Cell Phones, Telephones & the Ideas of Marshall McLuhan

By Eric Scheske My first cell phone was the Motorola RAZR V3. That was in 2005. I didn’t use it a lot at first, but it made me more accessible to my …

Cell Phones, Telephones & the Ideas of Marshall McLuhan

Three Cheers for Ric Grenell!

Will they heed Grenell or will they stick with their partisan work?

Ruined for Life: Phoenix Edition

Hopefully the reporters will heed his wisdom.

A word to the wise is sufficient.

I’d vote for Grenell for President in 2024.

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The Story Behind Rhapsody in Blue

I loved hearing how Rhapsody in Blue came to be.

Ruined for Life: Phoenix Edition

An entertaining, short explanation of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.”

Guaranteed to delight.

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Vivacious Lady (1937)

If you’re looking for pure fun and romance, check out Vivacious Lady (1937) starring Ginger Rogers and James Stewart. Straight-laced professor Peter is sent by his father, the president of a small town college, to retrieve his cousin from the big, frivolous city of New York. He finds cousin Keith at a a night club and begins to scold him for his 

Keith ducks and dives around Peter’s sermonizing and asks for some more time to see the woman of his dreams perform her number. Peter agrees and falls head over heals for Francey, a vivacious blonde. 

Before you know it, Francey and Peter get married. Keith wasn’t even able to stop the proceedings. Peter’s father calls and asks Peter to hurry back with Keith. Thus the strangest honeymoon begins. Peter brings Francey back to Old Sharon to introduce his new bride to his stodgy father and lovely mother. 

As with any screwball comedy, every thing that can go wrong does. Peter’s dad assumes Francey is a floosie Keith’s picked up and he charges Peter to put an end of this. Too nervous to set his father straight, Peter winds up just stuttering and promising to do his father’s bidding.  Meanwhile the minute Peter’s former fiancée sets eyes on Francey, she’s out to get her.

Mishaps, cat fights and misunderstandings ensue and it’s all in good fun. Made in 1937, the film still delights, but if you judge it my today’s mores, you won’t be entertained. I loved the energy and innocence. Roger’s Francey is feisty and wise not letting misunderstandings fester or ferment. The film includes lovely scenes not only between the newlyweds but also between  Francey and his new mother-in-law. 

Watch Jack Brewer

Jack Brewer urges people to see through the Fake News lies like the Charlottesville hoax, and urges people to vote for criminal reform and school choice, by voting for President Trump this Nov. 3.

Ruined for Life: Phoenix Edition

Jack Brewer, RNC

Jack Brewer, Democrat, debunks the Charlottesville Hoax, supports school choice and the First Step Act, etc.

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Topaz (1969)

Topaz trailer

Although a Cold War drama should still have impact, Alfred Hitchcock’s Topaz didn’t. Based on a novel by Leon Uris, Topaz plods along telling the story of a French spy André Devereaux who agrees to go to Cuba to get top secret documents outlining the transport of Russian missiles to Cuba. This mission was instigated based on intel from a Russian official who defects to America and spills the beans to a NATO official Mike Nordstrom, who tapped André to work for the US. André has a network of agents from New York to Havana who risk their lives to help him.

After nearly getting caught in an operation in New York, despite the pleas of his wife to mind his own business and not help the Americans — or to rendezvous with his Cuban lover Juanita, André flies to Havana. Juanita gets her servants to take pictures of the missiles while pretending to be on a picnic. The couple are arrested for espionage, but do manage to hide the film so that André can get it later.

After a couple love scenes with Juanita, who’s as pretty and as superficially developed as his wife, André obtains and hides the film. But before he leaves, his nemesis Parra, a Castro surrogate, storms into Juanita’s mansion. A fiery, jealous argument ensues, and Parra shoots Juanita to save her from inevitable torture, the sort that’s in store for her servants and that Parra no doubt employs regularly. André escapes back to DC where he meets Mike and the Russian defector.

Here he learns that the French government and intelligence office is full of corrupt officials who’re in bed with Russia. André also faces his wife who’s moved out and his grown daughter, who knows about the affair.

The plot moves to a climax where André and his son-in-law work to bring down and expose the French no-goodniks. The ending seen on the DVD is a whimper rather than a bang. The DVD included the two other endings and both, for my money, outperform the “Airport” ending. The fact that there are three endings indicates that the film’s production was troubled.

Indeed Topaz had three screenwriters and while Topaz was being shot the script was getting rewrites. That’s often the case and doesn’t always spell trouble, but in this instance it does.

At 127 minutes, the film plods along, It’s hard to believe but originally While there are some twists and turns, the characters seemed wooden and poorly developed. Everyone seemed to be wearing a mask and authentic reactions to betrayal, jealousy and infidelity were missing. Even an underlying emotion was missing.

Topaz isn’t one of Hitchcock’s greats and I recommend films like Rear Window, Vertigo or even Torn Curtain over it.

Le Doulos

A Four Star Noir

Ruined for Life: Phoenix Edition

Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1962 classic noir gangster film Le Doulous blew me away. Beinning simply with ex-con Maurice walking though a squalid neighborhood, it soon delivered its first of several completely surprising murders. Maurice visits his friend Gilbert, who gives him information and offers cash to tide him over with the promise of more. After Maurice asks Gilbert to borrow a gun, he turns the gun on his old friend. It’s the first of several betrayals and murders.

Maurice then grabs Gilbert’s cash and all the jewel’s he’s reworking and was going to fence. Before he’s out of the house, Maurice hears a car drive up and he scrambles to escape and stash the jewels and money. Nuttheccio and Armand, big time gangsters, were to get the jewels from Gilbert and when they see he’s dead. Maurice manages to flee and bury the loot.

Next thing we see is Maurice is at…

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Downhill

One of my big disappointments with the Sundance Film Festival was that I didn’t get to see Downhill with Julia Loius-Dreyfus and Will Farrell. I tried to get tickets every time it played but never was able to.

I finally saw the film on DVD and was quite disappointed. In spite of four star actors, It isn’t half as interesting Force Majuer, the Swedish film that Downhill is based on. While Downhill has a few changes so much of it follows the path of the original. The opening scenes, the eerie music, most of the plot are the same, but not carried off as well.

Downhill and Force Majuere show what happens to a married couple on a ski holiday with their two children when while eating lunch on a chalet deck, an avalanche erupts and heads towards the restaurant. Rather than protecting his family, Will Ferrell’s character Peter grabs his phone and runs to save his own hide. Luckily, the avalanche falls short of actually hitting the restaurant, but it is a close call. Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Billie is completely shocked that her husband left the family to fend for themselves.

While the family had some minor fissures before, now Billie and Pete are at different poles. Billie waits for Pete to make a profound apology, but none comes. I guess he’s hoping that time will heal her wound. Fat chance. Billie finally erupts when she finds Pete lied about how Zach Pete’s younger colleague shows up at the same resort with his footloose and fancy free, hashtag loving girlfriend. Billie is furious to learn that Pete lied. It was his idea that Zach turn up. A huge argument ensues, but doesn’t help matters as Pete still asserts that Billie’s wrong about the avalanche.

Like the Swedish film, Downhill’s Billie’s distrust and disrespect for Pete snowballs. Some secondary characters appear as goofy, comic relief, but they aren’t that funny or well drawn. The two sons have little personality and spend much of their time watching movies while the parents go out for dinner and argue. These children were pawns in a weak story. I’d hoped for a lot more. I did enjoy the original and do like Julia Louis-Dreyfus, but can’t recommend Downhill.