When Charlie Met Meathead

meatRob Reiner may best be known either as the son of comic icon Carl Reiner, or as the tormented, droopy-‘stached “Meathead” Michael Stivic on the seminal “All in the Family” TV show of the 1970s. In fact, Reiner’s greatest accomplishments may actually be his directorial efforts on such films as “Stand By Me,” “The Princess Bride,” “When Harry Met Sally,” and “This is Spinal Tap.” Casual movie-goers tend to be oblivious as to who directed the film they’re about to watch unless it’s the product of Steven Spielberg, George Lucas or Martin Scorsese – and I suspect people are largely unaware of Reiner’s body of work.

No doubt with the help of his famous father, Reiner got started acting on TV early, playing a kid on “77 Sunset Strip” in 1959. Before landing the plum assignment as a major character on “All in the Family,” he did bit parts in no less than 16 series, many of them TV “classics”: “The Partridge Family,” “Batman,” “Gomer Pyle,” “That Girl,” “The Beverly Hillbillies,” and “Room 222.” By the time he completed his stint as “Meathead,” Reiner was ready for movies – pursuing a path much the same as his fellow TV personality Ron Howard.

A couple weeks ago on April 28, Reiner was feted by the Film Society of Lincoln Center as the 41st Chaplin Award recipient – an honor that seems well-deserved to me. Again, most people probably identify Reiner with “Meathead,” but keep these stats in mind: he has 24 director credits, 26 producer credits, 22 writer credits, 10 soundtrack credits, and 65 acting credits (TV & film).

“Stand By Me” is a heartfelt coming of age movie based on a novella by Stephen King that introduced a number of actors who went on to take on starring roles (River Phoenix, Kiefer Sutherland, Wil Wheaton, Corey Feldman). “Misery” from another King novel about a writer rescued from certain death only to become a prisoner of his biggest fan is chilling and disturbing (even if you closed your eyes during the “hobbling” scene.) “The Princess Bride” is a clever and amusing tale (some may even say “inconceivable”) that showcases some interesting casting (Andre the Giant, Wallace Shawn) and a couple cameos (Billy Crystal and Carol Kane). And of course, the most hilarious mockumentary of all time, “This is Spinal Tap,” a movie that set the standard that was followed by such funny stuff as “Best in Show.”

Paradoxically, I find that Reiner’s most successful movie – “A Few Good Men” – to be one of his weakest. The movie garnered four Academy Award nominations including Best Supporting Actor (Jack Nicholson) and Best Picture (although once again, the Academy found it unnecessary to nominate Reiner who directed the picture.) The plot is totally predictable, and the character development is formulaic. And some of the acting by lesser players is particularly wooden. True, “You can’t handle the truth!” is a memorable line, but what about “I eat breakfast 300 yards from 4000 Cubans who are trained to kill me”? Who really talks like that? Furthermore, in 1992, after the break-up of the Soviet Union and the year the movie came out, the likelihood of Cuba attacking Americans on Guantanamo was ludicrous.

But my biggest complaint is with the courtroom drama segment in which cocky Navy lawyer Lt. Kaffee (Tom Cruise) goads Guantanamo commander Col. Jessup (Nicholson) into admitting he ordered an illegal code red, thereby bringing about his own arrest and downfall. Strictly convenient B-Grade Perry Mason bullshit. It gives Jessup a chance to go ballistic while Kaffee stands there in perfect smugness for out-lawyering the tough commander – only in Hollywood. As Roger Ebert wrote in a pan, “A Few Good Men is one of those movies that tells you what it’s going to do, does it, and then tells you what it did.”

Still in all, congrats to Reiner for his Chaplin Award.

The Incredible Shrinking Florida

New climate change reports continue to speak of doom coming before the end of the century, and Florida is continually held up as the poster child for destruction. More than any other part of America, Florida seems to be the farthest along in suffering the noticeable ill effects of one of global warming’s biggest threats – the relentless rise of ocean levels. This story in the New York Time the other day describes the increasingly frequent flooding of sea water into the tony South Beach enclave of Greater Miami. I personally know some people who have had to sit by helplessly on several occasions while salt-water mixed with sewage and automobile fluids flowed into their in-ground pool.

But in spite of all the demonstrable evidence of trouble, three presidential hopefuls from the Sunshine State seem not to care: Sen. Marco Rubio, Former Governor Jeb Bush and current Governor Rick Scott are ominously quiet about the fate of their state. Given that Republicans (especially the primary voter types) tend to disbelieve climate change, and are outright hostile to any meaningful steps to tend to it such as carbon taxes or other regulations, no one seeking high office from the GOP side can summon the courage to take a stand – even as their own constituents regularly have to traipse thru brackish waters when crossing the street.

Miami mayor Philip Levine said, “Sea level rise is our reality in Miami Beach. We are past the point of debating the existence of climate change and are now focusing on adapting to current and future threats.” According to the article, “In the face of encroaching saltwater and sunny-day flooding like that on Alton Road, Mr. Levine has supported a $400 million spending project to make the city’s drainage system more resilient in the face of rising tides.”

My take – until the GOP leaders in Florida acknowledge the problem and take meaningful actions, I demand that not one penny of Federal funds goes toward this $400 million project – or to defray any other costs rising from a rising sea.

The cross-roads(waters?) of SoBe and SoFi

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