Revealing Quotes From Bill O’Reilly’s Keep It Pithy (Part Two)

“…Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote that ‘it takes a village’ to raise children.  My parents and their friends thought it takes parents.  They were sorry that some of my friends had maniacs for parents, but they didn’t interfere.  And they didn’t want anyone poking their nose in our house, either.” (SEVEN, pg. 76)

“…can I say that my father was always looking out for me?  No, I can’t…my father had demons that intruded on his parental duties…my father set a terrible example by inflicting unnecessary pain on his children.  He did not do this on purpose.  He simply could not control himself.” (SEVEN, pg. 77)

“…these kids have been taught one lesson very well in their twelve years of so-called schooling: They are not going to be held accountable for failure.  When you have a lot of people believing that, you’re in real trouble.” (SEVEN, pg. 78)

“NAMBLA’s website, as of this writing, is still up and running.

You don’t want to go there, I’m guessing.” (SEVEN, pg. 80)

[from O’Reilly’s Ten Commandments of Effective Parenting, first seen in Who’s Looking Out For You?]

“3. Parents who are looking out for their children will be under control in the house.  There will be no random violence, intoxication, sexual displays, uncontrolled anger, or vile language…If it is a chaotic mess, the parents are not looking out for the kids.


7. Rules will be enforced but explained.  Parents who truly look out for their kids understand that there are rules in society and that high standards of behaviour are the key to a successful life.  Rules are good.  But rules must have a logical objective…

8. Parents will be honest at all times.  Lead by example.  No lying, no cheating, no nasty gossip, no cruelty, no manipulating…”

9. Parents will be respectful of their parents.  Grandparent abuse or neglect is among the worst possible things a child can see.  This is a very important commandment.  You can’t effectively look out for your kids if you don’t look out for your folks.  (Even if they don’t deserve it.)” (SEVEN, pgs. 81-4)

[from O’Reilly’s lame, satirical “secular Ten Commandments”]

“ONE: Thou Shalt Not Make Any Judgment Regarding Most Private Personal Behaviour.  Man/Woman Is the Master/Mistress of the Universe and His/Her Gratification Is Paramount.” (EIGHT, pg. 89)

“Thanks to increased competition, you are now much more likely to hear all sides of a story.  Sometimes that’s more information and more scandal than you might want to hear, but it’s your right and your job as a citizen to face up to it.” (EIGHT, pg. 90)

“The reason that we wretches [journalists] are under so much suspicion is that we are perceived as being arrogant.  That charge is tossed my way often.  I’ll let you make the call.” (EIGHT, pg. 91)

“We have an obligation to report on school principals like the one in Plymouth County, Massachusetts, who refused to publicly discipline two students who engaged in oral sex on a school bus in full view of other young students.  I mean, what kind of message does an educator send when he believes disgraceful public conduct is a private matter?

The fourteen-year-old girl and the sixteen-year-old boy who humiliated themselves and corrupted other children most likely got their oral sex education from the entertainment media (or President Clinton).  We have an obligation to scrutinize show business and so-called ‘celebrities’ who behave disgracefully.  We have an obligation to hold the corrupters personally accountable.

But we are not doing it.  And because of this cowardice and apathy, the forces of darkness are allowed to go to the bank unchallenged and, at times, even glorified.” (EIGHT, pg. 91)

“You will rarely see an article written about me that does not describe me as ‘contentious,’ ‘bombastic’, ‘a blowhard,’ or ‘bullying.’  While that assessment may be accurate… (EIGHT, pg. 92)

“…you can go ahead and hose people all day long, amassing great wealth and power, but what, exactly, does that mean?  Nada, that’s what.  Note to the greed-heads and evildoers: You may be remembered for your misdeeds, but only as objects of ridicule or revulsion.” (EIGHT, pg. 93)

“…most bad people, out of cowardice or self-interest, attempt to disguise their evil.  Some get justice, but some do not.  For me, that’s the most frustrating part of life: seeing evil individuals continue to harm people with impunity.” (EIGHT, pg. 94)

“Sex is supposed to be a private activity between consenting adults who are honest with each other, sharing pleasure and affection, and then shut up afterward.

Men, if a woman shares her body, take it as a gift of affection, not proof that you’re stud of the month.

Ladies, if you said yes without being forced, then don’t brag to your coworkers or your homegals.” (NINE, pg. 98)

“Dykes on Bikes?  Take a hike!  Can’t you ‘express yourself’ without throwing it in our faces?

…I don’t want to have to try to explain why Jack is dressed up like Jill or Jill is wearing a buzz cut.  The kid shouldn’t have to be dealing with any sexual ideas at all, much less a couple of thousand folks marching around in drag or half-naked in order to ‘celebrate your sexuality.’  Give us all a break.  Express your sexuality where the rest of us do, if we have any sense: at home, with the blinds drawn.” (NINE, pg. 99)

“Like Ann Landers, I’ve come up with a little manual for dealing with the opposite sex…Bring on the cheek-to-cheek, the heavy petting, and the home runs, but not ever with any of the following prohibited, ridiculous lines:

He says,


‘Look, I just want to talk to you.  Nothing will happen if I come in.’ Lock the door.


She says,

‘Let’s be friends.’  Fine.  Date her best friend.

‘My sister’s got two beautiful kids.’  Whatever you do, do not have sex with this woman.

‘I’m not that kind of girl.’  Get the telephone number of her best friend right now.” (NINE, pgs. 103-4)

“I don’t tolerate victimizers or charlatans or liars or manipulators.” (NINE, pg. 109)

“…I have instituted the two-call rule…If I call a person twice and don’t receive a call back, that relationship is over.  I leave a short message saying that I will not be calling again.


“I want to deal only with people who are respectful of others, even in a casual setting such as a restaurant.  Be aware of how others are treating you and question that treatment if you feel it isn’t square.” (NINE, pg. 110)

“If you have to convince someone to be your friend, the concept of friendship falls apart.  Like love, you can’t force it.” (NINE, pg. 111)

“In my early years, I had no idea that I would rise so high in my career; nor did my friends.  They were betting on the penitentiary.” (NINE, pg. 111)

“For people like me…disaster is always in play, constantly present on the horizon…both my mother and father were possessed by a nagging fear that stuff would inevitably go wrong.

“..Americans born into wealth and power usually do not have that fear.  That’s because things always seem to work out for them.  Money buys security from harm and often can mitigate difficult situations.  Power, as we’ve discussed, leads to opportunities.” (TEN, pg. 118)

“Ms. [Rosie] O’Donnell demonizes anyone she disagrees with, and her musings are not to be questioned.” (TEN, pg. 119)

“Burt [Reynolds] took full advantage of Dallas [in 1977 while shooting Semi-Tough] with hot and cold running babes in his hotel suite and fleets of limos…I kind of liked him…But even I had enough smarts to see that he was headed for a fall.  He was too cocky to the wrong people…” (TEN, pg. 123)

“What kind of power does Oprah wield?  Well, Parade magazine reports that she makes $260 million a year.


Having that kind of money can literally drive a person crazy.


With everything almost instantly available, everything becomes rather ordinary.  For that reason, the ultrawealthy, if they are not ultracareful, can become bored, jaded, or, even worse, sadistic or self-destructive.  The awful behaviour of some celebrities and power brokers illustrates that point beyond a reasonable doubt.  Just ask Caligula.” (TEN, pg. 127)

“I know that sometimes I come off as ‘all about me.'” (ELEVEN, pg. 142)

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, April 23, 2017
2:42 a.m.

Published in: on April 23, 2017 at 2:42 am  Leave a Comment  

Revealing Quotes From Bill O’Reilly’s Keep It Pithy (Part One)

Four years before he would be shit-canned for being publicly exposed as a creepy serial harasser, famously self-absorbed and thin-skinned Bill O’Reilly released a silly, contradictory book called Keep It Pithy: Useful Observations In A Tough World.  (Spoiler: it’s mostly useless.)  At less than 150 pages, it’s also a shameless recycling of highlighted passages from five of his previous books (with occasionally new but brief comments on those same passages).  Basically, it’s a written version of The O’Reilly Factor, his once long-running Fox News Channel program that just got cancelled.

When The New York Times revealed a few weeks ago that O’Reilly and Fox had privately settled with a number of female employees who complained about his abusive, lecherous behaviour at work and on the phone (resulting in 13 million in payouts), following the departure last summer of the channel’s co-creator Roger Ailes who had his own legal problems with women, it set in motion a chain of events that led to the end of an era.  Hopefully, it will also end O’Reilly’s book career.  The man’s a fucking self-parody.

Looking back on it today, among other things, it’s hard not to notice the blatant hypocrisy of a man who claims to be a faithful Catholic who’s just “looking out for the folks” with the reality of who he actually is, a gross, lying, adulterous, cowardly, violent, overpaid bully who can’t keep his hands to himself or even live up to his own self-described “traditional values”.  (When he criticizes others, he’s really criticizing himself.) I mean, on page 30, there he is defending Bill Cosby’s now discredited “morality” lectures against the Black community right next to a photo of the comedian himself.

At any event, here are the most revealing quotes from Keep It Pithy (the bold passages are the new bits O’Reilly wrote as comments, lead-ins and exits to his previous words):

“Many publishers have asked me to simply reprint my past stuff.  I’ve always said no.  That’s because some of what I’ve written is obsolete.  Dated.  Not relevant to anything anymore.  That happens because life passes quickly and seasons change, to say the least.  What was fascinating five years ago may be very boring right now.” (INTRODUCTION, pg. ix)

“…Please keep in mind that in order to move forward, you have to look backward.  We all must understand what has happened in our lives, in the country, and in society in order not to repeat mistakes and, most important, so that we can find the most moral path to happiness and prosperity.”  (INTRODUCTION, pg. xi)

“Back in 2006, I had fun imagining in my book Culture Warrior a future State of the Union speech by a U.S. president named Gloria Hernandez.  Here’s a summary of that imaginary pol’s goals and philosophies:

“…a ‘one-world’ approach to foreign relations that would prevent the U.S. government from imposing a policy that would benefit America first…a touchy-feely vision of our society that places individual self-expression and rights over self-sacrifice and adult responsibility.”  (ONE, pg. 3)

“The brilliant men who forged the Constitution…also believed for both moral and practical reasons that the greater good must always take precedence over individual selfishness.” (ONE, pg. 4)

“Most of these quotes from my writings will require no explanation.  My core values have not fundamentally changed.

Too late now!” (ONE, pg. 5)

“The sad truth is that most high-profile media people are looking out for themselves and themselves alone. On any given day in Manhattan, you will see them dining in incredibly expensive restaurants with other powerful people.  You will see them at swanky parties and black-tie charity events.  You will see them at their lavish vacation homes in the Hamptons, Aspen, or Loudoun County, Virginia.  You will not see them at Wal-Mart.” (ONE, pg. 8)

“To this day, I keep these lessons close:

  1. Keep a clear head.  [That means avoid getting hammered as much as possible.]
  2. Don’t compromise when you know you’re right.
  3. Give most people the benefit of the doubt.
  4. Don’t fear authority.
  5. And definitely have a good time.” (ONE, pg. 10)

“…I know that true, unrepentant evil exists. And I firmly believe it will be punished…” (ONE, pg. 16)

“Many letters to The Factor give me clear road maps to the devil’s den – and suggest I’m headed there.” (FOUR, pg. 42)

“[The Catholic Church’s] leadership is made up primarily of elderly white men who have spent their lives playing politics and currying favour with the conservative zealots in the Vatican…[They’]re all men of guile, power players who enjoy their wealth and influence…who play the same kind of callous game – that is, amassing power and money while completely forgetting the mission that Jesus died to promote.” (FOUR, pg.43)

“With such leadership [in the Catholic Church], it should come as no surprise that the clerical sex scandal broke wide open.  With a few exceptions…Catholic leadership in America is made up of venal, self-absorbed men who embrace the daily philosophy of ‘cover my butt’.  When Cardinal Law learned of abusive priests, did he leap up in outrage, throw out the perverts, and call the cops?  No, he did none of those things, according to his own sworn testimony.  Instead, he kept the situation quiet so it wouldn’t hurt his standing in Rome.  Thus his solution to child molestation by his priests was to pay the victims off and have them sign a nondisclosure agreement…That policy, of course, led to the brutalization of hundreds more children, but did Law care?  He dodged and weaved and attacked the press until finally the evidence became so overwhelming that he was publicly humiliated…But even after the crimes and payoffs became public, the Vatican refused to take aggressive action against Law and the other perversion enablers.  And so the reputation of the Catholic Church in America arrived where it is today – completely down the drain.” (FOUR, pg. 44)

“My last word on religion is a practical one based on timeless logic: If you live your life subject to the rules of Judeo-Christian tradition…then you will do more good than harm on this earth.  You will love your neighbour and help other people out.  You will not do things that hurt others or yourself.” (FOUR, pg. 45)

“In helping me to determine right from wrong, good from evil, and trying to correct injustice, my Catholic faith is invaluable.


“Religion has been a very positive thing in my life.  Without it, I would never have been motivated to expose bad guys and celebrate heroism.  Most media people are self-interested and cautious.  But I see my job as much more than a big paycheck and a good table at the bistro du jour.  I am on a mission.” (FOUR, pgs. 46-7)

“Greed is the destroyer of success.  You cannot be creatively successful and greedy at the same time.  I’m talking about both material and emotional greed here.” (SIX, pgs. 57-8)

“The true heroes of America are not the new Internet billionaires or the overpaid sports stars and movie actors or the wise guys who jack up their companies’ stocks…The true heroes of America…go to work for a modest wage, fulfill their responsibilities to their families and friends, and are kind and generous to others – because that’s the right way to live…

But the rich and powerful have forgotten or never learned that bedrock truth.  Or they simply don’t care.

But forget them. 
Each of us is, to a large degree, in control of our own lives.
That includes me…” (SIX, pg. 59-60)

Self-indulgence, and especially harmful, debilitating self-indulgence, is not going to give you what you want.  It will keep you from getting what you want.” (SIX, pg. 60)

Kids seven to ten years old in Palmdale, California, were required by the school district to take a very disturbing sex survey.  Sample question: ‘How often do you think about sex?’  That’s not a misprint, folks.” (SIX, pg. 64)

Remember ‘Captain’ Lou Albano, the wrestler?  He always said, ‘This stuff is fake.  Don’t try it at home.’

So listen to me, someone whom you know from TV, when I say, ‘Be careful what you let your kids watch, and what they start to believe, if they fall for everything they see on TV.” (SIX, pg. 65)

“People basking in the spotlight – and I don’t just mean politicians – are forever presenting terrible examples to the children of America.” (SIX, pg. 66)

“…when they see other kids harming their bodies by drinking, smoking, taking drugs, or engaging in irresponsible sex, explain that these losers do not value themselves highly.  They’re doing themselves in because they’re unhappy about their lives; they don’t feel popular enough or attractive enough, so they fall for the short-term illusion of substance-induced kicks or cheap sexual thrills.” (SEVEN, pg. 73)

“History clearly demonstrates that without structure and accountability, human beings have a tough time staying on the rails…An effective person must incorporate discipline into his or her life, and a just society must demand responsibility from its citizens.” (SEVEN, pgs. 74-5)

“You can hope that you’ve raised someone who will join the forces of good in America, not a candidate for an entry-level job in the porno industry.” (SEVEN, pg. 75)

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, April 23, 2017
2:11 a.m.

Published in: on April 23, 2017 at 2:11 am  Leave a Comment  

Blair Witch

It’s clear right from the beginning that the cast of Blair Witch haven’t seen The Blair Witch Project.  As a result, they make the exact same mistakes as the doomed characters in the earlier film.

Strike that.  They do see the ending online, thanks to a couple of rednecks who post it on YouTube.  In no way, however, does watching this footage discourage them at all from what they’re about to do.

The fate of Heather Donahue’s character has long been an obsession of her paramedic brother, James (James Allen McCune).  Because her body was never found, he dumbly believes there’s still a chance she’s lost somewhere in the seemingly vast Black Hills Forest.  He was only four when she decided to make a documentary about the mysterious Blair Witch of Maryland.  Now a grown man, he foolishly decides to conduct a search party of his own.  The authorities were unable to locate her and her two fellow crew members, along with numerous other victims over the centuries.

His longtime pal, Peter (Brandon Scott), convinces mutual friend Lisa (Callie Hernandez), who’s making a documentary of her own, to come with them and cover the search.  Peter’s girlfriend, Ashley (Corbin Reid), tags along, as well.

Rewriting history a bit, we learn that the footage of Heather’s demise was discovered by Lane (Wes Robinson who looks like the love child of Miles Teller and Sean Penn) and his girlfriend Talia (Valorie Curry), not law enforcement.  The foursome make a stop at their house before hitting the forest to find out where exactly they made their discovery.  Curious themselves, Lane & his gal, who have lived in Maryland their entire lives, won’t divulge the location unless they get to join the party.  Peter, a black man, isn’t too thrilled with the idea especially after spotting the couple’s Confederate flag proudly displayed in their living room.

Despite clearly seeing someone else in the Heather video, James’s friends are highly skeptical of this Blair Witch business.  As Lane and Talia take them deep into Black Hills, they offer a little background.  One such story makes Peter laugh out loud.  Guess who the witch kills first.

As they make their way through a cold creek, Ashley steps on a piece of glass.  But even after her foot gets the first aid treatment, the cut never heals (in fact, it spreads up her leg) and she eventually falls ill.  After spending the night in their makeshift camp site, they awaken to discover those mysterious branch symbols from the first film and that it’s 2 p.m.  Freaked out, they all decide to leave, the one and only sensible decision they make.

But once Lane confesses that he and his gal pal made the symbols themselves, Heather’s brother and his friends suddenly aren’t so scared anymore and stupidly decide to go back.  The rednecks decide to bolt on their own.

But, of course, once you enter Black Hills Forest, you can never leave (unless you’re law enforcement or discover raw footage, apparently).  The original foursome learn this the hard way when they make a second attempt to leave.  Their hours of walking bring them right back to the camp site.  Eventually, the sun stops coming up.

A starved, fatigued Lane and his equally starved, fatigued girlfriend suddenly return at one point claiming they’ve been wandering around the forest completely lost for almost a week.  (It’s only been a day.)  Inevitably, the gang gets separated as one by one they disappear into nothingness.

Like The Blair Witch Project, all roads lead to the witch’s decrepit abode, the same place Heather discovered before she went missing.  (On a dark and stormy night, it curiously materializes out of nowhere.)  In fact, Lisa relives part of the original’s ending shot for shot before literally bumping into Heather’s brother who runs in first hoping to somehow find his sister in this rundown, wooden labyrinth.

Blair Witch is the third and hopefully final chapter of this disappointing series.  The overrated 1999 original was followed by a conventional dud called Book Of Shadows in 2000.  It’s clear the only reason we have number three nearly 20 years later is because the found footage horror genre, which The Blair Witch Project helped popularize, has long since gone mainstream mostly thanks to Paranormal Activity and Cloverfield.

With the notable exceptions of The Visit and The Last Exorcism, I have not been a chief supporter of these types of films.  They’re often contrived, not terribly scary and stupid.  Blair Witch very much resembles that remark.

Yes, the technology has advanced quite a bit since the original.  Instead of just camcorders and walkie talkies, this time around we also get earcams with GPS and even a drone that predictably gets stuck in a tree.  What we don’t get are interesting, intelligent characters and a clever story.

The movie isn’t as bad as it could’ve been because of a welcome lack of gore and the effective art direction.  But by God, how many false jump scares do we need to endure?  How many shaky, POV shots?  In order to have this ill-fated trip to the forest take place, the characters have to be mostly ignorant about the events of The Blair Witch Project.  If they do have a strong sense of history, we have no movie.  Smart people wouldn’t set foot in Black Hills.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, April 16, 2017
3:05 p.m.

Published in: on April 16, 2017 at 3:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

Liberal In Denial

A flamethrower with really bad timing
Out of touch with the angry masses
Stunned to once again be kicked to the curb
Impotently ranting as his time passes

Foiled by the shifting of the winds
Stuck in the past that will never return
Struggling to understand the new reality
Foolishly thought that it was her turn

An absolute master at collapsing bridges
So many relationships severed and torn
A downfall caused by pitiful decisions
A satisfying defeat that no one will mourn

Completely convinced of his own acumen
As arrogant as Margaret Thatcher
Two failed attempts to acquire modest power
You couldn’t even get elected dog catcher

Fatuous and lame, predictable and fake
A liberal who’s not very progressive
Dangerous positions rejected by most
Time to reach for that anti-depressive

When it all goes to shit you blame someone else
A sure sign of your chronic immaturity
How you long for a hero as dull as yourself
One who meets your criteria for purity

Racist and sexist without acknowledging such traits
Is the very definition of denial
Projecting your flaws onto those who oppose
You’re not noble at all, just vile

Contradictions abound when you lack consistency
Sometimes I wonder if you’re drunk
The glory days are over for you, I’m afraid
There’s no escaping this monumental funk

A verbal assailant who lives for the joust
But crumbles when challenged with facts
You can’t win with silence or petty retorts
You’re running out of retaliatory acts

Stop believing you’re on the inside
Such delusions make me laugh and cough
Some words of advice you need to hear
Do us a favour and kindly fuck off

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, April 15, 2017
4:00 p.m.

Published in: on April 15, 2017 at 4:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Plunge Into Darkness

Say good-bye to your negative thoughts
Stop giving them space to breathe
Don’t take the plunge into darkness
It’s too dangerous to believe

Illusions are powerful, especially when they’re sad
Giving in increases your stress
They only wound when you lose your focus
Stop living in a state of duress

Deep inside you know they’re lies
Deceptions dressed up as “proof”
They burrow deep inside your mind
It’s no wonder you act aloof

You’re drowning in shame, hiding your pain
Suffering for no reason at all
Take the first step to reverse your malaise
Refuse to take the fall

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, April 14, 2017
6:56 p.m.

Published in: on April 14, 2017 at 6:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Prince Of Dumbness

I’m not fooled by your latest pose
The smell of bullshit right under my nose
A backroom stooge who’s forgotten his place
A sexist past you’ll never erase

Born again “feminist”? Don’t make me laugh
After all, you’re the king of the avoidable gaffe
Remember the cartoon on your stupid blog?
Impulsiveness is the curse of the glory hog

When it comes to Palestine, you’re in denial
What passes for thinking is frankly juvenile
An entire population seems to disappear
Because without the status quo, you have no career

Funny how Igor thinks he’s Dr. Frankenstein
You’re oh so progressive except for Palestine
Does their suffering not matter? Help me understand
Do you approve of the thieving of their homeland?

The master strategist once had the golden touch
But one campaign decision proved to be too much
All it took to cause such fatal devastation
Was making a false claim of transit segregation

Shortly thereafter, he was out of a job
Which gave him more time to be a cultural snob
Yet another cruel lesson that won’t be learned
When you create your own fires, expect to be burned

A paper sniper who lives for the pointless feud
But beware what you say or you’re gonna get sued
Your neutrality on Iraq was so incredibly brave
I didn’t know you had a reputation to save

A myopic centrist lost in his own hype
Backed another loser who couldn’t sell her own tripe
Just like him, he thought she was a winner
Imagine his shock when both were done like dinner

How much longer before you finally realize
That no one believes your new phony disguise
You care more for winning than doing what’s right
The Prince Of Dumbness, so ballless and slight

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, April 12, 2017
8:29 p.m.

Published in: on April 12, 2017 at 8:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

Purple Rain

Purple Rain is all about seduction, how it spots you in the crowd, seeks you out and grabs you until you can’t resist despite some understandable reservations.  Look past the appealing surface and you will see uncomfortable darkness.  But it’s not so easy to let go.

It’s how The Kid attracts the immediate attention of Apollonia, even if he doesn’t always treat her with respect.  It’s how the womanizing Morris Day lures her with a career push even though she isn’t the slightest bit attracted to him.  It’s how he convinces the owner of the First Avenue club to consider dropping The Kid’s back-up band, The Revolution, as a regular act in favour of a girl group he’s putting together.

It’s how The Kid’s abusive father keeps his terrified mother from fleeing.  It’s why The Kid can’t help but imitate his misogynistic behaviour.  It’s how The Kid keeps The Revolution together despite grumblings about his tardiness, cold demeanour and not being open to band members’ song ideas.  And it’s how he captivates club audiences with his considerable charisma and untouchable musicianship, an indisputable fact that even Morris Day & The Time, Dez Dickerson and Apollonia 6 can’t deny.

It seems a bit of a stretch that Prince as The Kid would ever consider Day, as funny and as talented as he is in his own right, serious competition (are Jungle Love and The Bird, catchy dance members notwithstanding, even remotely in the same league as Let’s Go Crazy and When Doves Cry?) or that his audience would ever decrease but cinematic convention demands such a plot.  (His unwarranted jealousy of Day getting too close to Apollonia, however, is easily convincing.  He really doesn’t have anything to worry about.)  To the film’s credit, though, when The Kid’s club gig is on the line in the final act, it leads to the deeply moving title song where for once the audience’s tears feel genuine.  God knows it got to me, too.

Apollonia is a 19-year-old beauty who flees New Orleans, successfully avoids paying for a $37.75 cab ride, rents a room at the Huntington Hotel and manages to sneak her way into First Avenue where she becomes immediately transfixed by The Kid.  (She did not deserve a Razzie for her underappreciated performance.  Her facial reactions are spot-on.)  It helps that he’s in the middle of playing perhaps the greatest Prince song of all time, Let’s Go Crazy, which is a lot longer here than on the soundtrack.

After his set, when they lay eyes on each other for the first time on the floor of the club, the lust is palpable.  But so is The Kid’s eccentric playfulness.  As Morris Day & The Time take the stage, the odd one is right behind her one minute and then gone in an instant when she turns around.  He eventually convinces the naive goddess to ride with him on the back of his motorcycle where he drives her to a lake and in a very humourous moment, tricks her into stripping down to her panties in order to jump into the freezing cold water.  She’s mad but only briefly.  You got me, you sexy motherfucker.  Her shy smile gives her away.

His home life is much more turbulent.  The Kid has a terrible role model in his black father (a genuinely scary Clarence Williams III), a former musician and songwriter, who gets into terribly violent screaming matches with his petrified white mother (a mostly muted Olga Karlatos).  (The Kid gets whacked for attempting to intervene during an early fight.)  After one such incident, she threatens to leave.  But where would she go?  The Kid’s dad, often upset about her supposed inability to keep a clean house (what’s stopping him from doing it himself?), knows it’s a bluff.

The Kid knows this shouldn’t be happening but when Apollonia announces she’s joining Morris Day’s girl group, in a rage he smacks her with an open hand.  (She had just pawned a piece of jewelry so she could buy him a guitar he likes.)  Unlike his father, he’s instantly remorseful but a damaging pattern has been established.  A later confrontation sees him almost doing it again but he somehow manages to not follow through.  Like many abusive men, The Kid’s father attempts suicide after another unwarranted attack on his wife.  This leads to a violent temper tantrum, a surprise discovery, an exposed lie, and decidedly mixed feelings.

All of this built-up tension makes the performance of Purple Rain, the epic ballad he dedicates to his father, all that more powerful as The Kid, clearly realizing he fucked up, leaves it all out on the stage, but thinking afterwards, incredibly, that it just wasn’t enough either for the audience or Apollonia herself.  The film cuts between Prince’s gutwrenching vocals (you can feel his guilt in every note) and intense close-ups of the mesmerized clubgoers, some with tears in their eyes.  (I was emotional, too.)

My favourite reactions come from the club owner Billy (the effective Billy Sparks), particularly the second one where he nods in amazement.  Even he is impressed by what he’s seeing and hearing.  Having pushed The Kid to deliver the goods, he now knows he can’t fire him.  He’s too valuable to the club.

When The Kid returns for a more upbeat and triumphant two-song encore, even Morris Day is having a good time.  (Before even taking the stage, there’s a great moment where he cruelly (but hilariously) mocks The Kid’s family situation and then when no one is around, looks very worried about what’s to come.  It’s the only time he drops his phony playboy act, his metaphorical mask temporarily removed.)

Purple Rain is far from a perfect movie.  The camera is too tight on the famous Jungle Love dance.  (The leg movements are cut off.)  Even though there are no bad Prince songs (I even liked Sex Shooter, another undeserving Razzie “winner”) few are in the class of Let’s Go Crazy, When Doves Cry or the title cut.  We could be spared the scene where Day’s assistant Jerome disposes of an angry flame on his behalf (not all of The Time’s frontman’s antics are funny, in fact, he can be quite sexist).  The Kid’s mom is purely a victim and not enough of a fully fleshed character.  And you wonder if there should’ve been a darker ending.  Abusers are too easily forgiven in this movie.

That said, there’s no denying the deftness of this enterprise, the way the highly entertaining concert performances neatly tie in to the building off-stage drama, a point Gene Siskel first made back in 1984.

Prince was a unique talent in his time, a singer, a songwriter, a producer, a versatile musician who could shred as well as Jimi Hendrix and emote as powerfully as Smokey Robinson.  He could even out-James Brown James Brown.  (His on-stage athleticism had few peers like Michael Jackson.)  But he was also complex as evidenced by his thinly veiled cinematic alter-ego.  Note one weird scene where he pretends to be a puppet to dismiss Revolution bandmate Wendy’s early demo which he eventually turns into Purple Rain and another when he tries to kiss her cheek as a belated thank you during the live performance of that song.  Her awkward reaction is unmistakable.

Distant, indifferent and sometimes flat-out jerky, like Saturday Night Fever, Purple Rain’s protagonist isn’t a hero or a villain but a complicated human being struggling to stay sane and ruthlessly ambitious in the midst of so many bad influences.  Like the dance floor where Tony Manero shined in his famous white polyester suit, the First Avenue concert stage is The Kid’s most trusted shelter from his emotional firestorms.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, April 10, 2017
7:48 p.m.

CORRECTIONS:  The club is First Avenue, not 7th as I erroneously noted a number of times.  Also, it was Wendy, not Lisa, who Prince dismisses over a demo that forms the musical basis for the title song.  The text has been corrected.  My apologies for the mistakes.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
2:04 a.m.

CORRECTION:  Apollonia didn’t find a cheap apartment, she rented a room at the Huntington Hotel.  The text has been corrected.  I regret the error.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
3:37 a.m.

Published in: on April 10, 2017 at 7:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

Class Of 1984

In Class Of 1984, Perry King plays Mr. Norris, a music teacher not unlike architect Paul Kersey in Death Wish.  Both are idealistic in their non-violent principles to the point of heartbreaking blindness.  Both are men of peace unknowingly entering worlds of terror that severely test their personal philosophies.  Both are vulnerable to retribution because of the women they love.  And both reach their breaking points over the same thing.

The movie opens with Mr. Norris arriving at Abraham Lincoln High School on his first day.  Despite being the originator of Kurt Angle’s 3 I’s (“Industry, Intelligence, Integrity”), it is a troubled institution in serious decline.  The biology teacher (Roddy McDowell) carries a gun in his briefcase.  Students enter through a metal detector.  The place is littered with vulgar graffiti.  And no one seems to know what to do about Stegman (Timothy Van Patten) and his terrifying group of Nazi terrorists.  (Yes, the leader of a small group of unrepentant white supremacists is Jewish, a curious contradiction never ever addressed.)  Countless suspensions have only emboldened their criminal activities.

Stegman rules by fear and profits from depravity.  He is one of the most remorseless villains I’ve ever seen.  (Even the rapists in Wes Craven’s The Last House On The Left regretted murdering those girls.)  No one scares him and no one threatens him without consequence.  He is so arrogantly brazen that even after impressing Mr. Norris with his surprisingly good piano playing (Van Patten wrote and performed his own song), like the current President of the United States, he can’t accept being rejected for exhibiting such a snotty, rude attitude.  Mr. Norris, it turns out, is no pushover.  For the first time in his life, Stegman starts feeling insecure about his status.  He may no longer be untouchable.

Class Of 1984 doesn’t shy away from brutal violence as it repeatedly demonstrates just how menacing Stegman’s crew truly is.  Very briefly we meet a rival gang of black students who make the mistake of selling drugs at Lincoln High.  This means profits are down considerably for the white supremacists who also exploit teenage sex workers.  Stegman’s terrorists beat up one of their dealers in the school washroom and then later, they whollop the entire gang with weapons in an outdoor rumble near a bridge.  As a result, we never see these black kids again.

Give this movie credit.  It gets this point right.  Right wing fascism is the most dangerous phenomenon.

As Mr. Norris prepares his students for an important concert, Stegman oversees a bathroom drug deal that goes horribly wrong.  A bad batch of angel dust leads to a dramatic suicide.  Michael J. Fox (before he had to add the J to his name) plays the smart-ass yet sympathetic trumpet player who tries to warn his doomed friend about his misguided plan.  Even though Mr. Norris confronts the gang shortly after the deal goes down, he hopes Fox will still come forward since he saw everything.  Fox knows better.  Just to make sure, Stegman and company deliver a compelling reason for him to stay quiet.

When a paranoid Stegman wrongly thinks that Fox is exposing him to a cop (Al Waxman in a fine supporting performance), a new recruit is ordered to stab him.  The gang cleverly instigate a cafeteria brawl to avoid the possibility of eyewitnesses.  But Fox eventually gives up the name from his hospital bed to his increasingly concerned teacher.

Mr. Norris’ initially peaceful resistance to Stegman’s sense of entitlement begins a war that ultimately escalates exactly the way you expect it to.  First, stage blood is squirted into his face just steps from his house.  A childish warning.  Then, his car gets blown up.  A more ominous message.  In a scene that somewhat echoes a similar moment in Dirty Harry, after mocking his infuriated teacher’s normally zen nature, Stegman purposefully bashes his own head a number of times in the bathroom and wipes his blood on his enemy’s hand hoping the incoming school security guard will connect the dots.  (Norris does get charged with assault.)  Still stubbornly thinking you can reason with a teenage fascist enabled by a delusional, passive single mom, it’s only after being directly threatened by this monster that Norris starts to finally crack.  Stegman’s beautiful red convertible gets quite a thrashing in his apartment building parking lot.  This time, Norris is the untouchable one.

Norris’ friend, the shell-shocked biology teacher, who literally drinks on the job because he can’t cope with having unresponsive students, undergoes a similar breakdown much sooner than Norris.  When Stegman’s Nazis kill all his rabbits and rats, he finally has a reason to pull out that gun in class.  Later, he attempts to run them all over outside their club hangout where Teenage Head performs.

When we find out early on that Norris has a pregnant wife (executive producer Merrie Lynn Ross), it’s only a matter of time before she’s assaulted.  (Her refusal to go to her mother’s house immediately is predictable but tragic nonetheless.)  It is easily the most disturbing scene in the film.  But without its inclusion, the final act wouldn’t work.

After being lured into a violent trap just as he’s about to begin conducting his students during that important school concert, Norris finally realizes you can’t reason with a Nazi.  You have to kill them all.

Adolf Hitler famously said that if Germans had quashed his racist movement before it ever rose to power, he wouldn’t have succeeded in orchestrating one of the worst genocides in human history.  Class Of 1984 feels the same way about its own teenage Nazis.  It fully understands the insidious nature of their violent white supremacy.  They don’t respond well to hippie talk.  Despite suspension after suspension handed down by an otherwise hapless principal who looks like Mr. Roper and a police officer who can only do so much within the law (these juvenile delinquents can’t serve life sentences despite their long rap sheets), the only real deterrent is brutal force, especially since they refuse to end their relentless bullying.

Mr. Norris is left with no alternative but to singlehandedly defend himself, his wife and his unborn child as he lays deadly, spontaneous traps of his own for these despicable heels who deserve everything they get.  It’s a testament to how well crafted this film is that I loudly cheered for him every step of the way.  He’s fully justified in his actions.

Class Of 1984 is a gruesome B-movie with some surprising intelligence and skill despite its predictable plot and lousy theme song.  (Maybe Alice Cooper should’ve written his own cut instead of singing someone else’s weak number.)  Decades after its release, its seemingly overwrought warning about the rise of school violence in America has become sadly prescient.  Imagine how even scarier Stegman and his band of bullies would’ve been if they had access to guns like the Columbine killers.

The terrific Timothy Van Patten is so obnoxiously deceptive and manipulative, so disgustingly sexist and hateful, every time you see his smug expression you want to punch him.  You eagerly look forward to seeing his inevitably turbulent fall.  Thanks to his musical talent and unspoken Jewish heritage, Stegman ends up being a much more interesting villain than you expect.  His sharp performance reminded me a bit of the blond bully who torments Ralph Macchio in The Karate Kid, which sadly hasn’t aged as well as this film.  His fellow gang members are all well played by mostly unknown Canadian actors who wisely present themselves as cheerful sadists with no moral lines to cross because they don’t believe in restraint.  It’s clear as the movie progresses that, without fierce resistance, it’s only a matter of time before they become savage murderers.

Perry King is well cast as their arch nemesis, a decent man whose increasingly volatile situation demands increasingly hostile responses and therefore, the erosion of his core values.  That erosion, however, is necessary to his survival even if it blackens his once peaceful soul.  Roddy McDowell is also good as the crestfallen biology teacher who feels absolutely broken by his lack of scholastic progress.  (He could’ve been given funnier lines in his earlier scenes, though, which are far less heavy.)  Although he initially advises Norris to go along to get along to avoid crossing Stegman and company, once his lab animals are massacred he becomes unhinged.

We’re told over and over again that it’s next to impossible to implicate Stegman’s gang in any number of crimes they commit because of the lack of cooperative witnesses.  But even despite that, they’re able to avoid serious prison sentences because of the numerous legal loopholes for young offenders like them.

What about DNA?  It’s never mentioned.  Then again, proper forensic testing wasn’t widely available as it is today.  But never mind.

What matters is that this is a well-crafted thriller, terrifying in its message and oh so satisfying in its resolution.  Like Quentin Tarantino’s far superior Inglourious Basterds, Class Of 1984 knows full well that the only good Nazi is a dead one.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, April 8, 2017
2:44 p.m.

Published in: on April 8, 2017 at 2:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

Beverly Hills Cop

It’s been 25 years since I first watched Beverly Hills Cop with critical eyes.  The passage of time has not been kind to it.

Back in the summer of 1992, a rough first draft was written immediately after a Beta screening for a rightfully unpublished collection of poorly conceived reviews humbly titled The Movie Critic: Book One.  At the time, I felt the movie was average.  I praised Eddie Murphy’s performance but disliked the weak villain and the numerous cop movie cliches.  Curiously, I even panned Harold Faltermeyer’s memorable score.  I called it “unexciting” and that it didn’t “match what’s happening on the screen”.

That last observation (which honestly doesn’t sound all that sincere since the review was written fast without much forethought and left unrevised) was obviously, indisputably wrong.  The best thing about Beverly Hills Cop is, in fact, the music and not just Faltermeyer’s electronic contributions.  From Glenn Frey’s The Heat Is On during the opening titles to a reprise of Patti LaBelle’s Stir It Up during the closing ones, there isn’t a single bad music cue.  It all works.

But this isn’t a feature-length music video, as much as it seems like one at times.  No, it’s supposed to be a cop comedy.  But sadly, it’s not a very good one.  What I once felt was just so-so is now rather terrible.  It turns out the teenage me went too easy on this disappointing, unoriginal mess.

Murphy plays Axel Foley, a reckless Detroit detective who has a natural talent for pissing off authority.  After a foolish, unauthorized sting operation involving would-be cigarette smugglers goes completely haywire, he gets the first of many reprimands which grow tiresome over time.

After parking his decrepit Chevy Nova outside his apartment building that same day, he finds his old friend Mikey (James Russo) already inside eating his food.  Newly released from prison, they catch up over drinks and pool.  It must be said that their repartee feels very forced.  Like his friend, we learn that Foley was once on the other side of the law.  They used to steal cars together.  Mikey could’ve implicated his childhood friend over one such incident but never did.

Foley’s pal had a job working security for a Beverly Hills art dealer named Victor Maitland (Steven Berkoff), a typical foreign villain of the 80s who always looks suspicious because of his resting bitch face and European accent.  (He also has a very distracting bump on his forehead.  It looks like a zit that needs to be popped.)  Of course, the art business is a front for his real scheme, smuggling cocaine.  Mikey makes the mistake of stealing a bunch of German money from his boss which catches up to him once the old, now drunken friends arrive back at Foley’s apartment.

Confronted by a couple of Victor’s goons about the stolen Deutsche Marks, Foley’s pal gets beaten and popped.  Foley can’t do anything about it because moments before the hit, he gets knocked out from behind.  Considering how this movie ends, they should’ve shot him, too.

After another scolding from his superior (because he refuses to get checked out at the hospital and wants to investigate his friend’s homicide), Foley is granted a vacation to Beverly Hills where he hopes to get some answers without being constantly hassled.

Fat chance of that.  After his first confrontation with Victor who is not a very good liar (or much of a villain in his limited screen time), he gets thrown through a glass window (a baffling moment) and arrested by the local police.  Immediately and inevitably, he butts heads with his ill-equipped interrogators, Taggart (John Ashton) and Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) who are so straight they don’t even drink on the job.  (Also inevitable is how they will all eventually find themselves on common ground.)

After Taggart loses his temper and punches Foley in the stomach, their boss (the great Ronny Cox in a role that is very much beneath him) asks if their Detroit visitor will press charges.  In one of the few real moments of this very formulaic story, Foley admits, “Where I come from, cops don’t charge other cops.”  So true.  Just ask Black Lives Matter.

Taggart and Rosewood are ordered to tail Foley wherever he goes (Cox is concerned about his obsession with Victor), a simple task made difficult because they’re frequently and easily outsmarted.  (Even their replacements can’t do this without running into problems.)  Before we suffer through all of that unfunny nonsense (stuffing bananas in a tailpipe?), Foley reconnects with another old friend, Jenny (lovely Lisa Eilbacher), who runs a gallery owned by Victor, and informs her about the demise of their mutual childhood chum.  Stunned by the news, she ultimately helps him get into the warehouse Mikey worked at where the drugs are being hidden.  The lack of tight security there is rather alarming.  Our hero walks right in undetected.

Eventually spotted by a security guard, Foley absurdly pretends to be some kind of outraged customs inspector which allows him to get a closer look at the operation.  It seems highly unlikely he would get away with this in the real world.  Truthfully, you could say that about a lot of his scenes in this movie.  Whenever Foley assumes a different persona (fast-talking cigarette smuggler trying to implicate real ones, pissed off customs inspector surreptiously seeking evidence of drug smuggling, outraged Rolling Stone reporter trying to get a room in a fancy hotel, effeminate herpes sufferer trying to get into a private club lunch), you see right through the charade.  One wonders why none of the other characters do.

Because Beverly Hills Cop is much more interested in Eddie Murphy’s famously phony laugh (which I now find grating) and sometimes improvisational dialogue (which is often high energy but rarely humourous now), the double revenge plot is almost besides the point.  It’s clear where we’re headed (even though it takes too long to get there) and there’s no suspense about the outcome.

Victor Maitland could’ve easily been a Bond villain considering how inept he is at doing the obvious thing.  When Foley and Jenny get caught opening up a shipment crate finding those bags of cocaine hidden under some coffee grounds (a practice done to throw off sniffing guard dogs), instead of an immediate double execution, Victor has Jenny kidnapped to his gated mansion and leaves behind his punch happy goons to beat on Foley, one of whom admits to killing Mikey (guess what happens to him).  Despite taking his sweet-ass time to intervene, a hesitant Rosewood, now an ally who Foley orders to wait outside in a parked car, is still able to avert disaster in plenty of time.

That leads to the most proposterous sequence in the film, the big final shoot-out at Victor’s sprawling residence.  While Victor’s goons rain down machine gun fire without once connecting with their targets, they’re somehow easily picked off by one shot from a six-shooter or a pistol.

Beverly Hills Cop was a major turning point for Eddie Murphy.  Already a breakout star for years on Saturday Night Live, this film, his fourth, would convince him to leave the show for good and never look back.  A huge moneymaker at the time, it somehow also convinced critics it was worthy of significant praise.

It isn’t.  33 years after its initial theatrical release, beyond the music and the three times I laughed, there’s not much else to like about it.  (Yeah, it’s fun seeing a truck plow into shit but aren’t a lot of those cars owned by poor black folks who can’t afford to replace them?)  Murphy’s performance is all over the place and rarely convincing.  (Roger Ebert, a rare dissenter, correctly noted in 1984 that he isn’t an action hero.)  Ashton & Reinhold are never funny.  The villain is overly generic and remarkably vulnerable despite his wealth and social standing.  He has so much to lose upon exposure and yet his security detail is easily beatable.  It’s simply not believable that no one in Beverly Hills, not even the police force, would only see him as an outstanding citizen with nothing to hide.  He’s not exactly charming.

It’s weird that Axel Foley, a black man in a predominantly African American city, doesn’t appear to have any black friends.  Both Mikey and Jenny are white.  And it’s also odd that he doesn’t encounter any racism in the film.  (Most of the strange looks he gets from the Beverly Hills rich is for his broken down car making them more classist than anything else.)  In the scene set in that fancy Beverly Hills hotel (where a room for one costs you over 200 dollars a night), he’s refused not because of his dark pigmentation but because he hasn’t made a reservation.  It’s only because he causes an embarrassing scene that they manage to somehow find him something.

Ebert was right.  That scene in itself isn’t funny for a whole lot of reasons.  And yet overall, he gave this movie two and a half stars out of four.  If you ask me, he gave it one star too many.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, April 2, 2017
4:31 p.m.

Published in: on April 2, 2017 at 4:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

Alone In The Shade

I wanna get paid
But I can’t get hired
I wanna get laid
But I’m just not desired
I’m growing dismayed
Frustrated and tired
I’m not making the grade
And I’m feeling more wired

I’m fed up with being played
I’d rather be inspired
It’s so much easier to evade
Let this anxiety be retired
They just aren’t swayed
Even after I enquired
They want me to fade
Has my luck finally expired?

Alone in the shade
Shaken and perspired
Execution stayed
But too late to be rewired
How do I persuade
While hopelessly mired
I thought I had it made
Now I don’t know what’s required

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, March 10, 2017
4:04 a.m.

Published in: on March 10, 2017 at 4:04 am  Leave a Comment