Posts Tagged ‘Mildred Pierce’

Et Cetera

Posted in General on March 28th, 2011 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

Mildreadful Pierce

I gave up watching the histrionic melodrama after 15 minutes of unadulterated annoyance.  Somehow the character Mildred Pierce managed to be offensive and dull, a remarkable tandem in itself.  It might be a compliment to Kate Winslet’s talent or a question of director Todd Haynes’ sanity.  In either case, however, it was not an incentive to watch.  On the contrary, the Pierce character could make baking a pie quite irritating.  I am surprised that her henpecked husband did not push the pie in her face.  I would have; Mohandas Gandhi would have.  Then we meet Pierce’s daughters.  Where was Margaret Sanger when we needed her!  The younger child is completely talentless but still insists on doing Jolson impressions.  The older brat apparently is adopted and is really the child Wallis Simpson had with Benito Mussolini. 

Yes, I am describing a comedy.  Unfortunately,  Todd Haynes did not realize it.  By distending this melodrama, he has made “Mildred Pierce” into an elephantine farce.  In this production, Kate Winslet is hopelessly miscast.  This Mildred Pierce really should be played by Harvey Fierstein or “Dame Edna Everage.”  If you are going camp, you don’t do it in half-measures.  Where was John Waters when we needed him!

Craigslist A.D. 193

There were some advantages to being a Roman emperor. For instance, until the fifth century, the pay was excellent. You would rarely be turned down at an orgy. Furthermore, the job would never be outsourced to India, if only because the Romans had but a vague notion about India’s location.

Longevity, however, was another matter. From an actuarial perspective, an emperor would have regarded murder as a natural cause of death. In a period of five centuries, Rome had more than 80 emperors. The total is imprecise because the imperial reigns often were.

The Emperor Pertinax might have expected a longer reign. He certainly was an improvement over his predecessor, the debauched and incompetent Commodus. (You remember him from “Gladiator.”) Indeed, on his own merits, Pertinax had the makings of an excellent ruler. He was conscientious, honest and capable. You could add frugality to his virtues, but that actually was a flaw in Rome. The people wanted their bread and circuses, and the Praetorian Guard expected “donations”.

The Praetorians could overlook any vice in an emperor but stinginess. Pertinax had every virtue but generosity, so he did not survive his bodyguards. Today is that dubious anniversary.

The impulsive Praetorians seized the throne but had no one to occupy it. Then the extravagantly rich Didius Julianus,  the Donald Trump of his day, simply decided to buy the position of emperor. He showed up at the Praetorians’ camp and proceeded to bid for their loyalty. Another patrician competed in the auction for the Empire, but Julianus outbid him. His purchased Praetorians then cowed the Senate into acclaiming him the emperor.

The Praetorians’ loyalty lasted two months. When an ambitious general marched on Rome, the imperial guard switched sides again. Julianus did not live to regret it. He now is remembered as a joke. (The same might be said of Donald Trump.)

Sunday Sundry

Posted in General on March 27th, 2011 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

Five Hours Of Mildred Pierce on HBO

My prayers have been answered.  After sitting through the two hour Joan Crawford melodrama, I was left with an insatiable gnawing hunger that could only be satisfied with an additional three hours of overripe histrionics or at least a slice of one of Mildred Pierce’s fortune-earning pies.    (For those of you unfamiliar with the plot of Mildred Pierce, imagine if Marie Callender had married Claus von Bulow and was mother of Lucretia Borgia.)  Well, those clairvoyants at HBO knew what I wanted, and it premieres tonight.

The series actually has received good reviews. The New York Times complimented the historical accuracy of the stars’ full frontal nudity.  I don’t think that we need to elaborate….However, that would be a scholarly contrast to Showtime’s “Spartacus” where most of the topless actress have tattoos of motorcycle  gangs.  (But in their nude scenes on Showtime’s Anne of Green Gables, Anne and Aunt Marilla could feasibly have Harley-Davidson tattoos; the company was founded in 1903.)

Hollywood History

It took me two tries to watch the latest version of “Robin Hood”. No, I didn’t gag at its notion that Robin (Russell Crowe) ghostwrote the Magna Carta.  I went into shock long before that–during the show’s first three minutes.  The film opens with this title card introduction:  “At the turn of the twelfth century…”  The next line should have read, “None of our characters had been born.  In fact, most of their parents hadn’t been born yet either.”  However, the introduction proceeds with an explanation of Richard the Lion Heart’s absence from England and his brother John’s misrule.  Then the action begins–with an attack on both a castle and narrative consistency– with the surtitle:  France, 1199.

This film cost over 100 million dollars to make.  Russell Crowe’s salary alone was $20 million–although that breaks down to $5 million an accent he mumbles throughout the film.  A week’s catering for  the extras cost more than most of us will make this year.  (Megan Barnes–three times champion on Jeopardy–is the glorious exception here.)  So how much more would it have cost to have a proofreader for the prologue, someone who might know when the 12th century actually occurred?

You’re right.  I am asking too much.