World’s Fastest Indian—With Anthony Hopkins…


Burt and I watched the “World’s Fastest Indian” on HDNET the other night. Wow, great movie, starring Anthony Hopkins who never wavers from his role as a single-minded, elderly New Zealander with a heart problem who has never left the little town where he lives on little money– but is loved by one and all– as he constantly works on his motor-cycle– an old Indian model, that he revs up with anything he can find, like used wine corks. His goal is to race the motor-cycle at the salt flats in Utah and break all world records. Unusual and upbeat.

I Saw “The Departed” In Reno

Did you watch the Academy Awards last night? That was the best Oscars show I’ve seen in a very long time. Wasn’t Ellen great? She’s so cool; I wonder if she’s like that in “real life.”

There were so many great things to see and hear in the show–the lithe dancers behind the screen, their silhouettes creating physical representations of the nominated films. How did they manage the bullet shooting out of the gun for “The Departed?” Was it a person? What was it? Huh?

The glorious volume of the voices of Hudson & Beyonce–and the sublime control of Celine Dion.

My favorite part of the Oscars: When Alan Arkin won best supporting actor for “Little Miss Sunshine.” If you’ve been reading “me”, you know that “Sunshine” was the movie I was rooting for, all the way. But you also know (see below) that I’m very happy “The Departed” won the top prize. Classy picture. Great script, direction, dialogue. Knowing all the actors made it all more enjoyable. Good to see an East Coast director win.

Did you notice that the “wins” were distributed all around. Not just clustered in the hands of one or two or three. The Germans, the Chinese, the Mexicans, East Coast, West Coast, environmentalists, on and on….a United Nations Oscar show, you think?

Some critics say that the Oscars was too long, painfully long…but we are high tech people, don’t they know that? We multi-task while watching; we don’t just sit and stare at the screen. For me the Oscars were just a backdrop. Looked at what I wanted to see while reading the news and writing stories on my laptop. The tv screen is just one of my multi-dimensional life.

In Reno, in a brand-new movie theater overlooking the beautiful Truckee River, we saw “The Departedâ€?–starring “Jackâ€? Nicholson-Matt Damon-Leonardo Dicaprio—Mark Wahlberg & Alec Baldwin.

All juicy roles—and very, very–even ridiculously funny.

I can’t spoil the terrific script by revealing anything—you must see it. “Jack’sâ€? interpretation of Frank Costello, a Massachusetts mafia chieftain, who specializes in political connections to protect his crime interests- -well,the scene with blood on his hands, is worth the price of the ticket…

At times, the fast-moving dialogue made me think of the brilliant Aaron Sorkin’s witty work (of West Wing fame, now Studio 60)– gone utterly mad and off the map.

And speaking of “West Wingâ€?, Martin Sheen, who played the president in that riveting series, also appears in “The Departedâ€? as the head of an undercover law enforcement office. He’s a civil, soft spoken avuncular type–but I couldn’t help thinking his alter ego was portrayed by actor Mark Wahlberg who stood at Sheen’s left side spewing gutter language.

(This movie’s not for the kiddies).

Is innovative director Martin Scorsese telling us that, these days, in real life, no one is loyal, no one is committed to real ideals and “everybody’s a rat”?

Produced by Brad Pitt and Brad Grey, a fascinating combination of Hollywood & HBO talent.

I Vote For “Little Miss Sunshine”


When you watch this movie be sure to look for the punctuation of primary colors–the bright yellow bus, Olive’s bright red boots and so on….(I want to say blue blue sky but I can’t remember now if the sky was blue blue but I do recall being struck by the effect of the primary colors, as in an emphasis here and there…)

Don’t Miss “The Good Shepherd”


“The Good Shepherd” was a longer movie than I anticipated but I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. There was so much to see, hear and think about as the characters accompanied me through the very well written, adult script.

Movies tell their story using visual images and there aren’t many words spoken (as opposed to a novel). In either format it’s difficult to bring full dimension to a writer’s characters, to make them human rather than cardboard representations –but the characters in “The Good Shepherd” felt like real people that I got to know in more than two hours. I could feel what their daily lives were like–and in the case of Mr. Wilson, played by Matt Damon, how he came to make his difficult choices–be it love with a woman and/or love for his country.

If you’ve read anything about “The Good Shepherd”, you know that it’s about the birth of the CIA–but it’s much, much more than that.

By the time the credits rolled (and the cast is impressive; wait ’til you see) I had felt a lot of fear, learned that even though I was born the same year the CIA came into being, under certain political circumstances I might just be considered a visitor in the USA– and, most of all, the movie’s message to me was that I (just an ordinary person) should never ever trust anyone. Not anyone.

“The Good Shepherd”–a movie not to be missed.

You Gotta Put Casino Royale On Your List…

if only to see the new blue-eyed, absolutely gorgeous super 21st century James Bond who can fake feelings and humor–even create eye creases when he’s laughing–but believe me, he is the coldest M16 killer yet. Makes Showtime’s serial killer, Dexter, look like a flake. On the other hand, Dexter could take care of Bond’s leftovers.

th-PK0400.jpg Photo: Do you remember the old Bond movie of the same name? The spoof with Woody Allen? This sexy photo of Daniel Craig, the new Bond, posing in the sparkling green sea reminds me of a similar shot of the lusty Ursula Andress who also starred in the film–or was it another movie?

“The Queen”: A Movie Review By Burt Blumert


The commute over Devil’s Slide was uneventful but I still sighed with relief as I pulled into the garage and shut down the engine. The fog was rolling in, Pumpkin days were behind us, and it was good to be home.

But, it was not to be.

“We can just make the 4:20 showing of “The Queen” in Palo Alto if we leave right now,” June said breathlessly. There was no negotiating. She’s all business when she dons those Grand Prix driving gloves.

“Look, isn’t this the movie about Queen Elizabeth I, who reigned in the 16th century?” I whined. “Wasn’t she beheaded, or locked up in the tower? In any case, do we really want to see a period piece movie, where they all talk funny?”

June rolled her eyes once or twice, and I noted that we were already on Highway 280 heading south.

“The Queen,” she sniffed, “is about Queen Elizabeth II, the present monarch, stars the great actor Helen Mirren, and is directed by Stephen Frears, whose 1985 film, “My Beautiful Launderette”, is a cult classic.”

My spirits improved as we exited at Page Mill Road. I was now minutes away from a large- sized popcorn with the hope that they used real butter and, more importantly, I reflected that Helen Mirren is one of the finest actors of our time. She was dazzling as Jane Tennison in PBS’s “Prime Suspect” series, and remarkable as the brilliant but difficult Russian émigré in “The Passion of Ayn Rand”. Helen Mirren does not disappoint as The Queen. She is at the top of her game.

The story line of the film covers those shattering events in the UK during 1997. Tony Blair, amazingly portrayed by Michael Sheen, has become the first Labor Prime Minister in about 20 years. He is young – Blair was born in 1953, the year Elizabeth ascended the throne – and handsome. Although raised in privilege and properly educated, he is a socialist “new man.”

His first official meeting with the Queen sets the tone for the entire film. Elizabeth, reserved, formal, but armed with a rapier wit, duels with Blair. She advises that he is her 14th Prime Minister. He is amused by the monarch, but remains respectful throughout.

Blair’s wife, Cherie, does not share this respect. She is in sympathy with the 25% of the British population who believe the monarchy is an expensive anachronism and should be abolished.
To the tradition- bound Elizabeth, Blair might as well be a rock-star.

And then…the dark event that turns our story from a gentle tale of a collision of manners to a political crisis that could threaten the UK’s constitutional monarchy:

Princess Diana is tragically killed in a motor accident in Paris.

To Elizabeth, this event is the final act of the dismal drama that Diana created for the Royal family. The movie, “The Queen”, does not dwell on the “sordid” events that led to Diana’s divorce from Prince Charles. The audience is reminded, however, that Diana has been “excommunicated” from the royal family.

The only potential problem Elizabeth sees is the need to protect the young princes, Harry and William, from the evil media. In this she is supported by her consort Prince Philip – well portrayed by American actor James Cromwell. Her mother, “the Queen Mum”, is also quick to offer her full support.

The royal family never once considers that the young princes should be mourning the dead mother they dearly loved. Shut off the TV sets, hide the newspapers, this was the royal strategy. Prince Philip decides that fresh air is the best remedy and takes the boys hunting on the 40,000 acres that make up the Balmoral Castle grounds.

As the days pass the outpouring of grief for the dead princess rages like a forest fire. To the royal family this outpouring is incomprehensible.

The headlines begin to turn ugly; why is the flag at Buckingham not flying at half-mast? Why is Princess Diana not being afforded a royal funeral? When will Queen Elizabeth break her silence and acknowledge the tragedy of Diana’s death?

From this point, “The Queen” becomes an elegant nail-biter. On the one hand, we have the intractable Elizabeth and her royal entourage clinging to traditions and views forged through 1,000 years. On the other – the average Brits who revere a different stripe of royalty: Elton John, Madonna, Elizabeth Taylor, the Spice Girls, and even the likes of Tony Blair. To these subjects, Diana was the real princess.

“The Queen” relies heavily on archived tapes and films. It is a sticky matter to successfully weave old images into a screenplay. Director Frears does it artfully.

First, we see old BBC tapes of an ocean of flowers placed by grieving Brits around Buckingham and the other palaces. Then, seamlessly, Mirren’s Elizabeth walking amidst the bouquets. She reads some of the attached messages and is stunned by the anger directed against the Royal family. She is in agony, yet, never buckles, never loses the royal demeanor that defined her life.

There is a sadness as Mirren’s queen grudgingly accedes to the pressures put upon her. She is powerless, yet, never loses her grace.

Finally, Helen Mirren’s Elizabeth realizes what we knew all along. We live in a “Pop Culture” and even tradition is fading fast.


You can email Burt: [email protected]