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Washtenaw Flaneurade
12 October 2010
Karlsefni? Beringians?
Now Playing: Japandroids--"Heart Sweats"

Getting back into a bloggerly swing of things will be awkward, painful and bloody, and may involve a great deal of self-indulgent rambling. So nothing new there, then. Ann Arbor area residents, for example, may find the recent news that David Arquette and Courtney Cox have split up both distressing and pertinent. One wonders if factions will develop among the townspeople who've taken our most famous recent part-time immigrants to heart. I think that might have been "several weeks ago," but you never can tell. I'm also pretty sure it wasn't my co-worker's fault, but again, I have no proof one way or the other.

Yesterday saw both National Coming Out Day and Columbus Day. I'm wholeheartedly in support of the former--to the point where I consider further comment unnecessary--and somewhat conflicted about the latter. I've often found wholesale liberal condemnation of European explorers for the crimes that followed their exploits (and often accompanied them) ahistorical and counterproductive. I remember getting in an extremely silly and circular argument with one friend a decade back who probably just enjoyed watching my brow furrow (maybe literally--I should have been more proactive with her). If Columbus had known that smallpox would wipe out millions because he was bad at math and geography, would he have still done what he'd done? Probably, and just as probably invented some spurious religious justification for doing so. It still leaves a slightly uneasy taste in one's mouth, especially as the critics often turn out to be as teleological and reductionistic as the unthinking cheerleaders for European supremacy. With all that said, though, the talk of a "National Reconsideration Day" finds a willing supporter in this blogger, as more thought and reflection on the history those of us with European ancestry (even if, or especially if, we might have Native American ancestry as well) share with their fellow Americans without, could hardly hurt, especially in times such as this when political extremes (or, to be accurate, one political extreme) hogs the headlines and airwaves with screams of "socialism" and "immigration." So bring on National Reconsideration Day--just make sure you don't solely rely on either Francis Parkman or Dee Brown in discussion (excellent though both are in their ways).

George Kennedy, Murder on Location (1983): My college friend and future roommate Mark's roommate Geoff's friend whose name I can't remember (see how this kind of thing starts?) came to visit Roanoke one weekend in '94 or '95 and we got into a couple of surprisingly vigorous arguments. One was on the relative merit of Phil Ochs and the other on whether or not George Kennedy was a good actor. I would have thought the man's decades-long dependability and Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Cool Hand Luke would have sealed the deal, but apparently not. I wound up astonishing myself over my vehemence in Kennedy's defense, but it was next to impossible for me to understand how he could have caused such offense. When I noticed his 1983 murder mystery on the fifty-cent shelves at Dawn Treader a couple of months ago, I immediately jumped at the opportunity, even though it took me a mystifyingly long time to finish. How could I turn it down? "Actor George Kennedy stars in a new role as sleuth--when murder on the set turns the cast into corpses!" The high-profile Western The Godless is filming in Mexico and the hopes and fears of many ride thereon--the much buzzed-about picture is due to signal the return of the Western (represented at that time, from what I remember, by 1981's The Legend of the Lone Ranger--a turkey I actually saw in the theater--and 1982's Barbarosa, with Willie Nelson and Gary Busey), a little wish-fulfillment, I suspect, on Kennedy's part. Filming is already tense and nervous enough without cast and crew starting to get all murdered and shit, but the latter they do, and it falls to Kennedy and a wisecracking former New York cop-turned-character actor to suss out the villain.

Now, I didn't think it would be bad, not the kind of godawful celebrity-penned potboiler I'm pretty sure I've never read. I certainly didn't reckon it would be good, either. It's in the middle--not exactly groundbreaking, but a fun, brisk entertainment that serves more than anything else as a showcase for its author's proudly square-but-fair personality. Kennedy comes across as a regular-but-savvy Joe tossed in the middle of a seething, churning Hollywood maelstrom and forced to pry himself loose with the help of common sense and an unusually detailed knowledge of airplanes (Kennedy is apparently a trained and enthusiastic pilot in "real life"). There are sleazy reporters, tough broads, wide-eyed ingenues, gay matadors (yep), and cameo appearances from real-life actors like Glenn Ford, Raquel Welch, Dean Martin, and Mariette Hartley (yep--last  one's the coolest, unsurprisingly). Along the way, Kennedy takes time to dish about the problems with "Hollywood these days" (what must he think of the present, I wonder?), as well as debate with neo-Nazi pilots and kvetch about his kids' "godawful music." It's a forty-proof hoot enlivened considerably by detailed and relevant knowledge about how filming works on big-budget Hollywood films (at one point he has to take over directing, and I suspect he would have done fine in "real life"). It's great to find an actor I greatly admire (and who was, by all accounts, widely respected offscreen) doing such a good job in other forms of entertainment. A great way to while away a Sunday afternoon, even if it took me around three or four.


Posted by Charles J. Microphone at 12:37 PM EDT
Updated: 13 October 2010 12:18 AM EDT
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