The Girlfriend Experience

This show is becoming the motherlode of TV nudity

s2e7, 1080hd

Anna Friel and Louisa Krause

Louisa Krause

Krause and Anna Friel


Italian series about gangsters in Italy

s3e2, 720p

Chiara Bianchino and Catherine del Carmen Barreto Martinez




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Strip Search

part two of two

2004, 1920x1080

Maggie Gyllenhaal

Scoop's notes: my comments accompany part one (yesterday's edition)

Magic Mike


Mircea Monroe film clip (sample below)

Olivia Munn film clip (collage below)

Riley Keough film clip (collage below)

Irina Gorbacheva in Arrhythmia (2017) in 720p

Eleanor Wyld in Bonobo (2014) in 1080hd

Penelope Cruz in Captain Corelli's Mandolin (2001) in 1080p

I have written elsewhere, probably far too often, that I cannot recall a good movie in which someone has returned from the dead. In this film, two main characters return from the dead, and they were both in love with the same woman. That one woman could have this happen to both of her lovers seems to stretch my credulity to the breaking point. Of course this did not break the Guinness record for the most resurrections in one story. The New Testament also has two. But it should be noted that Jesus and Lazarus were not dating the same chick.

Captain Corelli's Mandolin is based on a book which is kind of a folksy allegory for European behavior in the WW2 era. It's filled with lusty villagers, folk costumes, war-orphaned children, paint-deprived buildings, colorful village idiots, stubbornly nationalistic geezers, and other literary stock footage. The specific historical events involve a little known corner of WW2, in which the Italians were getting trounced by the Greeks on the Albanian/Greek border until Mussolini's embarrassed Big Brother sent German reinforcements to turn the tide. The next step for the Axis was the occupation of Greece, an arrangement in which the Germans and Italians ostensibly carved up responsibility by area, but within which the Germans really kept control by maintaining "advisors" in the Greek areas theoretically under Italian hegemony. When the Italians finally surrendered to the allies, they had to turn over all their share of the occupied Greek territories to the Germans, and the transition was not smooth, to say the least. The Germans sometimes treated their former allies even worse than they treated the defeated populations. In many cases, the Germans simply rounded up the Italians and shot them.

I'm not sure what the focus of the book had been, but the film is primarily a multi-cultural love story set inside a parallel geopolitical situation. The historical macrocosm involves the changing attitudes of the three nationalities toward one other. The Greeks are at first contemptuous of the Italians because Greek heroes who defeated the Italians in the border war were forced to go home and surrender to the men that they had just defeated! Eventually, both the Greeks and the Italians realize that it is the Germans who represent the real danger to humanity. The final dilemma for the Italians is whether they should surrender their arms to the Germans when they leave, or give them instead to the Greek resistance. In real life, this was a complex decision - think about it. One day the Italians were fighting with the Germans against the Greeks. Virtually overnight they were contemplating changing sides. Several Italian divisions actually did change sides and aided the resistance with their lives as well as their weapons.

The shifting attitude of the Greeks toward the Italian occupiers is reflected in a microcosm of personal stories. Penelope Cruz plays a Greek girl who first despises, then gradually falls for the fun-loving Italian officer (Nicolas Cage) billeted in her house. Christian Bale plays the Greek resistance fighter who first despises the Italian occupiers, then asks for their aid. On a personal level, the Greek first hates the Italian for stealing his girlfriend, but eventually saves his life.


Cage, Cruz and Bale are all miscast. Bale is a major talent and he also had the most richly written character, so he did fine. The others were not so lucky. Poor Cage was trapped into an acting choice he should never have made. He can be outstanding when he gets the right role, but that Chico Marx Italian accent was just a bad decision. As for the casting of Penelope Cruz as a Greek doctor, well, it ranks right up there with the legendary casting of Denise Richards as a nuclear scientist.

There was no need for the silly and inconsistent accents. No law says that foreigners in English-language movies have to speak to each other in English with a foreign accent. For heaven's sake, just let them speak English, and we can imagine they are speaking another language. Or, if you want to be authentic, hire Italians to play Italians, and have them speak Italian to each other.

John Hurt is a good actor, and he created an interesting character, but his dialogue was about equivalent to that of Polonius in Hamlet. I was getting tired of his constant spouting of truisms as if they represented the combined wisdom of Steven Hawking and Siddhartha.

The plot is your basic third-rate soap opera melodrama. (Two resurrections. 'Nuff said.)

In the time compression used in the film, Cage seems to recover from his "fatal" wounds in about a day or two. In reality, the severity of the wounds would have required months to heal, all while he was being hidden in a too-obvious place with Nazis hovering everywhere.


Movie looks great. It was assembled by the director of Shakespeare in Love, and photographed beautifully in sunny Greece.

Good source material. It was considered an excellent book, and it treats themes of great importance in the 20th century.

The English Patient set, those who love a deeply felt romantic melodrama cut against a backdrop of important historical events, will probably like this film as well. Use The English Patient and Shakespeare in Love as your barometers. If you like one of those, this is a good bet. If you like both of those, you'll almost certainly like this.

Joanna Going in How To Make An American Quilt (1995) in 1080p

American Quilt is a chick-flick. I wrote about it extensively 15 years ago. Most of that essay is an analytical bore-fest about demographics, but I offered my opinion at the end of the analysis, which was as follows:

"Is this film any good? I don't know. You're asking the wrong person. I found it completely unwatchable. The female characters are romanticized, and the male characters are cardboard props. To give you the idea, the film is about a woman (Winona Ryder) who is about to be married, but her future groom is barely listed in the cast. She visits a bunch of grannies who are quilting her wedding quilt. They spin some homespun wisdom based on flashbacks to their own romantic pasts, and Winona learns to follow her heart, or someone else's heart, or something. I forget now, but I'm sure it was some profound shit."

Paula Prentiss and Olimpia Carlisi in Catch-22 (1970) in 1080hd

Catch-22 was the movie that everyone anticipated that year.

It was based upon the original cult anti-establishment novel, which was written years before it was fashionable for a mainstream American to be against the establishment. Remember that the hippie movement essentially began in the summer of 1967, and Joseph Heller's novel was written in 1961. By the time the film was made, however, it was 1971, after Kent State, after the Kennedy and King assassinations, long after the march on the Pentagon and the Chicago convention. By that time, the counter-culture was becoming co-opted by the mainstream culture, it was fashionable to be against the war and the "man," and the world stood ready to applaud the anarchy of Catch-22. If you are in my generation, it was probably your second-favorite book at the time, after Catcher in the Rye, and you couldn't wait to see what they would do with the film.

The anointed director seemed to be the ideal choice. Although he is much older than the boomers, Mike Nichols had already emerged as a man who could articulate the concerns of that generation with "The Graduate." Within a year, he  would also direct the film which gave a voice to the forgotten war baby generation, "Carnal Knowledge". Catch-22 was the movie that he directed in between those acknowledged masterpieces. His helmsmanship further whetted our appetite for the film.

As it turned out, the film bombed El Grande. In a sense, it was the Battlefield Earth of its time, the butt of every comedian's jokes about ill-conceived, grandiose, and over-blown filmmaking.

It is hard for you to understand it now, because the context is lost, but this film turned out to be the exact opposite of what the Zeitgeist demanded. The mood of the times required a film which was honest, uncomplicated, without any contrived slickness, perhaps even without any polish. To those of us who saw it then, this film was obviously made by the people that Catch-22 made fun of, and the people we opposed. It was filled with Hollywood stars, a big-budget look, and the dreaded artificiality that earmarked the "establishment." It was like a Las Vegas revue making fun of war.

Several other factors conspired to doom the film:

1. The book was virtually inadaptable. The whole book is wordplay, concentrating on the absurdity of life, of which war was an important, but not the only, part. Books which derive almost all of their value from wordplay are, by their very nature, much more difficult to translate to other media than books which rely on plot or characterization. In addition, the book has about a zillion characters. Screenwriter Buck Henry eliminated some of them of in the interest of comprehension, but not enough. Perhaps when I first saw this film, the book was fresh in my mind and I knew who everyone was, but not now. Now I haven't read the book in thirty years, and I don't know who half of the characters are. For example, they could easily have written out the Buck Henry part, the Charles Grodin part, the Martin Sheen part, the Anthony Perkins part, Hungry Joe, and the Peter Bonerz part, just for starters, and all sub-plots related to them. They provided no extra value to the story, and no additional humor, and  simply added confusion. Some of the minor parts, like Major Danby and Major Major, were worth retaining for the humor and relevance to the main story (Yossarian's), but the ones I mentioned were irrelevant and at best could have lent some characteristics to consolidated characters. On the other hand, Henry's screenplay eliminated one of the better characters, PFC Wintergreen, the guy who actually ran the war, although Henry did take thematic elements of Wintergreen's sorry and incorporated them into Milo's story.

2. The film came out right after M.A.S.H. MASH was already the movie we hoped Catch-22 would be. MASH was everything that Catch-22 was not: improvisational, natural, freeform and heartfelt. The style and tone of MASH captured the Zeitgeist perfectly. It talked like a hippie in uniform, and it walked like a hippie in uniform. It had an honest, sincere feel to it, and featured no big mainstream Hollywood stars. Catch-22, on the other hand, walked and talked like Jerry Lewis or Alan King. It was the mainstream's interpretation of what an anti-mainstream attitude should be. Altman's MASH was genuinely anti-mainstream. MASH was made by guys who smoked dope. Catch-22 was made by guys who drank booze. MASH was made by guys who let their hair go natural and/or long. Catch-22 was made by guys who combed their short hair, and maybe even added a little dab o' Brylcreem. MASH was made by guys who played and hung out together when they weren't on camera. Catch-22 was made by guys who had their own trailers. MASH was made by guys who read The Village Voice. Catch-22 was made by guys who read Playboy. If you were there, you know exactly what I mean. If you weren't, I hope I'm recreating at least a bit of the attitudes from that time, so you can get a feel for it.

3. It was mis-marketed. Like a Kafka concept, Catch-22 is absurd, but not necessarily funny. It was essentially a serious book about how life is absurd, told in a way which exaggerates the absurdity to comic proportions. The film was billed and marketed as a comedy, but wasn't funny in any traditional sense. It has plenty of humor, and intelligent humor at that, but it's the kind of humor than gets you to think about it and appreciate it, not the kind that makes you laugh out loud. Because of the marketing, audiences were left waiting for the chuckles.

 "So, what, Scoop? Is it a good movie?"

Ya know what? Looking back on it now, without the expectations generated by the book or the marketing, and without the generational antagonism of the times, Catch-22 does look like a pretty good movie. Of course, it really does have too many characters, and an overly complicated structure, so it is genuinely hard to follow. It could be done better, but the DVD release has a lot of plusses.

Seen in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, it is visually magnificent. It is one of the best-photographed movies of its era, and still looks great by today's standards. It is both artistically and technically excellent. Thank heaven for DVD, which gave us our first widescreen look at the film since it was in theaters. Although most of it is straightforward and unfiltered, I was interested to see that certain scenes had the exact same look and feel as The Three Kings. That bleached look was caused in Catch-22 by deliberate over-exposure in the daylight scenes. Three Kings did it in post-production, with technology, but the effect is similar. Everything old is new again.

The slickness of the production, which seemed as inappropriate and unhip in 1971 as a tube of Brylcreem, seems like professionalism when viewed retrospectively. Is there anyone my age who has forgotten the sight of Paula Prentiss doing full-frontal nudity in this movie? This may seem unimportant today, but it was a really big deal in 1971, believe me. It is said to be the first full-frontal nudity in a mainstream Hollywood movie since the 1930s!

It is fascinating to watch such a cross-section of actors. It seems that everyone in Hollywood was in this. Orson Welles was the senior statesman, a symbol of Hollywood's past, but there were plenty of young kids who would be prominent in the future of show business. Art Garfunkel, Bob Newhart, Charles Grodin, Martin Sheen, and Jon Voight are all in this, all looking like they don't need to shave yet. It was interesting for me to see them all together, all so young.

The DVD has a commentary by Mike Nichols, who directed it, and Steven Soderbergh, who had nothing to do with the movie, but knows a thing or two about directing.

I enjoyed watching it and listening to the commentary, even though I didn't always know WTF was going on. Does that mean I'll like Battlefield Earth in 30 years?