Taxi “Bobby’s Acting Career” [1978)

The trademark of these early Taxi episodes is tragicomedy.

We get a laugh, but something makes us think.

It should come as no surprise that artists are naturally inclined to tell their own stories.

Put another way, artists are quite comfortable describing the artist life.

And that is essentially what we have here.

Bobby (Jeff Conaway) is approaching a self-imposed impasse.

Hollywood or bust!  [Or in this case, Broadway or bust.]

Three years.

Reminds me of David Bowie’s haunting “Five Years” (the lead track from the Ziggy Stardust album).

That’s all we’ve got.

For Bobby, it’s three years.

Well, I have to say that it’s one of those plotlines that really got to me.

I can really relate.

I never set quite a quantified limit for myself, but by a similar mechanism I have found myself in my current situation.

Bobby wants to be an actor.  I wanted to be a musician.

I spent about 10 years getting to the professional level.

After four years, my dreams came crashing down around me (to quote Danny DeVito’s line from this episode).

Yeah, so I started anew.  Business school.  Wow, what a change!

But there’s something else about this episode.

Bobby’s last day.

He’s waiting for a call.  He gets turned down.

He auditions for a commercial.  He gets turned down.

Till the very end, Bobby is out hustling to beat the deadline.

And in the end he is surrounded by his friends.

The phone has to ring before midnight.

He needs that validation.  That outside validation.  That unequivocal measure of progress.  Being paid to do what he loves.

And so the group sits around the phone.  Each imploring it to “Ring!  Ring!” (while Latka chimes in with an urgent “Blop!  Blop!”).

Andy Kaufman doesn’t get much of a chance to shine here, but that’s alright:  this was Jeff Conaway’s episode.

Mr. Conaway is no longer with us.  But you know what?  He made it!  He was on Taxi.  Here I am all these years later watching this show with rapt attention.

But back to that artist’s life.

To quote Tom Petty, “The waiting is the hardest part.”

Yeah.  It reminds me of one of the greatest books I ever read:  Waiting Period by Hubert Selby, Jr.

If you were reading yesterday, you know that I made a decision to seek help for my depression.

But there were no appointments available today.

Fortunately I go tomorrow.

Funny how that is a cause of anxiety.

I’m scared.

Well, anyway…

I hope to be back with you all soon.

Keep your dreams!  Dream baby dream!

 

-PD

Modern Times [1936)

We who have nothing implore you who have much.

I think this might be the message.

And yet, whatever the message, there is no denying the beauty of the department store scene.

The breathtaking Paulette Goddard, a grease-stained child of the streets, asleep beneath a fur coat on a feather bed.

Tucked in by The Little Tramp…only to be ripped from the bedrooms of the rich by that opening whistle.

It was a valiant stand.

At the lunch counter.

Ravenously eating tomorrow’s sandwiches.  A piece of cake.  Eat up!

It is sad.  It brings me back.  To art.  To a time when a meal was a religious experience.

A moment of companionship shared by artists on the run.

But as Neil Young so wisely sings in the song “Ambulance Blues,”…”It’s easy to get buried in the past/when you try and make a good thing last.”

And so The Little Tramp would probably say, “Buck up, cowgirl!”

Indeed, it’s not the end of the world.

It ain’t over till Yogi Berra sings.

And Chaplin sings too.

It’s true!

Up till now he had no voice.

Pantomime.

The purest artist going.

So entrenched that he continued with silent films well after their demise.

Yet this is really a sound film.

And, it really is (also), a silent film.

Most of all, it is a brilliant film!

She sleeps so cozy.  Perhaps.  In Denmark they would comment thusly.  Hyggeligt.

Denmark…where amber washes up on the beach.  Not ambergris…but that too.

No.  Electrum.

And the sheer magnetism of Chaplin.  All a’flurry on his rollerskates.

We “oooh” and we “ahhh” as he rides a wave of serendipity.

It’s not all smooth sailing for The Little Tramp, but it’s always interesting.

And so we can laugh with him.

And we can dream with the auteur Chaplin behind the camera…what vision to concoct such consolation for so many.

I can’t put it any better than that.

-PD

Die Another Day [2002)

CGI, like fake boobs, does not age well.  But let us back up to all of the ridiculous indoctrination which precedes the failed geekery of late in the film.  This James Bond movie has many reeducation moments, but they emanate not from the North Korean characters but rather the film’s shadow auteurs.  Let me demonstrate.

“North Korea bad.  England good.  England also known U.K.  [ooga booga]  America friend U.K.  North Korea torture.  America and U.K. not torture.  [ooga-booga]”

Yes, dear friends…Hollywood considers you a bunch of fucking chimps.  And when it comes to films with a lot of heavy weaponry, you can bet the transnational military-industrial complex had a large role to play in the production.

North Korea hacked Sony?  Gimme a fucking break!  That was a self-inflicted publicity stunt.  The only problem is the collusion of intelligence services which are always tasked with finding the next suitable enemy.  The CIA, MI6, NSA, and every other alphabet agency in the Anglo-American “five eyes” network have become nothing more than glorified traffic cops…fulfilling their ticket quotas.

Why will the new world order fail?  Because they do not employ the best artists.  Sure, there are forgery artists on staff of these intel agencies, but not the artists needed to fool the world.  There are no Charlie Chaplins, no Orson Welles, no Pablo Picassos, no Igor Stravinskys…  And so the global elite circuitously churn out these propaganda films which age as fast as Cheez Whiz or Silly String. They count on audiences being stupid…both uneducated and willfully stupid (in combination).

Lee Tamahori actually does a worse job directing than Michael Apted did in the last half of the previous Bond film, though sadly the mise-en-scène is almost indistinguishable.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system (yay! free speech), let’s talk about what is salvageable.  Zao.  Diamond acne.  That’s pretty good.

Torture in the opening credits.  Very innovative (and true to the spirit of the first Bond novel Casino Royale).  Bond’s dereliction of duty (if it can be called that) echoes the wonderful message of License To Kill (1989), yet what follows is mostly hackneyed storytelling.

Halle Berry’s emergence from the ocean like the reincarnation of Ursula Andress circa 1962 seems to bode well, but it is simply a rare moment of excellence in a sea of shite.

Further indoctrination follows in that Berry is supposedly an NSA agent.  In all my years reading about the NSA (from James Bamford to Wayne Madsen), never have I encountered even a hint of the kind of agent she is purported to be.  This leads me to believe that the whole purpose was to make No Such Agency seem cool and acceptable knowing that the PATRIOT Act was now letting them eavesdrop the shit out of your lives.  They knew such a steamroller approach would eventually result in public backlash.  And it did.  NSA agent…  Gimme a fucking break…

And then of course there’s the nice little mention of Sierra Leone.  We’d be revisiting that country as “liberators” from a biowarfare agent called ebola before too long.

Yes, I know, dear reader:  these sound like the thoughts of a raving lunatic.  I urge you to investigate…really investigate.  Investigate to the point you are scared…and then investigate some more.  Can you afford it?  We dispossessed of the earth have nothing to lose.

I could talk about Madonna’s bad acting.  Actually, I like Madonna.  It’s just horrible fucking directing.  To the director’s credit, the scene seems pressured from above…like a goddamned product placement.

Graves ice palace looks like a cross between the Sydney Opera House and a frozen McDonald’s.  What a pathetic piece of set design.

Conversely, kudos to the thinkers behind the hypersonic wedding ring.

But these fucking car chases…it’s like Top Gear.  What a load of uncinematic crap!

It’s a pity Rosamund Pike had such a bollocks role.

This is just atrocious filmmaking.

-PD