Berkeley in the Sixties,
and a few more films

#214  [archive]
NOV. 13, 2023

Berkeley in the Sixties (1990)
Streaming free

This is a fine and inspiring look back at student unrest on the campus at U-Cal Berkeley. It's narrated by Susan Griffin, who was there as it happened, and includes interviews with more than a dozen others who were part of it — most of whom you've never heard of, but all have gone on to lives of activism and making a difference.

The Berkeley era started in 1960, with protests against San Francisco-based hearings of the (boo-hiss) House Un-American Activities Committee. For simply standing there holding signs, dozens were arrested and everyone was firehosed...  and in response, many more came to protest the next day.

The film shows old footage you've seen before, including of course Mario Savio — 

"There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part; you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!"

But there's ample footage you'll see nowhere else — then-Gov Ronald Reagan lashing out at protest and free speech, idiot school administrators thinking they could expel the protests into silence, cops breaking kids' skulls, kids stealing a cement-cased potted plant, etc.

On camera, the protesters — middle-aged when this film was made, probably dead by now — tell us what they did and why and how, and what they learned and regretted along the way.

Bobby Seale tells the funny story of how the Black Panthers funded themselves, which I shall not reveal. Someone else remembers a rally where the crowd started singing "Solidarity Forever" but people got bored and switched to "Yellow Submarine" instead. Which is funny enough, but then whoever's on camera goes on to explain the political significance of "Yellow Submarine," which of course has none. So the movie's not all politics and protests; there are laughs, as well.

America was a nation divided, and a nonviolent army of young people launched a mostly-peaceful war of placards and poetry, and danced while they did it.

Sure, as some of the old-timers describe here, it sometimes went wrong and people got so angry they forgot why they were angry, but for all the mistakes along the way, Berkeley in the '60s was the genesis for a movement that ended the pointless, needless Vietnam War, and fed into black and women's civil rights movements that certainly advanced those causes.

So the good guys won, which almost never happens.

Seeing this awesome documentary (for the third time) makes me wistful, makes me wish I'd been a few years older and been there. And it makes me angry. We need another Berkeley in the Twenties.

Verdict: BIG YES.

♦ ♦ ♦

Bernice Bobs Her Hair (1976)
Streaming free

Shelley Duvall, Veronica Cartwright, and Bud Cort star — three of my favorite actors all in one place, and they're all quite good here.

It's the roaring 1920s, and very-introverted Bernice (Duvall) comes to visit her beautiful cousin Marjorie (Cartwright). After Bernice socially flails at a party, clumsily flirted with by an insecure young man (Cort), Marjorie educates Bernice on the proper protocols of social discourse.

In her next try at it, Bernice wows a crowd by promising to get a 'bob' haircut — scandalous, for the time.

Based on an F Scott Fitzgerald short story so famous even I've read it, this TV adaptation undermines itself by making Bernice white, when she's supposed to be half-native. Other than that — which guts the story of half its power — what's left is a nifty approximation, entertaining after a slow start, with its delightfully kick-ass conclusion intact.

And they've kept the 'short' part of the short story — made for PBS, this is only about 45 minutes long.

It's introduced by Henry Fonda, though I have no idea why, and he says nothing interesting.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Liane, Jungle Goddess (1956)
Streaming free

This is a German film, set in Africa, allegedly filmed there but I'm not convinced, and badly dubbed into English. Hardy Krüger stars, and remember, kids, when you need a Krüger, get one that's hardy.

Scientists are camped in the jungle, tape-recording drums from the distance, in an attempt to learn the language of the drums. They don't, but they do discover a blonde Tarzanette, and the film spends five minutes that feel like ten watching her swim. Why? It's 1956 — even for German audiences, she's not going to be naked.

This savage blonde understands the drums but speaks no language, and somehow she's survived on her own in Africa. She's topless, but her long hair is trained to always cover her bosoms, and apparently she has access to some secret jungle supply of lipstick and make-up, because she's certainly ready for her close-up. 

"You can see she's intelligent. Just look at the shape of her face, and her eyes. She must come from a pretty good family, I'm sure of that."

As suspected, this is completely a ripoff of Tarzan, so soon we're back in England, or maybe Germany, where very upper-class fancy people are wondering if this young woman found in the jungle could be their granddaughter, lost in Africa as a young girl.

By this point, the movie had already ID'd itself as crap, and the far superior Greystoke is on my watchlist, so why bother? I clicked it off.

Verdict: NO.


• • • Coming attractions • • •

Dark Star (1974)
Get Shorty (1995)
The Internet's Own Boy (2014)
Line of Duty (debut episode; 2012)
The Man Who Thought Life (1969)
Not Wanted (1949)
Nothing But a Man (1964)
Ride in the Whirlwind (1966)
Romper Stomper (1992)
Room Service (1938)
Who Farted? (2019)

... plus occasional 
schlock and surprises 

• • • But wait, there's more  • • •

Alexander Nevsky (1938)
Brainwaves (1983)
Cellular (2004) 
The Dark Glow of the Mountains (1985)
The Day My Parents Became Cool (2009)
The Decline of Western Civilization (1980)
Downsizing (2017)
Frankenhooker (1990)
Hugo (2011)
The Importance of Being Earnest (1952)
Love Happy (1950)
The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
The Man with Nine Lives (1940)
Phone Booth (2002)
PickAxe (1999)
Poison (1990)
Revelations (1993)
Same Kind of Different as Me (2017)
Saved! (2004)
Scared to Death (1947)
Secret Weapons (1985)
The Shooting (1966)
The Soloist (2009)
The Train (1964)
Welcome to New Orleans (2006)
Wristcutters: A Love Story (2006)

There are so many good movies out there — old movies, odd or artsy, foreign or forgotten movies, or do-it-yourself movies made just for the joy of making them — that if you only watch whatever's on Netflix or playing at the twenty-plex, you're missing out.

To get beyond the ordinary, I recommend:

AlterCineverseCriterionCultCinema ClassicsDocsVilleDustFandorFilms for ActionHooplaIHaveNoTVIndieFlixInternet ArchiveKanopyKinoCultKino LorberKorean Classic FilmChristopher R MihmMosfilmMubiNational Film Board of CanadaNew Yorker Screening RoomDamon PackardMark PirroPizzaFlixPopcornFlixPublic Domain MoviesRareFilmmScarecrow VideoShudderThoughtMaybeTimeless Classic MoviesVoleFlixWatchDocumentaries • or your local library

Some people even access films through shady methods, though of course, that would be wrong.

— — —

Illustration by Jeff Meyer. Reviews are spoiler-free, or at least spoiler-warned. Click any image to enlarge. Arguments & recommendations are welcome, but no talking once the lights dim, and only real butter on the popcorn, not that fake yellow stuff. 
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  1. This version of "Bernice" was directed by the fantastic Joan Micklin Silver, who also made the all-time great "Chilly Scenes Of Winter" with all-time great John Heard, one of the best relationship films ever made. ALL TIME GREAT

    She also made "Between The Lines" which is one of the greatest newspaper films ever made, with a great ensemble cast worthy of Altman.

    Interesting comment about casting Duvall instead of the original story's stated Half-Native. You're no doubt aware of the idea that Kubrick's The Shining is to some degree about the genocide of the Native American population? I don't think that's a conspiracy or a reach - the film lays that out very clearly, right on the surface, with several mentions by various characters, as well as set design, props, etc.

    The most significant tip of the hat to this idea, though, in my opinion, is the casting of Duvall as Wendy, and her costuming and hair - she's wears braids, which at the time was very associated with Native women, and moccasins, and, frankly, I think she could pass for Native with her features and voice and demeanor.

    It's interesting and challenging casting, because this was the era when women and girls were getting slaughtered in nearly every horror/slasher film (hundreds of them a year) because putting a knife into a woman's body in a horror film was an acceptable mainstream substitute for the sexual penetration of hardcore films. But all of those other women were, by "normal" standards, beautiful or sexually becoming (apropos of the sexual analogy I mentioned) where Shelly Duvall is - charitably - odd looking (personally, I've always had a huge crush on her).

    So Kubrick is doing something weird with the audience's expectations. Duvall screams and cries and screams and cries and screams and cries and screams - much as Marylin Burns' Sally did in Texas Chain Saw Massacre (one of Kubrick's favorites, rightly so) - and like the Hooper film, it becomes a constant wearying refrain of misery. Do we listen? Do we ignore it? What is the proper response? How can we be sympathetic to such noise?

    I guess I have no point, brothers and sisters.

    Okay, back to my Psilocybin, my Ruffles "Party Size" Cheddar & Sour Cream, my Dandelion Chai Probiotic tea, and Steve Wallis on YouTube.

    1. Claude And Another Thing ReignsNovember 13, 2023 at 7:22 PM

      And yet, Duvall's Wendy survives the film!

      How's that for a monkey-wrench in "white man's burden," eh, Lloyd?

      Good ol' Stanley, always thinking. THE BEST!

    2. You know exponentially more than I do about movies. I mostly just sit and watch, hit 'pause' now and then if there's something I want to jot down and remember for a review, but nope, I didn't know jackshit about The Shining and native Americans.

      Also never saw Chilly Scenes and possibly never even heard of Between the Lines, and I *love* newspaper movies when they're done well.

      Also on my long list of nevers, not sure I've heard that explanation of slasher films, "putting a knife into a woman's body in a horror film was an acceptable mainstream substitute for the sexual penetration of hardcore films." Makes sense psychologically I suppose, but I mistrust head sciences. Seems to me more Occamrazory that most people feel empathy for a woman in peril, and those who don't enjoy seeing her hacked to bits, so horror can draw from both demographics.

    3. https://tubitv.com/movies/602927/between-the-lines


      "Lines" is about an alternative paper in the 70s, which makes it even more interesting. Though to be accurate it's as much a character study with the paper as a milieu.

    4. Oh, I'm already sold on both. They're in the downloads file on my right laptop, and I'm about to transfer them (and about two dozen other recent downloads) to my left laptop, where there's an auxiliary disk with a year's worth of movies waiting to be watched.


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