Category Archives: Film

Dave Brown: David Cameron, Strangelovian

British editorial cartoonists have always been a bit more venturesome in their inclusion of classic film tropes in their work [previously], in part, we suspect, because Brits are still, as Americans once were, more attuned to the history of film.

Dave Brown’s latest work for The Independent depicts British Prime Minister David Cameron’s eager embrace of the bombing campaigns in Syria and Iraq against ISIS:

BLOG Brown

The cartoon is also a pointed reference fo a brilliant 1963 film by director Stanley Kubrick, Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, a brilliant satire of bellicose Cold War politics and the threat of imminent nuclear war weighing heavily on the minds of the Baby Boomer generation.

The film starred some of the greatest stars of the silver screen, including the brilliant Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, and Sterling Hayden. The film also features the screen debut of James Earl Jones and the first non-Western appearance by former rodeo clown Slim Pickens — in the iconic role portrayed in Brown’s cartoon as B-52 pilot Major T. J. “King” Kong, who is forced to manually rewire the controls to drop a hydrogen bomb on a Soviet missile complex.

And here it is:

And if you haven’t seen the film, by all means do!

Roman Polanski wins another legal battle

If California Gov. Jerry Brown had a lick of common sense, he’d pardon Roman Polanski and end a wrong-headed and probably illegal campaign by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office to drag the world famous director back to the U.S. to “serve out” a prison sentence that he had already completely 39 years ago.

Yet even the American press, which covered the case extensively at the time, fail to note that Polanski’s time at a California state prison was the sentence agreed to by all parties in the case: Polanski, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, the young woman on whom Polanski committed statutory rape, her family, and the corrupt judge who presided over the case, Laurence J. Rittenband, whose best friend was one of the country’s most powerful gangsters.

We know about the case firsthand, covering every court session and interviewing the key legal figures in depth as a reporter for the Santa Monica Evening Outlook. And we have posted extensively about the case and the corruption at the heart of the ongoing extradition efforts.

A few years ago we even played a major role in a documentary film about the case, Roman Polanski, Wanted and Desired.

The woman at the center of the case has repeatedly called for the Los Angeles District Attorney to stop the extradition efforts and leave Polanski alone, and the deputy district attorney who prosecuted Polanski has stated for the record that the director fulfilled all the obligations imposed by the plea agreement.’

But the DA’s won’t given up, even though Rittenband demonstrably breached the canons of judicial ethics by discussing the case with reporters [us most notably, and with pals from the Hillcrest Country Club, once he began to have second thoughts after drawing criticism from the spouses of those Hillcrest pals].

We have no idea how many hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of dollars have been wasted on the DA’s office, fueled in part by frankly erroneous reports from newspaper like the Washington Post, which ought to know better.

The Swiss rejected a prolonged attempt to extradite Polanski from their country, declaring, as the Guardian reported at the time, that:

[I]ts decision to reject extradition for Polanski was based in part on US authorities’ failure to provide transcripts of secret testimony given by the attorney who originally handled the director’s case [Deputy District Attorney Roger Gunson, one of the most honorable people we have ever met — esnl]. The testimony “should prove” that Polanski actually served his sentence while undergoing a court-ordered diagnostic study after charges were filed, the Swiss justice ministry said.

“If this were the case, Roman Polanski would actually have already served his sentence and therefore both the proceedings on which the US extradition request is founded and the request itself would have no foundation,” the ministry said. They also noted that Polanski’s victim, Samantha Geimer, has repeatedly asked that the case be dropped.

But that decision came only after Polanski had been jailed, then subjected to nine months’ house arrest.

And now a second effort by the L.A. District Attorney has been conclusively overturned by yet another European government.

From Reuters:

A Polish court’s decision to deny the extradition of film-maker Roman Polanski to the United States over a 1977 child sex conviction became legally binding on Friday after an appellate prosecutor’s office said it found no justification to appeal it.

The case of the Oscar-winning director, now 82, who holds Polish and French citizenship, has been an international cause celebre nearly four decades after the crime, with some demanding harsh punishment and others urging the case be let go.

“Speaking for Polanski, I can say that we feel a great relief that this case has ended,” Jan Olszewski, one of Polanski’s lawyers said. “And this means that it will be possible for Polanski to start making a planned film in Poland.”

The appellate prosecutor’s office in the city of Krakow said in a statement on Friday that its analysis of the evidence collected in the case showed the earlier court decision on denying extradition had been correct.

So get on with it, Jerry Brown, issue a pardon and spend the state’s money on more worthy causes, like building housing for the poor.

Quote of the day: An homage to an actor

From a New York Times essay by author John le Carré, on working with the late actor Philip Seymour Hoffman on the set of A Most Wanted Man, a film based on le Carré’s novel of the same name:

[H]is intuition was luminous from the instant you met him. So was his intelligence. A lot of actors act intelligent, but Philip was the real thing: a shining, artistic polymath with an intelligence that came at you like a pair of headlights and enveloped you from the moment he grabbed your hand, put a huge arm round your neck and shoved a cheek against yours; or if the mood took him, hugged you to him like a big, pudgy schoolboy, then stood and beamed at you while he took stock of the effect.

Philip took vivid stock of everything, all the time. It was painful and exhausting work, and probably in the end his undoing. The world was too bright for him to handle. He had to screw up his eyes or be dazzled to death. Like Chatterton, he went seven times round the moon to your one, and every time he set off, you were never sure he’d come back, which is what I believe somebody said about the German poet Hölderlin: Whenever he left the room, you were afraid you’d seen the last of him. And if that sounds like wisdom after the event, it isn’t. Philip was burning himself out before your eyes. Nobody could live at his pace and stay the course, and in bursts of startling intimacy he needed you to know it.

And now for something completely different. . .

We begin with a Canadian love story, starring a log driver, a member of that remarkably agile class of loggers whose specialty is preventing logs from bunching up and snarling the progress of other logs as they are driver downriver to lumber mills.

Augmenting the song is an animation, and the whole package has made the cartoon short one of the most-requested offerings from the the National Film Board of Canada:

Canada Vignettes: Log Driver’s Waltz

Program notes:

This lighthearted, animated short is based on the song “The Log Driver’s Waltz” by Wade Hemsworth. Easily one of the most often-requested films in the NFB collection, Kate and Anna McGarrigle sing along to the tale of a young girl who loves to dance and chooses to marry a log driver over his more well-to-do competitor. Driving logs down the river has made the young man the best dancing partner to be found.

Directed by John Weldon – 1979

And we could hardly offer a song about Canadian loggers without adding a very famous song from Monty Python’s Flying Circus, from whom we’ve also taken the title of our regular feature:

Monty Python- Lumberjack Song

And while we’re at it, how about a rendering of the Python favorite in German, a language to which it seems remarkably suited:

And now for something completely different. . .

We’re always willing to sit back and given a listen when older British actors sit down to reminisce.

British actors traditionally flowed easily between film, television, and, of course, the stage, unlike in the United States [until recently], where agents typically kept film stars off the tube, and where the capitals of stage and film are a continent apart.

Today’s video treat comes from this year’s Mill Valley Film Festival, across the Bay from Casa esnl, where one of Britain’s finest actors, Sir. Ian McKellen, sat down, microphone in hand, to pay tribute to the women of film — both in front of the camera and behind it — who have graced his life.

From the Mill Valley Film Festival:

Ian McKellen Remembers. . . Women I’ve Filmed with

Program notes:

From Ava Gardner and Meryl Streep to Mrs. Harold Pinter and Laura Linney, McKellen has worked with the best on screen. This one-hour talk was a unique event devised exclusively for MVFF. A great companion piece to his Tribute at the Festival, his presentation highlighted his work with some of cinema’s most legendary actresses, including Gardner, Streep, Pinter, and Linney as well as Grace Kelly, Flora Robson, Sandy Dennis, Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Annette Bening, Lynn Redgrave, Rachel Weisz, Kathy Bates, Stockard Channing, Halle Berry, Natasha Richardson, Audrey Tatou, and Cate Blanchett.

And now for something completely different. . .

Here’s another remarkable piece of animation from the National Film Board of Canada, an award-winning stop-motion creation fives years in the making.

It’s dark, enigmatic, and relentlessly fascinating.

And here it is, a surrealistic marvel:

Madame Tutli-Putli

Program notes:

This stop-motion animated film takes viewers on an exhilarating existential journey into the fully imagined, tactile world of Madame Tutli-Putli. As she travels alone on the night train, weighed down with her all her earthly possessions and the ghosts of her past, she faces both the kindness and menace of strangers. Finding herself caught up in a desperate metaphysical adventure, adrift between real and imagined worlds. she confronts her demons.

Directed by Chris Lavis & Maciek Szczerbowski – 2007.

Headline of the day: Sharia law, Israeli style

More idiocy from The Only Democracy In The Middle East™, via the Guardian:

Jennifer Lawrence removed from Israeli Hunger Games posters

The star of Mockingjay – Part 2 has been deleted from marketing materials in Jerusalem and some other cities to avoid offending religious audiences

Posters for the final part of the dystopian action franchise in some parts of Israel have been redesigned so as to remove the Oscar-winning actor. Instead, Katniss Everdeen and her bow and arrow have been replaced with a mockingjay in a handful of cities across the country, including Bnei Brak and Jerusalem. “We discovered that public posters with the image of a female are often torn down in Jerusalem, while Bnei Brak does not allow posters with female images,” a representative of the film’s Israeli PR firm said to Ynet.