Time Traveling with TCM

As the 2020 presidential election looms like a giant sword swinging over our collective heads, it’s difficult to know what to do.

Turn off and there’s the guilt, or eventual guilt, over whistling past the graveyard of American democracy.

Turn on and there’s the endless anger and non-stop memes (or worse) that pits US against THEM and saps whatever energy is left for I.

I’m with you Steph

What that leaves each of us with right now is individual choice, a sure sign that American democracy is not dead…yet.

That was reassuring for half the weekend because I, for one, scheduled a relaxing few days at home lying around, reading and catching up on the 75% of programming saved on the DVR that needs to be erased…at some point.

But then I turned on Turner Classic Movies

That seemed like a good idea because this month TCM is featuring 31 Days of Oscar.  What this means is that until March 2 every film scheduled on the network is a nominee or winner of Hollywood’s top prize.

Also featured: Ben Mankiewicz and his lush, thick hair #notjealous #veryjealous

For those of us worn out from the politics of it all popping up on the news, in social media and as a part of even the most generalized pop culture memes everywhere, that provides a virtual luxury vacation of escape.

You can ostensibly tune in at any time and be pretty sure you’ll have an all expenses paid trip of at least two hours into an alternate story reality much more preferable and a lot less toxic than the one we all currently reside in.

Ok Rhett… let’s say sometimes  just AS toxic

And I’m not just writing this because my dear friend, Pola Changnon, a fellow movie lover, was recently and very deservedly named general manager of the whole damned network several weeks ago.

Though partly I am.

Damn right!

At our celebratory dinner I couldn’t help but gush a little to her at how, in these trying times, it was such a relief to tune in TCM and, suddenly, get lured into a non-2020 narrative where there is no Twitter and usually not much in the way of anything Orange employed onscreen.

Even though any number of the films on TCM might be available to rent and/or purchase, somehow, when you think of doing that, you instantly say to yourself, I don’t have time to watch this!

But when they suddenly appear on Channel 256 (in LA of course) on your TV or screen of choice and you get hooked, hey, no one can blame you!

Margo’s got the right idea

To do so would be like getting down on someone for eating a slice of that already half eaten chocolate cake left out on the counter or helping yourself to a single drink at an open bar at anyone’s yearly holiday party and being met with a nasty stare by the “Church Lady.”

You’re entitled.  We’re all entitled.

But here’s the thing about escape.  Wherever you are, there you are.

At least that’s how it felt to me watching the classic, Oscar nominated movie, The Third Man on TCM this past Saturday afternoon.

* not directed by Welles

Foolishly thinking a 1949 film noir with Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles that I somehow had managed not to have ever seen all the way through could free me from the T***P era what I discovered was… um… NOanything but.

Based on a Graham Greene novella The Third Man is brilliantly photographed and edited, has a great twist and turn story, terrific acting and innovative directing, AND an unforgettable score.

It is also a perfect evocation of the moral dilemma we all face in the, okay let’s say it now, Trump Era.

AH!! DON’T SAY IT!!

Rather than transport us away into post World War II Vienna (Note: Though it literally does) it more effectively brings us right back to the question of 21st century individual choice.

That is to say, how to confront moral decay and, yeah, pure evil when we see it.

– The Third Man doesn’t have children in cages as a result of the whims of a powerful man but instead shows us kids locked in a hospital, dying of (Note: Okay, no spoilers here) because of the actions of a brilliantly clever (Note: Evil?) genius with no moral compass.

– The Third Man isn’t about an election and the loss of the rule of law but instead is about one writer/investigator challenged to make a defining moral choice in a sea of contradictory and sometimes but not ultimately confusing facts.

Figuring out the light from dark (bonus cool lighting)

 – The Third Man doesn’t have raging arguments between longtime neighbors and family members about right vs. wrong but it does ask us to consider whether our most loyal bestie from childhood can be good and evil at the same time and calmly consider how every one of OUR actions – past, present and future — has and will affect not just ourselves but the rest of the world as we know it.

Not bad for a half century plus old black and white feature where everyone but the American writer played by Joseph Cotten speaks with an accent, the Twitter-sphere didn’t exist and no mention at all is made of democracy, elections or the rise of the socialist left and/or the dictatorial repressive right.

But it does have Ferris Wheels!

A great classic movie is a little like a vintage piece of clothing you hold on to over the years.   As norms change you know that in a pinch it will perfectly fit some occasion, event of even era you are suddenly faced with.

It’s comforting, it’s clarifying but at the same time it also makes you think, sometimes of all sorts of things you might want to forget.

Or should remember.

That’s saying a lot for the days we’ve been living through and have yet to go through.

Anton Karas – Theme from The Third Man

Hostess with the Mostest

This year’s Oscars should be co-hosted by Wanda Sykes, Tiffany Haddish and Viola Davis. Wit, class, diversity and what the Motion Picture Academy most seems to be looking for – an expansion of its viewing audience.

That’s industry parlance for higher ratings

AKA MONEY #timetogetreal

I partly suggest this because I am so sick of men.  That’s quite a statement coming from a gay guy, but, trust me it’s true.  If I didn’t already have a husband I’d be taking a break.

After the Electoral College POTUS, Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Kevin Spacey and Les Moonves of it all we get…Kevin Hart as THE choice to host the annual TV show that gets the biggest ratings of the year?  Well, among the biggest ratings these days because that number has rapidly been decreasing, among so many numbers for network television.

I can’t

Still, this pick (rescinded two days later) says so much about the entertainment industry – in this case quite an apt stand-in for our immediate world – and its ability to perceive what’s going on in the zeitgeist.

That’s Chair parlance for reality.

Let’s be clear – I don’t want to get rid of all men, or shall I say, all straight men.  Some of my best friends are…

We know, Chairy.

I’m only advocating we, well… try to take a look around and through, inside and out, and up and over.

Kevin Hart.  If you want the full details of his tweets, have at it here.

But here’s a quick summary.  He’s admitted to being physically violent with his wife, even spent a night in jail for it.  There was also a sex tape of him cheating on her when she was eight months pregnant but let’s put that to the side because, well, who doesn’t cheat on their pregnant wife?

The Chair bringing the shade

Mr. Hart has joked more than once that if he caught his son playing with a doll house it would mean he was gay and he’d hit him over the head with it and say, stop it, that’s gay.  In fact, that’s gay or that’s so gay seems like it was his go-to twitter insult from, ok…2007-2011.  He even made an AIDS joke about Damien Wayans back then, saying his social media pic looked like a gay billboard for AIDS.

Explaining himself in a 2015 Rolling Stone interview, Mr. Hart said he wouldn’t do those jokes anymore because, the times, when I said it, weren’t as sensitive as they are now.

Yeah, we need to talk

See…this is the crux of the problem

For some people, the times only become sensitive when they get caught or called out for their… stuff.  Or as All in the Family’s Archie Bunker once eloquently stated nationwide on CBS –TV in the early 1970s:

She (Eleanor Roosevelt) was the one who discovered the coloreds in this country.  We never knew they was there!

When you talk crap so publicly so often and gain any sort of success or profile (Note: Or even if you are unknown and just say it too loud or to the wrong person) you get held accountable for your actions these days.

On the same token, when YOU are the one to bring up what someone said and challenge them on it it’s likely you will get called out in some corners for being the PC police. That pejorative is sort of like the alt-middle version of fake news but without the knee-jerk mass revulsion now finally beginning to be associated with Trumpism.

Yet, when we face the issue, we can see how one is the outgrowth of the other.

When someone tells you — Racism, sexism, homophobia – we just weren’t aware of this stuff pre 1960’s.  It was a different time – you can answer : Yeah, you did and well, sure it was.  What was different is that people didn’t make fun en masse about your minority group because you won the genetic lottery ticket of the moment that excluded you from marginalization.  (Note: Or you were in the majority).

So, big congrats on that.

To which they might answer:

But before we complain and lament about oversensitivity and political correctness – can’t we joke about anything, anymore??? 

“Everyone is just SO sensitive” says the white men who lament a “War on Christmas” #HappyHolidays

To which you reply:  Okay, but let’s look at what’s being asked for.  All that’s being asked for is – a look.

I got called out on social media this week by one woman who wrote that as a Jewish person she’s heard many celebrities go on anti-Semitic rants, including members of the LGBTQ community and that SHE never asked that they not work.

Oh lady, I haven’t had enough coffee to deal with you

Well, no one is saying Kevin Hart should never work.  I mean, I’m not hiring him but, hey… knock yourself out, he’s a movie star…ish.  He’s just not the right host for the Oscars.  Would you want Mel Gibson hosting the Oscars, lady???

Not to mention, you HAVE to know I’m Jewish.  Who else but a Jewish gay man from New York with the insatiable need to always have the last word would ever take the time to answer you back so incessantly, Ms. Laurie Freedman Fannin?!

Oh yes, that is her real name.  Look her up on Facebook.  Especially if you agree with me.  Please.

LOL, you shady Chair, you!!

The real point is, any of the above-mentioned information about Mr. Hart, et. al was available to the Academy through a quick Google search weeks, months and years before they made that choice.  You can be edgy, more than edgy, and still proceed with due diligence and basic consideration.

This is how we get to Wanda Sykes, Tiffany Haddish and Viola Davis.

Here for this!

All women in the #MeToo era.

All people of color in a year when Black Panther and BlackkKlansman seem like sure bet nominees (and perhaps winners in multiple categories).

Wanda Sykes – One of the best standups in the country who happens to be an out lesbian, thus satisfying the mantra of trying to get a comedian host and knowing there are also multiple LGBTQ themed films that will receive nominations.

I’m on my way!

Viola Davis – A past Oscar WINNER (Fences) and multi-nominee (The Help, Doubt) who has had a hit show, How to Get Away With Murder, on ABC (the network that also broadcasts the Oscars) for the past five years.

You know Annalise would slay #nobrainer

Tiffany Haddish – A younger comic actress who WON the prestigious New York Film Critics award last year for a breakout performance (Girl’s Trip) and now STARS in her own movies. In fact, her latest is the current box-office hit, Night School, where she gets to beat the crap out of Kevin Hart!

Heck knows, I’m not that smart.  I just put in a tiny bit of thought on the matter and used The Google.

You’d think the Academy would do the same.  Or would you?

Aretha Franklin – “Respect”