Saturday, 28 February 2009

The Last Hurrah and Indiana Jones mark 4

The last day of February ended with the feeling that I had, on a fine balance, passed the test set for each day. A good combination of project work, enjoyment and other activities. The other activities did not include a walk or much house work, but I did a number of little jobs but which did not amount to balancing the food enjoyment of the day

I considered going out for a bacon roll but decided on a brunch using the new grill plate which required assembling, lightly greasing the top plate and the eight individual under grill pans before switch on with the expected brief smoking, the cooling, then washing and drying before commencing a first trial cook. I had a medium to small portion of piece of peppered steak, accompanied by two small pieces of already cooked gammon, two eggs, one sliced tomato and one sliced onion. I started everything at the same time, prepared to eat individually as items cooked but was able to try them at the same time. The steak was cooked on the top plate and was about right with perhaps another few minutes but no more. The eggs in contrast were over done but fitted well into two of the individual small cooking plates and were easy to remove without breaking. I will try another time on the flat area of the grill plate. The tomato and the gammon together with the onion were topped off on the top plate and perhaps the onion need to go in earlier. I must try some mushroom, scrambling the eggs, some hash browns and cheese on small cuts of bread although this will be part of a sliced finger roll. I will save bacon for the bought out rolls, I nearly forgot heating up a small portion of baked beans. When in the mood I will try some thing more imaginative.

In the evening I created a bed of lettuce and cucumber pieces with some French dressing and then covered with pieces of the previously cooked and now cold mackerel mixed with prawns peeled from shell. I had not been looking forward to the cold fish having been unable to separate into two meals when removed from freezer and defrosted and cooked on the same day, but the combination worked well so that the mackerel did not overpower everything else. Staying up until three am there was a midnight soup in a cup and a finger roll filled with slices of gammon and peppered mustard. A banana, grapes and portion of Lemon Tort comprised the sweets. Another admission has to be a can of caffeine and sugar free Pepsi cola.

The film find of the day was a showing of the Spencer Tracy performance in the film the Last Hurrah, from a book written in 1956 by Edward O Connor and which was a best seller in its day. The book is believed to have been based on the former Mayor of Boston James Michael Curley. Both characters were of Irish descent with working class backgrounds.

Mayor Curley became a working class hero where he and a political associate served a short prison sentence for fraud in 1904, having served as a member of the Massachusetts state House of representatives 1902-1903 and then become an Alderman, they had sat the civil service examination to enable two men in their district to get jobs as postmen with the Federal Government. The going to prison created a dark reputation for political opponents who exploited the incident during his subsequent election campaigns.

He was elected to the US House of Representatives 1911 to 1914 and was first elected Mayor of Boston in 1914 until 1918, returning in 1922-1926, 1930-1934 and 1946-1950. In 1937 and 1940 one of his former party political friends defeated him for the Mayoral nomination, which is an indication of the love hate reputation developed for him within the party as well as those supporting the Republican Party.

The reason for this is the scandals throughout his political life, During his tenure as Governor of the State 1935-1937 the state limo was involved in several accidents, he was accused of the sale of pardons to state convicts, and the appointment of scores of poorly qualified individuals to public office. The media stories led to the Democratic leadership failing to endorse his candidacy for the Senate in 1936. However he was back in favour in 1943, elected to the United House of Representatives and serving for four years.

and a Member of the US House of Representatives 1943-1947. In 1943 he was convicted on a felony indictment for influence peddling from his involvement for influencing peddling to secure defence contracts, but using the slogan Curley gets things done he won his fourth term as City Mayor. He was convicted of a further offence during this last period as Mayor and continued to hold the office while he was in prison. Despite these serious failings he remained worshipped in the city and when he died he received one of its biggest funerals, two statues and his former home is now an historical site. He had nine children by his first marriage but his wife and seven of the children all died before him. One son became a Jesuit priest.

In the novel the Mayor is a colourful character with a dark past aged in his 70‘s and a widower who explains to his nephew, a journalists, the realities of political life and election campaigning as he attempts another term as the Mayor. However in a reminder of the last days of Margaret Thatcher recently viewed, his methods are no longer acceptable and he is defeated by an unknown political inexperienced Republican with a good War record, smart appearance and good manners. He has a heart attack soon after the defeat and city in mourns someone whose time was past.

The film follows closely the story of the book, I am told. The role was originally planned for Orson Wells but while away one of his team turned it down, some thing which Wells regretted and I imagine he would have played the role in a darker way than he much loved Spencer Tracy. Pat O’Brien and Basil Rathbone also featured in the John Ford Film and Jeffery Hunter played the nephew journalist. Although popular in the city, former Mayor and Governor, Curley had quickly disappeared from national interest, but the book and the film helped to soften his image although the film link with the individual and the city was denied at the time.

In contrast to a film about the realities of political life in the US city, I watched the fourth of the films in the Indiana Jones series bringing back the team which created the first in 1981 Harrison Ford as Indiana and Karen Allen his former lover who in the latest India Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, discloses her son, is in fact his child. The film is directed by Steven Spielberg with George Lucas one of three producers.

The first film cost $20 and made over $380 million with nine Oscar nominations and winning five in 1982. Two years later a prequel was released which met with mixed reviews but which also made a profit of over $350 million. There was then a gap of five years before the third film which featured Indiana as a young man as well as his current age and featured Shaun Connery as his father. The film cost twice the original at $55 but made over $400 profit and was considered to be the last, except that public pressure on Spielberg, Lucas and Ford for another continued.

It was decided to set the new film in 1950’s so that the Chronological age of Harrison in the series also matched his age in real life that is someone in their mid sixties. The setting also provided the opportunity to make the villains the Russians and make use of the idea about aliens and space ships current at the time (and since).

The enemy is headed by Cate Blanchette, a million miles away from her role in Lord of the Rings, as a villainous Stalin era fanatic wanting the ultimate brain controlling ability. The film is set in the era when the Soviets were known to have developed truth drugs and were experimenting with mind control techniques and which were used in the Korean War. There is the Michael Caine film the Ipcress File in which scientists are captured, brainwashed and rendered ineffective and the original Manchurian Candidate in which the son of a prominent political family is brainwashed while serving in the Korean War with other members of his platoon, to return with everyone saying the he is a hero saving their lives and this leads him to becoming public and political figure and leading to his attempting to assassinate the President of the United States.

The film opens is an excellent fast moving action sequence in which Indiana and his friend played by Ray Winstone as a long standing British agent are captured by a Russian military group complete with US army style vehicles and outfits and taken to a secret but poorly guarded store of secrets papers and objects in the middle of the Nevada desert. Ray has in fact sold out the information in the hope that he will be able locate an object which he recovered for the US Government and which has importance both in terms of the mind control project and locating the city of gold known as El Dorado, Winstone’s interest. When they enter vast store everything is in numbered boxes but Indiana thinks of an ingenious way to locate the boxes whose contents has intrigued him. It proves to be the remains of an being from beyond the known earth. I choose my words carefully as will be revealed later. They are looking for something which the box does not contain.

Indiana escapes but finds himself in a nuclear test site in desert where a small town has been created to see the effects of a the explosion which unfortunately is about to take place. Fortunately he closes himself in a lead covered fridge and is blown clear, manages to get out and is decontaminated, the first of several stretches of credulity in the film, which never takes itself seriously. As a consequence of his involvement albeit unwillingly Indiana is forced take a prolonged holiday from his university position and he is about to go off when he is approached by the son of his former lover and told that an old colleague has disappeared after discovering a crystal skull. He passes a letter and a document an ancient picture language and this sets them off to Peru pursued by the Russians. They find the skull but are captured by the enemy who also have captured his former lover and the young mans. Mother. The skull has powers and under its influence it tells Indiana to where to return it. Before reaching the destination there are various exciting adventures which include a drop down not one but three large water fall drops, escaping killer ants, a killer native tribe and several confrontation with the Russians. The film is full of references to other films of the period with the young playing James Dean in the Wild Ones. The film also touches on the beliefs/legends that many advances in human development were in fact passed on knowledge from superior beings. What they find is not a city of gold but the treasure of knowledge in the form beings with the power to communicate through dimensions of space and time. The film ends with Indiana and his former lover marrying in the presence of their son.

The film cost nine times the original to make and grossed nearly $800 million dollars so as before was popular at the cinema but received mixed reactions from the critics. At times what the film makers described as great fun seemed very silly, On one hand the lastest technology was used creating in effect a video game in which the actors subsequently participated to provide the human face. Harrison Ford is said to have undertaken many of the stunts, to prove was an old man can do, although he admitted to keeping himself fit and that it took two weeks of intense effort to relearn to crack the bullwhip again. There were some good touches and ideal fare late on a Saturday night although it would have been more enjoyable if I had drank a bottle of Asti or several beers. John Hurt played his old colleague who they rescue and participated in the latter part of the adventure. Jim Broadbent plays the University Dean, friend and protector of Indiana when the FBI and the Un-American Activities investigators misunderstand the position. Sean Connery was invited to provide another link between the films as Indian’s father but declined offering the lame excuse that he found retirement too enjoyable.

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