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R.I.P. Robert Osborne + Top Ten Movies

I was saddened by the passing of Turner Classic Movies' host Robert Osborne last week. TCM is my default station (even before I check the news on MSNBC, CNN, and Fox), and the TG had noticed that he hadn't been on the air in quite a while. So when the announcement of his death at the age of 84 came, it wasn't a big surprise.

Osborne was a real movie lover, and I think that's why he was held in such high esteem by his audience, myself included. We all love old movies – maybe now more so than ever, in this messed-up time we're living through – and I go back to my favorites regularly.

I've watched my favorite movies many times over the years. I saw them in revival houses such as the Thalia and the Elgin and in Mr. Park's Film Studies class at Sarah Lawrence. I had them on VHS tape, and now I have them on DVD, often with "special features." I can watch a favorite movie repeatedly, just as I can listen to a favorite record or view a favorite painting many times over. With a really good movie, repetition only increases my enjoyment. And if I can see something new in a movie that I've seen many times previously, I know I'm dealing with a real Work of Art.

The TG often quotes Theodore Roosevelt, saying, "COMPARISON IS THE THIEF OF JOY." And there is some truth in that, but it conflicts with man's enduring compulsion to Make Lists – especially lists of the Top Ten of things.

So, in memory of Robert Osborne, here are my Top Ten movies:


1. Citizen Kane (1941, dir. Welles) – The only movie that stays 100% fresh, every time you see it. A miracle of structure, a treasure-trove of character acting. A while ago, the TG and I watched it with Roger Ebert's and Peter Bogdanovich's commentaries. Very illuminating, especially Ebert's.

2. The Godfather (1972, dir. Coppola) – And not just because it was the first date that the TG went on. Great storytelling and a banquet of wonderful acting. But it's not flawless: the mother's role – Morgana King as Carmela Corleone – should have been MUCH bigger and more significant.

3. The Godfather II (1974, dir. Coppola) – And not just because the TG worked on it in her very early days at Paramount. It's deeper and more intricately structured than the first, and as satisfying.

4. Casablanca (1943, dir. Curtiz) – A model of artistic concision. Filled with nothing but highlights ... and lots of music ... and unforgettable dialogue.

5. Lawrence of Arabia (1962, dir. Lean) – No movie "takes me away" like this one. Every time it comes on, I get sucked in.

6. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946, dir. Wyler) – The most human of epics. Filled with truthful, unafraid moments.

7. My Darling Clementine (1946, dir. Ford) – My favorite Western (Roger Ebert's, too) by my favorite director.

8. La Grande Illusion (1937, dir. Renoir) – Both a "movie-movie" and a great human statement.

9. Double Indemnity (1944, dir. Wilder) – No one has the versatility of Wilder. Some of the best dialogue ever written – by Wilder and Raymond Chandler – and one of the worst wigs (on Barbara Stanwyck.)

10. Seven Samurai (1954, dir. Kurosawa) – Another movie to get lost in. With wide scope and simple human detail.

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"Did you hear what He said?" ... "Did you see what He did?"


That's what we're all saying now, and everyone knows who the "he" is.

Sometimes I stay away from the news; then sometimes I have to dive again into the Trump sewer.


"This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine. Despite the fact that I can't get my cabinet approved. And they're outstanding people."

"Any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election. Sorry, people want border security and extreme vetting."

"Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated."

"A few days ago, I called the fake news the enemy of the people and they are, they are the enemy of the people. They have no sources, they just make them up when there are none."


And then I have to turn off the TV and fold up the newspapers. Nonetheless, I absorb all the bad things that are happening in just the FIRST MONTH –

-- The worst anti-Semitic attacks in decades are occurring. (There are 166 Jewish Community Center Association locations in the US and Canada, and 68 have received bomb threats. Cemeteries in St. Louis and Philadelphia have been vandalized.)

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Searching for Good Things

Is it irresponsible to write about anything but TRUMP? I can't get away from him. None of us can. At least with "The Apprentice," we could turn to another channel. Now he's on all our TVs – 24-7-365.

It's a tsunami of bad news: his press conference, his lies, his attacks on the press. Flynn out, Pruitt confirmed. The whole "shit sandwich" – in some form or another -- every day.

Will he be impeached, or will he be forced to resign? I'm pretty sure that he's not going to last the full four years. Not with a first month like he's had. But it's going to be a bumpy ride for the whole country on the way to disaster.

So I grasp for Good Things in the meantime and look for the beach glass in the tsunami.


I've been spending lots of time with my grandson Calder whose vocabulary and facility with language are growing every time I see him. He's now pointing to everything and demanding, "Name." He's putting together simple sentences like "I made it" and "I did it." It's thrilling to see this little boy's skills develop right before my eyes.

I started thinking back on the philosophy of language and linguistics I studied in college. Chomsky was the rage then, and I read SYNTACTIC STRUCTURES and some of his other writings. His work on language acquisition and universal grammar pre-date his now more famous political writings, but for me, he'll always be the father of modern linguistics and one of the intellectual giants of our age.

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