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Tags: “I just hope the lad, now in his thirties, is not living in a fantasy world of secondhand, childish banalities.”

He's the Jedi, I'm the Wookiee.

Today, or this week at least, Star Wars turns 30: it’s the anniversary of the opening of the movie we’ve been retroactively instructed to call Episode IV: A New Hope. Word has gone out on the global sub-neural geek-net that we are to blog about Star Wars today. Indeed, The Constructivist cajoled me for a guest post on the subject at Mostly Harmless. While T.C.’s a fine fellow who somehow manages to maintain half a dozen worthwhile blogs, I’m not feeling the Lucas today. For one thing, this week is also the 2nd anniversary of Revenge of the Sith, the 5th anniversary of Attack of the Clones, and the 8th anniversary of The Phantom Menace, considerably more dubious occasions. And for another, isn’t every day kind of “blog about Star Wars” day?

But I’m not above recycling some old SW-content from my archives. There is, of course, the classic Alec Guinness story, from which the tag at the top of this entry comes:

The bad penny dropped in San Francisco when a sweet-faced boy of twelve told me that he had seen Star Wars over a hundred times. … Looking into the boy’s eyes I thought I detected little star-shells of madness beginning to form and I guessed that one day they would explode. [read more]

And, in a similar vein, Matthew Baldwin’s Darth Vader Made Me Cry:

As we walked away I was filled with combination of terror, relief, and exhilaration. … I immediately began to proactively gloat, thinking about how jealous my friends would be when I showed them Darth Vader’s autograph. But then, just before I closed the cover, I noticed something else… [read more] [expanded special edition]

And my buddy Chris has made great pseudo-historical stew out of the Steampunk Star Wars meme:

When the French Revolution began in 1789, the Jedi were slow to respond. … While the Order bickered and debated how to respond, Napoleon Bonaparte quickly rose to power by manipulating a dispute with the British over a trade embargo on the French colony of Naboo on Ganymede. When he unveilled his “Armée grande de la République,” which was composed of soldiers made from re-animated corpses, there was great concern within the Jedi Council over the properness of backing such a method. But unbeknownst to the rest of the Council, the Grand Master of the Jedi Order was squarely in Napoleon’s pocket and he compelled the Order to support the Solar Republic in their gruesome war against the British Empire and their Automaton armies.

I still think it ought to have been (p)remade as a singing cowboy serial with Gene Autry.

Edit: That’s no moon! Check out the giant collection of links at Edward Copeland’s fully operational Star Wars blog-a-thon. Also, the T-Critic (yes, I read blogs about t-shirts, doesn’t everybody?) lists his Top Ten Star Wars T-shirts (and then some).

Cross-posted from Old is the New New. Comments welcome.
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Tags: I picked up a box, I lifted some rocks, while I stood on my head…

As a historian, I have a complicated relationship with the History Channel. As a Gen-Xer, I have a complicated relationship with Star Wars. But after a lifetime of doodling Tie Fighters and Death Stars on notepaper how can I not respond to these ads for the History Channel’s special, Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed?

Yoda as Buddha

Now, where’s the one that shows the evolution from Stepin Fetchit to Jar Jar Binks?

Cross-posted from Old is the New New. Comments welcome.
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From the February 2007 issue of The Believer:

Vietnam War Movies in Which the Lieutenant Does Not Die:

  • Hamburger Hill, 1987 (Lt. loses one arm)
  • Forrest Gump, 1994 (Lt. loses both legs)

–Anonymous Lieutenant stationed in Iraq, sent via email

The war in Iraq enters its fifth year today.

Cross-posted from Old is the New New. Comments welcome.
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Tags: Metadata, show your work, sausages being made.

The Annotated Gipper

One of the most common comments I get when people discover this weblog–after “How do you have the time to do this?” which is a tough question to answer, since patently, I don’t–is some variation on, “I don’t get it.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Cross-posted from Old is the New New. Comments welcome.
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Tags: Koschei the Deathless; Dudley Manlove; the Gipper; eat your heart out, Edmund Morris.

We talked about the Reagan years in one of my classes this week. That’s all the excuse I need, really, to recycle this post of mine from the week Reagan died (and I got my PhD): the Ronald Reagan alternate history film festival. (Oh, and speaking of deceased American icons: did you hear about Captain America?)

Ooga Booga!

The Ronald Reagan Alternate History Film Festival

Read the rest of this entry »

Cross-posted from Old is the New New. Comments welcome.
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In other news, yesterday I read George Pendle's Strange Angel, a fun biography of Jack Parsons. I'm assuming the Parsons fans on my Flist know about this book already ([ profile] head58, I'm looking at you), but if not, high thee to a library. Parsons is a great character: rocket scientist, wife swapper, black magic cultist extraordinaire. When L. Ron Hubbard is calling you loopy and Aleister Superfreak Crowley writes you from England saying, "Uh, maybe you ought to lay off the black magic for a while for a while, Jack--you're weirding me out" it's time to at least consider a sabbatical. But no, Jack summoned the Scarlet Woman of Babylon, then blew himself up.

One random tidbit I'd never heard about Crowley, from a life made up of random tidbits: in 1913, the Great Beast led an all-female string septet called the "Ragged Ragtime Girls" on a disastrous tour of Russia. What do you suppose that was all about? Game ideas featuring Crowley in an insane Some Like It Hot / Road To Tunguska mashup involving some combination of Tony Curtis, Tsar Nicholas, Jack Lemmon, Lenin, Rasputin, and Marilyn Monroe are left as an exercise for the reader.

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Originally published at Route 96. You can comment here or there.

Six Road Movies to Inspire and Delight–and not one involving a Trucker and a Chimp!

Raising Arizona
, while fun, was redundant. Hilarious and hyper-kinetic, Raising Arizona is the only film the Coen brothers, or anyone else for that matter, ever need to make. If I start recounting my favorite parts, we’ll be here all night, so I’ll just say, “Boy, you got a panty on your head,” and leave it at that. Oh, and Nicholas Cage has never been better, and that’s saying a lot. [Well, it was in 1996! Remember, all this was written 10 years ago.]

Read the rest of this entry » )

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I want somebody with a paid LJ account to set up a poll / betting pool: When will Snakes on a Plane and all related references cease to be funny? Because it still cracks me up (because there's all these snakes see... and they're on a plane) but I can feel it waning.

So what do you think? When do the snakes jump the shark?
  • It happened the instant I posted this.

  • The moment the SoaP phenomenon is mentioned on NPR.

  • The moment the SoaP phenomenon is mentioned on the CBC. (Bonus points if Cameron Philips calls it "Snakes on Planes" or "The Snake Plane" or otherwise gets it wrong.)

  • The day the movie comes out.

  • About twelve minutes into the movie, opening night, after you've dropped $10 on a ticket and $5 on snax, and everyone cheers when the title comes up, but then the movie itself starts, and the realization sets in that this is a crap movie, it's always been a crap movie, made by the star of Sphere and the director of Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco and the writer of Mermaid Chronicles Part 1: She Creature, and yeah, it's gonna take a hell of a lot more than ironic amusement at the title to carry you through 86 more minutes.

  • When I'm visiting my parents next Christmas, and my Dad says, "Hey, guys, check out this great Samuel Jackson movie I rented for us all to watch!"

  • When I'm walking down the street wearing my SoaP t-shirt, feeling like an ironic hipster, and I run into a friend wearing his Vote for Pedro t-shirt, and we chat a little about our mortgages, and then I realize all these kids born in the 1990s are laughing at us, and I shake my fist and try to chase them but get winded after half a block, and also my son/daughter spits up all over me.

  • Never! What is funny now will always be funny!! ALWAYS!!!*

This, on the other hand, will never stop being funny, ever.

(Via Chris' Invincible Super-Blog.)

Edit, redited to be less bitchy: It's been brought to my attention that, hard as it is to believe, some people never thought SoaP was funny. They are of course entitled to opinions. Part of the appeal of SoaP is (was?) the randomness of it: if it hits your brain at the right angle, it cracks you up, and if it doesn't, no amount of explaining it will make it funnier. But I did delete some comments along the lines of "it was never funny", because I thought they'd offer little help to those of us who do/did find it funny in analyzing the complex neurocultural chemistry of when it will cease to be so. That was probably rude, and I apologize, but come on: snakes! On a! And so forth!

*See also: "Yeah, baby! Do I make you horny?"
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While we're talking about great animal movies, past and present, is everybody out there aware of the onrushing steamroller of absolute awesomeness that is Samuel L. Jackson's Snakes on A Plane? As my friend Steve put it, "It's like if in 1976 you knew ahead of time that Star Wars was coming to change cinematic history and your own personal narrative. Like that, only more awesome because, let's face it: Star Wars? Not enough snakes." MAN TRUE.

(Does anyone remember the two Weekly Week headlines: 'SNAKES ARE EVERYWHERE!' and then the next week, 'SNAKES ARE NOT EVERYWHERE!'?)
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My friend [ profile] foogie's new user icon reminds me of something I've wanted to post about for eons.

As some of you know, in university I edited a campus humor paper called Golden Words. The GW crew ran the gamut from wickedly funny comics to sweet dorks and over-enthusiastic goobs. There were a bunch of people content to recycle the same cartoons about beer goggles every week, but there were also always a few guys (and girls) who scared me with their insane genius. Elan Mastai was one of those guys.

I lost touch with Elan after graduation, but I knew he wanted to be a screenwriter and, ferocious as that world is, I had (and still have) little doubt that he would succeed. He's just a brilliant writer and a way cool guy with a really skewed, mordant sense of humor. I could actually never tell when he was being serious and when he was having me on. The last time I saw him was seven or eight years ago at a wedding or engagement party for Colin Stein, another GW genius who I wish I was still in touch with. It was a reunion of sorts and conversation was all "What are you doing now?" Everyone I saw Elan talk to, he gave a different answer: "I'm writing the world's first hypertext novel." "I've dropped out of school to follow Noam Chomsky around the country." "This party is an experiment I'm running for my PhD in memetic psychology." He told me he'd just sold a screenplay about a big city mayor who switches lives with his kids' babysitter.

If you'd asked me then to predict what sort of movie Elan would break into the business with, I'd have pictured something like Pulp Fiction, except cooler and funnier and edgier still. Well, Elan is in the business now, but his breakthrough project was not exactly what I expected. He was, in fact, the screenwriter of MVP 2: Most Vertical Primate.

It is, if you haven't had the pleasure of seeing it, a movie about a skateboarding chimpanzee.

Better yet, it is the sequel to a movie about a hockey-playing chimpanzee. (That would be MVP: Most Valuable Primate.) The epic trilogy is concluded in MXP: Most Xtreme Primate, in which the eponymous chimp snowboards, but Elan was not involved, and true fans of MVP regard this final chapter as apocryphal.

A lot of you have already heard this story up to that point. Here comes the value added. Checking out MVP 2 on the IMDB, I came across what is perhaps the best movie review I have ever read. I quote it here in its sublime entirety:
Like Old Yeller, but with a skateboard, a monkey, and a homeless boy.
Author: cfcarino from United States
I hate skateboarding, I don't care much for chimps, and I'm a 68 year old retired veteran. If my pansy grandson didn't whine like a dog that lost its leg when it got hit by a jeep, and then the dog had to crawl its way back to the house, I wouldn't have watched this movie. I'm glad I did. This chimp knows what 98% of Americans don't: he's gonna die. Once a person comes to grip with their own mortality, they'll ride a skateboard on a big ramp, or close their eyes and shoot until they stop hearing screams. This movie made me smile, it made me think, but most importantly it made me think I was smiling.

If all my men were like MVP, we would've walked out of Hanoi with a few more ears. But they weren't. They wanted out. Did they think I wanted to stay there?! Everyday I think back to what I could've done. Everyday I'm one step closer to dying. I'm glad I saw this movie before I did.

And the piece de resistance:
10 out of 13 people found the following comment useful.

It's worth clicking through to read all of that author's movie reviews. Because he's reviewed exactly three movies: MVP, MVP 2, and MXP. And each review is better than the last. Come to think of it, given what I know about Elan's sense of humor, there's a very real chance that "cfcarino from United States" actually is Elan. Whatever the truth, I salute all three of you: Elan, cfcarino, and MVP.


I want to be clear about why I'm posting all this. Yes, I think it's funny that this really cool, edgy guy I used to know wrote a movie about a skateboarding chimp. But I'm not sneering at it at all. MVP 2 was the biggest-grossing Canadian movie of 2001. And everybody I know who saw it loved it.* So I think it's awesome. Elan is great and I hope he'll be a big success. (Elan also has co-writer credit on Alone in the Dark, starring Christian Slater and Tara Reid. That film did not get such great reviews, but I lay the blame for that at the door of director Uwe Boll, who has made a long career out of turning B-grade video games into Z-grade movies. (See:,, and Penny Arcade on Uwe Boll: "Vell, first, I am hating ze movies.") But again, lest I sound at all snide: How many Hollywood movies have I written?)

*OK, so I only know one person who saw MVP 2—my brother J—but he really did like it. My brother's college housemate apparently loves "all movies where animals do human stuff." So J has seen them all, from Air Bud to um, Air Bud 4: Seventh Inning Fetch, and MVP 2, J reports, was the cream of the crop.


I made a head-clearing list last night of all the things I've been meaning to blog about lately—here, at Old is the New New, at Cliopatria, and even at the lonely, cobweb-strewn 20 by 20 Room. They range from intellectual (writing pedagogy, Cliopatria's symposium on Sean Wilentz, Jim Carroll's thoughts on God) to personal (props to L for kicking ass in grad school and surviving unending Canadian bureaucracy, my brother's adventures in China, long overdue thanks to my friends for some wonderful thoughtful gifts) to geeky (the narrativist Rolling Stones rpg that came to me the other night). But wouldn't you know it? The one post I actually get around to writing is the one about the snowboarding, skateboarding, hockey-playing chimp.
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Everybody else will be doing this, and using the same subject line too, so I'll just get mine in quickly: we saw Serenity last night, and liked it a lot. A completely solid, wholly enjoyable sci-fi film that was by turns funny, scary, sad, surprising, and smart. I think it would work for non-viewers of the series, if any of them ever happen to see it. That's something I'd been seriously doubting before hand. But it also had everything the fanbase needed to see, tying up or at least addressing every hanging thread from the series I can think of.

It's hard not to want to compare it to certain other recent sci-fi films, but "it's better than Revenge of the Sith" sounds like damning with faint praise. So let me amplify: not only is Serenity vastly superior to Revenge of the Sith in every way it is possible to judge a movie, it is superior to Revenge of the Sith in every way it is possible to judge human endeavor at all.

Except, I suppose, profit.

Ewok Babes

May. 23rd, 2005 09:24 am
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Anthony Lane on Revenge of the Sith. (The link will expire, alas.)

In a nutshell:

The general opinion of Revenge of the Sith seems to be that it marks a distinct improvement on the last two episodes, The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. True, but only in the same way that dying from natural causes is preferable to crucifixion.

My favorite bit:

The prize for the least speakable burst of dialogue has, over half a dozen helpings of Star Wars, grown into a fiercely contested tradition, but for once the winning entry is clear.

And [ profile] papersource's:

How Padmé got pregnant is anybody’s guess, although I’m prepared to wager that it involved Anakin nipping into a broom closet with a warm glass jar and a copy of "Ewok Babes."


Apr. 16th, 2005 10:32 am
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Just so you don't think I only post about non-existent alien rock star games*:

[ profile] papersource was accepted to the PhD program in Edumacation at Western, with full ride funding and everything. She = the Fonz.

My dissertation is one of four nominees for the Krooss Prize, which is given to the year's best dissertation in business history. The winner will be named at a conference next month in sun-splashed (I learned that word from our broker, see below) Minneapolis. (Last year the conference was in France, quel dommage.)

Our condo is now on the market. All personal photos, books, and marginally offensive Gilded Age comic art have been carefully squirreled away. Our broker writes, "Don't miss this sun-splashed top level 2-bedroom condo with off-street parking. Features include formal living & dining rooms with built-ins, eat-in kitchen & lovely original details." Original details, go figure!

We saw Downfall last night. Moral: Hitler's bunker? Not that fun!

My big "justify your incredibly cushy year at the Academy" talk is on Tuesday. I'll probably be working on it at Widener or Lamont for much of the day tomorrow and Monday. If anyone wants to meet up for lunch or coffee or similar in Harvard Square, let me know.

I'm going to Fenway tonight to see the Red Sox write the next chapter in their long and storied rivalry with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. It's definitely something I wanted to do once more before leaving Boston, but I do fear being outed as a non-trivia knowing bandwagon jumper. What little baseball knowledge I have is pre-WWI.

Edit: Since a couple of people have asked, the icons I've been using lately are all taken without any permission from an illustrated alphabet by cool indie comics artist Tom Gauld. You should go to his site and read stuff (I especially like the short comic Hunter and Painter) and buy stuff.

Edit Edit: Hey, is anyone going to GenCon this year? I'm not planning on it, but I am realizing that there is some historical research in Indianapolis that I should probably do, and this summer might be the time to do it.

*If you're actually looking for the non-existent alien rock star game posts, they're filtered Friends-only. Not because there's anything in them that needs to be suppressed; I'm just mildly embarassed by how many of them there were. I'll probably make 'em public in a couple of days, but if anyone wants to slap them up on the Darling Wiki, that's Kool Moe Dee too. [They're no longer filtered.]
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I don't know if all you scruffy nerf herders have seen this yet or not, but in case you haven't: The Continuing Adventures of Benjamin Kenobi, Space Knight of the Future!!

Hee. Great minds think alike. All that's missing is the Dark Yodel of the Sith.

For consideration: How much worse than the actual Episode III could this be?
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"If I had time for a courtship, Lee, I would. I'd take you out, I'd hold your hand, I'd kiss you on the cheek at the door. But, I'm not in that position. I need to know if we're in bed together or not. If you want my movie, Lee, you're just gonna have to come to terms with your Fear and Desire."
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"See all that stuff inside, Homer? That's why your robot never worked!"

A quiet Sunday reading the paper, and books, and other nonelectronic things, and copying Season 2 of MI-5 from TiVo to VHS for [ profile] jeregenest, who was in a scary and freakish and random accident. It sounds like he's going to be OK, mercifully, but he will, I assume, be convalescing for a while. (On reflection, odds are good that Jere's already seen the MI-5s, but it's nice to have a project.)

I was amused by this quote in the Sunday Book Review:

Here's the problem with 'Write what you know': What too many aspiring writers know, it turns out, is that a suburban American adolescence causes vague feelings of sadness—especially when one's formative years include a dying grandparent or housepet.

Yes, indeed. Substitute "Canadian" for "American" in that sentence and I know that problem all too well. (See, Homer? That's why my novel never worked...) The review in question goes on to say "It's the lucky writer whose story is familiar to himself and exotic to his readers," which then made me think of The Russian Debutante's Handbook, a bit of a trendy must-read novel a few years ago that I had somehow missed. L gave it to me over the holidays, and it was great. Highly recommended. One of the funniest books I've read in a long time. The feckless Gen-X hipsters therein reminded me an awful lot of me and my own friends in the PC 1990s, at least until the Russian mob shows up and starts breaking their kneecaps. That didn't happen to me and my friends as far as I can recall. (See how my uneventful Canadian adolescence has prevented me from being a literary prodigy? Oh the pain.)

I posted another rambling essay today about Ben Franklin and the Turk and 18th-century robotica over at my big boy website. Halfway through that post I mention that I have "another cool anecdote about the Imperial Academy of Science in St. Petersburg in the 1700s that I want to tell you." I know, I know, most people would be content with just one such anecdote in their life, but you are blessed with me as a friend, so you might as well enjoy it. Check this shit out: Peter the Great, Tsar from 1682 to 1725, was a passionate collector of monsters. In the 1690s, he began assembling a collection of anatomical and zoological monstrosities and abnormalities, living and dead. In 1704, he ordered that midwives throughout Russia were strictly forbidden to kill or hide newborn children with deformations. All "monstrous" births were to be turned over to the clergy, who would deliver them to his Cabinet of Monsters in St. Petersberg. After Peter's death in 1725, the Cabinet came under control of the Imperial Academy of Sciences.

"Cabinet of Monsters." Nice ring to that. Well, I doubt I have to tell you what I'm thinking: If those "monsters" were not giants and hermaphrodites and hydrocephalic kids but actually, you know, monsters... you could have a crazy 1700s Russian League of Extraordinary Gentlemen adventure, or some very cool backstory for the Russian version of the BPRD in a certain long-threatened Soviet Hellboy Delta Green game.

What else? Oh yes. [ profile] bryant's Best Movies of 2004 post is up, which is great, and relieves me of having to write one. I spent a lot of 2004 passing off a combination of Bryant and Anthony Lane's opinions about movies as my own, so it seems appropriate to just link to his Best Of list now. My only gripes with his list? I'd drop Sky Captain. I found it dull and disappointing, and I can't help thinking that caffeine and a sense that "I should like this" is deluding Bryant and my other geek chums who still champion the film. And where is the love for Napoleon Dynamite? But other than that, yeah, yeah, yeah.
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What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention, and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.
Herbert Simon, way back in 1971

When I admitted to [ profile] jeregenest that I still haven't read word one of the Harry Potter books or seen any of the movies, this poll occurred to me. There's actually a number of geek culture touchstones that have slipped by me. Not because I'm avoiding them, just because I haven't gotten around to them yet. But time and attention are scarce: so I invite you to help me be a better, more efficient geek in 2005. (I've given you check boxes rather than radio buttons, but please use them judiciously. If you just click on everything, you haven't made my life much easier at all.)

[Poll #412488]

Thank you for your support.
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I'm experiencing considerable election-related angst today, verging on existential. Where's that pile of coats for me to hide under? I wonder if I’d feel any different if I could vote. I did give some money to the good guys, which made me feel better about my place in the world for a few seconds, par for the course for most consumer transactions. If Jaffe and Jaffe only existed, I’d be calling for an appointment as we speak.

(I really liked that movie, btw. [ profile] bryant, I hear your criticism, but I didn’t think the movie was laughing at the philosophies expressed so much as laughing with them.) (Also: yes, like all good movies, it did give me an idea for a game.)

Here’s the New Yorker’s endorsement of Kerry. (The New Yorker endorsed Kerry? Shocking, I know.) Riddle me this, Batman: can you stand reading one more article recapping the last four years? Is there really any reason to read it, or will it just make you feel anxious like I do?

Read more... )

Edit: Bryant and Al Giordano and a little kid on the steps of Memorial Church did manage to cheer me up a little.
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Reagan and Marilyn

The Ronald Reagan Memorial Film Festival
Check your local listings.

Murder Out of Space
1940. Ronald Reagan, Eddie Foy, Lya Lys. Director: Max Castle. 1½ stars.

The fourth in a series of B-movies starring Ronald Reagan as Secret Service agent Brass Bancroft. After Bancroft's "T-Men" raid a counterfeit ring operating out of Innsmouth, Massachusetts, he is reassigned to the "Green Deltas," a secret squad of government agents fighting fifth columnists from beyond the stars. There, Brass foils a plot by a Siberian sorceror named Koschei the Deathless to steal the Inertia Projector, a device that banishes extra-dimensional irruptions and incursions. Forgettable in the 1940s, Murder Out of Space gained notoriety in the 1980s because of parallels between the Inertia Projector and President Reagan's controversial Sorcerous Defense Initiative, designed to protect the nation from entities out of space and time. "The Sorcerous Defense Initiative has been labelled Star Wars," Reagan said in 1985. "But it isn't about war. It is about peace. If you will pardon my stealing a film line: Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn."

House of Meese
(aka The Terrortastic House of Meese, aka The Frightatious House of Meese, aka Dr. Gipper's 3-D House of Meese)
1954. Bela Lugosi, Ronald Reagan, Tor Johnson. Director: Edward Wood, Jr. ½ star.

After their car breaks down during an unconvincing thunderstorm, a young couple (played by B-movie stalwarts Ronald Reagan and Nancy Davis) seeks shelter in a seemingly abandoned white mansion at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Shrieking and running away from the mansion's monstrous geriatric denizens ensues. Some genuinely frightening villains do not redeem this otherwise by-the-numbers Ed Wood stinker. "The President," played by Bela Lugosi, is barely seen. Lugosi, drug-addled and close to death during filming, munches on jelly beans and makes a couple of good speeches, but it's hard to believe he's entirely aware of the idiocy going on around him. The House of Meese really belongs to his diabolical minions, including a haughty, blood-sucking "First Lady" (Vampira), the sinister "Michael Deaver" (Dudley Manlove), and Tor Johnson as the lumbering "Ed Meese." A goofy introduction by the psychic Criswell (as the First Lady's astrological adviser) alerts us that this story is set in the far-off future year of 1984, and the plot does involve some claptrap about using flying saucers to shoot down missiles or vice versa, but otherwise it's your basic cross between Assisted-Living Dracula and Manos, Hands of Fate.

Bedtime for Gonzo
1969. Peter Fonda, Jack Nicholson, Ronald Reagan. D: Dennis Hopper. 2 stars.

This bizarre, hypnotic slice of late 1960s psychedelia, loosely based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, features Peter Fonda as "the Gipper," an amnesiac biker driving across a post-apocalyptic California with a slightly sinister chimpanzee named Gonzo (Jack Nicholson). It is a surreal desert mindscape where ketchup is a vegetable and trees cause acid rain. Reading road signs, the hexagrams of the I Ching, and patterns in Gonzo's stool, the Gipper discovers traces of a strange alternate reality in which he himself seems to have been a movie actor who became governor of California and later president of the United States. (Footage of Fonda as "the Gipper" is spliced with stock footage of Ronald Reagan throughout. Reagan was of course the real governor of California when this film was made. Nancy Reagan used her own political clout to block the film's release and destroy almost all copies, but it is rumored that Ronald Reagan himself enjoyed the film immensely.) The trippy special effects are dated, but the final peyote trip in which the Gipper discovers his own part in the nuclear armageddon that destroyed his world remains powerful. He falls to his knees on a rocky beach while Gonzo the chimp shrieks, "You maniac! You blew it up! Damn you! God damn you to hell!"

Sandanisto Y El Demonio Azul Contra Los Contras
(aka Sandanisto and The Blue Demon Versus The Contras)
1986. Santo, Alejandro Cruz, Roxana Bellini. Director: Alfonso Corona Blake. 2 stars.

¡Los Yanquis Maldecido están viniendo! ¡Los Yanquis Maldecido están viniendo! ¡Ay-ay-ay! ¡Es una invasión de los luchan comandos de la robusteza de los Estados Unidos! ¡Conducido por los consejeros malvados de "NSC," Juan "El Piledriver" Poindextro, y Oliver "El Norte" Norte, el Contras desea a nuestras mujeres! ¡Funcionan sin la sanción! ¡Venden los brazos a Irán! ¡Los medios de la "Boland Amendment" nada! ¡Pararán en nada! ¡La llamada sale! ¿Quién puede ahorrarnos? ¡Solamente los héroes de lucha, Sandanisto (Santo) y el Demonio Azul (Alejandro Cruz), los amos del "círculo ajustado"! ¡La aclamación como Sandanisto y el demonio azul luchan legiones de los goons de CIA y de los barones vampiros de la droga de Medellin! ¡El grito de asombro como "el Norte" sujeta a Demonio Azul a la "Desfibradora" temida! ¡La emoción como Sandanisto aborda a gringos locos con una tapa-cuerda Frankensteiner! ¡Viva el Demonio Azul! ¡Viva Sandanisto! ¡Lucha para los niños! ¡Lucha para la libertad! ¡Lucha para Nicaragua!

Edit: English translation now available in comments, below.

You Talking To Me?
1989. Jack Lemmon, Anthony Michael Hall, Molly Ringwald. Director: John Hughes. 3½ stars.
This odd and underrated film marked a transition between director John Hughes' teen comedies in the 1980s and his more family-oriented films in the 1990s. Jack Lemmon is brilliant as "Ronald Reagan," an outgoing president who strikes up an unusual friendship with "John Hinckley" (Anthony Michael Hall), the needy and twitchy young man who once tried to assassinate Reagan in order to impress a girl. Although initially wary, the two film buffs bond over a shared love of the movies and thin grasp of reality. Hinckley introduces Reagan to Taxi Driver; Reagan shows Hinckley The Sound of Music and Ghostbusters. The president, secretly wiser and more capable than he appears, engineers a romance between Hinckley and "Jodie Foster" (Molly Ringwald), the serious-minded actress who has stolen the boy's heart. But the real chemistry in this sweet though never saccharine buddy picture is the May-December friendship between Hall and Lemmon. The president teaches the would-be assassin he can make friends just by being himself; the young man teaches the president that it's wrong to have the CIA sell AIDS-laced crack to ghetto children in order to fund Latin American death squads. Or something like that.


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