Operation Thunderbolt (1977, directed by Menahem Golan)


On June 27th, 1976, four terrorists hijacked an Air France flight and diverted it to Entebbe Airport in Uganda.  With the blessing of dictator Idi Amin and with the help of a deployment of Ugandan soldiers, the terrorists held all of the Israeli passengers hostage while allowing the non-Jewish passengers to leave.  The terrorists issued the usual set of demands.  The Israelis responded with Operation Thunderbolt, a daring July 4th raid on the airport that led to death of all the terrorists and the rescue of the hostages.  Three hostages were killed in the firefight and a fourth — Dora Bloch — was subsequently murdered in a Ugandan hospital by Idi Amin’s secret police.  Only one commando — Yonatan Netanyahu — was lost during the raid.  His younger brother, Benjamin, would later become Prime Minister of Israel.

A year after the the raid on Entebbe, Menahem Golan would direct a film the recreated that heroic moment.  Originally, Operation Thunderbolt was intended to be a Hollywood production, with none other than Steve McQueen playing the role Yonatan Netanyahu.  When McQueen withdraw for the project (as he did from a lot of productions in the 70s), Golan and the project returned to Israel, where it was produced with the help of the Israeli military and the Israeli government.  (Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres are among the notable Israeli leaders who appear as themselves.)  Singer and comedian Yehoram Gaon was cast as Netanyahu while veteran exploitation stars Klaus Kinski and Sybil Danning were cast as the German terrorists.

The end result is a rousing action film that takes a semi-documentary approach to telling its story.  Imagine a less flamboyant version of Golan’s The Delta Force, one that tells a similar story but without the oversized personas of Chuck Norris, Robert Forster, and Lee Marvin.  Though the film celebrates the bravery of Yonni Netanyahu, the emphasis is more on the IDF working as a team than on individual heroics.  (The film open with the IDF running a drill that mirrors the eventual raid on Entebbe, a reminder that Israel and the IDF were determined not to be caught off guard.)  The film is not only a celebration of the strength of the Israeli people but, with the Germanic Kinski and Danning cast the villains, it’s only a very loud cry of “NEVER AGAIN!”  It may be an exciting action film but it’s an action film with a message: Don’t mess with us.

(At the same time, the hijacker portrayed by Klaus Kinski is not presented as being cardboard villain, which may seem surprising given Kinski’s reputation as an actor and Golan’s reputation as a director.  Kinski’s terrorist does get a chance to explain his ideological motivations, with the film presenting him as being more misguided than evil.)

Though I will always consider The Delta Force to be the greatest film ever made (if just for it’s cry of “Beer!  America!” at the end), Operation Thunderbolt features Golan’s best work as a director.  Menahem Golan was a frequently crass director but, with Operation Thunderbolt, it’s obvious that he was motivated by more than just making a hit movie.  Golan’s aim with Operation Thunderbolt was to make a film that would celebrate both Israel and the strength of the Jewish people.  With Operation Thunderbolt, Menahem Golan succeeded.

Lisa Marie’s Oscar Predictions For May (For What They’re Worth)


Are we even going to have an Oscar ceremony next year?

Who knows?  I hope we do because I think that it would provide some sort of normalcy.  Even if everyone chooses not to watch it, at least they’ll have that choice.  (People tend to forget how important, psychologically and emotionally, it is for people to have a choice.  All of these cheery “We’re all in it together” commercials don’t mean shit if people are feeling imprisoned.)  Up until this week, I was pretty confident that we would because COVID-19 was in decline and restrictions were being lifted and things seemed like they were heading in the right direction.  (Or, at least, that’s the way it seemed in my part of the world.  I know that some people disagreed with my assessment.)  Now, we’re in the middle of nation-wide rioting and a divisive presidential election so who knows what’s going to happen with the rest of this year.  Will theaters even want to risk reopening before 2021?  Will they be able to?  The Academy has said that streaming films will qualify this year but how many studios want to release all of their big productions VOD?

I’m going to continue to make my monthly Oscar predictions, though.  My reasons are pretty selfish: making them helps to keep me centered.  I’m a compulsive scheduler and keeping that schedule (which is really what I’m doing with these monthly predictions) helps me deal with my ADD.

So, with that in mind, here are my Oscar predictions.  Take them with a grain of salt.  And be sure to check out my previous predictions for January, February, March, and April!

Best Picture

Ammonite

The Father

Hillbilly Elegy

Minari

News of the World

Nomadland

Respect

Soul

The Trial of Chicago 7

West Side Story

Best Director

Paul Greengrass for News of the World

Ron Howard for Hillbilly Elegy

Francis Lee for Ammonite

Steven Spielberg for West Side Story

Chloe Zhao for Nomadland

Best Actor

Matt Damon in Stillwater

Tom Hanks in News of the World

Anthony Hopkins in The Father

Bill Murray in On The Rocks

Gary Oldman in Mank

Best Actress

Jennifer Hudson in Respect

Angelina Jolie in Those Who Wish Me Dead

Sofia Loren in The Life Ahead

Frances McDormand in Nomadland

Kate Winslet in Ammonite

Best Supporting Actor

David Alvarez in West Side Story

Tom Burke in Mank

Delroy Lindo in Da 5 Bloods

Forest Whitaker in Respect

Steven Yeun in Minari

Best Supporting Actress

Abigail Breslin in Stillwater

Glen Close in Hillbilly Elegy

Olivia Colman in The Father

Saoirse Ronan in Ammonite

Helena Zengel in News of the World

That’s it for this month!  Hopefully, next month will bring a bit more clarity.

 

TV Review: Night Gallery 1.6 “They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar/The Last Laurel)


The first season of Night Gallery came to a conclusion on January 20th, 1971.  Though the first season was undoubtedly uneven, it did end on a high point.  The first segment in the 6th episode, They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar, is widely considered to be the best episode of Night Gallery and one of Rod Serling’s best teleplays.  It also brought Night Gallery one of it’s few Emmy nominations when it was nominated for Outstanding Single Program of the year.  (It lost to The Andersonville Trial, a theatrical adaptation that was produced for PBS.)

They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar (dir by Don Taylor, written by Rod Serling)

They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar tells the story of Randy Lane (William Windom).  In 1945, Sgt. Randy Lane returned home from serving in World War II, a war hero who had a wonderful future ahead of him.  He had just gotten married.  He had just gotten a good job at an up-and-coming company called Pritzker Plastics.  When he came home, the first place he went was Tim Riley’s Bar, where his father and the other bar patrons toasted him and told him to look forward to the future.

Twenty-five years later, the middle-aged Randy Lane is looking at his life and asking, “Is this as good as it gets?”  He’s now a sales director at Pritzker Plastics but his boss (John Randolph) doesn’t appreciate him, his assistant (Bert Convy) is plotting to steal his job, and the only person who seems to care about him is his sympathetic secretary (Diane Baker).  Randy’s wife died in 1952, while Randy was out of a sales call.  Randy now lives alone.  Even his neighborhood bar — Tim Riley’s Bar — has closed and been abandoned.  With the bar schedule to be torn down, Randy wonder what happened to all of the promise and happiness of the past.

When Randy goes by the deserted bar and looks through the front window, he’s shocked to see all of his old friends and his father waving at him.  But when Randy rushes into the bar to join them, he discovers the bar is deserted.  Later, Randy is at work when suddenly, he sees Pritzker Plastics the way it was back in 1948.  Even later, when he enters his house, he finds himself standing in a hospital hallway in 1952, once again getting the news that his wife has died.

In many ways, They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar is an atypical Night Gallery segment.  Though there are hints of the supernatural throughout the story, it’s hardly a work of horror.  Instead, it’s a rather melancholy meditation on aging, disappointment, and regret.  Is the past forever lost?  Can things ever be as good as they once were?  These are the questions that are raised in this well-directed and well-acted segment.

The Last Laurel (dir by Daryl Duke, written by Rod Serling)

Clocking in at 8 minutes, The Last Laurel is yet another segment about a bitter man (in this case, Jack Cassidy) who suspects that his wife (in the case, Martine Beswick) is cheating on him with his doctor (in this case, Martin E. Brooks) so he teaches himself a supernatural skill in order to get revenge.  In this case, it involves astral projection.  Not surprisingly, it ends with a twist that’s pretty much dependent on one of the characters doing something extremely stupid.

The Last Laurel is well-acted but predictable.  It’s not bad but, especially when compared to something like They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar, it feels rather insubstantial.  It feels like filler.

The first season of Night Gallery came to an end with an excellent episode.  Starting tomorrow — season 2!

Previous Night Gallery Reviews:

  1. The Pilot
  2. The Dead Man/The Housekeeper
  3. Room With A View/The Little Black Bag/The Nature of the Enemy
  4. The House/Certain Shadows on the Wall
  5. Make Me Laugh/Clean Kills And Other Trophies
  6. Pamela’s Voice/Lone Survivor/The Doll

Film Review: The Mule (dir by Clint Eastwood)


In The Mule, Clint Eastwood plays Earl Stone.

In some ways, Earl is typical of the characters that Eastwood has played during the latter part of his career.  He’s grouchy.  He’s alienated almost everyone who was previously close to him.  He drives an old pickup truck and he has no idea how to text and he seems to literally snarls whenever he sees anyone under the age of 60.  He served in the Korean War and he’s not scared of guns.

In other ways, Earl is not a typical Eastwood character at all.  First off, he’s on the verge of financial ruin.  Earl may not be the first Eastwood character to not know how to responsibly handle money but he is perhaps the first one to be on the verge of homelessness as a result.  (He’s perhaps the first of Eastwood’s modern character to face real-world consequences for his flaws.)  Secondly, Earl often seems to be lost in the 21st century world.  In Gran Torino and Trouble With The Curve, Eastwood played grumpy old men who could still hold their own when it came to dealing with younger people.  But, in The Mule, Earl seems to be defeated by life.  The only thing that he really has going for him is his reputation as a horticulturist and, as the film makes clear, that’s not a skill that’s going to bring in much money.

That all changes when Earl has a chance meeting with Rico (Victor Rasuk), a friend of his granddaughter’s.  Knowing that Earl is desperate for money, Rico tells him that he could make a quick payday by transporting a package for some friends.  After giving it some thought, Earl agrees.  When Earl meets Rico’s friends, everyone is shocked at how old he is.  They’re even more shocked when Earl says that he doesn’t know how to text.  Earl is given a phone and told to answer it whenever it rings but to never use it to call anyone.  A package is put in the back of Earl’s pickup truck.  It’s suggested that Earl not look in the package.

Does Earl know that he’s transporting drugs?  At first, it’s hard to say.  While it seems obvious to us, Earl is from a different time.  Still, once Earl does eventually learn that he’s being used as a drug mule, it doesn’t seem to bother him.  If nothing else, Earl actually seems to get a kick out of being a real-life outlaw.  He continues to make his runs and he continues to make money and, perhaps most importantly, he now has a purpose in life.  In a strange way, the drug runners even become his new family.  (They call him Tata, which is Spanish for grandfather.)  Of course, they’re a family that makes it cleat that they’ll kill Earl if he’s ever late delivering the package but that doesn’t seem to matter to Earl.

Meanwhile, the DEA (represented by Laurence Fishburne, Bradley Cooper, and — somewhat inevitably — Michael Pena) are hearing reports about a new drug mule who has been nicknamed Tata.  What they don’t suspect, of course, is that Tata is a 90 year-old man who has no criminal record and who is always very careful to obey all the traffic laws.  Even when Earl is pulled over by the police, he’s such a nice old man that they let him go without bothering to really search his vehicle.  It seems like Earl’s got a perfect thing going but, unfortunately, things are never as good as they seem and eventually, the reality of Earl’s situation intrudes on his fantasy….

It’s been said that The Mule is going to be Eastwood’s final film as an actor and he gives an excellent performance as Earl.  The Mule, which feels, in many ways, like a good-natured companion piece to Gran Torino, features Eastwood at both his most vulnerable and, probably not coincidentally, his most likable and sympathetic.  In this film, Eastwood makes clear that he’s no longer the righteous Dirty Harry or the mythological Man With No Name.  Now, he’s just a man nearing the end of his life and trying to come to terms with the mistakes and the decisions of the past.  Eastwood plays Earl like a man who knows that his time is limited.  Smuggling drugs gives him a chance to feel like he’s alive again but, throughout it all, there’s still a deep sadness.  Earl can use his money to pay his bills and to fix up the local VFW hall but he still can’t buy his family’s forgiveness.  Watching the film, it’s impossible not to feel for Earl.  You’re happy that he found at least a little satisfaction with his criminal career, even though you immediately suspect that things probably aren’t going to turn out well for him.

Admittedly, there is one cringe-worthy scene in which it’s suggested that the 90 year-old Earl has had a threesome with two twenty year-olds (and one gets the feeling that the scene would not have been included if not for the fact that the film’s star was also the director).  For the most part, though, this is a thoughtful film that features a poignant performance from Eastwood and which is directed in a restrained, but empathetic manner.  If this is Eastwood’s swan song as an actor, it’s a good note to go out on.

4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Clint Eastwood Edition


Clint Eastwood in Revenge of the Creature (1955)

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

Today is Clint Eastwood’s 90th birthday!

Though Clint famously had to go to Italy to really get his film career going, he’s gone on to become an icon of American film.  While his early films were often criticized as glorifying violence and of being reactionary, his later films have — more often than not — been meditations on aging, moral ambiguity, and what a lifetime of violence does to a person’s soul.  Though Eastwood has fallen out-of-favor with a few critics as a result of the speech he gave at the 2012 Republican Convention (Film Twitter, to the shock of no one, had a particularly over-the-top reaction to it as many of them discovered, I guess for the first time, that not every artist is a Leftist), he’s a filmmaker whose legacy will be rediscovered and probably appreciated in the future.

Here are….

4 Shots From 4 Films

For A Few Dollars More (1965, dir by Sergio Leone)

Dirty Harry (1971, dir by Don Siegel)

Unforgiven (1992, dir by Clint Eastwood)

Gran Torino (2008, dir by Clint Eastwood)

Music Video of The Day: Where Have All The Cowboys Gone? by Paula Cole (1997, dir. by Caitlin Fenton)


If you’re wondering where all the cowboys have gone, you’re not alone.  I wonder that too whenever I see a video of some vegan freaking out over having to kill a spider.  Where have all the cowboys gone?  They’re probably working on a ranch and too busy to get on social media.  The world may be changing but men who ride bulls are still way more appealing than men who beg for retweets.

This song is actually about a break-up.  The singer has broken up with her boyfriend and now she’s wondering where all the cowboys have gone.  In the video, she’s singing about it in a dead forest.  Maybe that’s the problem.  She’s looking for cowboys but she’s hanging out on the set of a horror movie.  You’re not going to find many cowboys there.  Stop hanging out in the forest and get down to Fort Worth for the stock show.

I’m glad the Dallas Cowboys never tried to make this their official song.