Friday, 30 June 2017

Godzilla: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (3 Stars)

This film was made in 2001. As far as continuity goes, it has nothing to do with the previous two Godzilla films. It's as if the directors of the three films sat in different rooms making their Godzilla films, not allowed to confer with one another.

The film takes place in Japan in the early 21st Century. The people talk about Godzilla destroying Tokyo 50 years previously, but he hasn't been seen since. Some people expect him to return, some people think he's dead, and a lot of younger people think he's just a myth invented to scare them.

An American nuclear submarine is destroyed while visiting Japanese waters. The Japanese government blames Godzilla, but they are ridiculed by officials who don't believe that Godzilla exists. They're forced to believe when Godzilla wades into the Tokyo docks. A reporter asks why Godzilla only attacks Japan. An old man has the answer. Godzilla contains the souls of all the people who were killed by the Japanese in the 20th Century. Godzilla is now destroying Tokyo to punish the Japananese for forgetting the atrocities of their predecessors.

Japan isn't without defence. There are guardian creatures that are sleeping beneath the Earth, waiting until they're needed. These three creatures are Baragon, Mothra and Ghidora.

First Godzilla is attacked by Baragon, a very fast creature that can hide by quickly tunnelling underground. He's the outright winner of the ugly giant monster contest.

Next Godzilla is attacked by Mothra.

Ghidora joins in the battle, so Godzilla has to face two enemies at the same time. Ghidora is knocked unconscious and Mothra is killed. Mothra's spirit merges with Ghidora, turning Ghidora into King Ghidora, an even larger monster. This is Godzilla's deadliest opponent, and the two monsters have a long battle in the middle of Tokyo. Although King Ghidora is supposed to be guarding Japan, he manages to destroy as much as Godzilla.

I didn't enjoy this film as much as the last two films. I don't like the idea of Godzilla being the conscience of the Japanese people. For me he's just a big monster who only enjoys two things in life: destroying Japanese buildings and fighting with giant monsters. Yes, "Giant Monsters All-Out Attack" has giant monsters and trampled buildings, but there's too much social commentary going on. The Godzilla films should get back to basics. Maybe the next one.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (4½ Stars)

"Godzilla vs. Megaguirus" was made in 2000, a year after "Godzilla 2000" (1999), but it doesn't refer to the events of the previous film. On the contrary, it contradicts them. We hear in the narrative that Godzilla has visited the Japanese mainland three times, in 1954, 1966 and 1996. The 1954 occurrence refers to the events of the first Godzilla film, in which Godzilla destroyed Tokyo. We're given the additional information that the destruction of Tokyo led to Osaka being made the new capital of Japan.

As far as I can tell, the 1966 and 1996 occurrences weren't shown in any of the preceding Godzilla films. In 1966 Godzilla destroyed the Tokai nuclear power plant shortly after it became operational, causing a major environmental disaster. It was determined that Godzilla was attracted by nuclear power, so the Japanese government decided not to build any more nuclear power plants and rely on clean energy, water and wind power. This seems to be an environmental message made by the film's director and/or screenwriter. Tokai was indeed Japan's first nuclear power station, built in 1966, the first of 22 nuclear power stations, but nuclear power was already very unpopular in Japan in 2000, more than in other countries. Frequent earthquakes make nuclear power plants risky in Japan.

In 1996 a plasma power plant was built in Osaka. This was a cleaner form of energy than nuclear power, but it also attracted Godzilla, luring him to Osaka, where he destroyed most of the city. In recent years there has been research into plasma power, but I don't know if it's the same power source that's referred to in the film. I assume that the plasma power in the alternative Japanese universe is a different, completely fictional type of power. Nevertheless, this meant that Tokyo was made the capital again.

Now to the film itself. Despite five years of peace -- it's now the year 2001 -- the Japanese government has decided that enough is enough. They can't live in fear of creating new technologies because Godzilla might wade in from the sea and destroy everything. Godzilla must be destroyed. So far he seems to be indestructible, because he has a hard skin that regenerates as quickly as it's damaged, so a revolutionary new weapon has been invented: a black hole cannon. It fires a black hole at its target which swallows everything in the vicinity, after which the black hole (hopefully) disappears. For some reason nobody in the film worries about creating black holes in Japan. It's the most normal thing in the world.

The film also has a human element. A young boy is due to move from the countryside to Tokyo. He goes to visit his old school one last time, but it's been chosen as a target for the first test of the black hole cannon. He watches as the school and the ground beneath is sucked into nothingness. The black hole closes, so the test is considered a success. The boy is discovered, so he has to promise not to tell anyone what he's seen. The next day the army has left, so the boy goes back for another look. The black hole re-opens, a giant dragonfly flies out and lays an egg, then flies back into the black hole, which closes again. An unstable black hole in the Japanese countryside which the army hasn't even noticed? No wonder Japan lost the war!

The boy takes the egg with him to Tokyo. When it starts seeping water he throws it into the sewer. Underwater the egg breaks up into hundreds of smaller eggs, and flying creatures called Meganula hatch. They quickly procreate, and within days thousands of Meganula are flying around Tokyo eating people.

The Meganula are a civilised matriarchal society. They have a Queen, a giant creature called a Megaguiris, that they faithfully serve. She's too weak to emerge from the sewers, so they need to find an energy source to revive her. There are no nuclear power plants in Japan, so what's the biggest energy source? Godzilla. The Japanese army has lured Godzilla to the Island of Kagajima to be attacked by the black hole cannon, so the Meganula swarm across the sea to attack him. Individually they're no match for him, but many of them bite him and feed on his energy. Then the black hole cannon is fired. Bam! Most of the island is destroyed, and mountains disappear, but Godzilla is still there.

The surviving Meganula fly back to Tokyo to revive their Queen. Godzilla follows them. He encounters the Megaguirus, who is even larger than he is, and a fight ensues. The army looks on and decides that there's only one reasonable course of action: the black hole cannon has to be fired again. So now they want to open a black hole in the middle of Japan? And I thought I was crazy!

In my opinion, this is a classic Godzilla film. It's illogical and at times ridiculous, but it has an irresistible charm. Godzilla is in his element when he's fighting with other giant creatures. It's what he likes doing most. He's a hero who saves the world again and again. Of course, he destroys Japanese buildings and kills hundreds of people, but everyone has their faults. This is a brilliant film, far better than "Godzilla 2000".

Order from
Order from

Monday, 26 June 2017

Godzilla 2000 (3¾ Stars)

The title of this film seems to have been cashing in on the Y2K frenzy. It was released in Japan on December 12th 1999, just in time to see in the new millennium.

This is the first film in the second reboot of the Godzilla franchise. The first run was from 1954 to 1975, a total of 15 films. The franchise was rebooted nine years later, and there were seven films from 1984 to 1995. This should have laid the film series to rest, but then the American Godzilla film was made in 1998. In Japan the public and the film studios alike were horrified by the poor quality of the American film. I'll go out on a limb by saying that I think the American Godzilla film was good, but it wasn't Godzilla. The American monster didn't look like Godzilla, it didn't breathe flames like Godzilla, and worst of all it was a female! When it was released in Japan, dubbed into Japanese, it was refused to call the monster Gojira or even the anglicised word Godzilla. The monster was simply called Zilla, which to Japanese ears sounded like mockery.

What I'm building up to is that the negative reception of the American film in Japan led to the public demanding a real Godzilla film be made to show the Americans how it's done. The result was a second reboot, six films from 1999 to 2004.

"Godzilla 2000" doesn't go back to the very beginning. Godzilla is already known as a sea monster that lives on the sea bed near Japan. There's an organisation called the Godzilla Protection Network (GPN) which tracks Godzilla's movements on the sea bed, predicting possible earth tremors and tsunamis created by him. The Japanese authorities have come to accept Godzilla and leave him unharmed, as long as he remains in the sea. However, new missiles have been developed that could possibly kill Godzilla, so mines are dropped into the sea to coax him to the surface. Do they never learn? The missiles fail, and Godzilla wades into Tokyo to smash a few hundred buildings.

At the same time a giant rock is discovered on the sea bed, which is pulled up to the surface. It isn't until it's too late that the navy realises it isn't a rock. It's a UFO that is covered in barnacles after lying on the sea bed for 60 million years. Even though it's made of metal it's a living being, because the survivors of a distant race have merged themselves together to form the UFO. The UFO intends to change the Earth's atmosphere, which will kill all life on Earth, at the same time making the Earth habitable for its own race when they revert to organic matter.

Now, as all Godzilla fans know, there's only one thing that Godzilla likes more than smashing Japanese buildings: that's fighting with other giant monsters. Godzilla is the ultimate alpha male who won't tolerate anyone usurping his position as the biggest and baddest monster on the block. So there's a big, big fight. Half way through the fight the UFO adapts itself into a Godzilla clone, That's the smartest UFO I've ever seen.

The human race is unable to protect itself against the alien invaders. Godzilla is mankind's only hope. Who cares if he smashes a few hundred buildings if he can save humanity? The film ends with such beautiful dialogue that it could have been written by Shakespeare.

"Why does he keep protecting us?"

"Maybe it's because there's a Godzilla in every one of us".

Despite the superior production quality, "Godzilla 2000" isn't up to the standard of the first films made 45 years earlier. There's no love triangle. The special effects have grown a lot better over the decades, but they're not up to Hollywood standards. The American film had a budget of $130 million, whereas "Godzilla 2000" only had $8 million available, which shows in the inferior special effects. The Japanese film's monster looks like a giant puppet, but it made Japanese audiences happy, and hey! It's made me happy as well.

Order from
Order from

Saturday, 24 June 2017

The Matrix (5 Stars)

Today I introduced my son Benjamin to Netflix. He's never used it before, so I invited him to share my account. He was overwhelmed by the selection offered. I didn't want to influence him. I told him he could pick whatever he wanted for us to watch together. And he picked "The Matrix". A brilliant choice. He hadn't seen it before, but he'd heard it was good.

Now he finally understands why I make seemingly random comments like "There is no spoon".

Order from
Order from
Order from

Friday, 23 June 2017

Constantine (3½ Stars)

Today is the first time that I've watched "Constantine". It's one of those films that I deliberately avoided because it starred Keanu Reeves. I've never liked him because of his inability to express emotions. On rare occasions his coldness fits a role, such as the Matrix trilogy and "John Wick", but that's an exception.

The story is based on the DC character John Constantine who appears in the comic "Hellblazer". The film's theology confused me. Maybe I would have understood it better if I'd read the comic first. I know Marvel comics well, but my knowledge of DC comics is patchy.

Constantine is a man born with the gift -- or is it a curse? -- to see demons that are invisible or disguised to everyone else. He's been destined to go to Hell because of a suicide attempt when he was young, a mortal sin in the eyes of the Roman Catholic church. If I understand the film correctly, he actually died, but God brought him back to life because He intended Constantine to work for him. He works as an exorcist in the service of the Catholic church, God's church on Earth. That's ironic: a man destined to go to Hell is working for God.

God and the Devil are portrayed as two equal opponents in a big game. Which of them can win the most souls? God isn't portrayed as being any better than the Devil. They're just different, both of them caring more about winning the Game than they do about the humans on Earth.

There's even neutral ground, a club where the angels and demons are allowed to spend time together drinking and dancing without hurting one another. That's much like the Continental Hotel in "John Wick".

The best thing about the film is Tilda Swinton as Gabriel. She's fascinating in her personality and her misguided morality. Gabriel's role in the story highlights the ridiculous nature of the Game. I assumed that she was intended to be the Biblical angel Gabriel, but I've read reviews in which other people see her as being a half-angel, an offspring of an angel and a human.

It's a film that I might watch again, if only to try to understand it better. One of my fellow film bloggers, the author of the excellent blog Score The Film, tells the reader for every film whether he will watch it again. I don't do that, because in my case it wouldn't say much about the quality of the film. Usually I would only watch a film again if I consider it very good, but it's not necessarily the case.

Order from
Order from
Order from

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Godzilla raids again (4 Stars)

This is the first sequel to "Godzilla", made in 1955, only four months after Godzilla was killed in the first film. So how could he be raiding again? And come to think about it, did he ever raid anyone or anything in the first film?

The original Japanese title translates literally as "Gojira strikes back". That makes slightly better sense, except that being dead would make it difficult for him to strike back. Don't complain about Gojira's name being anglicised as Godzilla. When the film was first released in American cinemas in 1959 it was called "Gigantis the Fire Monster". The first film had been called "Godzilla, King of Monsters" in America. The name change was to tell the audience that Gigantis was a new monster, because the original monster from the first film was dead.

I admit that the name change makes sense, but it's not what the original Japanese film makers wanted to say. Far from being a folk legend, as in the first film, the Gojira is a dinosaur that died out two million years ago. There are even pictures of the Gojira in Japanese dinosaur books. That's funny. When I was a child I never saw pictures of a Gojira or a Gojirasaurus. Godzilla #1 and Godzilla #2 both belong to the same breed. Both used to live on the sea bed and were driven to the surface by the atomic bombs. That almost makes sense.

The sequel tells two stories. In the first story a pilot crash lands on a small Japanese island called Kamiko. When another pilot is sent to rescue him they see Godzilla fighting with another giant dinosaur that they recognise as an Angilas (called an Anguirus in the American version). That's another dinosaur that I never saw in my children's dinosaur book. The pilots return to mainland Japan. They're stationed in Osaka, the second largest city in Japan. Soon afterwards Godzilla swims to Osaka, followed by the Angilas, and they fight in the city centre, destroying everything as they battle. Eventually Godzilla wins and swims back to sea. The end.

That's the end of the first half of the film, at least. The second story takes place a few months later, in winter. It seems to be a simplified copy of the story from the first film. A fishing boat is destroyed. The pilots that we met in the first half of the film investigate and see that Godzilla did it. They discover that Godzilla still lives on the small island where they first found him. The Japanese air force makes multiple strikes to stop him from doing any more damage.

The first Godzilla was killed, but this one is only trapped. Oops! Yet another spoiler? I deserve a spanking. That was a wise choice by the screenwriter. If they killed Godzilla in every film we would need 29 Godzillas by now.

Unlike the first film, which has been remastered for Blu-ray, the second film has only been released on DVD and is now out of print. If you want a copy you'll have to pay expensive collector prices. Or do what I did: watch it on Amazon Prime.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Loving (4½ Stars)

"Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow and red, and He placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with His arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that He separated the races shows that He did not intend for the races to mix. (Judge Leon Bazile, January 22nd, 1965).

I've been waiting to see this film for months. The story fascinated me. It's a true story, supposedly well known in America, but I had never heard about it until a few months ago.

In 1958 Richard Loving -- a very appropriate name -- was a 25 year old construction worker in Caroline County, Virginia. When his 18-year-old girlfriend Mildred Jeter became pregnant he asked her to marry him. The problem is that they weren't allowed to marry, because he was white and she was black. Issues like that were governed by state laws, not by federal laws, so they travelled to Washington D.C. to get married. On returning home their house was raided by the police and they were arrested. As the sheriff pointed out, it wasn't a problem that they lived together or even that Mildred was pregnant, because white men were allowed to have black whores. The crime was that they were married, because they were expressing that marriage between different races was something normal.

In court they were sentenced to one year in prison, but the sentence was suspended on condition that they left Virginia immediately and didn't return together for 25 years. They went to live with Mildred's relatives in Washington. Richard kept his job in Caroline County, even though he had to drive 85 miles to work every day. At first they were happy together, but slowly it became a burden for Mildred as she had first one, then two, then three children. She had lived all her life in the countryside, and life in a city was unbearable for her. In 1963 she wrote to the American attorney general, Robert Kennedy, and asked for help overturning the ruling. Two young inexperienced lawyers were appointed to represent them by the American Civil Liberties Union. That was the beginning of a long, hard court battle.

The two lead actors put on excellent performances. Both Richard and Mildred were uneducated, although Mildred had more natural intelligence. Richard didn't understand much of what was happening, so he kept his head down and did what he was told. Mildred was more astute and willing to fight for justice. Actors are highly educated people, it's in the nature of their work, so Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga do an excellent job in dumbing themselves down, if you understand what I mean. Richard loved his wife, but he was a man of few words and didn't know how to express it. Mildred was an outwardly emotional woman, which we see in Ruth Negga's facial expressions every time the camera lingers on her. She was nominated for an Oscar as Best Actress, but she lost to Emma Stone in "La La Land". That's totally ridiculous! Sometimes I wonder if the Academy Award judges ever take time to watch the films they vote for.

The couple are now remembered on June 12th every year, celebrated as Loving Day. I've only found out about it now. Please remind me to celebrate it next year.

Order from
Order from

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Godzilla (1954) (5 Stars)

That's a big poster for a big monster!

Yesterday I noticed that Amazon Prime contains 12 of the 29 Japanese Godzilla films. I immediately decided to watch some or all of them, beginning with the original 1954 film. I'm not sure whether I've watched it before or not. I know I watched a few black and white Godzilla films on television when I was young, but I don't know which ones. All I can remember is a big monster knocking building over while people ran away screaming.

This is a classic. I loved it from the very beginning. As well as the big monster knocking over buildings it has a love triangle and a clear anti-war message. Don't forget that the film was made in 1954, only nine years after Japan was pounded by two atomic bombs, so the Second World War was omnipresent in Japanese minds.

The film starts with a freighter being mysteriously sunk near Odo Island, Japan. A naval ship sent to investigate is also destroyed. Soon a giant dinosaur-like monster is seen wading onto the island and trampling local houses. The local villagers call it Godzilla (Gojira in Japanese), based on a creature in old folk legends, but it's probably not the same creature. It's a creature that lives on the sea bed, feeding on fish, but the water has been polluted by radiation from the atomic bombs, so he has to come to the surface to feed. Supposedly Godzilla is feeding. We never see him eating anything, he just walks around at random trampling buildings flat. He only comes to the surface at night because he doesn't like the daylight.

I don't know how close Odo Island is to mainland Japan because it's a fictional island. Godzilla soon finds his way to Tokyo. I've been told that famous Tokyo landmarks of the 1950's are among the buildings that he destroys.

I assume the film was intended to be a one-off, because at the end of the film Godzilla is destroyed. Oops, is that a spoiler? And yet 28 sequels were made in Japan, plus six (possibly alternate universe) films in America. Maybe it was a different Godzilla? I'll have to watch the first sequel soon, made in 1955, to see what the explanation is.

The film has been remastered for Blu-ray, but obviously Amazon Prime only hosts the old version. The picture is fuzzy throughout, but it didn't spoil my enjoyment of the wonderful film.

Order from
Order from
Order from

Monday, 19 June 2017

Coco Austin Lingerie Promotion

Next month I intend to do a special promotion of Coco Austin's lingerie articles. Each day I'll be highlighting one of her garments that can be bought at Amazon. What has this to do with films? Nothing. I'm making an attempt to earn some money as an Amazon associate. She sells other items on her own web site, Coco's World, but I'll only be promoting the items for sale on Amazon.

This isn't a completely random choice. I've recently received a small commission after one of my blog's visitors bought lingerie. Thank you, whoever that was. Now I want to encourage more of my visitors to do the same.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Baywatch (4 Stars)

I can't remember exactly when I first saw the TV series "Baywatch". I vaguely remember seeing pictures of sexy looking girls in red swimming costumes which made me curious. That was in the ancient times before there was Internet, so I wasn't able to find out much about it. Finally I saw a couple of episodes on television, but I found the story so stupid that not even the sexual titillation of Pamela Anderson in a skin tight bathing suit could retain my attention. A couple of years later I heard that Carmen Electra would join the series, and I was a big Carmen Electra fan at the time, so I gave it another chance. I watched a few more episodes before giving up again.

What was so bad about the series? It was so shallow. It took place in an artificial world in which people's only purpose in life was to look good. David Hasselhoff annoyed me the most as the head lifeguard, Mitch Buchannon. Something about his silky smooth personality mixed with a touch of heartbreak rubbed me up the wrong way. Not just me. By this time, the late 1990's, I had an Internet connection, and it was common for people to express their hatred for David Hasselhoff. I joined in the heckling.

A few years later, round about 2005, David Hasselhoff appeared on Jonathan Ross's talk show. It was amazing. When he walked on the audience booed and hissed. David ignored the audience reaction and chatted normally with Jonathan Ross. It wasn't so much what he said, it was his attitude. His jovial personality won over the audience, and by the end of the show they were cheering for him. I was cheering as well. What a great guy! I still didn't like the series, but I'd become a David Hasselhoff fan.

I didn't intend to watch the film, but I watched the trailers, and it became apparent to me that the film would be a parody, making fun of the series. I've been a fan of Dwayne Johnson (the Rock) since "San Andreas" (I didn't like his earlier films), which was another reason to go.

I was laughing from the beginning of the film. The half a dozen episodes I'd seen of the series were enough for me to understand the brunt of the jokes. The film had some action as well, which I found unconvincing, but I didn't care. For me the film was all about the comedy. I enjoyed it greatly, and I can recommend it to anyone who hates the TV series.

Of course, all potential lifeguards must be carefully inspected. The new girl, Kelly Rohrbach, is given full marks by an unbiased connoisseur of the female form.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Wolverine (4½ Stars)

I've been hit by a fatal case of writer's block. As much as I enjoy "Wolverine" (which I probably should call "The Wolverine") I don't feel like I have anything to say about it today. It's an improvement over the first Wolverine solo film, but not up to the level of "Logan".

Order from
Order from
Order from

Thursday, 15 June 2017

The Mummy [2017] (4 Stars)

When I first heard about a remake of "The Mummy" being planned I groaned. After all, the previous remake starring Brendan Fraser was so excellent that it didn't need to be made again. Then I heard that the film would star Tom Cruise as the leading character, the archaeologist, so I groaned even more. I avoid films with Tom Cruise unless there's a very good reason to see them. Then I finally saw the trailer, and I saw that the mummy is a woman this time, making it a distinctly different film from the previous versions. That was the very good reason that I needed. An insanely powerful woman trying to conquer the world? That's hot.

So I went to see the film. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Tom Cruise wasn't as bad as usual. He managed to play the role without grinning too much. I was disappointed with the portrayal of the female mummy. Rather than conquer the world for herself, she's planning to raise the God Set in human form to give him control of the world. So the alpha female is really just a beta female subjecting herself to the big, bad alpha male. That's disappointing.

"The Mummy" (2017) can't properly be called a remake of the 1933 film, because the story deviates enough from the original to make it a new film. It's intended as a reboot of Universal Studios' mummy franchise and a part of a reboot of the 1930's Universal monsters, an interconnecting universe that will include Count Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, the Wolfman and various other monsters from the Golden Age of Cinema.

Why are they doing this? It's because they're running out of ideas. Universal Studios has no inspiration for new blockbusters, so they're repeating what made them money 80 years ago, in the hope that history will repeat itself. That's sad. I'm sure there are talented individuals out there who would be able to write riveting stories that would draw people into the cinemas, but they're not given a chance.

Today it's all about "cinematic universes". Marvel Studios started the ball rolling by making films about different characters who all live in the same universe and interact with one another. Warner Bros. said "We can do that too" and jumped on the bandwagon by making a film universe based on the DC Comics characters. Universal Studios doesn't want to be left behind, so they've dredged the bottom of their film archives looking for something they can use. And this is it. In order to let people who don't read film magazines know that it's a new universe, they threw Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde into the film.

As a standalone film "The Mummy" is entertaining. It's no masterpiece, but I think the critics have been too harsh on it. Nevertheless, as a reboot it's totally unnecessary.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (3 Stars)

One of the biggest problems I have as the author of a long-running film blog is consistency with my ratings. The five categories sound simple enough:

5 Stars: Great, must be watched
4 Stars: Good, worth checking out
3 Stars: Okay, matter of taste
2 Stars: Poor, not worth watching
1 Star: Awful, avoid at all costs

At first I wanted to stick with these five categories, but only a few weeks after starting my blog I started giving half stars for films that fell between two categories, or to express that of two consecutive four star films one was slightly better. A year later I added quarter stars. I'm still not sure whether this was a good idea. On reflection, my most misused rating is 3½ stars. I've been using this rating to say that a film isn't all that good, but it does have things that speak for it, so it isn't all that bad either. By that definition I'm saying the film is average, so it should be given three stars exactly, no extra half.

I'm not a professional film critic. I don't analyse films scientifically. My rating is a gut reaction to what I feel immediately after watching a film. The emphasis is on the word "immediately". When I sit down at the end of the year to decide on my list of the year's best films I always ask myself, "Why did I give film X four stars and film Y five stars? Film X was better". After waiting a few weeks or months a film might settle in my mind, so I can judge it more objectively. Alternatively, months later I might not remember the things that made a film so good or so bad in my mind.

I never correct ratings after making a post, even if I change my mind only a few hours later. What's done is done. If I watch a film a second time I might give a different rating. If I never watch it again the rating remains forever engraved in my blog for generations of future readers. "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" is a good example of a film where I couldn't make up my mind. I gave it three stars on first viewing, then four stars, and now three stars again. After watching it today I can't understand why I upped my original rating to four stars. Of the nine X-Men films so far (or ten, if you include "Deadpool") this is the weakest. It's disjointed and confusing. It doesn't even remain in continuity with the other films, contradicting the character of Weapon XI/Deadpool.

The film's strongest point is the portrayal of Sabretooth, or rather Victor Creed, because he isn't called Sabretooth in the film. He's one of the meanest killing machines in Marvel films, though he does have a shimmer of a likeable personality. Brilliant acting.

I'll watch the second Wolverine film again soon. That's a better film. No doubt.

Order from
Order from
Order from

Monday, 12 June 2017

In Zeiten des abnehmenden Lichts (3 Stars)

"In Zeiten des abnehmenden Lichts" (engl. "In times of fading light") is a biographical novel about the Umnitzer family from 1940 to 2001. However, the film only shows a single day in the life of the family, October 1st, 1989, the 90th birthday of Wilhelm Powileit, the family patriarch.

Wilhelm Powileit, played admirably by Bruno Ganz, is the second husband of Charlotte Umnitzer, so he's only related to the rest of the family by marriage, not by blood. His family and the local community look up to him as a hero. On his 20th birthday he joined the German Communist Party and has been a member ever since. In 1940 he fled to Mexico to avoid persecution as a Communist. In 1952 he returned to East Berlin, the capital of the German Democratic Republic (DDR).

Every year on this day he celebrates his birthday with his family, his friends and Communist Party officials. Every year he's given yet another medal for his faithful service to the DDR. He has a shoe box full of medals, most of which look identical.

This year is different. In six days time it will be the 40th anniversary of the DDR, but everyone is talking about the political problems facing the country. Massive numbers of young people are fleeing the country to go to West Germany, not directly but via Hungary and Czechoslovakia. The party officials fear that the DDR is falling apart. Wilhelm's grandson Sascha fled to West Germany the previous day, leaving his wife and son behind. The family has agreed not to tell Wilhelm in order not to spoil his birthday, but the secret comes out when Wilhelm's daughter-in-law Irina gets drunk and talks about it.

This is a dark comedy, overlaid with symbolism. The dinner table collapses before the meal, just as the DDR is collapsing around them. Neither the family nor the party officials can do anything to repair the table.

I've given the film a relatively low rating because it was too slow and plodding to get me mentally involved. However, I'd like to watch it again when it's released on Blu-ray. I suspect it's a film that could grow on me.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Faster Pussycat Kill Kill (5 Stars)

"Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to violence".

This isn't just one of the best films ever made, it's also the most culturally significant film of the second half of the 20th Century. It's inspired almost every action film that's been made since. Anyone who hasn't seen it is seriously lacking in his knowledge of film history.

I first saw it when I lived in Germany. I'm not sure when, probably in the early 1980's. (It was made in 1966). There was a small arthouse cinema opposite Stuttgart's central train station that specialised in showing classic movies rather than new releases. It showed "Faster Pussycat Kill Kill" about once a month. Germans have good taste.

When I moved to America I borrowed it on video from a local store. I wanted to watch it with my girlfriend, but she refused to look at it. I'm not sure why. One of her friends had told her about it, and she felt that the film was somehow wrong. Is it too violent? Films made more recently have much more explicit violence. What makes the film so extreme is the attitude behind the violence. Violence is glorified as a means to an end. Women can use violence to get whatever they want, exploiting the weaknesses in men, whether they are physical or mental.

Tura Satana was born to play the lead role. She was born as Tura Yamaguchi in Hokkaido, Japan, but she picked the last name Satana as more fitting to her personality. When she was nine years old she was gang-raped by five men, but they were never prosecuted. Tura claims it was because they bribed the judge. Whatever the reason, she spent years patiently planning her revenge. She trained in martial arts, and when she had worked her way to a black belt she hunted the men down, one by one. A biography of her life is currently in development, so we'll soon know all the details.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

R.I.P. Adam West

Yesterday evening Adam West passed away at the age of 88. I'm stunned. He's someone I thought would live forever. Even in his 80's he seemed to be in excellent health. In the end he lost the fight against leukemia.

Was he a great actor? Probably not. I don't think he would have been a good Hamlet, but he was the best possible Batman, setting the bar so high that no other actor could possibly hope to reach it.

Was he a great man? Undoubtedly. Anyone who followed him on Facebook was overwhelmed by the loving warmth of his personality. The tributes are still rolling in online, and I dare to say that everyone who ever met him in person loved him, whether it was this year or 55 years ago in his Batman days. Like me, Adam West was a husband, father and grandfather, but I doubt that I live up to the example he set for his family.

For those who don't know much about him as a person, I have two recommendations. First, listen to his audio commentary to the film "Batman". The film was made in 1966, and the audio commentary was recorded shortly before 2002 when it was first released on DVD. It's the most entertaining audio commentary I've ever heard, nothing like the usual commentaries where a bored director drones on because it's expected of him.

Secondly, watch the semi-biographical film "Return to the Batcave", made in 1973. Adam is playing himself, and he's having fun doing it.

And of course, watch the Batman TV series. If you don't already have the excellent Blu-ray box set at home, why not? Pull out your credit card now! That's the best way you can show your appreciation for this wonderful man. The world is a sadder place without Adam West, but Batman lives on forever.

Adam West
September 19, 1928 – June 9, 2017

My Tutor (5 Stars)

Five stars? Yes. It will probably surprise or even shock my readers to hear that this is one of my favourite films. It's a coming-of-age comedy. Sometimes the definition of coming-of-age is widened to include many different types of films, but my personal definition is that it only refers to films about a teenager losing his or her virginity. In most cases his, because it's easier to make fun of male virgins.

Bobby Chrystal has just finished high school. After the summer holidays he should be going to Yale to study law. The problem is that he has failed his French exam abysmally. His father, a wealthy Yale graduate who somehow has influence on the university, has persuaded the university to keep his place open, but only on condition that he retakes the exam and scores at least 85%.

Bobby's father hires a French tutor to prepare him for the new exam at the end of the holidays. The studying takes time away from his most important goal: he wants to lose his virginity. Both he and his best friend Jack have just finished high school and are still virgins. Statistically, that makes them late starters, because most teenagers lose their virginity while they're still at school. Jack's older brother Billy claims to be a man of the world and takes them out to places where they can become men, but things never work out as planned.

This is complicated by the fact that Bobby begins to feel attracted to Terry, his French tutor, even though she's much, much older than him. She's 29!

What I like about the film is its unstated but blatantly hinted representation of the gender roles that Bobby has to struggle against. As in Russ Meyer's films, "My Tutor" shows women as intelligent and sexually aggressive, whereas the men are stupid and intimidated by female sexuality. The opening scene shows Bobby taking his French exam. One by one the girls finish the exam and walk out early, while the boys are left behind struggling to finish. As the girls walk past Bobby remembers that he's seen them dancing, and however much he tries to concentrate on the exam he sees them gyrating seductively. It's as if their dance was for him, to reduce him to a horny, incapable boy.

In the same way, Terry flaunts herself when they're together. She wears a thin, almost sheer bikini during the French lessons, pretending to be oblivious to the fact that Bobby can't take her eyes off her body.

There are also aspects of female domination, but I'll go into them more the next time I review the film. Maybe I'll build my next review around a photo gallery. There will be a next time. I'm shocked to see that I haven't watched "My Tutor" for more than six years. Shame on me!

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Filth (3 Stars)

This is a Scottish film made in 2013 starring James McAvoy as Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson, a policeman currently seeking promotion to detective inspector. There are no doubts that he will be promoted. Both he and and his superior officer are members of the same Freemason lodge in Edinburgh.

By all accounts Bruce is an unpleasant character. He relentlessly plays games with his fellow officers. He plays pranks on them, then persuades them that the pranks were played by other officers, turning them against one another, while he remains the friend of all. He also plays games with a fellow lodge member, Clifford Blades, who considers him to be his best friend. He makes anonymous sexual phone calls to Clifford's wife. When asked by his superior officer to investigate the matter, he fakes evidence that Clifford was making the calls himself.

Bruce has other problems in his life, maybe brought on by the stress of his deceptive life, maybe a result of the recreational drugs he uses. He sees and talks to people who aren't there. His friends and colleagues see him breaking down and want to help him, but he considers everyone his enemies.

As the film continues Bruce rapidly spirals downwards. My biggest problem with the film is that I couldn't sympathise with him as a character. I disliked him from the beginning, so I gloated as he deteriorated. It's an interesting experimental film, but even bad guys have to be likeable for a film to win over the audience.

Order from
Order from
Order from

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Triangle (5 Stars)

Today I was discussing this film with a friend, and I realised I hadn't watched it for two years. I couldn't resist, I had to watch it again straight away. Well, maybe not immediately. I had some household chores to do, so I had to wait a few hours.

When I watch a film that I've already seen a few times I try to put myself into the mindset of not knowing what will happen next. I attempt to forget that I've seen it before. That's not completely possible, but I do it as well as I can. Today I was relatively successful. Each development in the film shocked and surprised me. I really felt as if it were a new film for me.

I also tried to understand the film again, forgetting what I had deduced in the past. This wasn't quite as easy. I quickly agreed with what I wrote in my review in 2013, which I shan't repeat here. Read that review if you want to, but beware, it contains spoilers. Today I became aware that there's one detail of the film that I don't understand. What's the significance of the seagull? I know that the film is based on Greek mythology, so there's probably a connection somewhere. I know that doves are associated with Aphrodite, but I'm not aware of seagulls playing a part in any legends. It's interesting that Jess kills a seagull every day and throws it to be eaten by crabs, after which another seagull -- or maybe the same one -- follows her on her journey.

Sometimes I'm disgusted with the viewing public. "Triangle" was filmed with a budget of $15 million, but it earned less than $2 million at the box office, making it officially a big flop. How did this happen? How could such a brilliant film have failed to attract the public's attention? Was it badly marketed? Film posters present it as a horror film, which it certainly isn't. Even the DVD covers make it look like a horror film. I wonder whether the artists responsible for the posters and DVD covers had even seen the film.

I haven't yet listened to the director's commentary on the film. That's something I ought to do. Soon.

Order from
Order from
Order from

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Bedazzled (1967) (3 Stars)

Today is the first time I've watched the original version of "Bedazzled" for at least 40 years. I could only remember one scene from the film, the one in the poster above: Raquel Welch writhing sensually in her underwear while Dudley Moore lay in bed.

If you look at the posters and the DVD covers for "Bedazzled", they all feature Raquel Welch. If you're a Raquel Welch fan you'll be disappointed when you see the film. She appears for less than five minutes. Her prominence in the advertising materials is because when the film was made in 1967 she was being promoted as the world's most beautiful woman. I personally don't agree with that. I found other 1960's actresses more beautiful, such as Yutta Stensgaard and Valerie Leon. Nevertheless, Raquel's prominence in my memory is a testimony to her sexuality.

"Bedazzled" is a quaint comic retelling of the story of Goethe's "Faust". Stanley Moon, the cook in a Wimpy's restaurant, is offered seven wishes in exchange for his soul. He doesn't really need that many wishes. All that he wants is to be with Margaret, a waitress in the same restaurant. The problem is that he can't trust the Devil. Whenever he wishes for a perfect life with Margaret the Devil uses a loophole to spoil his happiness. For instance, in one of the wishes he asks to be rich and married to Margaret, which is granted, but he finds that Margaret doesn't love him. In each successive wish Stanley adds new stipulations to prevent the same things going wrong again, but the Devil outsmarts him, adding a new problem each time. Seven wishes aren't enough to give Stanley what he wants, and I dare to say that 70 wishes wouldn't be enough.

Peter Cook plays the Devil as a suave, likeable character, who prefers to call himself George. Dudley Moore plays Stanley, a naive, simple-minded character. It's difficult to understand how Stanley could be taken in by the Devil's lies. To me as a logical thinking man it's easy to see through him. Only a sexy female Devil like Elizabeth Hurley could tempt me into Hell.

What about Raquel Welch? She plays Lust, as the poster says. In the course of the film we meet the personifications of the seven deadly sins. That's why we hardly see her. She has to share screen time with the six other sins in between the wishes.

I suspect that my American friends will love "Bedazzled" because of its dry British humour. For me the film is dated. I enjoy the 2000 remake much more.

Order from
Order from
Order from

Monday, 5 June 2017

Falling Down (5 Stars)

The American magazine Newsweek used a picture of Michael Douglas as its cover on March 29th, 1993, four weeks after the cinema release of "Falling Down", with the headline "White Male Paranoia". I don't believe this was the main meaning of the film, but it's what the Newsweek reporter David Gates took from it. That's the mark of a good film. Different people can read into it different messages. That's especially the case when the film is a tragedy, about a good man who is destined by fate to suffer a bad end.

Click here for one of my reviews of the film. I'll probably write about it again in the future. Today I'll just quote the Newsweek article in full. It's written by an American for Americans, at the beginnining of Bill Clinton's presidency, but it has relevance for white men in any western country. I welcome comments from readers willing to discuss the article and its relevance to the film.

WHITE MALE PARANOIA by David Gates, Newsweek, March 29th, 1993

"I'm the bad guy?" asks an incredulous Michael Douglas at the end of "Falling Down", the politically befuddled and wildly popular new movie. In context, it's a black-comedy laugh line: Douglas, as an ex-missile-plant worker called D-Fens (after his vanity license plate), has just spent an hour and a half on screen hectoring people of color and senior citizens, terrorizing his ex-wife and committing conventional movie mayhem with everything from knives to bazookas. But the line also packs a pop-sociological punch. The fashionable revisionist reading of American history and culture that makes the white male the bad guy has triumphed, the film seems to argue, and it's made him not just defensive, but paranoid.

Before we all nod in agreement that it's twilight time for white guys, we should take another look at the faces on America's currency and in America's Congress. But "Falling Down", whether it's really a message movie or just a cop film with trendy trimmings, pushes white men's buttons. The annoyances and menaces that drive D-Fens bonkers -- whining panhandlers, immigrant shopkeepers who don't trouble themselves to speak good English, gun-toting gangbangers -- are a cross-section of white-guy grievances. From the get-go, the film pits Douglas -- the picture of obsolescent rectitude with his white shirt, tie, specs and astronaut haircut -- against a rainbow coalition of Angelenos. It's a cartoon vision of the beleaguered white male in multicultural America.

This is a weird moment to be a white man. True, one of them just became president, but one of them always becomes president. And this one has just finished appointing the most nonwhite, nonmale cabinet in American history. A black female poet read at his Inauguration, welcoming everybody to the party -- "The Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew, the African, the Native American, the Sioux, the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru" -- and dropping in the occasional Swede and Scot almost as if they were tokens. WASPs didn't even rate a mention. Some party. Suddenly white American males are surrounded by feminists, multiculturalists, P.C. policepersons, affirmative-action employers, rap artists, Native Americans, Japanese tycoons, Islamic fundamentalists and Third World dictators, all of them saying the same thing: "You've been a bad boy".

White guys should have realized things were starting to slip at the time of the Clarence Thomas hearings, when Anita Hill testified about being sexually harassed and the white male senators looked like a bunch of oinkers who just didn't get it. Or at that presidential debate when a black woman stood up and asked George Bush, the whitest male in recent memory, how the budget deficit affected him personally and he just didn't get it. A lot of white guys out there didn't quite get it either. On the other hand, in the words of sociologist and men's activist Michael Kimmel, "they feel like they're getting it from all sides".

The white male used to be (as Ralph Kramden put it) "the king of the castle"; now he's the ogre. "We still have the power", says Washington-area computer-software editor Neil Froemming, "but nobody likes us". The truth is, lots of folks never did; it's just that now they're not afraid to say so. The white guys who run the business world, a 36-year-old female trucking-company executive recently told a Pittsburgh paper, are "a bunch of shallow, bald, middle-aged men with character disorders. They don't have the emotional capacity that it takes to qualify as human beings. The one good thing about these white, male, almost-extinct mammals is that they're growing old. We get to watch them die".

But is the white male truly an endangered species, or is he just being a jerk? It's still a statistical piece of cake being a white man, at least in comparison with being anything else. White males make up just 39.2 percent of the population, yet they account for 82.5 percent of the Forbes 400 (folks worth at least $265 million), 77 percent of Congress, 92 percent of state governors, 70 percent of tenured college faculty, almost 90 percent of daily-newspaper editors, 77 percent of TV news directors. They dominate just about everything but NOW and the NAACP; even in the NBA, most of the head coaches and general managers are white guys. So now they want underdog status, too, and the moral clout that comes with victimhood?

The white male may still be holding his own (and most of everybody else's) in the world of hard facts, but in the world of images and ideas -- where we also live, and where our feelings about ourselves reside -- he's taking a clobbering. On TV, the white male is a boob or a villain, not just in such shows as "Roseanne", but in the ads, too. In 1987, one researcher found that in the commercials' mini-conflicts between men and women, the woman won out 100 percent of the time. In the movies, he's a target for Thelma and Louise, or a loutish and entirely unwanted suitor for Belle in Disney's "Beauty and the Beast". Mainstream literary scholars have become so gun-shy that the distinguished classicist Bernard Knox preemptively calls his forthcoming book on the ancient Greeks "The Oldest Dead White European Males". Essayist John Leonard calls his forthcoming volume "The Last Innocent White Man in America". In the art world, white guys are the bullies who once "marginalized" everybody else but who are now getting their comeuppance. This year's Whitney Biennial Exhibition (the museum equivalent of the debutante ball) showcased gay, female and nonwhite artists who, as associate curator Thelma Golden wrote in the catalog, "work consciously to deconstruct and de-center the politically constructed site of whiteness". Everywhere in the culture, from low to high, is the image of the white male as Ice Person: can't jump, can't dance, can't feel.

That sort of talk is part of what's eating white men these days, what if they talked like that about blacks? About women? A double standard, they think, is now applied to both their speech and their behavior. Peter Keihm, 29, recalls a woman at his Atlanta computer company joshing about tying up a male colleague for sexual-bondage games. "If it was a guy saying the same thing", he says, "it would be harassment". Good thinking. Or is it? These days it's hard to tell when the fear of committing sexual harassment crosses over into paranoia. Dave, 49, a Tampa newspaper editor who no longer dares ask female colleagues to lunch, seems close to the edge: "The crowd that wants to make people so aware of nuance in things has almost frozen me into inaction". Then again, we don't know the women at Dave's paper.

Sexual harassment is an issue with no consensus, no clear rules-and lawsuits for guys who just don't get it. Insurance companies will now cover firms against sexual-harassment suits; one Boston-area company with about 100 employees had a close brush with such a suit last year and now pays a $25,000 annual premium for $1 million worth of coverage. Men like to indulge in bitter overstatement about the pitfalls of this uncharted territory. "It's getting to the point", says Georgia state legislator Sonny Dixon, "where you better not extend your arm for a handshake unless she extends it first". As sociologist Kimmel recently told The Boston Globe, "What we called traditional workplace behavior may be called sexual harassment. What we called dating behavior may now be called rape. Most men are not happy with this".

And then there are all these little things that can nag at a white guy. It sounds crazy even to mention them, but they add up. His cash machine asks if business is to be conducted in English or Spanish. A panhandler pointedly wishes him a pleasant and safe day. He's passed by a car, more luxurious than his own, booming rap music. (He has lately acquired a taste for country music). He opens a door for a woman who didn't need it opened. At preschool they're teaching his kids songs in Swahili; what happened to "Three Blind Mice", or aren't you supposed to say "blind" anymore? Certain public figures begin to get his goat: Spike Lee, Sinead O'Connor, Al Sharpton, Faye Wattleton, and he hates to admit it -- it's so trite -- but Hillary Rodham Clinton. He's beginning to feel like Bob Dylan's Mr. Jones, who knew something was happening here but didn't know what it was. People seem to be talking in code -- wack? def? -- and he's getting sick of feeling obliged to pay attention. He hates the word womyn, and anything with the suffix -centric. He worries that he's a becoming a fascist. He has been thinking about buying a gun.

White male paranoia isn't old-fashioned white liberal guilt; it's atavistic racial and sexual dread, and it achieves critical mass when a rapidly contracting economy becomes over crowded. White men used to feel guilty about what they had or what they'd done. Now they're required to feel guilty about what they are. Shrinks, understandably, are seeing more white male anxiety cases, especially among men whose medical benefits help cover such things. "A lot of these men are freaking because they don't know the rules", says Harvard psychologist Steven Berglas. "The male-dominated system has failed, and the men haven't processed it yet. There's been attitudinal compliance, but you're not getting attitudinal acceptance". Brookline, Mass, psychologist Ronald Levant says the string of recent scandals -- Anita Hill, William Kennedy Smith, Mike Tyson, Sol Wachtler, Bob Packwood, the Tailhook affair -- have "put the traditional male sense of entitlements under the microscope. On the simple level, men don't know where the line is. But on a deeper level, there is anxiety".

Of course, white men in America have worried that things were getting away from them since Columbus hit the beach and saw that other people lived here. "European males", says self-styled New Jersey "street therapist" Onage Benjamin, one of the few African-Americans deeply involved in the men's movement, "have always had the propensity to say 'I feel threatened' while holding a gun to somebody else's head". The perception that minorities are taking over is a staple of American political paranoia. A 1990 Gallup poll, for instance, found that the average American estimated 32 percent of the U.S. population was black and 21 percent Hispanic; the real figures were 12 percent and 9 percent.

Yet white males may soon have reason to feel they're being crowded. "The United States", writes University of Louisville population researcher William O'Hare, "is undergoing a transition from a predominantly white population rooted in Western culture to a society composed of diverse racial and ethnic minorities". In the next century "minorities" may no longer be in the minority, and half the population, needless to say, will still be women. More women than men are now enrolled in colleges, and by the year 2000, two out of every three new workers will be women or minorities. That's about right, considering white males' share of the population, but it's not the way it was. "For white men in their 30's and 40's, this is not a joke at all", says David Charney, a Washington-area psychiatrist. "Their whole future is at stake, in their minds. They're scared".

For those too macho (or too broke) for the psychiatrist's couch, there are still the traditional fishing trips or poker nights, Civil War re-enactments and men's movement retreats where they can access the inner warrior in sweat lodges and soul-baring gabfests. The squalid shock-jock Howard Stern, now heard on 15 big-city radio stations nationwide, provides a vicarious Animal House for workadaddies. For interactive types, there's the give-and-take on such sports-talk radio stations as Washington D.C.'s WTEM, which describes itself (with a telling mix of self-assertion and self-mockery) as "hair-on-your-back, testosterone-laden radio". And for the real hard core, there are "Rush Rooms": nearly 100 bars and restaurants around the country where fans gather daily to cheer on right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh. "The white male is the most persecuted person in the United States", says Tom Cole, 61, a retired marketing executive and patron of the Chicago Pizza and Sports Arena, a Rush Room in suburban Atlanta. The talk here veers between personal testimony about the weird new behavioral rules that are suddenly in effect and potshots at the Clinton administration's search for a female attorney general. "We got down to the third woman on the female list", says Phil Copeland, 29, who works for the state transportation department, "and never looked at the top male on the list".

Among the Rush Room set, the insistence on appointing the best female attorney baldly and publicly violated the canons of fair play and equal opportunity. So, of course, does the ratio of male to female attorneys general in American history -- counting Janet Reno, it now stands at 77 to one -- but Rush Roomers don't see it in that light. They're not the only ones who fret about where things might be heading. Tom Williamson, president of the National Coalition of Free Men (whose Board of Advisors includes Ed Asner), complains that Clinton "has brought in a feminist administration that has no conception of men's problems. They are self-serving and self-pitying. We're going to be in for it".

White males voted 62 to 37 percent against Clinton (40 percent for Bush, 22 for Perot), partly out of fear that his multicultural ecofeminist storm troopers would take away their guns, steaks, cigarettes, V-8 engines and jobs. He's come close to fulfilling his pledge to appoint a cabinet that "looks like America", and Clinton watchers rate the odds of another white male's replacing Byron (Whizzer) White on the Supreme Court as only slightly higher than White's replacing Emmitt Smith on the Dallas Cowboys. The search for diversity has apparently slowed up subcabinet appointments; a conservative former assistant secretary of state charges that foreign policy is suffering because key posts are either unfilled or held by inexperienced staffers of the "right" sex or ethnicity. One administration staffer admits that "in sifting through resumes, you get to the point where you're not even looking at white men". Yet other administration sources say relatively few white males have actually been turned away specifically for whiteness and maleness. "Some of these people were legitimately screwed", says a transition-team member, "but a lot of people are just using it as an excuse": a convenient fiction both for underqualified job seekers and for interviewers who want to soften the blow.

If 128 years of black emancipation and 73 years of women's suffrage haven't changed the balance of power much, it's likely to survive even eight years of Bill and Hillary. For all the talk of diversity, the Clinton administration's senior command is still largely white and male. "It's hard to feel sympathy", says one female adviser, "when every time I go to a senior staff meeting it's all white males". As of early March, women held only a quarter of subcabinet jobs, half what they'd need for things to look like America. Black appointments (17 percent) exceed the goal, but some African-American critics say the proportion ought to reflect black support for Clinton during the election, a line of reasoning once favored by bankers and defense contractors.

The Clinton administration typifies the new affirmative action: it's less about giving individuals a leg up, and more about creating models of diversity, like the bomber crews in World War II movies. Outside Washington, the old affirmative action still chugs along, and the status quo hasn't changed much there, either. For blacks, in fact, unemployment has gotten worse relative to whites, and white men with high-school degrees saw their incomes drop by some 25 percent during the 1980s. As Queens College political scientist Andrew Hacker wrote in "Two Nations" (1992), one indisputable accomplishment of affirmative action has been "to pit whites with modest aspirations against blacks who want better lives for themselves". Just drop by your local firehouse. "They stole my pay, they stole my promotion", says a white firefighter in Miami, "and I couldn't say I didn't like it. White guys are being pushed around big time to make up for past wrongs. If you're black and belong to a black group, you're an activist. If you're white and you belong to a white group, you're an asshole. Nobody supports the KKK -- I don't -- but there's nothing for a white guy to join. A few years ago, I was a walking keg of dynamite; I was the Rolaids king. If I talk too much about this I start getting wound up and I can't sleep".

Richard Wagner, 55, president of the Chicago Fire Fighters Union, is worried that he, too, will be passed over. If he makes lieutenant, he says, "maybe I can send my daughter to something better than a state college. When I go to retire, maybe I can make $600 a month instead of $300 a month". Wagner insists he's all for affirmative action. "But I'm only second generation in this country", he says. "I didn't own any slaves, I didn't have anything to do with that. Now I'm being made to pay for these atrocities?" Working-class white males used to feel crowded chiefly by blacks, but Steve, 29, who sold his Jeep CJ7 to put himself through police academy at a San Francisco-area community college, has been losing out to women. He was a finalist for a job in a rural northern California town, but got bumped down the list by three women he says didn't go through the same application process. "When they take the chance that I had and allot it to three women just because they're female, that burns me up", he says. "I got shot out of the saddle."

White male academics know better than to use telltale metaphors like that, but they feel much the same way. They now hold more than two thirds of the tenured positions, but they believe universities are eager to even things out-at their expense. "If you're a good woman from a good program you will pretty definitely get a good job your first year or two out", says a history professor in the Southeast. "You can be a first-rate male and still be in real danger". In desperation, some become what might be called academic cross-dressers. "Lots of white males consciously adopt race-class-gender topics", says this professor, "in hope of getting back into the job-market loop". But he says he doesn't blame women for seizing the day. "The people I really feel bitter towards are the white, middle-aged professors at elite institutions. I've never seen one give up his job to a woman or a minority", he says. "What they do is give up my job."

In its terminal stages, white male paranoia turns apocalyptic. "Look at our TV sitcoms", says Jerry Bowyer, editor of Pittsburgh's 126-year-old Christian Statesman, which he says is America's oldest conservative Christian publication. "The white male -- the dad -- is always the stupidest guy in the room. A culture that's constantly denigrating its own authority structure, whether it's white males in this culture, or black females in a matriarchal African culture, is not going to last". Larry Evans, 45, a liberal activist from Pittsburgh, is also thinking gloomy global thoughts. "The paranoia the typical white guy has is deep rooted", he says. "Western Europeans are not exactly populating the earth right now, and in the 21st century that's going to be even more apparent. It's gonna end up in a confrontation". He adds, "Here I am sounding like a Nazi".

Some white males have experienced what many more have ugly fantasies about: an up-close-and-personal taste of the confrontation between the world's haves and have-nots. Blacks themselves are overwhelmingly the victims of black street crime; that doesn't make Bill Higgins, a freelance writer in Los Angeles, feel less shaken. "A black guy pulled a gun on me in Hollywood", says Higgins, 43. "He reached into the bag to get the gun and cocked it. He said, 'Don't run'. I was gone. I was the fastest white man in America. I've debated the gun thing. I got close enough so that I was looking at the shotguns at the sporting-goods store. But one of my ambitions, honest to God, is to get through life without killing anybody". Not every nice white guy makes such a measured decision about "the gun thing", especially in L.A. After last year's riots, gun instructors were inundated with calls from the wealthy white parts of town. As the proprietor of one gun-training service told The New York Times, "Nothing beats a race riot".

But full-blown cases of the D-Fens syndrome still happen mostly in the movies. "There are many more men who are taking care of the children than there are men on the freeway going berserk", says Joseph Pleck of the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women. The affronts most white males experience remain merely ideological and attitudinal: white-baiting jokes from such comedians as Paul Moone, a former writer for Richard Pryor who works the racial cutting edge; men-are-pigs wisecracks from "Roseanne"; the occasional dirty look in the workplace. The Ice Person stereotype has acquired a degree of respectability: "Thinking like a man just means proceeding from the left side of your brain in a linear way", Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Rosalie E. Wahl told Life magazine last summer. But it still lacks the damage potential of older stereotypes: the flighty woman, the shiftless black.

Up to a point, trashing white males was good clean fun, in the all-American tradition of deflating the pompous and the powerful: the insufferable Jim Anderson of "Father Knows Best" richly deserved getting Simpsonized. Generations of white males judged women and minorities not by what they did but by what they were. Turnabout is fair play. White men are now beginning to say: only fair play is fair play. It figures that they'd think of that now.

Order from
Order from
Order from