Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

Saw it before. Must have had the VHS at one time. Catching it now on Amazon Prime Video. It’s Sliver, staring that very hot (then) Sharon Stone. This came out in 1993, about the time Stone was still sizzling from Basic Instinct, to be reviewed later. It’s from Paramount Pictures. Details are from Wikipedia.

It’s based on the book of the same name by Ira Levin, and I’m guessing the title comes from the apartment building that’s central to the plot. It’s a sliver of concrete, steel, and glass that shoots up in a tony neighborhood in Manhattan. It’s a thriller, with emphasis on eroticism and suspense. Lots of people die.

Opening scenes show a striking blond woman, Naomi Singer played by Allison Mackie, entering the building and taking the elevator to her apartment on the 20th floor. Closed circuit television (CCTV) follows her every move. She goes immediately to her balcony, overlooking the city, and takes in the view. Another person, not identified, enters her apartment using a key. He comes up behind her and caresses her. She responds at first. Then she is suddenly and violently thrown over the railing to her death. Thus begins the drama.

The next tenant of number 20B is Carly Norris (Stone), book editor for a New York publisher. She bears a resemblance to the late Ms. Singer.

Carly is newly divorced, having shucked off a seven-year, miserable marriage. She soon meets a number of other residents of the building, some of whom are about to die. One is Gus Hale (Keene Curtis), who first notices Carly’s strong resemblance to the former tenant. He aims to tell her some things he knows before he goes off to Japan for an extended stay. Later we observe his body in the shower, as seen on CCTV. Coverage throughout the building seems to be unlimited.

Unlimited includes Carly’s bathroom. Somebody watches her bathe erotically.

Nothing and nobody are missed. CCTV seems to cover every inch of the sliver building.

One of the downsides of Carly’s promising career is a morass of pressure exerted on her by people in power. She advertises herself as fiercely independent, a person who likes to be in control. Her boss, Alex Parsons (Martin Landau) wants her to review a book by Jack Landsford (Tom Berenger). She does not like Jack’s books, and she does not want to review his book. Alex wants Carly to work with Jack. Jack lives in the sliver building. He has already noticed Carly moving into the building. He is brash and pushy, just the kind of person Carly does not like.

Carly throws a party, and Jack crashes the party, uninvited. Another tenant is Zeke Hawkins (William Baldwin), who also attends. Somebody has gifted Carly with a telescope, already set up on the balcony. Party goers take turns exercising some erotic voyeurism through the telescope. It remains a mystery how the telescope got delivered and installed.

It turns out Zeke was the donor. It also turns out he owns the building. Both Jack and Zeke put the move on Carly, but Zeke has more oil (as in oily), and his rude sexual overtures are successful. There is much steamy sex, as much as can be allowed without garnering an R (X?) rating. Here Zeke has left Carly the gift of sexy bra and panties. At dinner in a swanky restaurant he demands she demonstrate she is wearing them. That she does, to the alarm of an elderly couple sitting nearby. She has to demonstrate the panties by removing them and passing them over to Zeke.

But Zeke has wired his entire building so he can spy on everybody and everything. He invites Carly to participate. She is spellbound and cannot look away. Tragedy and depravity are played out in front of them. Zeke, from time to time, interferes with these dramas, in one case levying an anonymous threat against a child molester, forcing the creep to mend his ways. But there is no doubt who is creepier.

Carly’s friend Vida Warren (Polly Walker) has something to tell Carly about the late Naomi, but she doesn’t. She is shortly murdered in the stairwell, and Carly hears the commotion and spots Jack standing over the body. Jack is arrested, but released on bond. There is a confrontation. Jack has a gun. Jack accuses Zeke of setting him up to take the fall for Vida’s murder and wants Zeke to confess. Carly and Jack wrestle for the gun, and Jack is killed. Police stop looking for the root of the sliver building murders.

But Carly’s suspicions grow. She sends Zeke out on an errand and uses the interval to search for video tapes. She finds the one showing Naomi’s murder, a tape Zeke said did not exist. She also finds Zeke’s gun, and when Zeke returns early and sees she has the tape, Carly holds him off with the gun, from time to time shooting out one of the myriad TV screens. In a glimpse she catches the identity of Naomi’s murderer. It is not Zeke. He empties the pistol into various TV screens and leaves.

And that’s the end of the movie.

My first impression was that for a woman as Carly purports herself to be, having the need to be in charge, she allows Zeke to run all over her. I would consider Zeke’s sexual approach to be crude and doomed to failure had I not witnessed the same method work (not for me) on a number of occasions.

People, a hidden TV camera in every bathroom? Is there any reason the tenants have not already sued Zeke’s socks off and taken possession of the building for themselves? There is ample evidence that unauthorized entrance is being made to Carly’s and other apartments, and nobody calls the police to investigate, much less a lawyer.

Reality is not what this movie is about. Watch it for yourself, but beware your glasses are going to steam up.

Media Research Center

Time for a new series

Months ago I signed up for this newsletter from a conservative propaganda mill calling itself Media Research Center (MRC). The upshot is that I receive an almost daily message in my in-box. Here is how they bill themselves, from their most recent transmittal:

I wish you could walk the halls of the MRC right now and see our team in action… they are literally working around the clock and can barely keep up with the incredible level of media bias… but we are fighting on.

We won’t stop documenting, exposing, or battling to neutralize the outrageous bias of the leftist media. THIS IS EXACTLY why we exist! But we can’t do it alone. We need YOU to join us now!

This latest piece contains a link to a page soliciting funding from me, funding I am not considering. That linked page contains the following of interest:

The Liberal Media Are Out of Control!

We are working around the clock to expose and neutralize their bias!

[That’s the headline. Following is some more.]

The liberal media and their Leftist agenda are out to destroy the administration and the conservative values that every patriot holds true.

Support the Media Research Center with a gift today to assist in our battle against the liberal media agenda!

Without denying the existence somewhere of “liberal media,” my observation is that the MRC casts a very wide net, a net that snares any news organization that does not slant far the right. Particularly, their net drags at a host of news outlets exposing the failures and misdeeds of the current administration. The Wikipedia entry for the MRC summarizes (see the link above) condenses to this:

The Media Research Center (MRC) is a politically conservative content analysis organization based in Reston, Virginia, founded in 1987 by activist L. Brent Bozell III. Its stated mission is to “prove—through sound scientific research—that liberal bias in the media does exist and undermines traditional American values.”

That last part, “undermines traditional American values,” is interesting and worthy of some Skeptical Analysis. But first it’s worth reviewing additional content from this mail. You will notice they address me by my first name. I always give out my real name and other requested information when I sign onto  something:

Hello John,

This is UNPRECEDENTED!
The left-wing media are TOTALLY unhinged!

I know, like me, you have been watching the nonstop, one-sided bias that has been on display over the last few days. In 30-years of tracking the media, we have not seen this much unabashed bias from so many news sources, in a nearly around-the-clock onslaught, than what we are witnessing right now!

It is so incredibly bad that MRC’s CNSNews.com division documented a May 19th 2017 Harvard University study, of all places… depicting that coverage of President Trump during his first 100 days had, “set a new standard for negativity.” Every media outlet that was studied provided MORE negative than positive of the current president, with CNN and NBC leading the charge with 93% negative coverage! For a comparative reference — Obama’s coverage was 59% positive.
And to be very clear… this fight isn’t really about President Trump. Last year, Americans rejected the failed policies of the left in spite of the liberal media agenda to manipulate the election cycle for a Hillary win. In backlash, the liberal media and their leftist cronies are out to destroy a conservative Presidency — at any cost, using any biased tactic — in order to stop ANYchance of conservative reform.
Folks, they are on a “scorched earth” mission to save their liberal goals.

I wish you could walk the halls of the MRC right now and see our team in action… they are literally working around the clock and can barely keep up with the incredible level of media bias… but we are fighting on.

Right away you will notice something characteristic of propaganda. “This is UNPRECEDENTED!” and “The left-wing media are TOTALLY unhinged!” illustrate the institutional appeal to emotion. Also appreciate the use of all caps. Full disclaimer: liberal propaganda mills employ identical devices.

Additional full disclosure: I also subscribe to a newsletter sent from the above mentioned CNS. More on that in a future post.

Continuing, the MRC wants me to know of a survey finding that, “coverage of President Trump during his first 100 days had, ‘set a new standard for negativity.’ Every media outlet that was studied provided MORE negative than positive of the current president, with CNN and NBC leading the charge with 93% negative coverage!”

Yeah, how about that? Let’s take a look at some of that negative coverage:

Of course there is more, and there must be a way to put a positive spin on all it, and I am sure the MRC would be warm of heart if other news outlets would get in line with Fox, Breitbart, and a number of others I could name. Yes, that’s not going to  happen.

Examine yet another outtake from the MRC newsletter:

And to be very clear… this fight isn’t really about President Trump. Last year, Americans rejected the failed policies of the left in spite of the liberal media agenda to manipulate the election cycle for a Hillary win. In backlash, the liberal media and their leftist cronies are out to destroy a conservative Presidency — at any cost, using any biased tactic — in order to stop ANY chance of conservative reform.

Acknowledging it is true that “Last year, Americans rejected the failed policies of the left” to the tune of 65,844,969 to 62,979,984, I can only hope that at least once in my life I get so thoroughly rejected. Regarding whether the liberal media are out to destroy President Trump “at any cost,” it is worth noting that Mr. Trump’s injuries seem to be entirely self-inflicted. Apparently the liberal media need a lot of help. Scorching the earth requires both sides working together.

Lest readers get the idea I’m flogging the MRC without conscience, please be dismayed that I find some parts positive. For example this is one of the few outlets I have found to employ the word “media” as a plural noun. Small things get appreciated.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same

Modern science brings us knowledge that can save lives, but stupidity remains a prime killer. Little Lukas S. is the most recent to grace this column:

A seven-month-old baby died weighing just 9lbs after his parents fed him an alternative gluten-free, lactose-free diet, a court has heard.

The mother and father, who ran a natural food store in the town of Beveren in Belgium, insisted on putting their son Lucas on an alternative diet that included quinoa milk, according to local media. Doctors warn that such a diet is generally unsuitable for such young children.

His diet led to him being less than half the expected weight for a boy his age, weighing 9.47lbs — just over the average weight for a newborn baby — before he died on 6 June 2014.

This news item from The Independent also reports Lucas’ parents drove him across his home country of Belgium to  a homeopathic doctor rather than seek reliable medical treatment.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Missed this when it came out in 1960. I must have been out at sea at the time. Good thing. It’s The Walking Target, starring Joan Evans and Ronald Foster, not exactly headliners even in those days. This was released by United Artists. I caught it on Amazon Prime Video. Details are from Wikipedia.

After a very dramatic title poster, we see convict Nick Harbin (Foster) talking tough with the prison Warden. We are informed in no uncertain terms this is the California State Prison. The warden is talking tough right back. He lauds Harbin  for being such a straight arrow for five years, but there is a remaining account he needs to settle. That’s the matter of the $260,000 he and his gang stole in an armored car robbery. Harbin says no dice and walks out.

He walks into the arms of waiting ex-girlfriend Susan (Merry Anders). She is dressed to kill and there is no doubt she has in mind the 260K. Harbin gets physical with some pesky reporters, and he and Susan head off to his bungalow in the country.

Been there. This setting seems to have been shot in those hills up coast from Malibu, where a lot of studios still shoot rural scenery. Also at the cabin is Nick’s friend Dave (Robert Christopher). Doesn’t take much figuring to know lots of people are looking to snag the stolen loot.

Nick goes looking for an old sweetheart, Gail Russo (Evans). Way back when she ditched Nick and married Nick’s friend Sam Russo. Then Nick convinced Sam to go in with him on the armored car caper, and Sam got killed. But only after Sam and Nick sealed the cash inside a welded compartment of a car, now belonging to Gail. An old geezer, living in the late Sam’s garage, tells Nick that Gail has gone back home to Gold City, Arizona.

A flash back shows Sam bluffing his pretty wife, even as he and Nick make preparations for the heist.

The flash back shows the death of a third partner, shot by an armored  car guard.

When Nick gets back to the bungalow he finds old friend Dave and old girl Susan making out. The layout falls into place for Nick.

Other gangsters are after the loot, and they’ve contracted Dave to get it for a cut. Meanwhile, Nick tracks Gail to her diner in Arizona. She still has the car, and the money is still there.

The gangsters track Nick to the diner and put the squeeze on, threatening to work Gail over.

Guess who. The police have not been idle, and two arrive shortly. Both get shot, but one is only badly wounded. Nick prevails in a row with the gangsters, and he reveals his plan to return the money.

And everybody goes home.

Not a bad plot, if fairly straight line. Acting is about par, no great demands placed on the players. Some visuals don’t ring true.

The cops see what’s going on in the diner and they enter after kicking in the door. The first is apparently killed in the exchange of gunfire, and the second is badly wounded. He finishes out the movie without showing an ounce of remorse for his dead friend.

Nick meets Gail at the diner and tells her the money is in her car. The drive out into the boondocks where Nick cuts open the sealed compartment with a cutting torch. Five years before, there was ample welding and cutting equipment at Sam’s garage, but where is Nick getting the torch to cut the compartment open?

Interesting that Gail kept the used car for five years and never junked it or traded it in.

Nick organizes an armored car heist, no guns used, but two guards are clubbed senseless. Then one of the gang gets killed by the police. Usually that would mean a murder charge for Nick. He gets only five years. Of course, it had to be a short term, because there was no way Gail was going to keep the car forever.

Bad Joke of the Week

One of a continuing series

Mother of Jesus, please come back.

A man was walking down the sidewalk. From out of nowhere a voice spoke to him. “Stop. Don’t take another step. A brick is about to fall on your head and kill you.”

The man stopped, and a brick crashed to the sidewalk in  front of him. He was amazed. He looked up. He looked around. He couldn’t find the source of the voice. He kept walking.

The voice came again. “Stop. Don’t cross the street. A car is about to run a red light, and it will kill you.”

The man stopped at the curb, and a speeding car charged through the intersection. The man was astounded. He looked around, but he saw nothing.

He spoke, “Where are you? Who are you?”

The voice spoke to him, “You can’t see me. I’m your guardian angel. I make sure nothing bad happens to you.”

The man was amazed. “Really? A guardian angel? Where were you when I got married?”

Don’t cry for me, Venezuela

Previously

The sordid tale continues. I started following this story during the rule of Hugo Chavez, a populist anti-American, who bolstered his  position by invoking wage and price controls, during the course of which action he violated some basic economic principles and shorted civil rights. With Chávez dead and Nicolás Maduro in the driver’s seat, the situation continued to dissolve:

In close parallel to the Castro regime in Cuba, the ideologically-based rule in Venezuela has sent the country’s economy into a downward spiral. Only Chávez, and now Maduro, haven’t had somebody like the former Soviet Union to prop them up. As with the failing Cuba, the staggering Venezuela has cast about for somebody to blame. A villain is needed. For such as Mr. Maduro there is always one close at hand.

Today CNN aired a report produced by one of their reporters who entered the country disguised as a tourist. In February the government banned CNN from the country after that network published a report about the issuing of passports to potential terrorists:

Conatel [Venezuela’s National Telecommunications Commission] accused the channel of attempting to “undermine the peace and the democratic stability” of Venezuela.

It did not specifically mention the passport story, but government officials had earlier in the day disputed it at a press conference.

The story was the product of a year-long investigation into allegations that Venezuelan passports and visas were being sold to people in Iraq, including some with terrorism links.

The report alleged that Venezuelan Vice-President Tareck El Aissami was directly linked to the granting of 173 passports, including to members of the Lebanese group Hezbollah, which is designated a terrorist group by the US and other Western powers.

The video report, apparently smuggled out of the country and airing this afternoon, shows people digging through trash for food scraps. A street juggler, once able to earn money by performing at weddings, now spends his time looking for food. His face shows sever damage he says came from his encounter with police attempting to suppress protesters. People are being killed.

Claiming to be primed for civil war, a Venezuelan general issued orders to prepare for the future use of snipers against anti-government protesters, according to a secret recording of a regional command meeting held three weeks ago at a military base in the northwestern Venezuelan city of Barquisimeto.

On the recording, obtained from a Washington source that has provided el Nuevo Herald with information on Venezuela for previous stories, the generals discuss the legality and risks of using snipers during the massive demonstrations taking place almost daily against President Nicolás Maduro.

Aljazeera offers a broader look:

Venezuela’s political crisis is escalating fast.

With the economy in freefall, protesters have hit the streets and violence is on the rise.

Has the Venezuelan government gone authoritarian?

“It’s important to say Nicolas Maduro was democratically elected,” says Gabriel Hetland, a professor at the University of Albany. “But I think actions over the last 16 months have moved Venezuela unfortunately in a more authoritarian direction.”

“It is a government under siege,” counters Venezuelan-American journalist Eva Golinger, who also served as an adviser to former President Hugo Chavez. “The opposition doesn’t play by democratic rules, unfortunately has not, and as of yet we haven’t seen any such initiative or indication that they will in the near future.”

Whatever the rules are supposed to be, the socialistic government is rapidly losing support from its base. From The New York Times:

The threats Venezuelans face today are not the result of foreign or domestic conspiracies, but Mr. Maduro’s disastrous leadership. On his watch, the country’s health care system has atrophied so severely that scores of Venezuelans are dying every week because of chronic shortages of medicine and ill-equipped hospitals.

Violence has soared as armed gangs loyal to the government roam the streets. During the first three months of this year, 4,696 people were murdered in Venezuela, according to the government, and in 2015 more than 17,700 were killed. The three-month death toll is higher than the 3,545 civilians killed last year in Afghanistan, a record number.

Shortages of food and basic goods are likely to worsen as Venezuela’s economy continues to contract this year. Political prisoners, meanwhile, have languished behind bars for years, victims of a corrupt and broken justice system.

My title for this post reflects, of course, the history of the Peron regime in Argentina over 60 years ago. Evita, we will not cry for you.

Snowflake-in-Chief

New game in town

I was trying to catch some news on TV. There was President Trump. He was saying something. It was remarkable. Truly remarkable:

President Donald Trump on Thursday again denied that he or his campaign colluded with the Russian government’s suspected attempts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election.

“Believe me, there’s no collusion,” Trump told reporters in the White House. “Russia is fine, but whether it’s Russia or anybody else, my total priority, believe me, is the United States of America.”

What? What? Donald Trump said, “Believe me?” He did. He really did. But in fact, he has said this before. Lots of times. He has said some other things, besides:

And I’m not going to bore you with the remaining litany of Donald Trump’s falsifications since his inauguration. Daniel Dales’ list  in the Toronto Star has grown since I quit at number 80 on 8 May:

Donald Trump has now said 250 false things as president. Here are all of them

The Star’s running tally of the straight-up lies, exaggerations and deceptions the president of the United States of America has said, so far.

So much for, “Believe me.”

In addition to what President Trump says, of significance is where and when he says it. For example, yesterday he held a joint news conference with Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos, using the opportunity to assuage his bruised feelings:

May 18, 2017 1:32pm PDT

“There was no collusion and everybody – even my enemies – have said, ‘there was no collusion,'” Trump says.

May 18, 2017 1:31pm PDT

“We don’t have health care. Obamacare is a fallacy. It’s gone,” Trump says.

May 18, 2017 1:28pm PDT

“Director Comey was very unpopular with most people,” Trump says.

May 18, 2017 1:28pm PDT

“No. Next question,” Trump says when asked if he pressed former FBI director James Comey to drop the investigation of Michael Flynn.

May 18, 2017 1:21pm PDT

Trump: Believe me, there’s no collusion.

May 18, 2017 1:21pm PDT

Trump: We’ve made tremendous progress in the last 100 days.

May 18, 2017 1:20pm PDT

“The entire thing has been a witch hunt. I think it divides the country,” Trump says of the appointment of a special counsel to head the Russia investigation.

[Emphasis added]

Were I President Santos about then, I would be nervously fidgeting and glancing over at the man standing next to me and mouthing these words. “Is this person  really the President of the United States, and does he have anything more of substance to say right now?”

No.

Friday Funny

One of a series

Last week’s Friday funny (see the link above) reminded me of this. I apologize. I do not have the original news item. It’s from 30 years back, but I can still relate the essentials from memory. It goes like this:

Conroe, Texas (why does this stuff always happen in Texas?). A 72-year old man was arrested for solicitation of prostitution. He had to phone his mother to come and bail him out.

And that is funny. Embarrassing, as well.

Seven Days In May

I don’t know why this movie came to mind just now. Maybe it’s because today, 18 May, is the critical day in the plot. It could be that recent developments in the news made me think of it. Anyhow, it’s Seven Days in May, starring Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas. It was directed by John Frankenheimer, with a screenplay by Rod Serling, of The Twilight Zone fame. Here are Airforce General General James Mattoon Scott and Marine Colonel Martin “Jiggs” Casey.

They are participating in a congressional hearing that pits General Scott’s pro-military stance against that of liberal President Jordan Lyman, played by Fredric March. It’s about an attempt to usurp the United States Government by military coup.

Here is the point in the plot where Colonel Casey begins to become suspicious that something fishy is going on. He hangs up the phone and asks himself, “What the hell is going on?”

But don’t worry. It’s only fiction. Get a good night’s sleep. Everything will be all right in the morning.