Bernardo Villela is like a mallrat except at the movies. He is a writer, director, editor and film enthusiast who seeks to continue to explore and learn about cinema, chronicle the journey and share his findings.
This is a film that suffers somewhat from its preachiness which can be overlooked for the most part when you consider its release date both in a historical context and a film history context. The start is also a little slow considering the fact that you know where the story is going in a lot of cases. One other quibble aside most of it works quite well and is entertaining. Irene Dunne does wonderfully as do Roddy McDowall and Elizabeth Taylor in fleeting parts. It’s lengthy but moving in spite of some of its faults.
This is a film blog, it still is, and always will be. However, wherever there have been opportunities to discuss other topics where they intersect with film I have taken them, be it books, television, any of the other arts, and occasionally even other things.
I will try to avoid an all out rant. Instead consider this a slow burn.
Preamble: Politics Aside, When Persona Usurps Platform
In the interest of full disclosure, when I’m honed in on politics I’m there a lot and fervently, 2016 more so than ever before, fear and hope (fope?) have me atwitter. Part of why I’ve turned off politically at times in off-years is how consumed I get around Presidential elections and midterms. This piece has been simmering for a while. I’ve had it, and films, as well as some other of his business dealings I know of, provide great parallels and insights I find.
And to be further straight forward, this isn’t fueled so much by Trump’s current politics, but rather Trump himself. For as the below video shows even his politics will change depending on which way the wind is blowing, and who he thinks can secure him favors.
If all these current views of his are his views he’s had quite a metamorphosis from these kinds of statements – it’s terrifying either way.
Being a native of New York I couldn’t help but always have been familiar with Donald Trump whether I wanted to be or not. Either through fodder for the tabloids, papers, or SNL I’ve always known more about him than I ever cared to. I, who swore off giving a damn about celebrity marriages after Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas split, can still name most of his spouses, still recall how incongruous a persona Ivana seemed to be paired with him, at least in how she portrayed herself in the media. Maybe she just played it better than even he does.
My six degrees of separation story with him is that I couldn’t convincingly feign enthusiasm about working as an intern on The Apprentice. Therefore, I didn’t get an internship at NBC. So as self-deprecating as that is, it does go to show I’m not new on the anti-Trump bandwagon. This is well before he had any political aspirations real or otherwise. The political game is one where you need support, since he’s getting it he’s gonna run with it.
Nine years before he earned a swastika on his star on the Walk of Fame, Trump earned the star itself (though there is ample proof that money is involved), and he said this:
[when asked if he would run for President of the United States] People wanted me to very strongly and I decided I didn’t want to do it. I sort of enjoy what I’m doing and I continue to enjoy what I’m doing. I have never had more fun. And then to cap it off with a star on the walk of fame today was just a lot of fun. And, you know, it’s just — it’s just very sad to me what’s happening with this country in terms of world and in terms of world perception.
Even liberal Manhattanites, as most are, will tolerate and admire a Republican leader (e.g. Giuliani and Bloomberg whom were both re-elected), but Trump? No. Not him. He doesn’t even really understand pizza.
At the risk on a personal/political rant and not even getting to movies, however, my history and his factor in because here’s the truth about Donald Trump on film and television: he always plays himself, or better the version of himself he wants us to believe is true. Although, based on his first appearance in the New York Times in 1973 (life inspires fiction).
New York Times, 1973
So, how has this image been cultivated through his cameos? He plays himself, or a version of himself he likes to project, an egocentric jerk who doesn’t care what people think about him.
This supercut has some insights:
What sort of acting can one expect from a man who cannot even play himself, and can’t see the artfulness in humanity but sees it in real estate:
The ones that hurt most are: Little Rascals and Home Alone 2, and Woody Allen’s Celebrity. Eight years after he made the front page of the Times he was in My Hero and The Jeffersons (one of two appearances), The Jeffersons in an of itself is key because sociopolitically it was a significant show as it spun-off characters from All in the Family and “moved them on up.” Ghosts Can’t Do It, Across the Sea of Time, Eddie, The Paul Lassiter Story, 54, Good Will Hunting, Sabrina the Teenage Witch (both times playing an alter ego Daniel Ray McLeech); Marmalade, and Horrorween.
He’s clearly typecast himself as himself or people like him. Slight evidence:
Even the outtakes of The Little Rascals show the kind of immature, annoying personality he can have. Not to mention I can just imagine the crew not even wanting to respond to those questions, just thinking: No, Donald we go through a procedure before every take for everyone else except you. You will not hear ‘action’ or any other cues. You just have to guess.
Regardless of how much he plays himself up, he does think a lot of himself. Just read him analyze the simplistic phrase that’s part of American English vernacular that he claims as his catch phrase:
Hershel Walker, New Jersey Generals (USFL), team owned by Donald Trump.
“It’s no trick to make a lot of money if all you’re trying to do is make a lot of money.” is one of my favorite lines in Citizen Kane. Furthermore, Kane’s impression that it would be “fun to run a newspaper” seems kind of like the whim Trump is trying to enter public office on. Except now he’s nearly 70 not a young man like Charles Foster Kane.
As someone who is a self-professed business genius, a man whose name name appears on seven books with seven different co-authors, and thus assumes himself to have the economic acumen to run the country simply because he came from money (and would’ve had even more by investing it conservatively), and despite his bankruptcy history. Donald Trump is largely cited as one of the main reasons the USFL (the last serious challenger to the NFL’s dominance) went under as cited here, mainly because he foolishly insisted the league should go head-to-head with the league and play in the fall.
This was also touched upon in ESPN’s 30 for 30 Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL?, which chronicled that it had a powerful short stint that could’ve lasted.
Trumping Up Marriage
“I wish I’d had a great marriage. See, my father was always very proud of me, but the one thing he got right was that he had a great marriage. He was married for 64 years. One of my ex-wives once said to me, ‘You have to work at a marriage’. And I said, ‘That’s the most ridiculous thing’, because my parents, they didn’t work at the marriage. If you have to work at a marriage, it’s not going to work. It has to be sort of a natural thing. But my ex-wife would say, ‘You have to work at this, you have to do this, you have to do that’. And I’m saying to myself, ‘Man, I work all day long, well into the evening. I don’t want to come home and work at a marriage. A marriage has to be very easy’. My father would come home, have dinner, and take it easy. It was the most natural marriage I’ve ever seen. And Melania (Melania Trump) makes my life easy; one of the things I so love about her is that she makes my life easier. I’ve never had anybody that made my life so easy. Now I hope that continues. Perhaps that will change. I intend to find out!
Ivana Trump’s big screen debut was deliciously in The First Wives Club. Marla Maples landed roles without Trump being an actress in her own right. Melania has has thus far only had an appearance as his arm candy in Zoolander.
However, this is unsurprising coming from the man who once said this:
So here he freely admits not checking his ego, and yes, every one has an ego in the sense he’s referring to, but here he admits his axiom is if you’re not this you’re that, it’s binary. If you don’t have an ego (like me) you’re a loser (like you are).
Donald Trump is A WWE Hall of Famer. Yes, World Wrestling Entertainment, that WWE. That is the intangible accomplishment he’s most deserving of. He’s about self-promotion, self-aggrandizement, and appearances over substance. When he randomly shows up and body slams Vince McMahon that works for wrestling.
Mind you this video is dated after he announced his candidacy and is in New Hampshire. If you need more of that insanity go here.
A man running for president you might not ever expect to be in a film, has been and its similarity and difference to Trump’s myriad appearances are telling.
In 1999, Bernie Sanders was in a film called My X-Girlfriend’s Wedding Reception. Bernie Sanders plays and actual character in the film and speaks for a while. It’s Bernie Sanders, sure but as a Rabbi complaining about free agency in baseball. A character suited to his diction, persona, and stump-speech approach to public speaking.
Trump’s best performance is one he didn’t fashion. It’s this. All hail editing, it can literally create a perfromance.
Trump is no showman in the controlled environment of a film set. He is one on reality TV and in his carnival barking rallies and in his debating technique which is tantamount to the middle school one-upmanship of trying to come up with the most debilitating dis.
However, this is more real than a lame, lifeless cameo; a mostly-staged reality competition or some other form or attention-getting, this is the presidency. The real one, the one venerated in fact, fiction, reality or hagiography; serious inquiries only, please. To underscore the ludicrousness, the incredulity of Trump’s foray I leave you with Scott Thompson’s version of the Queen of England. Imagine this lunacy happened, for real, and here in Murica of all places! It sounds outlandish but so did the idea of Trump 2016 in June.
Postamble: “I Like the Mexican People They Are My Amigos,” or Dubya’s America over Trump’s
“I wanted to close with the above but realize some people will claim we’re not the UK, we’re not Canada or Guatemala. Fine. I give in. In closing, I will state that I actually wish the following was real and not just Will Ferrell being hilarious.