Saturday, May 31, 2014

Disney Costume Question

Lots of folks are going to see Angelina Jolie as Disney's Maleficent.  They'll find out why the sweet forest fairy turned into a vengeful character out to get Sleeping Beauty.  Will they find out where Maleficent got those cheekbones that could balance teacups?  I hope those things got their own screen credit.

I want to see this new Angelina Jolie movie.  Here's my question about her outfit:  Are those shofars on her head?  Is that the kind of thing that would make her a hit if she wore it to temple services on Rosh Hashanah?

Just wondering.  If you see Disney's Maleficent, let me know what you thought about it.  Have fun this weekend.


Friday, May 30, 2014

On SPELLBOUND (2002)

A dear friend and neighbor, an executive for Canon, took me to a screening of this 2002 documentary.  Canon contributed to the making of Spellbound.  You might think that a documentary about children competing in the Scripps National Spelling Bee would be light and amusing.  In some parts, it was.  But overall, it was one of the most fascinating, revealing, dramatic and poignant features I'd seen that year.  I connected emotionally to it.  The spelling bee in grade school and middle school was my battlefield.  I was not that skilled at sports on on the playground but, when it came to spelling, I was the warrior that you wanted in your army.  Often, our classroom spelling bees pitted one team against the other.  On the playground, I was often the last to be chosen.  In the spelling bees, I was a popular choice.  I loved those competitions and my teachers knew I loved them.  I saw my young face in many of the faces in Spellbound.
One of the most revealing things about the documentary is the difference between the haves and have nots in America.  Not only the economic difference but the behavioral differences.  The have nots mind the manners.  One youngster, from a financially comfortable home, has a tendency to get on your nerves with his precocious quirks that smack of entitlement.
He's like a ham stage actor who keeps mugging.  Meeting the children in the spelling bee makes us want to meet the parents or guardians in their lives.  This spelling bee is not an easy competition.  It's not like a softball game at recess.  This is tougher.

One segment put tears in my eyes.  There is a sweet African-American girl who qualifies to be in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.  She's an inner city kid.  She doesn't live in a pretty suburban neighborhood.  She's a good kid in tough, financially troubled neighborhood.  At school, the teachers love her and the classmates love her.  She's absolutely precious and she wins your heart.

When she succeeds in qualifying for the spelling bee, her single mother had a serious question for the camera.  She wanted to know where was the press for her daughter?  Where were the local TV cameras asking her daughter how she felt about her scholastic accomplishment?  Where were the newspaper reporters to take interview her?  There were none.  But if that girl had committed a crime, she'd have made local headlines.

That was the part that broke my heart and brought tears to my eyes.  My first TV appearance was on a syndicated nighttime film trivia show called The Movie Game.  The show was shot in Hollywood.  My mother was in the audience.  I was on a special teen edition.  My celebrity teammates were Phyllis Diller and Hugh O'Brian.  My opponent had Dyan Cannon and David Janssen.  I was the show's first black contestant.  At that time, I was also its youngest contestant.  I was 16.  I lived in South Central L.A. and attended a high school in Watts.

I became the first black winner on The Movie Game.  I got no local press attention.  My proud mother said that if I'd committed a crime, I would've gotten press attention.  Just like the mother said of her teen in the 1999 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

In America, it's amazing how some socioeconomic things change -- and how they don't.  The teens in this documentary never come off as oddball dorks.  They're just average kids with a scholastic gift.  The  competition itself, which we see, will really keep you glued to the screen.  It's not dull at all.

Spellbound is worth renting.  Remember, it's not the Alfred Hitchcock classic of the same name.  It's the 2002 documentary.
This year Jason Bateman directed and starred in a comedy called Bad Words.  He plays a spelling bee loser who seeks revenge.  With the help of a lovelorn reporter, he finds a legal way to enter the national spelling bee.
He's cantankerous and verbally rude.  A modern-day Scrooge.  It's a defense against life.  He strikes up an unlikely friendship with a tough little rival in the spelling bee.
This comedy didn't do well at the box office.  Folks missed a fine performance by Bateman.  You can see his character mature.  You discover the broken heart behind his bad words.  There's a reason why he seeks revenge as an adult in the spelling bee.  This comedy was ultimately about the power of words -- how we use them, how we choose to use them, and the power they have.  I liked Bad Words a lot.  And I went into the screening expecting to hate it.  From what I'd seen in the trailer, I thought I was in for something like those silly and juvenile Adam Sandler comedies.  Wrong.  Bad Words has a point and heart that reveal themselves.

Jason Bateman did solid work as an actor and director in this comedy.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Hello, Dolly Parton

She should have an Oscar.  Dolly Parton is on the road, touring to promote her new album.  I want to hear it.  Heck, I'd love to see Dolly in concert.  She's the real deal.

Here's new album is entitled Blue Smoke.

I've been lucky enough to interview Dolly Parton three times in my TV career.  The first two times were when I worked for the ABC TV affiliate in Milwaukee.  That was my first professional TV job.  I interviewed her for Milwaukee's edition of PM Magazine  when she was promoting her 1982 musical comedy movie, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.  My feature on her aired nationally.  The next time we talked, she was promoting her 1984 comedy with Sylvester Stallone, Rhinestone.  Here's a photo of us.


She is one of the smartest entertainers I've ever met, a shrewd businesswoman and one of America's most prolific and best  songwriters.  Consider her hits:  "Jolene," "Coat of Many Colors," "Here You Come Again," "Nine to Five" and "I Will Always Love You."  Dolly had a hit record singing her own composition with that lilting voice and then made even more money when Whitney Houston had a huge hit with her rousing rhythm and blues rendition of Dolly's hit.  To me, Dolly Parton is like the Johnny Mercer of country music.    She has a keen sense of herself and an equally keen -- and lightning fast -- sense of humor.

This portion of a Cosmopolitan magazine article will show you what I mean.  It's accurate.  I was present when it happened.  This is from the October 1989 issue of Cosmopolitan.  The article by Chris Chase was called "Sassy, Unsinkable Dolly."
Dolly was back after taking some time off.  She took her recognizable look and spunky country attitude to movie with great success in Nine to Five.  The film version of the Broadway hit The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas followed.  Then she had a weekend variety show ABC.  She bought a West Coast home located in West Hollywood.  But, instead of letting Dolly be Dolly, the network made her over into sort of a modern day city slicker Mae West.  In its last few editions, Dolly went back to being herself.  The show was canceled.  Dolly came back, slimmer, and had a new movie coming out.  Steel Magnolias went to do extremely well at the box office.  Her new album, White Limozeen, was in stores and we were playing a Dolly Parton music video on VH1.

By the time I had my third interview experience with Dolly, I was on national television in New York City hosting a VH1 talk show.

*** Cosmopolitan excerpt***

So Dolly is in New York to push all of the above, and one of the first stops is the cable show of disc jockey Bobby Rivers.  On the air, Rivers quotes a lyric from "Why'd You Come in Here" about someone with "big ideas and a little behind."  "I've known you since I had little ideas and a big behind," whoops Dolly.  Rivers laughs and asks how long it takes to do her hair.  "I don't know how long it takes," says Dolly.  "I'm never there...my hair is in the next room."

Rivers wants to know what Dolly would alter if she ran the world -- Gregory Peck said he'd stop racism, Jodie Foster would stop pollution -- and Dolly thinks for a second.  Then:  "I'd like to see everybody with a bellyful of food and a houseful of furniture and a car."  Practical Dolly.  Let others consider the big picture, her eye is on the sparrow.

***End of excerpt***

Dolly was truly that quick with her responses and answers.  She was always a terrific guest.

As for the Oscar?  I would have given her the Best Song Academy Award for "Travelin' Thru."  That's the wonderful tune she wrote for 2005's TransAmerica, the film that also got an Oscar nomination for Best Actress (Felicity Huffman).

Dolly lost the Best Song Oscar to "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" from Hustle & Flow.  That's showbiz.

I can't wait to hear both songs covered by Michael Bublé.

One more thing:  Back in the '90s, I took a vacation to meet my late partner's family in Tennessee.  During my vacation, we went Dollywood, her theme park in Pigeon Forge, TN.  Not only did I have some of the biggest fun ever on the rides, I would have gone back a second time just for the food.  Her theme park restaurant food was "smack yo' mama" good.  What a fabulous time we had.  To know more about it, go here:  Dollywood.com.

To know more about Dolly Parton's Blue Smoke tour dates, go here:  DollyPartonEntertainment.com.






Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Silent Screen Hunk, George O'Brien

This year, I got fascinated with the  movie talent of actor George O'Brien.  In college, when I took film courses, I saw his performance in F. W. Murnau's silent 1927 classic, Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans.  Now that classic films have been restored, remastered and put on DVD, I love Sunrise even more.  Janet Gaynor starred as the timid and sweet country wife.  O'Brien starred as the loving country husband who's being led astray by the town slut.  For quite a long time, I was really only aware of that George O'Brien lead performance.  And it's an excellent one.  A star in the silent era, he was one talented hunk o' man.  If he was being played today in a biopic, as I wrote in an earlier blog post, he should be played by Jon Hamm.  There's a slight resemblance.
The first Oscars awarded were for film released in 1927-28.  Janet Gaynor was voted Best Actress for performances in three silent films.  One of them was Sunrise.  O'Brien was not a Best Actor nominee.  But, seeing the film today, I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels that he should have been.
George O'Brien was a big, brawny athlete who moved very well.  He was fresh out of World War I and got Hollywood employment as a stuntman.  He got upgraded and proved to be a natural actor.  Also, he seemed to have an instinct for inspired physicality in his character roles.  He didn't just coast on his handsome face.  When his husband character in Sunrise is under the spell of the town tramp, he almost moves like Frankenstein's monster in a hypnotic trance.  The husband has changed.  His wife is scared.

I've watched a few other films of his from the silent era.  Wow.  He could go from action movie to costume drama to screwball comedy with impressive ease.  He truly was versatile.  With looks, talent and charisma, George O'Brien was the complete package.

He'd be a star today.  He was wore clothes very well.  He could go from roughneck character to looking quite Gentlemen's Quarterly.  He also looked mighty fine without clothes.  His nickname in Hollywood was "The Chest."  A shirtless O'Brien on film was the money shot.

In the 1930s, he was a popular star of low-budget westerns.  I saw some of those and it's evident why he was popular.  I bet he'd have been a bigger star had he been with a bigger studio.  He had the goods to star in A-list studio movies like Gary Cooper, Joel McCrea, Fred MacMurray and John Wayne did in the 1930s and early '40s.  Just like those four actors, he should've starred opposite Jean Arthur, another graduate of silent films.  A decorated World War I hero, O'Brien enlisted for service during World War II.

One thing that hit me when I saw in Fig Leaves, a satirical 1926 Howard Hawks comedy, was how comfortable O'Brien seemed to be in his own skin.  He was as physically animated as an actor who did comedy for Hawks years later -- Cary Grant (Bringing Up Baby, His Girl Friday, I Was a Male War Bride).  Grant -- another actor who starred opposite Jean Arthur.    You just know that women moviegoers loved George O'Brien -- and he was probably the object of quite a few man-crushes, as they say today.

I saw a 1926 film he starred in that was directed by John Ford.  It's a silent film about navy roughnecks, rivals who become buddies.  Janet Gaynor plays the love interest.  This is before he and Gaynor made the acclaimed Sunrise.  John Ford's The Blue Eagle runs about one hour.  It has action, romance, some laughs... and George O'Brien's chest.


There's one sequence in the first 15 minutes that really knocked me out.  Don't think that the "bromance" is something that just started in modern-day Hollywood movies.  George O'Brien was giving you bromance before movies learned how to talk.  There's a local hood pushing marijuana in the story and he's pushed some to the sailor's brother.  The sailor is crazy about his brother.  If you look at the scene without knowing they're related, it's like the sailor returns home from the war, finds a guy he cares about a lot on the bed with a bad influence, kicks the low-life guy out, sits next to his troubled male sweetheart on the bed and makes things better.

Forgive the poor quality pictures.  I snapped these pics with my cellphone while watching the movie.  Here's the sweet, vulnerable guy on the bed with a low-life.
The sailor returns to his special guy.
He sees the hood who could take his special guy down the wrong path and kicks him out.

His guy is embarrassed.  And thankful the sailor is home again and close to him.

He's sorry that he was so lonely that he was taken in by the low-life dude.
The sailer will make everything fine again.  His special guy can feel safe again.


The 1920s.  Those were the days when a troubled dude could sit on a bed next to his sailor buddy and hold his hand without getting heat from the Hollywood Production Code censors.

If Jon Hamm did that scene with a male actor exactly the same way in an episode of TV's Mad Men, it would cause giddy national buzz about possible subtext.  That was definitely a 1920s bromance scene in John Ford's navy story.  Look at the physical intimacy between the two actors in The Blue Eagle.  That's very sophisticated stuff.  They took a scene of male bonding and raised the stakes on it.  That kind of bravery is good acting.
George O'Brien was a big hit in John Ford's 1924 action-packed western, The Iron Horse.  O'Brien's final movie role was in another John Ford film -- the 1964 western, Cheyenne Autumn.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Payne in a Sandler Comedy

I have a question about the director and Oscar-winning screenwriter, Alexander Payne.  His work touched my heart.  I paid to see Sideways three times.  If it was showing uncut on TV tomorrow, and I could see it, I'd be parked on the couch. I've heard him interviewed on National Public Radio a few times.  I've never him asked about one alleged comedy that bears his name in the credits.  It came after the Alexander Payne screenplays About Schmidt -- which brought Jack Nicholson an Oscar nomination for Best Actor -- and Sideways.  That wonderful film about days of wine and neuroses brought Payne an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay and he was nominated for Best Director.

After those two triumphs came...I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry starring Kevin James and Adam Sandler.
That Adam Sandler comedy being mentioned after About Schmidt and Sideways is like hearing "This new drama, based on the acclaimed best-selling novel, will star Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren...and Kim Kardashian."

I saw this movie with my SiriusXM morning radio star buddy, Keith Price.  I had to review for the Premiere Radio show I worked on at the time.  Keith and I did not like I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry.  We attended a media screening.  But Alexander Payne's name was in the credits as screenwriter.  I love his screenplays that delve into the black, white, gray and colors of marriage and relationships.  That could have been done in I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry.  This is the tale of two best friends, both firefighters in New York.  One is a widowed father.  There's still much grief in his heart but he must focus on being a good dad and being insured.  There's a glitch with policy paperwork and, in order to keep his insurance up, he must be married.  So, he wants to wed his best buddy in order to keep taking care of his kids.  That's solid Payne territory.  Marriage and Relationships.  We had a sad working class dad who will do anything legal to take care of his kids.

I could've totally hated this movie had it not been for Kevin James.  He committed to the heartbreak of the character.  There were moments when I thought James, if he worked even harder, could do the quality of work Ernest Borgnine did in his Oscar-winning performance as Marty.

Then we come to Adam Sandler as the other firefighter.
With him -- and especially with him in the picture -- much of the screenplay seems like was written by a bunch of uncreative high school boys during their lunch breaks.  Whereas Kevin James is willing to play the heartbreak of the character, lazy Adam Sandler gave you exactly what A.O. Scott wrote in his New York Times review of Sandler's new comedy, Blended, which opened last Friday.  Scott wrote that Sandler again gives you the "...eternal man-child's sometimes invisible charm and his ferociously insisted-upon heterosexuality..."

I read A.O.Scott's review on May 23rd, 2014.  That same exact quote could apply to Sandler in 2007's I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry.  You just wanted to shout at the screen, "OK.  We get it!  You're straight!"

Many in our preview audience groaned at his tired, lazy (there's that word again) homosexual sight gags.  Ving Rhames played the tough firefighter who really is gay and comes out.
In a shower scene, not at all essential to the story, we see nervous hetero firefighters....

....and one drops the soap.

Come on.  That gag's about as old as....as water.  The audience was not amused at that bit.

I didn't know until after I saw the movie that comedian Rob Schneier had a Filipina grandmother.  When I saw his Asian character in I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, all I could think was "This is worse than Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's."  Another unnecessary bit of business that went way too long.

I'm not of any Asian descent.  But, as a minority and as someone who is -- shall we say -- heterosexually-challenged, I found much of this film offensive.

I looked at my press notes from the film company and I looked at the film.  Yes, Alexander Payne's name is in the credits.  But about a dozen other guys were credited too.  Over six writers came up with that cowpie of a script.

Here's my question.  I have a feeling that Alexander Payne wrote a treatment or screenplay for a smart, mature comedy about a friendship that may have led to marriage so that one could be a responsible parent.  I think that when Adam Sandler signed on to do it, he brought in his "comedy posse" to stuff it with gags to attract the aging frat boy Sandler fan base that would spend some money at the box office.  He probably had the mostly male corporate Hollywood support on that move.  I think Payne's work was altered and he left the project but still got credit.  Am I right on that?  If so, what was Payne's original script like?  How did the Sandler experience affect his future Hollywood dealings?

You've got About Schmidt and Sideways.  Later, there came two more critically acclaimed and Oscar-nominated films from Alexander Payne -- The Descendants starring George Clooney (nominated for Best Actor) and Nebraska starring Bruce Dern (nominated for Best Actor). Those are two quality movies written by Alexander Payne.

I want to know how he went from this....

to this....

...to this release with scantily clad babes and very broad, very juvenile sight gags.


Something must have happened to his original work -- and I believe that thing was Adam Sandler.  Lazy actor Adam Sandler.  If you know anything about Alexander Payne and the non-Wikipedia inside story behind his screenwriting credit for I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, let me know.

As for Adam Sandler, I wish he would return to challenging himself as an actor and doing some mature work like he did in Punch-Drunk Love and Spanglish.  I liked those two performances of his very much.









Monday, May 26, 2014

2 Critics Love Clive Owen

A couple of years ago, I discovered and became a major fan of Airtalk, the weekday show on KPCC listener supported talk radio out of Pasadena, California.  I listen to it on my computer.  Its host, Larry Mantle, is outstanding.  Listening to him is practically a master class in how to be a good host.  He listens, he asks excellent questions, he's informed, he's warm and he keeps a working class sensibility about the topics, no matter how lofty they may be.  That gives the show a golden appeal.  He doesn't talk down to people and he doesn't presume that topics may be too high up for the average person to grasp.  That was a quality I loved about Roger Ebert's film journalism.

My favorite Airtalk day is Friday.  Every Friday starting at noon, we get one hour of "Filmweek."  Guest critics come on and review films -- big Hollywood releases, small indie films, documentaries, foreign films -- the whole range.  And it's a snark free hour.  The critics take their work and the film discussion seriously.  But it's not so serious that it's not entertaining.  Also, Larry Mantle -- unlike network morning news programs when they had regular film critics -- promotes racial and sexual diversity.  We hear black critics and we hear women of all colors reviewing movies.

Last Friday's critics on KPCC's "Filmweek" hour of Airtalk were Henry Sheehan and Wade Major.  They were so enthusiastic, so passionate in their support of a new drama that is now out in limited release that it was one of the most memorable radio segments I'd heard all last week on any radio station.  One of them said something so wise that it made me go, "Wow."  The new movie stars Clive Owen.

His co-star, playing a physically disabled teacher, is Juliette Binoche.

Here's the trailer for Words and Pictures.  Check to see if it's playing near you.

Sheehan and Major said that some of their esteemed colleagues were lukewarm to Words and Pictures in their reviews.  It was then that their segment went up a big notch into kitchen sink-realness and honesty that wowed me.  One, with all due respect to their colleagues, said that many critics are skilled at watching movies but they're not too skilled at living life.

I thought that was brilliant.  And true.

They both stressed that the life experiences two of the filmmakers brought to the project, experiences that give the film depth, should be regarded more than they were by their colleagues.  The director is Fred Schepisi (pronouned Skep-see).  He directed Meryl Streep to an Oscar nomination for A Cry in the Dark.  That's the movie most folks have, in their minds, retitled A Dingo Ate My Baby.  He also directed Six Degrees of Separation.  This new film was written by Gerald Di Pego.

The director and the screenwriter are in their 70s.  Both critics said that, in Words and Pictures, actor Clive Owen "has never been better."  Both critics agreed that Words and Pictures is perhaps Fred Schepisi's best film since 1988's A Cry in the Dark.

Their passion for the art made that film come alive for me.  I want to see it.  I've been around a lot of critics through the years, mostly in New York City, when I was an entertainment reporter.  I've read their reviews, sat with them at movie screenings, watched them on TV.  Not all, but some do seem to act as though they consider themselves to be celebrities on equal par with the stars on the screen.  And  there can be a sense of entitlement.  They usually don't pay to see new movies like we do.  In New York City, critics often see films for free with their colleagues.  Not with an audience of average moviegoers who paid for their tickets.  Sometimes you wonder if they ever spend time talking to average moviegoers of different races, ages and economic backgrounds.  Those conversations could inform their work.

In their reviews, you know that they're film intellectuals and have seen many domestic and foreign films.  But, in their writing, you don't get a sense that they've lived.  That they have a connection to the ordinary person.  That they have such a passion for the art of film that they'd do what they do if they had to pay for their movie admission before writing reviews and did not get reimbursed for it. Their writing is impressive, scholarly and witty .... but it lacks a soul.  With Roger Ebert, we felt a connection.  We knew that he was having a life -- especially after he was diagnosed with the ailment that, in time, took his physical life.  His spirit came through in his writing.  His work was a love story.  His life had a love story.  He was passionate about the art of film...and about life.

Last Friday, Henry Sheehan and Wade Major were wonderfully passionate about the art of director Fred Schepisi.  It was great to hear.

Catch "Filmweek" on Airtalk Fridays a noon, Pacific Time.  For the KPCC website, go here:  scpr.org.


Saturday, May 24, 2014

Space Alien for Memorial Day

Klaatu:  "I am fearful when I see people substituting fear for reason."

If the kids won't think that an old black and white science-fiction movie is corny, I have a recommendation for one to watch with them during the Memorial Day weekend.  It's long been one of my favorites ever since I was a kid and watched it on television.  I've grown to appreciate it much, much more in my adult years and have rented the DVD quite a few times.

Tall, slim Michael Rennie plays the visitor from another planet who lands in Washington, D.C. to deliver an urgent global message to the people of Earth.  To help him get his message across, there's Gort.  You don't mess with Gort.  That is not a CD shuffle in his head.  Work his last good robot nerve and he can turn you into dust.
           
                                                                                          
The 1951 movie is The Day the Earth Stood Still.


World War 2 was over.  Greater weapons of mass destruction have been created.  America is in the age of the atom bomb.  The Day the Earth Stood Still is a suspenseful and intelligent plea for peace.  It surpasses most sci-fi fare of the time with its fine production qualities and thoughtful writing.  The mysterious but kind space alien's name is Klaatu.  But there's already a lot of hate and anti-diversity feelings towards him simply because he's...well...an intergalactic immigrant.  To blend in with earthlings, he calls himself "Carpenter."  He's Mr. Carpenter.  His space craft has landed.  It's arrival is the international headline of the day.  The visitors have come in peace.  But how do American men deal with it even before the visitors have uttered one word?  They whip out big guns.

Mr. Carpenter has blended in with the residents of a boarding house in Washington, D.C.  He wins the immediate friendship of a sweet little boy named Bobby  Benson.  His mom, Helen, is a single working mother.  A widow.  Her husband was killed serving in World War 2.  Mr. Carpenter wants to know more about his surroundings.  He's fond of Bobby.  Bobby's mother embraces diversity.  The man she's dating does not and neither do some of the other residents.  Some don't even like Democrats.

The literature of film -- the way scenes are photographed and the information we're given -- tells us that Mr. Carpenter is good and wants to see an end to wars.  Look at how he and Bobby are framed when touring our nation's capital.
There's a symmetry with young Bobby, Mr. Bobby and the Lincoln Memorial.  Mr. Carpenter reads The Gettysburg Address and says "Those are great words."

Here's why this is fine for Memorial Day weekend:  Bobby takes Mr. Carpenter to Arlington National Cemetery where his soldier father is buried.  Mr. Carpenter is awed to see so many headstones, so many dead because of war.  We sense this gives Klaatu/Mr. Carpenter more urgency to deliver his message.
He must meet with the most brilliant scientist he can.  Bobby suggests Professor Barnhardt.  The professor has been grappling with a theory, complicated equation for days.  It's on a blackboard.  To Klaatu, it's like grade school math.  He solves it within seconds.  The professor then realizes he's been visited by the space alien.  He understands the message of peace Klaatu needs to deliver.  By the replica of Abraham Lincoln, the way Michael Rennie's character was framed, we could see that Mr. Carpenter is a man of peace.  In this shot, the way it's framed with Professor Barnhardt, we see that Mr. Carpenter is also a man of extraordinary intelligence.
But earth men are still whipping out the big guns and they're after Mr. Carpenter.  His truest allies are Bobby and his mother.  I loved Patricia Neal.  Her Best Actress Oscar-winning performance in Hud is my favorite of her onscreen performances.  This is my second favorite.  She brings such intelligence and dimension to this working class woman role.  She believes her little boy.  She believes Mr. Carpenter when he reveals his true identity.  After he's shot and killed by the military, she keeps a promise to deliver a special message -- in space alien message -- to Klaatu's huge robot bodyguard.  She's scared as all get out -- but she delivers the message:  "Klaatu barada nikto."
There are Bible story overtones to this movie.  Think about it.  Our Heavenly Father needed the world to have a messenger of peace.  Who is contacted to help get that message out there?  Mary, the woman who will become the mother of Jesus.  She's not married.  Bobby's mother is not married.  She's a widow.  What did Jesus do before going on the road with his message?  He was a carpenter.  What does Klaatu call himself on earth?  Carpenter.  Then...there was another major element.  Gort takes Bobby's mother into the space ship.  She sees the body of the slain friendly alien.

With super-advanced technology, Mr. Carpenter is resurrected.

He eventually gets the attention of world leaders gathered in Washington.  First, he shut off all the world's electricity at the same time for a while.  Folks still wouldn't listen.  Klaatu has said "I'm impatient with stupidity.  My people have learned to live without it."  Klaatu is fatally gunned down.  When Gort met aggression with aggression and proved "mine is way bigger than yours," earth men started paying attention.  Klaatu reunites his friend, Helen, with her son, Bobby.  He address the People of Earth before he returns to his planet.  He reminds America that its Founding Fathers made laws to govern themselves.  He says "There must be security for all, or no one is secure."

Klaatu adds "...if you threaten to extend your violence, this Earth of yours will be reduced to a burned-out cinder.  Your choice is simple.  Join us and live in peace, or pursue your present course and face obliteration.  We shall be waiting for your answer..."

In modern terms, that was Klattu's way of "dropping the mic."

I don't know about you, but I wish that would happen.  I wish a peaceful, more advanced being from another planet would land in Washington, D.C. and tell Earth that we'd better get it together. And global warming is real.  Polar bears weren't meant to be skinny and look like supermodel Kate Moss wearing a fur coat.  I really wish we'd be visited by a Klaatu.

The Day the Earth Stood Still  is simple, direct, smart, well-acted and the script is still relevant.  I prefer this version to the overdone remake that came out a few years ago.  The 1951 original was directed by Robert Wise.  He went on to direct West Side Story, The Haunting and The Sound of Music.

Happy Memorial Day.  Take care of the kids.




Angela Lansbury, Happy Birthday!

She got three Oscar nominations for outstanding dramatic performances.  She became a top star of Broadway musicals.  She was the star of one...