Monday, November 14, 2016

I Miss Mayberry

Except I don't really miss Mayberry. That's just a line from a song by Rascal Flatts. There was no real Mayberry, it was just a fictional town in a sitcom. But some thoughts occurred to me about Mayberry as I was streaming some episodes of the Andy Griffith Show on Hulu the other day... and if there's any weirder juxtaposition than digitally streaming episodes of the Andy Griffith Show, I can't think of it.

Anyway, we were talking about Mayberry. It seems to me that most of the people who voted in Donald Trump as our soon to be president did so because they bought into his notion to "Make America Great Again." I've wondered to myself when America has ever been greater than it was under our current president. Our economy is booming. Unemployment is at an all time low. More Americans have health insurance than ever before. Gays and Lesbians (and all those other letters whose meanings I'll admit I don't understand fully) are able to marry and have kids and be happy.

So, again, I ask myself... when was America ever greater than this?

And the only answer I can think of is... in Mayberry, a fictitious town in a sitcom from the 1950s.

Mayberry, of course, was an idealized representation of a perfect American Utopia, that was no more real than Brigadoon, Terabithia, or any of the various planets from Star Wars. The worst thing that ever happened in Mayberry was once a year part of the population had to suffer through some of Aunt Bea's awful pickles. If Mayberry was real, it's a safe bet Andy was probably on the take, Floyd the barber was a closeted homosexual, and Otis the town drunk would've died of cirrhosis of the liver.

But, again, Mayberry was an idealized version of the perfect American small town, and it represents everything Donald Trump and his supporters wish America could be. But does it? No black person ever had the chance to enter Mayberry, but if one did, there's no doubt in my mind Andy and Barney would welcome him or her in with open arms. There were no homosexuals in Mayberry -- at least not openly -- but I can't imagine Andy would think twice about hatching some scheme to help some gay guy who accidentally invited two different men to the Saturday night dance.

But, again, Mayberry was just a TV show, so what it represents about American society is just fantasy. However, it might be important to note that the actors who played Andy and Opie openly endorsed Barack Obama for president, and the actor who played Gomer Pyle spent most of his life as a closeted homosexual who was finally able to marry his long-time partner in 2015, a month after same sex marriage was legalized.

Come to think of it, I guess I do miss Mayberry... and I think America under President Obama was the closest we've yet coming to fully realizing that perfect utopia.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

In Memoriam: Robert Vaughn (1932-2016)

I don't have much to say about the life or passing of Robert Vaughn other than that I liked him. I liked him a lot. As the years went by, his appearance in a film or television program was rarely a mark of quality, but it was a sure bet he'd make it worth watching.

Honor his memory by watching some episodes of the Man from U.N.C.L.E. They still hold up.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Steve Jobs

This movie opens a few years after the success of the Apple II, and just before the launch of the iMac, so as anybody who knows anything about the history of Apple can tell you: this entire films chronicles the period in Steve Job's career where we pretty much did nothing of note. Is that harsh? I don't mean to be harsh, I just find the decisions made in the structuring of this film to be kind of inscrutable. Almost nothing is said about how Apple helped to create the home computer industry, and even less is said about how Apple later transcended the computer industry and used its tech to basically take over the world.

It's basically just two hours of Steve Jobs being an asshole.

To its credit, I did watch the entire film, but I can't say I was ever truly entertained. I think I kept watching because I kept waiting for the movie to start, but then it never really did. The film basically consists of three long scenes, each taking place just before the launch of major products... Well, two major products and also the NeXT. It's incredibly repetitive and strange, which each scene hitting entirely the same beats and plot points. The tech demo won't work, Jobs is made and yells at people, his wife and daughter just want to be loved. And then it ends.

I believe the coda of the film is that these products are all a part of Steve Jobs, and none of them will be successful until he made peace with himself and his inner demons. Of course, that's a pretty trite thing around which to base a film, but I don't even think it was supported by the plot. He never did make peace with himself, he just started to be kind of nice to his daughter a little bit.

About the acting I will say it was all pretty good, with Kate Winslet stealing the show as long-suffering Steve Jobs lackey Joanna Hoffman. I also really liked Michael Stuhlbarg as Andy Hertzfeld. I didn't get Michael Fassbender as the titular main character, and I thought he came across as more of a movie star than as any kind of real marketing genius. That wasn't the Steve Jobs I knew. And, of course, this movie continues the long tradition as casting any random fat guy with a beard as Steve Wozniak.

Hey... here's a question: Why has nobody made a movie about Steve Wozniak? I realize it would be boring, but so are all of the movies about Steve Jobs. At least this one was.