NEW FILM REVIEW:  Wonder Boys - the new Michael Douglas flick. Must be nice to be in Mr. Douglas' Hollywood shoes, to be rich enough, powerful enough, experienced enough, talented enough ... to front and star in any project that turns him on ... and as for audience and box-office, if they come, they come...if they don't, the don't.

WONDER BOYS (I lousy, unattractive title, by the way) is about the loneliness, status fights and intellectual snobbishness of the academic world, a subject that's been tackled many times .... "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" (1966), for example. So has the subject of relationships between tenured and aging professors and their students, male and female, e.g., "Dead Poets Society" (1989). But this one has a lot of sparkle, some of it a bit crazy.

There's a "relationship" between the English professor and the administrator-wife of the department head ... there's a vague relationship, suggesting the sexual, but never showing it, with a well-formed and extremely bright female student ... there are homosexual relationships, involving the professor's literary agent (the Douglas character had been a successful novelist ... seven years ago ... dry ever since) and a transvestite ... etc.

There's also a very funny dog, who's as funny dead as alive.

The unfortunate Robert Downey, Jr. is in this. Excellent. So's Frances McDormand ("Fargo"). Both excellent.

Michael Douglas looks ancient, burnt out and dissipated throughout the movie ... but when you're the above-the-title star, etc. - you can insist on the last scene showing you much younger, cleaner and reasonably happy.

Good movie ... a bit slow at times ... but good enough for the Franklin Scale of 1-10, 10 being best, to give it a 7. (groping acne crowd: stay away; it'll bore the hell out of you; bright, sophisticated folks - old and young - go see).


Love those Warner ads in the paper, for GREEN MILE. A big, tight headshot of the movie's green giant, Michael Clarke Duncan ... with a soft-focus Tom Hanks in the background. That's because Mr. Duncan is an Oscar nominee and, also, it serves to attract the black audiences in this important pre-Academy Awards dry period. As for Hanks ... well, he doesn't need it.


Love those Miramax ads in the paper for CIDER HOUSE RULES. In the LATimes it's a double-pager, with the usual misleading critic-quotes ... and all around the edges of the ad, pictures of cast members ... plus an image of kids romping in the New England snow.

One of the Maine (no pun intended) themes in this excellent film: incest ... devastating war wounds ... and abortion ... plus a bit of happy adultery thrown in.

But where are all the black rights and NAACP shouters .... why aren't they sending up a hew and cry over the way this film is being promoted ? Because two of the main characters, in powerful, powerful roles, are black ... and every image in that newspaper ad is lily white ... and there's no sign of the father and daughter, without whom there'd be no movie. Instead, most of the promotion has (a) been presenting the flick as a joyful coming-of-age movie by a young white guy, during WW2 ... and (b) a vehicle for fading superstar Michael Caine (admittedly one of the great actors of our time), in a relatively small role.

Ah, Hollywood.


I'm continuing to watch "Wanna be a Millionaire ? " - if for no other reason than to watch the facial and mental gymnastics of that intellectual giant, Regis Philbin, as he asks the quiz questions, and mangles unfamiliar and/or foreign words. Last night, there was something about the Italian art patrons, the Medici's. I could have sworn that Regis pronounced it muh-DEE-cheese !  Maybe I misheard. I make mistakes, too.

Come to think of it, maybe he was thinking of the crime family, the Muh-DEE-cheese, who tried to corner the egg market in New Jersey but were caught in a rat trap, baited with Rush Limburger..


We're saber rattling in Kosovo again.  Hasn't there been enough involvement in that Balkan mess and our support of some really bad people ... our "mistaken" bombing of Belgrade's Chinese Embassy and the hitting of civilian commuter trains by our rockets ... does anybody give a damn ?

Don't forget:  coming up soon, several new web addresses, including  for the marketing of 120,000 unique photographic images that publishers, authors, photo editors, art collectors, TV biography producers and researchers, etc. will find nowhere else ... not even in the giga-sized superstockhouses. Lots of political, Hollywood, TV News, etc. stuff, too.


Keeping in mind that this is the dry season and that the studios and distributors put only minimal efforts into their releases - until the Academy Awards are over, next month. In the meantime, money and time is spent on promoting the Oscar nominees ... which are unlikely to make as much money after the awards - whether they win or lose - as they make now, as nominees, and people want to know what all the shouting is about ... and on Oscar night, they want to have seen the winners and losers.

One has to feel sorry for the folks who made and invested in flicks being released during this period. On the other hand, there's always the possibility they might never have gotten released ... or might have been delayed till August, another filmic dry period when all the summer movies have exhausted their welcome ... and many of the folks who go to the movies, do it to get out of the hot sun.

So, what's playing:

THE WHOLE NINE YARDS: Another one of those Hollywood love affairs with thugs, murderers, mobsters, killing and blood ... and calling it - and playing it as - comedy. Ain't it a great society, in which entertainment and laughter is equated with death ? Bruce Willis, smirky smile and all, playing a hitman on the run, killing and killing and killing. Although it's not in the movie, I'll bet the Willis character would love the smell of gunpowder and rotting flesh in the morning. THE WHOLE NINE YARDS should really be five soft inches ... on the Franklin Scale of 1-10, 10 being best, a 1 (one).

As I'm writing these lines, I'm listening to radio and not the usual music programming or all-news, but the talkers on KABC and KFI. On KABC, more indication why the station is having problems: Dennis what's-his-name is pompously leading discussions on same-sex marriages and letting nincompoops call in with their views. I don't stay with the program for long, but I hear no one talking about the real consequences of this nonsense: the effects on legal matters, pensions and taxation ... and therefore on all of us "normal" folks.

On the other station, Rush Limburger is explaining away the preceding night's McCain primary victory ... saying it don't mean nothin' .... and no one points out that both Bush and McCain are scary, the former because of intellectual limitations, the latter because of questions about McCain's health and temper. But all this is great, because it makes a Gore White House a growing possibility, which, I think, would be as good as we can expect in the current climate. Ain't no Eisenhowers, JFK's, FDR's or other giants on the political horizon. Gore will be OK.

I can hardly wait for that Laura Schlessinger, today ... and her expectable attacks on abortion rights, because the issue fails to pass her personal Jewish morality standards. Apparently she has no knowledge of the many individuals and families - and the unfortunate aborted - who've been saved from a lifetime of emotional, financial and legal nightmares and suicides, because of the pragmatic policies vis--vis damaged and/or unwanted fetuses (fetii ?)


BOILER ROOM: Nicely done study of the fast-money stock salesmen ... an updated version of Oliver Stone's WALL STREET of some years back. The familial stuff gets in the way, just as it did in WALL STREET. An 8 on the Franklin Scale.

GIRL INTERRUPTED: lots of nuthouse screaming and pop psychology. Walked out before it was over, but from I saw, a 2.

CIDER HOUSE RULES: one of the better films playing - advertising makes it look like a coming-of-age romp ... instead, it's an excellent study of incest, abortion, war-wounds, etc.  On the Franklin Scale: a 9.

END OF THE AFFAIR: boring British period piece. A 6.

TOPSY-TURVY: about Gilbert & Sullivan and their operas and back stage dramas that are as valid on today's Broadway, as they were in turn-of-century England. Great music, too. A (revised) 10.

THE GREEN MILE: supernatural prison stuff ... and delightful scenes involving prisoners being fried (literally) in the old electric chair ... and Tom Hanks' painful urinary problem, cured by an alleged murderer laying on of hands ! Who thinks up this kind of stuff ? (Interesting note, in some of the current ads for this flick, the star, Tom Hanks is slightly o.f. in the background, while Michael Clarke Duncan, who plays the green giant, whose hand-laying is a central factor, is sharp and big in the foreground, because he's been nominated for an Oscar. For Mr. Hanks, sic transit gloria. On the Franklin Scale: 6.

THE HURRICANE: OK professional job by Denzel Washington, playing a boxer (real). "Hurricane" Carter ... and this ex-thug's life. There've been some mutterings about this being a sugar-coated interpretation of a bad life, under the cover of decrying racism. A 7.

AMERICAN BEAUTY: good film about dysfunctional families, with excellent Kevin Spacey performance ... all about the bad things people do to each other in suburbia. And the nutcases next door. An 8.

BEING JOHN MALKOVICH: abstract stuff I didn't I walked out about half-way through.

GALAXY QUEST: entertaining take-off on Star Dreck and Star Wars. Good for when you need to get out of the rain. A 7.

THE INSIDER: I liked the portrayal of Mike Wallace most of all. And of Don Hewitt. And the CBS suits. Cute. Got a cigarette ? .... a 9.

MAGNOLIA: a good one - like AMERICAN BEAUTY - all about the bad things people do to each other, not knowing about my dad's advice: "Was Du auch tuest, sehe immer auf das Ende" - no matter what you do, business, buying, marriage, sex, choice of roads ... always consider all the possible consequences. Excellent movie is spoiled by that ridiculous (biblical) frog storm at the end. An 8.

I know I'm about four years late with this - but it took until this week for me to pick up a copy of Walter Cronkite's memoir, "A Reporter's Life", which came out in 1996.

Further, I'm usually too much of a snob to read soft-cover books, unless, of course, it's impossible to find the original hard-cover.

In any case, this former New York Times Bestseller, makes for some magnificent reading. 

For those of us who had their journalistic glory years during the 50's, 60's, 70's and 80's, it provides a basis of pride that we were part of this powerful cultural force, before print and electronic journalism fell under the thumbs of the accountants, sales departments and stock hucksters and before the undereducated Journalism 111 children moved in with the philosophy that all media had to appeal to the acne crowd to make big profits. As they did, the old men in the ivory towers leaned back in their expensive desk chairs and smiled benignly on the young unsophisticated men and women to whom anything happening outside the local shopping mall was irrelevant.


As one looks at today's television news programs - especially the local stations, with their smiling Ken & Barbie anchors and enthusiastic street reporters - young and old - with their hair dyes, toupees, heavy makeup (God, I used to sit next to 'em in the makeup rooms at Channels 2, 7 and 13 and watch the makeup lady put on layer after layer of the stuff on their skins ... while I was infuriating everyone by pushing away the pancake sponges which had just come off the other people's sweat pores - and I kept remembering that my late dermatologist father would be spinning in his grave if he could see this).

So many empty-heads. So many empty-heads.

Even at the networks. What do you have ? Peter Jennings ? (I used to write for him and it was no picnic to cater to this patrician ex-Canadian) ... Tom Brokaw ? ...nah .... Dan Rather ? OK, but obviously no longer comfortable with the current broadcast culture ... and, I suspect, just working for the excellent money .... Ted Koppel ? Yea, still one of the best, when it comes to interviewing the mighty ... not so great when it comes to reporting things like the Kosovo misadventure ... and, perhaps, also working for the money, now that the thrills of twenty/thirty years ago have become routine.

But it's the local TV news that causes concern over our survival - with its catering to unimportant street news, Mexican cancer cures, psychics, the weather, sports - and the antics of the hormone-disturbed thugs of professional sports who glory in the tabloid headlines they make, one column away from the stories about murderous rappers. Hey, it's been weeks now since I've heard Paul Moyer tsk, tsk over live coverage of a drugged up moron leading police on a freeway and surface street chase, only to end up coming out of his smashed vehicle, smiling and fingering in the direction of the hovering media helicopters. His moment of glory, before he or she heads for a few years of rape submission inside prison.

All this - directly and indirectly - comes to mind as I read the four-year-old Cronkite bio.


Wondering if the folks who depend on local TV news and the assorted entertainers who populate the talk-radio programs, know much bout what's really going on in the world - and I'm talking about events that are bound to influence the lives of all Americans:

The Balkans, where American troops, together with other UN forces, even as these lines are being written, are trying to control the ethnic feuds that make the area a powder keg. Even at this late hour, the UN troops are under fire and choking from tear gas, as they try to prevent the Albanians from streaming into a Serb urban area...the same Albanians for whom so many media crocodile tears were shed as the Albanians drove their stolen BMW's across the border during that tightly orchestrated great Kosovo Refugee Theater, while we bombed the hell out of civilian Belgrade and the Chinese Embassy.

How does this effect Joe and Jane Public ?

Well, there may be relatives in the military ... there may be influences on gasoline prices, what with the oil deposits and refineries in the Balkans ... there may be repercussions in the Muslim world, which, in turn, will affect all you day traders ... and, least of all, totally unimportant, there's the issue of morality.

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