SUPERGIRL: EXPLODING TRUMP TOON HEADS ONE SEASON AT A TIME. SEASON ONE REVIEW, PART ONE

Pilot:

Airdate: 26 Oct,2015

Written by: Greg Berlanti, Ali Adler, and Andrew Kreisberg.

Directed by: Glen Winter.

Starring: Melissa Benoist as Kara Danvers AKA Supergirl

Calista Flockhart as Cat Grant
Chyler Leigh as Alex Danvers
Mehcad Brooks as Jimmy Olsen
David Harewood as Hank Henshaw
Jeremy Jordan as Winn Schott

This is one of the best pilots for any comic-based series, which is remarkable given that the origin is necessarily similar to that of Superman. Over the last few years, the Krypton saga has been taken to levels of extended banality (i.e. Man of Steel), so it’s refreshing that the writing team of Supergirl shoots through it like quicksilver and gets us to the heart of the matter : Supergirl herself. Immediately, the series establishes its brightness. Kara jumps for joy from the couch, embracing her super-ness after saving sis Alex from a potential plane disaster. Supergirl’s pilot was so pluckily modern and amusingly entertaining that sexist fanboys immediately took to social media to show us their heads exploding. Of course that reaction is so predictable as to be yawn-inducing since the genre base is often hyper-right-wing male-driven, which of course means xenophobic, homophobic, and misogynistic, Oh My! Since Supergirl is contrary to all that, that means the recent news of being renewed for a fourth season is going to inspire still more exploding heads. Bring out the cheesy popcorn.

https://alfredeaker.com/2018/04/01/supergirl-the-hippest-damned-superhero-show-on-television/

Benoist’ enthusiasm for the role and show is contagious and although the cast is uniformly excellent, she’s the constant, even when the show’s writing occasionally slips (as it inevitably will in any series). She has strength in her innocence as both Kara and Supergirl and we can readily identify with both personalities. With her bun-haired nerdy demeanor, Kara lets her golden locks flow so fancifully as Supergirl that we completely buy her peers’ cluelessness. Benoist balances hero with mild-mannered alter-ego better than anyone in the man of steel role and that includes the late, much-missed Christopher Reeve. Her nerd qualities don’t come to the surface by walking into a wall, but merely by being a twenty-something who hasn’t figured life out. What she does know is that she loves being more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, even if she is initially out of her element, hugs too hard, and screws up more than she succeeds. Being a super girl is better than pizza and this lady loves pizza (and supergirl cake!) Unlike her famous cousin, Kara has no yearning to be human. What, are you crazy? She can fly and can’t wait to try out her powers. “Are you sure you’re bullet-proof?” “Hope so.” “I can do a car chase,” she says with voguish aplomb. On the other had, she tries on-line dating and it’s a friggin disaster. To heck with this jerk, time to go save some people. She’s excited about her secret and can’t wait to share it with National City CATCO co-workers, including future Toyman antagonist Winn ( the scene of ousting herself to him is pure adrenalin charm). Naturally, protective Alex chides Kara for loose lips and later in the season Supergirl herself will slip again on TV.

Benoist as Kara personifies the best qualities of millennials, who predictably are rendered a perennial demographic target of Trump Toons. It’s not that she means to provoke the barrel-bottom dwellers, but she’s having too much fun being a heroine to tiptoe through the tulips of their incessant hangups. For her unintentional exclamation point, she’ll even trump a villain who underestimates her because she’s a girl.

James Olsen is another co-worker that Kara bonds with. Brooks is so tight-shirt sexy self-assured as the African-American Supergirl pal that he should be able to help keep Milk of Magnesia in business with the series’ white-robed haters as long as he’s on the air.

Alex, being the crackerjack ninja that she is, gives Kara’s super-moniker serious competition, especially in her fight scenes and when it comes to heavy-duty pop emoting, Leigh, being the pro that she is, hooks us from the premiere on. She’s as essential to the series as Benoist. Alex will upgrade from kicking chauvinistic ass in season one to mantling David Cronenberg and napalming homophobe heads in season 2. Leigh and Benoist are the series’ yardsticks for gauging one’s broadness. If the idea of 21st century National City Valkyries clog your bowels, then you’re probably a Trump Toon and should stick to Hack Snyder fantasies.

CATCO CEO Cat Grant steals almost ever scene she’s in, as we would expect the former Ally McBeal to do. When she gives the reason for naming Supergirl, she does it with such style and conviction that we take her side over an objecting Kara and our own reservations. Cat’s the perfect inspirational model for coffee girls, superheroes, and us. She’s only a fixture in the first season and some have lamented her departure. Yet, she can be likened to a short, but sweet visit; knowing when to exit and knowing it will benefit the show to do so.

At this point Harewood as Henshaw appears to have a mixmaster up his ass and doesn’t know it, but… (stay tuned)

Jordan as Winn is one screwed-up sweetie and invites us to sympathize with him as the perennial Charlie Brown type (a quality that Kara occasionally shares). We hope against hope that he’s not going to turn. However, if comic lore is being followed here… (stay tuned)

The series establishes its cooler-than-peanutbutter-world of aliens in the premiere. Despite reservations, Henshaw recruits Kara to work with himself and Alex at the DEO (DEPARTMENT OF EXTRANORMAL OPERATIONS. How cool is that?). After an episode chock-full of hand-wringing over delivering cold latte and a couple of failed costume attempts, Kara is literally up to her x-ray peepers in dodging glowing alien tomahawks and ends her debut up, up and away.

For a girl superhero who likes being a superhero, two-African American leads, two women who can kick bad GUY ass, an empowered businesswoman, and Winn who thinks it’s cool that Kara’s gay (even though she’s not), “Pilot” earns an exploding Trump Toon Head.

Stronger Together

Airdate: 2 November, 2015

Credits same as pilot.

Kara is still adjusting to public superdom and per Cat’s advice, Supergirl backs up a tad from trying to be the quintessential hero. Her earnestness comes to full-flower when she saves a big snake stuck in a tree after being told it was cat. Even with her super-resistance, she hates touching the icky thing. Of course, being the trooper and animal pal that she is, she saves it anyway. Benoist invites us to keep it positive with her and we do. Of course there’s a couple of monkey wrenches: a bug-like alien who does gross things with his mouth and Kara’s badass Kryptonian Aunt Astra (Laura Bennati) fresh out of the Kryptonian prison Fort Razz (and gearing up for invasion).

After a humble butt-whipping, Kara is learning the ropes, gets taught by a mere mortal, and ready or not, prepares for the big interview.

For female empowerment (of course), having smart girls who refuse to be reduced to male receptacles (WHAT?!? WHAT?!? WHAT?!?), feminine wit, Peta-like BS, and girls doin’ good GUY things, “Stronger Together” earns an exploding Trump Toon head.

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INGMAR BERGMAN’S SILENCE OF GOD TRILOGY: WINTER LIGHT (1963)

Winter Light was said to be Ingmar Bergman‘s favorite of his own works, and one is tempted to concur. Having read about it for years, I was hesitant to see it after reading it described as Bergman’s bleakest film. This surprised me, because what I saw was akin to a clerical farce. Perhaps one has to have degree of experience with and appreciation for the clerical model to appreciate the humor. It’s icily humorous, similar to the way that monk/philosopher Thomas Merton is never funnier than when he shrieks at the bad taste of his Trappist fellows in his journals, replaces … Continue reading INGMAR BERGMAN’S SILENCE OF GOD TRILOGY: WINTER LIGHT (1963)

SUPERGIRL: THE HIPPEST DAMNED SUPERHERO SHOW ON TELEVISION

Melissa Benoist is indisputably the most perfect actor embodying the role of a comic-based character since Christopher Reeve donned the red and blue for Superman in 1978. Given all the competition since then, such a statement might prove controversial… to constipated Trump Toon comic geeks, but their opinion is as worthless as their Craven Cantaloupe Christ who currently resides at 1600 Penn Avenue (or rather, the golf course). Too, I need to alter the title a tad; it’s not only the hippest damned superhero show on TV, it’s hipper than any of the comic-inspired productions being offered in cinema and the hippest genre series since the 1960s Adam West Batman.

Yet, Supergirl is also among the favorite of alt-right fanboys; favorite targets that is, joining the esteemed company of 2017’s Star Wars; The Last Jedi (how dare Rey-a girl-earn the role of a Jedi through work as opposed to being fathered in? Kinda the antithesis of President Oompa Loompa) and 2018’s Black Panther (for obvious reasons, despite the fact that the comic book off which it’s based is over 50 years old).

Let’s first address fanboy complaints from the yawn-inducing Goebbels Operational Playbook. Why? because it’s so damned fun to out them as the 19th century bigots and Neanderthals that they are. Naturally, they’re as predictable as a paint-by-number set; amusing in their ethical timidity and the ease by which they are offended.

Complaint One: “GASP! Jimmy Olsen is black! That’s PC BS! “

Never mind that to complain about political correctness is politically correct in itself. In some of the complaints seen on various social media outlets, the mentally and ethically challenged alt-right don’t often come right out and say it’s because he’s “black.”  Rather, they say “Olsen is supposed to be a geeky redhead with freckles and Mehcad Brooks plays Olsen like a GQ model!”

Let’s call this lame BS spin-doctoring for what it is. No one complained when a freckle-less Olsen had black hair in “Lois and Clark.” They didn’t complain when Hack Snyder killed Olsen off in a war zone. No, this is just a smokescreen to mask the inherent bigotry of Trump Toons.

Why? Because these are comic book fundamentalists. They have the same mindset as religious fundamentalists. Comic book characters are essentially gods to Trump Toons and even though the fanboys know the characters to be fictional (we hope), they still edify literal portrayals of deities who wear underwear outside of their pants-WHEN it’s convenient for them to do so (like bible fundies-they pick and choose).

In the comics, Superman doesn’t kill. Trump Toons didn’t protest one bit that this long-held tradition was deviated from in the execrable Man of Steel (2013). Superman had a curl hairdo. Henry Cavill doesn’t have a curl. Superman had red briefs. Not anymore. And so on. Thus, these complaints being spewed by funny paper-reading Trump Toons are rendered as cartoonish and hypocritical as they are.

Complaint Two:” It has lesbian sex!!! This is political propaganda! with a pro-gay agenda!”

Uh, no it doesn’t have lesbian sex. It depicts a couple who happen to be in a same-sex relationship and they did kiss a couple of times, but essentially we can translate this as: IF Hollywood happens to show any characters that are not hetero WASP males, then it’s … “POLITICAL!” Never mind that the Trump Toon geeks’ Kool-aid serving savior has a much put-upon wife who did a same-sex photo shoot ( a few years earlier these same politicos were outraged that Michelle Obama wore a sleeveless dress). This is also telling because homophobes only associate same-sex unions with sex. Of course we knows that gays are subhuman, they don’t have feelings and don’t do things like take out the trash, fold laundry, or go to church together, etc. Perhaps even worse, Supergirl’s big gay sis Alex (the too-hip-for-words Chyler Leigh) can kick male butt.

Of course, Hollywood is the great evil empire; the whore of Babylon; the secret illuminati trying to brainwash us by sending subliminal pro-gay agenda messages. Oh wait; Mango Messiah Trump was a Hollywood trash TV host? Throw a blanket over that inconvenient fact and scream “FAKE NEWS!”

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INGMAR BERGMAN’S SILENCE OF GOD TRILOGY: THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY (1961)

The first of Ingmar Bergman‘s scorching “Silence of God” chamber trilogy, Through A Glass Darkly (1961) takes its title from one of St. Paul’s most famous passages: “For now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; but then I shall know even as I am known.” The key to Bergman’s film, and indeed to the trilogy, lies in this passage that is as much about alienation as faith. In some quarters, Bergman’s triptych has been inadequately referred to as a “Trilogy of Faith,” but faith is not tangible. One cannot see, touch, or … Continue reading INGMAR BERGMAN’S SILENCE OF GOD TRILOGY: THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY (1961)

ORSON WELLES’ CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT (1966)

For fifty years, Orson Welles’ Chimes at Midnight (1966) was locked in various disputes over ownership, and was only sporadically seen in wretched prints. It was talked and written about so much that inevitably seeing it (as I did in Chicago in the 90s) amounted to an ordeal. With both poor visual and audio, it was unquestionably a disappointment. Thankfully, Janus Films came to a long overdue rescue in 2015. The restoration (available on the Criterion Collection) is miraculous, revealing one of Welles’ most astonishing, loving creations. While F for Fake was Welles’ final finished film, Chimes at Midnight is … Continue reading ORSON WELLES’ CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT (1966)

ORSON WELLES’ F FOR FAKE (1973)

In hindsight, Orson Welles‘ F For Fake (1973) might be seen as inevitable. In an interview with Jean Clay from almost a decade before the film’s release, Welles warned: “If you try to probe, I’ll lie to you.” Admitting that most what he says is fabricated, Welles astutely advised: “Destroy all biographies. Only art can explain the life of a man.” Yet, there is something of a gimmick even in that statement. It was through the medium of radio that Welles delivered his first hurrah of trickery, at the ripe old age of 23 on October 30, 1938. The reaction … Continue reading ORSON WELLES’ F FOR FAKE (1973)

ANDREI TARKOVSKY’S THE SACRIFICE (1986)

Andrei Tarkovsky was dying as he made his final film, The Sacrifice(1986). It can be likened to the epic last testaments of Ludwig van Beethoven, Paul Gauguin, Gustav Mahler, Luigi Nono, John Huston, and David Bowie. Tarkovsky dedicated the film to his son, Andrejusja, “with hope and confidence.” Like Mahler, Tarkovsky exits in a universal communication: “Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?” Despite the milieu of finality that permeates The Sacrifice, it was a narrative that had long been percolating with Tarkovsky, who referred to it as a parable, open to multifarious interpretations. It should … Continue reading ANDREI TARKOVSKY’S THE SACRIFICE (1986)

ANDREI TARKOVSKY’S THE MIRROR (1975)

Andrei Tarkovsky is a staple at 366 Weird movies, so it’s only apt that we get around to what many believe to be his most personal film: The Mirror (1975). The title alone indicates as much. According to Tarkovsky’s memoir “Sculpting in Time” (an essential read), The Mirror began as a novella, reflecting on the artist’s years during the Second World War. He started the first of many script drafts a decade before filming commences, and with its pointed criticism of the Soviet Union, it’s remarkable that it was even produced, let alone distributed. Tarkovsky predictably found himself embroiled in … Continue reading ANDREI TARKOVSKY’S THE MIRROR (1975)

ANDREI RUBLEV (1966)

Andrei Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev (originally titled The Passion According to Andrei ) is a 1966 film about a painter whom we never see painting. Furthermore, it’s about a 15th century artist who we know very little about, not even the exact years of his birth and death. Only one existing painting, “The Trinity,” can be authenticated as being entirely painted by Rublev. Yes, Rublev is one of those uncouth religious painters: an iconographer. This is anathema here today—and, when it was made, most especially in his Russian homeland. Despite all that, Rublev is a painter of legendary status. As enigmatic … Continue reading ANDREI RUBLEV (1966)

ROBERT BRESSON’S DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRIEST (1951)

Andrei Tarkovsky cited Robert Bresson as one of two  filmmakers who influenced him (the other being Ingmar Bergman). Bresson has also been referred to as the most religious of filmmakers, and in some quarters, as the patron saint of cinema. Although some have claimed Breton considered himself a Christian atheist, his statements, which echo tenets of process theology, contradicts that thesis. Likewise, Breton’s diminutive oeuvre is too mosaic for such a condensed assessment. His prevalent theme is an aesthetic Catholicism, which was shaped by religious upbringing, Jansenism, and a year spent as prisoner of war (an experience indirectly explored in … Continue reading ROBERT BRESSON’S DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRIEST (1951)

CARL THEODORE DREYER’S DAY OF WRATH (1943)

Carl Theodor Dreyer‘s Day of Wrath (1943) is an undeniable masterpiece that should be required viewing. It’s bleak as hell; a kind of synthesis of Rembrandt and Nathanel Hawthorne filtered through a lens of wrenching pessimism. After viewing, you’re likely to break out in a sweat and be reduced to incoherent mumbling. If you’re brave enough to attempt a second viewing, wait twenty-five years. It’s that intense: the most somber opus in this unrelentingly somber filmmaker’s oeuvre. As in virtually all of Dreyer’s work, Day of Wrath (the title is taken from the hymn “Das Irae,” used in requiem masses) highlights … Continue reading CARL THEODORE DREYER’S DAY OF WRATH (1943)

RON ORMOND’S CHRISTIAN SCARE FILM: IF FOOTMEN TIRE YOU, WHAT WILL HORSES DO? (1971)

‘s 1971 If Footman Tire You, What Will Horses Do? is likely to inspire the hackneyed question, “What Would Jesus Do?” The answer is that, if the old boy was actually forced to see it, is he would most assuredly become a militant atheist.

This first collaboration between recently saved exploitation hack Ron Ormond and Rev. Estus W. Pirkle is the accidental masterpiece of s, and of course it could only have been produced by Baptists ( knew of what he spoke when he cried, “These Baptists are stupid, stupid, stupid!”) It’s the only CINO denomination that can give Pentecostals a run for the money (and boy, do they run for the money). Like Ormond and Pirkle’s 1974 followup, The Burning Hell, Footman was one of the few times the two denominations put aside theological differences. I doubt a single soul within either camp is overly familiar with the word theology: one of mother dear’s visiting evangelists referred to the field as “soundin’ like some kinda bug ya might catch.” Being subjected to a viewing of Footman went hand-in-hand with all the apocalyptic sermons we were force-fed, because deep into the Cold War, Commies made the top ten list of demonic demographics (along with gays, Catholics—especially of the Mexican variety, because they were trying to invade, Jews, civil rights activists, gun control advocates, women’s libbers, Democrats, rock and roll musicians, and TV shows such as “Bewitched” and “Superman“) that inspired frenzied tongue-speaking outbreaks.

Even before Ronald Reagan (whom the fundies were initially suspicious of since the name RONALD WILSON REAGAN added up to 666, and he met with old Charlie Pope!), the Soviet Union was theEvil Empire. Over half the sermons focused on exactly what was gonna happen to Bible-believin’ Christians once the Russkies invaded and gotta hold of ’em. Modeling myself after the prodigal and leaving mother dear’s church in the early eighties, I’m not sure what they focused on after the Soviet Union’s fall, but Jack Chick sure was forced to go back and change a helluva lot of his tracts (Harry Potter became a noteworthy focus, but it just doesn’t register quite like the Red Army).

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RON ORMOND’S CHRISTIAN SCARE DOUBLE FEATURE: THE GRIM REAPER (1976) AND THE BELIEVER’S HEAVEN (1977)

Like before him, had a brief, inspired period of lunacy, best seen in his two Christian scare masterstrokes: If Footman Tire You, What Will Horses Do? (1971) and The Burning Hell (1974). After these, he lost his demented mojo. While 1976’s The Grim Reaper has much to recommend it (within a certain mindset), an element of fatigue has set in. The first and most obvious sign is the absence of Rev. Estus Pirkle (he and Ormond had a falling out over money—imagine that!), and as unfathomable as it may be, that stoic nutcase is immediately missed. The second major flaw is Ormond’s futile attempt at a linear narrative, proving he didn’t quite grasp the fact that the appeal of his previous two films was as crowning examples of evangelical .

One thing that The Grim Reaper does accomplish is fleshing out, on celluloid at least, the Baptist maxim “you’re goin’ to hay-ull.” One can always tell a Baptist because that’s their favorite catchphrase, and they haven’t grown tired of it yet.

Tim (played again by Ormond’s son Tim, now minus facial fair and sporting a Baptist haircut) and his mama, Ruby (Viola Walden) are saved. Unfortunately, his dad, Vern (Cecil Scaife) and brother, Frankie (Eddie King) are unsaved trash.

Worse, Eddie races cars! Now, the film doesn’t go into the semantics of “what if a race car driver is saved?” My Pentecostal aunt found herself in that same undesired predicament with one of her brood, but since Pentecostals don’t believe in “once saved, always saved,” I guess her boy wasn’t saved, even if he claimed to be. While the appeal of watching cars driving around a circle is a tad perplexing and the idea of racing is foolhardy, one might be hard pressed to locate the sin in it.

Still, Eddie isn’t saved. Tim attempts a literal last second death conversion by pleading with Eddie to recite the sinner’s prayer before succumbing to injuries from a wreck. Stupidly, Eddie doesn’t accept Jesus as his lord and personal savior. Now, Eddie’s gonna fry, but good. Such half-baked theology lacks a bit of spiritual common sense. The Ormond hypothesis follows Baptist reasoning (?!) pretty closely. According to them, if a serial killer gets saved before he dies, he goes to heaven (an example is Jeffrey Dahmer, who some actually claimed was saved in this manner). However, if his victims didn’t get the chance to say the sinner’s prayer and died immediately (as we assume some did), then they have go to Hell. Shit outta luck, dude—it’s a “the rules are the rules” kinda thing, as the Baptist preacher tells Eddie’s mum and dad. Sorry, folks, I can’t say he’s in heaven at the funeral because he’s burning in Hell now (as if dying in a fiery death wasn’t punishment enough). Yes, these are adults who actually believe this.

Continue reading “RON ORMOND’S CHRISTIAN SCARE DOUBLE FEATURE: THE GRIM REAPER (1976) AND THE BELIEVER’S HEAVEN (1977)”

PHILOMENA (2013)

Philomena (2013) Judi Dench, Steve CooganThere is a potentially exploitative blockbuster at the heart of Philomena (2013), and as it unfolds we expect, at any moment, to be drawn into yet another example of cinema as propaganda. A film with the theme of abusive nuns in an Irish Catholic asylum lording over unwed mothers is an invitation for at least one audience-as-silly-putty moment, molded by hackneyed writing and line delivery. It never happens. Instead, we are treated to a sensitively written, smartly balanced drama, which never succumbs to overt sentimentality or cynicism.

Philomena (2013)

Such restraint takes a collaborative effort, and Philomena benefits from the directing of Stephen Frears, Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope’s screen treatment of Martin Sixsmith’s book, along with Judi Dench’s astute performance.

Philomena (2013) Judi Dench

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STOCKING COAL: THE STAR WARS HOLIDAY SPECIAL (1978)

With the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi (directed by Rian Johnson), it appears that Saint Nicholas has appeased a considerable sector of movie goers in 2017, except for the formula-craving fanatics who were preferring something akin to the pedestrian Rogue One. Johnson’s The Last Jedi, in declining to subscribe to expectations of franchise assembly line lovers, has refreshingly provoked butthurt nostalgists, and revealed what a lot of people already knew: the wrongheadedness of fandom, seen at its silliest and most cult-like in petitions to remove the film from “the canon” and Twitter threats cast at the director.

Of course, the jolly old elf has delivered us a few genuine clunkers over the last seventeen hundred years, among the most notorious being the 1978 “Star Wars Holiday Special” (directed by Steve Binder, best known for the 1968 ‘Elvis Comeback Special”). It’s a made-for-television abomination that George Lucas and company have desperately tried to keep buried, but like bed bugs at night—the damn thing just wouldn’t go away. It’s a good thing too; ’tis the perfect present for infantile palettes. Since its release, “The Star Wars Holiday Special” keeps cropping up in bootleg copies. The late Carrie Fisher even attempted to deny its existence and dismissed it as an urban legend, which only fanned the flames of demand. Despite her protestations, there she is, along with many of the original cast.

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STOCKING COAL: KIRK CAMERON’S SAVING CHRISTMAS (2014) & THE BURNING HELL (1974)

A few months back, a co-worker sent me a meme of Homer Simpson mimicking Donald Trump mimicking a handicapped reporter under the heading: “Look Marge… I’m a Christian.” If one associates Christianity with brain dead right-wing WASPs, then the only better symbol than a Homer parody would be walking caricature Kirk Cameron. In addition to his roll-on-the-floor Left Behind rapture series, Cameron, in 2014, prefiguring Trump and his Trumptards, took it upon himself to “Save Christmas” and ‘Murica from all those War-on-Christmas “Happy Holiday” and “Season’s Greetings” coffee cups (with no snowflakes, dammit).

Like all of Cameron’s movies, Saving Christmas was universally panned, which prompted the Christian entrepreneur (smelling a potential box office loss for his booming franchise) to panic. He called on “the real people” (as opposed to the sub-human critics) to give him a thumbs up: “Help me storm the gates of Rotten Tomatoes,” he wrote, “all of you who love Saving Christmas – go rate it at Rotten Tomatoes right now and send the message to all the critics that WE decide what movies we want our families to see.” Kirk’s endeavor promptly backfired. Even the “real people” ripped it to pieces, which of course Cameron blamed on liberal atheists, no doubt paid off by George Soros. Now, before we dismiss this as yet another easy target: lest we forget ‘Murica elected Cameron’s triple-chinned, mentally-challenged, pedophile-conspiracy kook, silver-spoon fed billionaire, and CINO (“Christian-in-Name-Only”) prophet to the highest office of the land in 2016.Saving Christmas is is a lump of stocking coal that ‘Murica has reaped.

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BLADE RUNNER (1982) & BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017)

When Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 was released this Fall, many were surprised that it did not meet box office expectations. Nor did it’s father, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982). Having seen the original on its opening weekend, I’m among those who witnessed its initial weak box office evolve into a cult phenomena.  John Carpenter’s The Thing, released the same year as Blade Runner, also took off slow amidst lukewarm reviews, yet both became examples of visionary science fiction, joining a small cluster of classic films from the last half century that includes Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), Alien (1979), E.T. (1982), Videodrome (1983), Back to the Future (1985), The Fly (1986),  A.I.(2001), Minority Report (2002), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mine (2004), Children of Men (2006), and Prometheus (2012) (and of course a few others). Like  Steven Spielberg’s aforementioned Close Encounters, competing edits of Scott’s Blade Runner (my advice: go with “The Final Cut”) didn’t hinder its eventual cult status.

Based on Philip K. Dick’s novel “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?,” the iconographic texture of Blade Runner was apparent mere moments into its release, despite the awkwardness of the silly studio-mandated Phillip Marlowe narration (supplied by star Harrison Ford as Deckard) and a happy ending that was woefully unconvincing for a film that practically defined dystopian noir. Thankfully, Scott was able to restore the film and added to it considerable by omitting those executive errors (while excising five minutes).

With his “Final Cut,” Scott cemented Blade Runner as his second (and greatest) of three unquestionable science fiction classics (the first being Alien and third being its belated prequel Prometheus—which of course will provoke futile debate). The cast is uniformly excellent. Despite its initial weak box office performance, Blade Runner made a brief star of antagonist Rutger Hauer, whose characterization of the replicant Roy is far more haunting and aptly hammy than its source material. The same could be said for Sean Young; she’s magnetic as Rachel, in her chic 2019  Joan Crawford shoulder pads and Louise Brooks-inspired bob, diaphanously exhaling a smoky-treat. Darryl Hannah as Pris (with lethal thighs), Brion James as Leon, and the eternally underrated Joanna Cassidy as the snake-wielding Zhora make a trio of memorable replicant villains, more poignantly human than most of the humans. Apart from Ford’s Deckard, who—as has been noted and debated endlessly—is possibly a replicant himself, the human exceptions are Joe Turkell as doomed Dr. Tyrell and William Sanderson as the pathos-ridden toymaker Sebastien. Both remain etched in the memory.

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HOTTER THAN HELL ITSELF: KISS MEETS THE PHANTOM OF THE PARK (1978)

Throughout the 1970s, the rock band KISS served as a kind of symbol for my own paradoxical, f’ed-up world. On Sundays, we frequently heard diatribes against the band spewed from the pulpit. “Knights in Satan’s Service,” the preacher warned, again and again and again. Believe me: Gene “The Demon” Simmons, with his long wiggling tongue and blood-drinking candids (from various albums) inspired countless, tongue-speaking “the Holy Ghost has taken over the service” and paranoid “Jesus is coming again soon” frenzied Sunday night services that usually dragged on past midnight, which left us dragging through Monday morning classes.

At school, it was the exact opposite. My parents, for reasons I still cannot fathom, moved us from Indianapolis to a small, gun-toting Klan county populated by trailer parks, farms (which smelled of cow fertilizer for six months out of the year), and mini-suburbs. To many of the kids from this hayseed community, Peter, Paul, Gene, and Ace were akin to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and if you were foolish enough to criticize the sacred prophets of rock and roll, be prepared for an ass whuppin’. You weren’t even safe breathing negatives about KISS in front of the white trash girls, because they had become zealous converts, one and all, with Peter’s “Beth, I hear you calling,” and would promptly order their boyfriends to beat the holy shit out of you from here to Sunday. As stupid as I was in my teens, I was still smart enough to keep my mouth shut on the subject of KISS. Actually, I was never sure what all the fuss was about either way. Their songs were harmless trifles and their stage act wasn’t much different than the average Vincent Price movie. My younger brother, on the other hand, got caught up in the KISS phenomenon and actually risked buying two of their LPs. Unfortunately for him, he was eventually caught in possession of “Hotter than Hell” and “KISS Alive.” Needless to say, those records were offered up  to an angry Jehovah in the sacred church parking lot bonfire shortly before Sunday night service (I can still hear those echoes of the Burgermeister Meisterburger laughing “the children of Somberville will never play with toys again” as he lit the torch).

Imagine my surprise then when, a few years later, I caught Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park(1978) at a friend’s house (the church folk never found out). My confusion over the KISS brouhaha magnified, only (perhaps) surpassed by Gene becoming a kind of constipated Pat Boone-type late in life.

Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park could very well be to 1970s TV movies what Manos: The Hands of Fate was for the 60s: a movie so bad that one risks permanent lockjaw from having watched it, which of course is its appeal today (I’ve grown wiser in middle age).

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LON CHANEY, JR.

Why no one has ever produced a cinematic biopic treatment of the Chaney boys ( Lon Sr. and Lon Jr.) is baffling. Bela Lugosi was given quite a spotlight in Ed Wood (1994), and Boris Karloff was a supporting character in Gods and Monsters (1998). Off-screen, Karloff might have made for a nice neighbor, but being the workaholic he was, his biography is dull going. Of course, Lugosi had elements of drug addiction, pathos, and parody late in life working for him. While the Chaneys lacked the European mystery of Karloff and Lugosi, there’s an aptness in these American-bred father and son icons because, as the past year has revealed, Europe has doodly-squat on ‘Murica when it comes to the banality of authentic horror.

From the slivers of information that we have received over the years through peer recollections and various articles, the Chaneys would make for one helluva psycho drama, preferably directed by someone with the sensibilities of a David Cronenberg. No definitive biography has been written about either, and cinematically there’s only a ludicrously whitewashed biopic Man of a Thousand Faces (1957) starring James Cagney as daddy Chaney. Part of the reason for lack of a substantial biography could be the almost obsessive protectiveness of the Chaney estate, who seem to have made things consistently difficult for potential biographers. However, it is also telling that the estate has, as far I know, never disputed the more colorful biographical tidbits that have been given about their silver screen patriarchs.

There must have been something of the masochist in the elder Chaney, who went though much self-inflicted suffering for his art, including looping wires around his eye sockets and wearing false teeth so tight that shots had to be completed quickly before he started bleeding. For Quasimodo, he wore a back prosthetic so heavy that (coupled with instructions to an extra to not spare the whip in the famous beating scene) it sent Lon Sr. to the hospital for an extended stay. Apparently, he was also quite a sadist, and would lock Creighton (Lon Jr.’s birth name) in a closet after razor strap beatings for punishment. (Senior was also psychologically abusive, as when he told Junior that mommy was dead, when in fact she was quite alive).

Such heredity and abuse certainly was instrumental in composing Lon Chaney Jr. as something of a real life lycanthrope with horrific daddy issues. In assessing Jr. as a pale copy of his father, the popular and critical consensus is spot on (for once). In addition to obsessively (and vainly) trying to outdo daddy, Jr. was also a raging alcoholic, had drug problems, and was prone to a violent temper; which, according to some (including writer Curt Siodmak) sprang from guilt over latent homosexuality. However, when actually being directed, instead of just being told to do Lennie from Of Mice and Men again, Chaney, Jr., if not a great actor per se, was memorable in numerous character parts (few of which are in the horror genre).

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A JAW-DROPPING ELVIS DOUBLE FEATURE: LIVE A LITTLE, LOVE A LITTLE (1968) & EASY COME, EASY GO (1967)

As a pop music star, Elvis Presley had an unparalleled career (although it is questionable whether his music is much listened to today outside of Memphis). His film career, although financially successful, was a different story altogether—remarkable only in the thirty-plus (mostly wretched) films produced in a scant dozen years. Among the worst, which is saying a lot, are two near the end of his film run. Itching to get back into live performance, Presley was merely fulfilling his MGM contract at this point and, barely mastering any enthusiasm, took whatever script was handed him.

Live a Little, Love a Little (1968, directed by frequent Presley collaborator Norman Taurog and scripted by Dan Greenburg from his novel “Kiss My Firm but Pliant Lips”) is a like the Rankin and Bass cartoon “Year Without a Santa Claus” (1974) in that it contains a single scene of naive surrealism at its most jaw-dropping, “WTF were they thinking?” level, which almost makes the whole enterprise worthwhile.

The Pelvis is a photojournalist here named Greg, working at a “Playboy”-like outfit. Of course, that means he’s going to be taking lots of pinup pics. The blatant sexism would seem woefully dated, except we’ve elected a lot of Neanderthal politicos lately (from both sides), and that unfortunately renders the film more contemporary than it was a few years ago. Greg’s practically stalked by a wacky, bikini-clad gal who might be named Bernice… or Alice… or Suzy…don’t ask. I’m still not sure, but whoever she is, she’s played by Michele Carey, one of those anonymous eye-candy actresses you may recall seeing a lot. (Carey is primarily known for this and the 1967 John Wayne/Howard Hawks oater El Dorado). Bernice also has a Great Dane named Albert who will become for this film what Mr. Heat Miser was for “Year Without A Santa Claus.” Rounding off a weird cast is prolific character actor Sterling Holloway (whom we recently saw as Professor Twiddle/Professor Quinn in “ The Adventures of Superman”) as a milkman (don’t ask—I still don’t know why), Rudy Valle as a Hugh Heffner type (?), and Dick Sargent (best known as Darren #2 from “Bewitched”), who might be Bernice’s husband (just don’t ask).

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