Army Archerd, 1922-2009

Hollywood reporter Army Archerd has died, according to his wife, Selma. He will be missed. I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing the longtime Variety columnist last year before a film festival screening of Howard Hawks’ Red River starring John Wayne. We talked about the Duke, the Western and the Golden Age (which he mentioned in his column). In person, the Navy veteran was an outspoken, spright, and dapper man who enjoyed remembering movie stars and the way they were. I always liked that Army Archerd was neither salacious nor malicious; his work was generally oriented toward facts. When I decided to write a column for Box Office Mojo in 2005, I knew that he had done it first, longest, and with lasting results. He wrote about Hollywood like its movies mattered. Army Archerd was 87.

Movie Review: Whiteout

The poorly scripted Whiteout goes blank early and often, ruining an otherwise interesting concept—an Antarctica mystery—with some of the worst lines in a movie this year. The whodunit is blatantly obvious, which might not be a problem if the film, starring Kate Beckinsale as a U.S. marshal, made us care about the characters or the puzzle, which involves a Soviet military plane that goes down in the South Pole. An aimless script, uneven performances, and bad directing—with countless unnecessary closeups—make Whiteout a painfully bad movie. For a straightforward Cold War thriller at the earth’s other polar ice cap, see Ice Station Zebra (Rock Hudson, Ernest Borgnine, Jim Brown), based on an Alistair MacLean novel, instead.


Marva Collins’ Way


Chicago businesswoman Marva Collins brought logic to learning when she rocked the Windy City years ago with her radically rational approach to education, as Susan Crawford, RN, recently reminded readers on her Rational Parenting List (RPL). Like the basketball coach in one of my favorite sports-themed movies, Coach Carter, Ms. Collins confronted the reality of government-run education in the ghetto with reason, optimism, and determination, not determinism.

Teaching that one should examine ideas before accepting them, she started teaching troubled students in her own home, opened her own school, wrote a book, Marva Collins’ Way, and became the subject of a television movie starring Cicely Tyson (read my review here). Today, she insists that “there is a brilliant child locked inside every student.”

Explaining her program on her Web site, Ms. Collins writes: “The child is taught to refer to what has been learned previously to support an opinion. References come from many different sources, from poetry, newspaper editorials, magazines, great speeches, novels, or any other written material. Everything everywhere provides potentially excellent material for developing reasoning skills…Textbook word-for-word, lock-step methods never make good critical thinkers. There is a difference between word reading and word understanding. And, there is a difference between knowing how to read, and loving to read.”

Learn more about Marva Collins’ philosophy here.

[Postscript Summer 2015: Marva Collins died on June 24, 2015. Read my review of The Marva Collins Story here].

Patriotic Parents Pull Kids from School over Presidential Address

In the wake of news that the President of the United States will deliver a speech urging government control of medicine, a growing number of parents are planning to pull their children from government-controlled schools on Tuesday, September 8, when the President delivers another speech. The White House announced some time ago that President Barack Obama’s address to primary education students would be carried live to the nation’s government schools, with government-established lesson plans, one of which originally assigned students to “write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president.” Obama’s speech will be shown live on the White House Web site and on C-SPAN at noon ET on Sept. 8.

Not to my kids, many Americans are saying.

“Districts in states including Texas, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Virginia, Wisconsin have decided not to show the speech to students. Others are still thinking it over or are letting parents have their kids opt out,” Associated Press (AP) reports. Government school districts are apparently responding to the opposition. A district near Houston, Texas, plans to show the American president’s speech but, in the words of its spokeswoman, “we would not force them to listen.”

Gee, thanks. This is another example of the Obama administration’s determination to use every available means to indoctrinate the nation’s youth, as the Bush administration did to promote similar expansion of government controls, and use propaganda. This time, patriotic Americans are speaking up, taking action, and actively opposing the government’s rules.

Good for their kids and good for America. We need such principled acts of opposition to government control of our lives more desperately than ever. In fact, the Republican Party, which is dominated by those who would implement government control for God or Judeo-Christianity, should learn a lesson from the patriotic parents. The Grand Old Party (GOP) would be wise to repudiate its religionism, stand united for inalienable individual rights (which inherently means the right to an abortion), and unanimously walk out of President Obama’s socialized medicine speech to Congress the following night.

Sneak Peeks

A few of this fall’s pictures catch my interest, judging by the trailers.

I’m looking forward to seeing Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s (MGM) remake of the original Fame (1980), sampled here. The new Fame (Sept. 25) looks youthful, vibrant and I like Kelsey Grammer in just about anything. Also of interest are two Sandra Bullock films, and hopefully she’s on a roll after the enjoyable The Proposal: Warner Brothers’ The Blind Side (Nov. 20), which looks like a sentimental family sports movie based on a true story, and the romantic comedy All About Steve (Sept. 4), though it stars an actor who usually appears in total trash, so proceed with caution.

Several film trailers are less than impressive, including Chicago director Rob Marshall’s highly anticipated musical Nine, which, like his mixed Memoirs of a Geisha, looks terrific but also looks like it may lack a compelling story. Beyond a Reasonable Doubt looks awful, like a wannabe Jagged Edge with bad actors, and it looks like nothing interesting happens in the screen adaptation for Where the Wild Things Are, which feels as dull as a folk music festival or a guitar mass.

Topping my must-see list is what may be the season’s most heroic motion picture, Fox Searchlight’s Amelia (Oct. 23), starring Hilary Swank as pilot Amelia Earhart. Ms. Swank is an excellent actress and the film looks as if it’s a lush, stunning, and unapologetically larger than life spectacle. Amelia, scored by Gabriel Yared (The Lives of Others), is directed by Mira Nair and also stars Ewan McGregor and Richard Gere.