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PCR #308. (Vol. 7, No. 7) This edition is for the week of February 13--19, 2006.
Mike's RantMike's Bust
Hello, gang! Vice President Cheney is now the most dangerous elected official since Gerald Ford swung a golf club and I mourn the passing of a man who had an enormous impact on my life. Shall we begin?

"Freedomaland"  by Mike Smith
About Valentine's Day  by Dylan Jones
Florida Filmmakers Helping Each Other  by Mark Terry
Peter Benchley....Rondo Award Voting  by Matt Drinnenberg
Cheney's Got a Gun....Thank You....You Can't Buy This Kind of Publicity....My Favorite Films--Chapter 7  by Mike Smith
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A few weeks ago George Clooney commented about how Jack Abramhoff's parents didn't think before they named him. But believe me, Mom and Dad Cheney nailed it on the head when they named their little boy Dick. This past weekend, while hunting on a friend's ranch in Texas, Vice President Cheney shot lawyer Harry Whittington while shooting at a covey of quail. Cheney, an experienced hunter, apparently not only shot behind him but into the sun, where he couldn't see a grown man, let alone a small bird. My son called me this morning and the first thing he said was, "the first rule they teach you in hunter safety is to NEVER shoot at what's behind you." It took 24 hours for Cheney's people to allow the news to be released on the shooting. Hmmmm. A terrible accident and it took 24 hours before the news was released? No big deal say many Republicans. Yet the same thing happened 30 years ago to Ted Kennedy. Not as serious laughed the White House spokesman. Now Whittington has suffered a heart attack due to a piece of the bird shot entering his heart. Still funny? Initial released statements said that Cheney had "scattered" Whittington with birdshot. SCATTERED??? To me that means he picked some up and threw it at him. HE SHOT HIM! Accident or not, he SHOT him. Reports said Whittington was 60 yards away, yet the shot penetrated Whittington's hunting vest, shirt and his body deep enough to cause his heart problem. Add to this Cheney was hunting illegally having "forgotten" to obtain the $7.00 stamp for his hunting license. At least I assume he had a hunting license. Curious how many other hunters in Texas have been caught hunting without the proper authorization and allowed to not only keep what they shot but pay later. Let's see, discharging a firearm during the commission of a crime. Not to worry, Dick. I'm sure you know a judge in Texas you haven't shot.

Peter BenchleyThis past weekend Peter Benchley, the author of many best selling books including "JAWS" and "The Deep," passed away at the age of 65 from pulmonary fibrosis, a progressive scarring of the lungs. Long time readers know my favorite film is "JAWS," so Mr. Benchley's passing was like losing a friend. I consider myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity to see Mr. Benchley last summer during the 30th Anniversary JAWSFest. During the festival the producers of the "JAWS" fan documentary, "The Shark Is Still Working," tried to arrange an interview with Mr. Benchley who had a very full schedule. Peter BenchleyImagine the film makers surprise when Mr. Benchley rescheduled his departing flight so that he could accommodate them. Jawsmovie.com has been posted with many heartfelt messages of condolence from all over the world, including England, Australia, the Netherlands, Israel, Hungary and New Zealand. Many fans sent each other emails expressing their genuine sorrow. One that I received came from my friend Andrea. I was so moved by it that I asked her if I could reprint it here, which she OK'd. I then asked several of my other JAWS pals to submit their thoughts on the influence Mr. Benchley's words had on their lives. My prayers and most sincere condolences go out to Wendy Benchley and her children. I'm sure it would be safe to say that Peter Benchley never knew how much his work impacted my life. I wish I'd had the opportunity to tell him in person, but I'm sure he knows now. And now, my friends:

I just wanted to say I'm very saddened by the news of Peter Benchley's passing. As I was reading people's responses on the forum this morning, I found myself nearly sobbing over it all. Maybe that seems silly....I don't know. I just know I was very overwhelmed by it. It's not like I was old friends with the man, obviously. But I'm very proud to say I was able to see him and hear his words and thoughts at JawsFest. I'm also happy that HE was able to attend and see the outpouring of emotion from the fans. I'm glad he had that in his last months of life. Wouldn't it be nice if everyone could go out that way, knowing how much they meant and that their contributions to the world were highly valued?

As I said on the forum, without Benchley, there would be none of this.....no Jawsmovie.com, no JawsFest, no SISW, and absolutely no reason for this email. I wouldn't know any of you if not for that man. There would be no friendships, no emails, no phone calls and conversations that I hold so dear. There would be no joking around, no goofy, lighthearted emails, no humor-filled chats, and no memories. There would simply be none of this. I am eternally grateful to Peter Benchley for making all of that possible and giving me my Jaws family (even the dysfunctional members like Kurt & Shaun. lol.).

This has certainly hit me harder than I expected it to, as witnessed by the half box of Kleenex I've gone through this morning. (Yes, I'm sappy....I know.) I know some of you have tossed around the idea of some type of gift or donation in Benchley's honor, and if that does get off the ground, definitely count me in. .


Jaws is a movie I can't remember watching for the first time. I have always loved the film. My grandmother tells me stories of how she red Peter's book and loved it, then saw a teaser in the newspaper. It was a fin cutting across the water and the words "coming soon from Universal". It took me years until I got the book in paperback and read it. In fact, I read it just about 6 years ago. It was one of the few books I've read that kept me reading for hours. Mr. Benchley was truly a great storyteller and will be missed. Thankfully I got the chance to see him in person at JawsFest, and his spirits were up. He had a great sense of humor and I could tell being there was a highlight of his life as well as mine. Thank you, Peter.

Shaun Adair

Peter BenchleyMr. Benchley:
For a kind and gentle man like you...."they're gonna need a bigger Heaven!"


"With his creation JAWS Mr Benchley's imagination still fires my own after all these years, and as a result of my passion for this movie I've made many dear friends across the globe, friends who aided by that other great beast, "the Internet", actually met for the first time in 2005. This global bonding is something I'm certain the great man would have appreciated, Rest in Peace, Peter."

Eddie McCormack

Sure, some films get extra exposure due to current events. "The China Syndrome" got major press when it came out right before the incident at Three Mile Island. But this week I was floored. Not since the producers of "Poltergeist III" milked the death of Heather O' Rourke when it was released has anything this bizarre happened. This past Friday, Alan Shalleck, a collaborator with the co-creators of "Curious George," was stabbed to death at his Florida home. Coincidentally, the film "Curious George" opened across the country on the same day. I can see the news now: ".....very sad news for fans all over the world. Now here's Bill with a review of the movie!"

Starring: Danny Aiello, John Turturro, Richard Edson and Spike Lee
Directed by: Spike Lee

FIRST SEEN: Northpoint 4 Theatre, Baltimore, Maryland
FAVORITE LINE: "I just killed your fucking radio."
FAVORITE SCENE: Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn) explains the LOVE and HATE jewelry on his hands.

  • Academy Award nominations for Spike Lee (Best Original Screenplay) and Danny Aiello (Best Supporting Actor)
  • Voted Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actor (Aiello) by the Chicago Film Critics Association.
  • Golden Globe nominations for Best Picture, Director, Screenplay and Supporting Actor (Aiello).

    For his third feature, Spike Lee turned to his home territory of Brooklyn and featured the residents reacting to the hottest day of the year. Much of the action revolves around Sal's Famous Pizzeria, where the neighborhood kids go to "have a slice" and stay out of the heat. While Sal seems to genuinely love his customers, his son Pino can barely hide his racially motivated hatred. Sal's other son, Vito, is more tolerant, striking a friendship with Mookie the delivery person. When tempers, and the temperature, rise, the quiet block becomes a powder keg.

    In the almost 17 years since it's release, "Do the Right Thing" remains Spike Lee's masterpiece. Though he was turned down by Robert DeNiro, who he wanted to play Sal, on DeNiro's suggestion he offered the role to Aiello, who gives a great performance. The back story of Buggin Out trying to force Sal to hang photos of famous blacks in the shop moves to the forefront as the film progresses. Lee regulars Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee lend their talents to the young cast, which features early work by Samuel L. Jackson, Rosie Perez and Martin Lawrence, among others. I'm happy to report that I wasn't the only one flabbergasted that the film didn't garner an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. During the ceremony Kim Bassinger remarked from the stage at how terrible it was that the film was overlooked. From the audience, Spike Lee sent her a simple note that just read, "Thank you."

    Lee followed "Do the Right Thing" with other terrific dramas, including "Jungle Fever," "Mo Better Blues" and "Malcom X," among them. His latest film, "Inside Man," starring Denzel Washington and Clive Owen, opens next month.

    Next week I'll be "talkin' to you" as I highlight Martin Scorsese's "Taxi Driver."

    Well, that's all for now. Have a great week. See ya!

    "Mike's Rant" is ©2006 by Michael A. Smith.  Webpage design and all graphics herein are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2006 by Nolan B. Canova.