Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Movie: Italy in the Spring

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight Movie is “Enchanted April” (1992):

Remember “Gilligan’s Island”. “Enchanted April” (1992) is not a three-hour tour. It is not a shipwreck. It is not “Gilligan’s Island”. It isn’t even “Survivor”. It could pass for “Under the Tuscan Sun”. Like that movie, it is a leisurely stroll through an Italian landscape that only be described as paradise.

How did four English women find themselves in Italy? A small ad in the newspaper. The newspaper was the 1920s version of the internet. For a small price, a person could see the world laid out before them.

Adapted from Elizabeth von Armin’s novel, the movie begins with two married women, Lottie Wilkins (Josie Lawrence) and Rose Arbuthnot (Miranda Richardson). They are stuck in England with some really lousy Spring weather. They see an advertisement offer to stay in medieval castle for the month of April. Not only do they get a castle, they get Italy on the Mediterranean.

When they see the ad, they say, “What fun.” At least, Lottie does. After some persistence, Rose is persuaded. Each has their own reason to get away from her husband for a month. Alfred Molina (of “Frida” fame) and Jim Broadbent (from “Topsy Turvy”) are the husbands Lottie and Rose leave behind.

Since it’s a bit expensive, the two of them ask two more to come along. Mrs. Fisher (Joan Plowright) is an older woman with her nose stuck in the air. Then she breaths in the Italian air and she is changed along with her three companions. Lady Caroline Dester (Polly Walker) is an attractive young aristocrat who is searching for direction.

Unfortunately, the Italian weather isn’t cooperating when Lottie and Rose arrive. But the next morning everything has changed. April is April and Italy is Italy. “Were you ever so happy?” Lottie asks Rose. Then the two come across Mrs. Fisher who speaks an “an ancient Italian, the Italian of Dante” and Lady Caroline who speaks “the kind of Italian the cooks understand”. I would say that this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. But you’ll have to find out for yourself.

And what happens when the men show up.

If you are partial to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, this one is for you.

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Movie: A Washed Up Poet

inOnce a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Movie Spotlight is “Reuben, Reuben” (1983):

National Poetry Month is coming up in April. So here’s a reminder to read a few poems during the month, the movie “Reuben, Reuben”. It’s charming and it’s funny and it has romance. The Reuben in the title is not the poet. It’s the supporting character dog in this small movie comedy. A very important supporting character.

Tom Conti is a washed up Scottish poet Gowen McGland. He has a huge case of writer’s block.  In his younger days, he wrote poems that became taught in college classrooms everywhere, though nobody seems to know what they mean. He has become more famous for his drinking and womanizing than for his poetry.

Julius J. Epstein wrote the screenplay. He adapted it from Herman Shumlin’s play “Spofford” which in turn was an adaptation of the Peter DeVries novel, “Reuben, Reuben”. There is a good chance that Dylan Thomas was a model for Gowen McGland.

Gowen makes his living travelling around, speaking to women’s clubs, small colleges and any other organization that pay a stipend. His latest destination is an affluent Connecticut suburb. There’s enough bored housewives there for him to seduce to make it worth the pittance of a stipend he’ll receive. But he doesn’t really do much seduction. A number of the bored are throwing themselves at him. After all, he has that Scottish accent.

Little does he realize that his life is about to change and it will be a Connecticut suburb that does it. He might even break through that writer’s block.

Where’s Matt Damon?

We’ve all heard the question, “Where’s Waldo?” What I want to know is where’s Matt Damon? We first came across Matt in a bar:

Next thing we know he’s in the Army:

By the time we catch up with him there, he’s after Jude Law:

Unfortunately Jude Law didn’t make it out of that movie. Seems Matt Damon isn’t as innocent as we thought he was. That’s because all along he was a 007 kind of guy working for a spy agency that shall remain unnamed. After all, it’s a spy agency. Ssssshhhh:

And you do not want to mess with him. Of course, you have to catch him first:

Since he’s a man of many disguises, on the side he helps George Clooney pull off a big one:

They had met in the Middle East, doing some dirty business:

Unfortunately the spy agency found out about his extracurricular activities and they were not happy. That’s why they sent him to Mars and told his fellow crewmates to leave him behind:

If Matt escapes, where will he show up next?


It Go Boom

“I didn’t go to jail. I went to Hollywood.:–Orson Welles about what happened after his “War of the Worlds” 1938 radio broadcast.

It all starts with “Let’s blow up a town.” But it always starts that way. In some Hollywood office, a producer makes the suggestion to her in-house director.

Of course, the director takes up the dare. “How are we going to do that?” comes the question, and it’s a fair question too.

“We’ll get the special effects people to do it for us,” the producer says. She loves the special effects people. Unlike actors, they always give her exactly what she wants.

“I don’t mean how. I mean why.”

“Do we need a reason?” The producer isn’t looking for an answer. She already has an answer.

“Not really.”

“Remember what P. T. Barnum said. There’s a sucker born every minute. And what the suckers…I mean, the public wants is boom-boom-boom. So all we have to do is hire some poor schmuck of a screenwriter to come up with some kid and his hot chick girlfriend taking on some—“

“I know, zombies.” The director is bored. He’s heard all this before.

“Not zombies. That is so passé. And no more vampires. At least, not for a while.“

“What then?” He starts to yawn but he knows that is a bad strategy.

“And we’ve done the tin cans,” the producer says. She’s starts pacing around the office.

The director knows this is a good sign. When she starts pacing, she’s about to come up something spectacular. Another Class A blockbuster. “Tin cans?” he asks anyway.

“You know, those transformers.” She flips her heels off. Now every inch of her body from her toes to her pageboy hair style is getting hot with an idea. All the director has to do is wait.

“Yeah, but what?” the director says, taking his cue to draw out an idea from his boss.

Then the idea begins to come out. “What if the town is on Mars?”

“Mars?” he says, watching the producer do her thing.

“Yes, Mars,” the producer is laughing. “Of course, Mars.” She is back on her game. “It’s one hundred years after earth has colonized Mars. Only we don’t send humans. We send robots.”

“Why do we colonize Mars?” The director is getting interested. It means he will be working with machines, not actors. The machines will definite do what they are told.

As the producer is pouring out her ideas, she’s thinking this is better than sex. The roll she’s on can be downright orgasmic. “Doesn’t matter. The screenwriter can make it up. Maybe we sent the robots up there to take on the little green guys.”

“So how do we get the hunky guy and the hot chick in the movie?” He is watching her as she goes for the gold, and she is doing it with the gusto of a whirling dervish.

“They are sent up there for a regular maintenance. You know, the robots need some WD40. They hate each other. Not the robots. But the hot chick and Mr. Hunk. They are also hot for each other too. After all, it’s been six weeks since they’ve had any.” The producer throws herself back into her chair. She is in absolute ecstasy.

Then her face turns into a frown. She is having a moment of doubt. She needs reassurance.

This is where the director comes in like he always does. That is why she keeps him around. Not for his directing abilities. He doesn’t have any. Rather to goad her out of her doubt.

“Absolute genius,” he says. “This could be huge.”

“You think so?” she asks. Then she’s off again, “Of course, it will. And you know what happens next? The Martians appear, and they are werewolves. Yes, werewolves. That’s it. Werewolves will be the new zombies. And Martian werewolves at that.”

“Martian werewolves,” he says, getting into the spirit of things. “I like that.”

“Of course you do,” she says, putting her feet up on the desk. “What’s not to like. And the only way they can overcome the Martians is blow up Robottown. ‘Cause the Martians are overrunning the town.”

“Now all you need is a title,” he says, knowing what he’ll be doing the next six months.

She picks up the phone and calls the first on her A-list of screenwriters. “Hey, Marvin, this is Michaelson. I have a job for you. I need you to write a script for my new movie, ‘It Go Boom’.”

She sits the phone back down and turns to the director. “I have a brilliant idea.”

“What would that be, Chief?”

“We’ll do a video game spinoff,” her voice filled with excitement. She is thinking of all the money that will roll in from this one. “Call it ‘Blow Stuff Up’.”

The Rediscovery of Sex

I was watching an old 1930s movie recently. A couple got married. They never had a honeymoon. The husband carried his blushing bride over the threshold, dropped her in the living room, then went off to work. The wife went shopping.

In the one scene in the bedroom, there were twin beds. Both husband and wife wore pajamas. They gave each other a good night smooch, then each crawled into their twin bed and went off to zzzz-land. No time in the movie did the couple even hint at the s-word.

Since movies are a very good reflection of real life, none of the thirties romances had sexual activity. If couples were having sex, they kept it on the q.t. Guess that was why it was called the Great Depression.

It got me thinking. How did they avoid sex? I mean, these days sex is everywhere. It’s on magazine covers. It’s in the ads. It’s in the movies. It’s on tv. It’s in the music. It’s even on the evening news. We can’t seem to get enough of it. So just how did our forefolks avoid sex? Why would they want to anyway? Why did it take a World War to bring back sex?

Big questions. Recently Uncle Bardie came across an ancient tome called  “The Real Kinsey Report” that explained much that has been hidden from history. Lord Byron was one of the last two people in England in the Nineteenth Century to enjoy a ménage à duet, his female partner à duet being the other people. As the famed Lord was making a strategic withdrawal, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were engaged in hanky panky on the HMS Queen Mary. The thing is there was more hanky than panky.

Vickie and Bertie were off on their honeymoon. Of course, you do know that the origin of the word “honeymoon” was Anglo Saxon for “tiddlywinks”.  As soon as Bertie showed his blushing bride his tiddly and she showed him her winkie, they both realized this would never do. She said, “Ewwww.” And she meant it. He said, “Yech.” And he meant it. That was the end of sex as our forefathers and foremothers knew it. The end of foreplay. And afterplay too.

They returned to Buckingham Palace and declared that there was to be no more sex in the land. To make sure that their command was obeyed, they proclaimed a proclamation and they decreed a decree. Every female over the age of twelve not only had to wear a girdle. She had to wear a corset, even when she went to bed. Especially when she went to bed.

Unlike Prohibition, the new regime of non-coitus dilecti was widely popular. The Germans loved it. The Russians loved it. The Chinese loved it. The Greeks loved it. The Americans loved it. The Italians, not so much. Only the French resisted. And the Canadians who were half French anyway. The Canadians just shook their heads and thought, “Are they crazy? How are we to keep warm, eh?”

Late in the century, the French came around. We all know the details. It was the Albert Dufus Affair. Seems that A D was messing around with the Can-Can. Needless to say, it was uncanny how candid the Can-Can can.

The Can-adians never came around. Oh, sure. They too had a coitus interruptus with the Yukon Gold Rush. It was a brief run. Why have all that gold and not have anything to spend it on? So it was soon back to the business of coitus-ing all over the place. Like they say, nobody can the way a Can-adian can-can. Canada, what a country.

Since men and women didn’t make whoopee during the Great Sex Out, they didn’t need to smell good either. So no one took a bath.

Talk about Weather Changes and Global Warming. For almost one hundred years, Earth was bathed in a certain smell. Scientists blamed it on the Industrial Revolution. The truth is it came from the lack of bathing. The smell almost destroyed the ozone layer. The planet was carbon dioxiding all over the place.

For ten years after the Anti-Fornication Act of 1840, there were no babies born. “Why no babies?” the Victorians queried. Everybody liked babies. Oh, sure. There was the poop. Good thing the babies outgrew that. Not the pooping. Changing the diapers they pooped in.

The Victorians did not equate pregnancy with sex. They believed babies were delivered by storks. But there wasn’t a shortage of storks. So. Why no bambinos? It just wasn’t natural. Before they could say, “We’re really screwed,” a solution appeared on the horizon. It came from a most unusual source.

The North Pole. And it was not Santa Claus who presented a solution. Everybody presumed it was Dr. Livingston. But Dr. Livingston was deep in the heart of Africa presuming.

It seems that the Sir Rutherford Rutherford Expedition returned from its Arctic exploration with an amazing artifact. You’ve heard of the iPod. The Eskimos had their own version. An ePod.

A what? Yes, you heard me right. I said an Eskimo Pod, known as an ePod. Eskimos were born from ePods and it had been going on for centuries.

When ePods were first introduced to the rest of the planet, people were very skeptical. Some even afraid. Here is some footage taken at one of the first Royal Society meetings:

Soon the Victorians calmed down and realized this was the answer to a prayer. No sex and beaucoup babies. Before you knew it, most families were raising a crop of ePods in their backyards.

There were those who resisted like Abraham Lincoln. “Fourscore and seven years ago” was not about the Declaration of Independence. Abe was talking about the wild sexcapades our forefolks had back in the Olden Days. The Boston Tea Party was a protest, not over a tax on tea, but a tax on condoms.

I bet you thought Manifest Destiny was about increasing the size of the United States westward. It was not. It was about spreading the ePod Gospel. Custer and his Cavalry were taking a wagonload of pods into Indian country. Sitting Bull had seen the future and he wanted none of it. It was every Indian’s right to have babies the organic way. None of that genetically modified babies for the Sioux.

Despite the resistance, the ePods became the way children came into this world by the beginning of the twentieth century. Oh sure, there were rebels without a cause like D. H. Lawrence and his Lady Chatterley. FDR was rumored to have said to Eleanor on their first night as a married couple, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

This was the way of things until World War II. The War destroyed most of the ePods. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, they wiped out the ePod Supply of the entire United States. FDR wasn’t kidding when he spoke before Congress and said, “This is a Day that will live in Infamy.” He really meant it. By the end of the war, the Atom Bomb radiated the few ePods left.

For the next few years, the world was in despair. What to do? What to do? The Korean War was fought because the Allies believed the North Koreans were hoarding ePods. They weren’t. So the Allies lost interest and declared a Truce.

No one seemed to know what to do. Then Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr parted the waters.

Burt and Debbie showed us the way. Sex was back. And this time it was here to stay.

At least, till another ePod outbreak.