Half of My Heart

And now it’s Friday. It’s hard to imagine that it’s almost Thanksgiving already, but the initial pandemic shutdown also seems like it was more than a million years ago–when dinosaurs roamed the earth–rather than a mere eight months or so ago. Eight months we’ve been dealing with this; even though it seems more like eight fucking decades. But I’ve noticed that time has sped up lately–for the longest time it felt like time was dragging and was taking forever to pass, but now…now time is flying.

I suspect it’s the looming deadlines and being behind on everything, quite frankly.

The sun is bright this morning in my eyes and I cannot find my baseball cap–it’s probably stashed somewhere I thought I’d remember where it was–so I’ve had to move my chair and I am writing this while sitting at a weird angle to my desk. I’m working at home again today, and will be walking to the gym for today’s workout when I am finished with this afternoon’s work. Yesterday for the Cynical 70’s Film Festival I watched The Boys from Brazil and The Towering Inferno–more on those later–and I think that for today I might just dip back into some more Halloween horror. We also started streaming Mr. Mercedes, which is now available on Peacock for free–I am actually impressed with everything they are offering; it’s very similar to HBO MAX, but am still not willing to pay for another premium service yet–and I have to say, I am enjoying this adaptation. It’s fairly true to the books–at least as I remember, although I don’t remember the neighbor Ida, played by the amazing Holland Taylor–and I have to say, the three Bill Hodges novels (Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers, End of Watch) have been my favorite Kings of this century thus far; Mr. Mercedes very deservedly won the Edgar for Best Novel some years back, and as much as I loved the books, I was very sad when I reached the end. King himself was an executive producer, and the television series adaptation was written by David E. Kelley, who has also been responsible for a lot of good television over the years, including Big Little Lies and The Undoing, which we are greatly enjoying as well. There are three seasons of this adaptation, and I assume each season covers one of the books.

The Boys from Brazil is an interesting film, and very much of its time. Based on the novel by Ira Levin, both book and film were very much of the 1970’s, and also encapsulated that cynicism and paranoia of the decade perfectly. It was also one of those stories that permeated the zeitgeist; everyone knew what”the boys from Brazil” were without reading the book or seeing the movie. The movie is a very close adaptation of the book–Ira Levin was known for his brevity as a writer, so rarely did things need to be cut out of the books for the screenplay. The Boys from Brazil was actually Levin’s longest novel–I could be wrong, but I don’t think so–and the film has some impressive star power, with Laurence Olivier, Gregory Peck, and James Mason in leading roles, and an incredibly impressive supporting cast, including Rosemary Harris, Anne Meara, and Uta Hagen. The film also opens with a focus on a young character played by an extremely beautiful young Steve Guttenberg (whatever happened to him? He was a big deal in the 1980’s and then just kind of faded away) as a young Jewish-American man who goes Nazi hunting in Paraguay, and is actually the one whose investigation tips off the big Nazi hunter played by Laurence Olivier about what’s going on and kicks the film into gear before he is, of course, caught and murdered by the Nazis.

It’s hard to imagine now that the 1970’s were forty years or so ago now; the world has changed so much…but the 1970’s were also only a few decades removed from the second world war and Nazi war criminals were still being hunted down worldwide by the Israeli secret police. (The Germans were also hunting them down for trials; the Israelis were killing them.) The Lieberman character played by Olivier (he got an Oscar nomination; ironically, he also got one for playing an escaped Nazi war criminal in Marathon. Man a few years earlier) was based on Simon Weisenthal; does anyone even remember Weisenthal today? (Weisenthal was one of the people who helped track down Eichmann.) It’s no secret that many Nazis escaped to South America after Berlin fell, and Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay in particular; so much so that it was so much a part of the zeitgeist that everyone knew and a casual reference was easily picked up on. Levin took that, decided to make Josef Mengele, the escaped Nazi “angel of death”, and put him at the center of the story. And the scene where Leibermann finally realizes what Mengele’s plans are–that is the scene that earned Olivier the Oscar nomination. The film doesn’t pack the same emotional wallop that the book does–probably because by the time the film was released, most people knew what the title referenced and what it was about (Levin was a master of the huge surprise twist), which killed some of the suspense. Gregory Peck isn’t very good as Mengele, either; paired with his listless performance in The Omen, Peck was clearly phoning it in for the most part in the 70’s and cashing the checks.

And as I always say, you can never go wrong with Nazis as your villains. The two best Indiana Jones movies have him fighting Nazis; you just can’t come up with better villains–having the opposition be Nazis alone immediately makes your hero pure of heart and decent and makes you root for him. (The Vatican, however, is an excellent fallback choice.)

There’s also an excellent essay to be written about The Boys from Brazil, comparing and contrasting it to Robert Ludlum’s The Holcroft Covenant, which is also about an attempt to resurrect the Third Reich, with the the seeds planted in the waning days of the war.

The Towering Inferno was part of the big wave of disaster movies that was a thing in the 1970’s, spawned by the huge success of Airport and The Poseidon Adventure. Like all disaster films, it boasted an all-star cast chock full of award winners and household names–Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Jennifer Jones, Fred Astaire, Robert Wagner, Susan Blakely, and Richard Chamberlain, to name a few–and a terrible script that was focused more on the adventure than the actual characters. (It’s also jarring to see O J. Simpson in a supporting role; and to remember he had a fledgling acting career before he murdered two people) Disaster movies inevitably fit into the Cynical 70’s Film Festival because they are always about preventable disasters that wind up happening because of greed and people in positions of power that invariably shouldn’t be; there’s always one scene where the person in charge of cleaning up the mess and solving the problem sanctimoniously lectures the person they feel is responsible for it: in this case, fire chief Steve McQueen lectures architect Paul Newman about the irresponsibility of building skyscrapers from a firefighter’s point of view (and having witnessed 9/11….yeah, watching the scene made me squirm more than a little bit)–but Newman, you see, is the hero; the fire and the building’s failure to be properly prepared isn’t his fault; construction manager Richard Chamberlain cut corners on the electrical wiring and so forth to stay on schedule and under budget to please building owner (also his father-in-law) William Holden. I watched the movie for the first time several years ago–and couldn’t make it all the way through on a rewatch. The acting is too bad, the writing too awful, and the story not compelling enough. It was nominated for like seven Oscars, including Best Picture–which should give you an idea of what a bad year that was for film. It was based on two novels, published around the same time, that covered the same ground–a fire in a new skyscrape–so the rights to both had to be secured to prevent lawsuits: The Tower by Richard Martin Stern, and The Glass Inferno, by by Thomas Scotia and Frank Robinson, with their titles blended into The Towering Inferno.

Around the time I originally watched The Towering Inferno I rewatched three other big disaster movies of the time–Airport, The Poseidon Adventure and Earthquake–and none of them really hold up. There were scores of other disaster movies of the time too–several Airport sequels, a movie about killer bees, etc.–but if the BEST of the time don’t hold up, the ones that weren’t considered good at the time must be really horrific.

And on that note, it is back into the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader, and I’ll catch you tomorrow.

Don’t You (Forget About Me)

I hit the wall yesterday during Iris. I came back home to rest for a bit before Tucks arrived, and was so exhausted from everything that I decided that it was wiser to just stay in the house and rest, otherwise there was no way I’d make it to any of today’s parades. There are four today; Okeanos, Mid-City, Thoth, and Bacchus. I usually make Okeanos and Mid-city; but am too tired for Thoth and Bacchus. I’ve never seen Thoth; we used to go to the Quarter in the afternoon on Sundays, and then I worked outreach during Thoth. The last few years I’ve not done outreach on Sundays I’ve been too tired; and I don’t think I’ve seen Bacchus since Drew Brees reigned. I’m going to give it my best shot today.

The rain held off yesterday until Endymion; I was ensconced in my easy chair streaming Spiderman Homecoming when the thunderstorm arrived and it was a beaut. The thunder was so loud and long the house shook; and the downpours so intense that there was some street flooding (nothing major, like in August; but still it sucked for both the Endymion riders and the folks out there watching).

I also watched, in my ongoing quest to rewatch as many of the disaster movies of the 1970’s as possible, Earthquake, which was, without a doubt, one of the worst movies ever made. The whole point of the disaster formula was to see how people–character archetypes, really–placed in extraordinary circumstances having to experience physical difficulties and hardships and emotional distress, to see if they can overcome this and survive; and at the end, some do: the damaged plane lands safely, the fire is put out, they get off the sinking ship. But by it’s very nature, making a film about an earthquake doesn’t end with the characters getting to safety; therefore there is no way to end the film on a satisfying note for the viewers. So, Earthquake merely ends with the camera pulling away from the characters who’ve just escaped the flooding tunnel, showing a ever expanding view of the ruins of Los Angeles, where many fires are still burning; a most unsatisfying end to the film. But it’s not like we cared about any of the characters in the first place, particularly the main character, played woodenly by Charlton Heston. Heston was never the best of actors to begin with; his idea of acting was over-acting under the best of circumstances and at worst, woodenly reading his lines with absolutely no emotion whatsoever. The casting choices made for the movie were also curious; Lorne Greene was playing Ava Gardner’s father and Heston’s father-in-law, despite being only seven years older than the former and eight years older than the latter; his current love interest was played by Genevieve Bujold, who was only thirty. I’m a fan of Gardner, to be honest, but she’s terrible in this film. Everyone is terrible in this film, from the afore-mentioned stars to the rest of the cast, which includes Richard Roundtree, George Kennedy, Victoria Principal, and Marjoe Gortner. Even by 70’s standards, the special effects are particularly bad; and there really isn’t a cohesive story for any of the characters, so the actors have no center for their performances. It was just an attempt to cash in on the success of the Airport movies and the disaster movie craze of the time; with the end result that it’s a terrible, terrible film.

Spiderman Homecoming, however, is just as charming on a second viewing as it was on the first; and Tom Holland is so appealing, as are all of the diverse young actors who play his friends, or frenemies, at his high school. Michael Keaton makes a great bad guy, and the guest appearances by the other Marvel heroes–Iron Man and Captain America–successfully weave the character of Spiderman into the Marvel/Avengers universe. Also, by not  making it an origin story–we already see Peter with his powers, his uncle is already dead–and instead making it about him trying to adapt to his powers while juggling his life as a high school teenager, made it a much stronger film. Well done, Marvel.

After that, we watched the Olympics. I also did some reading, getting back to the Short Story Project, and then I slept deeply and well; I even allowed myself to sleep in, and this morning other than some slight aches in my lower back I feel terrific. Okeanos starts in fifteen minutes; I am not sure which parades I’ll be watching today. There’s rain again in the forecast, and this morning the windows are covered with condensation, just like yesterday. It does seem bright out there, but there’s an awful lot of cloud cover as well. Paul is still sleeping, so there’s that as well. 😉 I don’t like waking him up on the weekends, and besides, Okeanos won’t be here for another hour at least. Iris kept stalling yesterday; despite moving up an hour it still wasn’t finished passing here until almost one thirty.

I don’t have to work tomorrow; Paul’s going into the office for a bit, so I will most likely make a grocery run in the morning and try to get some work done around here as well. I need to get back to work on everything; just because everything in New Orleans comes to a screeching halt for Carnival, we sometimes forget that the rest of the world does not.

Ah, well. And I need to clean the kitchen again; I’m hoping to cook out today, should the weather hold.

Here’s a hunk for your Sunday:

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