Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Gene Wilder, 1933-2016

from BBC News:

Gene Wilder's distinctive looks helped him create roles that he made his own.

His performances combined sentimentality, comedy and suppressed rage, often veering between idiocy and apoplexy. Films such as Young Frankenstein, Silver Streak and The Producers established him as one of Hollywood's top comedy talents.

But behind the corkscrew hair, the bulging organ-stop eyes and the twitchy mannerisms, lay a much gentler, more reflective individual.

He was born Jerome Silberman in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on June 11, 1933.   He later described his childhood as "sane but disturbed" and was always drawn to acting by the "chance to be someone else".

When he was eight years old, Wilder's mother had a heart attack Her doctor took the confused child to one side and told him: "Don't ever get angry with her, you might kill her." He turned to leave and added: "You can make her laugh, though."

For years Wilder harboured the belief that any harsh words would end his mother's life.

His parents sent him to a military school in Hollywood where, as the only Jewish boy, he recalled the bullying that made his life a misery. He quickly returned home where he became involved with the local theatre, making his first public performance at the age of 15 in a production of Romeo and Juliet.

He took a course in Communication and Theatre Arts at the University of Iowa before moving to England to pursue his studies with the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. He felt stifled by his acting lessons in Britain, but became the first American to win the English Schools Fencing Championship. He admitted he had always worshipped Errol Flynn.

In 1956 he was drafted into the US Army where he found himself posted as an aide in a psychiatric ward, helping to administer electro-shock therapy to patients. On his discharge, he went back to acting, having changed his name to Gene Wilder, partly, he later said, because he could not imagine a Jerry Silberman being asked to play Hamlet.

He also became an outspoken critic of the US involvement in Vietnam and would later oppose the invasion of Iraq.

In 1961, he had a small part in a production of Arnold Wesker's Roots and made his Broadway debut as the comic valet in The Complaisant Lover. His breakthrough came in 1963, when he starred alongside Anne Bancroft in a Broadway production of Bertolt Brech's play, Mother Courage and Her Children. 

Bancroft was then dating her future husband, Mel Brooks, who invited Wilder to look at a screenplay provisionally entitled Springtime for Hitler. At the time, Brooks lacked the money to turn it into a film so, in the event, Wilder's first cinema role was that of Eugene Grizzard, the undertaker captured by Bonnie and Clyde in the 1967 gangster film.
A year later Brooks finally began casting The Producers. Wilder's role as the neurotic accountant brought him his first Oscar nomination in 1968, for Best Supporting Actor.Wilder was liberated by the spontaneity of Brooks's direction and the pair enjoyed an extremely successful partnership.

In 1971, he gave a tour de force performance as Willy Wonka in the film adaptation of Roald Dahl's children's novel. Wilder stipulated that he would not take the role unless Wonka's opening scene saw him pretending to be crippled and leaning on a cane. It became one of the film's most memorable moments as Wilder halts, tumbles forward then leaps back on to his feet.

"I knew that from then on," Wilder says, "the audience wouldn't know if I was lying or telling the truth."

In Woody Allen's 1972 comedy Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask), Wilder played a doctor who was in love with a sheep.

Wilder was reunited with Brooks for the 1974 spoof Western Blazing Saddles, and the inspired lunacy of his trigger-happy Waco Kid, burnt out at 29, helped create a worldwide hit. In the same year Young Frankenstein brought him and Brooks another Oscar nomination, this time for screenwriting.

He spoke of an almost "telepathic rapport" with Richard Pryor, and the comic duo blundered their way through a series of films, including Silver Streak in 1976 and Stir Crazy in 1980.

"I have an affinity with people who've had a tough time in their lives," he later said

When Pryor's ill health prevented his appearing again with Wilder in Hanky Panky in 1982, the part was rewritten for the doyenne of the Saturday Night Live line-up, Gilda Radner. She became Wilder's third wife and occasional co-star, but died of ovarian cancer in May 1989.

 Radner had been misdiagnosed in the 10 months before her death and, for the next five years, Wilder channelled his energy into saving "the hundreds of other Gildas out there".

In 1990, he established a Los Angeles cancer detection centre in her name, and even went to Congress to speak out for early medical screening for women at risk. Gilda's Clubs sprang up all over America.

Wilder married again in 1991, and later returned to performing. For two years, he starred in the NBC sitcom Something Wilder and, in 1996, made his London stage debut in Neil Simon's Laughter on the 23rd Floor. He continued to act, notably appearing as the Mock Turtle in a star-studded US TV version of Alice in Wonderland, but he was becoming increasingly disenchanted with the limelight.

"I don't like show business, I realised," he explained on a Turner Television tribute. "I like show, but I don't like the business."

He was scathing about 2005's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the Warner Bros remake of Willy Wonka, describing it as a money-making exercise. The same year he published a very personal account of his life, Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art.

Over the following seven years he published three novels, My French Whore, The Woman Who Wouldn't and, in 2013, Something to Remember You By: A Perilous Romance.

For all the vicissitudes he suffered in his personal life, the boy who kept his mother alive with his funny voices succeeded in conveying his own quirky brand of humour to millions of others.

The world is a sadder  and darker place without Gene Wilder...

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Meanwhile... over in Damage Control-Land

While Donald Trump and Nigel Farage had their little " We love to hate" fest down in Mississippi, over on MSNBC,   Trump Campaign Manager Kellyanne Conway  (one week into her new job) was trying valiantly to contain the dumpster fire that is her candidate.

Clearly this  is Kellyanne's  role. To go on television and pretend  everything Donald Trump has said and done while running for President up to this point, never happened.       

In a digital age, where everything Conway would like to simply sweep under the rug is there to see and hear,  that is  pretty tall order.

Good Luck with that Kellyanne...

Donald Trump & Nigel Farage - Two Racist Peas in a Pod.

From the "birds of a feather, flocking together department..."(Via the Huffington Post )
JACKSON, Miss. - Nigel Farage, a key figure in the successful campaign to get Britain out of the European Union, lent his support to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on Wednesday, saying Trump represented the same type of anti-establishment movement that he masterminded in his own country.

Farage appeared with Trump before a cheering crowd of thousands at a rally in Jackson, Mississippi. Farage partly based his Brexit drive on opposition to mass immigration to Britain that he said was leading to rapid change in his country. Trump summoned Farage on stage in the middle of his appearance, shook his hand and surrendered the microphone to him.

“I cannot possibly tell you how you should vote in this election. But you know I get it, I get it. I’m hearing you. But I will say this, if I was an American citizen I wouldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton if you paid me,” Farage said.

Now for those of you outside the UK who may not be familiar with Nigel, and his political Party , UKIP (The UK Independence Party);   Ukip is part of the group Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD). The group includes representatives of the Danish People’s Party, the True Finns Party, the Dutch SGP and the infamous Italian Lega Nord – all of them far-right. Nigel Farage is co-President of the group along with Lega Nord’s Francesco Speroni, who described multiple murderer Anders Breivik as someone whose “ideas are in defence of western civilisation."

Mario Borghezio, another member of the group, declared in a radio interview that Breivik had some "excellent" ideas. Farage’s reaction was to write a strongly-worded letter to Borghezio, asking him to withdraw his comments or Ukip would pull out of the EFD. Borghezio not only did not apologize, but responded with an extraordinary speech in which he raged: "Long live the Whites of Europe, long live our identity, our ethnicity, our race… our blue sky, like the eyes of our women. Blue, in a people who want to stay white."

Nigel Farage did not withdraw from the EFD. He continues to co-preside over it, along with the leader of the Lega Nord.

Last May, during a Pre-Brexit radio appearance on London's main talk radio station,   The UKIP leader endured a 'car-crash' interview as radio presenter James O'Brien quizzed him over racism, expenses and his party's links to far-right European politicians  prompting the party's director of communications to step in and try to bring the interview to a halt.

Like  his new BFF Donald Trump,  whenever Farage is confronted with his Party's clear racist  and far right extremist ties,  he  (wait for it...)  blames the media!    So is it really any surprise that this is who Donald Trump, the Republican Presidential Nominee invites on stage to speak at a nationally televised campaign rally.  

Birds of a feather indeed...

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Latest Episode of: "What Donald meant was..."

One of the things supporters of Donald Trump cite as reasons for supporting him is; “He tells it like it is!” and “He means what he says!”. Yet never before in modern American history has a campaign and political party had to spend so much time clarifying how what their candidate “really meant” is different from what he actually said.

The latest episode of  “Donald Trump said what?!?” comes to us from a rally yesterday in North Carolina, where the Republican nominee suggested the  way to prevent  Hillary Clinton from appointing judges should she be elected President,   would be that “2nd Amendment people” might have a way to stop her.

The reaction on both sides of the political spectrum has been swift and fairly predictable.  Sane people are horrified and crazy  people and their apologists are blaming everybody BUT Donald Trump for the controversy.  The New York Daily News  devoted its entire front page to calling for Trump to either end his campaign,  or for the GOP to finally walk away from him,  (Good luck with that...)

But  all of that really is not the issue.  Also the issue isn't did Donald Trump mean somebody should shoot Hillary Clinton, because clearly he didn't mean that..   But the fact remains,  he SAID that, and he said that knowing full well that  it could be interpreted as such.

Here is the reality of Donald Trump,  he said it because he thought it would sound good. He said it because he thought the crowd there would like it.  There was no thought process beyond that.  He gave no thought  as to would it be a wise thing to say or an appropriate thing say, or even a potentially dangerous thing to say.  Donald Trump's  train of thought never makes it that far down the track.

We are now in a time when  there is no point in asking if this latest episode of the Trump un-reality show will be too much for the Republican Party to bear.  It's not.   The fact is the GOP has decided that this is who they are, and the real tragedy is, they are right.  This really IS who they are, and what they have become.

Trump is the political equivalent of the guy in a youtube clip who,  moments before the totally predictable,  horrible accident, turns to his buddies and says "hold my beer  while I try sumthin..."   He is what it would look like if  MTV's  Jackass  was  political campaign.  

Donald Trump is not stupid,  he just can't be bothered to think any of this through.

I'll say it again, Donald Trump is not stupid.   Donald Trump,  is a fool.   Like most fools,  he will do and say foolish, reckless, dangerous  and profoundly stupid things, with no thought to any potential consequences;   simply for the short term gratification of  being  the center of attention.

Like most fools,  he will make make mindbogglingly bad decisions, without a moment's hesitation, if those bad choices feed his ego.   If  anything bad does happen  as a result,  like most fools he will contort himself  incoherently  and attempt  to blame anyone and anything but himself.

So,  I have to ask my Republican friends one simple question;    Have you ever watched  Star Wars?

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Donald Trump reportedly asked "Why can't we use nuclear weapons?"

Republicans...   Have you completely lost your minds???  Stop this insanity NOW.