Saturday, October 29, 2016
Sunday, October 9, 2016
It 's ironic that there would be such uproar about Donald Trump’s puerile ten year old boasts about his behavior with women. While the presidential candidate’s recorded remarks are rightly condemned, the level of piety and sanctimonious hand-wringing by some members of the press is distressing and hypocritical.
Where have all these people been for the past thirty-odd years? Have they never listened to popular music? Watched TV? Listened to shock jock radio? Been one of the 125 million people who read “Fifty Shades of Gray?” Have they forgotten Bill Clinton? Gary Hart ring a bell?
Perhaps the presidential candidate with the most chance of competing with Bill Clinton’s in-office seduction of young aide Monica Lewinsky was Senator John Edwards. Edwards was popular, with good looks and a squeaky clean image. He had what some people described as a “Breck girl” appeal.
The sex scandal which forced his withdrawal was graphic, described in some accounts as “gross” sexual activity. While the sex tapes were eventually destroyed by court order, some members of the press and others in law enforcement had viewed Edwards in the act of cunnilingus with lover Rielle Hunter.
Edwards’ defenders claim his elaborate scheme to keep his risqué affair with Rielle Hunter out of the public eye was to protect his cancer-stricken wife Elizabeth. Law enforcement took a dimmer view, considering that the hundreds of thousands of dollars paid out on Edwards’ behalf was followed by a prosecution for bribery.
“Gross,” the John Edwards sex tape affair may have been, but it was also laughable. Hunter was supposed to highlight the Edwards campaign in a documentary film. A torrid affair with her journalistic subject was just one of the highlights.
Another was when Edwards campaign aide Andrew Young wrote a book about behind the scenes activity on the campaign trail. Young proved himself to have a sense of humor in saying the sex tape just tumbled out of his suiticase when he’d gone home to unpack. Rielle Hunter claimed that Young stole the tape from her. She filed a lawsuit to retake possession of it.
Edwards was subpoenaed to testify in the civil court contest, but his lawyers protested that his testimony at his trial would violate his 5th Amendment protections.
Edwards faced six separate criminal charges stemming from payoffs to Hunter and Young to keep them quiet. The payments were made by a third party but North Carolina prosecutors believed Edwards was aware of the payments. Edwards pleaded innocent to all charges, and said he wasn’t aware of any such payments.
Edwards’ response to all allegations was to deny, deny, deny. While he had no choice but to admit to the affair with Hunter, he also denied being the father of the baby she gave birth to.
The relationship between Edwards, Hunter, and Young was an unusual love triangle by any measure. In the typical love triangle, a person is caught between two competing love interests. The Edwards – Rielle Hunter affair was sort of a menage a trois, but only in the sense that the married-with-children Andrew Young , at first, claimed to be Hunter’s lover.
When the press became suspicious of Edwards and suspected he was having an affair with Hunter, Young came forward to pose as the man in Hunter’s life. In that way, the campaign entourage could travel together without raising further suspicions.
Eventually a tabloid produced photos of Edwards visiting Hunter and their child. Edwards ultimately acknowledged the affair and that the child was his.
In so far as his legal trial was concerned, John Edwards was found not guilty of one of the six charges levied against him. A mistrial was declared on the remaining five charges.
Tuesday, October 4, 2016
Yes, the Sundance Channel series Gomorrah is sub-titled. But you don’t have to speak Italian to enjoy the show. The action is in the universal language. Love, hate, violence, revenge. The blank spaces in the sub-titles are those four-letter words. You can easily learn how to swear in Italian. That will impress your friends in Milan.
But what I’m thinking about today is Immaculata. That is the real name of the top clan guy’s wife in the Gomorrah series. I’ve heard a lot of complaints here in the U.S. about the lack of female roles for actors over the age of twenty nine. American TV and film needs to write a role like the one given this woman.
Maria Pia Calzone portrays Immaculata (the Immaculate) with serious verve, style, focus, and a mysterious womanhood. Watching her in the series made me a bit ga-ga, I’ll admit. When she hit up on one of my twitter posts, I discovered what it was like to walk on air. I went around the house acting like a celebrity to our dog for at least a week.
Imma’s a really unusual mom to her son Gennaro, a guileless and unruly kid who is over the moon about Noemi. l Gennaro’s gone to great lengths to impress Noemi. The girl is pretty and sexy but Imma can’t for a moment take the little fool seriously.
Yet she knows enough not to interfere with her son’s yearnings. She stands by and smiles as Gennaro romps around the place with Noemi both of them in their underwear. Mothers, you don’t want this girl in your crime family.
Eventually Gennaro matures and sees that Noemi is superficial. That only happens after mother Imma has sent him to Honduras, ostensibly for business reasons, but really to harden him in the cauldron of the drug cartels.
One Gennaro goes down to Honduras. Another Gennaro comes back, shoots Imma’s mastiff for attacking him on his unannounced return. This Genn
In previous episodes, Maria Pia Calzone appeared resigned to her role as the mobster’s wife. Obedient. Caring. She’s not shy about ruling the roost. But over all, Don Pietro had the final say about all business matters and even some domestic ones – like the sofa they have in the living room. He tosses the new sofa out because he thinks the Italian cops have bugged it. Imma is quiet but absorbs everything about her surroundings. She understands the business and has deep perception about the psychological underpinnings of the males who surround her.
She takes over the clan expecting a rebellion from the old school males allied with Don Pietro.
Sunday, October 2, 2016
Just finished watching an Italian TV series called Gomorrah. Rhymes with Camorra. Unlike the American Mafia or the Sicilian Mafia, the camorras have no hierarchical structures. There is not one single camorra – there are several, rather like constellations.
Organization is horizontal, rather than pyramidal. Positions may be inherited. Rules are not always followed.
It seemed strange to me how the actors and directors of this TV series were, in interviews, saying such nice things about American films and TV series. Unless they were referring to ‘slick,’ I kind of thought the opposite. The Italian version of a crime epic was grittier and more realistic than the ones I’ve watched – excepting perhaps “Casino” where there is not much room for romanticism.
But even there, Gomorrah was hands-down more realistic than any mafia conforming fare found on American TV and film. Hey listen, wiseguy, I’m not putting down the American films like Godfather and Casino and TV shows like “The Sopranos.” I thought they were great.
Gomorrah is different, that’s all I’m saying. Part of it is my own taste for realism. The more realistic the better. So let’s face it, the comorras of southern Italy don’t play very nice.
Gomorrah, offered by Sundance TV and still “On Demand” has three directors. You may have noticed that earlier I used the plural when I referred to the director (s).
There is Stefano Sollima, the key director of the character Pietro Savanstano, head of the clan. His wife is named Imma for Immaculata – how’s that for an Italian name? She gets her own director but in most cases she needs one only to move her through the scenes. Then they have a son. His name is Gennaro. At first he’s clueless but then grows into a chip off the old block. His director is Claudioo Cupellini.
What’s up with three directors? Well, Stefano Sollima is the top man but the other two have a great deal of independence. There are three driving forces therefore. Just as in real life the tensions occur between people, so it is with these characters. It’s fascinating – it’s conflict you can feel. It gets under your skin. The characters are despicable and noble at the same time. As in Game of Thrones, these three characters live in separate kingdoms, separate domains.
Other details: The screenwriter is Stefano Bises. The filming makes use of 126 different locations, 225 actors, and hundreds of actors. Italians go big if they go at all. The series transformed Naples into a huge movie set.
Though some Italians have complained of bad publicity for Naples (See Naples and Die) actor Salvatore Esposito, who plays Gennaro Savastano, points out that tourism to Naples has increased, not the other way around. I have to say that I am curious, too. My father was a ‘Napolitano” (Neopolitan).
The stories are true. They come from Robert Savio’s book of the same name: Gomorrah. Some of the inspiration, too, comes from Matteo’s film which was adapted also from Savio’s book.