You Never Really Wanted Me In Your Bed

I’ve always wondered if I made a mistake
Turns out my feelings have always been fake
I thought you represented a wealth of pleasure
Skilled and experienced beyond any measure

I was open to discovery or so I thought
Intrigued by techniques you might’ve taught
But I was scared and concerned, too timid to try
For years I obsessed about the reasons why

There was always a conflict between lust and fear
I’m convinced neither of us were completely sincere
As I look back and scrutinize the things you said
You never really wanted me in your bed

Our first talk was brief, my timing was bad
You ignored me too long and I got really mad
You were busy at work that very first day
I was dying to know if you wanted to play

Once we resumed, my anger subsided
And in a fateful moment, I quickly decided
To ask you a question that was on my mind
How often do you feel the need to grind?

Your shocking answer changed our conversation
And so began my doomed “infatuation”
Learning all I could was all that mattered
You liked younger men and I was endlessly flattered

You were forty-eight and I was just thirty
I didn’t care about you, I just wanted to talk dirty
You didn’t care about me, you humoured my advances
This wasn’t the sweetest of online “romances”

Caught up in the excitement of your insatiable drive
I felt this desire to take a deeper dive
But once we concluded what became Chapter One
I was jolted back to reality, this anxiety wasn’t fun

You weren’t really single, you were never alone
All you had to do was pick up the phone
A suitor would arrive, God knows there were plenty
From one-night stands to a man you knew for twenty

You had floated the idea of us writhing in your car
Your son still lived with you so we would have to go far
A great distance away from his overprotective eyes
He wasn’t the only one of your many spies

That night, I went back and forth wondering what to do
While you had many options, I only had you
Recognizing how uncomfortable I was feeling in my skin
There was only one solution: disappear into the din

In the months that followed, the second-guessing began
It was agonizing to debate whether I should’ve ran
The lust soon returned growing ever more intense
I was deluding myself, how could I be so dense?

Chapter Two started with a message in the day
I was undercover and gave nothing away
Many hours would pass before a response was received
You were quite liquored up, so easy to be deceived

It didn’t take long before the talk turned to sex
How disappointing you kept on badmouthing your ex
You got your cam back and I could see how you look
You turned it on and things started to cook

I mentioned how a woman’s voice can be exciting
Your offer of your number was extremely inviting
I dialed with trepidation and we continued our chat
My bottoms were off in seconds flat

I spoke too softly as my tongue went dry
Aroused and shaky as I stroked on the fly
You groaned rather oddly but I didn’t hesitate
It was over too quickly and getting very late

The ending was abrupt, you clearly weren’t pleased
I wasn’t the only one who didn’t like being teased
The emptiness returned, I didn’t get my fill
I didn’t see you naked and I never will

You felt my boldness was something to applaud
You were completely unaware you were talking to a fraud
I threw out your number and I chose again to flee
But a few weeks later, we continued with Chapter Three

Tantalizing details I still wanted to know
So early in the morning, I was hoping you would show
But you were so suspicious I could no longer pretend
Little did I know this was the beginning of the end

Once you lowered your guard the tension would heighten
Yet you still had an unmatched ability to frighten
I challenged you to drop everyone else but me
You seemed willing to try but it was a phony plea

You were sad and indecisive, exhausted with your history
What you really wanted was a complete mystery
You broached the possibility of another chat on cam
But when you didn’t show up, I stopped giving a damn

I was feeling unwell and completely stressed
Yet I still wanted to see you completely undressed
But all the saucy details you had been providing
Couldn’t stop reality and fantasy from colliding

So I bolted once more and never went back
The obsession returned but my mood turned black
Thinking about you now brings on a fast depression
You wasted my time giving me a false impression

My epiphany is belated but nonetheless true
You weren’t meant for me, I wasn’t right for you
We had zero in common, there was no real connection
The virus has worn off and I’m healed from the infection

I once wanted to make you groan, scream and shout
But I no longer think I’ve been missing out
A face-to-face meeting would’ve been a bust
Without full honesty, there can be no trust

It’s been more than a decade since last we spoke
I remember you once said you occasionally liked to toke
Yet another reminder that I made the right call
Letting you go has been the hardest thing of all

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, November 26, 2018
11:57 p.m.

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Published in: on November 26, 2018 at 11:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

The First Purge

“Pussy grabbing motherfucker.”  White supremacists wearing blackface masks.  “The American Dream is dead.”  Other white supremacists opening fire on Black parishioners.  Kendrick Lamar’s Alright playing over the end credits.

The First Purge is as subtle as a bulldozer.  God, there’s even a movie poster of the most recent Halloween sequel on a bedroom wall.  That movie didn’t open until three months after this one.  (The DVD even includes a trailer, in case you missed Michael Myers’ blank face.)  Both are Universal titles.  Both feature masked characters who kill.  Too much?

Let’s be honest.  Purge films are not known for their restraint or cleverness but they are most certainly well timed.  The first one opened in the summer of 2013, just after the start of drone murderer and deporter-in-chief Barack Obama’s second violent term, and became a surprise hit.  Two years later, Anarchy arrived.   And in the aftermath of the 2016 federal election where Donald Trump’s constant demonization of refugees, immigrants and the undocumented helped promote him to President, we got Election Year dropped on our hopeless asses.

Because the New Founding Fathers of America lost their stranglehold on power in Purge number three, the only logical way forward is to go backward.  And so here we are at the beginning.

It’s been clear through this entire series that the creators have been unable to make the whole Purge concept work in a convincing manner.  When you consider how reluctant establishment Democrats and Republicans are to even debate third-party candidates in real life, let alone share power with them, it’s always seemed a stretch that the NFFA could ever swoop in and take over a fictional America democratically.  (It’s even less persuasive they would pass Purge legislation with bipartisan support.)  It’s more believable they would swallow up the GOP.  God knows they have enough religious fanatics within its ranks already.  That said, it’s curious that the NRA is the NFFA’s biggest financial backer.

At the start of The First Purge, unemployment is high, the stock market is having record crashes, there’s a housing crisis, ongoing protests over police brutality and, of course, an opioid epidemic.  The NFFA, led by the forgettable, barely seen new President Bracken, takes over the government and because they have no solutions of any kind, they decide to orchestrate mass murder under the thinly veiled guise of a tightly controlled “experiment” to eliminate undesirables contributing to “overpopulation”.

Translation:  they don’t like poor people of colour and want them gone.

Only citizens in Staten Island, New York, can sign up and participate in any kind of criminal activity their repressed madness desires for 12 hours.  (Where are The Tenderloins?)  Interviews are conducted with nut jobs like Skeletor (an often overwrought Rotimi Paul), an unstable Black man with unexplained venom for “everyone” and “everything”, and more even-tempered but increasingly frustrated folks like Isaiah (Joivan Wade), a desperate Black teen he targets early on.

Residents can get paid $5000 just to sit at home.  But if you want more dough, you need to wear freaky-looking camera content lenses and a tracking device before you go outside.  Yeah, that doesn’t arouse any suspicion whatsoever.  And what’s with those armed drones hovering around?

The experiment has been earnestly devised by Dr. May Updale (a blonde Marisa Tomei) who must be the most naïve scientist in movie history to not think the NFFA would do everything possible to make The First Purge a “success”.  When it becomes blatantly obvious that Staten Island would rather throw “Purge parties” than actually Purge, only Dr. Updale seems shocked – shocked, I tell you – that chief of staff Arlo Sabian (Patch Darragh) would neglect to tell her about all those secretly hired mercenaries mysteriously driving into the lowest income communities late into the night.  Her belated nosiness costs her big time.

Meanwhile, Isaiah’s charismatic boss Dmitri (the fully jacked Y’lan Noel in a very good performance), urges all his loyalists to call it a night and not join in.  One openly refuses and despite being warned about this, proceeds to concoct a transparent coup that will not only inevitably fail but force Dmitri and his comrades to defend themselves and also their neighbourhood from the relentless all-white militias.

Dmitri’s former girlfriend Nya (lovely Lex Scott Davis in an equally sharp performance) isn’t pleased that he continues to be a wealthy, self-absorbed gangster.  She’s also unhappy about Skeletor attacking Isaiah, her misguided brother who lies about his plans for the night.  Dmitri claims he didn’t even know Isaiah was selling drugs for him which sounds like bullshit.  Nya’s been leading protests against the Purge (“Do not participate” is not a good chant) to no avail.  At any event, you know all these characters will cross paths in the action-filled final act.  And all past sins will be absolved.

Speaking of that, The First Purge feels more like Die Hard in its closing moments.  Dmitri even strips down to a white John McClane undershirt, in case all the weaponry he’s brandishing wasn’t already clueing you in, as he climbs all those stairs hoping to reach the 14th floor in time.  Watching him and other Black folks slice, jab and shoot seriously armed white racists is not as cathartic as it should be, although I’m not complaining about the concept.  There are so many masked and hooded militiamen itching to satisfy their bigoted bloodlust that the movie allows itself no time to develop any of them into characters worthy of our scorn.  Aside from early, excerpted speeches from the new President and the chief of staff’s scenes with the foolish Dr. Updale, the enigmatic NFFA themselves are barely covered.  (There are plenty of flag shots, though.)

Much to my surprise, The First Purge is certainly better than its earlier chapters but still nowhere close to being a good film in its own right.  (It’s not terribly suspenseful or gripping.)  The talented, mostly Black cast (which includes Steve Harris in an effective supporting role as one of the resisters) are able to humanize their experiences a lot more than the earlier films, even though the screenplay limits the extent of their pain and suffering.

There are only small samples of justifiable anger on the part of these residents who live in these neglected apartments.  We never see a landlord responding to complaints about water leaks and bugs.  Isaiah bemoans the lack of economic opportunity even though one of the neighbourhood Wise Men openly offers him a job “at the shop” that won’t put him in prison.  One older woman is tired of being continually treated with disrespect which she only defines vaguely as being “made fun of”.  And of course, the ineffective “Do not Purge” protests led by Nya.  The words “white supremacy” are never once uttered, only shown metaphorically through unmistakable, heavy-handed symbolism.

As much as the government would want them to eliminate each other to save money and manpower, much to their disappointment, this community’s bond isn’t concealed anger or hatred, it’s survival, which explains Dmitri’s ironic but expected babyface turn, why so many residents take the 5000-dollar pay-off and why the NFFA make pre-arranged contingency plans with the mercenaries.  If only the movie had dug deeper it would’ve found its emotional center.  If only it knew how scary it could’ve been.

But Purge movies never permit themselves to be this intellectually penetrating.  They’re violent, simple-minded fantasies meant to capture the paranoid zeitgeist of our uncertain era.  Of the four entries in the series, The First Purge comes close to getting it right.  Maybe they should’ve made Donald Trump the head of the NFFA instead.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, November 25, 2018
5:07 p.m.

Published in: on November 25, 2018 at 5:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Snowman (2017)

It’s never a good sign for a police procedural when the audience can solve the case in half the time it takes the on-screen detectives.  This is one of the many problems with The Snowman, an overlong, thoroughly predictable thriller that feels more like a rejected, needlessly extended TV cop show pilot than a compelling, standalone film.

Michael Fassbender plays the unfortunately named Harry Hole, a drunken, chain-smoking detective with a conflicted but still friendly ex-girlfriend (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and a troubled, teenage son who doesn’t know he’s his father.  A certain character is awfully nice to Fassbender (I’m not using his character name anymore, it’s too embarrassing), even writing him an electronic prescription for sleeping pills on his cell phone when the detective confesses he’s an insomniac while they both watch his son’s outdoor hockey game.

That’s one red flag.

Despite his son not knowing who he really is, Fassbender still bonds with him, taking him to an absolutely shitty rock concert for his birthday and then promising to go with him on some father/son school camping trip because a certain character will be too busy with “work”.  But a series of missing persons cases, all involving pregnant women, distracts him to the point where he completely forgets to show up.

No worries, though.  A certain character, a plastic surgeon who always seems to be away on “business”, covers for him.  After conveniently spotting him on a train, he informs Fassbender’s son over the phone that Fassbender tried to reach him the day before to cancel but he couldn’t get through.

Red flag number two.

About those missing pregnant women.  The killer is someone with a very serious anti-abortion stance and possesses equipment that only a skilled medical professional would know how to use.  The women end up getting chopped up like slabs of meat.  One loses a finger (the killer needs special access to individualized surveillance equipment for the purpose of deleting incriminating audio & video), others have their heads chopped off and sometimes placed on top of snowmen, the killer’s bizarre calling card.

I have to say, seeing Chloe Sevigny’s detached noggin in a couple of scenes is more than a little disconcerting, especially during the moment where it’s placed in an evidence box.  I don’t know if it’s a computer effect or an old-school make-up mold but by God, it’s effective, if for just a moment.

Fassbender partners up with sexy Rebecca Ferguson, a new transfer to his police department.  Their working relationship is quite awkward, though.  At one point, out of nowhere, while they’re conversing in a car, she ponders aloud if he’s planning on making any moves on her.

Uh, no, honey.  He still loves Gainsbourg.

There are other moments where she suddenly says bye after a refusal or an uncomfortable silence lingers between them.  Late in the film, for some inexplicable reason, she attacks him when he enters her apartment looking for her.  After getting her to the ground he lays on top of her back for an unseemly long time even after she calms down.

Ferguson wrongly suspects David Dencik, an odd, local doctor who not-so-discreetly finds hot chicks for the professionally ruthless J.K. Simmons, a bald, bearded corporate raider leading Oslo, Norway’s bid for what it is clearly a renamed Olympics (they call it the Winter Sports World Cup or some bullshit).  Yes, this movie is set in a Scandinavian country which explains all the breathtaking scenery.  It does not explain all the pseudo-British accents.

The overeager Ferguson makes a very dumb decision during the announcement party.  She shamelessly flirts with the promiscuous Simmons who easily reciprocates.  A hotel room card is given along with a sly promise of fornication once the bid is awarded.

As Ferguson makes herself comfortable, snoops around and sets up her recording equipment not so surreptitiously, little does she know she probably should’ve consulted Fassbender about this doomed plan.  At least she doesn’t get beheaded.

It’s not a stretch to assert that, like me, you, the viewer, will probably correctly determine the identity of the killer and his motivation for murdering these women at some point within the first hour.  It will take the supposedly smarter Fassbender an additional 40 minutes or so to finally realize that the suspiciously nice man who prescribed him those sleeping pills (and, after Fassbender throws them away unused, helpfully retrieves them and puts them back in his bathroom where Gainsbourg eventually discovers them) and is conveniently almost never at home with his family, is the suspect he should’ve been pursuing the entire time.

Fassbender is very slow to realize that the killer is going to kidnap his family and lure his pursuer to his remote cabin in the snow.  Once Fassbender arrives, the killer will screw around to torture Gainsbourg physically and the detective psychologically before the hero finds an opening while losing one of his own fingers in the struggle.  Because this killer would rather talk than shoot with better precision, Fassbender will start talking himself, telling him what the audience also knows about the killer’s own traumatic past, depicted in a surprisingly weak opening scene.  And because the overly patient killer thinks walking on very thin ice is a good idea, the hero, who somehow manages not to freak out about said missing finger and being hit with a bullet, won’t have to do anything more to solve this case.

I forgot to mention the surreal appearance of Val Kilmer.  The killer has been knocking off pregnant dames for so long the former Jim Morrison was the first detective investigating his crimes a decade earlier.  It has to be asked:  was Kilmer’s voice dubbed?  Because it sure as hell doesn’t sound like him at all.  Like Fassbender, he’s addicted to the hooch.  We only see him in flashbacks because he, too, meets a grisly end.  Even Fassbender and Ferguson know it wasn’t a suicide.  (He’s not the only guy to lose half his head this way.)  And yes, it takes us far less time than the lead detective on this case to figure out who his daughter really is.

Critics were merciless in their assessments of The Snowman when it was plopped into theatres last fall.  It has an 8% rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  Even audiences stayed away.  It made a shockingly low seven million after only playing widely for three weeks before being pulled.  Having now screened it on Blu-ray, while I don’t think the film is awful by any means, it’s certainly nowhere close to being good.  Because we’re ahead of the detectives the entire time, the movie moves too slowly towards an obvious conclusion.

Thank God for that beautiful scenery.  Whenever the film focuses on the outdoor wonder that is Norway, it’s a welcome distraction.  Michael Fassbender, who has to answer for his real-life behaviour towards women, does what he can with a role that is clearly beneath even him.  He’s always watchable but his character’s arc is as routine as it gets.  Chloe Sevigny makes the most of her double cameo as identical twins.

Sometimes, when the other cast members talk, though, I couldn’t tell if they were employing a faux Norwegian accent or a British one which becomes a distraction.  And I’m still wondering what’s going on with Val Kilmer.

It’s hard to believe The Snowman was co-edited by Thelma Schoonmaker, a multiple-time Oscar-winner, and executive produced by her husband, the great Martin Scorsese.  Where’s Alan Smithee when you need him?

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, November 19, 2018
3:48 a.m.

Published in: on November 19, 2018 at 3:48 am  Leave a Comment  

Bad Words (2014)

In Bad Words, Jason Bateman plays a 40-year-old man with a serious grudge.  Lonely and stuck in a dead-end job “proofreading product warranties”, he absurdly enters a regional spelling bee.  How he is able to compete with young school kids?  He exploits a loophole that says that as long as a contestant hasn’t passed the eighth grade by a certain year, they can participate.  Bateman is a dropout who never made it out of elementary school.

Threatening all kinds of lawsuits if he’s prevented from competing, the reluctant, dumbfounded officials let him through, capitulating to avoid public embarrassment they’ll end up experiencing anyway.  (Are they Democrats?)  His stunt will be shortlived, they constantly reassure themselves.  Surely, he won’t be good enough to make it to the finals.

Wrong.  Because of his photographic memory, he never misses a word.  And because he’s such an asshole, he never misses an opportunity to needlessly insult people, whether they’re innocent or not.

Therein lies the main reason Bad Words is a colossal failure as a comedy.  Unlike the socially inept but strangely loveable Sheldon Cooper (as played brilliantly by Jim Parsons), Bateman’s irredeemable character is far too self-aware of his off-putting personally.  He’s perfectly comfortable making others feel worthless.  We despise him without reservation.  He’s racist, homophobic, sexist, an extremely unpleasant person to be around.  He’s cold and distant, easily irritated by curious inquiries into his mysterious history.  Most of his targets are easy and vulnerable, so undeserving of his contemptible “zings”.  He’s a dedicated heel addicted to cheap heat.  At least Rickles got laughs.

The film ultimately reveals why he’s doing all of this which does not make him more sympathetic.  In fact, he looks exceedingly petty and childish which he readily and repeatedly admits in voiceover.  (Even when Sheldon expresses a rare awareness of his annoying quirks he still doesn’t know how to stop being annoying.)  If there is only one person he’s truly coming for, and if he’s smarter than all the other spelling bee contestants put together, why spread the vitriol around?  He doesn’t need any tactical advantages.  He has a perfect memory.  He doesn’t need additional targets of scorn.  He only needs one person to acknowledge paternity.  How predictable that plot twist turns out to be and how empty the pay-off.

Spelling bee contestants need to be sponsored by media organizations in order to compete.  Bateman’s sponsor is lovely, bespectacled but desperate Kathryn Hahn (Bad Moms, The Visit), a determined website journo with zero ethics and even less self-esteem (although, to be fair, she does turn down a fellatio invitation from a married source).  Failing at almost every turn to get even basic information out of this self-absorbed douchenozzle (even when she secretly records him without his permission) and growing ever more frustrated with what has become a dead-end assignment, unsurprisingly that does not stop her from repeatedly having sex with him, as long as they don’t make eye contact.  Yeah, not buying that handholding in the final act.

While en route to the final stage of the competition (which, for the first time, will be aired live on public television), Bateman is suspiciously befriended by fellow contestant Rohan Chand, a wide-eyed Indian-American boy who either doesn’t know the difference between an insult and a compliment or also has a secret strategy for winning the spelling bee.  This is his second go-round and he’s in to win.

At first irritated and indifferent, Bateman soon takes the bait when he finds himself relating very strongly to Chand’s isolation from his enigmatic father.  (Also, Bateman is stuck living in the janitor’s supply closet (which has no toilet or shower) at their respective hotel while Chand has a room with full amenities all to himself.)  They also bond over bullying, shoplifting, boobs and fast food.  Once Bateman learns the truth about their relationship, though, more childishness ensues as inevitably both will find themselves the last two competitors battling it out for the spelling bee championship.  You can pretty much tick off all the expected outcomes one by one.  There is no suspense.

And that’s the other big problem with Bad Words.  Bateman and Chand’s formulaic friendship feels very forced, especially in that last scene when a middle-aged dickhole who has spent the entire film being racist to a young kid of colour is now suddenly his white saviour.

There is not one authentic emotional moment in this movie, and not one laugh, either.  Even when corrupt spelling bee tournament director Alison Janney (a former champion from the early 70s) deliberately gives Bateman impossibly long words to spell (which is against the contest’s rule of only allowing participants randomly selected choices), the result is dead silence, a big puff of nothing.  We don’t want Bateman to win, even after we know what he’s up to, and Janney’s interference doesn’t make a whiff of difference anyway.

Bateman’s decision to not publicly reveal who his father is during the spelling bee is curiously out of character for someone who thrives on in-your-face put-downs.  The whole point of this cruel exercise is to tarnish his enemy’s legacy, is it not?  His dry narration turns out to be recited lines from a letter he quickly writes, just before leaving the hotel, to the man who abandoned him and his mother when he was still in utero many decades ago.  Upon reception, it’s ripped in two.  It’s only after the big reveal that it’s taped back together and properly consumed.  Bateman gets what he wants but the result is underwhelming.  There’s no follow through or exhilaration.

In the end, considering how much of a scumbag Bateman’s character turns out to be, can you blame his prescient father for bailing on him in the first place?

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, November 16, 2018
11:51 p.m.

Published in: on November 16, 2018 at 11:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

Spellbinder (1988)

Timothy Daly’s character in Spellbinder is a sucker, a total sap.  For a seasoned lawyer, he’s remarkably naive. The second he witnesses a ponytailed creep abuse Kelly Preston not that far from the parking lot he’s standing around in, you would think he’d realize he’s being set up.

It’s not until the very last scene that he finally clues in.  The audience already knows in the first five minutes.

Daly’s the perfect mark because his love life sucks.  And Preston doesn’t exactly resist his advances.  After convincing her to forget about booking that hotel room so she can stay at his place with his dog Goliath and his cat Davey, the trap is set.

During her first night there, she notices the art on his walls and recognizes the artists who painted them. (She dabbles herself.)  She reads his palm, revealing a bit of his backstory:  no siblings, parents died in a car accident six years ago.  She cures his bad back.  He never wants her to leave.

It’s so obvious she’s a witch.  During a dinner party he throws where he shows her off to his friends and law firm colleagues, his loyal secretary Diana Bellamy witnesses Preston pulling a giant, cooked turkey out of the oven without using protective mitts.  No burns.  She also lies about how they met.  When she reports all this back to her boss, “I’ll take it under advisement,” is Daly’s dismissive response.

Spoiler:  he doesn’t take it under advisement.

Meanwhile, another poor sap spots Daly at the mall buying flowers for Preston.  It’s clear this mystery man knows what’s going on.  He’s probably been hoodwinked, as well.  But he never gets to warn Daly, to properly prepare him for what he’s in for.  (After getting blocked by the escalator he pretty much gives up chasing him in the parking lot.)  Not that the hot shot, Ted Bundy look-a-like would’ve heeded his words, anyway.  By the time this mystery man returns to his own apartment, his fate is sealed.  (Not a good special effect, fellas.)

As the movie progresses, Preston continues to reel in the clueless Daly with free maid service and lots of sex.

Then, she bolts.  Daly panics.  He goes to the police where he meets the awesome character actor Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa, a cool-headed lieutenant who must be a Pat Riley fan.  Daly’s new gal is associated “with very dangerous people”, he informs the dopey lawyer.  They’re Satanists.  They’re bad news.  They graffiti their symbols on crime scenes.  One looks like a fancy number 4.

He even shows Daly a dead body, one of their victims.

“Who is it?” Daly wonders

“Who knows?” the lieutenant replies.

There’s no skin left on the corpse’s blood-red face.

Eventually, after a few days without her, Daly finally gets another fix.  Preston calls him, tells him to meet her at a gas station.  Even at this point, he’s still all-in on being her saviour.  But now he’s angry.  He wants answers.  Now.

Her mom, the much missed Audra Lindley (Mrs. Roper and Phoebe’s grandma on Friends), has been threatening him, urging the defense attorney to hand her over.  On her second, unannounced visit to his office, she causes a scene, scratching her own face to make it seem like Daly attacked her.

Well before that unexciting escalation, the knife-wielding, ponytailed goon he confronted in the opening scene does some temporary damage to his ridiculously tiny red car while it briefly levitates in his law firm’s underground parking garage.  After “rescuing” Preston from his clutches, Daly has a nightmare about encountering ponytail boy again in his own food closet.  Then, there are the overlapping voices, first on his phone and answering machine, then later at the used bookstore as he investigates the Satanists.  He might be happy with Preston but he draws all the wrong conclusions about her “dilemma”.

All the while, she keeps baiting him so easily you wonder why he’s so gullible.  I mean, yeah, she’s super cute and all, but you’re a defense attorney, bub.  Shouldn’t you be seeing right through her act?  For God’s sake, your biggest client is a paranoid survivalist you know is guilty!

To be fair, throughout the film, Preston’s a poker player.  No tells, no bad bets.  Every play she makes is the right one.  She can’t lose.  Even in the final scene, she still sounds sweet and appreciative of Daly’s stubborn, doomed dedication to her.  She doesn’t really hate him at all.

Despite playing a foolish, impulsive character who has completely rearranged his life for a woman he barely knows (he even blows off an important court appearance to defend an innocent client to check on her well-being), Daly is nonetheless convincing in his role.  You don’t hate him, either.  Unfortunately, his relationship with Preston is too good to be true in more ways than one.  They lack the required chemistry that would make the “twist” ending truly shocking and appalling, although I have to admit I do enjoy seeing someone’s heart being pulled out of their chest.

Spellbinder thinks it’s being clever by screwing over its outmatched hero.  But if you’ve seen The Wicker Man, the creepy 1974 original, not the unnecessary, redundant Nicolas Cage remake, you know this isn’t an original idea.  Honestly, I would’ve been ok with this expected outcome if the film had figured out another way to compel me from the start.  But from the moment Daly and his shady lawyer friend, the guy who keeps calling him “Ace”, swoop into spontaneous superhero mode, you can forget about being surprised or frightened.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, November 14, 2018
6:52 p.m.

Published in: on November 14, 2018 at 6:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Car (1977)

Long before there was Christine, there was The Car, another demonic vehicle on a murderous rampage.  But unlike the Stephen King creation, no one is allowed to drive The Car, a black Lincoln Continental III, (according to Wikipedia) with cool, specially designed orange-tinted windows and unfortunately, a not-so-menacing front grill and headlights.  Try to open its driver’s door and you get sent flying.

The Car rides around a small desert town in California (really the beautiful, mountainous terrain of Utah) “honking” its “horn triumphantly”, as the closed captioning frequently puts it, while running into and over victims for no real reason whatsoever.  Like the young couple racing each other on bikes (notice one of them is future Nikki Newman Melody Scott Thomas).  Or the French horn player waiting for a ride outside the home of a philandering, alcoholic domestic abuser (R.G. Armstrong) and his long suffering, black-eyed wife (Doris Dowling).

With his Michael Landon hair and Fu Manchu moustache, James Brolin plays the captain of the sheriff’s department, a divorcee with two bickering daughters and a hot, new girlfriend (Kathleen Lloyd), a local music teacher who doesn’t mind at all that one of her very young students has been drawing nude pics of her.  (She also doesn’t mind being given bigger cans by her 13-year-old admirer.  Oh my.)

Brolin’s boss (John Marley), however, is very concerned about that death car killing innocent people.  For a decade, Brolin’s only been issuing traffic tickets.  Now he’s gotta deal with this shit all in one day.  And that day is about to get much worse.

Ronny Cox, the magnificent heel from Robocop and Total Recall, shows up in a rare babyface part.  He plays a fellow officer, a recovering addict with two consecutive years of sobriety under his belt who predictably falls off the wagon once he learns that his surrogate son, the boy cyclist from the first scene, has been killed.  Even with his late 70s sideburns he looks uncannily like a young David Letterman.  I prefer him as a douche, though.

As you’ve probably already deduced, The Car is not a very good movie.  It’s hard to be scared of a demon car you know is being driven by an unseen stunt driver.  John Carpenter’s disappointing adaptation of Stephen King’s Christine had, to a certain extent, the same problem.  But The Car is worse because it is often very silly, quite unintentionally.  At least Christine had somewhat of an intelligent story.

Consider that opening scene with the duelling cyclists.  As they race each other on that desert road, here comes that suspicious vehicle right behind them.  Good horror films depend on an effective score and delicate execution.  The Car possesses neither as evidenced by my laughter while I watch the teenage guy (really another stunt guy) go flying off that bridge.

An even funnier scene happens near the end of the film when that goddamn car somehow ends up in Brolin’s garage without anyone noticing until he turns around.  They stare each other down as the captain gingerly tries to tool his way out the front.  But every time he does this, the car teases running him over by coming very close to touching him, then backing up and repeating the process until The Car finally says fuck it and drives right through.

To be fair, The Car is sneaky.  There’s an earlier scene where two law enforcement vehicles are heading straight towards it on the otherwise abandoned highway.  Surely, that black Continental will see reason and hit the brakes well in time, says one of the cops.  Nope.  At the last second before impact, it does a fancy-ass flip in the air destroying its enemies and then landing safely on its tires ready to ride on and murder once again.  Until the finale, it is the smartest character in the entire film.

On the contrary, Brolin’s hot girlfriend is easily the dumbest.  During a parade rehearsal with her crappy school band, here comes The Car again ready for more blood.  As she helps move the kids upside to a nearby cemetery (while guys on horses provide a distraction), with the villain itching to pounce but reluctant to do so (because this final resting place for the dead is “hallowed ground”. according to Cox), Kathleen Lloyd starts cutting a promo on the nonexistent driver, at one point calling him a coward since he won’t get out of The Car.  Would she still be so brave if an actual driver did exit the vehicle to confront her?

That leads to the inevitable follow-up scene later on where The Car realizes there’s nothing preventing it from going through a house.  Honestly, this is one of the rare horror scenes in the film that isn’t silly even though it doesn’t really connect emotionally.  Besides, I was too distracted by that hilarious Kramer-esque painting of James Brolin to fully care.

Speaking of Brolin, shouldn’t he be…angry?  Yes, he’s sad and anguished, but where’s the fury?  At no point does he ever verbally express how much The Car has ruined his life.  If it was established early on that he’s stoic, ok, but that’s clearly not the case.  So, why not let the expletives fly?  This shit just got personal, dude!

Also strange is how the E.G. Armstrong character is used in the story.  He’s a total dick to his wife because she won’t let him drink, supposedly, and so at one point, he gets locked up when things start to escalate.  But then, the sheriff’s department becomes so desperate for manpower after the car twirling incident they release him urging him to help them out.

Besides being a drunk misogynist, Armstrong’s character is also a racist.  There are a small number of First Nations people who work in the sheriff’s office, one of whom he needlessly demeans as a “savage” and “dumb Indian” for the gruff way he manhandles him after removing him from his cell.  (Another white supremacist berates the same cop over the phone.)  In the final scene, however, that’s all forgotten and forgiven.

I’m sure everyone associated with The Car have long wished to be similiarly absolved.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, November 14, 2018
5:25 p.m.

Published in: on November 14, 2018 at 5:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

Twitter Froze My Account For Tweeting & Retweeting Too Much About The 2018 Midterm Elections

Last night, I was tweeting and retweeting about the Midterm Elections in the United States.  Apparently, I was tweeting and retweeting too much for Twitter’s liking.  How do I know this?  They’ve locked me out of my account.

A warning popped up that suggested I wasn’t human but rather an “overly aggressive” bot, an automated replicant of some kind that couldn’t possibly be that interested in the American political scene, at least not from an independent, leftist perspective.  Oh no, in the eyes of Twitter, I must be some kind of “suspicious” artificial intelligence for constantly tweeting and retweeting election updates to my near 800 followers (something I’ve done through numerous elections for half a decade) while also offering quick personal commentary regarding the horror of Ted Cruz being re-elected and goofing on Wolf Blitzer’s metaphorical election boner.  (The CNN anchor always seem overly excited when anticipating and delivering results live on the air which sometimes leads to verbal blunders and the unnecessary interruption of colleagues.)

According to Twitter, doing all of this while also tweeting about unrelated political articles, is not acceptable.  White supremacists who threaten fellow users?  Perfectly ok.  Huffington Post Contributors reporting and tweeting about the election?  Freeze that bastard’s account.

Twitter does this annoying thing where they give you a chance to prove you are flesh and blood and then after you prove it they still won’t let you access your account.  It’s a program called reCAPTCHA.  It works like this.  First, they ask you, “Are you a robot?”  Seriously.  If you’re not, and last time I checked I still bleed like every other living thing on this goddamn planet, they ask you to click the box next to, wait for it, “I’m not a robot.”  In other words, if you are a robot, you have to lie in order to proceed.

After you click that, a picture puzzle pops up.  It’s either one shot cut up into nine squares or nine individual ones that collectively make up nine squares.  You’re asked to click specifically requested objects within these frames a varying number of times.  Sometimes you have to find a bus or a car.  Sometimes, it’s traffic lights or crosswalks or fire hydrants.  After you get through this bullshit, you should see a green checkmark declaring yes, you rascal, you’re a human after all.  Our bad.

And then, nothing.  Instead of moving on to the next step to Twitter freedom, whatever the fuck that is, after an eternity of no progress, a message pops up saying your path to verification has “expired”.  Oh, and “Check the checkbox again”.  Maybe next time, impatient one, we’ll let you through.  I must’ve repeated this process dozens of times to no avail.

Now, that’s on a fast library computer.  Using my own slow-ass PC is even more frustrating.  I frequently receive the dreaded “Cannot contact reCAPTCHA.  Check your connection and try again” message.  So I try again.  And again.  And again.  Same deal, although one time clicking the “I’m not a robot” checkbox results in that blue snakey circle endlessly rotating.

Once in a while, I get “lucky”, the puzzle pops up and if I get all the way through, here comes the checkmark followed by the “Verification expired” nonsense.  But usually the “Check your connection” error message returns well before that happens and I’m back to square one again.

As you can imagine, I’m not terribly happy about being unable to communicate on a medium I’ve been using regularly for almost six years.  (I’ve tweeted well over 70000 times.)  Perhaps, I should’ve seen this coming.  Not that long ago, I called Hulk Hogan a “racist” and got an automated warning saying my use of Twitter would be “limited” for 12 hours.  It was weird because 1. Hulk Hogan is a racist and 2. I was able to carry on using my account without any apparent restrictions.

But once they freeze your account, you’re fucked.  Unless you can somehow get past the reCAPTCHA gatekeeper, you’re powerless to do anything except appeal to Twitter directly.  So I tried that and got an automated email in return.  The instructions are useless.  When I go to my account, I’m stuck at the “Are you a robot?” screen so no, I can’t “select” my “country/region” from the nowhere-to-be-seen “drop down menu”, and then enter” my “phone number”, which means I won’t be getting a code sent to my nonexistent cell phone.  So it’s impossible to type in this elusive code and click Submit when the “Your Code” and “Submit” boxes aren’t visible on my screen, which means I won’t be getting a confirmation email informing me that my “account is now unlocked”.

I’ve written them back to inform them of this (along with my irritation, a writer for a high-profile website, of being locked out of my own account in the first place) and have yet to receive a reply.

So, what now?  How long am I going to be in Twitter Jail before someone wakes up and realizes a mistake has been made?  And more importantly, how many other poor saps are going through the exact same annoyance?

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, November 7, 2018
11:24 p.m.

UPDATE:  Well, that was fast.  Unbeknownst to me until this moment, just before midnight tonight, Twitter replied to my emails, told me they had unlocked my account and even apologized.  Twice.  I also got an explanation:

“Twitter has automated systems that find and remove automated spam accounts and it looks like your account got caught up in one of these spam groups by mistake. This sometimes happens when an account exhibits automated behavior in violation of the Twitter Rules…”

A few hours after this message was sent, having not yet seen it, I decided to try getting on my account again.  When I was able to see my notifications and news feed as before, I cannot tell you how I relieved I was.  That’s when I checked my email and spotted the above message.

Many thanks to Twitter for resolving this issue swiftly and for the apologies.  It’s good to be back on.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, November 8, 2018
4:12 a.m.

Published in: on November 7, 2018 at 11:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Woman’s Torment (1977)

Years ago, Saturday Night Live did a goof on Siskel & Ebert.  Instead of reviewing the latest Hollywood movies these fictional versions of the influential Chicago film critics evaluated gay porn.

The much-missed Phil Hartman played Roger, Kevin Nealon played Gene.  As was customary of their actual program the sketch ended with a recap of what they had just reviewed.  “Gene” panned pretty much everything.  “Roger” justified all of his recommendations by admitting each film had their own problems “but the sex was hot”.

I thought about that SNL segment after watching A Woman’s Torment, a rather infamous horror film from 1977.  Not knowing anything about its history, when I pressed play to watch my DVD copy, I had no idea what I was in for.  I was expecting either something incredibly cheesy or flat-out reprehensible.  (I got both.)  I was certainly not expecting a lot of hardcore sex scenes.

Back in the 60s and 70s, as the needless Catholic Church-imposed restrictions on cinematic sex and violence finally faded into history, a good number of independent filmmakers took advantage of the new freedoms to make a quick buck on cheapie sex thrillers.  Featuring mostly obscure performers who rarely, if ever, got mainstream opportunities, these low budget films often played in porn theatres while also travelling the grindhouse circuit, and have since developed a cult following on video.

Unlike much of today’s mostly videotaped adult entertainment, there was at least an effort to tell a developed story in between the filmed sex scenes.  Unfortunately, in the case of A Woman’s Torment, good luck understanding its gonzo plot.

Tara Chung plays Karen, a mentally ill woman who lives with a married couple.  When we first meet her she’s rocking back and forth in a rocking chair holding a pair of scissors in one hand and a child’s doll in the other with the lights out in her room.  Meanwhile, her caregivers are throwing a party.

The wife, her stepsister who has vowed to always look after her even though she rarely speaks or leaves her bedroom, had been having an affair with her friend, the shrink, an older guy with a bad toupee and cliched porno moustache.  (He’s having his own marital problems as demonstrated in the uncomfortable opening sex scene with his disgruntled, suspicious wife.)  When he gets a little tipsy at the house party, he makes his move on her.  In what is easily the most surprising part of the film, they don’t end up in bed together.  She breaks off their fling and he, amazingly, never tries to seduce her again, despite sending her flowers the next day as a last-ditch penance.  They simply revert to being friends.

After the party, her husband confronts her about the affair and confesses it doesn’t really bother him.  In fact, he finds it exciting.  That leads to them having a fairly typical hardcore romp complete with alternate positions, the wife constantly licking her lips and some fairly awkward dialogue.  But yeah, the sex is hot.

While they moan and groan and talk about having kids, we see Karen packing a suitcase full of clothes.  She soon leaves the house for the couple’s home on the beach.  In one of many unexplainable moments, she ends up not taking the suitcase inside.  She leaves it out by the water where it washes away.

After hallucinating that a knife-wielding man wearing pantyhose on his head is about to attack her while she’s in the shower, she’s startled by an actual visitor, Larry, an electrician checking out the power lines after a recent storm.  Her door is open and all her lights turned so he walks right in unannounced (and unseen) to check things out.  Uh huh.

While clutching a knife of her own and constantly hearing not-so-scary voices in her head, a terrified, mute Karen looks on as the seemingly mild-mannered man (who openly admits to being a creep and proves it) does all of the talking, looks around for food and then starts a fire.  The movie suggests that she suffers from multiple personality disorder (plus schizophrenia) which is supposed to justify her sudden transformation from scared little girl to horny naked woman.  Out of nowhere, she strips off her white gown and it’s fingerpalooza time, although the man is at first reluctant to participate.  And yeah, it’s hot.

But then, in the film’s grossest moment, he declares “now it’s my turn” and proceeds to rape her.  And yes, because this is a hardcore film, you see actual penetration and even a quick climax.  Not cool.  Karen picks her knife back up and we have our first kill.  But bizarrely, she regrets it.  Once the man is dead, she embraces him.  (She later masturbates in the shower thinking about the entire encounter, including the assault!)  It will not be the only time she does this.

In the meantime, her caregivers, the married couple that’s been housing her, are arguing about what to do with her.  Hubby wants her either institutionalized or out on her own, wifey won’t leave her.  While entertaining the shrink and his grumpy wife (who reminds me of Jennifer Jason Leigh but with far less talent), when Karen doesn’t take her fiercest defender’s calls at the beach house (even though she’s there by the phone sometimes while it rings and in one case, had literally just taken a call from someone looking for the missing electrician), Mr. Moustache agrees to go visit her to see how she’s doing.

By that point, she’s killed three more people, including another horny couple, this one engaged, who have sex on their boat and later in a room in the beach house they wrongly believe to be abandoned.  In a modern porn film, Karen would join in (she’s clearly bi-curious) which makes her sudden homicidal impulse here all the more puzzling.  It also doesn’t help that the murder scene is the opposite of competent.

When the philandering shrink, who never admits his wandering ways to his fed up wife, shows up, Karen suddenly opens up and this time, she wants more than a hand job, another nonsensical moment.  Why does she want penetration with Mr. Moustache but not the electrician?

A Woman’s Torment was written, produced and directed by Roberta Findlay who, perhaps out of a desire to not be publicly shamed, used a fake male nom de plume, Robert W. Norman.  During her notorious heyday in the 70s and 80s, anti-porn feminists foolishly raged against films like this with constant protests and questionable, hypocritical assertions, so from Findlay’s point of view it made perfect sense to hide her identity.  (In a 2005 interview with New York Press, she claims an activist called her back then hoping she would come out to a protest not knowing who she really was.  The call made her frightened of lesbians.  Um, ok.)

Ironically, Findlay is not really a fan of porn, either.  For her, the experience of making these films was all about the shot and not necessarily about turning on an audience or getting good performances out of her less-than-stellar actors.  So, while she would probably never protest the existence of porn, she’s certainly not a personal advocate.  Christ, she doesn’t even defend her own movies!

That said, is the film feminist as I’m sure some have asserted over the decades?  Well, the shrink’s wife isn’t sexually satisfied and isn’t shy in saying so.  God knows she’s right about him being unfaithful and, at times, insensitive.  Karen makes it abundantly clear that she doesn’t want to be penetrated by the overly aggressive electrician which results in the film’s only justifiable murder.

But beyond that, not really.  All the women, including the annoying busy body who bothers Karen at the beach house, aren’t exactly super lovable.  The shrink makes a PMS crack about his irritable wife, Larry the electrician refers to one of Karen’s personalities as an “old whore”, and there’s much condescension from all the male characters.  (“That’s a good girl.”  “That’s a reasonable girl.”)  Then again, not all of these men survive at the end.

A Woman’s Torment is, shockingly, not the epitome of cinematic excellence.  It’s not particularly well acted (some of the facial expressions are unnecessarily overdone and some line readings feel quite forced and drawn out), some of the characters are wildly inconsistent, the dialogue at times will make you cringe, all the attempts at intentional humour flop, the non-sex music feels pretentious and strikingly old-fashioned, and the ending is, well, sudden and lazy.

But at least the sex is hot.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, November 4, 2018
6:26 p.m.

Published in: on November 4, 2018 at 6:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

Curious Moments From Fire And Fury: Trump In The White House (Part Four)

34. A proud Trump privately admitted to feeding the media false information.

“If you couldn’t get press directly for yourself, you became a leaker. There was no happenstance news, in Trump’s view. All news was manipulated and designed, planned and planted. All news was to some extent fake–he understood that very well, because he himself had faked it so many times in his career. This was why he had so naturally cottoned to the ‘fake news’ label. ‘I’ve made stuff up forever, and they always print it,’ he bragged.”

35. Trump took credit for MBS becoming the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.

From Chapter 17:

“Within weeks of the trip, MBS, detaining MBN quite in the dead of night, would force him to relinquish the Crown Prince title, which MBS would then assume for himself. Trump would tell friends that he and Jared had engineered a Saudi coup: ‘We’ve put our man on top!'”

36. A lot of law firms don’t want to represent Trump.

Also from Chapter 17:

“…it certainly didn’t help that they were unable to hire a law firm with a top-notch white-collar government practice. By the time Bannon and Priebus were back in Washington, three blue-chip firms had said no. All of them were afraid they would face a rebellion among the younger staff if they represented Trump, afraid Trump would publicly humiliate them if the going got tough, and afraid Trump would stiff them for the bill.

In the end, nine top firms turned them down.”

37. Kushner & Ivanka retaliated against two frustrated, outgoing Trump lawyers by leaking dirt about them to the press.

As the media started successfully discrediting the original, false, then shifting assertions regarding the famous Trump Tower meeting that has been a focal point of the Mueller investigation, two of Trump’s attorneys saw the writing on the wall:

“Mark Corallo was instructed not to speak to the press, indeed not to even answer his phone. Later that week, Corallo, seeing no good outcome–and privately confiding that he believed the meeting on Air Force One represented a likely obstruction of justice–quit. (The Jarvanka side would put it out that Corallo was fired.)”

[snip]

“Likewise, the Trump family, no matter its legal exposure, was not going to be run by its lawyers. Jared and Ivanka helped to coordinate a set of lurid leaks–drinking, bad behavior, personal life in disarray–about Marc Kasowitz, who had advised the president to send the couple home. Shortly after the presidential party returned to Washington, Kasowitz was out.”

In Chapter 21, gelatinous salamander Steve Bannon offered his own view:

“Look, Kasowitz has known him for twenty-five years.  Kasowitz has gotten him out of all kinds of jams.  Kasowitz on the campaign–what did we have, a hundred women?  Kasowitz took care of all of them.  And now he lasts, what, four weeks?  He’s in the mumble tank. This is New York’s toughest lawyer, broken.  Mark Corallo, toughest motherfucker I ever met, just can’t do it.”

Wait, did Trump have one of his lawyers pay off “a hundred women” he had affairs with or is that number exaggerated?  Again, author Michael Wolff doesn’t follow up.

38. Anthony Scaramucci helped kill a damaging Kushner story so he could get a job in the White House.

From Chapter 20:

“Scaramucci called a reporter he knew to urge that an upcoming story about Kushner’s Russian contacts be spiked.  He followed up by having another mutual contact call the reporter to say that if the story was spiked it would help the Mooch get into the White House, whereupon the reporter would have special Mooch access.  The Mooch then assured Jared and Ivanka that he had, in this clever way, killed the story.”

39. Bannon’s theory on the true focus of the Mueller investigation:

From Chapter 21:

“This is all about money laundering…Their path to fucking Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr., and Jared Kushner…It goes through Deutsche Bank and all the Kushner shit.  The Kushner shit is greasy.  They’re going to go right through that.  They’re going to roll those guys up and say play me or trade me.”

[snip]

“They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on National TV.  Michael Cohen, cracked like an egg.”

40. Bannon doesn’t think Trump will survive his Presidency.

Also from Chapter 21:

“I’m pretty good at coming up with solutions, I came up with a solution for his broke-dick campaign in about a day, but I don’t see this.  I don’t see a plan for getting through.  Now, I gave him a plan…seal the Oval Office…send [Jared & Ivanka] home…get rid of Hope [Hicks], all these deadbeats…You listen to your [lawyers] and never talk about this stuff again, you just conduct yourself as commander in chief and then you can be president for eight years.  If you don’t, you’re not, simple.  But he’s the president…and he’s clearly choosing to go down another path…you can’t stop him.  The guy is going to call his own plays.  He’s Trump…”

41. Bannon knew Anthony Scaramucci wouldn’t last very long as communications director.

“He’ll be on that podium for two days and he’ll be so chopped he’ll bleed out everywhere.  He’ll literally blow up in a week…Hiring Scaramucci?  He’s not qualified to do anything.  He runs a fund of funds.  Do you know what a fund of funds is?  It’s not a fund.”

42. Trump is in deep denial about the Ku Klux Klan.

From Chapter 22:

“Privately, he kept trying to rationalize why someone would be a member of the KKK–that, they might not actually believe what the KKK believed, and that the KKK probably does not believe what it used to believe, and, anyway, who really know what the KKK believes now?”

43. Maybe this is why Nikki Haley recently resigned as UN Ambassador.

From the Epilogue:

“Haley–‘as ambitious as Lucifer,’ in the characterization of one member of the senior staff–had concluded that Trump’s tenure would last, at best, a single term, and that she, with requisite submission, could be his heir apparent.”

[snip]

“The president had been spending a notable amount of private time with Haley on Air Force One and was seen to be grooming her for a national political future.”

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, October 31, 2018
7:09 p.m.

Published in: on October 31, 2018 at 7:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

Curious Moments From Fire And Fury: Inside The Trump White House (Part Three)

20. Trump has an unnamed source who dishes about the Department of Justice.

From Chapter Eleven:

“…Trump already had good reason to worry about the DOJ. The president had a private source, one of his frequent callers, who, he believed, was keeping him abreast of what was going on in the Justice Department…”

[snip]

“The source, a longtime friend with his own DOJ sources…fed the president a bleak picture of a Justice Department and an FBI run amok in its efforts to get him. ‘Treason’ was a word that was being used, the president was told.

‘The DOJ,’ the president’s source told him, ‘was filled with women who hated him.’…’They want to make Watergate look like Pissgate,’ the president was told. This comparison confused Trump; he thought his friend was making a reference to the Steele dossier and its tale of the golden showers.”

21. Tony Blair falsely claimed that the British were spying on Trump.

Also from Chapter Eleven:

“In February [2017], Blair visited Kushner in the White House.

On this trip, the now freelance diplomat, seeking to prove his usefulness to this new White House, imparted a juicy nugget of information. There was, he suggested, the possibility that the British had had the Trump campaign staff under surveillance, monitoring its telephone calls and other communications and possibly even Trump himself.

[snip]

It was unclear whether Blair’s information was rumor, informed conjecture, his own speculation, or solid stuff. But, as it churned and festered in the president’s mind, Kushner and Bannon went out to CIA headquarters in Langley to meet with Mike Pompeo and his deputy director Gina Haspel to check it out. A few days later, the CIA opaquely reported back that the information was not correct; it was a ‘miscommunication.'”

22. Trump doesn’t really care about abolishing the Affordable Care Act.

From Chapter Twelve:

“Trump had little or no interest in the central Republican goal of repealing Obamacare. An overweight seventy-year-old man with various physical phobias (for instance, he lied about his height to keep from having a body mass index that would label him as obese), he personally found health care and medical treatments of all kinds a distasteful subject. The details of the contested legislation were, to him, particularly boring. His attention would begin wandering from the first words of a policy discussion…he certainly could not make any kind of meaningful distinction, positive or negative, between the health care system before Obamacare and the one after.”

23. Jared Kushner privately supports the ACA and has a family member who benefits from it.

“Kushner…privately suggested that he was personally against both repeal alone and repeal and replace. He and his wife took a conventional Democratic view on Obamacare (it was better than the alternative; its problems could be fixed in the future)…(What’s more, Kushner’s brother Josh ran a health insurance company that depended on Obamacare.)”

24. Gary Cohn allegedly sent a scathing email that got forwarded throughout the Administration.

From Chapter Fourteen:

“In April, an email originally copied to more than a dozen people went into far wider circulation when it was forwarded and reforwarded. Purporting to represent the views of Gary Cohn [Trump’s Economic Advisor] and quite succinctly summarizing the appalled sense in much of the White House, the email read:

It’s worse than you can imagine. An idiot surrounded by clowns. Trump won’t read anything–not one-page memos, not the brief policy papers, nothing. He gets up halfway through meetings with world leaders because he is bored. And his staff is no better. Kushner is an entitled baby who knows nothing. Bannon is an arrogant prick who thinks he’s smarter than he is. Trump is less a person than a collection of terrible traits. No one will survive the first year but his family. I hate the work, but feel I need to stay because I’m the only person there with a clue what he’s doing. The reason so few jobs have been filled is that they only accept people who pass ridiculous purity tests, even for midlevel policy-making jobs where the people will never see the light of day. I am in a constant state of shock and horror.”

25. Steve Bannon was kicked off the National Security Council after being the only Trump official to oppose a military response against the Syrian government.

Also from Chapter Fourteen:

“By midmorning on April 4 [2017], a full briefing had been assembled at the White House for the president about the chemical attacks.”

[snip]

“Bannon, at perhaps his lowest moment of influence in the White House–many still felt that his departure was imminent–was the only voice arguing against a military response. It was a purist’s rationale: keep the United States out of intractable problems, and certainly don’t increase our involvement in them. He was holding the line against the rising business-as-usual faction, making decisions based on the same set of assumptions, Bannon believed, that has resulted in the Middle East quagmire.”

[snip]

“The president had already agreed to McMaster’s demand that Bannon be removed from the National Security Council, though the change wouldn’t be announced until the following day.”

[snip]

“The announcement of Bannon’s removal was made the day after the attack.”

26. Even Roger Ailes got fed up with Trump.

From Chapter Fifteen:

“In the past month, Ailes, a frequent Trump caller and after-dinner adviser, had all but stopped speaking to the president, piqued by the constant reports that Trump was bad-mouthing him as he praised a newly attentive [Rupert] Murdoch, who had, before the election, only ever ridiculed Trump.

‘Men who demand the most loyalty tend to be the least loyal pricks,’ noted a sardonic Ailes (a man who himself demanded lots of loyalty).”

[snip]

“…noted Ailes…’Donald and I were really quite good friends for more than 25 years, but he would have preferred to be friends with Murdoch, who thought he was a moron–at least until he became president.'”

27. Kellyanne Conway is more honest about Trump in private.

Also from Chapter Fifteen:

“In private…she seemed to regard Trump as a figure of exhausting exaggeration or even absurdity–or, at least, if you regarded him that way, she seemed to suggest that she might, too. She illustrated her opinion of her boss with a whole series of facial expressions: eyes rolling, mouth agape, head snapping back.”

28. Before he became an outspoken critic, Kellyanne’s husband George, originally an early Trump booster, nearly worked for him.

“After the election,” according to author Michael Wolff, there was “a scramble to get her husband an administration job…” What that job would’ve been is not divulged.

29. Even Trump government insiders, including his own daughter, thought Kellyanne’s “defend-at-all-costs shtick” was ridiculous.

“Loyalty was Trump’s most valued attribute, and in Conway’s view her kamikaze-like media defense of the president had earned her a position of utmost primacy in the White House. But in her public persona, she had pushed the boundaries of loyalty too far; she was so hyperbolic that even Trump loyalists found her behaviour extreme and were repelled. None were more put off than Jared and Ivanka…appalled at the shamelessness of her television appearances…”

They were so appalled, according to Wolff, they started leaking “about how she had been sidelined…reduced to second-rate media, to being a designated emissary to right-wing groups, and left out of any meaningful decision making.”

She almost resigned but Trump insisted she keep defending him on-air. (“You will always have a place in my administration…You will be here for eight years.”)

30. Before aligning with Trump, Hope Hicks once worked for the PR firm that protected Harvey Weinstein. So did Jared Kushner spokesman Josh Raffel.

“She first went to work for Matthew Hiltzik, who ran a small New York-based PR firm and was noted for his ability to work with high-maintenance clients, including the movie producer Harvey Weinstein (later pilloried for years of sexual harassment and abuse–accusations that Hiltzik and his staff had long helped protect him from)…”

[snip]

“Kushner’s Office of American Innovation employed, as its spokesperson, Josh Raffel, who, like Hicks, came out of Matthew Hiltzik’s PR shop.”

31. Trump didn’t understand why Hicks wanted to protect ex-boyfriend Corey Lewandowski from bad press after he was fired for “clashing with Trump family members.”

“…Hicks sat in Trump Tower with Trump and his sons, worrying about Lewandowski’s treatment in the press and wondering aloud how she might help him. Trump, who otherwise seemed to treat Hicks in a protective and even paternal way, looked up and said, ‘Why? You’ve already done enough for him. You’re the best piece of tail he’ll ever have,’ sending Hicks running from the room.

32. Why Trump thinks his son-in-law can solve the Middle East crisis.

From Chapter Sixteen:

“…the president had been gleefully telling multiple people that Jared could solve the Middle East problem because the Kushners knew all the crooks in [Apartheid] Israel…”

33. Trump despised Sally Yates.

Also from Chapter Sixteen:

“To Trump, he was just up against Sally Yates, who was, he steamed, ‘such a cunt.'”

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, October 31, 2018
6:50 p.m.

Published in: on October 31, 2018 at 6:51 pm  Leave a Comment