Tag Archives: Movies

Victorious Secret

This is turning into “advances for women” week on Trail Baboon.  On Wednesday, we opened the door for female Neanderthals to take their rightful place in 1960′s love songs, and now we discover modern human women will have the opportunity to take (and give)  live fire on the battlefield.

I’ve never been in the military, so I can’t pretend to know anything about the possible effects of allowing women to have combat roles.  As a rule, I run from conflict. My only fistfight happened in fourth grade, and it was against a girl.

Naturally, she beat me up.

In my (too late to help now!) defense, I have to say that we were 9 years old, and you know how kids develop. She had me beat on height, weight and reach.  And I also suspect she had me on the killer instinct, which I still lack today.

That’s why I look forward to living in a society where women are permitted to freely express their kick-ass side. Maybe after a few decades of well-documented front line bravery by America’s women in uniform, my unfortunate childhood pummeling will seem less like a wimpy case of gender betrayal, and more like a typical rite of passage.

We’re in for years of discussion about who benefits and who loses in this new arrangement.  It’s hard to measure the value of dignity, service and respect against the steep costs sure to be exacted by the battlefield.  Who knows how this will play out?  But I’m pretty sure the only guaranteed winners in all this are Hollywood’s female stars, by virtue of the sudden increase in potential movie roles.

And you KNOW there will be movies.

Here’s the cast list from one of the all-time classics, when it comes to war movies: The Sands of Iwo Jima.

John Wayne … Sgt. John M. Stryker
John Agar … Pfc. Peter Conway
Adele Mara … Allison Bromley
Forrest Tucker … Pfc. Al Thomas
Wally Cassell … Pfc. Benny Regazzi
James Brown … Pfc. Charlie Bass
Richard Webb … Pfc. ‘Handsome’ Dan Shipley
Arthur Franz … Cpl. Robert Dunne / Narrator
Julie Bishop … Mary
James Holden … Pfc. Soames
Peter Coe … Pfc. George Hellenpolis
Richard Jaeckel … Pfc. Frank Flynn
William Murphy … Pfc. Eddie Flynn (as Bill Murphy)
George Tyne … fc. Harris
Hal Baylor … Pvt. ‘Sky’ Choynski (as Hal Fieberling)

Notice there are 13 men and 2 women.  But with females now in the real trenches, movie soldier possibilities for young, middle aged and even “mature” female actors just improved.   Do you doubt that Meryl Streep would have been amazing in the Jack Nicholson role in “A Few Good Men”?  If so, then “YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!”

Speaking of brutal truths, when the glamorous leading lady roles begin to disappear after age 35,  smearing some mud and fake blood on your face and crawling underneath some barbed wire will compensate for a lot of wrinkled skin.  So it’s a career-extender! An explosive future for America’s female actors begins today!

Nominate a Hollywood star to become the female John Wayne, or give us your  title and/or plot synopsis for the first classic women-friendly Army film.    

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Lab Rat Walking

I love science and am constantly amazed at the things researchers are able to discover through careful, methodical experimentation. These human “lab rats” are the smartest people around, and they provide the best hope for our future together!

But I’m worried that we may be missing something fundamental in the latest results that suggest actual rats whose spinal cords have been severed (by scientists) can learn to walk again through the combined application of chemicals, electricity, physical therapy, technology and chocolate.

After the rodent’s spinal cords were cut (by scientists), the animals lost the use of their back legs. Different approaches were tried to get them moving again. The one that worked best used all of the above elements and resulted in a number of the rats experiencing a “nearly complete regrowth of severed spinal fibers.” Amazing. Some of the creatures were described as “sprinting up” a ramp to retrieve their reward.

There’s a video on the National Geographic website that shows all this happening.
The poor things are working so hard! But what inspired their comeback?

I didn’t see Burgess Meredith cheering them on from ringside, but I definitely heard a different kind of music to accompany the video of these striving rats. I know we’re not supposed to anthropomorphize them, but what if rat recovery from surgical paralysis is really aided, not by electricity, drugs and chocolate, but by white hot feelings of ratty vengeance that inspire them to perform unlikely feats, such as running up a very long flight of stairs?

Kinda like this?

What would you be doing in your inspirational “Rocky” training montage?

The Rain in Spain

Today is the anniversary of the 1956 Broadway debut of the musical “My Fair Lady“.
It was based on George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion”, I title I never understood except as a possible reference to the attitudes of the misogynistic and patronizing main character, Henry Higgins, who was both a pig, and male. At least that’s how we see him today. Shaw actually took the title from mythology and the story of a sculptor who fell in love with his own creation.

Higgins is full of himself, to believe that he can shape the guttersnipe Eliza Doolittle into something new and superior and then convince everyone that she is, in fact, well born.

The musical was a huge success, ran for years, is regularly revived, and was made into a movie that won an Oscar in 1964. The music is catchy, and the existence today of a thriving self-improvement industry confirms that the theme has enduring appeal.

Here’s my favorite moment.

After all that coaching, Audrey Hepburn, as Eliza, finally produces a “perfect” sound. From this moment on, she is cured of her Cockney background, only dropping her H’s a few times in the rest of the show. A miracle!

For the film, Hepburn was cast as an “improvement” over the Broadway star, Julie Andrews, who had never made a movie before and didn’t have the box office power of an established commodity like Hepburn. That’s OK – it freed Andrews up to do a different project that year – a film called “Mary Poppins”. Another miracle! Guess which one won the best actress Oscar? (Hint: Audrey Hepburn wasn’t nominated).

Do you have an accent? Can you do an accent?

Stay Awake

The death at age 86 of Disney composer and lyricist Robert Sherman has served to remind people of a certain age that they grew up with a particular group of songs that are indelible. Including, but not limited to, It’s a Small World, I Want To Be Like You, and everything from the film Mary Poppins.

Sherman and his brother Richard wrote for a bunch of Disney films – familiar ones like The Jungle Book and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and movies you never heard of like The One And Only, Genuine, Original Family Band – a film about politics in 1888 and a musical Missouri family moving to the Black Hills. Yes, Robert Sherman and his brother wrote a song called “Oh, Benjamin Harrison.” Not every work by a genius turns out to be a work of genius.

The two Sherman Brothers did not get along with each other, though they occasionally tried to make it look as though they did. Both wrote lyrics and music, though it appears Robert was more drawn to the words. Lots of songs have been nominated as favorites in the past 24 hours. This is mine – for the clever contrast of words, music and intent.

Has reverse psychology worked for you? Or on you?

Fail Mellow, Hell Wet

We’re still a few months away from the Walleye opener, but the ice fishing houses have come off the lakes (if they ever went on) and we’re in a strange lull between water surface activities. It’s possible that Congressman Loomis Beechly has been finishing a few of the leftover six packs that came off the ice with all that lightly used gear. I don’t know how else to explain the loopy tone of his latest missive to residents of the 9th District.

Greetings, Constituents!

Today is Super Tuesday! At least that’s what they tell me. I wouldn’t know – I like to say every day is super, but that’s because voters feel good about optimists and I feel good about votes! But I also really believe that every day IS super, which is convenient. In politics, things don’t always work out so neatly.

The experts say the results from today will help determine who is going to run for President this year in the Republican Party. Maybe it won’t be decisive moment, but it will be the kind of moment that has something to look at and talk about, and one that involves interesting characters and some suspense. What more do we want, really?

I might have over stated it when I said the characters are interesting. Of course I believe anyone willing to make a serious run for President of the United States is not a normal person. The job’s self-regard requirement goes far beyond the reach of average folks. Even narcissists know they are unqualified, because it isn’t nearly enough to be enthralled with yourself. You have to believe everybody else can find a way to love you too! Some would call that optimism, but I think it’s delusional thinking.

And voters share in the delusion. We want our supreme leaders to be approachable and “down to earth”. We want them to remember us, to be our buddies, to be the sort of person it would be fun “to have a beer with“. Or in the case of non-alcohol imbibing Mitt Romney, the sort of person you would like to have watch you from across the table while you enjoy a beer and he has a Diet Vanilla Coke.

But who has that kind of broad appeal? Heck, I’m not even the kind of person I’d like to have a beer with, most days. The only one who comes to mind when I think of the beer test is the actor George Clooney. He seems really likeable in that comfortable way that is best described by the phrase “Hail Fellow Well Met“, which is something I don’t really know the meaning of, but you get the idea.

Of course George isn’t running, but if he was I’d support him. It almost doesn’t matter what he says. He’s got that average guy thing going for him, even though he’s far above average in just about every category. I think if you added up the beer appeal of all the candidates in both parties you wouldn’t even get to a full Clooney on the Mail Wallow scale. Or Hail Fellow shale, I mean. Or scale.

But you get my drift. Politics is a funny business.

Anyway, this is probably something that we should definitely NOT send out, OK Marjorie? Just transcribe it and I’ll take a look at it in the morning. If I even remember dictating it, which I’m not even sure now that I did, or do.

Good night!

Your Congressman,

Loomis Beechly.

Hmm. Seems like someone was not paying full attention to a complicated task, but was just following procedure without really reading or understanding the text.

Name an elaborate chore you regularly perform without thinking.

Ask Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

I don’t ask for a lot, but every once in a while it would be nice to get some career recognition. I’m in the film industry. While most think it’s a very romantic place to work, I can testify that the little people are greatly undervalued and habitually overlooked. No surprise there, I guess. The business runs on self-absorption. Attention hogs dominate at every level.

My job is crucial – I’m a certified FCPVS for the Title Imaging Department of a major studio. I know most people don’t get film industry jargon – that’s how technically complex it has become! Basically I’m in charge of verifying many of the key trades that support the film financially, confirming that contractual recognition has been provided in an efficient and timely fashion.

That’s a little complex. To put it in simpler terms, I act as a check and balance on the filmmaker’s commitment to fulfill some basic obligations that are an important part of the cinematic process.

OK, here’s what it is: I proofread the final credits.

But that’s getting to be a bigger and bigger job! Have you seen how long the credits are in movies these days? They go on forever, with names and titles in tinier and tinier print – weird jobs like Second Unit Factotum and Libra Head Operator being done by people with crazy, unspellable names, like Marc Mnémosyne and Lygia Day Szelwach. And while almost no actual moviegoers stick around to watch the credits, entertainment lawyers do. The way people get credit on a film is laid out in very exact language in their contracts, and if the final credits have to be re-done, that can get very expensive.

So my job is super-important.

But last night at the Oscars, not one of those snooty actors, grandiose directors, worthless producers or tortured writers took even a moment to thank the FCPVS (Final Credit Proofreading & Verification Specialist) on their project. What a bunch of selfish ingrates!

I’m fairly sure I could do any one of their jobs, but I’m absolutely certain that none of them have the patience to do mine!

Dr. Babooner, how do I get the acclaim that I deserve?

Epilogue Magoo, F.C.P.V.S.

I told Ms. or Mr. Magoo that there is no guarantee that credit will ever be given where it is due. Insisting that someone thank you takes the normal gratitude process and turns it around. In a more typical sequence of events, grateful feelings well up naturally inside the thankful person as a direct by-product of your actions. These feelings build to such a degree that they must be expressed. By demanding acknowledgement without any of the other steps, you skip over any genuine sentiment and go straight for the payoff. While this approach may get you a little bit of lukewarm recognition, it is ultimately a hollow feeling that will leave you even more depressed than before.
And I’d like to thank B. Marty Barry, from whom I stole this answer.
But that’s just one opinion.

What do you think, Dr. Babooner?

Oscar Buzz

Today’s post is a series of messages that came in yesterday from from Bart the Bear, the wild animal who found a cell phone in the north woods. Everything has been translated from the original Ursus Textish.

Bart - The Bear Who Found a Cell Phone

8:17 am
Yo. Bart here.
Just woke up and it feels like I didn’t sleep at all. Is it early? Seems early. Can’t believe winter really happened, even.

This phone thingy keeps buzzing, like a giant silver beetle. I want to eat it.

The buzz happens every time a message arrives. All of them are “alerts”. I think whoever lost the phone set it up to do this automatically when there’s a certain kind of news. In this case, the news is that “Oscar” is coming. Sometime soon. Who’s Oscar?

Oh, THAT Oscar.

I used to watch the Oscars every year through a window at the Ranger Station. Then they moved the show up to February and I was sleeping through it. Saw lots when there were more drive-in movie theaters – Hollywood lost a lot of feral fans when those started closing.
Better catch up on the nominees.

Will need popcorn tomorrow night. Ship to “Bear in Woods, Nevis MN”.

How come a bear has never won best supporting actor? What about the bears in Grizzly Man? Or any of the Care Bears?

My favorite bear movie – The Bears and I – with Patrick Wayne, John Wayne’s son. Bear gets top billing. 1974 wasn’t that long ago.

Just saw the list of Best Film nominees. Why so many? And “The Artist” is silent? What year did I wake up in?

“Moneyball” is about baseball? Then why no Oscar for “The Bad News Bears” in 1976 or 2005?

Who decided it would be a good idea to re-make “The Bad News Bears”?

Why do horses get so much attention? They are pretty but not as smart as you think!

Feeling snoozy again. Oscar excitement wearing me out. Don’t let me sleep through t …

Poor Bart. I sometimes wonder if he’s a Hollywood bear misplaced in the north woods.

What type of movie star would you be? Best actor / actress material? Supporting? Character? One film wonder?

It Came From Lake Vostok

Today’s guest post comes from Bathtub Safety Officer Rafferty.

In my work as a PDA (Professional Downside Anticipator), I constantly ask people to stop and carefully consider the variety of bad things that could happen before they choose to take one action or another. For this I am often criticized. People call me a spoilsport, a doomsayer, a sourpuss, a Cassandra and a worrywart.

As they belittle me, I ask them to consider this: if I turn out to be right about even ONE of my dire predictions, their attitude about my warning will place them squarely in the role of that character who appears in every science-based horror film – the one who dismisses the strange object in the crater made by the meteorite, the weird gelatinous substance found near the scene, the unusual young man who has no emotions, and the ruthless millionaire’s brain kept in a jar, saying they are “… nothing to worry about. There is no danger. Return to your homes”.

That person is the first one to be eaten by the mole people.

I find myself in that position again today with news that the Russians have finally broken through to the submerged surface of Lake Vostok in Antarctica. The lake is buried under miles of ice. Whatever is in it hasn’t been free to move about the planet for 20 million years. How can this be good? The Russians say they hope to find microbes in the water that have never been encountered by humankind.

I say, “Great scott, what if they find microbes that have never been encountered by humankind?”

These are educated people. Surely they know what happened to the tribes of North America when the microbe-laden Europeans arrived. Certainly they have seen the sort of movie I described, where an ancient horror is unleashed on an unsuspecting world by careless scientific inquiry.

Robin Bell, a glaciologist from Columbia University told the Associated Press: “It’s like exploring another planet, except this one is ours.” Robin Bell is exactly the sort of name a movie character has when he or she begins with a firm belief in the scientific project, and then slowly comes to realize what a terrible scourge has been unleashed on an unsuspecting world. “Glaciologist” is precisely the type of scientific discipline that character practices – legitimate sounding and yet a little quirky. Not your typical brainiac. Robin Bell ultimately winds up as the only person who can save humanity by rappelling down the ice shaft carrying a pocket-sized hydrogen bomb that must be placed directly under the creature’s nest. Robin Bell survives, but only after scads of walk-on characters with no names (you and me) perish.

It concerns me very much that there’s already a scientist named Robin Bell in this story.

I know people will not believe me when I say this because I have a reputation as a scold, but please, I beg you – “Seal up Lake Vostok!” Take this good advice from me right now, or wait until Robin Bell is forced to say the very same thing, as a gentle rain falls on a blasted, smoldering landscape.

What have you opened that you immediately wished you could close again?

R.I.P. Cheetah

And so we discover the mixed blessing of being a well-known movie chimpanzee.

Chimp fame hinges on your ability to interact with the humans. No starring roles for you, Cheetah. You are always there for comic relief. Never will you get cast in parts with depth or substance. Delivering a performance that is a masterpiece of subtlety is impossible – your talent will forever be wasted on an audience of morons who all think they’re smarter than you. Your fans. Though to them, you look like every other chimp in the world, or as one commentator said yesterday, ” … like George Burns.”

Here’s the ultimate indignity, Movie Chimp – when you die, some people will question whether it was really you. Even Kim Jong Il was immediately accepted as a legitimate inductee into the legions of the dead without having to show his papers, and he was a lot more guarded and mysterious than Tarzan’s best buddy. What a comedown for Cheetah – to go from being the world’s most famous primate to being called an impostor. You, the one true holder of Hollywood’s poop flinging thrown. I know what you’re thinking, Movie Chimp. “This is fame? I was there on the screen, larger than life. How can you suggest I am not me?” You SAW me!

Ah, we looked at you, Cheetah, but did not see. To us, you were just another pretty, hairy face.

I’m calling here and now for an end to any investigations into the late chimp’s identity. So what if the “Cheetah” who died yesterday was, in fact, some other chimp? Is there any satisfaction in that knowledge? I say “no”, because if yesterday’s obituary was for a Tarzan sidekick-pretender, that means the “real” Cheetah in all likelihood died years ago unnoticed and unlamented. Feel better? Me neither.

So farewell, Cheetah, or someone very much like you. We loved that smile!

Aside from our simian friend, name your favorite movie animal.

Happy Birthday, Lew Ayres

Today is the birthday of the actor Lew Ayres.

Ayres was born in Minneapolis in 1908 and had a remarkable career in Hollywood, not necessarily for the work he did but for how he conducted himself and for the impression he left. Ayres breakthrough role was in the film “All Quiet on the Western Front”, which includes a scene where he is caught alone with an adversary he has killed. You can see it on You Tube but to get to the clip you have to watch an ad first. That’s a drag, but it’s not as painful as actual trench warfare.

By today’s standards I call it a toss-up as to which one of the two actors in the scene appears to be more wooden, but the anti-war message of the film had an effect on Ayres – so much so that when World War II came along he became America’s best-known concientious objector. He was told that refusing to take up arms would end his film career, but Ayres was adamant that he would not kill another human being.

“I thought, well, this may mean the end of a career. As far as I was concerned that was all right. I was ready. I said I don’t mind working with the army because you do have a tremdous problem with the Hitler situation. I can’t deny these things, but I said as far as I’m concerned I couldn’t kill, and I couldn’t go into the army even on your side unless I did what I considered to be constructive work.”

There was a backlash and some theaters refused to show his films, but Ayres stuck to his position and managed to get into the Medical Corps as a non-combatant. He served with distinction, patching people up in the Pacific and New Guinea and after the war ended he was able to resume his career, though his star power had dimmed. Still, Ayres must have had some personal magnetism. Jane Wyman, his co-star in the film “Johnny Belinda”, left her husband, apparently with the thought that she and Ayres could make a life together. That didn’t happen, but by that point Wyman’s marriage to Ronald Reagan was beyond repair. One wonders how she felt, years later, about taking that gamble.

Lew Ayres’ other remarkable and principled stand was to turn down a chance to star on TV in a role he had created for film – Dr. Kildare. Ayres wanted NBC to agree that there would be no cigarette advertising connected with the series. In 1961, that was incredibly foresighted call for an actor, and one that was totally impossible for the network to accept. The role went to Richard Chamberlain instead. People may have been puzzled at the time, but today we understand.

I, for one, tip my hat. Happy birthday, Mr. Ayres.

Who do you admire in the motion picture world?