Year 9, Day 5 - 1/15/17 - Movie #2,505
BEFORE: Let me try to forget that "Ishtar" ever happened. I mean, I can't really do that, it's a matter of public record now, plus it's part of my count. I can't just have a hole in the numbers, a blank space on a page, and anyway that would throw off my numbering for the month, and then for the year. So let's treat "Ishtar" like one of those cold, dark, post-solstice winter days - you almost can't stand how depressing it is that the sun goes down around 4 pm, or that's what it feels like anyway, plus you feel the cold down deep in your bones, but then you realize that it's going to start getting dark a little later each day, so eventually we'll climb out of this, and even though we haven't hit the worst of winter weather yet, at least we know that in just a few months there will be more light and it will start to get warm again. So let's just keep going, shoulder on and things have just got to get better, because they can't get much worse.
Warren Beatty carries over again tonight - TCM had him hosting their screening of "Heaven Can Wait" and "Reds" last night, referring to him as a "Quadruple Threat" (that's someone who was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Actor and Writing for the same film), then I'll have to follow another link, but at least I can circle back and cross off another Gene Hackman film tomorrow.
THE PLOT: An ambitious reporter gets into trouble while investigating a senator's assassination, which leads to a conspiracy involving a multinational corporation.
AFTER: Being a story that involves a mysterious espionage organization, the tendency here is to connect this films to such classics as "North by Northwest" and "The Manchurian Candidate" - and I'm not saying such connections would be wrong, but both of those films were released before the Kennedy assassination (and later in that decade, the shootings of RFK and MLK). So this film clearly also shows the echoes of the JFK conspiracy, right or wrong. Perhaps it's prominent in my brain because I recently watched the episode of "Mad Men" that centered on Kennedy's shooting, and the events that followed soon after, with Jack Ruby killing Lee Harvey Oswald in public, and that event was accidentally broadcast on live TV. There were probably some kids watching, and that does affect young minds - how do you explain something like that to kids?
But like "The Conversation", there's probably a fair amount of influence here from the whole Watergate thing too. Conspiracy films were a big deal in the 1970's, like "Three Days of the Condor" was another one, leading up to "All the President's Men", which came from the same director as tonight's films. You really can pick up on the vibe that the American people just didn't trust the govmint in those days. And since this film popped up on the Encore channel last fall (and will be airing again on Encore Classic this coming Saturday, Jan. 7, so you can play along with me at home...) it makes me feel like someone thinks we're heading into a new era of presidential mistrust. (Gee, I wonder why...)
Between this film and "Reds", it almost feels like I'm trying to make up for not watching a lot of political films last year, during the election season. But the politics of the 1970's were very different from today's - for starters, people back then were worried about what dirty tricks were going on behind the scenes, and right now I think many people are concerned that our new President may follow through and do some of the things he promised to. Heaven help us - but I still hold out hope that Trump's election was just part of a longer con, a master plan so he can revive his failing brands like Trump Steaks, Trump Air and Trump vodka once his term is over. (And I'm OK with that - if Sammy Hagar can have his own brand of tequila, certainly an ex-President can have his own vodka. I bet Bill Clinton's just sorry he never thought to open up his own chain of Bubba's Burger joints after leaving office.) I'd be happily counting down the days to impeachment, if Trump hadn't shrewdly picked someone even more deplorable than himself as his V.P., so there's no motivation to even get him removed from office. He kind of won that round, damn it. Assassination's not an option, either, for the same reason.
So, would you rather have a secret cabal corporation like Parallax controlling the U.S. election, or Russian hackers? Which is worse, in the long run?
At least this film is full of fun cameos, especially if you're a fan of 1970's and 80's TV - hey, that guy was the heart surgeon on "St. Elsewhere", and the voice of KITT on "Knight Rider"! And didn't that guy play the neighbor, Wilson, on "Home Improvement"? And that guy played Jock Ewing on "Dallas"! And of course, THAT guy played Franz Liebkind in the original version of "The Producers" and the Inspector in "Young Frankenstein"...
NITPICK POINT: Beatty's character is made to watch a training film, a montage of sorts that's designed to turn him into an assassin (umm, I guess?) - it's kind of a reverse "Clockwork Orange" situation, the montage is full of patriotic clips and words like "mother" and "father" that gradually turns more sinister (umm, I guess?). But what the heck was an image from a comic book, specifically the cover of Thor Annual 4, from 1974, doing there - I'm just not sure, and they cut back to it again and again. Was it just supposed to represent a "hero" figure, or was it symbolic of something else, and if so, why not use an image of Captain America, not an Asgardian god, which would make the patriotic point much better?
Also starring Paula Prentiss (last seen in "Catch-22"), William Daniels (last seen in "Reds"), Hume Cronyn (last seen in "Lifeboat"), Walter McGinn (last seen in "Three Days of the Condor"), Kelly Thordsen, Earl Hindman, Bill McKinney, William Joyce, Jim Davis, Kenneth Mars (last seen in "For Keeps?"), Chuck Waters, Edward Winter, with a cameo from Anthony Zerbe (last seen in "True Crime").
RATING: 4 out of 10 personality profile questions