Friday, January 11, 2008

Camera Obscura - Dillinger in East TN; Death Race 3000; Every 'Cloverfield' Secret

East Tennessee helped filmmakers capture the legendary criminal exploits of John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd and the rise of Hoover's FBI, all recently featured in a History Channel documentary "Crime Wave: 18 Months of Mayhem", by Knoxville's Jupiter Entertainment and if you missed it last Sunday, you can watch it again this Saturday and Sunday. I thought the doc was excellent and yes, there are lots of Oliver Springs and other Knox-area locations (and lots of local actors) used as backdrops for the real events.

Jupiter Entertainment filmed for approximately 15 days in downtown Oliver Springs, a farm outside Oliver Springs, The Ritz Theater in Clinton, Joe Rainey’s dentist office in Clinton, outside the old Wartburg jail, and at other locations in Knoxville, Harriman and Townsend, members of the film crew told The Oak Ridger during the filming in November 2006.

The old Oliver Springs Banking Co. building substitutes for the Racine, Wis., bank that Dillinger robbed on Nov. 20, 1933. Nearby, the Sienknecht Antiques building, constructed in 1901, is the “boarding house” that caught fire while Dillinger and others were staying there. Local emergency personnel were the firefighters who saved Dillinger, not realizing who he was." (via the Oak Ridger)

The show's creators, using HD photography, did a fantastic job and got the facts right in the story - a story that gave both Dillinger and Hoover a national fame that still resonates today. I really urge you to watch the special on The History Channel (details on broadcast dates here).

One of my favorite movies about Dillinger was John Milius' version for Roger Corman's company, the simply titled "Dillinger" with Warren Oates giving a killer performance in the lead and Ben Johnson playing Melvin Purvis, the FBI agent Hoover put in charge to bringing Dillinger down. Milius' movie is stark and brutal and does follow pretty closely to the facts -- except for the way Purvis is portrayed. Johnson looks good as he dons his special gloves and jams a cigar in his mouth as he hefts his machine gun, but Purvis was much different in real life. (Ron has much affinity for Roger Corman and has been posting about the movies he likes.)

The truth, as the documentary reveals, is that Purvis was a skinny looking dude who botched numerous attempts to nab Dillinger and led to the deaths of many innocent people before he got lucky thanks to a woman who traded info on Dillinger for immunity for being an illegal immigrant.

The broadcast got my imagination humming, as I realized no one had really done the story justice over the years and given a more accurate script and some top name stars, could be a real hit. I even started making some notes and a script outline, thinking of pitching the story out West Coast way. I considered putting Brad Pitt in as Dillinger, maybe Emile Hirsch as Purvis and .... the idea all came crashing down as I read online Tuesday I was too late for this blockbuster.

Director Michael Mann ("Heat", "Miami Vice") is already in production on the movie, called "Public Enemies" with Johnny Depp as Dillinger and Christian Bale as Purvis. His movie is based on the recent non-fiction best-selling book by Bryan Burrough.

Fooey. Well, at least I know it was a good idea, since Mann thought it worthy of his next project and I'll bet it will be a huge hit. I bet he hits all the good points too, like how Hoover used Dillinger's crime spree to install the FBI as a national police force, how the press used him to boost sales, how the whole case almost destroyed Hoover's plan and how he was so jealous of Purvis' media fame he worked to destroy his career.

Maybe I could pitch a low-budget version with a less A-list lead actor to Roger Corman, or maybe to that company that came out with "Snakes on a Train" to cash in on the "Snakes On A Plane" flick. Hey David Keith!! Wanna play Dillinger???

Ah well.


Speaking of Corman, his drive-in classic "Death Race 2000" airs tonight at 2 a.m. on TCM's Underground series. Shot in about 17 days, the movie was a massive hit despite all it's cheapness. And the idea of scoring points for running down pedestrians somehow became a dark American joke.

The movie is currently getting a remake with writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson ("Resident Evil," "Alien vs Predator") in charge. Actor Jason Statham gets the lead role of Frankenstein, the brutal champion of the game. Lots of details and some photos of the new movie are here.


All hope of getting a good, new version of the Conan the Barbarian tales is lost. Lost, I tell you. Why? Because the company that just snagged the rights has put two god-awful writers in charge of the script.

These writers (Donnelly and Oppenehimer) wrote the script for "Sahara" based on Clive Cussler's book, and Cussler sued the production company for ruining his novel and their version of Ray Bradbury's classic short story "A Sound of Thunder". I'm sure their version of Conan will include robots and exploding chariots.


Thousands of readers have found this humble page seeking clues on the movie "Cloverfield" which opens next Friday. Produced by J.J. Abrams and written by Drew Goddard, the movie has been THE buzz on the internets for many months.

So if you cannot wait to see the movie, told via hand-held video as New York City is attacked by .... something really, really big, then here is the place to go - has all the "Colverfield" photos and the production notes on the movie that reveal every secret the movie has to offer.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Supreme Court Hears Voter ID Case

The Supreme Court heard arguments about Indiana's Voter ID case yesterday, and as Lyle Denniston of the SCOTUS Blog points out, there was limited acknowledgement the case was mired in partisan politics:

The Supreme Court, studiously avoiding almost all mention that it was examining a thoroughly partisan political battle, spent a spirited hour on Wednesday looking for ways either to scuttle a major test case over voters’ rights or to find a way — as if the Justices were writing a law themselves — to soften the impact of a tough state requirement for a photo ID before a voter may cast a ballot at the polls.

Only two Justices — Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Paul Stevens — even hinted at the real-world fact that the photo ID law in Indiana is at the heart of a bitter, ongoing contest reaching well beyond Indiana. It is a dispute between Republicans worried over election fraud supposedly generated by Democrats to pad their votes, and Democrats worried over voter suppression supposedly promoted by Republicans to cut down their opposition. The abiding question at the end: can a decision be written that does not itself sound like a political, rather than a judicial, tract? Can the Court, in short, avoid at least the appearance of another Bush v. Gore?"

The full commentary and access to the hearing's transcripts are here.

I've mentioned this case before, though it should be noted that observers expect a decision of this case to come out this summer and not this fall, as I said previously.

Teh Spelllling Diskwaulifycashun

Question: What's the first sign of the return of the TN State Legislature?

Answer: A flurry of goofy, useless and grandstanding bills from Teh Rep, aka Stacey Campfield of Knoxville.

The KNS reports on his proposal that a legislator should not be allowed to vote on bills concerning DUI issues if a legislator has been accused of DUI.

Let's use his logic - if a legislator cannot spell or has no grasp of grammar (some recent examples from his blog: "
I have been thinking a lot about the life issue lately (even more so then usual); or "people were threatening law suits"; or "On the other side of the isle.") they should not be able to vote on bills concerning Education.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Ralph Wiggum - The Not Unpossible Candidate in 08

A fine bit of satire of the presidential race was delivered via young Ralph Wiggum on this week's episode of The Simpsons.

It's really worth watching this clip, as both the GOP and the Democrats, pundits like Limbaugh and Huffington and our media-maddened culture all get nicely skewered.

The Ralph '08 Official Campaign Site is prepped and ready, America.

The Good, The Bad, The Primaries

It's good to see that voters - not the collection of talking pundit bobble heads - still have the most authority when it comes to the presidential primaries. Many in the media (online and off) dismissed Hillary Clinton's campaign after one primary, in Iowa, and found their dismissals were too early and quite wrong as Clinton took the New Hampshire primary.

The GOP talkers too found that voters were not focused on the talkers' take: the race is not about Romney, Guliani or Huckabee, but about McCain ... at least in New Hampshire. And Tennessee's Fred Thompson, who arrived late with much self-anointment as the Chosen, Lone Conservative, does not seem to have much of a plan for getting votes at all.

Also good news is that how a person votes matters more than the opinions of the bobble heads.

At least in early primaries. Once the massive Super Tuesday primaries, with too many states holding elections on the same day, the individual voters become so much background noise. And if you have questions about the entire primary system, here's a basic guide.

The bad news is that much of the media (online and off) will be so invested in the "who's next?" game, they will continue to ignore what the current president and congress is doing for the next 11 months.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Dangerous Pickles

Paranoid much?

Then Mosheim may be the town for you. A piece of luggage that was dropped off by a bus line and started to leak something orange-looking brought out the Emergency Management and Homeland Security folks.

Turns out, it was a package of pickles. And since when has something from India been a mysterious terrorist package? Or when did Mosheim become a target-rich community?

Monday, January 07, 2008

Bill Gates Looks For A New Job

As the 2008 CES gets underway, Microsoft's Bill Gates lets us peek at what he'd like to do since he is stepping down from his company.

I liked the part where he called Barack Obama and said "Hi, it's Bill!"

"Shatner?" said Obama.

Gizmdo has the video from Gate's keynote address.

It's Your Right To Vote - Or Is It?

Do you, as an American citizen, have a Constitutional Right to vote?

The answer may depend on how the U.S. Constitution is interpreted (some say) or if you give a state constitution more authority. The majority of state constitutions do explicitly state that citizens have a right to vote, which is the case in Tennessee, where the state's constitution says in Article IV, Section 1:

"Every person, being eighteen years of age, being a citizen of the United States, being a resident of the state for a period of time as prescribed by the General Assembly, and being duly registered in the county of residence for a period of time prior to the day of any election as prescribed by the General Assembly, shall be entitled to vote in all federal, state, and local elections held in the county or district in which such person resides. All such requirements shall be equal and uniform across the state, and there shall be no other qualification attached to the right of suffrage."

In his opinion on the Gore v. Bush case in the 2000 election, Justice Anthony Scalia made reference to voting rights and the electoral college:

" ... t
he individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States ..."

And so much argument has been offered from his view, but linking how the electoral college works to the individuals right to vote is more than stretching for comparisons, as I see it. Still, the argument is made that American citizens don't have a right to vote (see the comments from Nashville's MCB, where the consensus is .... mixed, or at best confused), and that the current voter ID system must be changed.

If the right to vote is not explicitly stated, is it implicit, since we have several amendments declaring a voter cannot be discriminated (or eliminated) due to race, sex or age?

That issue is sure to be a topic in the presentation of a case before the Supreme Court this week challenging the very strict Voter ID Law adopted in Indiana. Also key to the presentation is that no evidence has yet been provided in the case to show that the Indiana Law would/could/does prevent voter fraud.

An excellent overview of the case was presented by American Constitutional Society last week in a panel forum which you can access right here.

There is a push in some states to adopt a federal constitutional amendment explicitly stating a right to vote.

Seems to me there are many inherent problems in deciding to make voting regulations/rights a federal and not a state issue. And I wonder too if much of the debate over IDs and rights to vote have a larger agenda in mind. All the studies I've seen make it clear that voting fraud is almost always a problem with absentee ballots and seldom at a polling location, as each state has specific laws already in place regarding IDs to be presented before casting a ballot.

The outcome of the Supreme Court case may not be offered until late fall of this year - just prior to the presidential election day. Again, odd timing in my mind.

The problem isn't voter fraud in the US, it's voter participation. And who benefits in a conflicting debate on whether or not we have a right to vote? Are hopes that a confused voter will be a non-voter in evidence here?

See Also:
The Crone Speaks

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Weekly Best of Tennessee Blogs

Here's this week's list, via TennViews:

A "corn fed" edition the TennViews weekly liberal blog roundup, with Iowa caucus/straw poll reaction from some of Tennessee's best and brightest bloggers:

• 10,000 Monkeys and a Camera: Almost spot on prediction, and The Kids are Alright

• Andy Axel (at TennViews): The latest unbelievable wingnut spin

• BlountViews: Respect for Dodd and Biden

• The Crone Speaks: Electability over issues, and Voter turnout is the big story

• Enclave: The Obama Edwards dilemma

• Fletch: The Gaussian candidate

• KnoxViews: Down to the wire, and Knoxville News Sentinel has a sense of humor

• Lean Left: Caucus thoughts: A mess for the GOP, a remarkable win for Obama, and The "Not Clinton" problem

• Left of the Dial: Sick babies and loose meat sandwiches

• Left Wing Cracker: So much for Iowa being a Republican state

• NewsComa: Going against the grain, and Bold predictions for the aftermath

• Pesky Fly: Interpreting the tongues, and Fear of success

• Progress Nashville: Status quo: 0, Change: 1, and The young and the restless, plus Two miracles

• Russ McBee: Thoughts on Edwards, bonus: Quote of the day

• Sean Braisted: The awesome power of hope, and The defeat of absolutism

• Sharon Cobb: Iowa votes for change, plus Cause and Kucinich/Nader effect?

• Silence Isn't Golden: Post Iowa scenarios

• Tennessee Guerilla Women: Only fools are dancing on Hillary's grave and a Hillary provides baby sitters for caucus goers, right wing whines

• TennViews: Results and observations, and More questions than answers?

• Vibinc (a new addition to the Tennessee liberal blogroll): Snakes on a campaign, and About last night, and Live Blogging the Iowa Caucuses from Drinking Liberally Memphis, bonus: Hilarious predictions

• Whites Creek Journal: What happened

And folks that's just what they're saying about Iowa. There's a lot, and I mean a lot, of other stuff going on. Check out the "Volunteer Blogs" blogroll at TennViews and read what Tennessee's best liberal bloggers have to say about it.