The doctor is in.

Upon completing the fourth season of Big Love, I provided husbands with some advice about plural marriage. Now, watching In Treatment, I feel moved to do the same thing for therapists with plural patients.

Why would you, a therapist, want to father children by your own patients? Because God put you on this Earth to father children and you have a barn full of fillies (to borrow from Secretariat) ready at hand. Or should I say, a barn full of brood mares? You stallion, you.

My advice:

– Refuse all patients with fertility problems. You’re a shrink, not a gynecologist.

– Refuse all male patients. You won’t be bringing down souls from heaven by spending time with dudes. Exception: accept a couple of those guys who want to be cured of their homosexuality. They’ll do all the talking and you won’t have to listen to a word of it; this will relieve the bad optics of an all-female practice, and provide a little walking-around money for you.

– Situate your office next to a motel run by a known polygamist.

– Drug the Evian.

– If a tall, good-looking client walks in, don’t say “Wow, do those legs go all the way up?”

Getting started:

– Ask her about her dad. What does he look like? Try to have her show you his picture. Does he have facial hair? Go to the costume shop and get some like it. Cold-call him to hear his voice, and then mimic it during your sessions with her. Read the Electra Cliff Notes.

– Ask her about her husband, but only the bad parts. He doesn’t understand her.

– Tell her that she’s beautiful.

– Hire a model to walk in every time she’s leaving. Have the model move past her and into the room, to her recently-vacated chair, in a way that would make Freud forget that a cigar is sometimes only a cigar.

Therapy:

– If she’s a Mormon, ask her how many children she has had. No matter how many, look disappointed and disapproving.

– If she’s a Catholic, ask her how many children she has had. No matter how many, ask her in an accusatory way if she’s been using contraceptive methods. Try to sound like a German, Polish, or Irish priest.

– If she’s a Buddist, sit in silence for the full 50 minutes with an erection.

Some dialog hints:

Patient: Doctor, I… I love you.
You: Myrtle, where do you feel this love?
Patient: In my heart.
You: Where else?
Patient: …In my head?
You: Where else?

Patient: Doctor, I can’t stop thinking about you!
You: Edna, I’m going to show you something that will distract you.

Patient: Oh, Doctor, stop! I can’t have another child!
You: You can’t?… Or you won’t?

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Androcles and the Lion (1952)

Having watched Pygmalion (1938) and Major Barbara (1941), I continue my G. B. Shaw refresher with Androcles and the Lion (1952).

As I mentioned when reviewing the earlier films, Shaw takes pains to get his point across, one way or another. His preface to Androcles runs longer than the play itself. Bottom line: Jesus had some good ideas but they mostly died with him. Let’s not worry about it (says I, not Shaw). Aesop, who wrote the original, would be scratching his head, I presume.

This is only about half Shaw, anyway, the other half being Hollywood, or Gabriel Pascal’s notion of it. After Pascal’s successes with Pygmalion and Major Barabara, he went all in with Caesar and Cleopatra (1945), filming in Technicolor with Vivien Leigh and Claude Rains, in Egypt (or not. Conflicting info on this), before the war ended. When that flopped, he backed off on Androceles and left most of Shaw’s thoughts on Chrisianity out of the movie, substituting fun with the lion and gladiators. Being dead, Shaw probably didn’t care. [Or maybe there is another whole history here that I’m missing. Androcles came seven years later and was released into a different England that CAC. If I ever do the research, I’ll come back and edit this. Or get it right in my CAC review.]

When I saw Victor Mature gazing down from a balcony upon Jean Simmons in this one, I immediately asked myself, what chemistry is this? Victor, dressed in his Roman legionaire togs, looked tired, world weary, aging. Just his role, or too many late Hollywood nights? I remember when I first noticed Pacino looking old. He never tried to hide it and I respected him for that. It turns out, I like haggard. Some, age hardly touches. Paul Newman. Some age early. Tommy Lee Jones got the gig in Space Cowboys (2000), side by side with Garner, Eastwood, and Donald Sutherland, and didn’t look out of place with those three geezers at all. Supposedly, he was their contemporary. Either way with Victor, the true ravages of age or a role calling for a worn-out legionaire, I took his interest in Simmons, who was dressed, or wrapped, in a simple white fabric and was in her early twenties at the time, radiating a mixture of Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor with plenty of black-and-white closeups, and at least one moment in that white shift when we can tell she’s excited to be hanging with Victor, I took Victor’s interest, I say, to be that of an older man called upon to reflect on life’s beauty and missed opportunities. Then I discovered that he was only 38 when he made the movie and that whole train of thought went out the window. Just as well, cause later when he and Jean start to breathe heavy whilst discussing religion, he looks younger, though still with that mug of his.

The two of them, Mature and Simmons, went on the next year to make The Robe (1953), wherein Burton takes pride of place and wherein Simmons wears the same white clingy thing that she’s flaunting in Androcles (well, she’s flaunting what’s in the clingy thing, I guess), and then The Egyptian (1954), again with the white clinger. The Egyptian is the effort that occasioned that famous quote about the male star’s bosom being larger than the female’s. More tanned, too.

Jean Simmons, like Wendy Hiller as Eliza Dolittle and Barbara Undershaft, gets more than 50% of the spunk and argument in the movie. Here, though, rather than facing a Professor Higgins or Barbars’s  magnate father, Simmons deals with a diffuse collection of hypocrites, plus the hunky lunk.

Shaw taken up by Rex Harrison, Leslie Howard, and Wendy Hiller is one thing; Shaw taken up by Jean Simmons, Victor Mature, and Jim Backus, well, that’s something else. It’s not exactly that this is Shaw 4 in the franchise, but Gabriel Pascal picked the best for 1938, then the next best for 1941. Shaw worked with him on those; but by the time Androcles  rolled around, Shaw had left the building. Not to worry. Innumerable Shaw plays have been filmed, and filmed again, since then. I have seven more on reserve, just in case I haven’t had my fill yet.

[Taking a break to remind myself what a catbird seat is. Ah, that’s better. But still not where it came from in the 1800s.]

What else? Androcles later played the owner of Mr. Ed. Alan Young. 91 and still working. Has been associated with a cultural treasure trove of properties, from The Hulk to ER to Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck to Doogie Howser to Batman to the Chipmunks. My God, the man is a legend.

Movie notes:

Robert Newton, who owns the most amusing moments in Major Barbara (1941) as Bill Walker, is back here ten years later, to again provide LOL moments in the movie, as Ferrovius.

Jim Backus , with Mr. Magoo straining to get out, puts me in mind, for some reason, of The Phil Silvers Show (1955). Similar vibe.

As they march along, back in A.D. 161 (or whatever year it is supposed to be), the Christians sing a lusty version of “Onward Christian Soldiers.” Never mind the anachronism. Between verses, the members of the group remind each other that every man jack of them is about to become lion chow. Some soldiers.

“man jack” comes from cricket, where the worst batsman is listed at number 11 (i.e., 8, 9, 10, jack).

Collected Dailies 9

Email from my niece:  Danny DeVito is coming to SF Sketchfest next Tuesday night at the Castro, to have a conversation with James L. Brooks after a screening of Broadcast News (1987). Janet being the co-founder/co-director, our tickets await at the door, if only we can bestir ourselves and drive up to the city. 99 acts in its 10th year; the thing is getting huge.

***

Friday Night Lights and Undeclared, from Netflix. The Undeclared cast, after their 17 episodes and cancellation, go on to fame in various flavors. Who from Friday Night Lights has gone on to stardom?

***

Androcles and the Lion (1952) – When I saw Victor Mature looking down from a balcony on Jean Simmons in this one, I immediately asked myself, what chemistry is this? Victor, dressed in his Roman general’s togs, looks tired, world weary, aging. Just his role, or too many Hollywood nights? I remember when I first noticed Pacino looking old. He never tried to hide it and I respected that. Some, age hardly touched. Paul Newman. Some aged early. Tommy Lee Jones got the gig in Space Cowboys (2000), side by side with Garner, Eastwood, and Donald Sutherland, and didn’t look out of place with the three geezers at all. Supposedly, he was their contemporary. Either way with Victor, the true ravages of age or a role calling for a worn-out legionaire, I took his interest in Simmons, who was dressed, or wrapped, in a simple white fabric and was in her early twenties at the time, with a mixture of Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor vibes and plenty of closeups, to be that of an older man called upon to reflect on life’s beauty and missed opportunities. Then I discovered that he was only 38 when he made the movie and that whole train of thought went out the window.

***

Mother and Child (2009) – A lot to like. Be fun to write about, some rainy day.

***

Arn: The Knight Templar (2007) – In Sweden, it’s all in Swedish; in the Holy Land, English. Then Arn lays out a little Arabic and Saladin says, “You speak our language.” and I thought, Dude, you’re a Kurd; it’s not your language either. But Saladin probably never made a big deal about the Kurd thing whilst uniting the Arabs.

***

The Social Network (2010) – Sorkin can write, no doubt about that. I was taken out of the movie somewhat by Eisenberg channeling Danny Pudi all the way through… My college had four fraternities, one each for the BMOC, jocks, rich party animals, and nerds (before the taxonomy of nerds had been clearly established). As a freshman, I attended all the rush parties. Uncomfortable! Except for that of the nerd group. On the day that invitations to join appeared in our student-union mailboxes, I found one, from the nerds. This being the early 60s,  it turned out that the nerds, to the surprise of everyone, harvested all the most sought-after frosh. This being the early 60s, although I attended the introductory parties, I never considered actually joining a fraternity. I was gratified by the invite, though. And I did have a girlfriend for a year who was in a sorority, so I did get to go to a couple of parties and a couple of dances, getting drunk at all of them, and experiencing the  sorority-house cat and gossip.

***

Buried (2010) – Ryan Reynolds clearly didn’t see Kill Bill (2004), in which The Bride faces the same situation. I felt a lot more uncomfortable with Uma in the box that I did with Reynolds, but then she was only required to zen punch her way out, not emote for ninety minutes in a Stephen King-type situation… Funny to hear Stephen Tobolowsky’s dulcet tones over the line three-quarters of the way through, as he be’s mean. If you’ve never listened to The Tobolowsky Files podcast, I recommend it… Having watched North Face (2008), Frozen (2010), and this one, I am not taking endings for granted anymore.

***

Big Love, season 4 – I’m sort of amazed at how dialed-up this season is – intense every moment. There have been crises that in previous seasons would have taken weeks to resolve. Here,they crop up and then get shouldered aside because so much else is going on. Makes me wonder what the final season, number 5, just beginning, can do to maintain parity, or more… I haven’t checked any reviews or discussions or whatever, but of the multitude of soaps I’ve watched, I can’t remember seeing anything like this. It’s great…And it goes out with a perfect bang. Soap at its best… Meanwhile, the next-t0-last episode of Caprica 1.5 introduces a plot twist that I so never saw coming. That’s what I always liked about BSG and Lost: the surprises.

***

Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010) – How I knew this was a class film: Milla Jovovich goes to the showers, gets the water running, takes off her guns and knives, but before she can remove a single piece of leather, gets interrupted and has to go fight zombies… I have absolutely no memory of the first three entries in this franchise, all of which I’ve seen. This one is all about the visuals. Ali Larter adopts a babe look that doesn’t work for me as well as her Heroes persona… Some rainy day, I’d like to look into this more closely – Wes Anderson and Jovovich, now 35 and a mom but still kicking zombie ass. Instead of using the quick cuts that make it impossible for the viewer to follow a fight, Anderson goes the other way, using slo mo to linger over the action. Video game on screen.

***

One little thing about Big Love: seems to me that often as not, they don’t get the hymns right. Seems like a strange thing to get wrong, but every few episodes I find myself thinking, where did that music come from?

***

Listening to a Robert Parker 2010 novel. He left a few behind when he died, which is good. Takes a little of the fun out of it, though, knowing that he’s gone.

***

Went to see Amaracord (1973) one night in San Diego, back in ’73, and then The Godfather (1972) the following night. My impression at the time: Coppola was no Fellini, in spite of The Godfather’s subsequent glory. I mention this because I watched the first hour of Piranha (2010) last night, after watching Machete the night before, and Aja is no Rodriquez. I can enjoy a ride at the county fair, but for a classic ride, you’ve got to go find a Disneyland… First sign of trouble in Piranha: old guy gets eaten but later his bloody corpse washes up. Corpse?!? These are Jurassic super piranhas? There shouldn’t be anything left of the geezer but a couple of clean white bones, a wedding ring, and a grinning skull; Aja just wanted that corpse to rear up in th water; weak! Second sign of trouble: the CGI blood is laughably bad – there is no excuse for bad CGI blood in this, our high-tech age – bad CGI in 2011 is sort of like Rush Limbaugh still big and bold eleven years into the new millenium. Makes you realize that (1) Kubrick was off by a thousand years and (2) it takes less than 50% of the population to screw everybody, including the planet itself… Anyway. T&A-wise, Aja is a wannabe Rob Zombie here, and I’m thinking of unrated, director’ cut of The Devil’s Rejects. Inadvertantly or vertantly, Aja has put himself in his own movie via Jerry O’Connell. My best financial advice to you the reader: invest in gun companies. They do well no matter what, and especially well in times of trauma, like, for example, when a mentally ill person goes on a shooting spree at a public gathering. If the individual uses a Glock, say, and manufactures casualties in the double digits, Glock sales dependably shoot up. You could look it up… Anyway. Too many underwater piranha POV shots after which, cutting back above water, the piranhas don’t show. Weak! Rule of thumb: the more artificial boobs, the worse the movie. So far in Piranaha, they’re all artificial. In Crank: High Voltage (2009), the Neveldine/Taylor flick, the artificial boob takes a round and springs a leak. Now that’s quality moviemaking! Let’ go see what Aja can do in the final 28 minutes to win me over… I hiked in to Havasu Canyon back in ’58, before the lake was created. Canyons, waterfalls, reservation. When the lake came on the scene, my parents bought a lot. Nothing ever came of it, even after the developers moved London Bridge to the lake, piece by piece. I wonder if it’s still there.

***

Machete (2010) – Doctor tells nurse that human intestine is 60 feet long. Shortly thereafter, Danny Trejo, holding a scalpel and faced with a bad guy, needs to dive out a window with a 60-foot drop to survive… Babe agent sits in her car in front of a house. House blows up. Barbecued corpse bad guy lands on her hood with meat thermometer sticking out of his neck. Red mercury goes up and pops out top of thermometer with little squeekey sound… At some point in this thing, I realized that I might be watching a classic, according to my personal definition of the term. Trejo, the aging incredible ultimate chick magnet. Steven Seagal, wearing a truly strange rug, his fat draped, playing the mom- and daughter-decapitating chief bad guy. De Niro, capping his career with an accent of unknown provenance. Jeff Fahey, no longer Lost: “Where are my wife and daughter?” “In hell.” “Then give them my best regards…” and “Where are my wife and daughter?” “In heaven.” “Guess I won’t be seeing them, then.” Cheech in a dog collar, with a box of Cubans and a box of Mexican blunts. Don Johnson, gunning down innocents… Is there a baby-boomer vibe with this venerable cast? Many a moment when Tarantino would have stuck in a homage, but Rodriquez is his own homage… Attack of the undocumented: lots of pimped out low riders, one of which rears way up and squashes a bad guy, and, at the back of the pack, an ice-cream cart… It’s a classic if I want to rewatch it later, and then again later; so the jury is out. It’s got a chance, though.

***

Big Love, season 4, and Caprica 1.5 – Both still getting it done for me. Medicine for Melancoly (2010) – Good start; looking forward to watching this one. Lots of San Francisco in a genuine indie with a cool color scheme: black and white with shades of color.

Major Barbara (1941) – I sat down to watch this mainly to see Wendy Hiller again. Plus Rex Harrison and an all-star cast… After being away from Shaw for a long time, I was looking for something to read on vacation a while back and took along Man and Superman. I had forgotten what an interesting blend of romantic comedy, conversation, politics, and religion some of his plays present. He wrote Major Barbara in 1905. Young penniless academic fellow (Harrison) falls hard for young Major in the Salvation Army (Hiller), who turns out to be the daughter of the world’s most successful (richest), eccentric maker of weapons  – as opposed to, in Pygmalion (1938), not-so-young well-off academic felow (Leslie Howard, and then Harrison in My Fair Lady (1964)) falls hard for poor young flower-seller (Hiller)… Here, our very first glimpse of Deborah Kerr in the movies… Major Barbara has a great deal of dialog that, it seems to me, would be of great interest to Kurosawa (who I’ve been studying). I’ve got to Google Shaw and Kurosawa and see if there is any connection between them… Well, there is someone named Shaw Kurosawa… Major Barbara was shot with German bombs falling on London. Cast and crew would run to the bomb shelters and then return when the all-clear sounded… The Salvation Army was formed in 1865; it was forty years old when Shaw wrote his play… I read a review in which the critic opined that there was much to relish in the movie but that just sort of sat there. Hmm. If you watch a Shaw play, you will be lectured; perhaps it was the critic who just sort of sat there while he took his medicine.

***

Devil (2010) – Shyamalan finally got his name on something decent.

***

One way to measure how good a romantic comedy is, is to see how quickly and how much you want the two protagonists to fall in love. In the case of ‘I Know Where I’m Going’ (1945), the Powell/Pressburger film, with Roger Livesey and Wendy Hiller as the lovebirds, for me, the answers are: quickly and a lot.

***

The Other Guys (2010) – Enough smiles and chuckles to satisfy me. 44 Inch Chest (2009) – It screens like a play and I like plays. Just sat and enjoyed listening to a movie’s worth of dialog. Ian McShane plays the urbane, less-foul-mouthed member of the group, which is a change that’s fun.

***

Why did Fonda make My Name is Nobody (1973)? I could look it up, or try to, and maybe I will…And while I’m at it, why did Leone want that movie  made, either?

But I’m glad they did it.

Fonda was 68, and looked pretty good for that, but his heart had to be bothering him by then, and it was an action film that had him on a horse and flat on the ground more than once. He had nine years left, and was involved in twenty-three more projects. Maybe he wanted to add to Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) or maybe he just wanted to work, because that’s what he did. It’s a same to see a legend showing up in his twilight for something like Tentacles (1977). But then, Shelley Winters, John Huston, and Bo Hopkins were all in that thing as well. “It’s turning the beach… into a buffet.” Must have been some money to spend on salaries…

***

I was in Safeway yesterday and it seemed like every time I turned down an aisle, Alice Cooper and his mom were there, discussing some purchase. The guy stands out. Very friendly. He posed in the checkout line for a phone pic by my spouse, who told him that she was a fan, though beyond recognizing his name, she doesn’t know much about him. He’s just finished his 2010 Theater of Death world tour and said he was fagged, and looked it… Tonight nine of us were sitting in a pizza joint, eating our pizza, when Owen Wilson came in for the fifth time in two weeks and waited ten or fifteen minutes in front of us for a couple of take-out pizzas. This was a couple of hours after the virial “Owen Wilson was killed snow-boarding” news on the Internet. The usual thoughts-when-face-to-face-with-a-celebrity crossed my mind. Get an autograph. Mention my niece, who had a role in at least one of his movies. Ignore him. Figure out a way to interact with him in a way that would cause a hint, a tiny particle, of his – fame, money, talent, you name it – to rub off on me. Then he left and the normal world reestablished itself in my vicinity. And speaking of my niece: ten years ago she and David Owen and Cole Stratton created SF Sketchfest. A decade later, the three of them continue as the festival’s directors  and the thing is just booming. It runs in SF for  three weeks every January and the list of performers this year blows my mind. Almost 300 entries. Roll call for  improv and standup. It’s Comedy University and all you need for admission to it is money.

***

Sitting in Maui with a laptop, appropriately, in my lap, watching Futurama, My Name is Nobody (1973), and South Park is something new for me. The Netflix in the lap, not the Maui. Seems sort of decadent.

***

Kenny (2006) – It made me laugh. The film took a while to get here from Australia, but worth the wait.

***

Something has to be done  about the wolf pack situation in the eastern U.S. You can’t go skiing or snow boarding without being pulled down and eaten. You can’t go down into the New York subway, or was that a train station (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2010)), without the  same thing happening. Great time to be a wolf movie star, though, or his or her agent.

***

One of the guys on /Filmcast absolutely loved Frozen (2010). Somebody else didn’t, I forget who. It’s genre, it’s predictable but unpredictable, it gives some love to New England ski slopes, which counts for something, even if was really filmed in Utah. Despite myself, by the end of it, I had some dampness in the armpits, sorry for that image. It’s a way to pass 93 minutes. If you want quality and a much deeper level of emotional distress, I refer you to North Face (2008).

***

The Duplass brothers continue to ascend and I still haven’t watched the second half of The Puffy Chair (2005). It’s an outrage… If you know what they were doing with the camera in Cyrus (2010), please write and tell me – that little zoom in/zoom out thing and clunky back-and-forth move during the one-on-one conversations… Working with John C. Reilly, Marisa Tomei, Jonah Hill, and Catherine Keener – that’s making a movie… Tomei and Hill did the same zoned-out-zombie thing; were they being mother and son with that? It worked for me.

***

The A-Team (2010) – Right off the bat, quick cuts in the action scenes. I do not like that. Nothing actually has to happen. The director just needs to capture snippets of action and stitch them together. Boo… But having said that, if you want an expansive (they’re all expensive but not all expansive)  action movie with some ideas and some stars,  you’ve got to put up with cost-cutting somewhere. Good action movies don’t grow on trees. And while I’m think of it, I liked G. I. Joe (2009) just fine; don’t know why so many rag on it… Why the hyphen in “A-Team”?… At the end of the movie, as everything is blowing up, metal hurling, fireballs, gunfire, exploding cars, so forth, I noticed that there was a score, and I had to smile as I imagined Alan Silvestri sitting there watching the silent footage of the mayhem and shouting out to his wife and kids in the kitchen, I’m supposed to write music for that!!?!… But he wrote the score for Volcano (1997), so maybe not.

***

Pranzo di ferragosto (Mid-August Tea) (2008) – Mid-August in Rome, when the holiday Ferragosto is celebrated. Four women in their 80s and 90s. Two men in their 60s. Nobody gets hurt. Wine is drunk and food is eaten. There are smiles. The Italian for “It’s fine” and “Don’t worry” and “Eat!” and other such simple phrases is repeated often enough for you to learn and remember them.

Major Barbara (1941)

Major Barbara (1941) – I sat down to watch this one mainly to see Wendy Hiller again. Wasn’t disappointed. Looks great in her Major uniform. Looks great in her modest rich-girl’s frock after abjuring the uniform. Shows chemistry with her squeeze here, Rex Harrison, just as with Leslie Howard in Pygmalion (1938) and Roger Livesey in “I Know Where I’m Going!” (1945). In the opening scenes, I mistook the film for a romantic comedy. I forgot for a moment that I was watching a Shaw play, possibly because the opening scenes weren’t in the original play.

After being away from Shaw for a long time, I was looking for something to read on vacation the other day, and took along Man and Superman (which Shaw wrote two years before Major Barbara, in 1903). I had forgotten what an interesting blend of romantic comedy, conversation, politics, and religion some of Shaw’s plays present (he wrote more than sixty). Man and Superman scoots along as a comedy of manners, which we could use more of these days, as a change from rom com. Scoots along,  except for Act 3. This monster is often cut from the play and/or performed by itself and as I read it, I could not believe that any human being without an eidetic memory could regurgitate its dialog without a prompter of one kind or another supplying half the lines. Things to listen to before you die: the ’50s concert version of Act 3 with Charles Boyer as Don Juan, Charles Laughton as the Devil, Cedric Hardwicke as the Commander, and Agnes Moorehead as Doña Ana. The play comes with a 58-page appendix. Shaw’s characters tell you what he thinks, during the play, and in case you weren’t paying attention, Shaw himself tells you what he thinks again, afterward, in print.

Or in the case of Major Barbara, he tells you in advance, in a preface, just so you don’t go into the play with any wrong ideas in your head about the points he’s about to make. Unfortunately, his performance of the preface, in the original movie, is not to be found on the DVD. Bummer.

Major Barbara, the play, was produced in 1905. Young penniless academic fellow (Harrison) falls hard for young Major in the Salvation Army (Hiller), who turns out to be a daughter of the world’s most successful (richest), but eccentric (so you’ll like him) maker of weapons (Robert Morley)  – as opposed to, in Pygmalion, not-so-young well-off academic fellow (Leslie Howard) falls hard for poor young flower-seller (Hiller). Major Barbara is a comedy of ideas, with romance included to provide a little oomph. The words flow and in the original play, which consists of three hours of nonstop talking, the actor playing Barbara’s dad had a lot of trouble remembering the lines in his speeches, to the author’s annoyance. I shouldn’t wonder, at the forgetting or the annoyance. The movie is cut to an hour and a half, with several lively scenes added (with Shaw’s approval) and a lot of speechifying removed. The result moves along nicely.

After the movie introduced me to the Salvation Army Major and her academic woo-er, and her rich siblings and her rich parents, I gradually came to see that the central issue in the movie/play was: How can Barbara best serve society? By helping the poor directly, or by moving among the rich and co-opting her father? While the ins and outs of this question played out, I kept asking myself how I was expected to react to Barbara’s father, and how the London audiences of 1941 reacted to him. He is clearly sympathetic, as he searches in vain for an heir amongst his children, an heir to whom he can leave his mega-company. In due course, his attention falls upon Barbara’s fiancee. This causes her to ask herself whether she is prepared, in essence, to take money from the devil to do good in the world. What interested me, however, was the fact that Shaw takes it as written that the world’s greatest weapons maker was fundamentally in the wrong, whereas the movie was shot during the Battle of Britain and the death and destruction from that period was fresh in the audence’s mind, even as the country braced for invasion by the Germans.  Cast and crew would run to the bomb shelters during filming in London, and then return to the set when the all-clear sounded. (Or the film was shot at Denham Studios in Buckinghamshire. Or both.) Did the audience agree with Shaw about weapons barons, with Krupp in mind? Or did their thoughts turn  toward the U.S., which was not yet in the war, as a source for weapons with which to answer the Germans. Note to self: research this question on some rainy day; a twenty-year-old audience member of the time would be ninety now, so begin by calling around to retirement homes in the London area.

As for Shaw’s take on how to deal with the poor, I refer you to the movie. Shaw was a Fabian socialist. He articulates many of his ideas for the improvement of society via the speeches of dad the magnate in the movie’s final act.

I read a review of Major Barbara in which the critic opined that there was much to relish in the movie but that in the end, it just sort of sat there. Hmm. If you watch a Shaw play, you will be lectured; perhaps it was the critic himself who just sort of sat there while he took his medicine.

Movie notes:

– Deborah Kerr’s first movie.

– Major Barbara has a great deal of dialog in it that, it seems to me, would be of great interest to Kurosawa (who, like Shaw, had an abiding interest in the poor and what to do with/about them). Discussions of right behavior. I’ve got to Google Shaw and Kurosawa and see if there is any connection between them… Well, there is someone named Shaw Kurosawa.

– The producer/director, Gabriel Pascal, and Shaw met while swimming nude on the Riviera.

– Shaw especially liked Wendy Hiller, but, alas, there is no indication that he met her while swimming nude.

Wendy Hiller

You know how they say that if a man marries another man or a woman marries another woman, the next thing you know some guy is going to marry his pet goat or his tractor? And even so, men are marrying men and women are marrying women all the time now? So I’m thinking that I’ll marry a DVD. Then it can stay home while I go to work. If I get sick, it can come with me to the hospital. If it gets broke, I can have coverage through my job to get it fixed.

In the case of a divorce, I can just put it into its box and return it to Blockbuster and claim that I finally found it, behind the sofa, and ask for my money back.

Right number of wives?

Now that Big Love has entered its final season, if you’re a guy you’re probably asking yourself how many wives you should accumulate if and when you go polygamous. Inquire around, at work or sitting at the bar, and you’ll get all manner of uninformed opinions. My mom was born in Clearfield, Utah, in 1913, and Lord knows, she had her ideas; whereas my dad was born in the Smokies in 1910 and he cared a lot more about the family tree than he did about the actual number of spousal mates.

My advice to you, which comes straight from the school of hard knocks:

Avoid the single wife. You probably know this already. God did not put you on this Earth to secure a cook, sex partner, and mother of your children, and then to just retire to your den and watch football.

Avoid hooking up with two and only two women. Triangles never work out. The third leg always gets broke and if you’re not careful, that will be you.

Assuming that you’ve collected at least three women and are ready to marry them, first confirm that none of them are lesbians. Sure, it sounds like fun if one or two are daughters of Bilitis. You could take a night off once in a while. The sister wives will love each other even more than before.  Sorry. This love mix is zero-sum.  You do not want to wake up tumescent in the morning when your spouse of the day is only interested in your intellect, but has discovered that you don’t have one.

Do not marry wives of more than two different cultures, unless your primary interest lies in the area of international cookery. Otherwise, it’s this proverb and that proverb, this nostrum and that nostrum, this funny hat and that funny serape, and gloomy, grouchy grandparents from around the globe.

Marry at least four women and your bathroom will always be spotless. Not sure why, but it always works that way.

Have as many children as possible. Sex is always the problem in these marriages, but with enough kids on the scene, the problem goes away. Along with the sex.

Forget about one woman and multiple men. You’re more likely to get woke up at night by a brother husband than by your wife.

Forget about multiple women and multiple men. Remember when you were a kid and you were in a secret club with some other guys in the neighborhood? There’s a reason why there weren’t any girls in there with you.

Piranha 3D (2010)

Full disclosure: I didn’t watch  Piranha (2010) in 3D, so I missed the bouncing boobs in my face, the projectile vomiting, the limb stumps. Will this mitigate my viewing pleasure? I hope not!

First Hour

Went to see Amaracord (1973) one night in San Diego, back in ’73, and then The Godfather (1972) the following night. My impression at the time: Coppola was no Fellini, in spite of The Godfather’s subsequent glory. I mention this because I watched the first hour of Piranha last night, after watching Machete the night before, and Aja is no Rodriquez. I can enjoy a ride at the county fair, but for a classic ride, you’ve got to go find a Disneyland. I didn’t have much use for Aja’s High Tension (2003), didn’t see Mirrors (2008), but I liked The Hills Have Eyes (2006) OK, partly because I thought I was looking at New Mexico, though it seemed strangely strange to me, who had lived there, when in fact the movie was filmed in Morocco.

First sign of trouble in Piranha: old guy gets eaten but later his bloody corpse washes up. Corpse?!? These are Jurassic super piranhas? There shouldn’t be anything left of the geezer but a couple of clean white bones, a wedding ring, and a grinning skull; Aja just wanted that corpse to rear up in the water. Weak! Second sign of trouble: the CGI blood is laughably bad – there is no excuse for bad CGI blood in this, our high-tech age – bad CGI in 2011 is sort of like Rush Limbaugh still being big and bold and fatter and greasier than ever eleven years into the new millenium. Makes you realize that (1) Kubrick was off by a thousand years, (2) it takes less than 50% of the population to screw everybody, including the planet itself, (3) Limbaugh is hardy, like those Jurassic piranhas. The irony, blood-wise, is that the production used 75,000 gallons of fake blood and still couldn’t tat up the CGI blood. Oh, no. “Tat” now is just short for tattoo; the old slang has faded away.

Anyway. T&A-wise, Aja is a wannabe Rob Zombie here, and I’m thinking of unrated, director’s cut The Devil’s Rejects (2008). Inadvertently or vertently, Aja has put himself in his own movie via Jerry O’Connell. (Yeah, O’Connell is supposed to be Joe Francis of “Girls Gone Wild,” but you know what I mean.) My best financial advice to you the reader: invest in gun companies. They do well no matter what, and especially well in times of trauma, like, for example, when a mentally ill person goes on a shooting spree at a public gathering. If the individual uses a Glock, say, and manufactures casualties into the double digits, Glock sales will dependably shoot up the next day. You could look it up. Anyway.  Rule of thumb: the more artificial boobs, the worse the movie. So far in Piranha, they’re all artificial. In Crank: High Voltage (2009), the Neveldine/Taylor flick, a pole dancer’s artificial boob takes a round from a handgun and springs a leak. Now that’s quality movie making!

I hiked in to Havasu Canyon back in ’58, before the lake was created. Canyons, waterfalls, reservation. When the lake came upon the scene, my parents bought a lot. It is to be hoped that the inhabitants of the reservation made some money. Nothing ever came of my parent’s lot, even after the developers moved London Bridge to the lake, piece by piece. I wonder if it’s still there.

Too many underwater piranha POV shots here, following which, Aja cuts back above water, but without the piranhas showing up yet. Weak! Homage to Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus (2009).

Sure, Piranha took a lot of work to make, but they all do. Listen to the commentary, watch the extras, you’d be a churl to rag on the movie. All that effort, all that thought, years in the making. I get it. Aja, going for an ’80s vibe. That is, let’s put the tits back in horror. But what’s that expression? Tits on a pig? Tits on a horse? I googled it and got tits on a boar, a stick, a keyboard, a turtle, a unicorn, a tomcat.

I do like the notion of a primordial lake, far below the regular lake lake, an unter lake where no sun has shone for two million years, but that has plants growing in it. What do all those zillions of piranha down there eat? Each other, we are told! Only the strong survive. And they’re super hungry!

As in all but a couple of the most inventive movies, the vomit is white.

Continuity error: Topless woman is being towed behind speedboat on one of those hang-gliding kite things, that dips her into the water from time to time. Her bottom half gets eaten. No further mention of the incident as Spring Break rolls on.

Note: I left in the drunk parts of this post for sentimental reasons.

Last 28 minutes

Ving Rhames finally gets a minute of screen time, while he’s being eaten. Elisabeth Shue at 47 is a worthy mom/sheriff and makes a couple of points discreetly but clearly, while providing a lot of stunt work for her double.

Using a shotgun on a zillion hungry fish: not effective but fun cinema.

“Be careful getting out of here. The rocks, I suddenly remember at the end of the movie, sometimes strip away the engine.” BANG.

Would it have saved the film if the two kids got ate? Probably not. But at least get rid of Brooklynn Proulx, just because her name annoys me.

I never recognized Christopher Lloyd, Eli Roth,  or Richard Dreyfuss. Lloyd and Dreyfuss snuck by me because of their geezerhood.

Aja now empties out the body and body-spare-parts locker, drains the blood tank, decapitates, slices torsos in half, calls in the foley artist with his scream collection, and, best of all, has the woman sitting in an inner tube with her butt hanging down get bit.

The TCM review is not yet posted.