Friday, September 2, 2016

Gene Wilder's ten best films

Gene Wilder passed away this week and I didn't even know it until Thursday.

So here's my ten favorite Gene Wilder films.


I wrote about this one in September 2010:

I'll talk about one I streamed: Haunted Honeymoon.

This is a 1986 comedy. I've seen it at videostores but only on videotape. They stream it at Netflix. It stars Gene Wilder and Gilda Radner. Wilder wrote and directed it. Dom DeLuise plays Gene Wilder's Aunt Katharine.

So Gene and Gilda are radio performers in the 40s. That starts off cute but probably needed a threat of some form in that opening scene. Just a menacing note of some kind. Then they got to the mansion to meet Gene's family. And too many scenes take too long before we're set up with Gene or Gilda in any tense situation. That's a bad pacing error.

The movie has bits of nice moments and a lot of slow moments. And then Gilda and Dom sing "Balling The Jack" and the film comes to life. After that, it stays alive and keeps you hooked. I think the early scenes should have been sharpened or left on the cutting room floor.

Gene was good throughout. Gilda was trying hard in some of the early scenes and I felt sorry for her because there was so little there. Gilda was always cute, she didn't have to try to play cute. Which is why I would have ditched so many of the scenes after she and Gene are at the radio station and before she finds Gene with lipstick on his face.

If she and Gene didn't have such good chemistry together, I think it would have been more obvious what a problem her early scenes were because they gave her nothing to do but act cute.

But, again, when the movie finally comes to life, about 15 or so minutes in, it just doesn't let up and it's a real treat to watch.

The film bombed. Big time. And that's too bad because it's a really funny movie and it would have been great to have had more films with Gene and Gilda together. They made Hanky Panky, The Woman In Red and Haunted Honeymoon.







I wrote about it in May of 2012:

For years, "The Woman In Red" was nothing to me but the film that had Stevie Wonder's megahit "I Just Called To Say I Love You."  I had tried to watch it when it would come on TV on Saturday afternoons over the years and be bored.

I like Gilda Radner but she's barely in the film.  She may have six scenes the whole movie.

Instead, you're stuck with non-actress Kelly LeBrok.  I saw LeBrok in something about seven or eight years ago (something that was new then).  It was a bad movie and she was bad in it.  But she looked very pretty.  She's nothing special in "The Woman In Red."  Maybe it's the decade?  Maybe it hasn't yet aged well?  (The film came out in 1984.)  Judith Ivey also looks lousy and possibly it's the 80s but those eyebrows are frightening.  (They're not thick and bushy, they're non-existent.) I'm also not a fan of Ivey's at all.  I think she's a bad actress who plays wet blanket (unintentionally) in everything.  Didn't she help ruin "Designing Women"?

Here, her role is minor.  More minor than Gilda's but she's in more scenes than Gilda, so Ivey doesn't really harm the film.

But LeBrock offers nothing.  And she is not pretty enough -- forget beautiful -- that you can forgive her the bad acting.  If she were gorgeous in the film, you could.  You'd say, "Oh, a wooden but beautiful person."  You'd assume the attraction was purely physical (which is what the script seems to suggest though director Gene Wilder tries to soften that).

But if you leave that to the side, you're left with a film that works in many places and that's largely due to Gene Wilder and Charles Grodin.  Grodin was really good in a number of films including "Ishtar," "Seems Like Old Times," "The Heartbreak Kid" and, his first film, "Rosemary's Baby."  Here's he's one of Wilder's three friends who are always obsessed with women and scoring with women and scoping out women and . . . Joseph Bologna's wife leaves him beacuse of his cheating.  The four men are always thinking up excuses to go run off together.  And one afternoon, as the four are having lunch, this man comes up and gives Grodin a set of keys and tells him it's over.  All this time Grodin's been gay and living with a man.

The scenes that follow are the best because Wilder makes a point to make clear that Grodin's still the same friend.  And they've got a nice scene.  And that's it.  It's not, "Let's explain it or let's talk this to death." That would ahve been out of character for the characters.  It's just accepted and so is Grodin.

Near the end, as Wilder seems about to go off with LeBrock, the film really loses it because he's being sucked into a lifeless vacuum. He needs someone to play off of.  He doesn't get it.  But the film does rally when suddenly LeBrock's husband arrives on the scene.

I wouldn't rate it as Gilda and Gene's best pairing (that's "Haunted Honeymoon" followed by "Hanky Panky") but I'd give a solid B.  In terms of Gene's films, it's behind "Young Frankenstein," "Silver Streak," "Stir Crazy," "Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother," "Blazing Saddles," "The World's Greatest Lover" and "Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory."  But it's better than "Another You" and "See No Evil Hear No Evil" and way better than "Funny About Love."


In September 2013, I wrote about it:

It's a DVD, "Hanky Panky."  It won't play on DVD players.  It won't play on my laptop.

But for some reason, it plays perfect on the Blu Ray player.

Setting the technical aside.

The film was going to flop from the minute it was filmed.

Gilda is not the problem. Gilda is great.

She's playing the girlfriend of someone, no, she's really a reporter, no she's . . .

She has to play a character that changes and that the writers (Henry Rosenbaum and David Taylor) don't give a damn about.

She makes you care.  So she's great.

Gene Wilder is often funny.

But the film has him grabbing women's butts intentionally.  Over and over.  He's a perv.  He's on an escalator and he can't stop grabbing this woman's butt.  He grabs Kathleen Quinlan earlier in the film.

It's not funny.  It was never going to be funny.

I can't imagine most viewers found it funny in 1982.

Why are we supposed to care about him?

The writers forgot to answer that question.

This is a film where secrets are on a computer tape and the government spies and the military want it.  And nothing's honestly resolved at the end, though everyone pretends otherwise.

So at the very least, your characters have to be clear when your plot is so convoluted.

Not only is Gene grabbing butts, he thinks he's cute doing it.

He's not.

If those scenes were pulled from the film (directed by Sidney Poitier), it would be a much better film.

There are moments that make no sense at all.

I'm not talking logic onscreen, I'm talking, "Why did the writers write this?"

At one point, Gilda's helping Gene escape.  The police are looking for him, there are roadblocks.  So he's dressed as a woman.

That needs a pay off.

Instead, it just kind of slides by.

It needs a moment like in "Pee Wee's Big Adventure" where Pee Wee (dressed as a woman) gets out of the car and flirts with the police officer before saying, "Why don't you take a picture?  It'll last longer."

Time and again, things happen and the writers never develop those moments into anything.

Richard Widmark is good in the film, Kathleen is great in her brief time onscreen (she's only on in the first 30 minutes -- if that long) and Gilda's so good it's like you're watching another movie when she's on.

But Gene?

He's bad.  The character's badly written but Gene's got to take some of the blame too.

I'm leaving Willy Wonka off the list -- but I do love that film.

Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, September 2, 2016.  Chaos and violence continue, the refugee crisis continues, the persecution of the Sunnis continues, Mika's stupidity continues, and much more.

"At this point," Mika declared this morning trying to make her flat voice rise as she mugged for the cameras, "why doesn't she just stay home and watch TV."

Many people would probably rejoice at Mika's suggestion that Hillary Clinton walk away from the campaign trail -- as Rebecca noted at her sight, Hillary has hit record lows in public approval in the latest polls.

Some might find something deeply troubling and sexist in Mika Brzezinski's suggestion that Hillary, a woman, stay at home and watch TV.

More than likely, Mika was just pondering her own future.

Her desire to announce that she can't be objective in the race should have been followed by her announcement that she would therefore not participate in discussions on the presidential race.

Her refusal to do that has resulted in Mika's negatives entering Jane Pauley land.

Pauley ruled NBC's TODAY SHOW back when looks weren't so important and being unattractive was actually a way for a male or female morning TV host to have 'cred.'

Long before Joan London joined GOOD MORNING AMERICA, that show was dismissed regularly due to David Hartman's good looks.

But viewers decided they didn't need ugly with their morning coffee and realized that someone as pretty as Joan London could do hosting duties as well as -- and in the case of the Prince Charles interview -- better than Jane Plain Pauley.

Pauley's negatives -- like Mika's -- were on the rise.

NBC stumbled by how they handled Pauley's dismissal.

They again stumbled with the dismissal of the popular Ann Curry.  (Curry was dismissed from TODAY due to Matt Lauer.  Pauley was dismissed from TODAY because viewers no longer cared for her.)

As Mika knows, she's been advised about her negatives with viewers, she's supposed to be addressing this problem.

She apparently believes she's going to be given years to address the problem when, in fact, she's supposed to be showing an immediate turn around in the impressions viewers have of her.

She's too much of an idiot to turn it around.

(She's also made a powerful enemy who keeps laughing about her and how she keeps coming to him for advice.)

She's now seen by viewers as a scold and a nag -- and age took away the freshness which was the only thing keeping Mika from being seen as ugly.  These days, even gooking on the raccoon eye make up doesn't help make her look good for TV.

But then it never would.

Had she been working in another form of entertainment -- say the part where talk shows don't act as if they are newscasts -- anyone doing make up on the set would have noted her "butt hole eyes."

There have been other terms among the crews over the years but Julia Ormond's publicist driven rise to fame -- brief rise to fame -- led to the popularization of that term.  You didn't need to wait for the box office totals on SABRINA to know that Ormond had no leading lady future, you only had to look at those dead eyes (Madonna has the same problem on film).

As Mika scowls, squints and glares through one segment after another, it's no surprise viewers are rejecting her, it's called MORNING JOE -- not MOURNING JOE.

And it's called MORNING JOE -- not MORNING JOSE.


I'm sure Ava wasn't the only Latino watching this morning as the Anglo Whites and African-American laughed and laughed and laughed at a Hispanic male.

Ava termed it, "Oh, let's all laugh at the 'dumb' Mexican."

And maybe it's past time for African-Americans to grasp that they are not the representative of Latino culture? (Just as various talk shows should grasp that as well and go beyond a token nod to ethnic and racial differences when booking guests.)

After laughing at the Latino male shown in a clip, the African-American realized he'd gone too far and tried to back peddle by then speaking for the Latino community.

It was not a pretty show.

But even among all that ugliness, Mika managed to stand out as the ugliest of all.

Which brings us to The Clinton Foundation.

Iraq War cheerleader Matty Y has a stupid article where he whines that Colin Powell and Hillary Clinton were treated differently.  Bob Moobs Somerby rushes in to nurse Matty Y and insist it is because Hillary's a Democrat.

I'm so sick of what may be whoring and/or binary thinking.

It's either/or with this undereducated crowd who think they know something and never have known a damn thing.

Again, Bob, you're welcome.  I'm glad I taught you about narrative so that you can finally stop embarrassing yourself in that regard.  You are welcome.

But you're still too much of an idiot.

What's the difference between Hillary and Colin?

It's not political.

It's not even race.

Colin is a retired general.

Sandy Berger is a disgraced pundit for what he did (smuggling out documents in his underwear).  David Petraeus is someone the press still rushes to prop up -- despite his handing over classified documents to his mistress.

What's the difference?

It's not gender.

It's not race.

It has nothing to do with politics.

It has everything to do with the media's worship of the military.

I don't worship, sorry.

Colin's never gotten a pass here.

But I am aware of his efforts to whitewash War Crimes in Vietnam and am aware that his ugly record goes back very far.

And that the media has refused to challenge him and instead applauded him.

Does that surprise you?

Only if you're uneducated.

In 1961, Dwight Eisenhower gave his farewell as president in a speech citing the military industrial complex and the damage it could do.

This did not lead to a continued series of journalistic exposes from major news outlets.

Instead, they turned their heads, averted their eyes and largely acted as though Eisenhower had beeen speaking of the Military-Industrial Commission of the USSR.

Equally true, Colin never ran for president -- which demands a higher level of scrutiny.

The media's failing yet again as they play talking heads about whether or not Hillary Clinton broke the law with regards to her actions as Secretary of State and The Clinton Foundation.

She broke her promise -- that's what she broke.

And, yes, it does matter.

She agreed to certain things to be Secretary of State.

Barack Obama did not say, "Now, Hillary, you can't break the law."

It was assumed that, like every American, she was already expected to obey the law.

What she promised was to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Because of the importance of the position, her actions had to rise to that level.

She agreed to that.

She failed to honor it and -- looking at her actions -- it's clear she never intended to.

She's unethical.

She may have broken the law as well -- nothing so far demonstrates she did.

But she is unethical and that's demonstrated by the shady deals and dealings she engaged in.

That is also on no one but herself.

She was expected to meet a certain standard and she did not.

Begla and Carville and all the other whores can lie about the great work The Clinton Foundation does (it doesn't -- and Chelsea's salary alone as a board member would outrage most Americans -- and, yes, Bob, you're welcome on my explaining/correcting you on the fact that board members draw a salary -- what an idiot Bob Somerby is.)

That's not the issue.

Even illegality is not the issue.

She signed a document promising to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest.

She knew what was expected of her and she agreed to it and then she refused to honor it.

That's unethical.

So is claiming to have been a defender of women and children when she's waged war on women and children around the world.

“Camps in are already overcrowded & we’re expecting a new wave of people – up to 1 million.”

Donald Trump, Hillary insists, is not ready to be president.

The implication being that she is.

Okay, then why is it that Ms. Ever Ready doesn't address the Iraqi refugee crisis.

While she was still in the US Senate, that crisis had already become the biggest refugee crisis in the Middle East since 1949.

And she didn't feel the need to address it.

The late Senator Ted Kennedy worked on it.  Asked her to help but she didn't want to (maybe that's why he supported Barack instead of her in the 2008 race?).

The crisis has only grown.

What speech has Hillary given from the campaign trail on this crisis?

What proposal has she made?


And none.

If she's so ready, why doesn't she have any proposals?

She's our brave defender of women and children?

Human Rights Watch issued an alert at the start of the week:

Iraqi government-backed militias have recruited children from at least one displaced persons camp in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq to fight against Islamic State forces. All security forces and armed groups should abide by international law and demobilize any fighters under age 18.
  Witnesses and relatives told Human Rights Watch that two tribal militias (Hashad al-Asha`ri) recruited as fighters at least seven children from the Debaga camp on August 14, 2016, and drove them to a town closer to Mosul, where Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are preparing for an offensive to drive the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, from the city. The Hashad al-Asha`ri, made up of local Sunni fighters, are expected to play a key role in Mosul military operations, while the government may order the mainly Shia militias of the Popular Mobilization Forces to stay out of the Mosul fighting.
“The recruitment of children as fighters for the Mosul operation should be a warning sign for the Iraqi government,” said Bill Van Esveld, senior children’s rights researcher. “The government and its foreign allies need to take action now, or children are going to be fighting on both sides in Mosul.”
  Human Rights Watch has documented that ISIS has extensively recruited and deployed children in its forces.
Debaga camp, 40 kilometers south of Erbil, currently houses over 35,000 people displaced in the fighting between government forces and ISIS. Two people living in the camp since March told Human Rights Watch that at least two militia groups engaged in the fighting against ISIS are entirely made up of camp residents. They said that these two militias, commanded by Sheikh Nishwan al-Jabouri and by Maghdad al-Sabawy, the son of the recently deceased commander Fares al-Sabawy, have been recruiting from the camp for months. Their trucks have been arriving empty, and driving away filled with men, and in some cases, boys.

The two camp residents said that two very large trucks arrived in the evening of August 14 and took away about 250 new recruits, at least 7 of them under age 18, to join Sheikh al-Jabouri’s forces. Witnesses and other camp residents said that all the men and boys volunteered to join the militias. An aid worker who was on the road saw the two trucks heading to Hajj Ali, a town about 46 kilometers from Debaga and 7 kilometers from the front lines with ISIS. They contacted local aid workers in Hajj Ali, who confirmed that the group had arrived there, stayed for one night, and then went on to 

Where is her brave statement -- or any at all -- on the above?

She met with and praised Hoshyar Zebari repeatedly when she was Secretary of State.

Where's her comment on him this week?

Iraqi Financial Minister Hoshyar Zibari: Iraqi man transferred $6,4b to his account out of .


These charges/claims have been surfacing since Sunday.

There is no Iraqi Hillary has praised more than Hoshyar.

But today there is only silence.

The ongoing persecution of the Sunni population is what gave the Islamic State a toehold in Iraq.  What's her plan there?

Iraqi Sunni Scholar Tortured and arrested by Shia militias backed by Iraqi Gov.


She's ready and she's tested!

Then why doesn't she have any real proposals?

Yesterday, the US Defense Dept announced:

Strikes in Iraq
Fighter, ground attack and remotely piloted aircraft conducted eight strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government:

-- Near Baghdadi, a strike engaged an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed a building.

-- Near Beiji, a strike damaged an ISIL mortar system.

-- Near Haditha, a strike engaged an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed a building.

-- Near Hit, a strike destroyed an ISIL bunker.

-- Near Kisik, a strike engaged an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed three fighting positions and a weapons cache.

-- Near Mosul, two strikes engaged two ISIL tactical units and destroyed a tunnel and two assembly areas.

-- Near Ramadi, a strike engaged an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed a building and a mortar system.

Task force officials define a strike as one or more kinetic events that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single, sometimes cumulative, effect. Therefore, officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIL vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against buildings, vehicles and weapon systems in a compound, for example, having the cumulative effect of making those targets harder or impossible for ISIL to use. Accordingly, officials said, they do not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target. Ground-based artillery fired in counterfire or in fire support to maneuver roles is not classified as a strike.

The following community sites -- plus Jody Watley, the ACLU and Z ON TV  -- updated:


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