All posts by billwhite1951

About billwhite1951

Bill White was a film reviewer for the Seattle Post Intelligencer from 1999-2009. Since then he has written a novel, The Goners, and a memoir, Cinema Penitentiary. He is currently working on a new novel, The Mayor is a Gringo. Born in Seattle, WA, he spent the years 1981-1997 in Boston, MA, where he worked as a disk jockey and a theater director, He also has an obscure place in the history of Northwest Rock Music.

Movie Review The Disaster Artist

During the years that The Room was a weekly fixture on the schedule of a jerryrigged excuse for a movie theatre, the kind of place where thirty or forty smart alecks would gather to jeer at Showgirls or sing along with The Sound of Music, I had not the slightest interest in attending a screening.  Now, several years later, after having seen The Disaster Artist, a fictionalized account of the making of that cult phenomenon, seeing that movie became a  necessity.  Was it possible that these two characters as portrayed in The Disaster Artist had succeeded in executing even a watchable shot, let alone scene, let alone feature film?  Well, since I never saw The Room in its original theatrical form, it is impossible to know how that movie looked or played, but the BluRay gives it the air of a professional production.  For all I know, the millions made by the cult screenings may have gone into a total post production reboot. or maybe the director, writer, star Tommy Wiseau is not the total retard that director/actor  James Franco, makes him out to be in The Disaster Artist.

I’m not claiming that The Room is a good movie.  Had it been made as a porno film in the seventies, thugh, it would have been showered with accolades as a breakthrough adult film,  But it is not a porno, and it wasnt made in the seventies.   Its contemporaries are not Deep Throat and The Devil in Miss Jones, but the flood of 21st century mumblecore movies that have reach a low-horizon zenith with writer/director Greta Gerwig’s highly praised disaster of a movie, Lady Bird, which has netted five Oscar nominations , including Best Picture, Best director, Best original Screenplay, and best actress for both leading and supporting roles.  Now, I’m not saying that The Room is a better film that Lady Bird, but it is not too much its inferior, and is certainly more honest.  Yet the Room is being touted as the worst film of all time and Lady Bird as the Best of 2017.  Something is seriously wrong here.

But back to The Disaster Artist.  It is  highly original, intensively funny look inside the conundrum of untalented and unskilled people failing to make it in a competitive industry, and how they create an alternative reality for themselves in which they are the alpha people.  Franco has done an excellent job of exaggerating the flaws of his protagonist to the point of hysterical disbelief.  The only precedent I can think of is American Movie, Chris Smith’s  1999 documentary of the making of Mark Borchardt\s horror short, Coven.  In both films, the audience is invited to both ridicule and empathize with a wannabe film-maker whose dreams exceed his capabilities.   There is something cruel in these films, but there is also a lot of affection for the misguided, deluded protagonist, one who beats the odds and the other who is defeated by them.

 

SONG OF THE DAY    FULL MOON NIGHT 

click on link to listen

https://billwhite.bandcamp.com/track/full-moon-night

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Full Moon Night

from The Country Side of Bill White by Bill White

Down from Missouri Drivin a truck full of illegal beer
Outran the troopers across the Missippippi bridge
I tried to leave you after we made the split
But the wind was cutting through the trees and you wouldn’t let go of my wrist

chorus
Baby Im sorry Nothing ever comes out right
Yeah its hopeless even on a full moon night

We shacked up in Memphis near the Mississippi bridge
Stayed drunk all winter Cant remember all the things that we did
Sundays in Shakerag with a guitar on my knee
Got a call from Nashville and I wasn’t taking you with me

repeat chorus

Next time I saw you you were going through some heavy times
You cried on my shoulder all I could d was pour you another glass of wine
I said I cant help you but Ill stay till youre on your feet
But before we even finished making love I had my bags out in the street

That’s when I told you something that you didn’t want to know
That I would never follow you to where you wanted to go
Just because your prison is put together with pretty nails
Doesn’t make it any different than any other stinkin jail

repeat chorus

 

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Movie Review” Commandos Strike At Dawn…terrible title, excellent film

Commandos Strike At Dawn

Where did this movie come from anyway? An American civilian leads a team of British commandos against a Nazi stronghold in Norway?  In 1942, America had hardly entered the war against the Japs, let alone joined in the fight against the Nazis.  Yet Hollywood produced this thrilling, inspiring , sensitive tale of Norwegian resistance under the exploitive title, Commandos Strike At Dawn.  And the movie, directed by John Farrow and starring Paul Muni and Lillian Gish, with a screenplay by Irwin Shaw and  based on a story by CS Forrester, is right up there with Roberto Rosellinni’s  Paisan as a masterpiece of anti- Nazi resistance.  it is nothing like the corny pro-american world war two films that were produced in 1943, when the United States expanded their military involvement to add Germany to the list of enemies,  ten years after the rise of Hitler.  The only directors in Hollywood  who came close to making such superior films about the war against Hitler  were Fritz Lang with hangmen Also Die and Alfred Hitchcock with Lifeboat.  But these films didn’t come along until 1943, and both were made by immigrants  John Farrow, although Australian by birth, found his career in the movies in Hollywood, and in this same year, 1942, directed another excellent war film, Wake Island, which focused on the American victories against the Japanese in the Pacific.  Both films are of lasting value, but Commandos Strike at Dawn belongs in the hallowed hall of masterpieces.

Song of the Day Blankets of Sun, from the album Older Master Cute ..click link for free streaming

https://billwhite.bandcamp.com/track/blankets-of-sun

The Suffering Earth

 

Song of the Day.

Click link to listen

https://billwhite.bandcamp.com/track/the-suffering-earth

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Song of the Day.  Click Link to Listen

https://billwhite.bandcamp.com/track/the-suffering-earth

The Suffering Earth

from Ashes and Embers by Bill White

We used to have the guts
To steal the payroll of a train
Now we slink on home in silence
To fill up our veins
With dirt
Until we’re just another piece of the suffering earth

Things beyond imagination
You get used to pretty fast
What was sold as forever
Never had the time to last
Now it’s gonna hurt
but it’s just a wrinkle in the ripple of the suffering earth

Courtrooms filled with caskets
where the dead are put on trial
Rivers thick with sinful blood
Open with a smile
But they swallow you first
Then spit you back into the suffering earth

It’s the power of the nightmare
The glory of the year
That educates with ignorance
And manipulates with fear
As we die of thirst
Crawling across the suffering earth

I never went to see my mother
Until the day before she died
Then my sister was gone too
It was a long and tearful ride
And I was left in the lurch
As the rest of my family fell into the suffering earth

I am lying on a guerney
Pushed from room to room
The nurses think that I amdead
The doctor knows I’ll be dead soon
But the truth is worse
I was just a piece of the suffering eath

Do you ever get the feeling
Nothing is as it seems
That your life had ended long ago
Now you’re walking in a dream
Waiting for the birth
Of a brand new you in the same old suffering earth

credits

from Ashes and Embers, released October 23, 2007
all rights reserved

The DVD Pile- Catching Up on Recent Releases

SMALL TOWN CRIME

A tight little crime thriller not unlike the ones they used make for television in the mid-seventies. It might not stick around in your memory through the coming years, but you’ll not be wasting your evening by taking it in.  Somebody is killing prostitutes and a ex-cop who discovers one of the bodies takes a personal interest in finding and dispatching the killer.  I liked it because it neither played it metrosexually cute like LA Confidential, nor did it swim in the swill of Tarantino vulgarity. John Hawkes is excellent as the ex-cop, and the supporting cast, which includes Robert Forster and Octavia Spencer , is outstanding.  Brothers Eshom and Ian Nelms share both writing and directing credit, and are a team poised for success.  Keep your eye on them.

AMERICAN SATAN

Even without the devil, this tale of a successful band in heavy metal Hollywood would be a keeper. It helps that the lead singer of the group is a lead singer in a real life group,   In fact, almost everybody in the movie has a decent grasp on what it meant to be in a Hollywood band in the mid 80’s, after the punks faded away and the big hair posers moved in.  Some of the satanic stuff is pretty corny, and Malcolm McDowell isn’t going to win any prizes for his interpretation of the Evil One, but the metaphor is as straight and as clean as it was when Goethe applied it.

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI 

Everybody in this movie, except perhaps Sam Rockwell who I kind of liked, is way too hip for the movie they are making.  Frances McDormand may have been a decent actress back when she caught everyone’s attention with Fargo, but its twenty years later and she is still doing the same bloody thing.  Woody Harrelson is another one who never grew out of the nineties.  We all know what happened in Missouri during Obama\s reign, and if you want to see a movie that addresses that murderous underside of America, I recommend seeing Detroit and passing over this hipper than thou obfuscation of the situation at hand.

SONG OF THE DAY.. OMAHA REDUX

https://billwhite.bandcamp.com/track/omaha-redux

 

Jessica Chastain is the Winner in “Molly’s Game”

I championed Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain\s film debuts as the first stars of the new millennium. Both have disappointed me, Shannon more than Chastain, as he embraced being typecast as a Frankenstein monster  and became more drearily offbeat with each rle, while Chastain naively followed every bad piece of direction she was given to the letter, resulting in letter-perfect mi-steps that endeared her with the amateur indie directors who so frequently employed her.  I hove kept up with both of them though, always hoping for a breakthrough that would rekindle  my initial love for their work,  Even though Shannon is always entertaining to watch, he is ultimately a bore, as most oddballs must be, as their shee oddness pre=supposes any true originality.  Chastain, however, always shows some promise, but is ultimately sunk by her adherence to the bad ideas of her directors, who obviously adore her.

For the record,  Shannon’s work for \jeff Nichols and Chastain’s work for Dan Ireland is impeccableWhatever

This year, Shannon took another freak step into the sideshow tent in the otherwise excellent movie The Shape of Water, while Chastain lit up the screen with energy and imagination as Molly Bloom not the Molly of Joyce, but the true life gambling queen who was indicted for treason for the role she inadvertently played in Russian mob money laundering. Whatever is true or untrue in Bloom’s book upon which the movie is based, or in the movie itself, is irrelevant, as the film, movie, and Bloom herself are subsumed in the monumental performance given by Chastain, and the enormous support she receives from her brilliant co-star Idris Elba, who brings new blood to what is generally the thankless role of defense attorney.

I was glued to the screen for the films entire 140 minutes, even when some aspects of it, such as the backstory with Kevin Costner as the psychologist father. and the miscasting of dullard Michael Cerra in a crucial role, were flawed.  Although  Molly’s Game is Aaron Sorkin’s debut as a director, it is apparent that he learned his lessons well in writing top-flight screenplays, including  The Social Network and A Fee Good Men.   Mollys  Game should  be a leading contender in this years Academy awards, and if it loses in any of the categories to the miserably smug clichés of Three billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri,  wich made off with underserved awards for both picture and actress, the FBI would be well advised to investigate the academy for collusion with the Russians.

Song of the Day

https://billwhite.bandcamp.com/track/would-i-be-a-fool

 

Book Review Fire and Fury Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff

Donald Trump was a stooge whose purpose was to fracture the Republican party to clear the path to the white house for Hillary Clinton.  Neither he nor any of those working on his campaign expected him to win the presidency.  Michael Wolff’s sometimes enlightening document of Trump’s first year in the white house begins with the career fantasies of Trump and his cohorts, fantasies that withered with Trump’s election, an event that was to destroy all those involved in the fiasco.

Until now, most of what Americans know of their 45th president had been filtered through the propaganda machinery of the DNC.  Between the media’s spinning of every move the president made, and every lie the president himself told, here was no way the public could amass enough real information to have a valid opinion on anything that was happening in their government.  Wolff has provided a slight remedy with this book, which tells the story of Trump’s first year in the white house from the manifold perspectives of those jackals who have held prominent positions in that administration.

There is enough treachery in this book for a dozen King Lears.  But the treasonous ambitions of petty bureaucrats can make for some dull and repetitive reading.  it is worth struggling through the book, however, for the few insights it has to offer, insights that you are just not going to get from gluing yourself to CNN.  The emerging plot line is the ascent of ex chief strategist Steve Bannon, who is at present positioning himself to be the next president of the United States, and is every bit the monster that the Democrats have made Trump out to be,   When you finish reading Fire and Fury, your fear and hatred of Trump may well transfer to this much more diabolical creature.

Along the way to the unmasking of Bannon, the reader is treated to some humorous anecdotes such as Ivanka Trump’s explanation of her father’s  hairdo and why the color of his hair always turns out orange.  And the many plots, if America had a dramatist skilled enough to straighten them all out, would make for a chilling political thriller that would make the paranoid thrillers of the sixties such as Seven Days in May and The Manchurian Candidate look like middle school pranks.

Wolff offers a portrait of Donald Trup as a petulant rich boy taking revenge on all the little bastards who pretended to like him as means to their own ends, but even as it diminishes the president\s role in his own administration, it reveals a dysfunctional government that is far more threatening to global well-being than the incompetence of a single man.