Archive for the Movies category

January 24th, 2011

Dying of Cancer — the Film

Posted in Death, Movies, These United States by ed

A somber documentary. How to Die in Oregon.

The cancer business is a travesty in the US. We DO have Death Panels. They’re called Oncology Practice Groups.

Perhaps this is one reason the film is (by reports) so hard to watch.

January 22nd, 2011

From the Archives:
Is Ideology a good idea?

Some fun from the Summer 1992 issue of The New Combat: a Dialogue Game played around the notion of the need for ethical and political ideologies. Camus. Bertrand Russell. Ayn Rand. What a party.

(Comments to the game text may be posted here below.)

So … The Summer of ’92. Jennifer O’Neill, what a babe …

Bill Clinton and Al Gore were running against incumbent Papa Bush and Dan Quayle.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the Gulf War were yesterday and the day before.

People were looking forward to them Peace Dividends.

The working class still had representation in Washington.

Hardly anyone knew what the internet was or might be.

January 16th, 2011

True Grit rides anew and leaves Stanley in the dust

The characters in the Coen brothers film are geared to work against both the Old Testament bleakness of the novel and the Waynesian joie de vivre of the first film.

Mattie in the film, at fourteen, is a relentless robotic harridan-to-be, expressing thru caricature the bleak worldview that Stanley Fish here extracts from the novel and offers as the spiritual key to the new film.

Mattie’s been trained as a bookkeepper and, we find, knows nothing about life and justice on the great frontier. Most comico-tragically, she badgers the tumbleweeds of the prairie with threats or promises of treatment by her lawyer. Finally poor Ned shuts her up, for us all, by responding that what he needs is a “good JUDGE” — yearning, it seems, for the Good News god and His mercy as deadly accidents set in train by Mattie’s thirst for revenge snake about his neck like a noose.

Cogburn steadily provides the antidote of worldly experience to Mattie’s booklearning and naive rationalism. Eg, he instructs and insists that Ned Chaney hung in Texas for shooting a senator is as good as Arkansas for shooting Mattie’s pa — and that the financial benefits of the former settle the case. Let’s be reasonable.

The only bit of this Cogburn we see in Mattie is when she goes a bit soft on LaBoeuf, who, at the extreme from her take-no-prisoners egomania, espouses the chivalrous naivete of the Cavalier society that settled Texas. Cogburn, in between, does his best to moderate the romance, but Mattie’s headstrong stone-hearted quest for vengeance must leave Quixote in the dust. “Ever stalwart,” he sadly affirms, too late to be heard, as she rides into the sunset in search of her devil.

A quarter century thence, at film’s end, we see that Mattie’s blindered pursuit of her ideal brought her to a barren life. She is, at 40, an echo of Miss Gulch — from The Wizard of the Oz — an irredeemable witch peculiar to the frontier who demonstrates no more curiosity or compassion for things human than she did at fourteen. She strides through the colorful marvels of a city and a circus without a sidelong glance, and her very last line is an imperious insult — “Keep your seat, trash!” — to an old man who failed to rise in her bristling presence.

The film’s coda, then, cements the notion (which sprouted for me about halfway thru) that the last thing one must do with this story is respect the barbaric worldview of its motor-mouthed bookkeeping upstart protagonist.

Naturally, then, one looks elsewhere — to Jeff Bridge’s Cogburn, who shares the joy of John Wayne’s but whose every decision is shot through by social psychology, and who recognizes a good deal of himself in all the bad guys: “I know him!” he keeps moaning to Mattie as the hapless of the earth wander into his crosshairs.

In short: The last thing I see in this Cogburn is the amoral gunslinging paraclete that Stanley Fish is at such pains to paint.

Affinities between the Old Testament and the amoral Predeterminism of certain Christian schools are oft remarked. And it’s a familiar turn in American letters to use the Old Testament to gloss the New World.

Alfred Kazin was a master of this, and his essays on Lincoln — whom he finds caught between the South’s fundamental sin and the relentless paracletes of Abolition — are among the assessments of the American character that I treasure.

But Mr Fish, falling short of Kazin, offers an impoverished reading of the new film, whether out of doctrine (his distinctive nihilism) or innocently, as it were, I don’t know. What seems clear is that the Coen brothers set out to Deconstruct the novel’s heroine, as a spiritually barren witch — and it’s odd that Perfesser Fish of all people would not notice.

By film’s end I even wonder if she was telling the truth about her devil Ned Chaney.

However that may be, it’s odd to find her, twenty-five years later, venerating Cogburn’s memory and yet so unchanged, so blindly made of stone after all these years. T’would seem that authentic veneration might have tenderized her hide a hair. Perhaps we are to sense that subterranean guilt, for having dragged Cogburn and the rest into her hell, is the real reason she transports his grave to the barren hilltop where her parents lie.

In any case, I mourn for this Cogburn as he tries to rest in peace with Mattie Gulch’s blank stare and recitations from the Bible falling upon his bones.

November 28th, 2010

Seven Beauties

Posted in Death, Goodbye to All That, Movies by ed

For files and dark nights:

Lina Wertmuller’s masterpiece with Giancarlo Giannini.

The entire film — in Italian with English subtitles (the only way to see it — don’t ever watch the dubbed English version, it’s a horrible, destructive scandal) — is on YouTube in twelve clips or so.

Porca miseria — what life does to you !

November 3rd, 2010

Michael Moore
talks turkey Election Night

Wow. The gosh darn truth, it seems to me.

He’s talking late night election night (November 2010) at Democracy Now, with John Nicolls and Laura Flanders in the studio with Amy Goodman.

He touches on the blackout, during the autumn campaign weeks, on the wars — indeed, foreign policy in toto. This was the first thing that came to mind as Jon Stewart concluded his interview with Obama two weeks ago. Not a word about Pakghanistan, Iraq or Israel. Not a fucking word. Clearly Obama demanded that silence in exchange for the appearance.

It’s also noteworthy, when he speaks of the Left’s guilt for its early support of the Iraq war, 2002-04, and names a few names and nods at institutions, that what he’s pointing to are prominent Jews of the Left, who supported the war persuaded in good part that it served Israel’s interest, and then recanted.

But Michael daresn’t say that to Amy. Not right out.

The recantation of Tom Friedman of the Times suddenly comes to mind as one of the most spectacular. But he was nothing like alone within the New York media. The New Yorker itself, of Remnick and Hertzberg. Perhaps I’ll find links.

Most broadly, the so-called Left here will never mount the kind of power challenge its constituency needs until it faces the huge ideological chaos within its ranks.

I mean, in nutshell: Identity Politics vs (marxian!) Universalism.

This came to mind again yesterday watching a group of three at Busboys & Poets Cafe in DC on Democracy Now. Nothing but racism. Seeing everything thru that narrow lens. Calling themselves Progressives even yet, after 30 years of getting fucked in the ass by the rich.

But … their ideas are so rooted in Academia, where so many people of lefty persuasion retreated after the assassinations, Vietnam, Watergate, that what seems necessary also seems all but impossible. At least in my time.

But … it’s no wonder the Left is so powerless. Most Americans listening to the guys at Busboys & Poets would just shake their head and vote no.

Laura Flanders, following Moore, is also good. Maybe go buy her book (she gives the website during the chat — not available at Amazon etc):

And here’s something re his most recent — and, he suggests, his last — documentary, Capitalism: A Love Story.

October 30th, 2010

Wall Street Warrior on Ice

Posted in Money, Movies, The Great Recession by ed

Guy Chimay, featured across the 2007 season of Wall Street Warriors as the Genius Hedge Fund Manager, has spent most of 2010 at Rikers Island jail off the tip of LaGuardia Airport, facing facing 30 years plus for securities fraud, grand larceny and what not.

October 17th, 2010

Google blacklists documentary
about need and means of
change we desperately need

Curious. But Google won’t link to the website for 2012: TIME FOR CHANGE, a great documentary about, in a word, environmentalism, and the need for and possibilities for civilizational change.

Here’s the URL that Google won’t give you:

The film is showing in Los Angeles and New York. Go see if you can, or put it on your rental/stream que.


October 4th, 2010

Allen Ginsberg Moment:
An old cool interview
and a magical new film
about the Genii of the City


Recollections and thoughts about the new film HOWL are on the way.

Meanwhile peeps can comment on the man and the poem and the movie — and a very local interview from 1988 — here below.




August 25th, 2010

Notes for DYING DAYS

Posted in Bosnia et al., Movies, Writing by ed

When things get too confused on the screen, go to paper.


March 19th, 2010

Birthday greeting from Arabia
via Orson Welles and
the other Richard Burton

Friend and poet Michael Gushue reports this alleged lost scene from the Citizen Kane script:

Kane stands with his butler/factotum, Raymond in the family tomb. His only son, Charles Foster Kane II, is dead at the age of 31. The year is 1938, and workmen are setting a slab on the grave.

After they leave, Kane looks at the simple inscriptions on the crypts of his father, mother and son.

Above the blank space reserved for him, is an inscription on an ornate, ancient wall imported from Persia.

Kane translates for Raymond (bored and couldn’t care less):

The drunkenness of youth
Has passed like a fever
And yet I saw many things
Seeing my glory in the days of my glory

I thought my power eternal
And the days of my life
Fixed surely in the years
But a whisper came to me
From Him who dies not

I called my tributary kings together
And those who were proud rulers under me
I opened the boxes of my treasure to them, saying
“Take hills of gold, mountains of silver
And give me one more day upon the earth”

But they stood silent
Looking upon the ground
So that I died
And Death came to sit upon my throne

O sons of men
You see a stranger upon the road
You call to him and he does not stop
He is your life
Walking towards time
Hurrying to meet the kings of India and China

O sons of men
You are caught in the web of the world
And the spider
Nothing waits behind it

Where are the men with towering hopes?
They have changed places with owls
Owls who lived in tombs
And now inhabit a palace

We live in affluence
And are blind to where we are

Our concerns and feuds
Fill our time every day

You must ask yourself
What is the worth?

January 11th, 2010

The more things change …

Alfred Hitchcock presents …

… a fine elderly unemployed couple, about to be bounced out of their home, try to work things out.

… the trauma of losing your job.

January 1st, 2010

Film: The White Ribbon
Crisis of the Old Order

Magnificent. Must see. Glorious black and white. Gloriously and utterly un-American. One recalls why, when we were young, people thought film was a serious art.

It’s a psychological whodunit, to begin. So it’s natural the reviews would focus on the puzzles. Even so …

Spoiler Alert. The rest of this is for people who’ve seen it already. Unless one cares not to preserve a fresh first viewing.

Even so, the lack of comment in the reviews on the treatment of social history is surprising. This is what struck my mind throughout, and seems upon further thought the Grund of the story, the spine of the script.

Confirmation here comes (after dozens of hints) rather late when the Baronness declares she is leaving the Estate, and indeed leaving Germany — and is taking her son, the family heir.

Thus dissolves the Baron’s household, the power atop the village social structure, and the employer of most of its people.

Why does the Baroness bail? Because she has fallen in love with a banker in Lombardy (ie Milan), who swept her off her feet with his energy and sophistication, and was good with the boy.

Thus the Gentry gives way to the Liberals — the industrialists and their bankers, the Capitalists, the Bourgeoisie beloved of Saint-Simon — atop the pile of struggling classes.

Each of the adult male characters speaks for a familiar estate/class of late feudal society. Only the Officer is missing. But his clamor can be heard at film’s end, as his day dawns in 1914.

The Doctor serves well as a representative of Modern Science:

– mistreating, after deeply exploiting, the pre-modern Midwife (his professional precursor in the Middle Age now vanishing). He despises her “stench” and finally wishes she were dead.

– abusing the trust and curiosity of his daughter because, as he explains to the Midwife, his passions are autonomous, ungovernable, beyond good and evil. Robert Oppenheimer comes to mind. Or How I Learned to Love the Bomb.

Whether the Doctor’s unexplained departure at story’s end marks him (and Modern Science) a monster or a black hero turns perhaps on whether one comes to feel he has adopted (acknowledged?) the Midwife’s retarded son or, prefiguring the Nazis, has euthanized him. That his own boys are named Adolph and Rudi (Hess?) puts a point on the question but doesn’t decide it.

And note, most broadly, that while the children of the Minister and the Doctor are in close congress, their fathers seem to exist in separate towns. Or ages. Like Christendom and its successor Modernity.

As for details, a dozen otherwise odd and/or disjointed events in the film find justification (beyond gratuitous thrill-making) and make simple sense when considered as social history or pathology.

E.g., the Minister’s suppression of his son’s sexuality. The boy’s face (on the poster above) says it all: One of these decades that kettle’s gonna blow.

His name is Martin. Dubbed, no doubt, by his earnest father in honor of Luther. But as quickly as that came to mind I thought of Martin Bormann. Portrait of the Sadist as a Young Man.

Also interesting, in this vein, is the crudely bon-vivant and violent Steward of the estate, occupying his position of petty power between the Baron and the Peasants. In southern Italy such pastoral players were the root of what blossomed, as Noble control faded, into the urban mafias.

And, indeed — the Steward has been cast (Josef Bierbichler) as a hulking dark and garrulous Italian type, utterly distinct in appearance and behavior from the reserved Saxons that populate most of the screen. In particular his joking with ladies about sex stands out. Are we are to guess he was hired from Uncle Eduardo’s estate in Lombardy? Perhaps to keep the increasingly restive Peasants in line?

The film compares, then, to Bertolucci’s 1900 (in essence, not style).

To The French Lieutenant’s Woman — though much more Fowles’ novel than the film.

And to Ivy Compton-Burnett, who across some 20 novels, all set in late Victorian mansions peopled by failing grownups and bitter, biting children, told an epic story of social decline and shifting class loyalties and behaviors.

Both Bergman and Dreyer of course also come to mind, for various reasons, re both style and concern to tell social history, even if one believes Fanny and Alexander were happy kids.

It seems, then, that A.O. Scott, in particular, missed quite a big boat here. He seems to have been mezmerized by the spectacular surface psychology — and thus left to complain that Haneke told a shallow story (oh so familiar in America) that blames the Nazis on “child abuse.”

On the contrary: The surmise of the narrator (the now-old Schoolmaster) that this story, even if less than perfectly true, may help explain what the kids went on to accomplish in their prime, working hard and playing hard, seems well supported: The dissolution of the Old Order, and the Blow in Sarajevo (the first war and its disastrous sequelae), gave the deviant Nazis an opening to power.

Thank goodness it couldn’t happen here, where a prosperous and populous Middle Class exercises sovereignty in a vibrant constitutional democratic — uh, hmmm …

Finally, no reviewer I’ve seen has suggested what, after two viewings, seems clear: the gentle, somewhat bumbling Schoolmaster, played by Christian Friedel, is intended to be understood as Jewish.

The kind features of his face, his distinctively dark hair, his distinctively broad education, all support this reading, but also:

– his bitchy chastisement by the Baronness about church music and the church calendar;

– the otherwise pointless evasion of his would-be father-in-law at the matrimonial negotiation, who remarks that the teacher’d be better off working in his father’s shop in town (where your kind belong); and

– at story’s end, the abrupt and monstrous dressing down he suffers from the Minister after suggesting that the latter’s children are sadistic criminals. Denounced as “repulsive” and threatened with prison, ordered to “get out” and never return, he timidly acquiesces.

Thus fails, too — when the Other challenges at a stroke both Bible and Blut — the structure of Assimilation.

That the Schoolmaster when young was a Jew well at home in Bismarck’s young nation-state casts new light on his opening sad hope of somehow explaining “what happened later” as an effect of the alienating contradictions of old Christendom and its dissolution under pressure of Modernity’s miracles and wonders.

“The world’s not going to collapse.”

Twice we hear this during the year the Schoolmaster is required to wait for his bride: a naive but golden girl from a nearby town, daughter of a straight-shooting German Arbeiter, the very best that society has to offer a man of the Schoolmaster’s station.

But then comes the news from Sarajevo, and the marriage — consummation of Assimiliation — doesn’t come off.

Instead the erstwhile groom goes to war, for the Kaiser. And afterward, he tells us, never returns to the baronial village, returning instead to his hometown, to take over his father’s tailor shop. Which leaves the tinkling of Kristallnacht in one’s ears as the story fades to black.

We first met the Schoolmaster with his arm around Karli, the retarded boy, framed in the schoolhouse door — as the gang of kids, somewhat distant, snidely look on and sneer. It’s difficult not to think here of the Third Reich’s select victims. The kids will go on to burn both books and teacher.


November 28th, 2009

An evening at Fancast:
Night People in Paris, Texas

Posted in Movies by ed

Saw three remarkable films last night on Fancast, the Poor Man’s Friend.


1. The Elephant Man. Magnificent again.

Brings to mind Dwight Gooden’s glorious rookie year, in that David Lynch never made a better film, although great things did follow.


Gorgeous black & white — in 1980. BEFORE Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger than Paradise. I had transposed the two in memory.

Had the last American feature distributed (just barely) in b&w been Faces by Cassavetes in 1968?

People who know their movies probably know.


Anthony Hopkins here became a film star.

And John Hurt, hidden behind the hideous mask, yet so there, won the British oscar, and it seems perhaps a squeeze of Charlotte Rampling.


Hurt went on to be Winston in Michael Radford’s 1984, four years later.

Two milestones to be proud of.

Or three, counting Charlotte.



2. Mister 880. 1950.

Young buck Burt Lancaster as a Treasury cad on the heels of genial counterfeiter Edmund Gwenn, who three years before had been Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th Street.

In each case nominated for an Oscar.



3. Night People. 1954. Berlin. Or at least a few long shots to establish the Geschmack. In stark raving Technicolor.

Gregory Peck is a colonel of Army intelligence, stiff as a board, but the script is so good, along with Buddy Ebsen and Broderick Crawford, that it’s great.

The story is as realistic, violent and accurate as to the ways of Spookdom as any John Le Carre. What’s odd is the deadpan vaudevillian humor. An odd mix not easy to pull off, I imagine.

But they did.

And there’s a Soviet colonel who wants to defect. Colonel Peck has made the arrangements.

The Russian’s one demand?


To be re-settled in Paris, Texas.


The Russian, during the war, when Russ and Yank were friends, had passed through on a flight from Kamchatcha, east across the Bering Sea.

Had stopped to refuel in Paris, Texas.

And ever since had been dreaming … Of a girl?

Natasha Kinski ?

His daughter?

Had he promised her Parisian mother to return?


Alas. Berlin was to be his last battleground.

And did mom finally fail, leaving their daughter to the streets, to which years later she fled in return?

I suppose none of this is news to people who know their movies.

Newsweek said (of Wim Wenders’ film):

It is a story of the United states, a grim portrait of a land where people like Travis and Jane cannot put down roots, a story of a sprawling, powerful, richly endowed land where people can get desperately lost.

But not without reason?


November 17th, 2009

Richard Burton
speaks to the epigone



Four half-hour chats — from 1980 with Dick Cavett.

A fine heart and mind. And interesting times.

He talks remarkably of his father, a coal miner. And of alcohol and his saving-grace wife, Susan.

The four clips, linked here, are from the NY Times site, where Cavett has a column:

Part One. Wales. His father the coal miner.

Part Two. Growing up poor & orphaned but happy. Stumbling into acting & catching the bug. Laurence Olivier. John Gielgud.

Part Three. Garbo. His journals. Writers. Bogart & Bacall & John Huston. Spencer Tracy. Hubris. Elizabeth Taylor. His own films. The Bogey stories are fun.

Part Four. Demon Rum. His wife Susan. A taste of Camelot.

And throughout: the slings and arrows of acting and life and other arts, from one who learned most of what he knows out of school.

Bravo, PBS. And Mr Cavett, who fields a number of short-hoppers with thoughtful aplomb. Noticed him about town some months ago, looking spry.


Camelot on Broadway, with Julie Andrews, 1960-61


Alan Jay Lerner and director Moss Hart adapted Camelot from T.H. White’s rejuvenation of the King Arthur legend, The Once and Future King. Frederick Loewe came grudgingly aboard to write the music.

Burton and Julie Andrews were the original headliners, the latter as Guineviere, fresh from her smash in My Fair Lady, also by Lerner and Loewe. Robert Goulet got his first break as lovelorn Lancelot. Broadway’s advance-sales records were broken.

The show had been five hours plus in out-of-town trials, with Loewe and Hart seriously ill and Lerner suffering marriage trauma. The latter in later years was keen to credit Burton’s “faith and geniality” for holding the production together.

It opened on Broadway in early December 1960. Senator Kennedy had defeated Vice President Nixon four weeks earlier.

Twenty years later, it’s between performances of a Camelot revival at Lincoln Center that Burton sits with Cavett. Exhausting exercise, at age 55.

Weeks later Burton had radical back surgery. The pain or a certain constriction can be seen in his eyes.


Night of the Iguana, with Sue Lyon, 1964


Talking at frank length about alcohol, Burton credits his wife Susan with likely saving his life.

Four years later he was dead. At 59.

I remember my mother grieving a bit, not for having lost a star, but something closer to the bone, bearing on early deaths of her oldest brother and father, the latter whom, like Burton, died in his 50s of a brain hemorrage.


With Liz Taylor

Life in bloom.

He met Elizabeth Taylor in 1963, while filming Cleopatra, at the time the most expensive film in history.




They were married twice, from March 1964 to July 1976, taking sixteen months off in June 1974.

Was it Nixon’s resignation …?




It’s generally thought that they acted out private life, with encouragement from Mike Nicholls, as Leonard and Virginia Woolf.


Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? 1966






Six years after the last divorce, he speaks of Taylor as a good friend.

And argues she was a great screen actress, underrated because of beauty, but due for rediscovery and immortality.




Asking about his diaries, Cavett suggests that Burton is in essence a writer.

The actor allows he’s had ten or so extracts from his journals published — but merely in places that pay well. Ladies Home Journal. Cosmopolitan.

Then offers that he admires writers above all other “craftsmen,” and prefers their company, among artistic types, finding painters “inarticulate” and actors wont to tell stories rather than converse.

Throughout, comments about acting and the business focus on scripts and mention authors.

Post mortem, a book was carved out of his journals, and published to rave reviews.

Seems the thinking man’s world found itself shocked to find he was not a gigolo.


Boom! 1968


He speaks of his father, Richard Jenkins, as a genius coal miner. The stories are laced with alcohol and affection.

But elsewhere he spoke of the man’s violence. And when the father died in 1957, his namesake son, 32 and famous, did not attend the funeral.

His mother had died when he was two, giving birth to her thirteenth child at age 44. He says he has no memories.

At some point the state made master Richard Jenkins a ward of Philip Burton, one of his schoolteachers and a scholar of the theater. The lad’s passion for rugby was channeled elsewhere.

“I would rather have played for Wales at Cardiff Arms Park than Hamlet at the Old Vic,” the actor later said. (So reports biographer Melvyn Bragg.)

It’s curious that he speaks at such length about his father with Cavett, yet so briefly — but with honor — of Philip Burton, whom he reports alive and well and living in Key West.


The Longest Day


The photo at the very top here is also from The Longest Day, where Burton stands out — in a huge top-drawer Hollywood ensemble, and among the work-hard-play-hard Yank soldiery — as a quiet, hard-drinking RAF pilot on the verge of losing his nerve.

One imagines he cherished the role, having served in the RAF for three years during the war.




He came home intending to return to Oxford, but found the town so crowded at that moment with veterans that his chances to make the rugby squad were deemed poor.

So, instead, with Philip Burton’s aid and comfort, he answered an ad for an acting job …




His last film was magnificent: Michael Radford’s 1984, shot in the spring of Orwell’s year.

John Hurt was an obvious and indeed perfect Winston.

Less than obvious was Burton as O’Brien, the Ministry of Truth officer who watches then arrests Winston, methodically interrogates and breaks him, then washes his brain. A fierce minimalist perfect performance.

He died months later. August 5.

The 1984 now seems a bookend to The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, from John le Carre’s breakthrough book. Another great minimalist characterization in an important film about secret police.


The cold spy, with celestial Claire Bloom. 1965



I hadn’t realized, knowing only his post 50s films, that Burton’s roots were so wide and deep in the English theater

More than once he tells Cavett that he doesn’t watch movies at all, work aside, and suspects only ten or twelve of his 60 or so are worth preserving from fire.




His Hamlet here, in New York, in 1964 was much remarked upon.

There’s a filmed rehearsal run-through available on CD, which became the basis, two summers ago, of a revival extravaganza on a big screen in Central Park (if memory serves) and then the Public Theater.




I missed it. But do have the CD, which is always a bit disappointing, because the actor is indeed running through the text.

Watching the erstwhile rising rugby star run, however, one can imagine the fearsome athletic power he brought to the role. An Achilles of a Hamlet.

Able to snap Claudius’s neck with a hand.




Burton speaks highly of Gielgud, who directed him in Hamlet but also later remarked that Burton was, indeed, too rough for the role. Meaning, perhaps, nothing more, or less, than that he was a Welshman.

Toward the end of their chat, Cavett notes that his (Cavett’s) wife had performed with Burton years before in Munich.

The actor responds with a taste of Hamlet’s second soliloquoy in German.




The passing of Paul Newman a year ago left me feeling similarly bereaved.

Is it only in context — contrasted with the luminaries and prospects of our day — that Burton seems so remarkable here, chatting with an urbane fellow traveler of the cosmopolis, as Reagan’s presidency, which just a few months before had seemed as always a ludicrous long-shot, so lugubriously dawned?


February 8, 1966



Don’t let it be forgot
That once there was a spot
For one brief shining moment
That was known as Camelot

The Camelot company did an original cast album in 1961. Burton refers to the lovely royalties with a smile, and replies to Cavett’s request for a piece of his quality by noting that viewers may yet buy the record.

The music had caught on inside the Kennedy White House. Mr Richard Burton had been invited to dinner.

And after the state murder, Camelot inspired Jackie to compare her husband’s administration to the court of young Arthur, who after innocently pulling a sword from a stone had found himself king, and gone on, legend goes, to do noble things.


February 6, 1968: Bobby, Liz, Richard and Ethel.
Four months later a dream fully died.


JFK, incoming, was not much like Arthur: His progress to the White House was long planned and well contrived, and he’d been working in town, in Congress, for twelve years already, and had been raised in a family that traded at the highest levels.

Nevertheless, his odyssey once arrived at the big house was indeed that of an Arthurian ingenue, quick on his feet, able to sniff rats, and change course, intent on nobler things.




Burton was banned from the BBC for speaking of Churchill as a mass-murderer and quasi-fascistic racist in his conduct of the war.

He spoke of himself as a socialist, life long, and his pride in honest labor is the steady note in the tales he tells Cavett of his father, and the sisters who raised him, and his six brothers all of whom went to the mines.

Yet to avoid the King’s tax man, the escape artist resided in Switzerland, from the 50s onward.

And is buried there, in Celigny, on the shores of icy majestic Lake Geneva.



November 1st, 2009

Fortune Cookie

Something to chew on came my way at lunch circa 2006:

Time is Precious. But Truth is More Precious than Time.


Wow. Alas.

The Man’s too much …

Aw hell

October 16th, 2009

Finally done:
A Good Day in Hell

Posted in Death, Movies, Writing by ed


I began this darn script on August 18, 2006. Day 22 !!!

Tonight, after many developments, drafts, distractions, derailments and deaths, including baby steps toward a low-budget production and Wall Street blowing its brains out …

Tonight it seems perfected: properly abandoned.

On Day 1,184. Good dog almighty …

The prior six scripts received no more than four months of attention. But this, the trouble and time of a novel.

A toast is in order. Let’s see …

Well, modest — but tasty: the superbly bitter Rye Pale Ale that Michelob has put out to compete with all the artsy crafty beers.

Tomorrow back to business.

And, in the evening, perhaps, a bit of wild Decompression.

October 4th, 2009

Ireland ratifies the Lisbon Treaty
Old Europe is history

Ed Note: See comments below into 2011 as the whirling Credit Crisis brings the European Union and its currency to the brink of … Rescission? Dissolution? One might hope.

Well. Ireland has voted 67-33 in a referendum to ratify the Lisbon Treaty, which would pretty much create a United States of Europe centrally governed by the EU apparatus in Brussels.

It seems to me a sad day, despite a recent half-apology for dem Bilderbergers.

Last year, of course, the Irish rejected the treaty/constituiton, drawing the ire of the continental powers. This time around, the Times story suggests, fear born of the current economic crisis and a media blitz did the trick.

I wonder what Wim Wenders thinks about it …

Here’s first thoughts from Richard Moore, an American in Ireland for ten years or so, and author of Escaping the Matrix:


Sad news today. The normally intelligent people of Ireland capitulated to a fear-mongering propaganda campaign, and voted for the Lisbon Treaty, 2:1.

National sovereignty in all of Europe is now a thing of the past. The “Treaty” is in fact a constitution, and all European national constitutions are now subservient to the terms of this self-amending Treaty.

‘Self-amending’ is all important: it means that the Brussels bureaucracy can add add new amendments to the Treaty at any time, and those amendments also supersede national constitutions. The Irish people were told that the Treaty “does not bring in military conscription”, “does not affect taxation”, and many other things that people in Ireland are not in favor of.

This was all lies. True, the Treaty itself does not talk about those specific items, but because of self-amending, those specific items can now “be brought in” at any time in the future. And Ireland’s voting power, in opposing measures, is very greatly reduced by the Treaty.

If the Treaty were a ‘good’ constitution, all of this might not be a bad thing. But it’s not. The structure of the EU government is very much less democratic than any of the current European governments.

Most of the power is vested in the EU Commission, none of whose members are elected. It’s like a Politburo, with lots of power and no accountability. And its polices are very much oriented around neoliberalism, globalism, privatization, and deregulation – the very things that have brought the global economy to a standstill and accelerated unemployment in Europe.

Both Holland and France had voted against the constitution, when it was openly called a constitution. So the bigwigs repackaged the very same thing and called it a “Treaty”. They did this so the people of France and Holland wouldn’t get another chance to vote it down. The “Treaty” could be passed by the legislatures – except in the case of Ireland.

The people of Ireland, God bless them, voted against the “Treaty” the first time they were given a chance to vote. But they weren’t able to keep their heads in the face of the overwhelming media blitz about how the world would fall apart if Ireland voted No a second time.

Europe is now under the firm control of a handful of unaccountable elitists in the EU Commission. Where they will take Europe is anybody’s guess, and there will be no democratic voice present in setting that direction.

Today will live in infamy, as its consequences become visible.


September 30th, 2009

General Krulak, son of Brute,
blasts Cheney re Torture.
Very interesting! But …

On September 11 (weeks ago), two high-ranking generals came out of retirement to hit Cheney on the head about torture. Interesting but odd.

Their Op Ed was published in The Miami Herald: “Fear was No Excuse to Condone Torture.”

Well and good. But also a bit odd. Is there nothing current behind it? Torture, per se, is no longer an issue. Cheney seems history.

And note that one of the generals — former Marine Commandant Charles Krulak — bears a name that rings in the annals of American postwar history.

In the 1960s (and maybe 50s, under CIA auspices), Marine General Victor “Brute” Krulak was involved in the energetic effort to win in Vietnam. Air Force Colonel Fletcher Prouty worked closely with him, and has written a lot about him.

Relevant bits in a nutshell: Prouty says that Brute, atop the Marine staff in the Pentagon in the early 60s, became a close ally and advisor to JFK in the effort to turn the Vietnam policy around.

The McNamara-Taylor of October 2, 1963 — supposedly the findings of the Secretary of Defense and JFK’s special advisor General Maxwell Taylor on their grand tour of Vietnam — was principally authored by Krulak, Prouty & co, working closely with the White House — and then placed in McNamara & Taylor’s hands, for the sake of the cameras, as they returned from their mission.

That is: The policy change this much publicized report effected was sold using Taylor’s and McNamara’s names, but was actually the thinking and initiative of JFK’s narrow circle, which at this moment included, on the brassy side, Brute and his assistant Fletch. (Thus spake Prouty.)

1. Is Marine Gen. Charles C. Krulak the son of Marine Gen. Victor Krulak? Shouldn’t be hard to find out, I guess.

Uh yes — that’s a roger. Charles is the son of Victor.

2. Why is Charles coming out of retirement to hit the retired Cheney on the head now?

3. Are you playing the Preakness pool?


September 16th, 2009

Humor: Hitler prepares for annual Burning Man fest

Posted in Goodbye to All That, Movies by ed

I come to this late but …

April 14th, 2009

I Spy +
Heart of Darkness =
Apocalypse Now

Watch this episode — “The Warlord” — from I Spy, the late 60s show, then please comment as to whether it may have inspired (along with the Conrad) FF Coppola’s masterpiece a few years later.

The credits say that the episode was written by Robert Culp — the actor sharing the spotlight with Smokin’ Bill Cosby.

And at the very end one discovers the name of the actor playing the Warlord …

Also please comment on how it could be that television departed from this place circa 1969 (when The Name of the Game was airing “The White Birch” about the collapse of the Prague Spring) and ended up where it is today, where international affairs are treated in comic-book video-game fashion on the vile 24.