis have culled from various camps for their expertise. Sally seems the prize catch. Unlike the prisoners in the regular camp adjacent to them, these servants of the Reich are offered rewards. Music is played at all times to inspire them. They have comfortable beds and relatively decent food. At one point they are rewarded with a ping pong table.

But are they selling their souls? After all, the prisoners are aware that despite and in some ways because of their unique role they will inevitably be executed at the end of the war or sooner if they cease to be of use. Freedom is never an option. Meanwhile loved ones are still in camps or already dead. So why serve these evil masters?

To live.

Why not refuse to work and face certain death bravely? Perhaps its not so easy. Certainly risking one's life by charging into battle is a more palatable notion than awaiting death by inaction.

In this case there is one prisoner, Adolph Burger, willing to face death, so great is his hatred of the Nazi regime. But by doing so he risks all their lives. Has he the right to do this? The Nazis sense someone is not "playing ball." Interestingly Sally, despite his fierce quarrels with Burger won't expose him. After all, its rule number one in the criminal code of conduct: you don't rat out a comrade.

Deals are made and agreements reached and along the way we are left to ponder the seemingly imponderable. What is our life if we sacrifice core beliefs to extend it? How does one strike bargains with evil without helping sustain that evil?

While The Counterfeiters falls a bit short of greatness  with its unwillingness to allow the camera and the actors to fully explore scenes, it does a wonderful job of asking these questions and offering insight into possible answers. The film is also a strong contribution to our understanding of such powerful historical moments as World War II and the Holocaust.

06 October 2008

Scary Sarah

I'm beginning to think that we should have a qualifying exam for anyone who wants to run for an executive office.

Sarah Palin could be our next vice president and thus possibly president of the most powerful country in the world yet she doesn't understand the U.S. Constitution. She thinks freedom of the press is a "privilege." Lady, when I taught 8th grade my students knew it was a right expressed in the first amendment and something embedded into our culture. Of course, Palin proved at the debate that she still doesn't fully understand the role of the vice president. (She also proved she doesn't know she's supposed to answer the moderator's questions -- by golly.)

In the dumbing down of America the political "elites" are cast as bad guys. Look if I have plumbing problem I'd want an elite plumber, just as I'd prefer an elite airline pilot flying the plane I'm riding. Elite is actually a good thing. It means you're among the best at what you do. Isn't that something we want? Don't we want knowledgeable, educated leaders? Not if you're a Republican. You prefer folksy! This is what Palin offers, folksy, winking charm when the nation needs sophisticated leadership. By God she can't even name the newspapers she reads and thinks being in physical proximity to a region qualifies one as an expert on handling it. Americans should be insulted. Americans should expect more from those who propose to serve us. America should expect more in those seeking its highest offices.

Palin's attempts to appeal to voters because she understands "small town values" is nothing less than thinly veiled racism. After all it's big cities that are full of African Americans, Hispanics and Gays. She's reminding us that she is white (unlike you-know-who) and relates to other white people. Palin's unconscionable attack on Obama for "palling around with a terrorist" further unmasks her as a fear monger manipulating facts for political purposes. That this is what the Republicans come up with as their vice presidential candidate sends a frightening message that the Bush presidency was no fluke. The politics of stupidity, devisiveness and manipulation are firmly entrenched in the GOP. Like Bush she shows no intellectual curiosity (that's for elites, I guess) and like him did not even bother to get a passport until into her 30's. Evidently world travel is for elites too.

I never cease to be amazed at what this country has survived. Many people will conclude that if we can withstand eight years of a Bush presidency we can handle anything. But I'm not so sure we could handle eight days of a Palin presidency and as vice president she'd be too close for comfort. John McCain, likely too near to death to be running for president in the first place, made a bald faced political selection for his running mate. If this is how he'd govern, no thanks.

These are times of great peril folks. Here's hoping for a big Obama win on November 4.

03 October 2008

Raisins, They're What's For Lunch

I had one of those little boxes of raisins with my lunch today. I'm guessing millions of people world wide have a little box of raisins in their sack lunch. Why not? They're easy to toss in, don't cost a lot, are conveniently packaged and have some nutritional value. Least I think they do. Good God don't tell me I've been eating the suckers all these years and they're bad for me.

My question is this: does anyone really salivate at the idea of getting to that little box? Yes, raisins have a totally inoffensive flavor..but come on, does anyone anywhere at any time think, "These raisins are delicious!"

I can't imagine that they're the centerpiece of anyone's lunch. A new slogan for raisins: Your Ultimate Lunch Side Dish.

Of course raisins compliment other meals when they are in the mix, so to speak. There is no questioning their influence on a bowl of Raisin Bran or other cereals. They enhance many a cake and even go well in certain salads. But on their own...

I'm always dropping one or two in the process of digging through those little boxes. Then I step on one or find another a few weeks later under a desk. In that sense they're rather a pain. See I eat like a guy and dig my hand in the box without heed to consequences as I shovel some down my gullet. I'm sure you ladies never drop a one as you slowly savor each individual morsel.

I should add that it's actually more economical to buy your raisins in a big container and toss a handful into a snack bag. But the issue here is that you're doing irreparable harm to the environment. Those little boxes are recyclable, your plastic snack bag is pure trash.

Okay this is mostly a film blog so what's the cinematic aspect of raisins?

What, you never saw Sidney Potier in Raisin in the Sun (1961)?