Category Archives: Movies

Bus passengers in an alternative universe

on the bus

Today, I got one of those emails trying to get me to engage more with Pinterest, and one of the pins it offered me was this one, which I thought was cool, because it’s one of my fave flicks of all time.

So I repinned it.

But then I noticed something… you ever take a good look at the passengers on the bus who turn back to stare at Benjamin and Elaine.

It’s like Mike Nichols deliberately filled the bus with People Who Will Never Be Seen Riding a Bus. At least, that would be the case in Columbia in 2014. And I’m even thinking it would be the case in California in 1967.

Dig the guys in suits. Especially the guy wearing cufflinks.

This is such a glaring anomaly that I find myself wondering whether it’s intentional, and it means something. Like maybe Nichols wanted a painfully bourgeois set of people to be staring at our lovebirds, or something.

Anyway, I’d never noticed it before, and I found it interesting…

Um, yeah… the U.S. Chamber may be (slightly) cooler than I thought it was…

Um, yeahhhh....

Um, yeahhhh….

Or at least, it has a greater sense of irony.

As evidenced by the following Tweet:

It’s International Talk like Robert Newton Day

Some call it “Talk Like a Pirate Day,” but I’ve often wondered where we get the silly notion that pirates went around saying “ARRRH!” and growling in a West Country burr.

I assumed it came from the movies.

Apparently, it came primarily from character actor Robert Newton, who played Long John Silver in the ’50s. This was brought to my attention by the Slatest.

So, if you didn’t know before, now you know…

Robert Newton

Hollywood, you’ve got to give me a reason to keep watching

Over the weekend at my house, we started to watch two films nominated for Best Picture Academy Awards in the past year.

After 10 minutes or so each, we quit watching them. I have no desire to resume. Neither film gave me the slightest promise that there would be anything worth seeing if I would only waste more time on them.

First, we tried “American Hustle.”

It opens with a bloated Christian Bale going through a personal grooming ritual that is so odd that it takes a moment to realize what he is doing. And what he is doing is laboriously pasting a hunk of black hair to the top of his pate as filler, and then elaborately pasting a combover on top of that, at gravity-defying angles.

Then there is a scene with Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Renner. Bradley Cooper has a ridiculous permanent, and is dressed in clothes meant to give the spectacularly ugly duds on Bale a run for their money. In case you may be trying to ignore the clothes and the hair, Amy Adams points out how much Cooper is dressed like Bale. Or someone does. I’m not going to watch again to check.

Then enters Renner with a pompadour that would have embarrassed Elvis in the depths of his Vegas decadence. My wife points out, “Who wore a pompadour in 1978?” No one, I replied.

Then ensues a confusing argument in which every other word starts with F. Then, the film turns to flashback, showing us how Bale and Ms. Adams got together. You didn’t want to know, and as they tell you, you want to know less. There is nothing appealing about these people. Even Ms. Adam’s celebrated, exaggerated décolletage is off-putting after a couple of moments.

The film depicts these people as so ugly, so sad, so tawdry, so flawed, so tacky, so off-putting that every moment of watching them is painful. Oh, and I was an adult during this era. Yeah, the fashions were tacky. But this film wallows in ugliness to a point far, far beyond invoking an era. Our clothes were sometimes ridiculous, but beneath them we were still real people, people as fully, appealingly human as anyone today, or at any other time in human history. We were not the sum of off-putting fashions. As it seems everyone in this film is.

My wife was first to say she had seen enough. So I popped it out and tried “Nebraska.”

The very first gritty, windy, black-and-white image of a pathetic old man walking down a highway was decidedly unappealing, but I said, look — I expected this to be kind of a downer. But I’m hoping it’s leavened with some stuff that makes it rewarding to watch.

It wasn’t. Everyone in it, every single situation depicted, was completely depressing. No one had a reason to embrace or even, seemingly, to endure life. Even the usually delightful Bob Odenkirk was a complete bummer.

As with “Hustle,” the film seemed to be daring me to keep watching — slapping me in the face and saying, “Can you take it? Huh? Can you? Here’s some more! Slap!”

And I have no reason to take that.

I feel the alienation, but I will keep watching -- and be rewarded for it.

I feel the alienation, but I will keep watching — and be rewarded for it.

For some reason, irrelevantly, I started thinking about “The Graduate.” Remember the beginning? A depressed, almost catatonic Benjamin sitting on the plane, then riding the moving sidewalk in the terminal on his way to pick up his baggage, with “Sounds of Silence” playing? It was hip. It was arty. It was ironic. It was all about alienation. You were meant to sense Benjamin’s disconnection from his dispiriting surroundings.

But… you wanted to keep watching! There you were, stuck in the theater — you’d bought your ticket. Mike Nichols could have assumed that he had you for the whole 105 minutes. But he didn’t abuse that. He made you want to keep watching, and see what happened to Benjamin. Maybe it was just the Simon and Garfunkel — but you wanted to keep watching. And you were richly rewarded for doing so.

But the directors of these two films I gave up on over the weekend aren’t going to stoop to seek my approval, or even my submissive cooperation. Even though I’m sitting there in my TV room with four remotes at hand, with cable and Netflix streaming and iTunes and Amazon and all sorts of alternatives at my complete command, not to mention my not inconsiderable DVD collection — they just keep slapping me, poking me in the eye, trying to make me go away.

Well, they succeeded.

The Dude as a Senate candidate

leb

For this to make sense, you sort of have to know that some folks in Montana have been talking up the idea of Jeff Bridges running for the U.S. Senate.

Armed with that, you are more likely to get this item on The Fix yesterday, headlined “The Jeff Bridges Senate campaign, a play in one act.” An excerpt:

Scene 1: Interior, a large house in Montana. BRIDGES enters and turns on the light. He is grabbed by a pair of INTRUDERS, dragged to the bathroom, and his head is thrust into the toilet.

INTRUDER: You better run for Senate, Bridges.

BRIDGES: (gurgling sounds)

VOICE: Run for Senate, Bridges.

BRIDGES: (gurgling)

They pull his head out of the toilet. BRIDGES doesn’t recognize the pair, nor does he know what the “DSCC” on their name badges means.

BRIDGES: (sighing) Does this place look like I’m a f***ing politician?

The room is decorated in a marijuana leaf motif. One of the intruders looks at the decor, then at Bridges, and then looks at the rug.

In spite of it all, as The Dude says to the Narrator later in the script, “The Dude abides, etc.”

The Narrator lays some homespun wisdom on The Dude.

The Narrator lays some homespun wisdom on The Dude.

Who’s actually going to see all of these Hobbit movies?

Hobbit

I just saw a trailer for the third Hobbit movie, titled “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.” (Here’s a link; I didn’t find the embed code right away, and wasn’t interested enough to keep looking.)

And I had to wonder, not for the first time: Who is paying to go see all three of these things?

I watched the first one — after it became available on Netflix. It was… about like the beginning of the book, only dragged way out.

Haven’t seen the second. But what I’m wondering is, where is Peter Jackson getting all the material? From that one slim little book?

It’s been many years since I read the book, and here’s what I remember: The Hobbit gets pulled into an adventure against his inclinations, and it involves dwarves and orcs and trolls and some giant spiders. He and the dwarves are on a quest to get something back from a dragon. The eventually do that, and go home. The one significance of the narrative to the imaginary history of Middle Earth is that Bilbo runs into Gollum, and obtains the One Ring, thereby setting the stage for the trilogy.

I don’t remember anything about a Battle of Five Armies. That sounds more like something out of Return of the King. It was a small story, an intimate story. Not a spectacle involving a CGI cast of thousands.

Basically, this just seems ridiculous. The three “Lord of the Rings” movies made sense. There were, after all, three books. But this was one book, one little adventure story, and I don’t see how it sustains three long films.

I like Tolkien. I’m not one of the fervent fans, but I like his stories. I’ve been a Martin Freeman fan since the original “The Office.”

But come on, people. What’s next — The Silmarillion, stretched into nine movies?

When you play villains as well as Oldman, you HAVE TO apologize this graciously, and then some

Would you accept an apology from this guy?

Would you accept an apology from this guy?

Gary Oldman has apologized abjectly, completely and graciously for offensive comments he made about Jews in a Playboy interview:

I am deeply remorseful that comments I recently made in the Playboy Interview were offensive to many Jewish people. Upon reading my comments in print—I see how insensitive they may be, and how they may indeed contribute to the furtherance of a false stereotype. Anything that contributes to this stereotype is unacceptable, including my own words on the matter. If, during the interview, I had been asked to elaborate on this point I would have pointed out that I had just finished reading Neal Gabler’s superb book about the Jews and Hollywood, An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews invented Hollywood. The fact is that our business, and my own career specifically, owes an enormous debt to that contribution.

I hope you will know that this apology is heartfelt, genuine, and that I have an enormous personal affinity for the Jewish people in general, and those specifically in my life. The Jewish People, persecuted thorough the ages, are the first to hear God’s voice, and surely are the chosen people.

I would like to sign off with “Shalom Aleichem”—but under the circumstances, perhaps today I lose the right to use that phrase, so I will wish you all peace–Gary Oldman.

I don’t know whether Oldman or a publicist wrote that apology, but it’s a good one. It holds nothing back, unlike many other public apologies we’ve seen (such as the Mark Sanford “I’m sorry, but I’m like King David, and God forgave King David, so you’ve gotta forgive me — what, do you think you’re better than God?” approach).

Of course, when you play villains as chillingly convincingly as Oldman does, you’ve got to go all-out, because a lot of people wouldn’t consider it a great leap to picture him as a neo-Nazi. And even when you DO apologize, they’re quick to point out that you didn’t apologize to other groups you may have offended.

All of that said, what person with any class does Playboy interviews any more? What does he think this is, 1970?

... or this one?

… or this one?

The cast of “Star Wars VII” assembles

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This is pretty cool — a picture of old and new cast members sitting around preparing for shooting to begin in a couple of weeks on the new “Star Wars.”

Check this out:

The Star Wars team is thrilled to announce the cast of Star Wars: Episode VII.

Actors John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, and Max von Sydow will join the original stars of the saga, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, and Kenny Baker in the new film.

Director J.J. Abrams says, “We are so excited to finally share the cast of Star Wars: Episode VII. It is both thrilling and surreal to watch the beloved original cast and these brilliant new performers come together to bring this world to life, once again. We start shooting in a couple of weeks, and everyone is doing their best to make the fans proud.”

Star Wars: Episode VII is being directed by J.J. Abrams from a screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan and Abrams. Kathleen Kennedy, J.J. Abrams, and Bryan Burk are producing, and John Williams returns as the composer.

I wonder what character Max von Sydow will play — the ghost of Obiwan Kenobi, perhaps?

I guess that’s the back of his head, talking to Mark Hamill over on the left. There’s Harrison Ford on the opposite side of the circle, in front of R2D2. Is that Carrie Fisher two over to the right of him?

Aside from von Sydow, I don’t know the new cast members. But then, I didn’t know who Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill were, before the original film. Carrie Fisher I remembered from “Shampoo.” Who could forget?

Han Solo takes the Fifth on Greedo killing

The Washington Post should be ashamed of itself. Not because it won a Pulitzer for helping Edward Snowden achieve his goals, but because it led readers of its The Switch blog to believe that it was going to finally clear up the raging controversy over whether Han Solo or Greedo shot first.Greedo

That didn’t happen.

But in the course of not answering, Harrison Ford demonstrates a callousness regarding the question that seems consistent with the classic Han-Solo-as-rogueish-antihero-who-would-shoot-first interpretation, as opposed to the revisionist he-was-just-standing-his-ground-in-self-defense view.

That’s how I see it, anyway.

Someone tell Tyler Durden: Marketers have appropriated ‘Fight Club’

Brad-Pitt-fight-club-body2

Back when I was in college, I read James Michener’s book Kent State: What Happened and Why, which came out the year after four students were shot and killed there by the Ohio National Guard. This was a time when memories of the event were still pretty raw. That one semester I attended USC before transferring to Memphis State, I used to wear a T-shirt (I forget where I got it) with a big target on the back under the word “Student.” It was less a political statement than me just being edgy, ironic and immature.

Michener’s book went into a lot more than what happened that day in May 1970. It painted a portrait of student life at that time and in that place. At one point, he interviewed a campus radical who was complaining about how the dominant white culture kept appropriating and mainstreaming, and thereby disarming, countercultural memes, particularly those that arose from African-American culture. (I would say he was making some point vaguely related to Marcuse’s “repressive tolerance,” but I’ve always tended to understand Marcuse as meaning something other than what he meant. By the way, my version makes sense; Marcuse’s didn’t.)

Anyway, to make the point that there was no limit to the dominant culture’s ability to absorb culture from the edge, he said, “I’ll bet that within two years Buick will come out with full-page ads claiming that the 1972 Buick is a real motherf____r.”

Well, that still hasn’t quite happened. But I saw something today that comes close. I got an email from the travel site Orbitz with the headline:

The first rule of Flight Club is – Columbia deals from $200 RT

Wow. Think about it. “Fight Club” was all about characters who were utterly, savagely rejecting mainstream consumer culture and everything that went with it. But now the best-known line from the film is being appropriated to sell airline flights. Are you digging the irony here?

It doesn’t even make sense, since the first rule of Fight Club is that you do NOT talk about Fight Club. Presumably, Orbitz would like us to talk about this deal.

But the line got me to look — and that was the point.

I can’t wait to see how next year’s Buicks are marketed.

My life, seen as a paranoid conspiracy theory

Actual untouched photograph taken in the Des Moines airport in January 1980. Why am I meeting with then-Senator, later White House Chief of Staff Howard Baker? And why am I in disguise?

Actual unretouched photograph taken in the Des Moines airport in January 1980. Why am I meeting with then-Senator, later White House Chief of Staff Howard Baker? And why am I in disguise? Who is the man in the background, watching us?

On a previous post, Doug mentioned Oliver Stone’s paranoid masterpiece “JFK.”

Which reminded me of when I lived in New Orleans — during Jim Garrison’s investigation.

Which got me to thinking further…

You know, Oliver Stone could probably weave a good paranoid conspiracy around my life. All of the following is true:

  1. I was in Washington during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
  2. Shortly thereafter, I moved to Latin America, not to be seen in this country for two-and-a-half years.
  3. That means I was conveniently out of the country when Kennedy was killed.
  4. There was a military coup while I was in Ecuador. It was planned (in part at least) in the very same house in which I lived, while I was there.
  5. My guitar teacher in Ecuador was an agent of U.S. Naval Intelligence.
  6. The pastor of the nondenominational church we attended was an agent of the CIA.
  7. Within months of returning to this country, I moved to New Orleans, where Jim Garrison was about to get rolling with his allegations.
  8. In 1970, I had a run-in with Admiral John McCain, then Commander-In-Chief, Pacific Command — and the father of the John McCain who was at the time a prisoner of the North Vietnamese.
  9. In 1978, I met George H.W. Bush, former head of the CIA who at the time was a director of the Council on Foreign Relations.
  10. I was in Iowa two years later, just before Bush beat Ronald Reagan in the caucuses there.
  11. Several weeks later, I was present during the Arkansas caucuses when delegates of Reagan and Howard Baker conspired to squeeze Bush out, thereby bumping him out of contention. I had been traveling with Baker in Iowa. I had a brief face-to-face contact with Bush that day.
  12. During the 80s, I had numerous face-to-face meetings with Al Gore.
  13. In subsequent years, I would have closed-door meetings at my office with John McCain (on multiple occasions), George W. Bush, Barack ObamaJoe Biden, Ralph Nader, Jesse Jackson, Dick Gephardt, John Kerry, John Edwards, Howard Dean, and, completing the circle to the Kennedy administration, Ted Sorensen.

Forget Oliver Stone. I’m starting to have suspicions about myself

Think about it — how would your life look in the eyes of a conspiracy theorist who believes there’s no such thing as coincidence?

Art imitating life imitating art imitating life imitating…

USS Nimitz

USS Nimitz

Hollywood makes a movie, a year or so ago, about the Iran hostage crisis. It tells the true story of how the CIA pretended to be making a movie in Iran in order to sneak a handful of the American hostages out of the country.

The real movie about the fake movie that hoaxed the Iranians wins the Best Picture Oscar, which Iran could not have failed to notice.

So… now we see that Iran is building a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier — or rather, a vessel that looks like a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier. They do it in plain sight, so we can’t fail to notice. Our intel guys watch it being built ever since last summer, and we finally get to the point that we can’t stand it anymore, and have to say something.

Then, when the United States raises questions as to what in the world Iran is up to, they respond, Uhhh… it’s for a movie! Yeah, that’s the ticket… we’re making a movie… ya know, like ‘Argo.’

Which makes us wonder what they’re really up to. What could be the actual purpose for which making a movie is the transparent cover?

Whatever it is, when they spring it on us, I half expect the Iranians to say, “Argo ___ yourself!”

"I'm, uhhh... making a movie! Yeah, that's the ticket..."

“I’m, uhhh… making a movie! Yeah, that’s the ticket…”

Burl’s take on ‘Monuments Men’

monuments2

John Goodman, Matt Damon, George Clooney, Bob Balaban and Bill Murray.

We had a conversation about movies a couple of days back, and “Monuments Men” came up. Since interest has been expressed, I thought I’d share a link to our own Burl Burlingame’s review of the film.

Excerpts:

Hitler and the Nazis were bad dudes. They set the bar on being bad dudes. They not only were intent on dominating the world (to them, Europe WAS the world), the Nazi mission statement involved wiping out entire cultures and races. Not just killing them, but erasing them from history. The focus of “Monuments Men” is the rescue of priceless art seized by the Nazis, either as booty or to be destroyed.

Actually, “priceless” is too weak a word. Maybe irreplaceable….

The “Monuments Men” were a group of older artists, architects, historians and other scholars drafted by the army to save artwork and architecture from Nazi nihilism. They came under fire, just like other soldiers, but their mission was to save the best works yet produced by humanity….

In order to sell the film to disinterested modern audiences, Clooney adopts a wisecracking, ironic tone that is surface-level entertaining. But this creates a distance between characters and situation, and “Monuments Men” never quite catches fire. This stand-offishness also undercuts the true horror of the Nazi menace and makes them cartoons and buffoons. It’s very “Hogan’s Heroes.”…

That doesn’t mean it’s not an entertaining couple of hours, and if folks learn a thing or two about this historical niche, that’s swell. I liked “Monuments Men,” but nobody is going to love it.

Oh, just go read the whole thing. As usual with Burl, it’s well-written…

George Clooney as an old-fashioned hero

george-clooney-gravity-image

Several members of my family were watching the Oscars last night, and occasionally I’d step into the room, taking a break from re-reading The Far Side of the World for about the sixth time, which is something I’d rather do than watch the Oscars. (I’m still mad about the “Shakespeare In Love”-as-Best-Picture fiasco of 1998.)

So I heard a couple of references to the movie “Gravity” — which stands out among the films of this past year in that I actually went to see it in a theater. I had heard that a) it was good, and b) the 3D was actually worth seeing. So several weeks ago, I went to see it while I could still catch it in that format.

It was good, and the 3D, while not being mind-blowing, was at least watchable. It didn’t get in the way. But I wouldn’t call it indispensable. I think the film would have been visually impressive without it.

But that’s not what I wanted to write about. This morning, skimming through my email, I saw a link to a Slate piece about the Oscars, and I followed it because I was curious what they could possibly mean by the headline, “Ellen Was the Stephen Colbert of Oscars Hosts.” Turns out, not much. But on the way to finding that out, I ran across this sentence fragment (believe me, you don’t want to read the whole sentence; it’s unintelligible to anyone who doesn’t live and breathe celebrity news): “… another montage about heroes, featuring almost no women.”

No, I don’t know what that referred to, and don’t care. But it got me thinking about George Clooney in “Gravity,” who I thought was impressive as an old-fashioned, early ’60s-or-earlier kind of hero, the kind you don’t see all that often in movies anymore.

MAJOR SPOILER ALERT. Seriously, I’m about to give away the whole movie, so if you care about that, stop reading now.

Yes, the movie centers around Sandra Bullock’s character, who spends most of the screen time alone. The film is mainly about her grit and determination to survive. You would in fact call her character heroic if she were saving anyone other than herself, but whether you call it that or not, her struggle is pretty gripping.

But the reason she spends all that screen time alone is that at the beginning, George Clooney’s character gives his life so that she’ll have a chance.

And in his few minutes on screen, he exhibits enough Traditional Manly Virtues to fill up the whole film and more. He seems to personify all the courage we ascribed to the original seven Mercury astronauts, as described by Tom Wolfe in The Right Stuff. And as befits a hero, he wears it lightly, hid in a constant stream of wisecracks, maintaining an even strain.

There’s a dynamic between him and the Bullock character that I’ve seen in real workplaces. She is the no-nonsense woman who has a task to perform and is doing it not because she enjoys it, but because it needs doing and she knows how to do it, and she just wants to get it done and go home and maybe put her feet up, but while she’s working she has to put up with this lollygaggin’, wisecracking guy who doesn’t seem to have enough to do and who is maybe flirting with her or something, which is something she doesn’t need.

Although it turns out that the good-time Charlie thing is just part of his leadership style. He’s just trying to get a smile out of someone having a bad day (because if you can do that, the unit functions more smoothly). But that’s not all there is to him. When things go bad and somebody needs to give orders, he does so with a crisp, commanding confidence. No question at that point that he is the mission commander, and there’s a reason for that. Because as much as you might need scientists and techies to make the gadgets work, there’s a time when you need a pilot, a guy who routinely hangs his hide out over the edge in a hurtling piece of machinery and hauls it back in again without breaking a sweat — someone schooled in emergency, someone at home with danger. You need someone in charge who knows exactly what he’s doing, even when everything’s gone all to hell.

His persona makes such an impression on Sandra Bullock’s character that even well after he is certainly dead, at a point when she has decided to just give up and let herself pass out from lack of oxygen, he returns to her in a hallucination — still the same lollygaggin’, keeping-it-light guy, but gently goading her into waking up and doing what it takes to survive, in spite of the odds.

And the thing is, he does all of this without seeming like a caricature, or a stereotype, or a throwback to movies gone by. In fact, he does all this more artfully and smoothly than most Traditional Heroes in old movies.

Anyway, I was impressed by that. And I wonder whether any actor other than Clooney could have pulled it off….

We lose Maurice Bessinger and Harold Ramis on the same day

bill_murray-stripes1981-1040

Which means nothing, of course — I mean, the fact that they died on the same day means nothing; obviously their respective deaths mean a great deal to their families — but it struck me as an odd juxtaposition.

Maurice Bessinger, purveyor of yellow barbecue and “South Will Rise Again” tracts was 83. The man who gave us Egon “Print is Dead” Spengler and Army recruit Russell Ziskey (and as a writer and director, such gems as “Groundhog Day” and “Analyze This”) was only 69. And yes, my very first thought on the latter’s passing was that maybe collecting spores, molds and fungus was not the healthiest hobby. I mean that fondly, and intend no disrespect.

In Maurice’s behalf, I’ll note that his barbecue was my youngest daughter’s favorite. As the baby of the family, she had trouble understanding why the rest of us preferred not to give him our custom while that flag was flying at his restaurants. But now my daughter is off in Thailand with the Peace Corps, so I don’t think her BBQ preference limited her horizons or worldview any.

As for why the juxtaposition is notable, well… Maurice was a man who went out of his way to stand up for outmoded ideas, a man who insisted on pushing a discredited worldview even when it drove customers away. Ramis, on the other hand, was a harbinger of a new ironic meme in our popular culture, the smirking wise guy who poked gentle, mocking fun at our social foibles. One insisted on respect for ideas that had never deserved it; the other urged us not to take ourselves so seriously.

For what that’s worth…

Have fun storming the castle (a bit late)!

Click on this to blow it up.

Click on this to blow it up.

I missed this reunion of the cast of “The Princess Bride” when it happened a couple of years ago (to celebrate the film’s 25th anniversary), but since I just ran across it today, I thought I would share.

The photo, near as I can tell, came from Entertainment Weekly. Here are some close-ups from it.

So you want me to go back to politics and other serious stuff? As you wish…

I’d like to have seen a sequel in which Billy Jack, with great reluctance and a heavy sigh, kicks Old Age’s butt

"You know what I'm gonna do?"

“You know what I’m gonna do?”

Local boss man Stuart Posner couldn’t take down Billy Jack. Billy kicked his butt.

Posner’s worthless, sniveling son Bernard couldn’t do anything to Billy Jack, either. Billy kicked his butt once, and when that didn’t take, made him drive his ‘Vette into a lake, and when that didn’t work, came back and killed him with a chop to the windpipe.

Deputy Mike, daddy of the pregnant runaway girl, couldn’t stop Billy Jack, despite shooting him in the gut with a rifle.

A rattlesnake couldn’t even kill him. Its multiple bites were just steps on his path to becoming stronger.

In the end, the most banal, mundane, everyday bully got Billy Jack — old age and years of failing health.

“Billy Jack” was, as anyone who has watched it again years later can attest, a painfully amateurish, rather silly film. The one thing a fair critic can say for it is that it was better than the three other films in which Tom Laughlin played the character.

But that one semester that I attended USC, the fall of 1971, the film was what Jesse Pinkman would call “the bomb.” We loved it. We’d never seen anything like it before, although we’d soon see something that copied the formula on TV — the formula being a character who’s all about talking nonviolence and exotic mysticism, but who is forced, with great reluctance, to kick bad guy’s butts on a regular basis. Which was why we watched.

The films were awful, but it would have been nice to have seen him prevail over the foe that got him in the end…

Apparently, some newspapers still have money to waste

scene

That’s all I can think after glancing through this offering of “one-line films created by the Oscar-winning cinematographer Janusz Kaminski.”

Which, the credits tell us, were produced by The New York Times Magazine.

And which star Robert Redford, Cate Blanchett, Bradley Cooper, Oprah Winfrey and others.

Wow. Apparently, some newspapers still have money to waste…