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PCR #417 (Vol. 9, No. 12) This edition is for the week of March 17--23, 2008.
Mike's RantMike's Bust
Hello gang! Lots of news this week. Shall we begin?

The Tampa Film Review for March  by Nolan Canova and Lisa Ciurro
"Drillbit Taylor"  by Mike Smith
OzFest 2008  by ED Tucker
Book Review: Letters From A Dead Armadillo by Wendy Boucher  by Lisa Ciurro
Rondo Awards Result....Paul, Paul, Paul....Politico....Van Halen Resumes Tour  by Matt Drinnenberg
Oz .... Ahead Of The Game? .... Speaking Of Whores .... Bye Bye Barack .... Barry Bonds (again) .... Passing On .... .... .... And The Oscar For 1939 Should Have Gone To...  by Mike Smith
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Thanks ED Tucker for a great write up of the recent "Wizard of Oz" event. And thanks for the photos. Although it's been almost 9 years since I had the extreme privelege of working with them it's great to see that Clarence Swenson, Meinhardt Raabe and Jerry Maren (and his wife) are still going strong. As I think I mentioned a few weeks ago, my son Phillip, who just turned 14 at the time, was awestruck by Meinhardt (the coroner). As was I. One of my proudest possessions is an inflatable Oscar Meyer hotdog that both Meinhardt and Jerry autographed (they both played "Little Oscar" in representing the company). On a final note, the group were treated like kings while here in Kansas City...while waiting for their planes on the day they left, Jerry Maren told me that I had been their best host. We treated them to nice lunches and dinners while they were in town and Jerry told me they hadn't expected that, telling me that "most of the time they just drop us off at the hotel with a bucket of chicken."

In his first official move after replacing disgraced Elliot Spitzer as governor of New York, David Paterson announced to the press that both he and his wife had cheated on each other during their marriage. While Mrs. Paterson only admitted to one affair, the new gov admitted he had affairs with several women, including one still working in the governor's office. Readers may remember that Spitzer resigned his office after it was learned that he, too, had cheated on his wife with a high cost prostitute. So, if I understand right, it's OK to cheat on your wife as long as you don't pay for it!

Heather Mills managed to squeeze $48.6 million dollars out of Paul McCartney as their divorce trial finally came to an end. The judge, who stated after the trial that he didn't believe most of Mills' statements in court, awarded her $33 million plus another $15.6 million in property and assets she already owns. Reminds me of a comment Dan Aykroyd made on "Saturday Night Live" many years ago while discussing Lee Marvin and the palimony suit against him, "just let us know that when you're on your back the meter's running!" Among Mills' claims: she "saved" Paul McCartney's career. Yeah, he was really reeling when he met her. Nobody knew who he was and they certainly weren't buying his music. I'm still trying to figure out how she ended up on "Dancing With The Stars," except to think that maybe the producers were like me and just wanted to see her fall on her face. And apparently the definition of the word "star" now includes "used to blow a Beatle." By that reckoning, there must be dozens of 60 year old stars in Liverpool and Hamburg. Of course, now that the trial is over, McCartney can have her killed quietly.

Barack Obama officially said goodbye to his chance to be president this week when he refused to criticize the pastor who has led his church for the past 20 years. Recently released tapes of sermons show Jeremiah Wright blaming white America and the United States Government of, among other things, creating AIDS as a way to kill off the black race. Other musings from the pulpit include the thoughts that our government was responsible for 9/11. "It's not God Bless America," Wright declares, "it's God DAMN America." Wright also refered to the country as "The US KKK."

When originally questioned about Wright's comments, Obama denied being in attendance when the sermons were given. Later confronted with proof he was there, Obama admitted that he was there but that he didn't agree with what was said. DIDN'T AGREE??? Why in the hell didn't he get up and leave? If I'm sitting in church and the preacher is telling me that my government doesn't like me and a SITTING STATE SENATOR, who is part of that government, is sitting next to me nodding in agreement, I've got to conclude that the preacher is telling the truth. Obama was quick to point out that his white grandmother apparently has a thing against black men, commenting that she would "feel uncomfortable" if one approached her. When questioned about this later this week, Obama told a Philadelphia radio station, "The point I was making was not that my grandmother harbors any racial animosity, but that she is a typical white person." Wow! A typical white person. Nice.

I'm sure many readers remember the trouble radio personality Don Imus got into when he refered to the Rutgers University Women's Basketball team as "nappy headed hos." Obama was one of the first to demand Imus lose his job, saying "I understand MSNBC has suspended Mr. Imus," Obama told ABC News, "but I would also say that there's nobody on my staff who would still be working for me if they made a comment like that about anybody of any ethnic group." Obama followed that remark with the following, "He didn't just cross the line, he fed into some of the worst stereotypes that my two young daughters are having to deal with today in America. It was a degrading comment. So apparently he doesn't want his daughters to hear the words "nappy headed hos" but he has no problem with them sitting next to him in church and listening to how the US Government is trying to eliminate the black man!

Which brings us back to Obama and the good pastor. The senator refuses to censor his pastor because "he was reacting to his upbringing" and it's not his place to correct him. Which is like a member of the Manson family saying, "Yeah, I know Charlie wanted us to kill people and even though I didn't agree with him I didn't say anything because, well, that's just Charlie being Charlie."

Senator Obama is trying to play both sides of the aisle. He brings up his white relatives when the need arises, this week pointing out that his WHITE grandfather fought under General Patton and that his WHITE grandmother worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth. Oh, and here's a PCR SCOOP: There has NEVER been a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth! Don't know where grandma was getting her money, but it wasn't there. When the time came to prepare for politics, he embraced the BLACK community, even having his wife speak to African-American groups and inform them that her husband was, indeed, "black enough" for their votes.

For a man who supposedly refused to play the race card he's dealt himself one hell of a hand. Too bad it's only a pair of dueces.

A spokesman for the Major League Baseball Players Union says they may file a grievance against the league's owners charging them with colusion because no one has signed Barry Bonds. I'm not the owner of a major league team, but if I was my reply would be very simple: "In my opinion, Barry Bonds has brought disgrace to the game and has disgraced the memory of his father, Barry. Secondly, why in the hell would I give a guaranteed contract to someone who may very well be in prison come July?" Enough said. Hey, Barry. Take your big steroid enlarged head and go away. Don't go away mad...just go away!

The entertainment world lost a virtual plethora of talent this past week, from Oscar winners to renowned authors to popular musicians. I really can't add anything to Nolan's Arthur C. Clarke tribute on the homepage. However, I will pay tribute to:

Anthony Minghella, Academy Award winning director of "The English Patient," died unexpectedly this week after surgery to have a growth on his neck removed. He was 54. Among his other well known films: "The Talented Mr. Ripley" and "Cold Mountain."

Ivan Dixon, actor best known for his role as John "Kinch" Kinchloe on television's "Hogan's Heroes" passed this week from kidney failure. He was 76. After getting his start as Sidney Poitier's stunt double in "The Defiant Ones," Dixon had small roles in the films "Porgy and Bess" and "A Raisin In the Sun." Besides his role on "Hogan's Heroes," he appeared in such shows as "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.," The Twilight Zone" and "The Outer Limits." He later became a successful director, helming many episodes of "The Waltons," "The Rockford Files," "The Greatest American Hero" and "Magnum P.I." among others.

Ola Brunkert, session drummer for the band ABBA, died after an accident in his garden in Spain. Mr. Brunkert apparently injured himself after walking into a glass door, cutting his neck. He wrapped the wound and appeared to be on his way to the hospital when he collapsed and died. He was 61. Brunkert and bassist Rutger Gunnarsson are the only two musicians to appear on all of ABBA's studio albums. Brunkert also played drums for the band on their 1977, 1979 and 1980 tours.

Norman "Hurricane" Smith, who went from recording engineer to top 10 on the charts, also passed this week. He was 85. Smith was an engineer at EMI records in London and engineered all of the Beatles albums up to and including "Rubber Soul." He developed a great friendship with John Lennon, who nicknamed him "Normal." In 1965 he was promoted to producer and in 1967 he discovered and signed a new band, Pink Floyd. He later produced three of the band's first four albums. In 1973 he recorded the hit song "Oh Babe, What Would You Say," releasing it under the name "Hurricane" Smith.

Paul Scofield, British actor who won the Best Actor Academy Award in 1966 for his portrayal of Sir Thomas More in "A Man For All Seasons," died this past Wednesday at the age of 86. He had had leukemia. Best known for his stage work, Scofield created the role of More on Broadway and won the 1962 Tony Award. He later created another great character, playing rival composer Antonio Salieri in "Amadeus." Among his best known films: "Quiz Show," "Henry V" and "The Crucible."

And I just learned that Robin Moore, author of "The French Connection" and "The Green Berets," passed away on February 21 after a brief illness. He was 82. He used his friendship with Robert Kennedy to gain unchallanged access to the US Army Special Forces school, even undergoing the same training for more then a year. That access gave him the basis for his novel about the Green Berets, which was made into a film directed by and starring John Wayne. Moore also co-wrote the lyrics of the hit song, "The Ballad of the Green Berets." He also collaborated with Xaviera Hollander and Yvonne Dunleavy to write "The Happy Hooker."


Gone With The Wind sweeps! Or does it?

1939 has always been regarded as a landmark year in film. Though still a fledgling medium, film found a way to capture the imaginations of, not only this country, but the world. In recent years some films that have been nominated for Best Picture were fueled more by box office popularity then excellence. Not only do the nominees of 1939 all qualify as film classics, there were 10 films nominated for Best Picture instead of the normal 5 we see now.

1939 was really the first year of the EVENT picture. That film was "Gone With The Wind," based on the hugely successful novel by Margaret Mitchell. Almost as soon as it was published, fans imagined their film fantasies, with most of them certain that only Clark Gable could play Rhett Butler. As for the role of Scarlett O'Hara, more then 20 actresses were considered for the part, including Louise Platt, Lucille Ball, Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, Joan Crawford, Tallulah Bankhead, Linda Watkins, Adele Longmire, Haila Stoddard, Susan Hayward, Dorothy Mathews, Brenda Marshall, Paulette Goddard, Anita Louise, Margaret Tallichet, Frances Dee, Nancy Coleman, Marcella Martin, Lana Turner, Diana Barrymore, Jean Arthur, Joan Bennett and Vivien Leigh. Though Bankhead was a real life southern belle, MGM chose English actress Vivien Leigh. Director George Cukor began filming but was soon replaced by Victor Flemming, the studio being unhappy with the footage Cukor had shot. By the time the film opened, the publics anticipation was monumental. To compare it to a film in today's time, I would have to say it was the equivilent to the hype surrounding "Star Wars: Episode One." Of course, unlike "The Phantom Menace," "Gone With The Wind" didn't disappoint!

The nominees for Best Picture of 1939 were: Dark Victory, Gone With The Wind, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Love Affair, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Ninotchka, Of Mice and Men, Stagecoach,The Wizard of Oz and Wuthering Heights. As you can see, an incredible list of films, each one a certified classic. Some of the best films of all time, with two of them (GWTW and OZ) among the most beloved. If I had a vote then I would have agreed with the academy and given the prize to "Gone With The Wind." For a film with that much advance publicity to turn out so well, pleasing almost everyone that went to see it, is almost unheard of now (again, see "The Phantom Menace").

For Best Director, the nominees included some of the greatest of all time. They included: Sam Wood (Goodbye, Mr. Chips), Frank Capra (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington), Victor Flemming (Gone With The Wind), John Ford (Stagecoach) and William Wyler(Wuthering Heights). The amazing thing among the nominees is that Flemming ALSO directed "The Wizard of Oz." Again, my vote would have gone to the winner, Flemming, who won the award in his only Oscar nomination. Wood would be nominated two more times in this category. But don't worry about the other three...they did pretty well. While other directors (Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood and Oliver Stone among them) have won two Directing Oscars, Capra, Ford and Wyler are the only directors to win at least three, with Ford the all time leader with four directing Oscars to his name.

For Best Actor the race boiled down to Mickey Rooney (Babes in Arms), Clark Gable (Gone with the Wind), Robert Donat (Goodbye Mr. Chips), James Stewart (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington) and Laurence Olivier (Wuthering Heights). An eclectic group, with the two best performances in my opinion belonging to Gable and Stewart. I would honestly have to flip a coin to give my vote here but the Academy didn't need to, giving the award to a very surprised Robert Donat.

Best Actress boiled down to the following: Bette Davis (Dark Victory), Vivien Leigh (Gone With The Wind), Greer Garson (Goodbye, Mr. Chips), Irene Dunn (Love Affair) and Greta Garbo (Ninotchka). Again, a well respected group of talented ladies. The hardest performance surely was Leigh's. Not only did she have to adopt a Southern accent (and mask her English one) but she had to deliver on the preconceptions that fans of the novel had. She did both admirably and for her efforts she was awarded the golden prize!

The supporting categories had some major battles, with some films having multiple nominees. In the Supporting Actor category, the nominees were Brian Donlevy (Beau Geste), Brian Aherne (Juarez), Thomas Mitchell (Stagecoach) and both Harry Carey and Claude Rains for "Mr Smith Goes To Washington." Suprisingly missing: Leslie Howard for "Gone With The Wind." Though I would have given the nod to Rains as the corrupt senator in "Mr. Smith," the award went to Mitchell. It should be noted that Mitchell also had roles in "Mr. Smith" and "Gone With The Wind," where he played Scarlett O'Hara's father.

On the Supporting Actress side, these were the final five: Edna May Oliver (Drums Along the Mohawk), Olivia de Havilland and Hattie McDaniel (Gone With The Wind), Maria Ouspenskaya (Love Affair) and Geraldine Fitzgerald (Wuthering Heights). Fans were certain of a "GWTW" victory here and they were right. However, they were surprised when the award went to McDaniel, making her not only the first African-American to be nominated for an Oscar but the first to win one. It is said that she was the first African-American to attend the Academy Awards ceremony that wasn't a servant.

Well, that wraps up 1939. Of all the films nominated, both "GWTW" and "The Wizard of Oz" often find themselves reissued in movie theatres, an ideal place to see them as they were originally presented. I caught a 70mm reissue of "GWTW" in the mid 1980s and was absolutely blown away by the film.

Well, that's it for now. Have a great week and a Happy Easter. See ya!

"Mike's Rant" is ©2008 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 ©2008 by Nolan B. Canova.