Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Last Charge Of The Internet Spammers

Spammers and scammers. If it's not one, it's the other. Let's deal with the spammer first, and my apologies for the language, but it's well deserved. In the last few days here and at my photoblog, and at a number of other blogs I follow, a spammer turned up in comments with the same repeated spam message directing people to his website. It was not the standard medicine, Gucci bags, or whatever the usual spam might be. 

That site was a vile toxic waste dump called Boycott American Women. He was using the name John Doe and hiding behind an anonymous avatar (ooo, how brave of the angry little pile of crap. Or maybe not so little. He might be an obese cheeseball eating beer guzzling lug in a basement somewhere). A look into the history of this waste of oxygen has shown he's been doing this since at least 2010, ranting and roaring about women under more than one name, including John Rambo. Wonderful. Taking a name from an emotionally stunted fictional character. What a model of mental stability Johnny boy must be, or whatever the hell his real name is under those layers of anonymity.

John seems to think American women are too pushy, too assertive, too independent for his liking, so he goes on and on about dating women from other parts of the world who, in his pathetic little mind, "know their place". Bull, Johnny. Let's face it, someone as totally cluster-screwed up as you doesn't date anyone. You're a seething cauldron of misogynistic rage, you asshole, and it's fair to say that everyone who knows you in real life hates you. Your very existence is an insult to the human race. And you're a gutless coward, hiding behind such anonymous names and not even showing your real face anywhere. I don't usually tell trolls to consider suicide, but in your case, numbnuts, I'll make an exception.

From me to you.... go fuck yourself.

Moving on to the scammers. They are the foul pestilence from some corner of the world with promises of wealth for a deserving sucker... er, that is, partner in their financial endeavour. Sometimes it's the wife/ daughter/ surrogate/ mistress/ personal masseuse/ go-to girl/ professional legbreaker of the reverend/ minister of state/ president/ general/ beloved autocrat of whatever hellhole the scammer wants you to believe they're actually from.

They are, of course, riddled with grammar errors, weird writing, and assurances that this is all on the up and up ("we swear, good friend, this offer of millions to a complete stranger is most absolutely valid in the extreme!"). What follows turned up in my email the other day.

Dear friend,

My name is Mr. Musa Ibrahim. I am working with one of the prime banks in Burkina Faso. Here in this bank existed a dormant account for many years, which belong to one of our late foreign customer. The amount in this account stands at $13,300,000.00 (Thirteen Million Three Hundred Thousand USA Dollars).

I want a foreign account where the bank will transfer this fund. I know you would be surprised to read this message, especially from someone relatively unknown to you. But, do not worry yourself so much. This is a genuine, risk free and legal business transaction. Reply back to me urgently, if you are interested. All details shall be sent to you once I hear from you.

Best regards,

Mr. Musa Ibrahim

That's nice. A guy who doesn't know me has the audacity of calling me "dear friend." This despite the fact that I don't like having total strangers call me "dear friend". He mentions "prime bank." I'm not a banker, mind you, but "prime bank" doesn't sound like a real term real bankers make use of. 

More glitches and glaring inconsistencies abound. "Here in this bank existed a dormant account..." Well, since you're desperately hoping I'm dumb enough to give you my bank account number, Musa (because let's face it, that's what this is all about, you wanker), is it existed or exists? Because even if it's dormant, a real bank account isn't mentioned in the past tense, you jackass.

And then he goes on to say "which belong to one of our late foreign customer." Musa? I'm an editor, which means I pick up on glaring errors, and you're missing the letter s on belongs and customers. Just in case you're following along, Musa, that's a tell tale sign of ye olde Nigerian scammer.

And of course our boy Musa (of the Homo Spammeritis Annoyingus subspecies) tells me there's thirteen million in American dollars just waiting in that account. He says not to worry, that it's a genuine, risk free, legal business transaction from someone relatively unknown to me. Not relatively unknown, you bloody prat. I've never heard of you before! You're completely unknown!

Nice try, Musa, better luck next time. I suggest you try scamming someone named Bubba, Jethro, or Honey Boo Boo. 

About the only good thing an internet scammer is good for is a laugh at their desperate attempt to scam us. Musa, you're not my dear friend. I disapprove of your existence. Between you and me (and my readers), if you were on fire and I had a glass of water... I'd drink the water. And tell you how refreshing it was.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Chasing Down A Runaway Harrison Ford

Some links before we get to today's matters. Yesterday having had been a Sunday, we had a Snippet Sunday post at our joint blog. Eve had doodles at her blog. Cheryl had bananas at her page. Shelly asked if Facebook eats socks. Lena had character interviews for her book. And Lorelei wrote about knitting away the blues.

Today I have another movie review.

"Are you suggesting that I killed my wife? Are you saying that I crushed her skull and that I shot her? How dare you! When I came home there was a man in my house! I fought with this man! He had a mechanical arm! You find this man! You find this man." ~ Richard Kimble 

"So he showed up not dead yet. Let that be a lesson to you, boys and girls. Don't ever argue with the big dog, because the big dog is always right." ~ Sam Gerard

There has been for many years a tendency to remake old television shows into movies (and vice versa). Mostly the end result has been a failure critically, and when successful at the box office, is only that way because of the nostalgia factor for the audience. Such was not the case in 1993 with The Fugitive, the action thriller from director Andrew Davis. It was based on the classic television series of the same name about a wrongfully convicted doctor, a mysterious killer, and a persistent lawman. The movie was both a box office success and beloved by critics, even earning Oscar nominations and a win for Best Supporting Actor.

The story starts in flashback form, on the night of a murder. Chicago surgeon Doctor Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) is trying to process the murder of his wife Helen (Sela Ward) in their home while detectives work. We see flashes of the murder at the hands of an intruder, momentary memories by Richard of attending a party with her earlier in the evening. Soon Richard finds himself accused of the murder, charged, convicted, and sentenced to death.

His death sentence goes awry, however, when his prison bus transport is involved in a crash, and Richard finds himself on the run in the night, trying to keep ahead of the police and a team of federal marshals led by a very cranky Samuel Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones). While trying to stay alive and out of custody, Richard realizes he must find the truth about his wife's murder and uncover who was behind it.

The screenplay by Jeb Stuart and David Towhy takes the themes and elements of the series- the innocent man on the run, the antagonist in the form of a tenacious lawman, the wild card in the form of the killer- and weaves it all into a movie. It's part action thriller, part character study, and part conspiracy tale. Director Davis, who had worked on films like Under Siege and The Package (both featuring Jones in the cast), took the story and gave the film a tense, tightly wound, taut feel, very suspenseful. The result is a chase film, with more than one chase being carried out. It's cat and mouse, moving along at a brisk pace, with two adversaries who are not quite enemies, two actors playing roles they were perfectly suited for.

Davis filmed much of the action on location, in Chicago and the Carolinas (though the story itself is set in Illinois exclusively). His style actually brings the locations into the story, making them characters in the tale. That might be the dark, moody tunnels of a hydro dam, the back alleys of Chicago, the lavish skyscraper where a confrontation must take place, or the rivers and woods of the back country where a hunt is underway. The locations seem to take on a life of their own in his direction.

Davis has a great touch with action, and it particularly shows itself in set pieces like the train wreck. The sequence was done in one take... and it was real. The wreck is today something of a tourist attraction, in fact. Davis extended his expertise into scenes set in the county jail, where chases down a staircase or through a lobby have as much tension and suspense as a conventional gunfight would have. The same applies to the climactic ending within a skyscraper as multiple characters search for each other. He even shot an improvised, unscripted sequence through a St. Patrick's Parade in Chicago, where Ford and Jones mingle with parade marchers... some of whom had to be wondering what Harrison Ford was doing in the crowd.

The film was nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing, And Best Original Score. One of my favourite composers, James Newton Howard (Batman Begins, Wyatt Earp, Dying Young) composed the score, a tense score that highlights the danger, gives momentary respite in quiet times, and perfectly accompanies the film. It's a different sound for Howard, but just right for the film itself.

The casting is brilliant. Andreas Katsulas is the sort of actor you can't imagine playing a sympathetic character (he probably could, but he just has the looks of someone you can't possibly trust). He plays the One Armed Man, Frederick Sykes, a former policeman and a thoroughly dangerous killer. There's a ruthless, malevolent energy to the man, and Katsulas brings that across whenever he's on screen. His counterpart is Charles Nichols, played by Jeroen Krabbe. The part was originally meant for Richard Jordan, who filmed early scenes opposite Ford but fell ill and died (his final role was a fitting one in the film Gettysburg). Krabbe was cast in the role, a man who is first seen as Richard's friend, entirely loyal and believing in his innocence. And yet there's something more to the character, and Krabbe has to play both aspects of that character in a completely believable way, which of course he pulls off. 

Sela Ward appears only in flashbacks and brief echoes as Helen, but her ghost haunts the entire film, driving her wrongfully convicted husband forward. There's a soft intimacy between she and Ford in their scenes together; they make for a believable couple, entirely happy together, which makes the murder all the more tragic. The film also gave movie goers an early look at Julianne Moore, who has a cameo appearance as a doctor at a hospital where Richard is trying to access information. They cross paths a couple of times; we see her as a capable doctor in brief glimpses. She's not afraid to speak her mind, calling him out for not belonging there, and yet not entirely unsympathetic to him, in terms of what she says in her later conversation with Gerard.

The marshals are a motley lot of lawmen who bicker and argue with each other, but at the same time feel like a family, and in each case they were well cast. Joe Pantoliano, Daniel Roebuck, L. Scott Caldwell, Tom Wood, and Johnny Lee Davenport play key roles among their numbers, and to one degree or another their characters gripe, they complain, they yell... and yet each one comes across as you might expect a federal marshal to be: serious about the job, dedicated to what they do. They respect their boss, and he might growl at them, but he's intensely protective of them, even telling a lawyer of a fugitive he's gunned down that he didn't have a choice, "he was going to kill one of my kids."

Tommy Lee Jones won the Oscar for Supporting Actor, and it's well deserved. Though one might say the character's not supporting, but one of two leads in the film. His Gerard is a masterful performance, a relentless hunter who's good at what he does, hunting escaped felons. While he is an antagonist, trying to bring down our hero, he's also a protagonist, as the story moves along, moving in competition with, but not really opposition to, Kimble's goals. They're both after the same thing- justice. Jones gives the character a rich and strong personality. He's dedicated and professional, and leads with authority, while at the same time he's something of a smart aleck. Gerard is also a man who notices everything, who reads people, and who never gives up. He might say on more than one occasion that he doesn't care... and yet in the end, he shows us something different. In another way, Gerard is a character who comes across as a force of nature, the last person you want to cross. As much as Richard has been through trial and danger, it seems that even a train crash and a jump off a dam pale in comparison to the terror of spotting Gerard coming down a staircase after him in Chicago. 

Harrison Ford of course is the other leading man in the film, and we're automatically sympathetic to him straight off the start. We know he's been wrongfully convicted, that he's suffered a horrendous loss that's shattered his life. We can feel for him at this point in his life, and that reaction is triggered by Ford's performance. He's haunted by grief, agonized by what's happened, and desperately on the run to elude capture. Ford plays that haunted and hunted aspect of the character, but also stresses the intelligence of the man, who's on equal footing with his pursuers. The good doctor might be ahead of them in the chase, but just barely, and both sides are capable. Ford's Richard Kimble might be a man on the run, but he's also one who improvises and figures things out quickly; one of the character's best moments is slowing down the pursuing Gerard by telling police officers that there's a man waving a gun around and yelling. It's an audacious gambit, but one demonstrative of the character's ability to adapt and rise to the occasion.

The Fugitive disproved the rule that a television remake will become a toxic waste dump of mediocrity at the box office. Or perhaps it's the exception to the rule. Davis gave us a film mixing together devious villainy, a sinister conspiracy, and two outstanding protagonists at odds with each other in a running chase. In exploring both protagonists and getting inside their heads, he elevated the action thriller into a well deserved Oscar nomination for Best Picture. It was so good that in another year, perhaps, it could have even won. The film is smart, moving along at breakneck speed, well paced, and is a well crafted, suspensful, heart stopping classic that never wears out its welcome. It's one of the best action thrillers in film history.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Once Upon Twelfth Night, Or What You Will

Some links before I get started today. Norma wrote about medical issues and a new idea.  Yesterday having had been a Friday, Parsnip had a Square Dog Friday post. Krisztina had Thanksgiving ideas. Shelly related some family history. The Whisk posted about meatloaf.

Today I have a movie review....

“Make no compare between that love a woman can bear me and that I owe Olivia.” ~ Orsino

“The more fool, Madonna, to mourn for your brother’s soul being in heaven.” ~ Feste

“I’ll be revenged on the whole pack of you.” ~ Malvolio

“Why this is very midsummer’s madness.” ~ Olivia

“I left no ring with her! What means this lady? Fortune forbid my outside have not charmed her.” ~ Viola

Aside from a place of prominence on stage for centuries, the works of the Bard have often been adapted for the big screen by a wealth of creative talent. Laurence Olivier was a master in the genre in the classic era, and Kenneth Branagh has returned to Shakespeare’s works many times in our era. One of his best comedies, Twelfth Night, has often been staged around the world, but not so often brought into the cinema. The story that plays around with gender bending humour and upstairs-downstairs dynamics in a wealthy household appeals to audiences after all this time, and the roles are particularly sought after by actors. British stage director Trevor Nunn adapted the story for the silver screen in 1996, setting it in the 19th Century with a mixture of Victorian and Central European influences.

We first meet a pair of twins, Viola (Imogen Stubbs) and Sebastian (Steven Mackintosh) aboard a ship bound for home in Messaline. A storm wrecks their ship, and the twins are separated, each believing the other is dead. Viola washes up on the shore of Illyria with most of the survivors. Devastated by her grief, uncertain of where to go, and in a country in a state of perpetual tension with her own, she asks the captain to help her disguise herself as a man.

Viola takes on the name Cesario, coming into the employment of the Duke Orsino (Toby Stephens). He’s infatuated with the Countess Olivia (Helena Bonham Carter), who will see no suitors after the recent death of her brother. He sends Cesario with messages of his love for Olivia in the hopes that a new face might be admitted, and off she goes. Things get considerably complicated when Olivia finds Cesario much more interesting than the pleadings of the Duke. While all of this is going on, Sebastian is still out there, in the company of a sailor, Antonio (Nicholas Farrell). And there’s household politics going on in the home of Olivia. Her pompous steward Malvolio (Nigel Hawthorne) is at odds with her drunken uncle Sir Toby Belch (Mel Smith) and his friend Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Richard E. Grant). Maria (Imelda Staunton), Fabian (Peter Gunn), and the fool Feste (Ben Kingsley) are all caught up in Sir Toby’s plot to bring about the downfall of the prudish steward.

Nunn as a director has done a tremendous mixture of work, mostly on stage, but also on television and film, and he goes back and forth between Shakespeare and contemporary work. He adapted Shakespeare’s play for the big screen, condensing where needed for a movie running time, and wisely chose to set it in a mid-19th Century setting. The clothing varies between a mixture of Victorian styles, particularly for the women, and north Central European, in terms of uniforms for Orsino and his men. The props, things like muskets, for instance, or horse drawn wagons, feel very much of that era. This is a good decision, since Shakespeare seems to work particularly well in that era (Elizabethan era fashions, sufficed to say, look abysmal). He shot the film on location in the Cornwall area of England, particularly at two country houses, Padstow and Lanhydrock House, and the locations are beautiful, both a contrast from each other, both feeling very much like the domains of their residents. Nunn’s style of telling the story moves things along nicely, and respects the dialogue, which is an essential requirement in Shakespeare.

The crew makes full use of the locations to their advantage, and it leaves the audience wishing to walk through those halls, stroll through those gardens, and spend time in a place that feels familiar all while passing itself off as a fictional country. I enjoyed the way Nunn filmed the work as a whole- it doesn’t feel like theatrical staging, and yet respects its origins and its humour. He opens up with the shipwreck, for instance, an event alluded to in the play, but not seen, and he does well with it. Compare this opening sequence, for instance, with the closing sequence two years later in Shakespeare In Love, where Gwyneth Paltrow’s Viola, the inspiration for the character in that particular film, survives a shipwreck. A long interlude in a garden maze, for instance, where Malvolio is being lured into a trap by his antagonist through a letter, is filmed in a way that allows the audience to keep track of where everyone is. And a duel between Cesario and Sir Andrew has a brisk, chaotic, and very funny manner in the way Nunn films it.

When we first meet Olivia, she’s in mourning clothes, all black, including a veil, and the costuming department wisely change that as the story goes along. She’s charmed by Cesario, and that reflects itself in the lighter, more colourful clothing she wears. The costuming department also came up with just the right look for the uniforms of Orsino and his court. The soldiers all look very much like military officers, and rather like the sort of people you don’t want to start a fight with, all while still looking like they’re out of the 19th Century. One other aspect from the crew’s side of things that I enjoyed is the work of composer Shaun Davey. He’s an Irish composer who works mostly in classical composition, but has occasionally turned to film scores, in projects like Waking Ned Devine and The Tailor Of Panama. Davey weaves together romantic and comedic themes, and uses a mixture of symphonic orchestra and solo instruments in this score. He also adapts Shakespeare’s lyrics for the occasional song by Feste (Ben Kingsley really does have a good singing voice).

The cast are all marvelous in their roles, drawn from British acting circles, mostly from stage backgrounds. Nicholas Farrell has that background, has been on the big screen in Othello, Branagh’s film adaptation of Hamlet, as well as Amazing Grace. His Antonio is something of a fugitive, a man with reason to avoid the court of Orsino, having had once been in conflict with them. Nonetheless, he is a loyal friend to Sebastian after saving his life, putting himself in peril by staying with him. And at a critical moment late in the play, he shares in the confusion many other characters have about the twins- and has an angry reaction that works perfectly, hinting at the gravity of the actor. 

Steven Mackintosh gets the part of Sebastian, which can be something of a thankless role. The audience is much more invested in his twin sister, so he gets the short end of things. Mackintosh bears enough of a resemblance to Stubbs that the audience can buy the twins angle of it all, even while we must suspend disbelief that no one is really noticing slight differences in their appearances. He gets more to do as things move towards the end of the film, particularly in getting confused by the lady Olivia and getting caught up in a fight with people he’s never met, and yet who think he’s someone else.

The late Nigel Hawthorne (Yes Minister, Richard III, Demolition Man, Amistad) gets a great role as Malvolio- as much of a pompous ass as the character is, actors love to play him. He’s full of himself as the story begins, a man who sees himself as the model of good behaviour, and who frowns on misbehaviour such as that coming from Toby and Andrew. He’s a sanctimonious man, sneering at anyone who he dislikes, and feeling very much in charge of the household. He’s devoted to Olivia, even harbouring feelings for her. And while he certainly deserves his comeuppance- and it gives the actor some wonderful comedic opportunities- we can’t help but feel for the man by the time it’s all done. It’s a performance that brings out laughter and yet works in a poignant way as well.

Imelda Staunton would, years later, go on to play the seemingly polite but really malicious Dolores Umbridge in a couple of the Harry Potter films. This was the first time I ever saw her in a film, and I like her as Maria, Olivia’s closest servant, the senior maid in the house. She scolds Feste, who has a habit of wandering off whenever he pleases, and scolds Sir Toby for his drunkenness, but at the same time, there’s a fondness in the character for both, and Staunton particularly has good chemistry with both Smith and Kingsley.

The late Mel Smith, who was so delightful as the Albino in The Princess Bride, has a comic touch in most of his previous work in Britain. He plays the debauched, drunken foolish uncle Toby in just the right way. He’s a man who likes his drink, who’s rather crude and can be occasionally even unpleasant. He dislikes with intensity the tut-tut attitude of Malvolio- there’s a moment or two that we can imagine Toby hitting Malvolio just on principle. There’s also something of a devious, opportunistic side to the character, perfectly willing to benefit from his friend’s untimely death if it comes to that, or finding himself entertained by manipulating his friend into a duel. If we knew this guy in real life, we’d avoid him, and yet as a character he’s amusing.

Richard E. Grant gets another good role as Sir Andrew, a man who loves to drink, thinks of himself as a bright and eligible fellow, and yet is really, really stupid. He has designs of his own on Olivia, and yet is oblivious to her dislike of him. He fails to pick up on social cues from other characters, things that most people would grasp immediately. He doesn’t seem to understand that his friend is playing him for a fool. And when it comes down to it, Sir Andrew is something of a coward. Grant gets to play all of these qualities, and does so in a way that tickles the funnybone.

Ben Kingsley might be playing the fool in all of this, but his Feste is the wisest character in the whole story. He moves back and forth between the two households, playing whatever musical instrument he might have at hand, offering up wisecracking commentary on all that’s going on. Beneath his foolery and irreverence, however, there is a wise man, and one of empathy. There’s a great fondness between he and Olivia, who is unhappy at his absence when things start out, and yet completely lets her guard down with him and lets herself grieve in a way she won’t with anyone else. He sees Viola for who she is, even under the guise of a page, and banters with her from time to time in a way that clearly shows how smart he is. And yet even he is confused at one point. It’s a great performance from one of the best actors around, and Kingsley’s Feste is such an enjoyable character.

Toby Stephens comes from good English acting stock; his father was Sir Robert Stephens, a highly regarded Shakespearean actor, and his mother is the incomparable Maggie Smith. Stephens has done much of his work on stage, but has also appeared in movies like Die Another Day and Possession. His Orsino is a love-sick nobleman, very much in charge of his land. Stephens gives him the gravity the role requires- we can certainly believe him as a man respected by those who serve him. He gives the role the quality of a natural leader. At the same time, he plays the man as possessed by a love he cannot have, a brooding sort you might expect to meet in a Jane Austen novel (one wonders what he could do as Mr. Darcy), and totally oblivious to the affections of the young woman who’s passing herself off as a man in his employ. Viola as Cesario might allude to things in conversation, but she can’t say it, and part of the charm of the film is in how Orsino and Viola deal with each other. The dynamic between them plays off the way men and women look at the same aspects of life, particularly love.

Helena Bonham Carter is one of my favourite actresses, and rarely does she falter in a role (when it does happen, it’s generally the fault of someone else, such as in The Lone Ranger). She has to run the gauntlet of emotions as Olivia, starting out in a state of deep grief, withdrawing from the world, devastated by death in her family. Out of that though, and because of the influence of an impertinent page sent by Orsino, she comes back to life, and Carter plays that aspect in just the right way. She’s charmed by Cesario, finds herself drawn to ‘his’ irreverence, and is pretty much seduced in their first meeting without even realizing it. It draws her out of her grief, cheering her up, and she finds herself hopelessly attracted to Cesario, having no idea that Cesario is a fiction and the object of her affections is a woman. She sparkles in the role.

Imogen Stubbs also comes from a largely theatrical background in Britain, though she’s done some international work on film as well. She was the romantic rival of Emma Thompson in Sense & Sensibility, for instance. She was married to Nunn at the time this film was made, and it’s a great part for her to play. Viola is a comedic role, both poignant and funny, and as an audience, we root for her. She gains our sympathy early on in her mistaken belief that her brother is dead, and shifts into a more comic side of things as she learns how to walk, talk, and act like a man. She’s caught up in romantic misunderstanding, and yet the way she reacts amuses us, and shows us a woman who improvises and adapts as the situation requires it. Stubbs makes us empathize with Viola, charms us with her personality, and delights us with her response to the state of affairs she finds herself caught up in. And she has great chemistry with both Carter and Stephens in a rather unlikely love triangle that only gets more complicated as things go along.

Shakespeare gained immortality through his work, still performed today, and in fact best seen in performance, where the words come to life. It’s impossible for anyone to agree on what they might think of as his best work, but among his comedies, Twelfth Night is my personal favourite. I’ve seen it staged several times, as well as a couple of television versions. This cinematic adaptation is a favourite for me; it modernizes the setting, but holds onto the meaning of the play and respects Shakespeare's dialogue. It has a wonderful cast with extensive stage experience in Shakespeare, all well suited for their roles. And it maintains the great sense of humour and the romantic misadventures of Shakespeare’s play, all while giving the story the poignancy and tenderness it deserves.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Why Do We Keep Letting Him Do Eulogies?

Some links before I get things underway today. Norma wrote about rules for writers. Cheryl had some living history photographs. Maria wrote about laughter. Eve wrote about hiking. And Mark had a book signing not go quite according to plan.

Today I have another one of those oh boy did I actually write that things that I tend to do. Today it's a eulogy. I don't know who's worse... the dead or the guy eulogizing them.

“Thank you very much, Reverend Price, for your kind introduction. Hello, everyone. I would like to thank you for coming out on this saddest of days as we say goodbye to two of our dear friends. Alex and Natalie were beloved by so many who knew them. Whether those were family, friends, or co-workers, it seemed there wasn't a person in the world who could say a bad thing about them. They were both my friends, and needless to say... I had no idea about what they were keeping to themselves.

However, that’s beside the point. I first met Alex and Natalie when we were at Cambridge. We all went into law. And yes, I know, there are those of you who must wonder, does the world really need more lawyers? That’s beside the point, forgive me, I have a habit of rambling off in all sorts of directions that I don’t really need to go in. As I was saying, we all met at Cambridge, and they became my good friends. We’d get into all sorts of trouble together, sufficed to say, and it’s a marvel that we never got caught. I’d better not go into detail, mind you, because I see a few of our professors in attendance here today, and, well, I don’t want to incriminate myself.

Anyway, Cambridge was fun, despite trying to get through the endless boredom of Old Man Setton’s civil law courses... oh, sorry, Professor Setton, I wasn’t aware you were still alive. You look remarkably healthy for a man of your advanced years. Let’s be fair though... civil law is impossible to make interesting, am I right or am I right?

Well, we all muddled through, got our degrees, ended up practicing as barristers and solicitors, and we all did rather well for ourselves. We stayed friends afterwards, saw each other from time to time, and sooner or later we all got married. To other people, of course. Though given the circumstances, perhaps Alex and Natalie should have gotten married. If that was possible, but as usual, I’m getting ahead of myself and getting off track.

How do we deal with the loss of two such marvellous young people like Alex and Natalie? Do we ignore some of the things we’ve learned since their deaths? Or do we confront it head on? Do we ask ourselves, how could we have missed that? I’m sure Alex’s wife Audrey must be asking that. The same applies to Natalie’s ex-husband Richard. I see him among the congregation today, so I’ll ask... Richard, did you see it coming? Did you know? Is that the reason your marriage came apart? Or were you as oblivious as the rest of us?

I say we confront this whole thing head on, get it out in the open, deal with it, and let it be done with. Yes, it’s not pleasant, but who are we to judge?

Here is what we know. Alex and Natalie were in his BMW driving in the Scottish Highlands. It was a weekend getaway for them. They must have needed it, and it was convenient that Audrey was away on business in Geneva. So, off they went. From what the police have said, it seems they got a little bit frisky with each other. Well, now.... things happen, people get carried away with their feelings. It happens. These things just happen, and there’s really nothing we can do about it in hindsight, am I right?

So there they were. Alex was driving. Natalie must have been teasing him. We know her panties were found in the backseat, so she had to have taken them off. It might have started off with fondling each other... oh, don’t look at me like that, Reverend, we’ve got to get this all out in the open and deal with it, and what better time than at a funeral?

So they would have been getting excited. And carried away with each other. And well, one thing started leading to another. Soon enough she was on top of him. He was still driving. And.... well, let’s just say he was inside her, if you know what I mean. Yes, there they were having car sex while driving. It must have been hot and heavy. They must have been going at it like rabbits. So they got a little distracted. In the midst of all that sex, Alex just wasn’t paying attention to the road. This is the sort of thing that happens when you’re having mind blowing car sex with the object of your affections and it seems you’ll never get enough of her. We’ve all been there, done that, right? Reverend, you’ve been there, right? Although to be fair, most of us don’t drive while engaged in such pleasures.

So Alex wasn’t paying attention. It happens. And it just so happened just at that pivotal moment.... at least so it seems, according to details from the autopsies. The doctors found that they’d both climaxed. At that critical moment of ecstasy, they crashed right through a bridge barricade. The car plunged into the river, sank with both of them inside, and it seems, well.... at least they drowned quickly.

It must have been upsetting to the order of nuns who were nearby having lunch. They had to call for help, stood by in the rain while the search efforts were underway, and witnessed the recovery of the vehicle from the water. And there they saw behind the wheel, Alex and Natalie, both dead, both of them still locked together in flagrante delicto, if you know what I mean. That’s a sight those Sisters will never forget. I can only imagine how awkward it must have been for the medics to, ahem, separate them before the autopsies could be conducted.

Audrey, I’m so sorry for having to bring this all up so soon after all that you’ve learned. But in the long run, it’ll be easier for you to deal with this head on and get past it. Really, you were betrayed, and betrayed in the worst possible way by two people you thought you could trust. You couldn’t have seen that your husband was cheating on you. Alex and Natalie were careful to hide that part of their lives from everyone they ever met. So none of us knew that he and Natalie were together like that.

Why would we even suspect?

At least we can be glad their parents didn't live to discover that their son and daughter were having mind bending car sex."

Monday, November 17, 2014

Waldo Versus The Explosion Prone Director

Some links before I get started today. Yesterday was a Sunday, so we had a Snippet Sunday post. Lynn had neighbour issues. Shelly had writing updates. Hilary had Lucy front and center at her blog. And the Whisk had her dogs looking good.

Today then we revisit a familiar face, in the form of an explosions loving director. 

Director Announces Plans To Adapt Children’s Picture Books; Journalists Roll Their Eyes

Los Angeles (AP) Reporters were summoned to the offices of Digital Domain this week, where director Michael Bay was to hold a press conference. This reporter was unfortunately among them, despite his deep dislike of Hollywood. It turns out that just because a certain editor doesn’t care for reporters falling asleep during the funeral of his father-in-law, that reporter gets punished over and over and over again, and why on earth do I keep getting invited to funerals for people I don’t even know and could care less about... (do you really want to keep your job? Stop going off on an irrelevant tirade, and by the way, I’m still annoyed with you for talking in your sleep while I was eulogizing Big Jim. ~ editor)

Anyway, I digress (and what kind of name is Big Jim anyway?). We gathered together at the offices of Digital Domain. Some were actual reporters. Others were those vacant headed twits who work for the entertainment shows. This reporter didn’t want to be there, but was stuck. One of the aides announced her boss. Bay came out on stage, dressed in his usual fashion, jeans and a denim shirt under a blazer, with a day or two worth of stubble on his face. Bay was also sporting a fading black eye- that was an interesting touch; this reporter wondered who had done the world a favour and hit Bay. He waved to the reporters, stepped up to the podium, and looked at his reflection in a mirror placed there for his convenience. Satisfied with himself, he began to speak.

“Hello! Welcome and salutations! It is my pleasure to see you all here today,” the director of high octane explosion movies like Armageddon and Pearl Harbor called out. He smiled again in that vacant, dull witted manner of his. “But of course you had to come. After all, everyone is fascinated by everything I do as a director, and it is your solemn responsibility as reporters to spread the good news. Now then, I have decided that among the many projects I am undertaking as a director that it is about time that I do a children’s film. Something that kids will like and adults will get into. And so I thought about it. Maybe I could have done Watership Down with CGI rabbits and lots of explosions. Perhaps it was time to do a new version of Little House On The Prairie with lots of explosions and a runaway train. Instead I decided to go in a different direction. I decided to adapt the books Where’s Waldo?”

Reporters gasped in stunned shock. The books, a series of picture books featuring a seemingly well mannered fellow in a red and white striped shirt and hat hiding among crowds of people, have been beloved by many children since illustrator Martin Handford began drawing them in the Eighties. What on earth could a hack of a director like Bay do to damage their reputation beyond repair?

“You have got to be joking!” a Reuters correspondent declared.

“Why do people always say that about me?” Bay asked, looking confused.

“Isn’t there already a movie in development?” another reporter asked.

“Like I care about that,” Bay said with a shrug. “Look, it’s all very simple. Me being me, I wanted to find out what it is that makes Waldo hang out in crowds. So the story I’m going to tell is of him being on the run from an evil conspiracy with his arch-nemesis Odlaw hunting him. There’s going to be a love story, by the way, because I’ve also secured the rights to Carmen Sandiego, and we can’t do without that. It’s going to be epic. Carmen Sandiego waxing a car dressed in that trenchcoat and hat and just a bikini, because you’ve got to have a babe waxing a car in my movies. Waldo on the run from the mad bomber Odlaw. The eccentric Wizard Whitebeard who likes to listen to classic rock when he’s not grooming his beard. And explosions. Did I mention explosions? Because it’s going to be epic and huge and everything you can possibly imagine rolled up into one big blockbuster film with explosions. I’ve got Aerosmith already working on the theme song.”

Reporters collectively sighed with dismay. This reporter wondered how long he would be in assignment purgatory, all for (don’t you even think of starting to complain! ~ editor). This reporter spoke up. “Are you insane?”

Bay laughed. “Oh, that’s funny! Why don’t we start bringing out the cast. My star might have been in a bit of legal trouble lately... but seriously, is running Andy Dick over a crime? Who here hasn’t thought of driving their car over Andy Dick’s body? Ladies and gentlemen, playing our hero, Mr. Shia LaBeouf!”

LaBeouf came out on stage, waving. “Hello! Shia is happy to see you!” he proclaimed. This reporter sighed. The talentless little cretin was still in his talking in the third person phase. “Shia is completely innocent, by the way, and will beat the rap, because the Very Important Persons Act says that Shia cannot be held accountable for Shia’s actions!"

Bay nodded. “Shia’s going to look great in a white and red turtleneck, hat, and glasses. And where Waldo goes, Carmen Sandiego must go with him. Playing our hot heroine, I give you Megan Fox!”

Megan Fox, the frequent co-star in Bay films, stepped out on the stage in a way that emphasized her cleavage. “You know, kids have loved Carmen Sandiego for as long as I can remember. She’s an elusive bad girl with a heart of gold, and you just know that when she and Waldo get together, sparks are going to fly!” She took her place beside LaBeouf, who nodded in that vacant, not much going on between the ears way of his.

Bay spoke again. “I thought long and hard about Wizard Whitebeard. I thought of getting Ian McKellan to play him, given that he’s played a white bearded wizard before, so how hard could it be? He told me, and I quote, that he’d rather walk bare foot through ten miles of fire ant nests, unquote. I don’t know what that means. Could someone explain? Anyway, that’s beside the point. I decided for a bit more creative casting. I was actually thinking of casting my go-to guy as the villain Odlaw, but I figure he could do well as the wizard. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Mr. Nicolas Cage!”

Cage came out on stage. Reporters gasped again. He waved and smiled in a way that suggested he’d been drinking. “Hi there! Don’t mind me, I’ve just been drinking from a bottle of Ampoules wine. Did you know that stuff is pretty expensive? But nothing’s too good for Nicky Cage, and this time, I swear, I’m not going to blow through all my money, even if I’m spending six figures on a single bottle. Wait, don’t tell the IRS that.”

Cage took his place with his fellow actors. Bay carried on with his announcement. “Rounding out the main cast, I must give you our Odlaw. It is said that his bad deeds are many, so I had to go with an actor who I thought would be ideal for the role. I could have gone with actors I’ve worked with before. I could have gone for age differences. I could have gone with Robert Downey Jr., but he told me to go to hell. I asked Mel Gibson, but he said he’s not that desperate yet as to work with me. I don’t know what that means, could someone explain that to me?” He smiled again, as if expecting an answer. “Anyway, after much consideration I decided that the ideal Odlaw for my movie would be best cast with....ladies and gentlemen, without further ado...” This reporter sighed at the endless stalling and building up the hype. “The person who will be playing Odlaw in my movie.... is Reese Witherspoon!”

Reese Witherspoon stepped out on stage, looking puzzled. This reporter was under the impression that Odlaw was a guy. What on earth was this about? She heard the confused remarks, sensed the dismay among the crowd, and shrugged. “Look, it’s been awhile since I’ve actually had a good role, and I was getting a bit desperate for anything, so I agreed to do this. I don’t like it, I don’t like this Bay guy, and I’m just hoping he doesn’t insist I wax a car in a bikini.”

Bay laughed. “Oh, that’s hilarious, Reese! We’re going to need some of that humour for your role, by the way, because she’s going to be the maddest mad bomber since Tommy Lee Jones in Blown Away. Speaking of which, I ran into him the other day, and started talking about working with him in a movie down the line, and well, one thing led to another and he knocked me out. Who’d have thought Tommy Lee Jones could be that temperamental? Or that he’d hit that hard?” Bay shrugged. “Anyway, it’s all in the past, which doesn’t matter, because who cares about the past? It’s the future that’s important, and that’s why Where’s Waldo? Waldo Versus The World is going to be a big, huge film down the line...”

“You’re actually naming it Where’s Waldo? Waldo Versus The World?” this reporter demanded. “Are you stupid?

Bay shrugged. “Have you got a better idea what to subtitle it? What’s important is that this film will be huge. Epic scale, and it’s going to be a box office champion, and it’s going to make Oscar voters cry, and we’re going to win everything ten times infinity plus one. And I’m expecting the audience to wear white and red striped shirts and hats to every showing. Pants are optional, but for some reason theatre owners demand you show up in pants. That’s all for now! Thanks for coming out!” Bay waved to the crowd, leaving with his cast. 

The real reporters sighed in collective dismay. The entertainment reporters looked confused. This reporter found himself wishing Michael Bay would lose himself in a Where’s Waldo picture in a crowd. And that the crowd would start a stampede, knocking him down and trampling him. It would be a fitting fate for a hack of a director, and would spare the world from yet more Michael Bay stupidity. But then again, we don’t live in a fair world, do we? We live in a world where cranky editors with dead fathers-in-law who actually call themselves Big Jim call the shots, and.... (I hate you with every fibre of my being. Your tires are being slashed as I write this ~ editor).

Wonderful. And he wonders why I don’t like him.