I like my people ruthless

Ruthless People

Ruthless People

Before millionaire Sam Stone (Danny Devito) can murder his wife Barbara (Bette Midler) and run away with his mistress Carol, he receives a phone call saying she’s been kidnapped. Sam ignores their demands, hoping her kidnappers (Judge Reinhold and Helen Slater) will kill Barbara for him.

Meanwhile, Carol plans to blackmail Sam with the help of her boyfriend Earl (Bill Pullman).

The various double crosses and deceptions highlight the darkest aspects of humanity. None of the characters are pleasant and all are more than willing to do despicable things to accomplish their goals. With its labyrinthine plot and amoral characters, it feels like a template for the best Seinfeld episodes.

DeVito is at his best playing an unscrupulous sleazeball; Midler is surprisingly likable; Slater is fine, but unspectacular; Pullman is a little too goofy; and Reinhold is a less sophisticated John Cleese.

It’s a fun, dark comedy unafraid to embrace evil at a time when most films were trying to soften their edges.

The joys of smoking

Princess Nicotine; or, the Smoke Fairy (1909)

In a world conditioned to see smoking as a cardinal sin, it’s hard to believe there was time when a whole short film could be revolving around the earnest enjoyment of a cigarette.

In addition to reminding us how different attitudes were one hundred years ago, this whimsical film features an impressive stop-motion sequence.

This was replaced as my favorite film released in 1909 by Pickpock ne craint pas les entraves.


The Man Who Would Be President

MacArthur (1977)

MacArthur (1977)

Graduating top of his class from West Point in 1903 and serving in the US Army until he was relieved of duty in 1951General Douglas MacArthur was as influential in the Pacific theater of World War II as Eisenhower was in the European front.

His actions after the surrender of Japan prevented Tokyo from falling under Russian or Chinese influence and did more to contain the threat of communism than perhaps any other individual.

His leadership as the de factor leader of post-war Japan enabled it to recover from the devastation of war more quickly than any nation in history. The Japanese ascension of the 1980s is the direct result of his patient guidance.

Unfortunately, he was unable to handle the treacherous waters of American politics.

Starring as the famed beleaguered general, Gregory Peck humanizes him while capturing the obstinacy and boundless pride which made him such an effective military leader.

Sadly, less than fifty years after his controversial dismissal, MacArthur has become a historical footnote. His heroic efforts in the Pacific have been overshadowed by the exploits of the European front. D-Day is still solemnly commemorated annually while the Battle of Iwo Jima fades into the recesses of history.

This enlightening movie does much to correct the historical record and shines a much deserved spotlight on a seminal figure whose role in the most romanticized war of the twentieth century has been unfairly reduced to a couple of pithy phrases: “I shall return,” and “Old soldiers never die, they simply fade away.”

The Quest — Episode 1

The Quest

When people here about my borderline insane quest to watch ten thousand movies, their initial reaction is skepticism. They think I’m either kidding or I’ve lost my mind.

After they realize I’m serious, the questions begin. Why are you doing this? How do you have time? What movies have you seen? What’s your favorite movie? What do you think of X? What did you think of Y?

These conversations with my friend, Rev. Ben Acton, led to this podcast where I’ll augment my impression of some movies and explore my obsession with greater detail thanks to his probing questions.

This is episode one of The Quest.