When Elvis was king, a look back at 1956

In 1956,

Bach: The Goldberg Variations was released;

Five US missionaries were killed by the Huaorani people of Ecuador;

The Winter Olympics were held in Cortina d’Ampezzo;

Elvis Presley released, “Heartbreak Hotel,”

Doris Day’s released her signature song “Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be),”

Morocco and Tunisia declared independence from France,

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed over 500 for the first time,

My Fair Lady opened on Broadway,

Marty was named the best film of 1955

Pakistan became the first Islamic republic,

As the World Turns debuted on CBS,

Grace Kelly married Rainier III, Prince of Monaco;

Rocky Marciano retired without losing a boxing match in his career;

The United Methodist Church allowed women to become clergy for the first time,

The first Eurovision Song Contest was broadcast;

Elvis Presley performed a controversial version of “Hound Dog” on The Milton Berle Show;

The Summer Olympics were held in Melbourne;

Gamal Abdel Nasser became the 2nd President of Egypt;

Marilyn Monroe married Arthur Miller;

President Dwight Eisenhower signed the Federal Aid Highway Act;

Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis performed their last comedy show together;

In God we trust” became the US National motto;

Elvis Presley made his first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show;

The hard disk drive was introduced by IBM;

Don Larsen pitched a perfect game in the World Series;

13-year-old chess prodigy Bobby Fischer defeated grandmaster Donald Byrne in The Game of the Century;

Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal;

The Huntley-Brinkley Report debuted on NBC;

Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg was published;

Hungary attempted to leave the Warsaw Pact;

The United States Supreme Court affirmed a lower court ruling in Browder v. Gayle, holding bus segregation in Alabama was unconstitutional;

Dwight Eisenhower defeated Adlai Stevenson for the second time to win reelection as President of the United States;

Floyd Patterson became world heavyweight champ;

The “Million Dollar Quartet” played together in Memphis;

Japan joined the United Nations;

To Tell the Truth debuted on CBS;

Bob Barker made his television debut;

Mel Gibson, Davis Caruso, Imelda Staunton, Bill Maher, Geena Davis, Mimi Rogers, Johnny Rotten, Nathan Lane, Aileen Wuornos, Tim Daly, Bryan Cranston, Dana Delany, Steve Ballmer, Ray Combs, Diamond Dallas Page, Andy Garcia, Lars von Trier, Dan Patrick, Sugar Ray Leonard, Bob Saget, Patricia Cornwell, Kenny G., Joe Montana, Randy Jackson, Anthony Bourdain, Chris Isaak, Tom Hanks, Sela Ward, Tony Kushner, Charlie Crist, Dorothy Hamill, Delta Burke, Jim Neidhart, Bruce Greenwood, Rusty Wallace, Adam Arkin, Joan Allen, Paul Molitor, David Copperfield, Gary Cole, Linda Hamilton, Christoph Waltz, Danny Boyle, Carrie Fisher, Dwight Yoakam, Rita Wilson, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Richard Curtis, Warren Moon, Bo Derek, Dale Jarrett, William Fichtner, and Larry Bird were born;

While Sir Alexander Korda, H.L. Mencken, A.A. Milne, Connie Mack, Fred Allen, Edward Arnold, Jean Hersholt, Jackson Pollock, Bela Lugosi, Alfred Kinsey, Babe Zaharias, Art Tatum, and Tommy Dorsey died.

The following is a list of my ten favorite films released in 1956:

Continue reading “When Elvis was king, a look back at 1956”

Green with Fury

The Green Berets (1968)

The Green Berets (1968)

Colonel Mike Kirby (John Wayne) arrives in South Vietnam to lead a group of Special Forces while embedded journalist George Beckworth (David Janssen) reports on the conflict. Through a series of skirmishes with the Viet Cong, the film attempts to demonstrate the heroism and honor of American soldiers.

I liked George Takei as Captain Nim, a former Viet Minh Officer who joins the American effort against the communists, and David Janssen, fresh off his career defining work in The Fugitive, is very good as the idealistic reporter. The incident with the orphan, Ham Chuck, is a heavy-handed but fair exploration of the human costs of war.

Unfortunately, this long film too slavishly followed the outdated formula of Wayne’s previous films The Alamo (1960) and The Longest Day (1962), and contemporary critical reaction was not kind. Roger Ebert gave it 0 stars and included it among his most hated films. Fifty years later, its defense of American involvement of Vietnam is more quaint than offensive, but it’s still not a very good movie.

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) has come a long way since the initial film in the series, which felt like Death Wish (1974) on steroids. The second film upped the apocalyptic imagery but maintained a gritty realism. The third film abandoned realism in favor of campy 1980s over indulgence.

This is a hybrid between the two extremes. The spectacle of the Thunderdome grounded in grime and dirt, like Lawrence of Arabia (1962) on acid.

The impressive spectacle masks the film’s serious issues. Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) has an instantly iconic look, but the character is flat and made the transition from barely surviving to rebellion leader in record time. How long has she been content to eke out an existence under Immortan Joe’s brutal rule until she suddenly remembered her heritage and set out to take the Five Wives to safety?

Immortan Joe, the film’s villain and Mad Max’s version of The Governor, is easily the most fascinating character in the film, and I wish the film had given us more of him.

Max, Furiosa, the Five Wives, Joe, and Nux, are all looking for a place to call home in a world where home no longer exists. If the film had focused on the psychological struggle of its characters as they adjusted to their new reality, it could have been something special, but, instead, the characters are excuses to pass the time until the next action set piece. I liked the action; I liked the endless car chases; I also like chocolate, but I don’t eat chocolate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Exhilarating action, and creative post-apocalyptic imagery make this hollow, soulless film an enjoyable, but unsatisfying experience.

Best of the 1960s

Testament of Orpheus (1960)

In the final film installment of Jean Cocteau’s Orphic trilogy, he encounters characters from his previous films and appears before a tribunal to defend his life and art.

Continue reading “Best of the 1960s”