The Right Opinion

Hollywood Mysteries

By Burt Prelutsky · Nov. 8, 2012

I used to review movies, first for the Daily Bruin when I was attending UCLA, and then for Los Angeles magazine. Even I'm amazed that I could stand to do it for 12 years when, at the end of each year, I was hard-pressed to come up with a list of the 10 Best. To be perfectly frank, my list usually had three or four pretty good ones, another few that were okay, and two or three that were, at most, preferable to undergoing a prostate exam.

Still and all, I will state that I had a far easier task than those who have to sit through movies these days and file reports on the experience. For one thing, people like Billy Wilder, William Wyler, John Huston and Alfred Hitchcock, were still making movies back then. Today, you've got James Cameron, Wes Anderson, Steven Spielberg and Kathryn Bigelow, and Hollywood is actually handing out Oscars to the likes of “The Hurt Locker,” “Forrest Gump,” “Crash,” “The English Patient,” “No Country for Old Men” and “Titanic.”

Another problem with the movies is that apparently inside every funny man is a heartthrob yearning to get out. So it was that Burt Reynolds tried to be Clark Gable, Eddie Murphy decided to quit trying for laughs in his attempt to be Billy Dee Williams, and Ben Stiller, for some really odd reason, apparently had his heart set on being some cadaver-like, hollow-cheeked, fellow. Perhaps a Jewish Richard Widmark. It may have helped these guys get girls, but it only served to remind people how much better the originals were.

Nobody knows better than I that when it comes to movies, only our taste in food and drink tends to be nearly as subjective. For instance, I have no favorites when it comes to war movies. I simply don't care for them. It's not that I object to violence in movies, either, because two of my all-time favorite films are “The Godfather” and “The Untouchables.”

Another genre that rarely holds any appeal for me is westerns. But at least I have enjoyed some of them, although it pains me to confess that none of them were directed by John Ford. The seven I have liked are “Destry Rides Again,” “The Westerner,” “Red River,” “High Noon,” “Shane,” “Support Your Local Sheriff” and “Quigley Down Under.” I just noticed that although John Wayne only appeared in one of them and Gary Cooper in two, Walter Brennan had feature roles in three of the seven.

This brings us to the last movie I saw, the highly acclaimed “Argo.” The film deals with the rescue of the six American foreign service employees who evaded capture by the Ayatollah Khomeini's thugs in Iran, back in 1979, by hiding out in the home of Canada's ambassador.

It seems that the State Department considered getting them out by smuggling in bicycles and then having them pedal their way to safety through angry mobs to Iraq, a mere 300 miles away. That made about as much sense as donning Dorothy's ruby red slippers and clicking their heels, while repeating “There's no place like home.”

The plan the CIA finally put in place didn't seem a great deal more plausible. It consisted of pretending to scout Iran as the site for a Canadian sci-fi movie called “Argo,” and smuggling out the six hostages, passing them off as members of the film crew.

The problem for me is that the movie started out pretty funny, thanks to John Goodman and Alan Arkin as the producers of “Argo,” and it had a pretty exciting conclusion. But in between, the movie was all filler, killing time until the final escape mainly by showing the hostages griping about having to remain indoors and their CIA rescuer, portrayed by the film's actual director, Ben Affleck, boozing a lot and looking worried. The middle hour of the movie is so boring, it will put your teeth to sleep.

Frankly, I don't know why anyone sets out to make suspenseful movies based on actual events. I mean, really, how suspenseful can any movie be when you know how everything turns out ahead of time? I would say that “Apollo 13” made a pretty good stab at it. But I never understood why the novel “Day of the Jackal” was so successful or why it led to not one, but two movie versions. Did anyone actually think the Jackal was going to assassinate Charles De Gaulle? Well, maybe Democrats did. For one thing, they don't know their history. For another, they'll believe just about anything.

Another thing that annoyed me about “Argo” is that prior to the closing credits, there was writing on the screen that brought you up to date on some of the characters. One of the things mentioned was that the following year, on January 20, 1980, the remaining hostages were released by Iran after 444 days in captivity.

What it failed to point out was that it was the very day that Jimmy Carter left the White House and Ronald Reagan took up residence. Anybody who believes that was a mere coincidence no doubt believes that Barack Obama is just the guy to stop Iran from getting its dirty mitts on a nuclear bomb.

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42 Comments

Deborah in La Mirada CA said:

I don't plan to see ANY movie that Ben Affleck has anything to do with...his name attached means distortion of the truth..... but I still need to comment.
For months on end, (maybe even years) I have been watching my beloved country swirling in the toilet bowl.
Tuesday, I watched as Obama flushed. I am so despondent I think I may never recover. I, therefore, am officially resigning. In future, I will content myself by watching those old movies that were made when 'American' still meant honor, integrity and morals.
I have been fighting the beast my entire adult life and am tired.

Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 5:13 AM

Burt Prelutsky in North Hills, CA replied:

Deborah: Like you, I'm no fan of Ben Affleck. But Hollywood was always a moral cesspool, even though the movies used to be better...and shorter.

Burt

Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 2:01 PM

Orf in Pennsylvania replied:

I never go to movie theaters anymore. I watch old movies and retro TV shows. Hollywood may always have been a bit corrupt, but the movies and the actors were head and shoulders above today's puny performers.

Now that Odumbo won, I am totally into retro living -- old cars, old house, old shows, ... and old me.

Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 7:33 PM

Arabiascott in Indiana said:

"Put your teeth to sleep"?
What a brilliant commentary on the state of Hollywood these days! The droning repetition of progressive notions make my movie-watching a rare and highly selective activity. It's too bad I can so readily predict the underlying dogma in most of today's movies. Ecological catastrophes, moral iconoclasms, blood-thisty misogyny, all seem to be de rigeur.
I'm with you. Support Your Local Sheriff is the kind of snorting laugh generator that I like to see. It gives me a lift when so much of life is a burden.

Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 5:31 AM

Burt Prelutsky in North Hills, CA replied:

Arabia: And as I can testify, "Support Your Local Sheriff" holds up after multiple viewings. The best movie I've seen recently is "Trouble With the Curve" (Clint Eastwood). Even my wife liked it, and she doesn't have any interest in baseball.

Burt

Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 2:03 PM

Ragweed in West Virginia said:

Good one Burt. Reminds me of the good 'ol days - of the sixties none-the-less.

Deborah, I'm tired too, but I have kids and grandkids, and I want them to live in a country that I lived in - in the good 'ol days when people had common sense and social responsibility. Please read today's Patriot Post. Then you'll know why one doesn't quit.

Arab.... - I didn't need the sheriff comment. My wife works for our local sheriff, a good guy, and he got dethroned by an old, tired, senile, lazy ex possum cop who was sheriff before. That puts her job in jeopardy. That goes along with why people vote for a failed president. A big portion of our electorate has no sense whatsoever.

May God save the republic.

Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 8:28 AM

Deborah in La Mirada CA replied:

Ragweed: I did read the PP, and it is indeed what I will probably think in the days to come. Right now, I'm just mourning and feel like crying for the lost opportunity and the dire future that awaits us. I, too, have kids grandkids and great grandkids. I'm just so tired, Thanks for the encouragement. I will be better, I promise.

Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 9:18 AM

Burt Prelutsky in North Hills, CA replied:

Ragweed: I'm beginning to wonder about God's political affiliation. If he hadn't sent Sandy our way, it wouldn't have allowed Obama to appear presidential on our TV sets for several days. Speaking of party affiliation, I'm betting that Christie runs as a Democrat the next time out.

Burt

Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 2:05 PM

Miss Kitty in Missouri replied:

Did God want us to hit rock bottom, like an alcholic? We need a 12 step program.

Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 5:40 PM

Miss Kitty in Missouri replied:

'alcoholic' - I don't drink, but I'm thinking of taking it up...

Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 5:42 PM

READY4ACHANGE in ILLINOIS said:

The movies today are so bad, I don't plan on seeing any of them. I can sit in my back yard and see God's wondrous glory by looking up. Now, THAT is worth watching!

Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 8:42 AM

wjm in Colorado replied:

Absolutely right on. Out on the Colorado Prarie, my unobstructed 360 degree view is a constant reminder of the Glory of God. We get spectacular sunrises and sunsets, have a great western skyline oulining the mountains, can watch a spectacular Thunderstorm lightshow and rainbows, and you wouldn't believe the stars at nigh with no city lights to fade them.

Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 10:05 AM

READY4ACHANGE in ILLINOIS replied:

I couldn't agree more wjm!! Been to Colorado and such beauty! It can take your breath away!

Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 2:38 PM

Burt Prelutsky in North Hills, CA replied:

Ready: Who's starring in it?

Burt

Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 2:10 PM

READY4ACHANGE in ILLINOIS replied:

God and all his universe! Such a gorgeous sight, and so humbling.

Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 2:37 PM

wjm in Colorado said:

Burt,
I have reccommended before, and must again, the Emilio Estevez Movie "The Way". I was wondering if you had a chance yet to view it? Sometimes Hollywood gets one out worth watching, I don't know they were responsible for this gem though, It may have been an extra-Hollywood indi film.

Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 10:08 AM

Rod in USA replied:

wjm: Is it truly an apolitical film? I am sick and tired of hidden (or not so hidden) political (liberal) garbage inserted into a good story by Hollywood "elitists".

Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 10:31 AM

Burt Prelutsky in North Hills, CA replied:

wjm: I still haven't seen it.

Burt

Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 2:11 PM

Rod in USA said:

Burt:

Great article as always. I too am tired of the garbage the comes out of Hollywood, either on the large screen or the small one. I am a fan or the war movie genre, as long as it is not "anti-Army" and liberal like "Platoon".

Love the western genre, especially John Wayne.

Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 10:33 AM

Burt Prelutsky in North Hills, CA replied:

Rod: I absolutely hated "Platoon." I liked John Wayne pretty well, but I rarely cared for his westerns except for "Red River.". I did enjoy "The Quiet Man," which was also just about the only John Ford movie I ever liked, although "How Green Was My Valley" wasn't bad.

Burt

Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 2:14 PM

Cylar in anytown, CA replied:

Burt, you don't even like the classic war movies, like "Kelly's Heroes" and "The Longest Day?" Even the more recent "Saving Private Ryan" was great, I thought.

Sunday, November 11, 2012 at 1:17 AM

Wayne in Hinesville, GA said:

My wife and I haven't been to a movie in 23 years and have no intention of going anytime soon. We watch old movies and I have a collection of John Wayne movies that I pull out every once in a while and watch. I've even got my 15 year old grandson hooked on old John. Can't handle the political correct crap they call movies today.

Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 11:07 AM

sfj in Alabama replied:

sarge, TV is worse. I can't find any "prime time" show worth watching.

Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 12:24 PM

MoeLarryCurly in CA said:

Want a good grin? Find "Goin' South" with Jack Nicolson and watch him crawl into the character 'Henry Moon'. A classic in my book.

Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 11:58 AM

Burt Prelutsky in North Hills, CA replied:

Moe: An honest difference of opinion: I thought it stunk up the theater.

Burt

Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 2:15 PM

Merry in Cave Creek, AZ said:

I can go to any movie for free as my son has a second part time job at a theater. Know what I saw all last year? One movie: 2016 I missed Atlas Shrugged Part 2 but have read the book several times anyhow. Movies are trash today and I'll be damned if I will be insulted even if I don't have to pay for it!

Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 12:11 PM

Burt Prelutsky in North Hills, CA replied:

Merry: You're right. The money aside, those are two hours you'll never get back.

Burt

Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 2:16 PM

Jim in Western NC said:

Anyone have decent blueprints for a bunker with a media room?

Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 12:11 PM

Bill in Texas replied:

Send me some infor and I can design it. Question is, how many people you needing to fit into it?

Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 3:17 PM

The American in Columbus, Ohio replied:

Bill,

If you build one for me, all I need is a sign saying, "No Pinko's or ObamaRanians Allowed!"

Friday, November 9, 2012 at 3:36 AM

Jim in Western NC said:

PS- The last movie I saw at the theater and really enjoyed was Last of the Mohicans. I think that was in the early '80s. Now it's DVDs and only very selectively (mostly pre-1960s).

Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 12:14 PM

Burt Prelutsky in North Hills, CA replied:

Jim: I never could figure out why that movie was successful. Daniel Day-Lewis is not my idea of an action hero. Just thinking of that movie makes me yawn.

Burt

Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 2:18 PM

Bill in Texas replied:

Jim: That is one that makes my all time 10 ten best.

Burt: The action had nothing to do with the sucess of that movie. The story behind it and in a sense the reasons for why America came into being are what I believe is why that movie was such a success. Also, I agree that Daniel Day-Lewis is no action hero.

Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 4:47 PM

Burt Prelutsky in North Hills, CA replied:

Bill: As I said, taste in movies is as subjective as taste in food and drink.

Burt

Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 8:50 PM

WTD in AZ said:

As one whose wisdom and wit graces this place, Burt would you agree that a lack of writers with at least a modicum of intelligence and no liberal bias are also responsible for the dearth of good movies or TV. The favorite radio stars and TV personalities of earlier times benefited greatly from the excellence of material given them.

Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 5:14 PM

Burt Prelutsky in North Hills, CA replied:

WTD: I think there is enough writing talent to go around, but they do rather curtail what's available by being so close-minded about the age and political affiliation of writers. I am thus doubly blacklisted. But I still think they can get by with what they have because the audiences are so undiscerning. You saw how they voted the other day. Pretty easy to connect the dots.

Burt

Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 8:52 PM

richard ryan in Lamar,Missouri said:

Burt, I have to say that I am not a big movie fan. However; there are a few I did enjoy. The western I most enjoyed was The Big Country with the likes of Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons, Burl Ives, Carroll Baker and Charlton Heston. This was a 1958 movie and the last western I actually cared about with the possible exception of Giant. Last year I did see The King` Speech which was a very enjoyable movie. Likewise I don`t care for much of what is on tv. I still watch some reruns of MASH. As I understand it, an individual, self-described as a short bald Jew, wrote some of the scripts. MASH was one of the better done tv shows, with some really witty scripts.

Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 7:07 PM

Burt Prelutsky in North Hills, CA replied:

Richard: I did write eight episodes. I liked most of them, but the truth is, I really wasn't a big fan of the series.

The best thing about "The Big Country," which was pretty good but far too long, was Jerome Moross's rousing musical score.

Burt

Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 8:54 PM

Orf in Pennsylvania said:

Burt, I notice you never mention the unmentionable in your article. I can understand why. I don't think it has anything to do with your prediction of the outcome, just a sense of going in another direction. Just say Goodbye America, we knew ye well.

Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 7:39 PM

Burt Prelutsky in North Hills, CA replied:

Orf: You misread me. I don't write pieces the day before they're posted. The way it works is that on Friday or Saturday I submit the three pieces the Patriot Post will post the following week.

I have already written some post-election articles. They will appear soon.

Burt

Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 8:56 PM

Mike Schuerger Sr in Medina, OH said:

Apparently I am one of the few of the Americans living who have read the entire Leatherstocking series of books by James Fenimore Cooper. Many do not know that there was a series and have only heard of the Last of the Mohicans.

About this Last of the Mohicans movie I will say that it is the title of the best of the 5 books, and has a number of characters with the same names as in Cooper's books.

It is a watchable movie, partly becasue of the scenery and partly because of the music. The movie is not a reasonable approximation of the book. Taken by itself it is ok. If you were expecting something different, like it is a reasonable effort to make a film of the book, it is a disappointment.

It has been well known that Cooper really didn't know crap about American Indians, BTW. Also worth notiing is that the story takes place in the wilderness, the frontier far from any civilization - in New York State!

The books are the Deerslayer, the Last of the Mohicans, the Pathfinder, the Pioneers, and the Prarie. I think that's the proper order to read but they weren't written the storyline's chronology and it has been some years, so I won't guarantee it.

Friday, November 9, 2012 at 8:12 PM