Film review” “Yesterday” (2019)

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What an interesting concept! Think for a minute if no one in the world had ever heard of the Beatles and you were a struggling singer/songwriter no one ever heard of who inadvertently covered “Yesterday” for some friends which was greeted with blank looks. A parallel universe where the Beatles never existed. Slowly it dawns that he has a grasp of the genius and as he passes them off as his own from memory. His fame increases and he inevitably enters the fame/money zone recreating the songs.

This constitutes about the first half of the film, following which the film deteriorates into a seemingly endless sappy, dreary romance putting every diabetic in the house into shock, obliterating the original concept. About the time you think it couldn’t get worse…..it does. The last 30 minutes is so bad all that can be heard in the theater is the clank of jaws dropping.

The protagonist Jack does a yeoman job singing all the selections himself. Kate McKinnon as a shark-like record exec tries to save the film and does a great job but she’s isolated. Toward the end of the film Jack has a meeting with someone interesting that alters his perceptions, a plot diversion completely underdeveloped and just plain silly. The film could have been saved by simply better writing. What would the world have been like post-Beatle influence? How would the state of musicology have changed. I guess how would lives have missed what they never had? None of these interesting ideas were explored, the plot endlessly revolving around when a romance will finally bloom.

The film began with a very interesting image that changed from John Wayne to Ratso Rizzo in the space of a few minutes. I cannot recommend this film. It’s an embarrassing flop. Wait till it comes to HBO. I give this film one Martin D-28 acoustic out of five.

David Crippen, MD, FCCM
Professor Emeritus
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (Ret)

Some notes on current political players 4.8.2019

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Both Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Abdullahi Omar mouthing controversial concepts presumably to get as much publicity for them as possible. Everyone knows there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

But it’s faulty logic and they better stop spouting that nonsense out. They like the sound of their voices and they like to create stirs, none of which will do the Democratic effort any good. It will be harmful when the real players rise to the spotlight, players she won’t be a part of. AOC is a figurehead for the reaction against everything Trump stands for but it’s an overreaction and those that rise to the top for the Democratic nod for 2020 will not buy into any of it.

Mueller. The reality is that (it seems) Mueller’s findings didn’t rise to the level of being criminal. Well, OK. Fair enough. But as numerous pundits have observed, there is a lot of space between criminal and unethical, immoral, amoral, unprincipled, unscrupulous and dishonorable. Things that Trump is famous for. So Mueller said he didn’t did anything criminal but he also said things in the space might be there. Presumably he laid out things that might be there (which I’m sure Barr neglected to point out).

Therefore, the congress and the public have an absolute right to have a look at the pure essence of Mueller. What they (we) got was an “interpretation” by a very loyal Trump flunkie with a history of dissing anything Mueller came up with before he came up with it. I would trust the current Attorney General about as far as I’d trust Charlie Manson. Let’s see it all and let’s explore the space just under “criminal”. If the Republicans like to shout that it’s just politics, that’s fine. Now let’s have a look at all the 400 pages. Particularly the parts about what was in Cohen’s office when they raided it.

No, Trump’s base doesn’t care but it needs to come out anyway. A lot of other people care.  Mueller’s revelations may not make a seismic blast, but they will be noticed. And the more reasonable voters that can be convinced that despite the good economy, Trump is a very, very, very bad person at every level and a totally incompetent leader, the better. Chipping away at his base, the ones that voted for him for reasons they would come to regret, is the best chance of getting rid of him in 2020. Yes, his base has a molten core that applauds all of it and listens only to what comes out the end of his phone. But there are also a lot of voters that voted for him specifically because they thought he could “drain the swamp” as an outsider (very faulty logic indeed) and they hated Hillary more. But since 2016, Trump continues to act out in a fashion that alienates him from more and more potential voters. And Hillary isn’t running anymore.

Remember also that the Republicans have NOTHING resembling a health care plan and they will not be able to construct anything workable by the time primaries roll around. You can definitely take that to the bank and a sniff of the 2018 mid-terms was about health care. You can bet ALL of the primaries for 2020 will be about health care. Republicans moving to kill the ACA, putting over 20 million out of health care and nothing to replace it? Really?

So the combination of Trump acting out, the Republicans continuing to insist of a wall that will be expensive out of proportion to benefit among many other atrocities AND the lack of a health care plan will at least make it a possibility that he will be un-electable. Economists also saying that the bull market won’t last indefinitely. The Democrats have a huge advantage simply by extending Medicare and Medicaid to everyone. Very, very expensive but a game winner since the opposition has nothing.

All the Dems have to do now is come up with a credible candidate that can, unlike all the Republican candidates of 2016, stand up to the withering personal TV blows of Trump. Can Biden do that? Maybe. But Biden has luggage and a lot of it. Plus he’s what they now say is an old white man, no longer much credible in todays world of emerging young women. As an old white man myself, I know exactly how that works.

I think in the end, Biden will fizzle as will Bernie as he did in 2016. What’s going to float to the top is one of those females. Pete Buttigieg is a very smart guy with a lot of interesting things to say. I saw Charlie Rose interview him for a full hour years ago and I was incredibly impressed with him then. Speaks multiple languages, Rhodes Scholar, military history. In another world, he would be a strong candidate but in this world, I doubt a gay candidate can win.

It’s gonna be a female that rises to the top. An anti-Hillary, maybe, and it will be pretty quick. Many of those would-be candidates will disappear very quickly when the money gets tight.

Ha!  Big deal meeting between Sec. Nielsen and Trump April 7 in which virtually every pundit predicted she was out, probably unceremoniously. Terse Twitter thanking her for her service. Unclear whether she was formally fired or allowed to resign.

I remember her for her June explanation of the nastiness involving separation of families at the border and kids in cages. The shit-for-brains press secretary who usually defends shit-for-brains Trump with a perfectly straight face wasn’t having any of that shit and informed the press that Sec. Nielsen was making a special trip by air to explain the shit and she (as press secretary) wasn’t having any part of it. She then walked off the podium as Nielsen took the microphone with a smarmy smile to blame the victims. If they hadn’t shown up at the border, they wouldn’t be separated.

So the experts are saying several things. That Trump is actively searching for yes-men, with emphasis on “men” and the job of homeland security is an impossible one for a human to do. So yes-man will follow yes-man, all with sycophantic bullshit to delay the inevitable. And in the immortal words of sub-human activist Stephen Miller, trump needs “tougher” administrators. Miller is perfect for any trump job. Completely heartless and cruel.

The same pundits, almost without exception exclaimed absolutely no sympathy for her. She tried to be a “yes girl” for Trump but in a job that couldn’t be done by a human. She smiled nervously as he routinely publicly embarrassed her, demanded she do impossible jobs then blamed her when it couldn’t be done. I wonder if she’ll write a letter explaining how she couldn’t meet the requirements of the President and so had to resign.

I’ll give Nielsen the benefit of a small doubt that Trump fired her because she had a molecule of integrity. More likely she was a fawning sycophant that ran to the length of her usefulness to Trump.

4.8.2019

DWC

 

Some notes on Cuban trip December 3-7, 2018

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Only 90 miles or so from Miami but much more a foreign flavor. Only recently opened for foreign visitors by Obama who reversed the Bush embargo in 2009. Embassies appeared in 2015. Any US citizen can attend any professional meeting in Cuba but a visa must be obtained. Unclear what hoops must be jumped through to just be a tourist.

On December 3 – 7, the International symposium on altered consciousness and brain death was held. The very gracious Dr. Calixto Machado hosted us.  We stayed at the Habana Librae, the enormous hotel where the meeting was held. The hotel advertised Internet access but it never became available.

The meeting was interesting. It was mostly about the Jahi McMath situation and brain death. I’ll pass on comments regarding that as Michael Kuiper has summarized the daily activities for CCM-L.

My interest really lay in the awesome collection of vintage automobiles that filled the streets of Havana. Mostly 50s and 60s cars, many converted as taxis to show tourists the city. We did an hour and a half tour in a 1955 Chevy convertible.  It was fascinating (see photos later).

Our aim was to see “old Havana” and we did. Old Havana was named a notable historic city centers by UNESCO in 1982. Restored areas of Old Havana features styles from Baroque and neoclassical to art deco. It reminded me of parts of New Orleans a bit was very scary in some respects. Not terribly safe to walk about. Over 28,000 people currently live in unstable dwellings that could collapse without warning. USA Today recently reported almost 4000 building collapses from 2000 to 2013.  In 2016, Havana has a shortage of over 200,000 dwellings. Havana officials are using mostly tourist revenue to solve these problems.

The people of Havana are exceedingly friendly and helpful to foreigners, including Americans. The food in restaurants is always excellent and there is virtually no violent crime. It’s safe to walk anywhere. There are no guns. Interestingly there are also no McDonalds, Burger King, Wendys or any other fast food place.

However, Americans are discriminated against within the economic system, No one in Cuba accepts any credit or debit card from any American bank. It’s cash and carry. American dollars are subject to a 10% tax when converted to Cuban Pesos, plus a 3% service fee. So converting an American dollar will get you 87 cents. However, one Euro will get you 1.14 Cuban Convertible Pesos, but when you go to convert dollars to Euros, the exchange rate at the airport is awful. I changed 700 dollars and got 550 Euros. So you get stiffed coming and going, exchanging anything.

You know me; I’m always on the lookout for interesting knick-knacks.  One of my wife’s friends begged her to bring back some Cuban cigars for her husband. I could have cared less. All cigars smell like dead cats, but I tagged along to the cigar shop just to see them. On arrival, I noticed a decorative (empty) humidor box with Che Guevara’s likeness (smoking a cigar of course) on it in high-resolution porcelain (see photo below). I looked at it for a long time while my wife purchased a box of ten cigars for what amounted to US$100.  Yes, ten bucks per cigar, and there were much more expensive ones available.

By the time I got back to our room, I was obsessed with it and had to have it. I went back and paid a bundle for it. It now graces my mantle. Note in the video also some female (very female) stick figure single cigar holders. I would have bought the entire collection but I ran out of money and had no way to get any more.

Che’s likeness is everywhere in Cuba, many next to Fidel. Che isn’t really a very high-end role model, but I kept my mouth shut about both him and Fidel.

Now for some interesting history about both Fidel and Che. After it became apparent that Castro was a bull blown “Communist” and was quickly aligning his new society after that of Soviet Russia. After the disastrous “Bay of Pigs invasion in April of 1961, Castro’s paranoia became exponential and he became convinced the Kennedy would follow this attack up with much heavier weapons, including nuclear arms. Castro begged Khrushchev to send arms for the protection of Cuba. Khrushchev saw this as an opportunity to place nuclear weapons in the Western hemisphere, under the nose of Kennedy who he considered a weak sister following the poorly planned and executed Bay of Pigs and the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961. Khrushchev didn’t think Kennedy was decisive enough to do anything about it. So off they went, as the Cubans worked to build bases where these weapons could be housed, all quickly spotted by U2 planes. The rest of this is history.

But what isn’t so clear is the nature of Castro’s fervor to revolutionize the world by violent means. Following the Cuban Revolution of 26 July 1959, Che became Castro’s right hand man for the spreading of the gospel of revolution to other Latin countries. Che was actually a physician but never did anything medical after becoming radicalized by witnessing the sorry plight of Latin America at the time. Che trained the Cuban military forces that repelled the Bay of Pigs attack and was central to the negotiations that would have brought nuclear weapons to Cuba. He wrote a seminal manual of guerrilla warfare. Che became convinced that most of the woes of the world were a direct result of Imperialism and capitalism (Americanism) that required a violent world revolution to counter it.

Che left Cuba in 1965 to foment revolution initially (and unsuccessfully) in the Congo but ending up in Bolivia where American CIA quickly captured him assisted Bolivian troops and summarily shot without fanfare.  Following his death, Che rose to the position of a revered and reviled historical world figure and his likeness with the star beret was cited by the Maryland Institute of Art and “the most famous photograph in the world” (pretty doubtful But it’s up there in the top 20 maybe). Time Magazine named him as one of the top 100 most influential people of the 20th century.

However, Che was also an advocate of brutal violence to create a utopian world that would quash any dissent, an anti-imperialist Marxist and outspoken anti-capitalist whose image has been made an idealistic commodity not unlike that of Robin Hood and Don Quixote. Che was involved in hundreds, maybe thousands of executions of those opposing the Revolution in several South American countries. Che openly despised the United States and everything about capitalism and a Republic governing system. He was very interested in starting a nuclear war with the Imperialists (us) and probably would have worked it out had the missiles from the USSR had actually been delivered to Cuba (diverted by Kennedy). The whole point of those missiles were to be used against “enemies”. He was a brutal Communist agitator and all of his history is filled with death.

So for what it’s worth, I have a really interesting portrait of him that continues to fascinate me. I also acquired a pastel painting I’ll frame this week. You’ll see it in the film.

Interesting trip that will become clearer as you watch the video below. A collection of some of the photos I took.

 

Enjoy if you have an interest.

D. Crippen, MD

Film review: “Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

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Difficult to make what amounts to a docudrama about a subject so very much larger than life. Reviews have reflected this fact for the production, but lead player Rami Malik (from Mr. Robot on cable) is getting serious Oscar buzz, and deservedly so. He has Freddy’s moves nailed.

The actual production is getting OK reviews, especially from the Oracle, Rotten Tomatoes. Not bad or even mediocre but “good”. Maybe damned by faint praise. The production is clearly a celebration of the inimitable music of Queen, trying hard to avoid the stigma of just another rocker, felled by various forms of tragic disease.

I’m pretty familiar with the history, having read several books on the subject, and I can assure you that the film does a pretty good job of relating it. But the film belongs to Malik who really brings Freddy to life; the rest of the cast in various supporting roles. There are a lot of flaws in the history that the film glosses over, but like “Catch-22” (1970) it’s far too complex to squeeze into a two-hour movie.

One of the centerpieces of the film is Live Aid, constructed by Bob Geldolf of the Irish group the Boomtown Rats, said at the time to be the largest group of paying customers to a rock concert in history. ~ 100,000. This concert said to be televised to 40% of the world’s population, estimated incoming revenue of eventually 150 million Pounds. Everyone who’s anyone in Rock was there but also some noteable absences (Springsteen, Michael Jackson, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel…..)

Rami Malek watched Liza Minelli’s performance in “Cabaret” (1972) as inspiration for Freddy’s moves but a British choreographer actually coached him for many hours. All the music in the film was backing tracks except “Another one bites the dust” is which the movie band actually played their own instruments and sang. Malik’s voice was mixed with the real Freddy and Canadian singer Marc Mertel.

Through his entire life, Freddy proclaimed Mary Austin as the “love of his life” even after she married elsewhere and had a child by another man. She stayed close to him for his entire life. When Freddy died in 1991, he is said to have bequeathed her half his entire fortune. She is said to live in his home in London today.

As of 2005, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, Queen albums have spent a total of twenty-six years on the UK Album Charts, more time than any other musical act. In 2006, Queen’s “greatest Hits” album was the all-time best-selling album in UK Chart history, more copies than its nearest competitor, the Beatles’ “Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band”  album. Inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, the band is the only group in which every member has composed more than one chart-topping single, and all four members were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2003

Bassest John Decacon left queen immediately after Freddy’s death and never played with the band again. He remained friends with all. Best of my recollection, Brian May is named number 5 by Rolling Stone of the top ten guitarists in the world. Queen went on to play with two lead singers, Paul Rodgers of “Bad Company” for a while and finally ending up in the past few years with Adam Lambert of “American Idol”. They’re considered a nostalgia band now.

The film portrays several songs from Live Aid in 1985, but there is a glaring omission. They missed Freddy singing “Love of my life”, he originally wrote for Mary Austin.  Brian May appears on stage sitting in a chair playing an acoustic guitar and Freddy sings with nothing else but that simple accompaniment. At some point, he finishes a stanza, then stops, looks out into the vast audience and quietly proclaim: “I still love you”, then turns and walks off the stage. The audience want completely nuts.

Watch for the real Freddy and the real band performing during the closing credits.

I think the production is stellar, well photographed and well edited. There are glosses and mistakes in the history, but that’s OK. It isn’t a “real” documentary. The real star of this film is Rami Malek who I think absolutely nailed Freddy as much as is humanly possible.

Recommended by me.

I give it four of five overbites.

 

 

The unfortunate death of Sears & Co

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Sad to chronicle the demise of Sears. Many of you aren’t old enough to remember the Sears glory days, that peaked in the late 1800s leading into the 50s and early 60s. Sears was the 50s equivalent of Amazon.com. They sold absolutely everything except it was through a mail order catalog as thick as the (former) New York City phone book. You just filled out the coupon, sent it in with a check and your purchase arrived later by mail. There were no credit card

Amazon.com also sells absolutely everything but through it’s connections to other companies. Sears had everything in its warehouses. Sears sold kids baseball gloves signed by Ted Williams. Ultimately cars made by the Lincoln car company of Chicago in the early 1900s (No relation to the Ford line). But my current point is that Sears produced a line of motor scooters, branded as “Allstate” in the 50s and my dad had one.

They were a knockoff of the Vespa line made by Piaggio In Italy (Photo 1). They had a two-cycle engine and produced ~ 4.9 horsepower as I recall.  So, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, 13-year-old adolescents could get licensed to own and ride motor scooters powered by less than 5 horsepower. I lived in Albuquerque at the time and I was barely 13 but my father refused to even discuss my acquiring one. However, he decided that his personal use of one was downright practical.

He was the Chief Resident in surgical training at what was technically an off campus site of the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Two hospitals in Albuquerque involved, the VA and the Bernalillo County Indian Hospital. This was a very early training program. The County Indian Hospital was a “residents Hospital”, much like Bellevue, Charity and Cook County. None of the surrounding Indians, mostly Navaho and Pueblo, had any monetary resources and much health care at the time was financed by cash. Those unfortunates were relegated to tax based indigent care and the taxpayers weren’t much interested in financing it so they opted for as cheap a care as could be had. Resident physicians were cheap and they got a lot of experience there.

It was 1957. Our family had only one car and my mother mostly needed use of it. So my dad decided that a motor scooter would be a cheap, practical vehicle to get back and forth to the two hospitals, both near where we lived. The big VA hospital was right next to the Randy Lovelace Clinic where the Mercury astronauts were examined for the first flight into space. This freed up the car for my mother to shop and do housekeeping chores. She also traded with the local Indians for just about everything, which doesn’t happen anymore, especially since the tribes discovered gambling dens.

When my father rounded at the County Indian Hospital on Saturday mornings, I begged and wheedled until he agreed to take me, perched on the tiny rear seating area. So off we went, powered by 4.9 horsepower and a three-speed transmission. Seemed at the time plenty of power. I sat on the scooter for a couple of hours while he rounded, then when he finally came out, he let me ride the scooter by myself around the back parking lot of the hospital, an experience burned into my memory.

The County Indian Hospital was an incredible training experience for housestaff. Indians at the time had lousy living conditions on reservations managed by the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) on a federal shoestring and they had lots of health problems. Many had COPD from inhaling smoke from their teepees or mud dwellings. Indians at the time had very little resistance to ethanol and many had severe liver disease and were the victims of vehicular trauma on Saturday nights when the bars closed. To this day, a car trip out north of Albuquerque will show you billboard after billboard of personal injury lawyers specializing in defending ethanol abuse and drunk driving.

But the really big cultural deal for me was licensure for 4.9 hp scooters, ideal for home to middle school commuting (but not for me- I got the school bus which made me a third-class citizen). The across-the-street mesa from Woodrow Wilson Junior High School was literally filled with scooters owned by kids that could afford them and whose parents acceded. Each cost about US$200 and there were three classifications:

1. Vespas (and Allstates). The working class scooter. Not fancy, no amenities, rather plain in appearance. No class. Riders were pretty much ignored. They wore plain clothes (Photo 2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. The Cushman Eagle (Photo 3). The roughneck’s ride. These were these guys that beat you up and took your lunch money. 4 cycle, suicide clutch putt-putts that sounded as mean as their owner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. The Lambretta (Photo 4). The Italian scooter equivalent of a Ferrari. Lots of curves and a back seat where your girlfriend could sit side saddle and cross her legs. Riders wore striped shirts and scarves. As you might imagine, I was a Lambretta guy. They were all a strong enough influence that I rode two wheels the rest of my adult life.

David Crippen, MD, FCCM
Professor Emeritus
Department of Critical Care
UPMC

“A Star is Born” (2018)

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“A star is born” (2018)

Loosely the fourth version of the same drama that began in 1937 with Janet Gaynor (her only color film) and Adolph Menjou. Followed by a second version with Judy Garland and James Mason in 1954 (Judy Garland was the same age as Lady GaGa), followed by a third version in 1976 starring Kris Krisopherson and Barbara Streisand, for which Streisand received an Oscar for best original song (Evergreen).

The fourth version stars Bradley Cooper and Lady GaGa (Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta) and it has been upgraded an amazing amount of detail. Bradley Cooper decided to play and sing live, necessitating extensive vocal training for him. For his role, Bradley was extensively trained in guitar and how to present himself like a musician for a year in his basement by Lukas Nelson, son of Willie Nelson. For Bradley’s stage performances, he’s backed by Lukas Nelson and his band “Promise of the real”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T17dAHtMB_s

Now comes the real blast- Bradley Cooper learned his extensive lessons well.  He emerges with world class lead singer chops and…….Lord have mercy……the “moves” of an incredible country rock singer.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vdjNm9UzjoY

Lady GaGa noted on some talk show that she didn’t know who the character with plain hair and no makeup was. She had to work to find that character as she considers her life as bleach blond, a ton of makeup and lots of outrageous clothes. But in the end, the two come together to make an amazing connection.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSbzyEJ8X9E

The story line takes the same form as the other iterations; the girl goes on to emerge as a Britney Spears clone with fairly predictable outcome.

The film is magnificent. Very watchable. Highly recommended by me.

I give it five fresh faced Allys

Pittsburgh Regatta this weekend

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Pittsburgh Regatta this weekend

Every year, we host the Formula One Powerboat racing series on the intersection of where the three rivers meet to form the Ohio River, a direct conduit to the Mississippi. The highest class of inshore powerboat racing in the world, similar to Formula Onecar racing. Each race lasts approximately 45 minutes following a circuit marked out in a selected stretch of water, usually a lake, river, dock, or sheltered bay.

The boats are actually shallow catamarans weighing about 860 pounds. They’re 20 feet long and 7 feet wide. The boats are all powered by Mercury V6 two-stroke engines generating over 400 horsepower.  Zero to 60 miles-per-hour in less than two seconds and a maximum speed of 155 miles-per-hour. Sanctioned races occur all over the world with multi-national drivers.

 

 

These boats remind me of my youth when similar powerboats raced on the lake in the center of my town. This would have been about 1960. The light wooden boats were of two varieties, longer “Runabouts” and flat “Hydroplanes”.  They were all powered by smaller 10 or 15 horsepower Mercury engines, modified for more RPM with “Quicksilver Lower Units) and racing propellers. There were probably other modifications. They were pretty fast for the time. The throttle controlled by a “dead man” lever that must be held together by the driver. If he was flipped out of the boat, the lever relaxed and the engine stopped.

Pre-race warm-up was accomplished by two guys holding the back of the boat up out of the water just high enough that the spinning prop would get some water into the cooling vanes. When warm, the boat was simply dropped with the driver leaning forward to maintain balance as the boat took off. The boats were loud and fast and flipped often; rarely an injury. It was “real” racing. If Satan had dropped by with a bargain to put me into one of those boats, I’d have to think about it.

 

Film review: Mission Impossible: Fallout (2018)

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Tom Cruise is truly a guilty pleasure and a paradox. He should have at least been nominated for an Academy Award for “Risky Business” in 1983.  It was his landmark film. Since then he’s been in some very good films
and some stinkers too (The Mummy” (2017). Otherwise he’s never got an award bigger than being nominated for a Golden Globe.Nominated for an Oscar three times, won zero. His “Mission Impossible” franchise is good enough to be entertaining but he’s really now known for doing incredible stunts and getting away with most of them at his age, including breaking his ankle on an impossible building-to-building jump.

Accordingly, in this latest edition, he does some really wild and
dangerous stunts, including the aforementioned jump that shattered his
ankle; he ran on it to get past the camera. Wildly riding a motorcycle
weaving through the streets of Paris (yes, that’s him) then hitting the
fender of a car head-on with a motorcycle, sailing over the hood and
bouncing/rolling on-camera. I knew that hurt. Free climbing a
straight-up cliff wall. High altitude-low opening aircraft jump for
which Cruise trained for a year. Climbing a rope to a helicopter belly
at thousands of feet.

It’s a guilty pleasure because the stunts, action and beautiful locales
are worth the price of a 3 D ticket. Each of these stunts you can
instantly recognize Tom. It’s pretty amazing at age 56. The action
scenes are really incredible, difficult to imagine how they did them
(computers, of course) especially the helicopter scenes which are just
insane. The locations where these stunts take place are amazingly
picturesque and shot on real locations. While the movie’s final portion
is set in the Kashmir region in India, which is primarily situated in
the Himalayas, its on-location filming took place entirely in New
Zealand and Norway, both of which feature more dramatic mountainous
backdrops. mThe cars are BMW M-series, I think the M5 (F90) which had
not been seen on public roads. Cruise’s ride in a fabulous BMW R nineT,
a custom machine with everything, and great looks too.

So, in the end, this is not only a serious thriller with massive effects
and beautiful locale, it’s a Tom Cruise masterpiece. It’s a little long
and some of the ploy raveling and unraveling very quickly is hard to
follow but it’s definitely a delight. See it in 3 D. 22 years of Mission
Impossible.

I give it four and a half classic BMW scramblers. Must see

On this day in 1968

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1966 – Robert F. Kennedy, (Robert Francis {Bobby} Kennedy) [1925-1968] Legislator and public official, was Attorney General of United States. – Photo By Jim McNamara/TWP

RFKs assassination on June 5,1968 was a terrible blow to a very lot of people, including myself. RFK had emerged to be the fair haired boy of the presidential election what would have taken place in November, 1968. He was the heir apparent who seemed to have a viable shot at changing the country and the world. He displayed a sense of fairness and a clear understanding of what needed to be done and a viable plan on getting it so. Had RFK won the nomination, it was highly likely he would have negotiated a quick end to the Vietnam Conflict , saving thousands of lives, and would have worked to fix racial discrimination and narrowing income gaps in the economy. Kennedy was serious about tackling poverty and racism. He would have taken the country in a radically different direction that what transpired with Richard Nixon. Nixon had a crook as Vice president (Agnew), a “secret” plan to end the never-ending war (ended in 1975) and the Watergate debacle during which little or nothing constructive was done in government. The country and the world would have been a different place, I think.

Shortly after his funeral at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City on June 8, it’s thought that as many as a million bystanders interrupted their day to stand near the tracks to pay silent tribute to the man in the train’s last car for the 225 mile ride from New York City to Arlington Cemetery where he was buried near his brother. Many in tears. What you will see in the following youtube video is as sad a commentary as you will ever witness.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FvxH3utA1kg

I don’t know if the photographs by Paul Fusco from Look Magazine will come over as it’s a piece from The Atlantic but I’ll include them here in case they’re released to the public. They’re heartbreaking.

https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2018/06/rfks-funeral-train-in-photos/562238/?utm_source=&silverid-ref=MzEwMTU3MjQyMjUxS0

“For all sad words of tongue and pen,
The saddest are these,
‘It might have been’.

“The Americans” finale (FX): A masterpiece

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160303_TV_americans-season-four.jpg.CROP.promo-xlarge2

An expertly matched young Soviet couple extensively trained in espionage, martial arts and whatever else it takes to “pass as Americans”.  Six (season) years of plotting, manipulating, ferreting out political and military secrets to benefit the Soviet Union (in the Cold War 80s), disguises and always one-step ahead of the FBI. Complex issues of loyalty, principle and betrayal- ultimately leading to an inevitable crisis climax.

But those years unexpectedly assimilated them into American life more than either thought, concurrently running a business and creating a family. A male bonding between two lonely men playing cat and mouse, neither understanding the inevitable consequence.

And then, following the inevitable betrayal from a peer, it was over, leading to one of the most emotional, heart breaking hours in television history.

The season ender (Season 6, Episode 10- May 31, 2018) cascaded into 11 minutes of confrontation and emotional chaos between the Jennings and Stan. The painful decision to abandon innocents forever and a shocking scene literally as far as a border, literally and metaphorically, accompanied by the U2 song “With or Without You” (which was perfect.)

There is no killing, no guns, and no violence. There is only the stage set for whatever might come next. Henry tearfully stares off into the distance as hears the truth sitting on a hockey bleacher. Paige knocks back a shot of cold Vodka in a “safe house”, quietly awaiting what comes next.  But we don’t know what will come next, only that there will be a next we’ll never see.

Philip and Elizabeth stand by the side of a road in front of the Moscow State University, glancing out over the city. They made it home, but where is home? They willbe forever haunted by their choice to leave the children behind.The life they grew into is gone and they no longer recognize their new home. Last words spoken (in Russian): “We’ll get used to it”. We see the end of all their stories but we have no idea of their future and we probably never will.

The Americans is one of the top five valued TV series ever created. The finale is steeped in quiet but wrenching emotional turmoil.  Not a dry eye in the house. I seriously doubt if we’ll ever see anything like it again.

Parenthetically, the Director was very astute in picking parts of the soundtrack. I have created a brief youtube of two clips from the finale, each with a sound track that worked actually perfectly. First is from the hauntingly beautiful “Brothers in Arms” (Dire Straits- 1985). The second with “With or without you” (U2- 1987), perfection for that particular portion of the film.  You really don’t need to know much about what’s progressing in the film clip, just watch and listen to how the music clip infiltrates and adds texture to the clip. I’m using these clips and some others in my music class at Pitt in July.

https://youtu.be/G6tQinDddjM

If you can find the episode (S6E10) I highly recommend watching it. You really don’t know much more about what came before to enjoy the mastery of it.