Sunday, July 23, 2006

A word about Sam Peckinpah

Sam Pecinkpah was a troubled man. He was betrayed by his mother and father. He fell into cocaine and alcohol abuse of the worst sort. After a career as a Marine, he died way too young at 56. He was also one of the most gifted directors of the 1960’s. A man who took nothing silly from the studios, Sam never feared being fired. He frequently got slammed, but always came back.

Along the way, this man produced and directed some of the greatest movies ever made. Phil Feldman was his producer, but Peckinpah had a unique vision. “Bring me the Head of Alfredo Garcia” is a bizarre piece of work, but outstanding in its way. “Pat Garett and Billy the Kid’' is undergoing a renewal, and semi-director’s cut, at Turner Classics. Peckinpah always thought that was his classic.

I beg to differ. There is nothing that captures the dying days of The West better than “The Wild Bunch”. It is no accident that this one is in my “favorites”. William Holden bled to death when he got drunk and slipped on a rug; before he reached that day, there are few moments in cinematic history that match his look, and telling the others “Let’s go!”

That ambiguity cannot be matched. The words defy the viewer’s interpretation; “do we go die, or do we rescue our friend, Angel?” [Jamie Sanchez.]

The march down the street is a classic that cannot be matched. There are moments of duty, that outlaw or whoever, you must face. Holden, Borgnine, and Ben Johnson and future “Alfredo Garcia” star Warren Oates took that march.

Emilio Fernandez, an estimable Mexican star, stood his ground as “Mapache”. Mr. Fernandez had some personal problems; Sam Peckinpah invigorated his career. The movie is designated as one of the bloodiest in cinematic history; certainly, when Holden and Borgnine blow the medals off “Mapache’s” chest when he cuts Angel’s throat, we have reached a new point in cinematic bloodletting.

Sam Peckinpah was never a shy man. One of the things he never cringed from was showing the effects of violence on children; the little kids shooting it out in the streets of Starbuck, Texas. I don’t think Peckinpah was being cruel when he did this. Children are subjected to the most terrible violence ever perpetuated. Reenacting a gunfight would have been second nature to kids of the time. Peckinipah never shied from this. If there is cruelty to kids, it's that they have to witness what transpires between adults.

The first gunfight, and the last, in “The Wild Bunch” are the second-scariest on film. There is only one scene that surpasses them: Michael Mann’s shootout in “Heat”. He mixed the guns loud, the way they should be, and used a minimum of magnesium. Whoever designed those “strike” rounds, anyhow? It’s like tires screeching on a dirt road. Dramatic effect is great, but gimme a break.

“The Wild Bunch” is one of the greatest movies ever made. Nobody will copy it for style or substance. You may say whatever you like about Sam Peckinpah, no one will walk his footsteps again in this century. Walter Hill tried with “The Long Riders”. I worked that one; I would’ve killed to work with Peckinpah. “The Wild Bunch” remains a landmark of American cinema.

Peckinpah showed his dark sense of humor when he showed up on a stretcher, with a whiskey bottle hanging on an IV. It was a response to the Hollyweird critics who said he was a goner. He left us too damn soon, but his movies live forever

I’m just a third-rate Hollyweird extra, what do I know?

I know a mystical vision when I see one. Sam Peckinpah, a very hurt and troubled man, shared my outlook on life. I only wish I’d had his visions and chances as a director to fulfill some images. This man was fired by studio heads off more projects than I’ll ever see. I’ll never direct anything. Sam Peckinpah was one of the greatest visionaries who ever lived. “Major Dundee” was a troubled work that nearly arrived; “The Wild Bunch” is a masterwork. I want to see another re-run of “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid”. Kristofferson made his bones in “Alfredo Garcia.” That movie is too bizarre to bear description. He also made a star of Warren Oates, who left us much too soon. I have never seen anything beyond the pale with Sam Peckinpah.

The guy is my best director in history. He also directed the second-scariest gunfight in cinematic history; Micael Mann gets top score for "Heat"; that's the most frightening gunfight I've ever seen. (Did I already say that?) "The Wild Bunch" set some standards; it scared people to death in 1969. The Western ideals are perfect. "You give your word to a person, or you're like some animal..." or something like that. I know you don't give your word to a railroad, and you're better as an animal if you don't give your word to them. Sam Peckinpah gave his word to someone; stand for something, or you'll fall for anything. His heroes never did that. They lived and died according to values that can't be altered, even today.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

And now, a word from our sponsors...

The mid-July thing is happening at Tee-shirt Hell. The children should be thrashed away from the computer, and strong-stomached adults are cautioned that this is rough stuff. I balk at sponsoring a link, but I'm a sick puppy.

I have a dark side to my sense of humor, and the operators of this site appeal to it. They also sell some fine tee-shirts. You can be as offensive as you want to be. Go here, or chase the link at right. Sometimes, irreverence is all..

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Israeli response...

...was swift, and to the point.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Better late than never!

(This started life as an e-mail. With personal details edited, here it is. I get my best focus from remarking to friends. Then, it expands to the public forum of screaming from the soap box.)

The other day, on the weekend, I felt like I was living under a subway. That's because two F-18 Hornets and a B-1 Lancer buzzed the house at low altitude. We're talking 500 feet, the minimum they are allowed over US airspace. Fast movers on afterburners that low can not only rattle windows, they can blow them out. The distant rumbling of more military flights practicing their nap-of-the-earth, radar avoidance strike flying was continual. Our north Georgia terrain is very similar to Korea, Eastern Europe, and parts of Iran, so the military loves it for exercises. They usually practice terrain-avoidance over the vast national forests in the area, but occasionally they'll get off-track and buzz a populated area. (I suspect they go lower than 500 feet, and supersonic, over the national forests, but they can do neither over inhabited areas.) The four engines of a Lancer on afterburner will send man and beast scurrying for cover; if I was an Iranian or a Korean, I'd be very afraid about now.

That fear should also extend to Syria and anybody else who might threaten Israel militarily. It's usually so quiet around here I can hear doves cooing on the adjacent hilltop. All this increased military activity is an indication of how seriously we're taking the current threats that have cropped up. I don't mind the low-flying aircraft; for me, it's the sound of freedom. Besides, they're not dropping bombs on us. (They fly out west to the desert for bombing practice on isolated ranges; it also exercises their skills at extended-range strikes and mid-air refueling simultaneously. There's no place in the world we can't bomb, even if the EU surrender monkeys deny us their airspace. It just takes a little longer to go the scenic route.)

As for the Middle East, I have two comments:

1. It’s about time. Israel has been taking punishment for 30 years, and has allowed itself to be restrained by "diplomacy". I think they're going for broke on Hezbollah at long last. I'm doing chemo right now in an effort to avoid major surgery. If the cancer gets too malignant, I'm left with no option except the knife. All of Israel's past patience and adherence to diplomacy was their chemo. Now, it's the knife, to remove the cancer of terrorism that's been metastasizing on their borders for three decades. Painful, but necessary. I love the analogy that's being drawn in response to the surrender monkeys and anti-Semites who say this eradication effort is "overly powerful": If some autonomous group sheltering in Mexico or Canada started raining missiles on San Diego or New York, our tanks would be rolling within an hour of the first launches. Remember von Clausewitz: War is diplomacy by other means.

2. After all the years of bickering and half-assed efforts in the ME, I had reached a point where I would mutter "A pox on both their houses" upon hearing of the latest skirmish. Now that it's turning into open war, I'm rooting for Israel. You may catch clips of FOX's Mike Tobin reporting from a rocket strike in Nasariya. Several Katyushas landed a block from where he was standing by to give a scheduled stand-up update. It was dramatic enough for the network to break into "FOX & Friends" live with the aftermath. I happened to be awake at about 0700, and caught the whole thing live. The news is overriding this post; there is likely worse going on as I write these words. The immediacy of war makes for the best of television journalism. Tobin’s coverage was both chilling and heartbreaking, especially the hysterical old woman who kept refusing an ambulance ride. I realized I had become disgusted and disheartened with all the ineffectual push-and-shove of the past, but if Israel is seriously going to eradicate a terror organization that has coincidentally killed hundreds of Americans, I say "Go Jews! Hoo-ah!”

The way I understand it, China and Russia are protecting Iran and Syria, who in turn are protecting Hezbollah and Hamas. We are Israel's sole protector. The EU surrender monkeys, with the exception of Britain, are cheering for the bad guys, but lack the means to become proactive beyond dirty looks and impotent UN resolutions. This could get quite ugly, even if it doesn't reach the escalation point of the '73 war, or the Cuban missile thing. Even though the pundits keep saying we lack the means to open a second front in World War IV, Iran should remember that we have a sizeable troop presence right next door to them. Our troops are the finest in history, and while Iran and Iraq could only fight to a stalemate in 10 years of warfare, we can roll to Teheran with about the same ease with which we rolled to Baghdad. The military equipment we gave the Shah back in the day is seriously useless now without the spare parts we've withheld for almost 30 years, and whatever they've acquired from their "protectors" in the interim is inferior to our stuff.

(By the way, if this escalates into world war, it’s War IV, not III. War III—love them Roman numerals!—was the so-called “Cold War”, where we fought communism by increments. We won that one, too. Thank you, Mr. Reagan.)

Which brings us back to all these warplanes buzzing the Possum Den. We don't need boots on the ground to inflict some serious ass-kicking on anybody who annoys us, or picks on our little friend, Israel. I don't think Israel's problems will ever end; it was pointed out this morning that every new construction in the country is designed with a bomb shelter. Taking out Hezbollah and Hamas is a good start, though, and an enormous favor to us as well. I hope the surrender monkeys don't dissuade Israel this time. (Even though I’m a Southern Baptist-type, I’ve never understood this antipathy for Jews. What is the friggin’ deal? No Jew I have ever known has done me wrong. My Southern Baptist Bible says they’re God’s chosen people, and the rest of us get some divine grace. I can live with that, and trust my soul to a true God who knows what’s in my heart, not to whatever people worship when they celebrate a dismembered leg in the streets, as the heathens did the other day when an Israeli soldier was killed.)

The UN is impotent, unless they’re thinking about raping women in a war zone. The surrender monkeys are screeching and rattling the bars of their EU cage. The world is hovering on the edge of thermonuclear conflict, and the big news today is that George Bush said “shit” in the context of a private remark to Prime Minister Tony Blair, i.e. “We need to stop this s---.”

George Patton and Richard Nixon were pious men who talked earthy talk. Patton inspired his troops in War II, and portions of the Nixon White House tapes will make your face red and your ears blue. Henry Kissinger, who will outlive us all, knows the truth about Nixon, but Henry keeps the secrets, despite his books. If they could speak, my dogs would testify that I use inappropriate language, especially when Howard Dean comes out with a howler like “Bill Clinton” and “morality” in the same sentence. Salty language makes my president more human. If GWB wants to call a spade a spade, especially in a private aside to our only friends in Europe, so be it.

Keep ranting, Dr. Howie. When you get the she-devil into the White House, and the civilized world conforms to the ideal of your mentor, Jimmy Carter, I’ll see you in Aunty Entity’s Thunderdome of Islamic dhimmitude.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Matthew Broderick and the movies

What a hoot I had with my satellite last night! Matthew Broderick occasionally makes a good, serious movie, “Godzilla” is not among them. He was much better as Col. Robert Gould Shaw opposite Denzel Washington in “Glory”. I worked on that movie. I think he had a lot more fun working on “Godzilla” with Jean Reno. I can’t blame him; I too, would like a day off from the fields of the creative, and he’s a star. Broderick is an informed actor, and turns in an occasional starring role. Well, we all need day off. I had more fun riding Confederate horses against him. You died beautifully on the Savannah beach, Matthew. I wept when I saw the young commander going out to die. Morgan Freeeman's role is based on a guy named Crawley, in case you didn’t know it. He was the first African-American “can we spell black?” to win the Medal; he was shot five times including in the head during the assault on Fort Wagner, but brought back the Stars and Stripes. That earns a salute from any Confederate.

It's my country's flag, and it belongs to us depraved Southern boys as much as you Yankees. You may be "them damn Yankees" but you're my Yankees, and I'll defend you to death.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The movie critic strikes back!

Back between gigs as “Rocky” and “Rambo”, Sylvester Stallone made an outstanding cop movie: “Nighthawks”. The movie was almost stolen from him by Billy Dee Williams and Rutger Hauer, but Sly’s always the coolest guy in the room. My favorite character is the curmudgeonly Nigel Davenport, but that’s just a preference for supporting players.

In light of what went down in New York the other day, the movie has a surprising relevance from the 1980s. Rutger Hauer is a kind of generic Eurotrash terrorist, but the ‘80s were a calmer time. Carlos the Jackal and the last of the Red Brigades were being hunted down. The Soviets, headed for their collapse, were caught in the bear trap of Afghanistan. Osama bin-Laden was cashing in on CIA weapons supplies.

Nevertheless, there was a vision of terrorism on the horizon. It was a generic Hollywood formula, but the movie is almost prescient. Stallone does some real potboilers, but this is one of his better efforts.

The soundtrack by Keith Emerson is especially striking. This little gem has found its way into the Encore rotation for July. Sometimes an old rerun is better than a new offering.

Given the adventure and “real deal” with New York’s PATH trains the other day, this one bears a second look. New York cops are some of the best; I only have one question…when are we going to see some leakers locked up and playing hearts with the rest of the criminal element?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The anniversary post

I was just struck by a realization today. This blog is a year old! I have been cluttering up the airwaves for a whole year! In spite of being a sniveling brat, threatening to take my toys and go home, I haven’t shut this mess down. I stand for something, and refuse to fall for anything. People who disagree with me are welcome to go elsewhere; this is my private corner of the internet. I’ll stand tall and say what’s on my little mind. I don’t have the sense God gave geese, but I manage a sputter of sense once in a blue moon. I see traitors creeping on my country. I see the practice of politics that exceeds rationality. I’m a moonbat loon, but I will take a stand.

United Possums has been around as an entity for a year. It started as an inside joke before 9/11. I worked as a journalist, filing stories of dubious veracity. Can we say “Jason Blair?” I have a lot of affection for the New York Times. I understand the power of the written word better than any English major. What goes down in print resonates more than anything reproduced in language recreated ad homonym.

I am all too well acquainted with the power of the written word. As I like to joke, I must learn to use this power for good. We are a year old, I stand for something, or fall for anything.