My gawd, it’s been 25 years since “Titanic” was released

An email this morning from The New Yorker informs me that it’s been 25 years since the release of James Cameron’s blockbuster movie “Titanic”. (The New Yorker used the occasion to hawk the legendary Anthony Lane’s admiring review of the movie back in 1997.)

This is one of those points of information that, when it arrives, makes you stop to marvel at the arc of one’s life — what time lies behind you and (depending on health and fate) what time lies ahead of you.

It’s a trick of the mind that it seems to me that “Titanic” was released not so long ago. But it’s 25 years!

I decided to do a comparison.

Twenty-five years back from when I was 18 would have taken me to the following historical milestones in 1953:

  • Nikita Khrushchev wins power struggle in Soviet Union after the death of Josef Stalin.
  • An expedition led by Sir Edmund Hillary is the first to reach the summit of Mount Everest
  • James Watson and Francis Crick determine the structure of DNA
  • Alfred Kinsey publishes Sexual Behavior in the Human Female
  • First clear evidence linking lung cancer to cigarette smoking
  • Elvis Presley recorded his first song
  • TV Guide debuts; on the cover of the first issue are Lucille Ball and her newborn son, Desi Arnaz IV
  • The first color television sets appear selling for $1,175
  • Transistor radios start to appear for sale

25 years is indeed a long time.

These reminders keep arriving that you are an old person, but most importantly an old person in the eyes of the rest of the world. It can mess with your head. You are the age of your grandparents.

This can be the last great mindfuck of your adult life, this coming to grips with your identity as an elderly person. And the fact that your time left could be 1] extremely short, 2] 30-40 years out, or 3] anywhere in-between.

In truth, the end could come at any moment for any of our human bodies living beyond the years that nature most often afforded us for the majority of the time-span of human existence.

I notice that some people of my generation are having a particularly hard time of it. And who could blame us?

Many of us were only 21 when MTV appeared. Our youth was truly being chronicled for the first time on television and online. It seems like such a short time ago that I was hanging out with friends in the DJ booth at New York City’s Roseland Ballroom as some of the biggest names in music performed at all-night parties. But it wasn’t a short time ago. It was 40 years ago.

Nobody in their 20s cares what I think about anything. In fact, ageism is a dish served up by much of society, even other old people.

It’s that encroaching invisibility to much of the rest of the world that is most difficult for many of my friends. And I’ve noticed in my circle of acquaintances that it’s the guys who were considered most hot who are having the hardest time of it.

I totally get it.

Think about it. Not long ago you could walk through a bar or restaurant or mall and turn every head. Now you can’t get waited on in a coffee shop.

I feel for anyone going through this.

As for myself, I’ve now lived through two pandemics — first AIDS, now COVID — during which I was considered high-risk. I was sure, at the beginning of each, that I was going to die. That means I confronted my mortality for the first time in my early 20s.

After watching that many people die, twice in adulthood, I consider every day I am upright and healthy to be a gift.

So I don’t care much that people in their 20s don’t see me.

And this makes me one of the lucky ones: I love solitude and my own company. I am never truly alone because I have so many things to occupy my mind and time.

But, man, 25 years since “Titanic.”


Cheri Oteri in SNL’s “Titanic” alternate ending.

Spending the weekend watching old Leslie Nielsen movies

I have a growing sense of dread over these close elections in which proto-fascists are still polling neck-and-neck with reasonable moderate Democrats.

I think the tendency of polls to underestimate Republican support is a real, ongoing thing primarily because Republicans en masse get their kicks by gumming up the political works. Lying is now in their DNA as a party.

So I’ve been watching Lt. Frank Drebin utter the most ridiculous puns in the history of movies, because it’s mindless and nobody does it like Leslie Nielsen did it.

“Who are you and how did you get in here?”

“I’m a locksmith. And I’m a locksmith.”

Ready or not, the Golden Globes will be back

That didn’t take long.

The Golden Globe Awards telecast, which sloshes money through the entertainment economy, will return in January with an even bigger platform. NBC canceled the show in 2021 amid an ethics, finance and diversity scandal that continues to simmer.

NBC said on Tuesday that it would broadcast the 80th Golden Globes ceremony on Jan. 10, a prime spot on Hollywood’s awards-season calendar. (Oscar balloting begins on Jan. 12.) For the first time, the show will also be available simultaneously online, through NBCUniversal’s streaming service, Peacock.

Nominations will be announced on Dec. 12.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), long noted for its lack of diversity, has made some changes:

The foreign press association has overhauled membership eligibility, recruited new members with an emphasis on diversity, enacted a stricter code of conduct, elected a new president and largely ended its tax-exempt status, transforming into a for-profit company with a philanthropic arm. Last month, the H.F.P.A. sent a letter to studios that pointed to “transformational change” in the areas of “diversity, transparency and accountability.”

The 108-member foreign press association now has six Black voters — up from zero last year — and has added 103 nonmember voters, a dozen or so of whom are Black.

Some publicists, stars and filmmakers are satisfied, or at least ready to end more than a year of behind-the-scenes bickering over the degree to which the H.F.P.A. needed to reform. Others are holding their noses, unsatisfied but willing to re-engage with the Globes as a promotional platform for Oscar campaigns. Another contingent remains adamant that the foreign press association has not done enough, and that the Globes should perhaps be retired forever.

“There isn’t a consensus,” said Amanda Lundberg, chief executive of 42West, a Hollywood public relations firm that represents stars like Tom Cruise and Tom Hanks and filmmakers such as Baz Luhrmann and Martin Scorsese. “Everyone will make up their own minds. Some feel good about it and some don’t.”

Hollywood businesses, however, are almost universally aligned: Please, pretty please, let the Golden Globes champagne flow again.

I think it’s one of the more entertaining awards shows precisely because it’s not taken as seriously as the Oscars. Therefore, more interesting — if unplanned things — are likely to happen. Too bad Ricky Gervais won’t be host again.

This movie that scared the bejeezus out of me when I was young is still pretty darn scary

It’s rare that films which scared me a kid — especially made-for-TV films — can be just as scary when watching as an adult. But I just re-watched 1979’s Salem’s Lot with David Soul and Lance Kerwin. It’s really held up all these years. Not as actually scary because I’d seen it before. But still creepy as hell.

It was the film (miniseries, actually) adaptation of Stephen King’s novel of the same name.

I’d read the book on-the-job as a night watchman at a 20-story bank downtown. Once every two hours over each 8-hour shift I had to walk 20 deserted, darkened floors in the midst of reading this terrifying book. Of course, I thought I was hearing noises, and seeing things move in the shadows, the entire time I was patrolling.

At the time I wasn’t expecting much from the movie because I thought it would be difficult to capture on film the creepy, otherworldly things that spring from the mind of Stephen King. But the director and special effects people managed to do a lot with the relatively few (compared to today) tricks they had in their arsenal.

The casting was masterful, but the film’s makers must have been especially thrilled when Richard Mason, one of Hollywood’s most distinguished actors, loved the script and signed-on to play the refined but malevolent antiques dealer Richard Straker. Straker is human, but Mason manages to make him just as scary as the vampires.

It helped that the film was directed by Tobe Hooper, the master of horror who also directed The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Poltergeist, Lifeforce and others. If you’ve seen and remember Poltergeist, it wasn’t all whiz-bang special effects. It was a lot of Hooper taking not-that-complicated concepts — little girl talking to TV, psychic spouting odd gibberish, coffins floating up out of the water — and making them scary through lighting, editing, music and talented actors.

If you’ve never seen the original Salem’s Lot (there was a remake with Rob Lowe in 2004) Halloween is coming up! Watch it in the dark some night when it’s cold outside and the wind is howling.

Interesting bit of trivia: Tobe Hooper had a really weird detour in his horror career when he directed the PBS documentary, Peter Paul and Mary: The Song is Love.

Salem’s Lot trailer below. You can also watch all 3.2 hours of it on YouTube and Prime Video.

Finally, there’s yet another remake coming out. You can learn more about that here. Note that the original release date was Sept. 9. That was moved to April of next year. However, any mention of it has also been removed from the studio’s release schedule, so who knows whether that April 2023 date will happen.

AV Club has an interview with the woman who played the greatest Star Trek villain of them all

I think the best season finale in the entire Star Trek television franchise has to be the two-part “Endgame” for Voyager.

Capt. Kathryn Janeway in a battle across time with the Borg queen, a race to either destroy the queen and her empire-enabling transwarp hub, or get Janeway’s crew home safe, finally, to the alpha quadrant. (Or, rather, Janeways — her present and future selves.)

Truly one of television’s greatest finale match-ups between two strong, er, female characters. (The omnisexual Borg queen transcended gender, even back then.)

Of course, that episode would not be the same without the iconic Borg queen, played in the Voyager finale by the actor Alice Krige, who created the character’s malevolently sensual control freak aura. All the actors who subsequently played the Borg queen across the film and television series franchise had to emulate her performance.

AV Club interviewed Kriger about her many roles before and since the Borg queen, and about bringing the queen to life across mediums.

AVC: Your Star Trek experience was unique in that you were able to play the Borg Queen for more than one movie. How rewarding did it feel to stay with that character over the course of time and watch her evolve?

AK: It was very terrifying, frankly, to shift mediums, to shift from an enormous screen down to a television screen. I thought to myself, “Will she even work in this little space?” Two nights before, it dawned on me that I was working with two women and not two men. I called the producer and said, “She’s with two women.” He said, “Don’t worry. Think of her as omnisexual.” And I thought, “OK.” It was only after that I realized I didn’t know what omnisexual was. It was wonderful to experience her in a completely different context. And, quite frankly, no matter how many times they get rid of her, I think they are kidding themselves. She’s out there. She was created. She cannot be destroyed. What a fascinating character she is. I have never asked them, and I would love to know, if they had any idea she was going to become an absolute archetype. I had no idea whether they knew. I certainly didn’t. By the time they had put on the make-up and the suit, and I looked in the mirror, it wasn’t me anymore. I really did feel like I was just a channel and the Borg Queen walked up, did her thing and left.

AVC: Whether it’s a role like Veronica or the Borg Queen or the cat creature Mary in Sleepwalkers, how delicious is it to be around all the special effects make-up and the prosthetics and the gore?

AK: They have become so sophisticated now. The Borg Queen … what Scott Wheeler, who designed the head and the makeup, gave me … was an extraordinary gift. Think about it. You can’t imagine her separate from what she looked like. Not at all. I couldn’t have shown up and been the Borg Queen. That would have been ludicrous. That was who she was. I was given that. Film is the most collaborative of arts. I have been so blessed to work with the most generous and creative of collaboratives. It just goes on and on, the number of riches that I have been given by people I was working with. Special effects, prosthetics, if they are beautifully executed can be a doorway into a different reality.

You can read the rest of the interview at this link.

Below is a clip with the penultimate scene in “Endgame.” (Spoiler alert!)