31 March 2021

A Variety of Topics are Here Explored Including Sales, a Bad Principal, A Golf Ball, Injustice for Woody and Vertigo

Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak in Vertigo

I got an email this morning from The New Yorker informing me that today is my last chance to save 50% on a subscription during their flash sale. Within a few days they'll be sending me an email about yet another opportunity to subscribe at a reduced rate followed by notifications that this sale is soon expiring. Then there'll be another sale, and eventually another. The New Yorker is not alone in this practice. I'd love to be able to subscribe to The New Yorker but that would require a move toward the twenty-eight hour day or the nine day week (28/9 would replace 24/7). There's not enough time to read all the books I have waiting for me or to re-read all the ones I want to revisit and I'm barely scratching the surface of the New York Times that I receive daily.

Speaking of 24/7, when I was teaching middle school we had, for a time, a very bad principal of whom it was said, "she works twenty-four seven, twenty four hours a week, seven days a month." Given her incompetence -- and propensity for fibbing -- it was a blessing that she was lazy. The more she worked, the more damage she did. This woman, who's name was Michele Patterson, was finally sacked, then went on to another unsuspecting school where she also lasted four years before being shown the door. She'd have been excused for being so woefully inept if she hadn't made matters worse by being malicious.

Here's a fun and true fact about me: I completed a two-year master's program in history in one year and graduated with distinction. (This is not a case of humble bragging because I'm not being humble about it at all.) I was the third person in the memory of the department chair to attempt to complete the program in one year, the other two had barely scrapped by. Me, I was the fifth person in the same amount of time among all master' candidates to graduate with distinction. But there's more. At the time I was a practicing alcoholic. My coursework was so intensive and I had to do so much reading that I had a daily planner in which I would write the number of pages I had to read each day to stay abreast. I almost literally did the same with my drinking, planning my binges carefully and merely getting a buzz at other times.

When I was nineteen I was playing baseball on a front lawn with a group of friends. We had -- as was often the case in those days -- been imbibing. I was pitching and we were using a golf ball in lieu of a a regular baseball or softball, can't recall why. The game ended when a batter drilled a line drive right back at me that hit me square in the chin. An inch higher and I would have lost several front teeth. Higher than that and I would have lost an eye, higher than that would have hit me in the forehead and at the least I would have been knocked cold. As it was I was knocked on my back and needed to go to the emergency room for stitches. I was lucky and I still occasional wince at the thought of what that golf ball could have done.

As people tend to do when they don't die young, I am getting older. So far it's going rather well. I exercise six days a week and walk most days. When restrictions ease I'll be back in the gym. I do the Times crossword puzzle and play Sporcle games, read a lot and perform other activities that will help fend off senility. However my stomach is not taking to aging very well, rebelling more and more against certain foods, usually in the form of acid reflux. One week ago I finally gave up my daily cup of English Breakfast tea replacing it with Lemon Ginger herbal tea. Sigh. I never thought the day would come. When first told I should give up black tea I was defiant. I'd already given up drugs and alcohol, cigarettes, meat, gum and coffee, surely I could hold onto my beloved English Breakfast tea. I am here compelled to report the my stomach has felt much better these past seven days. That being said I'm beginning to imagine a future without pizza, tacos and god knows what other treats. Yikes!

On Twitter I have reluctantly unfollowed virtually all of the accounts who were my allies in supporting Woody Allen against the scurrilous attacks directed at him. I still fervently believe in the great director's innocence against the false charges of child molestation brought by his step daughter who I believe was brainwashed by the odious Mia Farrow. However since the terrible and terribly one-sided documentary on HBO ( a hatchet job) called Allen vs. Farrow, my friends on Twitter have been continually re-tweeting the words of Woody's many detractors (then reputing them) or sharing links to articles defending Mr. Allen. Thus I am constantly reminded of the unwarranted hate being spewed towards this innocent man -- one who I've held in high esteem for over fifty years. I do not need reminders of this pain, of this injustice. I no longer want to think of Woody Allen in terms of the false accusations and lies directed at him. I want to think of him in terms of the many great films he's directed or starred in or both. I want to think of him in terms of his writings, his stand-up career and the fact that he's had a long, successful marriage and raised two adopted daughters who both love him unconditionally. Here is an excellent article that exposes the sham that the recent documentary is and here is an excellent piece by documentarian and long-time Woody supporter, Robert Weide.

As I write this the trial of Derek Chauvin -- who is accused of killing George Floyd  -- is underway. The words open and shut case come to mind. Woe betide the country if the killer cop gets off. There will be riots in dozens of major cities and likely some smaller ones. I'll certainly be tempted to join. At the same time it's important that this not be a show trial. Chauvin, murderous bastard that he is, deserves a fair trial just like any other citizen accused of a crime. But it is impossible -- given what we have seen and know of the case -- to imagine anything but a guilty verdict. Let justice be done though the heavens fall. Actually if justice is NOT done the heavens will fall.

I recently watched a film you may have heard of called Vertigo (1958) Hitchcock. It is generally considered one of the great films of all time and is listed among my top 100. HOWEVER, something really bothered me in this my latest viewing. As he was in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and Bell, Book and Candle, Stewart is too old for the part of John 'Scotty' Ferguson. He was fifty at the time Vertigo was filmed and looked every bit of it. Kim Novak's character, who falls in love with him, is clearly in her mid twenties as Novak was at the time (twenty-five to be exact). I do not mind May-December romances in films, but I don't buy the fact that she falls in love with Scotty. (I don't for a second doubt that Scotty would fall for the girl, I mean she's played by Kim Novak, as great a beauty as ever graced the screen). Her love for him simply doesn't work for me. Still a great film.

Thank you for joining me for this edition of odds and ends. In the future I may experiment with an edition of ends and odds. (Actually as I look back I've never done  anything called "odds and ends" but I have done "news and notes" so I suppose I should be thanking you for joining me this edition of news and notes and saying that I may experiment with notes and news. Now I'm confused. )

27 March 2021

I Answer the Question: What Were the Best Decades Enjoyed by Film Actors?

Humphrey Bogart in Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Last Summer I compiled a list of the ten best decades enjoyed by film directors. Today I'm presenting a list of the best decades enjoyed by film stars. There are several caveats, the most important being that my definition of a good or great film is based solely on my own tastes. I'm sure anyone else taking on the same task would have very different lists. Also I'm not going by ten-year periods but specific decades. So an actor being  in seven great films between, say, 1974 and 1983 is of no help.

Thus chance plays a huge factor. Jimmy Stewart, for example, surely would have made the list for the 1940s save for the small matter of World War II which interrupted his career. Still, I thought it a worthy exercise. 

Another criteria I established was that an actor had to have been in at least five really good films in the decade. This eliminated lots and lots and lots of actors who appeared in four great films. Finally only lead actors were considered.

I came up with a dozen lists. I offer them in no particular order; all are followed by comments.

Humphrey Bogart ‘40s

High Sierra (1941) Walsh

Maltese Falcon (1941) Huston

All Through the Night (1942) Sherman

Casablanca (1942) Curtiz

Passage to Marseille (1944) Curtiz

To Have and Have Not (1944) Hawks

The Big Sleep (1946) Hawks

Dark Passage (1947) Daves

Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) Huston

Key Largo (1948) Huston

Note: If I was going to rank them this would be a strong candidate for the number one slot. Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, The Big Sleep and Treasure of the Sierra Madre area all classics. Also, there are ten films here, tied with Grant (directly below) for most.

Cary Grant '40s

His Girl Friday (1940) Hawks

My Favorite Wife(1940) Kanin

The Philadelphia Story (1940) Cukor

Suspicion (1941) Hitchcock

Arsenic and Old Lace (1942) Capra

The Talk of the Town (1942) Stevens

Mr. Lucky (1943) Potter

Destination Tokyo (1943) Daves

Notorious (1946) Hitchcock

The Bishop’s Wife (1947) Koster

Note: Grant almost made the list for his films from the '30s and '50s too.

Al Pacino in Serpico
Al Pacino ‘70s
Panic in Needle Park (1971) Schatzberg

The Godfather (1972) Coppola

Scarecrow (1973) Schatzberg

Serpico (1973) Lumet

The Godfather Part II (1974) Coppola

Dog Day Afternoon (1975) Lumet

And Justice for All (1979) Jewison

Note: He was brilliant in all of these and should have won a couple of Oscars.

Dustin Hoffman ‘70s

Little Big Man (1970) Penn

Straw Dogs (1971) Peckinpah

Lenny (1974) Fosse

All the President’s Men (1976) Pakula

Marathon Man (1976) Schlesinger

Straight Time (1978) Grosbard

Note: Hoffman has had a long illustrious career but his best work was early on.

Bette Davis ‘40s

The Letter (1940) Wyler

The Great Lie (1941) Goulding

The Little Foxes (1941) Wyler

The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942) Keighley

Now, Voyager (1942) Rapper

Watch on the Rhine (1943) Shumlin

Mr. Skeffington (1944) Sherman

June Bride (1948) Windust

Note: Ms. Davis got a passel of Oscar nominations in the '40s and they were well-deserved.

Barbara Stanwyck ‘40s

Remember the Night (1940) Leisen

The Lady Eve (1941) Sturges

Meet John Doe (1941) Capra

Ball of Fire (1941) Hawks

Double Indemnity (1944) Wilder

Christmas in Connecticut (1945) Godfrey

Note: Ms. Stanwyck had pretty good decades in the '30s and '50s, but the '40s saw her best work.

Max Von Sydown in The Seventh Seal
Max Von Sydow ‘60s
The Virgin Spring (1960) Bergman

Through a Glass Darkly (1961) Bergman

Winter Light (1963) Bergman

Hour of the Wolf (1968) Bergman

Shame (1968) Bergman

The Passion of Anna (1969) Bergman

Note: For me Von Sydow had one of the greatest careers of any actor. Of course it didn't hurt that he worked so often with Ingmar Bergman.

Woody Allen ‘70s

Bananas (1971) Allen

Play it Again, Sam (1972) Ross

Love and Death (1975) Allen

The Front (1976) Ritt

Annie Hall (1977) Allen

Manhattan (1979)

Note: Allen directed himself in four of the six films.

Henry Fonda ‘40s

The Grapes of Wrath (1940) Ford

The Lady Eve(1941) Sturges

The Male Animal (1942) Nugent

The Ox-Bow Incident (1942) Wellman

My Darling Clementine (1946) Ford

The Fugitive (1947) Ford

Fort Apache (1948) Ford

Note: Grapes of Wrath and Lady Eve are one helluva start to a decade.

Diane Keaton ‘70s

The Godfather (1972) Coppola

Play it Again, Sam (1972) Ross

The Godfather Part II (1974) Coppola

Love and Death (1975) Allen

Annie Hall (1977) Allen

Interiors (1978) Allen

Manhattan (1979) Allen

Note: Five of the films were directed by Woody Allen and the other two were the Godfather films. 

Marlene Dietrich in Shanghai Express
Marlene Dietrich ‘30s

24 March 2021

A Bonus March Edition of My Look at the Day's Headlines

RIP George Segal, right.

Since July, I have occasionally been posting headlines from various news sources and writing comments about them that are either pithy, snarky, wise or brilliantly on point (or a combination thereof). The response has been so overwhelming (thank you, Gandalf Gonads of Fort Yukon, Alaska) that I have made this a regular feature -- to enthusiastic acclaim. Here then is part thirteen in what is now a regular and beloved monthly feature.

From the New York Times:

Boulder Shooting Survivors Describe ‘Listening to Him Kill Everyone You Know’

A headline that speaks for itself. In the self-proclaimed "greatest country in the world" a citizen cannot feel safe in a grocery store. Indeed there's no place -- not a church, not a school, not a movie theater, not. nightclub, not a health spa -- where one can relax safe in the knowledge that no one with an AR-17 will show up and start mowing people down. But pass gun control legislation? Fat chance. The misinterpretation of the second amendment supersedes our right to be safe. Madness.

Republicans Fear Trump’s Criticism of Mail-In Ballots Will Hurt Them

So Republicans are afraid that something Trumpy said might come back to bite them in the ass. Boo hoo, boo hoo. They embraced the asshole and let him get away with all his nonsense and now they've got bills to pay. The spineless worms.

Ellen DeGeneres Loses 1 Million Viewers After Apologies for Toxic Workplace

Good. I wish it were two million. She seems, by all accounts, a horrid person.

From CNN:

White headmaster at New York Catholic school placed on leave after telling a Black student to kneel and apologize 'the African way'

How many dumb white people are there in this country? How many dumb white racists are there in this country? They're everywhere. One striking thing about this particular dumb white racist's stupidity is that he thought he'd get away with it.

A top health official warned relaxing Covid-19 measures threatens progress. A day later, more states said they were easing restrictions

Speaking of dumb...The thing is that we're not that far away from being able to safely ease restrictions and beginning to enjoy something much closer to "normal." All we have to do is be patient for another couple of months. Sadly, states like Texas and Mississippi don't have the sense god gave a billygoat. Their actions could well delay our return to normal.

Trump's presidency was a disaster for his business

That sound about right. The idiot couldn't even get corruption right.

From the BBC:

Biden calls for a ban on assault weapons

Good luck with that. There is the small matter of the Republican Party and it's small-minded leaders who see the simplest, sanest gun control legislation as a threat to democracy itself. Their mania for deregulating is one of the biggest stumbling blocks to a safe, clean, efficient society. They want banks to have carte blanche to pick through middle class Americans' pocket books. They want industries to be free to pollute, they want anyone and everyone to be able to have as many guns as they want. Republicans worship at the alter of individual's rights even when those rights jeopardize the lives and safety of the population as a whole.

'Double mutant' Covid variant found in India

Oh for the love of God....

Myanmar coup: Seven-year-old shot as she ran into father's arms

One feels powerlessness, rage and sorrow in reading stories like this and about the military coup in Myanmar in general. Here are ways to feel less powerless, check out: Doctors Without Borders,  International Rescue Committee,  Save the Children, Amnesty International.

From The Washington Post:

How spring break in South Beach spun out of control

Yes friends, people flocked to Miami for Spring Break DURING A PANDEMIC. This again raises the question: "just how dumb are people?"

Former Green Beret, Army reservist who wore Hitler mustache jailed pending trial on Capitol riot charges

In an alternate universe someone who served their country as a Green Beret would be someone you could trust not to storm the capitol building in an attempt to overthrow the government, Sadly we live in a country in which it is not at all surprising that decorated military veterans and former police officers are among the forefront of insurrectionists. There is a culture among many police departments and among many veterans that is decidedly right wing and most definitely un-American. The other thing here is, he wore a Hitler mustache? Come on dude, a little on the nose.

‘Virginia Woolf,’ ‘Goldbergs’ star George Segal dies at 87

RIP George Segal a fine actor who made every film he was in a little bit better. My favorite role of his was in Robert Altman's California Split (1974) in which he co-starred with Elliot Gould. A terrific film.

19 March 2021

The Author Discusses the Weather, Then Various Other Topics Including Music and Books -- Fun Stuff

Photo I took outside the house after writing this post.

We have a thick low all-encompassing cover of clouds hugging our area this morning. Rain could come at any minute. I love it.

Yesterday it rained for much of the day and I loved it.

Next month it'll be warmer and sunnier with a bright sun and I'm likely to suffer increased depression as I usually do from mid-April through the end of June. I have reverse seasonal affective disorder.

I'm not only happier when it's cloudy, cold and rainy, I'm more creative. This is not a phenomenon exclusive to me.

Of course I have often felt isolated and left out when people discuss the weather. In work places when colleagues rave about another warm, sunny day, I've nothing to say. Similarly, when I arrive at work having trudged through a driving rain storm, no one wants to hear how happy I am. 

One thing that perplexes me is that so many people seem to want it to be seventy two degrees and sunny everyday. Sounds boring to me. I like variety in my weather. I mostly enjoy a sunny day after its rained. Worse, I've heard people complain about rain being in the forecast while we are in a drought. I recall one occasion when we got our first rain of the season after five full months without a drop and one person acted as if the world was ending. 

Another thing I find strange is how people rave about there not being "a cloud in the sky." What the hell is wrong with clouds? A sunny day is so much more pronounced when there are large puffy white clouds in the distance. Endless blue is boring. Plus, clouds in and of themselves can be quite striking. 

I've also heard more than one person complain that when it rains, "you can'd do anything." Nothing? You can't watch a movie? Read a book? Play a board or card game? Can't bake cookies? Can't go to a museum, a movie theater, a restaurant? Can't make love? I believe it is much more common to make love indoors than out. More comfy too. 

Speaking of indoors and out. A lot of people will take their meals outdoors whenever possible. If that makes them happy....But I've never seen an advantage to dining in a backyard when there's a perfectly good dining room or kitchen table available. Less flies, mosquitoes, ants, etc, in the house. Also less wind indoors and you are less effected by changes in the weather. I've been at gatherings where food is eaten outside and a sudden chill arrives sending people scrambling for jackets or sweater. The hell with that.

I'm going to change the subject.

I got a new biography of Sylvia Path for my birthday. The review in the New York Times called it one of those doorstopper bios. In other words it's massive. Nine hundred something pages. I've gamely waded into it. There's no doubt about the quality of the book, sometimes I get discouraged by reading steadily for hours and find myself on page seven-three. 

I've read a lot of good books recently. (Actually I'm always reading a lot of good books.) I keep meaning to do a blog post about books I've recently read, or the books that got me through the pandemic, or my favorite all-time novels, or favorite non-fiction or favorite books about films. By jove I'll do one or the other by the ned of the month or my name is Phineas Hucklebottom. 

Right now I'm listening to Hendrix but have a best of The Bee Gees CD arriving today or tomorrow. (Just so you know, I changed the subject.) I have eclectic tastes in music. I'm often surprised at how judgmental people get about music. In college someone looked through my record collection and declared that I had "bad taste" in music. The albums included everything The Beatles had ever done so you know he was an idiot right there. But of course declaring that someone has "bad taste" merely because they don't like the music you do is the height of stupidity. I've also noted a lot of people -- particularly those who extoll the Grateful Dead (yuck!) -- being disdainful of music by African American performers. This does not make them perforce racist not does it even necessarily reflect cultural insensitivity, but it is at the very least a bad look.

Okay so I set out to write something because I've not blogged in almost a week (busy novel-writing, you know) and I've accomplished that. But it's time for me to work out. So I thank you for reading this far, you are a dear and beloved reader and I appreciate you. Have a grand day.

13 March 2021

One Year of a Pandemic, Not So Happy Anniversary

One year ago today I taught a class live and in person.

One year ago today I went to the gym.

I have not taught a class live and in person since.

I have not gone to the gym since.

One full year.

Nor have I dined in a restaurant, visited a museum, gone to a sports event, attended a party or traveled out of state.

I have completed and published a novel, finished the first draft of another and began work on a third. I have also written 122 blog posts. This will make it 123.

I have watched somewhere between 350 and 400 films (probably closer to the latter). I've read in the neighborhood of forty to fifty books and parts of a dozen or so others.

I'm proud to say that I've barely watched any more television than I did in the previous non pandemic twelve months.

I've also actually worked out more as I've gone from every other day to six days a week. These workouts are at home and do not include a cardio component other than three sets of jumping jacks and a minute of running in place. I have however -- usually with my darling wife -- taken many a walk.

The aforementioned better half and I have gotten along just fine despite the close quarters and being together very nearly twenty-four/seven. A successful marriage!

We took up Yahtzee! in the early autumn and play almost every day. Not the least bit ashamed to admit it. We've also resumed home delivery of the New York Times so I'm back to doing the crossword puzzle and after nine years have picked up were I left off (though I rarely tackle the Saturday puzzle). I also make a daily visit to Sporcle and if you've never been there I recommend it.

Depression still dogs me. When the pandemic hit the six-month mark it was pretty bad but for the most part it's been as before -- no better, no worse.

I've watched many, many hours of proper football (soccer to you Yanks). Ninety per cent of what I watch is from England's Premier League, the rest is European competition involving national teams or clubs from different countries. I've only watched parts of four American football games, a few innings here and there of baseball and nothing else in the way of sports.

I've continued to follow the news closely and it has been much more pleasant to do so since January 20th. The combination of the past president and pandemic was quite awful. While much of the news is still depressing, there is at least cause for hope that the bright light at the end of the tunnel is not an uncoming train but the end of the pandemic. The president said family gatherings by Independence Day. Meanwhile the plan is to open the school where I teach in June. 

I have been vaccinated. Got the second shot last Saturday. 

So as twelve month periods go it's been a real stinker but I'm proud to say I've made the most of it, especially in terms of my writing. It came at a good time in my life. Had something like this happened when I was a swinging single...well, perish the thought.

Perhaps the worst part of the pandemic has been not being able to see my youngest daughter in all of 2020 (she's in New York). We last said good-bye on December 31, 2019. Seems a century ago. Fortunately we live in an age of instant communication including zoom. Also oldest daughter has been around. If both were out of reach...Again, perish the thought.

The last pandemic approaching this magnitude was just over 100 years ago so one hopes the next one is also 100 years or more away. Then again I've read that we could be visited by such a horror any time. One can't predict. I choose not to contemplate that now.

One year. Good lord. 

10 March 2021

What Film Had the Best Cast? I Try to Answer this Subjective Question -- Off the Top of my Head

Notorious with L-R, Rains, Grant, Bergman

I just saw a tweet that posed the question: "what do you think was the best movie cast of all time?" I saw one answer, The Philadelphia Story (1940) Cukor, before leaving Twitter and coming here to give my answer -- of sorts -- without thinking about it. Thus what I'm doing here is a form of live blogging, or stream of consciousness blogging in which I'm writing as I think. Should be fun -- for me a least. Let's see what I come up with.

As I said the only response I saw was The  Philadelphia Story and that was indeed a good cast with Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart and Katharine Hepburn. It gets mighty thin after those three with two strong supporting cast members, Roland Young and Henry Daniell. If you're going by best three leads for a film than The Philadelphia Story is in the running.

Cary Grant reminds me of Notorious (1946) Hitchcock where it's him, Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains. Another excellent top three. The supporting players, especially Louis Calhern are good if not spectacular.

Claude Rains and Ingrid Bergman come to mind again as they were part of a terrific cast along with Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, Paul Henreid and some excellent supporting players in Casablanca (1942) Curtiz. The supporters include Sydney Greenstreet, John Qualen, S.Z. Sakall, Marcel Dalio, and Conrad Veidt. This one's definitely a contender.

I think of Rains yet again who was with Jimmy Stewart, Jean Arthur, Thomas Mitchell and Edward Arnold in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) Capra. Supporting players include Eugene Pallette, H.B. Warner, Grant Mitchell, Beulah Bondi, Guy Kibbee, Harry Carey and Jack Carson. A who's who of Hollywood beloved supporting players of the late thirties. That's a helluva cast.

Two Elia Kazan films come to mind. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) was headed by Marlon Brando, Vivian Leigh, Kim Hunter and Karl Malden. Not too shabby. But I think that's topped, if barely, by On the Waterfront (1954) with Brando, Malden, Lee J Cobb, Rod Steiger and Eva Marie Saint.

Let's see what the Seventies -- my favorite decade of film -- have to offer. Shampoo (1975) Ashby, immediately comes to mind. Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, Goldie Hawn, Lee Grant, Carrie Fisher and Jack Warden is pretty formidable. 

The Deer Hunter (1975) Cimino had a stellar cast with Robert DeNiro, Christopher Walken, Meryl Streep and John Cazale. That's an impressive foursome.

Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) Allen is certainly among the best. Check this out: Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Michael Caine, Max von Sydow, Dianne Weist, Barbara Hershey, Maureen O'Sullivan, Carrie Fisher, Lloyd Nolan, Daniel Stern and cameos by future stars Julia-Louis Dreyfus and John Turtorro.

A more recent film with a great cast was Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) Tarantino. Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Al Pacino, Samantha Robbie, Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern and Emile Hersch.

I can't believe I hadn't yet thought of The Godfather (1972) Coppola. Pacino, Brando, Cazale, Diane Keaton, James Caan, Robert Duvall and Sterling Hayden.

Godfather Part 2 (1974) Coppola wasn't bad either with Pacino, Cazale, Keaton and Duvall returning joined by DeNiro, Bruno Kirby and Lee Strasberg.

The Ice Storm (1997) A. Lee has a great cast. Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, Joan Allen, Tobey Maguire, Cristina Ricci, Katie Holmes and Elijah Wood. The last four were just starting out in Hollywood when the film was made.

Can't forget The Great Escape (1963) J. Sturges. Steve McQueen, James Garner, James Coburn, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, David McCallum and Donald Pleasance. 

A recent Best Picture winner with a great cast was Birdman (2014) Iñárritu. Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts and Andrea Riseborough.

The Wild Bunch (1969) Peckinpah might have the best cast of any Western. William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Edmund O'Brien, Robert Ryan, Warren Oates, Ben Johnson and Strother Martin.

Speaking of Ben Johnson, he was part of a great cast in The Last Picture Show (1971) Bogdanovich with Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepard, Ellen Burstyn, Cloris Leachman, Timothy Bottoms, Eileen Brennan, Randy Quiad, Clu Gulager, and Sam Bottoms. Wow.

Spartacus (1960) Kubrick is another strong contender with Kirk Douglas, Jean Simmons, Tony Curtis, Charles Laughton, Laurence Olivier, Peter Ustinov and Woody Strode.

Another all star cast from the seventies can be found in All the President's Men (1976) Pakula. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as your leads then Jack Warden, Martin Balsam, Jason Robards and Jane Alexander.

L-R, Lemmon, Cagney, Fonda, Powell
How about Mister Roberts (1955) Ford/Leroy with James Cagney, Henry Fonda, Jack Lemmon, William Powell and Ward Bond. That's five huge stars (albeit Bond was always a supporting player but one who found himself in some of the great films of Hollywood's Golden Age) in one cast. Between them they represent such classics as White Heat, Public Enemy, Some Like it Hot, The Apartment, The Thin Man, My Man Godfrey, The Lady Eve, The Grapes of Wrath, The Searchers and The Maltese Falcon, to name but two films for each.

Then there's The Departed (2006) Scorsese. How about this: DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, Alec Baldwin and Martin Sheen.

Another Scorsese picture, The Aviator (2004), boasts this cast: DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Baldwin, Alan Alda, Ian Holm, Jude Law and Kate Beckinsale.

One mustn't forget A Bridge Too Far (1977) Attenborough with James Caan, Sean Connery, Gene Hackman, Anthony Hopkins, Laurence Olivier, Robert Redford, Elliot Gould, Ryan O'Neal and Maximilian Schell.

I'm going to stop with this one, JFK (1991) Stone. Kevin Costner, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Donald Sutherland, Ed Asner. Sissy Spacek, Joe Pesci, Gary Oldman, John Candy, Tommy Lee Jones and Kevin Bacon. That's what I'd call an all-star cast.

I could go on and indeed perhaps will in a second installment. Again, this was just off the top of my head and perhaps I could find more and better casts (more for sure, better? doubt it) with more thought and a little research.

Of course this was purely an objective list. I did not include any films that had greats casts but are not, in my opinion, particularly good films. Also I was the arbiter of who was or is an important actor and that was reflected in the films I chose.

The original question was what is the best film cast of all time. So do I have a winner? Gimme a second here....In looking over what I've written I believe I made my case for one of them in writing about it, Mister Roberts with Fonda, Cagney, Powell, Lemmon and Bond. I may give that a re-think when I consider a sequel to this post. However it is possible that I won't find much to add to this and may not find anything to top the cast of Mister Roberts. It'll be interesting for me to dig into this further. At any rate it was a fun exercise.

08 March 2021

News, Announcements and Updates from Streams of Unconsciousness Headquarters

Polo season is nearly here. This photo is from after our season finale last year.

Welcome to another edition of news and notes from Streams of Unconsciousness headquarters. A lot has been going on and a busy few months are ahead especially as restrictions loosen now that the coronavirus vaccine has become readily available. Indeed, that leads directly to our first announcement....

We've received a shipment of the vaccine so members of our nursing staff are standing by available to give you your shot. If you get vaccinated with us you'll receive a free copy of the Streams of Unconsciousness monthly magazine and ten cents off a chocolate malt at our cafe....

We’ll be hosting our annual orgy for the impotent and frigid on Saturday March 27. Volunteers welcome, come lend a hand....

Under our on-going staff re-structuring we’ve been moving our accounting team to the lyceum, while the legal staff will be stationed in the pagoda. Come check them out in their new digs, effective, Thursday....

In compliance with local ordinances we will no longer be holding the annual April cock fighting tournament on Streams of U grounds. We will be texting the now secret location to those interested in the coming days....

Plenty of new items in the gift shop. First though, we’re happy to announce that in addition to the new hoodies and tee shirts in all sizes for both men and women, we've now boast a full supply of Streams of U knit caps, baseball caps, scarves, and letterman’s jackets. New items include meth supplies, switch blades, coke spoons, acetylene torches, ball peen hammers, trawling shackles and coffins, all sporting the Streams of Unconsciousness logo. Remember, premium Streams members receive a fifteen per cent discount on all items in the gift shop....

More staff changes. Gilda Loopner has moved from the receptionist desk to take over deep sea exploration team. She replaces Ty Conderoga who was last seen in the clutches of a giant squid. We wish Ty the best. Also, Gus Crump is moving from custodial services to head our marketing team. We’re sure it’ll be a seamless transition to his new role. Speaking of seamless, our on-staff tailor, Lance Mintz is retiring effective at the end of the month. We’ll be onboarding a recent Harvard graduate, Daisy von Buckmeister to take his place. Good luck Lance!....

We’re proud to announce that the Streams of Unconsciousness Bar and Grill is now fully stocked with premium beers from all over the world and our Opium Den is now replete with brand new couches and cushions. Drop by!...

We will be resuming live concerts every Friday starting in May. First up will be the Moose Jaw Philharmonic Orchestra, always a big hit. Other confirmed acts are The Rolling Stones; Peter Paul, Mary, Jock and Lolita; The Oshkosh Polka King All-Star Band; Beyonce; Chick Cherry’s Chamber Music Ensemble; The Addis Ababa Barbershop Quartet; and The Eastern Saskatchewan Gregorian Chants Society. More to come....

More upcoming events include a bake sale next Saturday with all proceeds going to The Committee for Calendar Reform. And a car wash the following Saturday with all proceeds going to refurbishing our calliope. April 2nd is foot fetishists day, anyone with a foot fetish gets free admission to the Streams Museum....

Stop by every Saturday in May for our Polo tournament. Starting in June we’ll be competing against polo teams from other blogs....

More staff changes: we’ve bolstered our whaling staff by adding more harpooneers, blacksmiths, coopers and ordinary crewmen. Look out whales!....

June 5-11 is Restless Leg Syndrome Awareness Week. Half of all proceeds from Streams of Unconsciousness that week will go to fight this dreaded ailment. Please give generously....

As always we welcome your suggestions, ideas and opinions. Please send them to notarealperson@notarealemailaddress.net.

Also, if you're interested in our Fall internship program contact either Mr. Stan Laurel or Mr. Oliver Hardy at P.O. Box 1928374655 GreenBucket Falls, Mongolia.

05 March 2021

The March Edition of 'I Comment on the Today's Headlines'


Since July, I have occasionally been posting headlines from various news sources and writing comments about them that are either pithy, snarky, wise or brilliantly on point (or a combination thereof). The response has been so overwhelming (thank you, Vidal Buffoon of Bend, Oregon) that I have made this a regular feature -- to enthusiastic acclaim. Here then is part twelve in what is now a regular and beloved monthly feature.

From The NY Times:

Dr. Seuss Books Are Pulled, and a ‘Cancel Culture’ Controversy Erupts

I believe this is what the British call a sticky wicket. First let's set aside the term "cancel culture" as it has become a misnomer. Few people or books or ideas are ever really canceled. The exception being the worst of the convicted felons such as Bill Cosby. Also it's debatable whether there's an actual culture around current attempts to silence people and books, although some people do seem to revel in it. There are in the Dr. Seuss books mentioned some highly questionable references to race that many people would not want their children exposed to. Keeping them from young eyes is not a terrible idea given the plethora of children's books available, many of them classics and many of those by Seuss himself. But I shudder every time a book, movie or TV episode is taken away from the public. It is a dangerous precedent that is becoming a dangerous practice. One thing that has gotten me through the pandemic has been re-watching 30 Rock (thanks Hulu) from beginning to end. But several episodes have been deemed inappropriate and are unavailable. (White characters in black face.) I'd have preferred the episodes be kept with a disclaimer appearing before it pointing out the offending part of the show and explaining why it is problematic. Then viewers could decide to either forge ahead and watch it anyway -- armed with the knowledge that they will see something offensive, or they can watch it and fast forward or mute the offending section or they can skip it entirely. The key here is that is the viewer's choice. We're walking some might fine lines these days and I don't know that we're always getting the more rational, informed people making the final decision. About the only critique of the left in which conservatives have a point is that we tend to be pretty censorious of speech we don't like. I'd hate to give the knuckleheads any more ammo. I understand the impulse to keep racial stereotypes away from young eyes and ears, but I worry about an increased tendency to censor and what is supposed to be a free society. Very fine line indeed.

Cuomo Aides Rewrote Nursing Home Report to Hide Higher Death Toll

Come on, you must have known at the time that what you were doing was a) morally repugnant and b) stupid. It is much easier to tell than truth than to lie -- unless someone asks if their new skirt makes them look fat. 

As Biden Urges Caution on Covid, Governors Split on How Fast to Reopen

The governors of Texas and Mississippi have announced that their states are going to fully re-open. Idiots, boneheads, morons, jerks and a-holes have celebrated the move. What's particularly frustrating is that we are not that far away from states (meaning restaurants, theaters, gyms, sports venues, etc.) actually being ready to open. But dumb people are not known for their patience. How many more people are going to get the virus and die because of the stupidity of these governors? Shameful.

From CNN: 

Father arrested in India for beheading his 17-year-old daughter

The daughter's "offense" had been to be alone in a room with a boy that the father did not like. He severed her head and calmly -- yes, calmly -- walked to the police station to turn himself in. This is a situation for which the term 'unspeakable tragedy' was created. Yes, the man doubtless suffers from mental illness but this is also indicative of a culture that oppresses women and endows patriarchs with far more power than any human deserves. Indian reported twenty-four  'honor killings' in 2019. Other countries, such as Pakistan, register even more. That was one sad, sick culture.

Creighton's men's basketball head coach suspended after 'plantation' comment

The coach in question said, "Guys, we got to stick together. We need both feet in. I need everybody to stay on the plantation. I can't have anybody leave the plantation." I've heard worse but that's still pretty bad. The coach claimed that the remarks are not reflective of his values. I believe him. He said something stupid and offensive and he's got to pay the price. He's probably a decent bloke. I know how hard it can be when you are constantly talking to young people and often in stressful situations. As a middle school teacher I once grew extremely frustrated with a class and said that if their present attitude towards behavior and classwork is really how they felt they might as well plan on working in the fields. Dumb thing to say. Worse, one student decided to rat on me and told the principal I said, "cotton fields." I most certainly did not. In any case I was immediately sorry for what I said. I know of many other teachers who have said worse. They were generally good people who in the heat of the moment weren't careful with their words. It ain't easy, folks. So I feel for the coach but feel that after the suspension the lesson will hopefully have been learned.

Aged 118, the world's oldest living person will carry the Olympic flame in Japan

Wow. She was born in 1903. She was born in the same year as George Orwell, John Dillinger and Bob Hope. She could have dated Babe Ruth or Rudolph Valentino or Charlie Chaplin. She could easily remember the end of World War I and probably the beginning too. If an American she could have voted for Calvin Coolidge in the 1924 presidential election, which could have been the first of nineteen presidential elections she voted in. She could have been going to movies for over a dozen years before they added sound. She was 38 when Japan and the U.S. went to war. She was born the same year the Wright Brothers first flew. She was born over forty years before television sets were available. She was in her nineties before home computers were readily available and nearly 100 when the smart phone came along. Goodness me. 

From the BBC:

Voting rights: How the battle is unfolding across the U.S.

This is easy to explain: Republicans are trying to make it harder for people to vote, especially people of color, because they care more about their chances of winning than they do about the principles of a democracy. Rather than try to appeal to a wider spectrum of the electorate they choose to cynically narrow the number of people who vote. If given the opportunity they would embrace fascism as they nearly did when Trumpy tried to steal the election he lost. The modern Republican Party only cares about feeding its corporate overlords tax breaks and stripping women and minorities of protections and rights while shrinking government so that it is too small to serve the people. Fuck them.

Covid: Bolsonaro tells Brazilians to ‘stop whining’ as deaths spike

Poor Brazil. We had a president like him until quite recently. Not a wit of compassion. No common sense. No understanding or respect for science. Wishing you the best, Brazil. We got through it, bloodied but unbowed.

US sees jobs surge as hope for rebound rises

Look everybody, it's good news. I could get used to that. Let's have more in the months to come. God knows we're owed a lot. Let's have news about the pandemic being over, joblessness plummeting to new lows. Indoor activities being safely open to one and all. Trumpy jailed for any one of the numerous crimes he's committed (treason, election fraud, tax evasion, inciting a riot, obstruction of justice). Let's see Republican politicians held accountable for their lies and deceptions and greed. Let's have signs that efforts to reverse global warming are proving effective. Let's see America's infrastructure being rebuilt. Let's see long overdue reforms of police departments across the country. And let's see my favorite sports team have their greatest seasons, and oh yes, how about my latest novel becoming an international best seller? Thanks.

03 March 2021

An Imagined Overheard Conversation

On our walk the other day the missus and I saw a young father standing on his front porch with his — I’m guessing here — eighteen-month old child in arm. He was chatting with an even younger man and woman who had evidently come by on their bikes. Here’s some of what I guess he said.

“Chrissy just got over a kind of nasty cold. She had a temperature of 100 last Thursday. But she’s fine now.”

“Jonah loves his new school. Janet and Robin’s son, Jonas, goes there too.”

“Yeah, Patrick and Michelle are expecting next month. They’re using the same doula we had for Chrissy.”

“Right, they’re having a home birth.”

“We were last in Mexico I think it was six years ago, a couple of years before Jonah was born.”

“We spent a week in Mexico City then went to Yucatan. We’re definitely going to take the kids when they get older. It’s so awesome down there.”

“I’ve been planning on painting the back deck for awhile now. Rachael’s been after me to get it done but we’ve been so busy. You know how it goes.”

“Depending on what we need we either go to Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. How about you?”

“Last weekend on that really clear day? We went on a bike ride up in the hills.”

“We’re going camping when the weather gets better.”

“Rachel and I have been playing our guitars a lot, the kids love it. We’re going to get them into playing an instrument early. All the research says it’s really good for their development.”

“Gosh we haven’t been to a movie in awhile. Usually when we get a sitter it’s to go to dinner or a concert.”

“Leena and Thomas are getting married in June. They decided to have a ceremony for their folks. I guess it will be kind of traditional.”

“We hardly ever watch TV, just usually like stuff on PBS or occasionally a movie on Netflix. We’re always so busy.”

“Next Saturday we’re driving up to Rachel’s folks’ place. There’s lots of room for the kids to play and I can help with a few chores. They always cook a big supper. It’s nice.”

“Our friend Liam is moving to Seattle and he’s selling us his truck for cheap. It’ll be nice to have.”

“I killed a couple of guys last weekend when I was high on meth. Don’t tell anyone though.”

“I like to wear dresses and dance on the roof. The neighbors Instagram it.”

“Rachel and I strangled a weasel with our bare hands and ate it raw.”

“We’re looking for a cult to join. Preferably one with a charismatic leader who sexually manipulates his followers.”

“I went kayaking in the desert once. Kind of a blast doing it without any water.”

“When the kids act out we just scream at them and threaten them with knives. Super effective.”

“I wish I could go back in time and kiss Hitler. Don’t you?”

“You want some zucchini from our garden? We’ve got  plenty. Take some.”