A LITTLE CINEMA HISTORY (And An “A” In Media Arts )

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My love of cinema lives on in my oldest daughter, the well known Hollywood publicist who has handled media campaigns for everyone from directors like Quentin Tarantino to her latest promo for action star Dolph Lundgren. As a media arts student at the University of Arizona, she was stumped about doing a paper for one of her classes. As we discussed her dilemma, I had an idea. In 1936, during what has now become known as his “English period” Alfred Hitchcock did a nifty little film called “The 39 Steps” starring later academy award winner Robert Donet. If you haven’t seen the film, based on the novel by a thriller writer of the time, John Buchan, it tells the tale of a man falsely accused of murder who goes on the run to prove his innocence. While being pursued by evil enemy agents as well as the police, he enlists the aid of a reluctant beauty played by Madelene Carroll who comes to believe in his innocence. Escaping the threat of Facism, Hitchcock later came to Hollywood in the early 1940’s and never looked back. In 1942, he decided that the basic story he’d done so well with back in England would make another good picture, so he resurrected “The 39 Steps” instead calling it “Saboteur.” In this version, filmed during WWII, a factory worker, played by Robert Cummings, goes on the run after being falsely accused of sabotage. He meets a foxy blonde, this time played by Priscilla Lane, who at first thinks he’s guilty but later comes to accept his innocence and helps him expose the Nazi spies who really did the dirty deed. This is the film that ends with the now classic scene on the Statue of Liberty. A must see for all Hitch fans. Hitchcock never talked about the similarities in these films that I know of and no reviewer I am aware of talked about it either. In 1959, apparently having gotten away with two recycles, Hitchcock decided to do a third version of the same film. This time he produced the classic “North by Northwest.” It was easy to ignore the same film being done again by knowing that audiences probably wouldn’t have been aware of the earlier films and by having different screen writers credited with the story. But a careful examination of the three films shows they were remakes. In the ‘59 version, which I’m sure you have all seen, Cary Grant is the guy on the run with Eva Marie Saint as his blonde companion in mayhem. This film features, of course, the famous crop dusting scene where Cary tries to avoid being hit by a low flying plane as well as the famous final scene as Cary and Eva try to avoid the bad guys on the face of Mount Rushmore. Having tumbled on to Hitchcock’s remakes, I suggested to my daughter that a comparison of these films might be just the ticket to solving her problem on what to base her paper on. It worked. She got an “A” and went on to graduate with honors. I won’t take credit for that, of course, but I like to think that all that time I spent in the movies might have helped a little bit!



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MOVING INTO MY SEVENTH DECADE

Moving into my seventh decade, I assiduously try not to comment from the perspective of “having been there and done that,” preferring to let the younger generation find their own way through this veil of tears known as life. It also helps to know that most young people could care less what older people have to say anyway. But, on occasion, I can’t seem to help myself when I read something so stupid it pisses me off. Falling prey to reviewing Facebook, I recently read a missive from an obviously uber liberal blogger condemning a presidential candidate’s (the candidate’s last name suggests a small plant growing alongside the roadway) advocating working hard to achieve success. The blogger spent an inordinate amount of space setting forth how hard we Americans already work, his apparent conclusion being that more work won’t improve our economy or our lives. There is a simple solution to his dilemma. First, don’t get an education or prepare for a specific skill set that will enable you to earn a living. Second, spend your time complaining about the success of others. This will inevitably lead you to resenting those who are successful and wanting what they have. Since you have no education or skills, you can advocate taking what they have. Some would suggest this is unfair but what do they know. Call it “income redistribution,” it sounds so much better than “highway robbery.” Third, in another nod to Robin Hood, taking from the so-­‐ called rich and giving to the so-­‐called poor, wait for the government to meet all your needs. Now, you’re set. You can spend all your time on the net while you wait for your welfare check or other form of governmental largess. Of course, as more and more of you do so, there will be less and less of those who still work for a living. Since government produces no widgets, it can only raise money by borrowing, taxing the private sector or printing money. When the latest form of “ism” finally runs its inevitable course, don’t be surprised when your fellow citizens start burning themselves in the streets, like the Greeks, when the flow of governmental largess finally runs out. When I worked, I paid no attention to how many hours I worked. I often worked seven days a week. All I was concerned about was getting the job done and supporting and educating my family which I am proud to have accomplished. My oldest is a PHD and a lead professor of biology at a college, my middle is a Hollywood publicist and my youngest is an international tax lawyer. And they achieved their success with long hours and hard work. You can achieve the alleged “American dream,” whatever that means but you won’t do it unless you apply yourself and stop worrying about what others may or may not do.

MS. JENNER

A former retired male athlete has decided to and has become a female retired athlete. Since the athlete in question has become, since her retirement, a celeb, the press has done the story to death, as would be expected whenever there is the possibility of controversy. My initial reaction is a big “ho hum.” With all the important issues facing us, a sex change operation by anyone would seem to have a very low priority for concern. While I respect my religious brethren’s right to believe what they will, I don’t see issues of gender identity having any adverse effect on the war on terror, the Chinese hacking our computers to death, Iran getting and possibility using an atomic bomb, the NSA stealing our personal information, the IRS going after our citizenry for political purposes, lying by our President and so on. As to the argument that such behavior somehow underscores the perception that our society is moving away from the traditional values which allegedly made this country great, that is a moral position that cannot be supported objectively. Gay people are productive members of society: they have no corner on crimes committed or harm done to others. In essence, their sexual identity is just one aspect of who they are as people. And, if we are really going to hold ourselves out as being traditionally moral Americans, their differences should be respected. As for the coverage, Kathleen Parker, a columnist for the Washington Post put it best when she wrote: “the media’s group embrace of Jenner’s transition should be seen for what it is–not a revolutionary step toward minority rights, but a money grab for ads, ratings, sales and buzz in a culture of provocation and greed without ethics or conscience. Let’s talk about that instead.”

ALL IS NOT LOST

After a series of race riots perpetrated by Blacks after dubious claims of racism justifying such behavior, it would be easy to dismiss the Black community as racists themselves, particularly when the media covers the race baiting of such demagogues as Al Simpleton and Jesse Not Jacksonian. But that would be a mistake. In fact, what many people fail to realize is that although Black voters allow themselves to be continually exploited by one party who promises them much and delivers nothing, the vast majority of Black people share the same values as all other racial groups in society. Black men have served honorably in our armed forces since the civil war; Black people are some of our most religious members of society for those who value such ideals. Although Blacks disproportionally suffer from one parent families more than the national average, Blacks believe in family values as much as any other group of Americans. Nothing is a better example of how the majority of Black people are just as law abiding as any other American race than the response of the members of the slain Black people in Charleston, South Carolina. A sociopathic White racist went into a church and gunned down nine Black parishioners. The families of these victims are better people than I am. I would have given in to anger and a sense of vengeance; instead, they forgave the killer scumbag in open court at his bond hearing. Just as White people, in general, are not racist, it is important to remember that the vast majority of Black people are not racists either. Some day and I hope it’s soon, we will forget race, gender, ethnicity and other divisive influences and just accept people as people, good or bad.

POLICE

I remember when the so-called “War On Poverty” was initiated by prexy LBJ. Although it wasn’t labeled then as “a liberal progressive agenda,” it fit the definition as it promised we would tackle the roots of dissension, disenfranchisement, fatherless families and other ills resulting in reservations in our inner cities known as “ghettos.” We would use the federal government’s vast resources to restructure our cities. Today, however, this experiment has clearly failed as statistics show. Most studies conclude that we have just as much if not more of these problems even though we have poured millions into addressing these ills. Baltimore is a prime example. The Obomba admin poured millions into trying to improve the city. The city has a Black mayor, police commissioner, prosecutor. The result? Riots and chaos in the street, the destruction of property in the very neighborhoods where businesses need to flourish, not be destroyed. For their part, the police have been made the scapegoats for the failures of the politicians who refuse to crack down on lawlessness and promote private ownership of businesses and the creation of meaningful jobs through the private sector. And where we treat the police as the enemy instead of part of the solution, the predictable result is more crime, more innocent people being killed and maimed. The murder rate in Baltimore is skyrocketing. With liberal icon DeBludgeon in NYC, wiping out stop and frisk, along with giving press conferences in which he says he is afraid his own son will be targeted by police, it is no wonder that violent crime is also increasing in the Big Apple. As someone with some familiarity with law enforcement, it is small wonder that cops are backing off when they know that the slightest miscue or perceived miscue will result in their own censorship, up to and including arrest and prosecution over any incident that will further inflame anti-cop rhetoric. We are in the midst of a breakdown in civil authority that will only get worse. While cops are people and therefore subject to error, the answer is not condemning police who are the first line of defense in maintaining order but condemning politicians who have ignored and worse, profited by upholding special interests that wrecked our inner cities. And throwing tax payers’ dollars into the mix, without responsible leadership, hasn’t nor will it ever solve the problem.

FIGHTING OURSELVES

FIGHTING OURSELVES

In a story that is too ironic not to be true, apparently, because our current Prexy believes that ISIS is not an A team, we’ve decided that the only worthwhile enemy that we can legitimately fight in Iraq is…well…us! This came about because we gave millions, probably billions, of dollars in weapons to the Iraq army who proceeded to lose all these military goodies to ISIS when the Iraq army runs away every time they are confronted by the terrorists, leaving all their weaponry, tanks, armored vehicles and guns behind. Now, we have air strikes primarily concentrating on obliterating all the hardware, our own weaponry, being used by the junior varsity. So, unlike past wars when we fought foreign nationals like the Germans and the Japanese or the North Koreans and the Chinese, we have a new form of warfare in which we supply the enemy with our weapons and then try to destroy those weapons. But, of course, this is part of the Obomba strategy that is “working” in Iraq. At this rate, we will soon be claiming, at least in official circles, that there is really no war in Iraq at all and that we are just engaging in military maneuvers where our pilots are practicing destroying obsolete equipment so they can maintain their frosty edge in case we ever become involved in a real war. If they made a movie that included this insanity, no one would believe the plot line. Yes, truth is stranger than fiction.

LOVE

As the best writer you’ve never heard of, at least when it comes to my novels (my own fault, I love the writing, hate the marketing), I am a keen reader of what other authors write which often inspires my own writing. I have heard that some authors never read anyone else’s writing, too afraid it may somehow influence their own writing, implying for the worse but having found my own “voice” (one of those “writer’s expressions”), I have no fear of that and admire without guilt or envy other writers who capture the perfect turn of phrase, just the right word or combination of words. So, I offer the following passage from one of my favorite writers, Dean Koontz from his novel Innocence in which his protagonist defines love. It is one of the best definitions I’ve ever read. And yes, I wish I had written it. “Love is absorbing, related to affection but stronger, full of appreciation for–and delight in–the other person, marked by a desire always to please and benefit her or him, always to smooth the loved one’s way through the roughness of the days and to do everything possible to make her or him profoundly valued.” Amen.