Thursday, October 15, 2015

THREE REASONS WHY THE ANNUAL COLUMBUS-HATING SPREE IS BOGUS

Three reasons why the annual Columbus-hating spree is bogus.

1. Evaluating the past by today's ethical standards is ignorant and erroneous.
In only a few generations, in fact within a single human lifetime, we have revised or inverted many of the basic concepts of the value of human life and the proper treatment of ethnic, sexual, and developmental minorities. Before the 20th century, genocide was not a crime. From the very origins of humanity it was a normal tool of cultural development and expansion. A more technically advanced culture used its advantages to eliminate its rivals and occupy their territory. Less developed or minority cultures were not valued, honored or preserved; they were considered inferior and were eliminated as a burden and an obstacle to the upward climb of civilization. It is only because the power elite no longer has complete control over the means of communication that opposition to this worldview is now being expressed.

2. The “Noble Savage” stereotype, like all stereotypes, is false.
The idea that the Western Hemisphere was filled with harmless, peaceful peoples possessed of a higher spiritual knowledge and in balance with nature is ignorant and absurd. Native Americans were as stupid, greedy and brutal as anyone else. They were just as avid in robbing, raping, torturing, mutilating and murdering their rivals as anyone else. They were cruel slave owners and casual infanticides. They were often in a continuous state of war with their neighbors, and the more highly developed their culture, the more prevalent was the presence of public ritual torture and human sacrifice. When advanced technology was obtained from European sources, they did not hesitate to use it on each other as eagerly as the Europeans used it on them.

3. Columbus' voyage was a unique and significant achievement that changed the world.
Barring minor northern exploratory journeys, before Columbus no-one thought or dared to deliberately undertake the western sea voyage. By doing so, Columbus immediately changed the direction and means of expansion of the most advanced civilization. His personal character and behavior, which were not markedly different from those of any other person in his position at the time, have nothing to do with the historical and cultural significance of the introduction of the knowledge of an entire hemisphere previously unknown to and undeveloped by the most advanced culture on the planet. You can have any opinion you want to about that. See point 1.

Friday, September 25, 2015

JACKIE COLLINS MEMORIAL FILM FESTIVAL: Part 3 - THE BITCH

I have a couple of fairly reliable rules of cinema - bellwethers one might say - that let you know you are probably in for a real stinker.  The first is Eight Word Title.  If there are eight or more words in the title, look out.  The second is TBC - Tits Before Credits.  If you see 'em before they roll the title and opening credits, you are probably seeing the best part of the movie right there.  My first rule clearly does not apply to The Bitch (1979), Joan Collins' second appearance as her sister Jackie's character Fontaine Khaled.  The second rule is applicable beyond all expectation, as she is in a naked sex scene in the shower before the credits.

The Bitch is a shabby sexploitation flick and nothing more.  The previous films in this exercise were competently enough made that I never even wondered who was responsible for their existence, and the screenplays were by Jackie Collins herself so they at least had a little sharpness to them.  When I saw how poor this production was I determined it was either from very early in a filmmaker's brief and unsuccessful career, or it was made by someone with a decades-long string of cheap mediocrities attached to his name.  The latter proved to be the case. Look it up if you like - his career is a remarkably consistent pattern of shoddy crap, ending with one of the saddest, poorest mummy movies in the history of the cinema.  He wrote the incoherent and inconclusive screenplay and I nearly feel motivated to try to read the book just to see what a botch he made of the original story.  Plotwise, after her brief temporary comeuppance in The Stud, the protagonist is left to her own resources to get her failing disco back on top of the scene again.  There is some guy with a stolen diamond.  Stuff happens.  She wears this dreadful metallic ensemble.


Everything is pretty much in a long medium shot - most of the time you see everyone from the waist up, whether they are yelling at each other on a disco dance floor or walking down the street. The lifelessness of the filming is noteworthy.  The disco scenes are made tedious by there being two basic shots - the medium shot and the camera on a skateboard looking up shot.  The sex scenes are longer than the disco scenes and are meant to be erotica as they involve a lot of writhing around in darkness.  The peak of decadence comes at a pool party with extensive underwater shots reminiscent of the cheap nudies of Doris Wishman, one of the most consistently shoddy directors of all time who nonetheless was able to make her nudies moderately interesting.  The Bitch is not.  This morning I could hardly remember anything about it.  I remembered this though.



Yes, the thing I remembered most clearly about this sex and disco movie is the crappiness of this driving scene.  That is her in a car.  I always enjoy those brief amateurish film reviews that go, "This is the WORST MOVIE EVER MADE.  Whatever you do, DO NOT WATCH THIS MOVIE."  Of course there is no such thing as the worst movie ever made.  This, however is a piece of crap and a complete waste of time.  There are not drugs enough in this world to make it enjoyable or interesting. 

This concludes the Jackie Collins Memorial Film Festival.  Judging by the first two, I got a good idea of the kind of story she wrote, and if you like that kind of trashy lurid sex novel then she is just the stuff.  Harold Robbins for the ladies.  Her job here is finished, and so is mine.  I thank you.

video

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

JACKIE COLLINS MEMORIAL FILM FESTIVAL: Part 2 - THE STUD

The Stud (1978) is a story of the sexual objectification and degradation of manly hunk Tony Blake (Oliver Tobias), and the instrument of his destruction is the sex monster Fontaine Khaled (Joan Collins).  Fontaine is the trophy wife of a wealthy absentee  husband, and owner of the posh disco of which Tony is manager and on-call sex servant.  The male chauvinist ideal of unlimited sex with an endless variety of partners is turned into a job, a chore, a misery and at last a torment before the story is told. Tony is eventually drowning in a nightmarish sea of women, passed from one pair of lips to the next, a sex object to be used and tossed away. The nudity is not merely gratuitous, it is excessive; even I began to wish some of them would just keep their kit on.  Fontaine is a repulsive creature who becomes quite nasty when she is forced to think about, talk about, or do anything other than sex, with a shiny mask-like face from which cutting barbs smoothly issue.  All major characters get very naked quite a lot, and the first half of the picture alternates among that, some excellent disco scenes, and people talking out the plot.  Here's Joan Collins naked with her obligatory sardonic Greek Chorus friend.


Like the sex, the plot was beginning to become rather tiresome, and I was mainly waiting for more disco, when everything veers off into surrealism.  Tony begins popping pills at the Aquatic Parisian Orgy Palace, the background music turns into discordant squawks and drones, and it becomes an echoing nightmare of debauchery as Tony reaches the depth of degradation - DUPED INTO GAY SEX.  That motif appeared in Married Men as well, a major character who uses sex to succeed realizing her ultimate degradation when she is DUPED INTO GAY SEX.  In the '70s, homosexuality equals self-hatred.  There are still greater depths to plumb as Tony attempts to flee his fate in the pleasantest part of the movie for me, a lovely driving sequence through damp grey Britain in a red convertible with the radio aerial bent into the shape of a heart. 


Yes, my favorite part of the sex movie was the driving scene.  Alas, he is driving to greater humiliation as odd man at a tedious weekend in a vast stuffy country house, from which he is ejected to huddle unshaven at his parents' working-class flat and queue in the cold at a telephone box trying to hustle the deal that will reverse his fortunes.  But it is only when our hopes and dreams are crushed before our eyes that we can understand the true meaning of freedom.  My feeling throughout was that this movie suffered from too much budget.  Married Men had a parsimonious quality that distanced it from reality, while The Stud seems very much rooted in this actual world.  It was not quite an enjoyable experience unless you enjoy cringe-inducing grappling scenes that seem more like a fight than romance, with affection reduced to a formality - a token to be paid as part of the ritual of animalistic humping.  I am not big on sex scenes in the first place but some of this got to be downright teeth-gritting.  I still have another entire movie of soulless sex monster Fontaine Khaled to enjoy before this insane ordeal ends.  And here is the trailer.

video

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

JACKIE COLLINS MEMORIAL FILM FESTIVAL: Part one


The World is Full of Married Men (1979) is based on Jackie Collins' first novel, and there is hardly a believable thing in it. I love a movie that abandons reality from the first moment, and found that watching this was far less of an ordeal than I expected and was generally quite enjoyable all the way through.  Carroll Baker is a competent actress and I have enjoyed quite a few of her offbeat Italian and Spanish-made psychological thrillers from the late '60s and early '70s - because of the movies, not necessarily because she brought anything outstanding to them.  Here she is credible as Linda Cooper, a gullible upscale hausfrau whose young daughters have perfectly posh British accents despite their American parents and Swedish nanny.  What is less credible is that she should be the object of instant attraction to handsome young disco crooner Gem Gemini, seen here in the obligatory hairy leather coat, as Linda's sardonic Greek Chorus of a friend (Georgina Hale) feigns inattention.


Tony Franciosa is also a competent actor, who plays his role of a ludicrous personification of The Double Standard on the very brink of slapstick.  "Oh THAT girl!" he unctuously replies, referring to the girl he was screwing in the bathroom at the party, "I can EXPLAIN that!"  His utter obliviousness is the most entertaining thing in this, and his immaculate disco 'fro continuously pleases the eye.


There are far more laughs in this film than were originally intended, up to and including the "shocker" ending.  It has enough melodrama and sexual egalitarianism for the Ladies, and enough gratuitous nudity (if scrawny stick-figures are to your taste) and general lewdness for the Gentlemen.  It also has enough disco to stick it all together into a glutinous mass of garish amusement.  Buy the soundtrack on Ronco records.  Really.  Overall, it is a moderately entertaining bit of lurid trash which takes less time to experience than reading the book, which is a strong argument in its favor.

Friday, August 7, 2015

How to get away with it

For future reference, Amanda Taub's five step process for invalidating anyone who tries to call you on your bullshit:

Step 1: Claim that the complaint is an exaggeration in order to imply that the complainant can't be trusted
Step 2: Dismiss demands for respect and equality as mere "political correctness"
Step 3: Insist that this complaint is too minor to bother with when there are more important things to worry about
Step 4: Say it was just "fun"
Step 5: Pretend the complaint is really just about personal animosity

From this essay.