Saturday, July 22, 2017


John Heard has died.  To my surprise, he's being most often identified as the father in Home Alone, even in Variety, the show biz Bible.

I suppose that was the biggest film he was in, but it wasn't a significant role.  I didn't even remember he was in it.

I remember him much better for starring roles in his early films, such as Between The Lines (his film debut), Chilly Scenes Of WinterCutter's Way, Cat People and Heaven Help Us.

He was also memorable in lots of supporting work, such as his frustrated executive in Big, or his corrupt detective on The Sopranos.

Heard was a guy who worked regularly in movies and TV, a true pro. I assumed he worked so much because everyone knew he always delivered.

He'll be remembered, and I don't think just for Home Alone.

Whatever Lola Sings

I missed that Lola Albright passed on earlier this year.  You think I would have heard about it somehow.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Throne For A Loss

This Sunday is the second episode of season 7 of Game Of Thrones.  We are definitely in the home stretch.  There are only 12 episodes left in the entire run of the show.

This means that characters previously thought untouchable can be killed off. In fact, that'll be a necessity for big moments the producers will want.

The question now is will any of the "big moments" come before this season, with six episodes left, is over.

Let's just look at the character who have been around since the first season:  Tyrion, Jaime, Cersei, Sansa, Arya, Bran, Jon Snow, Daenerys, Littlefinger, Jorah, Theon, The Hound, Varys, Samwell and Bronn.

For good measure, let's throw in some major characters we got in seasons 2 or 3:  Davos, Melisandre, Brienne, Gilly and Tormund.

Of these, certain seem to have strong enough destinies that I can't see them dying this season:  Tyrion, Cersei, Sansa, Jon Snow, Daenerys, The Hound and Davos.

The rest I can see buying it--any of them dying would be a big deal. Some almost as big as the death of Ned Stark (though, perhaps, not as shocking).

Jaime is second-in-command in King's Landing, but he has misgivings.  It'd be easy to imagine him dying when he doesn't know what to do, or even decides to redeem himself and fight against his own sister.

Arya is quite powerful now, perhaps too powerful.  And as an independent agent, she could die without disturbing the bigger fight.  Her death would really be a big deal.

Bran can see things, and has useful information.  But after he lets Jon Snow know who his real parents are, he doesn't necessarily have any function (though he might be pretty good at fighting the Night King).

I think Littlefinger, who's behind all the chaos, will likely last until the final season, but even though he's always been too smart to die, his luck could run out any day.

Jorah is already at death's door.  I imagine he'll see Dany before he dies, or who knows, maybe the maesters will cure him.  But he could bow out any moment.

Theon will likely last a while--he's been saved from death a number of times, so he probably has something important to do.  Though that thing may be sacrificing himself for Dany.

The Hound is having visions, so I imagine he'll be fighting the White Walkers eventually.  Also, I would think he'll be reunited with Arya.  So he's got a while, but not necessarily beyond this season.

Varys is a wild card, who could die today or last till the end.

Samwell has to get information to Jon, but after that, he could go any time.  Same for wife Gilly.

Bronn is the kind of guy who would stay out of a fight if there's no money involved, but events may conspire to force him into battle.

Davos will stick around for a while--he's the guy who gives good advice.  But there's no guarantee he'll last forever, so maybe at some point this season he'll say goodbye.

Melisandre has more to do--she has to find a hero and do some magic.  But we know she's vulnerable, and not loved by many, so this season may do her in.

Brienne is another highly popular character, but she doesn't have much to do in her arc but fight, and any fight may mean death.  (Though I expect she'll meet Jaime at least once more.)

Tormund is a fun guy, but he, like anyone else, could die fighting the White Walkers.

Speaking of Dick Windsor

Fmr. U.N. Amb. Power Emerges As Central Figure In Obama Unmasking Investigation

Looking forward to another one of those columns on government workers being so neutral and valuable. I suppose this one writes itself: "Hey, she could have kept Trump out of office." QED.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The W

Last night the Jimmy Fallon show had The Who.  Well, that's what Jimmy called them.  Actually, it was Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend.  Needless to say, John Entwistle and Keith Moon couldn't make it.

They sang one of my favorite Who tunes, "I Can See For Miles." There were other musicians, but no one cared who they were.

So is it fair to call them The Who?  I mean, if they had Paul and Ringo do a song, would anyone call it The Beatles?

I suppose there's a difference. It's easy enough to argue Roger and Pete are the two main members of the band--its voice and its songwriter.

But still, what if it had worked out that John and Paul were the only Beatles left?  If they performed, it would be an amazing thing, but I can't imagine anyone would call it The Beatles, even if they did Beatle favorites.

You can't argue with the math

Study finds that generous acts make you happy, irrespective whether it is small or large act.

To which the always right Professor Reynolds says, "So go with small, I guess."

Now that's cost benefit analysis. Make this guy Dick Windsor!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Gun Play

I've been watching Snowfall, the new series on FX about the crack epidemic in 1980s Los Angeles.

I don't have much to say about it, but let me know that six times in the first two episodes there's a meeting or confrontation where--surprise--someone pulls out a gun and aims it at another person's head.  The target tends to stay calm and no one gets shots.

A lot of people things guns solve any problem in a drama. (Some people think the same thing of guns in real life.)

I'm not denying pointing a gun at someone can be dramatically effective.  But you can't overdo it.

I'd suggest they keep it down to, say, once per episode.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Game On

The first episode of the seventh season of Game Of Thrones, "Dragonstone," puts us right in the thick of things.  There was a lot of downsizing, as it were, last season, and now we've got a clear group of characters circling each other, all based in Westeros.  Some complained there wasn't enough action, but I've always felt the best scenes tend to be a few characters just talking, not necessarily cutting off heads.

We start with old business.  In a pre-credits scene that could have been the ending of last season (but was probably too much for it), we get Arya, disguised as Walder Frey, killing off the entire House.  That's what he deserves for murdering people he invited in (though Arya is probably offended not due to his lack of hospitality, but for the fact he did it to his mother and brother, and she was there when it happened).  We didn't quite know that Arya was so good at changing faces--she can look exactly like anyone, and even do vocal impressions.

Anyway, the new Arya is at large in Westeros, and anything is possible.  Note she doesn't have the methods of the other killers from the House of Black--she doesn't do assignments, she's free lance.  You'd think she might want to meet her family, though it's not clear if she knows any of them are still alive.

After the credits, we get a vision of White Walkers on the march.  And now Meera (tough gal) has brought Bran to the gate of the Wall.  Edd let's him in.  Where will Bran go next?  Boy does he have a lot to say--especially to Jon Snow.

Speaking of whom, we watch Jon--the new King in the North--running a meeting at Winterfell.  Quite an interesting group collected there.  Not only all the heads of Northern families (including everyone's favorite, Lyanna Mormont), but also Sansa, Brienne, Pod, Tormund, Littlefinger and Davos.  A fun group, though I doubt they'll all be together for much longer.

Snow will allow the families who turned against the Starks to keep their ancestral homes, against the importuning of Sansa.  Snow learned his tactics fighting in the north, where being merciful to the wildlings was a good idea.  Sansa learned her tactics in King's Landing, where being merciless was more common, and being too honorable gets you killed.

Later, along with Sansa, Snow asks her not to undermine him in public.  A sensible request, though it's clear Sansa isn't quite happy with the power arrangements.  Will they end up completely at odds?  Will one of the leave to make room for the other.  (Cersei has asked Snow to come to King's Landing, but would he be so stupid?)

Anyway, Snow knows the real problem is in the North, but we can see there are plenty of problems down South.  And down South, in King's Landing, the finishing touches are being put on a floor map of Westeros, so Cersei can keep track of things more easily.  She and Jaime have a conversation about where they stand.  (Why is Jaime still there, you may ask, though he seems to have nowhere else to go.)

They are the last of the Lannisters (so have some more babies, then).  They've seen all their kids die, though Cersei doesn't really want to talk about it.  Cersei is too consumed with the enemies in every direction.  To the east, Daenery's sails to take over.  To the south are the Dornish, who want revenge.  To the west are the Tyrells, who also want revenge (and have all the food).  To the north is Snow and snow.

They need allies, who are in short supply.  Even the rotten Frey's are gone.  Which is why Cersei has invited Euron Greyjoy, who looks to play a large role this season.  The Iron Islanders don't impress anyone--certainly not the Lannisters.  They rebelled, which is bad enough, but they also were put down easily.  Who can trust them.  But they've got a lot of ships and Euron has a lot of practice on the seas.

He comes in to meet with Cersei (though can't get too close, thanks to the Mountain), and would like to join up with her.  While it's clear there's plenty of mistrust, he says he'll prove himself and bring her something.  Dany's head?  Tyrion?  The Sand Snakes? Guess we'll find out.

Now we go to the Citadel, where Samwell is in training, if training means doing nothing but scut work.  In a montage that lasts maybe a bit too long, we see him perform his duties, which includes a lot of cleaning out bedpans.  But he was sent there for a mission--to learn about the White Walkers and help Jon Snow. Though at this rate they'll all be engulfed before he even gets to read one of the books locked up in the special area.

For his eagerness and presumption he gets a speech from an Archmaester, played by Jim Broadbent, about how there are always problems, but the maesters work apart from that, guiding mankind. Broadbent is sure the wall will always be standing, but will it?

So Samwell, who has learned to steal things he think he's owed, gets the keys to get to the books he needs.

Back at Winterfell, Pod is in training with Brienne, while Tormund pants at the thought.  Watching them is Littlefinger and Sansa. Sansa is quite dismissive, as is Brienne, of Baelish. I don't like this diminished Littlefinger, who seems to be so in love with Sansa that he's lost his senses.  This is the man, don't forget, who plunged the Seven Kingdoms into chaos, and saw to it that Joffrey was assassinated.  And now Sansa easily bests him in repartee?  Perhaps he's biding his time, and perhaps Sansa will come around, though. (But let's get to it--this is fan service and not much else.  So Sansa had a rough wedding night.  Theon Greyjoy had his penis cut off and he's stopped whining about it.)

Now Arya is riding through the Riverlands.  It's a new Arya.  Up till now, she's always had a mentor, teaching her things.  Now she knows what she needs to know (she thinks).  When she rode through this area earlier, she couldn't have survived without the Hound.  Now she's the master killer.

She meets up with some soldiers, and while there is some tension, they tend to be good sorts, and she enjoys their hospitality.  She even tells them she's going to Kings Landing to kill the queen, though they take it as a joke.  I think Arya has the ability to get to Cersei, though will something get in her way?  Will she meet up with some family members?  With the Hound?  There are a lot of reunions in her future.

Speaking of the Hound, he's marching with the Brotherhood Without Banners.  Just like Arya, we've got a new Hound.  He's still got a smart mouth, but is more easily moved--he's been hanging out with religious people for a while now.  The group comes upon the farm where he hurt the farmer and stole his silver.  The Hound finds two corpses--the father realized they were going to starve and killed his daughter and himself.  That night the Hound digs them a grave, which is the best he can do at this point.  Earlier, he looks into the fire and sees a vision of Whit Walkers coming around the Wall by the sea. Is this where he'll be heading?

At the Citadel, with his stolen books, Samwell makes a discovery. (Pretty easily.  All those nasty maesters were sure slowing him down.)  You can get all the dragon glass you need at Dragonstone. Makes sense, I guess.  He'll inform Jon.  We'll this lead to some confrontations?

Meanwhile, Samwell, on his duties, is feeding the quarantined.  An arm comes out to him, full of greyscale.  It's Jorah, of course.  Jorah was ordered by Daenerys to cure himself, so it would make sense he came to the seat of learning to see if there was a way.  He's not looking too well, but he wants to know if Dany has landed.

We cut to Dany's fleet, and they sail smoothly into her ancestral home of Dragonstone.  Too smoothly.  Cersei and Aegon know she's coming here--why don't they try to cut her off at the pass (even with her dragons about)?

Dany and her retinue, including Tyrion, Varys, Missandei and Grey Worm, don't do much more than open the gates and walk in.  This is the moment she's been waiting for all her life--her return to Westeros. But it's just the beginning.  Now that she's here, she's got to move on King's Landing to the real throne she wants.  But they're going to need a strategy, presumably.  The former occupant of Dragonstone tried a full assault and it didn't go well.

So that's where we stand.  We get to see most of the characters, and they've all got clear goals.  There are only so many episode left, so the clashes, and the reunions, are going to start piling up pretty fast.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Men Who Started It All

Night Of The Living Dead (1968) was a low budget film shot in Pennsylvania that became a huge hit.  It was considered outrageous at the time, but has held up quite nicely.

Also, it spawned not one, but two revolutions--the low-budget horror film becoming a big deal, and a spate of zombie movies and TV shows, which are as big as ever almost fifty years later.

The film was written and directed by George Romero, who just died.  He would go on to make other films, generally horror (including the fine sequel to NOTLD, Dawn Of The Dead), but none would equal the impact of his first big hit.

So here's to George.  I'm sure there are many in Hollywood who know the difference he made.

In more bad news, Martin Landau died.

Years ago I met him at a party (yes, I occasionally get invited to those kinds of parties).  He said "hi, I'm Marty" as if he weren't world-famous.

He had an offbeat look that, when he was starting out, put him on the character actor track.  Early on he did the occasional movie, such as his memorable turn as James Mason's henchman in North By Northwest, but through the 50s, 60s and 70s, was mostly in television.

The role he was best known for then was Rollin Hand, part of the Mission: Impossible team. In the mid-70s, he played the lead on Space: 1999.  By 1981, he was playing a mad scientist in the TV movie The Harlem Globetrotters On Gilligan's Island.

So there he was, in his 50s, making a decent living as an actor, but not really getting the parts he wanted.

Then, in 1988, he was nominated for a supporting actor Oscar in Tucker: The Man And His Dream.  So now, at 60, he became one of the top character actors in movies.

He'd go on to appear in Crimes And Misdemeanors (Oscar nomination), Mistress, Rounders, and his greatest role, Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood, for which he won an Oscar.

Not many actors manage a second act, but he got it, and made the most of it.

How is he at Potions?

Sigh. Was there ever a time when the Times could be taken seriously?

Sunday, July 16, 2017

I'm Telling You For The Seventh Time

Today is the big day--the premiere of Game Of Thrones, season 7.  The first episode is entitled "Dragonstone"

I don't want to go out on a limb here, but I'm guessing it'll have something to do with the return of Daenerys to her ancestral home Dragonstone. It's hard to say how that works out, story-wise, but it symbolized something important--the show, after years of expanding, is finally starting to contract.

Dany spent seasons after season gaining her army and learning harsh lessons in Essos. Now she's finally returning to Westeros to take back what's hers (she thinks).

Meanwhile, Cersei is holding King's Landing, Jon Snow has the Night King to worry about, and the Stark kids--Sansa, Arya, Bran--are all free agents, moving about on their own quests.

But with only two seasons left to go--really a season and a half by episode count--the stories are all converging and the end is in sight. This should lead to interesting clashes, as we get combinations of characters we haven't seen yet.

The last new episode was aired June 2016.  It's been a long wait.  Which makes fans excited, but also has them saying "it better be worth it."

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