Wilford Brimley, R.I.P.

Wilford Brimley has died.  He was 85 years old.

There’s not much that I really like about twitter but I did enjoy following Wilford Brimley.  Brimley was one of those actors who always played intimidating and serious characters so it was a nice surprise to find his twitter account and discover that he had a sense of humor and that he regularly interacted with his fans.  Once, he even posted a picture of Andy Reid and asked, “When did I start coaching football?”

On screen, Brimley almost always played figures of quiet authority.  Whenever you saw Brimley in a film or on a TV show, you knew that he was going to be playing a straight shooter who didn’t have any time for any foolishness or bullshit.  One of his best performances was in Absence of Malice, where he put a weaselly Bob Balaban in his place.  Of course, everyone knows him from his performance in Cocoon and his promise to his grandson that “we won’t ever die.”  One of his best performances was in a rare bad guy role in The FirmPersonally, my favorite Wilford Brimley performance was his cameo as Postmaster General Henry Adkins on Seinfeld “I’m also a general.  And it’s the job of a general to, by God, get things done!”

Brimley also sold Quaker Oats and later, for a generation of viewers, he became the face of diabetes.  A lot of jokes and memes were made about Brimley’s diabetes commercials but tell the truth.  When Wilford Brimley said, “You need to check your blood sugar and you need to check it often,” you know damn well you immediately checked it.

I’m going to miss Wilford Brimley.  I know I’m not the only one.

Wilford Brimley, R.I.P.

Stranger On My Land (1988, directed by Larry Elikann)

The Air Force wants to build a new air base in Utah but the Whitman family refuses to sell their ranch.  Bud Whitman (Tommy Lee Jones) served in Vietnam and he disapproved just as much of forcing Vietnamese villagers to move as he now disapproves of the idea of allowing the government to force American citizens to move.  When a judge rules that the Air Force can force the Whitmans to vacate their property under the rule of eminent domain, Bud announces that he still will not be moving.  With several of Bud’s old combat buddies showing up to support Bud, the villainous county surveyor, Connie Priest (Terry O’Quinn), prepares to take matters in his own hands.

Tommy Lee Jones vs. Terry O’Quinn?  That sounds like it should have the makings of a classic but Stranger On My Land is a largely forgettable made-for-TV movie.  A huge part of the problem is that O’Quinn’s character doesn’t have any real motivation beyond just being a prick and that seems like a waste when you consider the number of interesting villains that Terry O’Quinn has played over the years.  This is the actor who, in The Stepfather, actually made a multiple murderer seem a little bit likable.  Connie Priest seems like a villain that O’Quinn could have done a lot with if only the film’s script hadn’t been so simplistic.  Tommy Lee Jones is always well-cast as a modern day western hero but again, the script doesn’t do much with his character.  He’s just Tommy Lee Jones yelling at people to get off his property.  You could probably go to Tommy Lee Jones’s own ranch and have the exact same experience without having to sit through the rest of this movie.  Even Bud’s ethical objections to the Vietnam War feel like something that was just tossed in to assure the people watching at home that he’s not meant to be some sort of gun-toting militiaman.  The best performance in the movie comes from Ben Johnson, who is plays Tommy Lee Jones’s father.  That’s prefect casting.  If Ben Johnson wasn’t actually Tommy Lee Jones’s father, he probably should have been.

The main problem with Stranger On My Land is that it was made for television and it had to operate within the limits of what was acceptable for television in 1988.  The entire movie seems to be building up to a fierce battle between Bud and law enforcement but instead, it settles for a personal fight between Bud and Connie.  The film’s sudden ending doesn’t feel authentic but it does feel like what you’d expect to find on ABC in the late 80s.

Song of the Day: Main Theme From Autopsy by Ennio Morricone

The 1975 film Autopsy is a great giallo, one that definitely deserves to be better known than it is.  Another thing that deserves to be better known is Ennio Morricone’s wonderful score for this film.  Hence, today’s song of the day: Ennio Morricone’s Main Theme From Autopsy!

Previous Entries In Our Tribute To Morricone:

  1. Deborah’s Theme (Once Upon A Time In America)
  2. Violaznioe Violenza (Hitch-Hike)
  3. Come Un Madrigale (Four Flies on Grey Velvet)
  4. Il Grande Silenzio (The Great Silence)
  5. The Strength of the Righteous (The Untouchables)
  6. So Alone (What Have You Done To Solange?)
  7. The Main Theme From The Mission (The Mission)
  8. The Return (Days of Heaven)
  9. Man With A Harmonic (Once Upon A Time In The West)
  10. The Ecstasy of Gold (The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly)
  11. The Main Theme From The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly (The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly)
  12. Regan’s Theme (The Exorcist II: The Heretic)
  13. Desolation (The Thing)
  14. The Legend of the Pianist (The Legend of 1900)
  15. Theme From Frantic (Frantic)
  16. La Lucertola (Lizard In A Woman’s Skin)
  17. Spasmodicamente (Spasmo)
  18. The Theme From The Stendhal Syndrome (The Stendhal Syndrome)
  19. My Name Is Nobody (My Name Is Nobody)
  20. Piume di Cristallo (The Bird With The Crystal Plumage)
  21. For Love One Can Die (D’amore si muore)
  22. Chi Mai (various)
  23. La Resa (The Big Gundown)
  24. Main Title Theme (Red Sonja)
  25. The Main Theme From The Cat O’Nine Tails (The Cat O’Nine Tails)
  26. Deep Down (Danger Diabolik!)

Lifetime Film Review: Adopted in Danger (dir by Craig Goldstein)

DNA tests are tempting, aren’t they?

I mean, I’ve often been tempted to get one, even though I pretty much know all about my family history.  My maternal grandmother was born in Spain while my grandfather’s parents came to this country from Italy.  On my father’s side of the family, everyone is pretty much Irish with a little bit of German and French mixed in.  Despite the fact that I know all of this, it’s still tempting to do the whole DNA thing because then I’d have percentages to go along with my family history.  Percentages make every story better, or so I’ve heard.

Of course, there’s a lot of other people who get DNA tests because they’re hoping that they’ll turn out to have a really badass ancestor or that they’ll find some evidence that they’re actually more interesting than they appear to be.  Remember when Elizabeth Warren got that DNA test that proved she had less Native American ancestry than the average American?  That’s not a story that you’ll see repeated in a 23andMe commercial but it’s one that I found fascinating as an example of the importance that people put on having interesting ancestors.  I mean, technically, what’s wrong with saying, “Yes, my family’s boring but I’m not?”  Instead, we all want to say, “I’m interesting and so is everyone who has ever shared my DNA!”

That said, I’ll still probably never get a DNA test.  People always assume that DNA tests and ancestry research are going to bring them good news (“and then I discovered that I’m descended from the first person to ever open up a fast food restaurant in the state of Wyoming and it just changed everything….”) but it seems to me like they’re just asking for trouble.  Sure, you might be descended from a great and respected historical figure.  Then again, you also might discover that the people you thought were your parents stole you from the hospital.  You might discover that your father was actually the Goatman or something.  (It could happen.)  I mean, seriously, why take the risk when you can just take your grandmother’s word that, just because some your ancestors fought with Franco in the Spanish Civil War, that doesn’t mean that they necessarily agreed with him about everything.

In Adopted in Danger, Candace (Allison Paige) actually does have a fairly good reason for wanting to get a DNA test.  She’s adopted and she has no idea who her birth parents are.  At the very least, she would like to know where she came from just so she can have a complete medical history before she and her husband try to start a family.  That certainly seems reasonable but, unfortunately, it turns out to be a lot more trouble than its worth.  Candace’s DNA indicates that she’s the daughter of real estate developer Tom Mason (Jason Brooks).  However, when Candace goes to see Tom and tells her that he’s her father, Tom refuses to consider the idea.  Tom, in fact, accuses her of just being after money and kicks her out of his office.

Why is Tom so adamant that he’s not Candace’s father?  That’s something that Candace and her friends investigate, in between drinking a lot of wine.  And I do mean a lot of wine.  I think this film may have set a record as far as scenes involving friends drinking wine and discussing DNA might be concerned.  However, all of that wine cannot stop the murderous schemes of a powerful family with a secret to hold and soon, Candace finds herself and everyone she knows being targeted.

The main problem with Adopted in Danger is that it’s fairly predictable.  I kept waiting for a big twist that would reveal that there had been a mix-up with the DNA or that Tom Mason was some sort of imposter or something that would have taken me by surprise but nope.  There’s no mix-up with the DNA.  Tom Mason is Tom Mason.  It’s just he comes from a terrible family and they don’t want anyone to know that Candace is his daughter.  Everything plays out the way you would expect it to play out.

That said, if you’re going to solve a mystery, you might as well do it while hanging out with your two BFFs.  DNA, in Adopted in Danger, may show where you’re from but but your friendships and your lovers show who you are and that’s not a bad message at all.

Music Video of the Day: 3 A.M. Eternal by The KLF (1991, directed by ????)

There are so many stories about the careers of British musicians Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty that it would probably take several posts to tell them all.

Drummond’s musical career began in 1977 when he formed a punk band called Big in Japan.  After Big In Japan broke up, Drummond was one of the co-founders of Zoo Records and he worked as a manger and producer for several post-punk bands, including Echo and the Bunnymen.  He also worked with a band called Brilliant, which had been formed by former Killing Joke bassist, Jimmy Cauty.

Drummond and Cauty must have hit it off because they went on to start their own musical project.  Originally known as the The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu (The JAMs), the project also recorded under the name The Time Lords and, eventually, the KLF.  Among their first hits (as The Time Lords) was Doctorin’ The Tardis.  After Doctorin’ The Tardis hit number one despite being intentionally designed to have no musical value whatsoever, Drummond published a book called The Manual (How To Have A Number One The Easy Way), a semi-satirical how-to book about how to write a song vapid enough to become a hit.  Drummond promised that anyone who read the book would have a hit song or they would get their money book.  Drummond later admitted that some readers did subsequently contact him, asking for a refund.

As the KLF, their biggest hit was 3 A.M. Eternal.  3 A.M. Eternal was originally recorded in 1988 and was subsequently re-recorded in 1991, this time with the addition of rapper Ricardo Da Force and vocalist Maxine Harvey.  This video feature Da Force rapping while playing with a very big phone while Maxine Harvey sings in what appears to be a pyramid.  Meanwhile, the members of the KLF drive around at three in the morning.  The car from the driving scenes also appeared in the video for Doctorin’ The Tardis.

When the KLF performed this song at the 1992 Brit Awards, they fired machine guns at the audience.  Though the machine guns were full of blanks, no one had informed the audience of that fact and there was quite a panic as a result.  After the show, the KLF announced that they were retiring from the music business and then deleted their back catalog.  They also had a dead sheep sent to the after party.