Thursday, November 27, 2008

Movie Song of the Week: “The Yam”

Yes, I suppose I could have found something musical that was more Thanksgiving-related than this number but why bother? After all, yams are going to be part of many a Thanksgiving feast today and besides, the sight of poor Ginger singing and dancing her heart out is something that should not passed over for the likes of some turkey.

Besides, I actually liked the movie from which this number came from -- 1938's Carefree -- and I relish the opportunity to give it some free publicity. Not that Fred and Ginger need any help from yours truly, but still...

I hope you all enjoy it.

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Movie Quote of the Week

It's so hard to be good under the capitalistic system.
--Glenda Farrell, Gold Diggers of 1937 (1936)

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TV Quote of the Week

As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.
--Gordon Jump, WKRP in Cincinnati, “Turkeys Away”

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Mi Semana Loca

I was hoping to post a bit more on my blog this week but I got caught up in a lot of holiday-related stuff instead.

On the plus side, I actually cut back on my driving to the point where my car actually reached the date of its next oil change before it reached the mileage point for it. Plus I actually cut back on my spending to the point where I'm not hitting the ATM as often as I used to.

I did break down and get a Netflix account last month but even that was a blessing in disguise since so far it's been cheaper to get my weekly movie fix that way than to hit the video stores every week. (It doesn't hurt that most of the movies I'm interested in are rarely available for rental and not always for sale at a reasonable price.)

I still have a bit of a holiday depression due to lingering memories from last year but I'll get over it. My head knows that I'll be happier in the long run but my heart is still being a stubborn fool about the whole mess.

But I have good friends and family to help me through this mess worries.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Ten Things I Love About Old Movies

"Borrowing" an idea that one of my favorite bloggers "borrowed" from another blogger, I submit for your disapproval a quick list of at least ten things I love about old movies.

1. Cutting-edge technology.

2. Modestly dressed women.

3. Newspapers.

4. Glamorous wardrobes for women.

5. Chess games.

6. Coin collectors.

7. Silhouettes.

8. Street lights.

9. Respectful depictions of law enforcement.

10. Respectful depictions of contemporary political leaders.

Plus to echo the Siren's words...

11. Scenes with women behind screens.

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Why Turkey Is Healthy for You

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Turkey...It's What for Dinner

With apologies to Norman Rockwell.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Movie Song of the Week: “Freedonia Hymn”

I sincerely doubt that our current President-elect has anything in common with Duck Soup's Rufus T. Firefly but hey, one should never resist the opportunity to sample classic Groucho.

Besides, it's hard to read the news nowadays and pretend that all that much has changed since 1933 (the year Duck Soup came out). Apart from the abolition of Jim Crow and the election of an African-American President, of course.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the song.

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And The Most Misleading DVD Cover of the Week Award Goes To...

I'm not sure if the DVD cover for 1949's Holiday Affair was inspired by a movie poster or what but it certainly gives a misleading impression of the movie in question. Which is a big shame because Holiday Affair doesn't really need such a false image. It's that rarity of rarities: a holiday movie that is both actually good and yet not overexposed.

I'll admit that star Robert Mitchum seems an unlikely candidate for a Christmas movie. However, he and fellow star Janet Leigh make a lovely couple, and I was surprised by how quickly I was drawn into their story.

The story begins when Leigh's character Connie Ennis goes to the department store where Mitchum's character Steve Mason is employed and inadvertently attracts his attention. Mason soon discovers that Ennis is a comparison shopper (an occupation discouraged by his department store), but instead of turning her in like he should, he takes pity on her and allows her to make a refund. Unfortunately, he loses his job as a result.

He confronts Ennis about this. Ennis feels guilty and allows him to buy her lunch. Complications ensue -- especially when Ennis's boyfriend and would-be husband-to-be Carl Davis finds out about Mason -- and both Mason and Ennis find their lives changed in a way neither of them would have anticipated.

Sound like a typical romcom? Maybe. But it's a nicely done romcom and not the type that has most sensible people grinding their teeth at the ridiculousness of the characters' actions. Especially refreshing is the movie's refusal to make Davis the classic “bad boyfriend.” Instead he's presented as a genuinely nice guy who is quite sympathetic but unfortunately not the type of person to whom Ennis is likely to be attracted. He even has a scene in which he recognizes this and deals with it in a mature fashion.

This film very easily could have been awful in different hands and I suspect the recent made-for-TV remake is not quite as interesting as the original. The original, unfortunately, has never gained the same attention as the more famous holiday films of the 1940s -- Holiday Inn, It's a Wonderful Life, and of course, Miracle on 34th Street. But that doesn't mean it deserves to be passed over either.

Just don't judge the movie by the DVD cover. Or for that matter, by this poster:

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Movie Quote of the Week

The last man nearly ruined this place,
He didn't know what to do with it.
If you think this country's bad off now,
Just wait 'til I get through with it.
--Groucho Marx, Duck Soup (1933)

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TV Quote of the Week

This country has been sick. This country needs healing. This country needs medicine -- in fact, I’d go so far as to say that what this country really needs, right now, is a Doctor.
--John Simm, Doctor Who (The Second Series), “The Sound of Drums”

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

All the Not-So-Classic Movies That I Have Seen

1. The Mutations (1974) aka The Freakmaker.

As you can tell from the above image, this film has one of the creepiest posters ever made. Indeed, that poster used to haunt my dreams whenever it appeared in the local newspaper. But unfortunately, the movie itself doesn’t quite live up to that poster.

It does showcase Tom Baker -- then most famous for his role as Rasputin in 1971’s Nicholas and Alexandra -- as Lynch, the freakish henchman of a mad scientist (played by Donald Pleasence). But it also features him doing a whole lot of shameful overacting. His wardrobe in this film seems close to that which he would later wear as the lead character in the Dr. Who series so that those who watch this movie have the odd chance to see Baker play a character who dresses like the Doctor but doesn’t in any way act like the Doctor. The movie is not all that well-known but I can't really pretend that that isn't a blessing in disguise.

Anyway, the plot -- what little there is of it -- involves the above-mentioned mad scientist hiring Lynch to kidnap various people in return for a vague promise of curing Lynch’s freakish condition. Lynch chooses to prey on a gang of local college students and the scientist uses these students in a series of experiments involving artificial mutation of the human body. Eventually one of the students' associates gets wise and tries to rescue the last victim before she gets experimented on. There is also a subplot which involves a local freak show that Lynch runs and where he displays the unsuccessful results of the doctor’s experiments.

The movie starts off in almost documentary fashion as if the filmmakers wanted the movie to be taken for a serious work of science fiction. But apart from one scene, the film is never as good as the presence of Baker and Pleasence would suggest. At least one actress in the cast seemed to have been cast more for her willingness to appear in various states of undress than any actual talent, and the plot itself all too often makes it seem to be little more than a Z-grade horror film with delusions of grandeur. Michael Dunn, who is most famous for his villainous roles on the TV series Wild Wild West, appears as a midget who is leader of the freaks that Lynch supervises, but he too seems trapped by the bad script.

As I noted above, there is one scene in the movie in which the movie showed signs of wanting to be a far better movie than it actually is. In this scene, Lynch seeks out a paid companion and reveals the depths to which he will stoop to gain even the semblance of affection from a so-called “normal” person -- depths that are even more pathetic when one considers that this scene follows one in which he is shown spurning an attempt at friendship made by the members of the freak show he runs.

But, alas, the film isn’t all that interested in the implications of that scene. Nor in its not-so-subtle attempt to contrast the monstrous actions of Lynch and the scientist with the comparatively normal actions of the “freaks.” Any similarities to Tod Browning’s classic Freaks are no doubt meant to be intentional but alas the film is nowhere close to being in the same league. What a pity.

2. Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971).

Given her resemblance to her male co-star Ralph Bates, Martine Beswick seems such an apt choice to play the female alter ego of Bates’s Dr. Jekyll character that it’s a shame we don’t see more of her in this movie. Unlike all too many actresses in the 1970s, Beswick manages to be as alluring with her clothes on as she does with them off. And of course, she looks absolutely ravishing in a red dress. Not to mention the fact that she plays a far more compelling villainess than one would expect. (And this from a guy who was bored stiff by Sharon Stone’s villainess in Basic Instinct.)

So what’s wrong? Well, for one thing, the movie tends to throw far too many different elements into its brief story -- not all of which work. Thus we don’t just get a classic variation on the Jekyll/Hyde story -- with Jekyll this time seeking immortality by way of female hormones (?!) -- we get a Burke and Hare movie, a Jack the Ripper movie and so on and so forth. Though Jekyll is initially shown as a sympathetic character who is genuinely interested in curing diseases, he crosses over to the dark side so fast he almost strains credibility. Nor does it help that the script never really explains whether his female alter ego (the Sister Hyde of the title) is naturally evil or trained to be evil when Jekyll finds it useful for his research. Or whether his inability to control her in the later half of the film is due to his own latent tendencies toward evil.

The Brian Clemens script is witty but not always as clever as a hardcore Avengers fan like myself would prefer. There’s even a romantic subplot of sorts that works better than I reckoned as well as hints of Victorian wrongdoing that only the British can do so well. But the film never gels as much as I’d like. And the trickier and more interesting moral questions of the plot are more hinted at than explored.

Oh, well. I’ve seen a more modern version of this movie when it was remade in the 1990s with Sean Young. That version was horrible.

This version at least is watchable even though I kept wanting it to be better than it was. For what it's worth, the film’s final image is just right. Even though it doesn’t involve Ms. Beswick.

3. Captain Kronos -- Vampire Hunter (1974).

Like many Hammer films of the early 1970s, this film was shot on a low budget and it shows. Nor is the storyline as consistent as it could be. And, of course, the title promises a more exciting movie than you actually get.

The love interest is played by actress Caroline Munro and the most merciful thing I can say about her performance is that she’s no threat to Jamie Lee Curtis or more recent scream queens. But then her character is given little to do but smile inanely and occasionally provide horizontal entertainment for the hero so it may be just as well.

However, the moodier scenes still work and there are actually a few good sword fights as well. Writer/director Brian Clemens -- yes, the same Clemens who wrote the previous film -- doesn't quite reinvent the vampire genre as well as he did the spy genre with The Avengers, but he makes a respectable showing in a genre in which far more respectable films all too often come across as laughable. It's a pity he couldn't have collaborated with Francis Ford Coppola on Coppola's vampire movie...

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Paperback Writher

Quick. Look at the cover of the paperback book right up above.

What comes to mind when you look at it?

I know what comes to mind when I look at it. And though I know in my heart that the image on that cover has almost nothing to do with the contents of the book, I can’t help but find it more than a little creepy. I have read rumors that that image was based on an actual person but it doesn't seem like the image of an actual person.

Which is probably the reason why it was chosen for the cover of the book to begin with...

Of course, when the movie came out, I could not help but anticipate a similar creepy image appearing in the movie itself. But it did not.

The radio ads for said movie were way creepy. But the movie itself did not seem all that scary. I have seen it on TV and on the big screen and the only part that ever came close to frightening me was the scene in which the priest is listening to a tape recordings of the demon-possessed girl and then suddenly the phone rings.

Perhaps the movie was ruined for me by all too many parodies. After all, I had no problem being scared by The Omen -- a film that were admittedly more lowbrow in its artistic ambition than The Exorcist -- and I had went into that film knowing a lot less of the film’s plot than I had known of The Exorcist’s plot the first time I saw it. On the other hand, a Mad Magazine parody had informed me of every major plot development in Chinatown long before I saw it and yet I still enjoyed that movie. And reading endlessly detailed reviews of Apocalypse Now did little to kill my enthusiasm for that film once I had a chance to see it on cable because no matter how much of the movie had been “spoiled“ for me, there was still much of it that seemed fresh.

Unfortunately, the more dependent a movie is on shock effects and cheap stunts, the less likely it is to survive pre-screening spoilers, much less repeat showings. I would like to believe that I would have been genuinely scared by The Exorcist had I seen it when it first came out. And that might even be true. After all, I found the "Tubular Bells" theme used in the movie to be creepy. I found the radio ads to be eerie. And I definitely found the cover of the paperback book to be disturbing.

And yet the movie did not move me all that much.

I guess that fetus demon on the cover was a hard act to follow.

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Reality Fanfic, Parte II

Her name is Lily. She is ten years old.

Her mother is nearing forty but she still plays soccer like a teenager. She broke her arm last year trying to block a kick and spent hours in the emergency room trying to get a cast put on her arm.

Lily likes her mom sometimes but then sometimes she doesn’t. Her mother likes to yell at her when she’s out with her friends. And yell at her some more when she’s not out with her friends. She cries at night when she thinks Lily’s asleep. And frowns whenever Lily mentions her father.

Lily’s father doesn’t come around as much as he used to. Last time he did, he called Lily’s mother a whore. Lily’s father has a new girlfriend who’s far younger than her mother. She’s still old, but she’s not real old like her mom.

Her mother always frowns when Lily’s father brings his girlfriend around. Lily’s mother frowns about a lot of things.

She winces every so often and rubs her side. But she never says anything to Lily. Perhaps she wants to make Lily think she’s brave. But more likely, she’s just stubborn.

Lily’s father once took her away from her mother’s place. He picked her up after school one time and took her over to the duplex he shared with his girlfriend. Lily could tell the girlfriend wasn’t all that eager to see her but she pretended to be so that Lily’s father wouldn’t slap her upside the head the way he used to do with Lily’s mother.

Eventually he gave Lily back to her mother and her mother hugged her really tight as if she had thought she’d never see Lily again. At the time, Lily had felt embarrassed. Later, she thought she understood. But then her mother started yelling at her for not doing the dishes and Lily started wishing she was back with her father again. At least her father never yelled at her.

But then her father wasn’t a whore.

At least she thought he wasn’t.


I Am So Easily Assimilated

To this day, I find it a bit scary how nostalgic I get at the sound of either "Cucurrucucu Paloma" or "Stand By Your Man." And how often I salivate at the thought of either arroz con pollo or chicken fried steak.

So much for the idea that people like me don't assimilate...

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A Modern Mantra

Persistence is futile.

Question authority. Except for those authorities who ask you to question authorities.

Give up your religion. Your sacred cows. Your quaint traditions. Your minor tongue.

And adopt ours.

Your way is superstition.

Our way is progress.

Your way is hopelessly flawless.

Our way is always perfect even when it’s wrong.

Think for yourself.

But if you don’t come to the same conclusions that we do, then prepare to be dismissed as an idiot.

If you think like we do, you’re obviously nothing more than a wannabe.

But if you dare to think independently, then there must be something wrong with you.

If you succeed in life despite dismissing our advice, then you’re lucky.

But when we succeed, it’s obviously the result of our own effort -- and nothing more.

An insult against us must be repaid instantly.

But an insult against you can wait forever to be avenged.

It’s not like you’re important.

It’s not like you’re intelligent.

It’s not like you’re deserving of the same good things we take for granted as our due.

And why you don’t want to be more like us, we’ll never understand.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Le Matérialisme, C’est les Autres

Ho-hum. It’s that time of year again. The time when all the good folks on the Net who have been bragging all year about all their nice stuff start sermonizing about the evils of materialism.

I’m not going to pretend that I’m unsympathetic to such sermons. The older I get, the more obvious it becomes that there should be a lot more to one’s life than just having nice stuff. After all, the last time I was in the hospital, I wasn’t comforted all that much by all the books I owned or my VCR or even my PC. But a simple visit from a friend or relative would mean a lot to me. And despite the fact that I often like to fancy myself a loner, there’s a part of me that deeply craves the comfort of human company. Thus a simple home-made breakfast with my former bride-to-be meant more to me than any dinner I could order on my own at the fanciest restaurant in town. And I had more respect for the single mom I knew who had no desire to spend her money on a DVD player when her old VCR would entertain her kids just as well than I did for all those people who owned the latest techno-gadget.

So why am I so cynical about the anti-materialism crowd? Perhaps it has to do with the fact that most anti-materialism sermons don’t really concern materialism per se. They only concern other people’s materialism. To paraphrase French writer Jean-Paul Sartre, le matérialisme, c’est les autres (materialism is other people). Thus we get endless lectures about how awful it is that so many people own big houses and big cars -- from the same people who brag about their new Blu-ray recorder or their new high-definition TV or their new iPod and so on and so forth. Not once do such people rarely acknowledge the fact that not everyone can afford the items they possess. Nor do they show any respect for the traditional notion that it’s in bad taste to brag about all the nice stuff you got. Indeed, it seems as if it’s become more and more popular to brag about being what is called an early adopter (a person who buys an item before it is generally popular). The idea apparently being that the ability to afford the latest such gadget is akin to godliness, and that any acknowledgment of the economic factors that might keep others from purchasing such items -- and that might make bragging about the ownership of such items seem gauche -- should be ignored at all costs.

I don’t pretend that there was ever a Golden Age in which such hypocrisy did not exist. Contrary to popular belief, twentieth-century Americans did not invent materialism nor do we have a monopoly on it. But when you grow up around people who used to be poor and grow up hearing constant lectures on the need to save one’s money and to not buy the latest item, one can’t help but be amused by those anti-materialists who seem to want to have it both ways: to brag about all the nice stuff they have and to attack those other people who have the bad taste to own more nice stuff than they do.

Perhaps that is the reason why I wasn’t so quick to join the crowds of Internet posters who have praised the heck out of anti-materialist movies like American Beauty and Fight Club. Because deep down, I sensed that the makers of those movies -- and all too many of the people who praised them -- weren’t really that sincere about their anti-materialism messages. I wish they were. But I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for them to prove that they are.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Movie Song of the Week: “42nd Street”

How odd that I started developing this weird obsession with the movies of the 1930s just before people on Wall Street and in Washington, D.C., started doing their damnest to bring back the 1930s. Perhaps it's just a coincidence. I would like to think that all this talk about the oncoming Depression is mere wishful thinking on the part of some pessimists. But I could be wrong.

Just in case, I prefer to relive the best of the 1930s, starting with the title song of one of my favorite movies, 1933's 42nd Street. I first got obsessed with this movie when I started wondered why the title character in John Sayles's The Lady in Red was obsessed with this flick. Once I saw a glimpse of the title number on YouTube, I was hooked and eventually I ended up watching the whole film on DVD. Busby Berkeley's musical vision is not for everyone and some on the Net have even hinted that his songs are in bad taste. If so, most modern musicals should have such tastes.

Now return with me now to those thrilling days of yesteryear when young women thought nothing about dancing on car tops and one never knew when one was going to run into a parade of tap-dancers. When life was so lyrical that even the wooden Indians danced and even domestic disturbances were choreographed. Okay, I doubt it was like that in real life, but in this movie number...

Well, please feel free to see for yourself. And I hope you enjoy it.

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Trailer of the Week: 42nd Street (1933)

Well, don't just sit there. Go see a movie.

And since the powers that be seem bound and determined to bring back the 1930s, you might want to start with this one:

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Movie Quote of the Week

There’s nothing strange about Washington, Mr. Carpenter.
--Francis Bavier, The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

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TV Quote of the Week

Well, you know the federal government. Any excuse to spend money.
--Michael C. Hall, Dexter, “There’s Something about Harry”

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What I've Been Listening to Lately

Actually I've had this album since last year. Ever since I started listening to the Dresden Dolls, I've gotten obsessed with the type of 20s and 30s music that inspired the Dresden Dolls and this is the most concise collection of such material that I've found thus far. (It didn't hurt that my father used to make my siblings and me listen to recording of 20s music when I was younger. So I'm almost genetically programmed to like the stuff.)

Anyway, I've recently become obsessed with it again. Almost as if the powers that be were trying to tell me something...

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What I'll Be Reading for Thanksgiving

I've always loved Sarah Vowell's writing even if she tends to be more of a political southpaw than most conventional history writers. And of course, I love books about American history.

Hopefully this will be as interesting a combination as her previous book Assassination Vacation:

I hope so.

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What I've Read for Columbus Day -- and Afterwards

I've always liked Tony Horwitz's writing and this book -- about the early days of America -- was no exception. A lot of what he wrote about wasn't exactly old news to me, After all, I'm an American History buff and have been especially interested in early America (especially the Spanish explorers he wrote about in this book) -- but I appreciate how he wrote about it in a way that would interest even non-buffs.

Of course, some of the things I learned from this book weren't always flattering to my Hispanic ancestors. For example, I was more than a bit shocked to learn that the main reason that Florida's St. Augustine is America's oldest permanent settlement was that its Spanish founder did his damnedest to wipe out the remnants of an older French Huguenot colony that was close to the same location. Indeed, he had been sent to the New World specifically to wipe out such settlements.

Of oourse, not all the events detailed in this book were that depressing but Horowitz did present a more complex picture of early America than I normally see in history books. So much so that it was almost a shame to see Horwitz tapering off when he got to the Anglo-American colonists. (Though to be fair, not everything he wrote about those colonists were all that flattering either.)

Anyway, the book was a good read and though I'm embarrassed to admit that I had to check it out from the library twice before I finished it, I suspect I will checking it out again in the future for a second and third read, if not more.

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Holiday? What Holiday?

I'm kinda embarrassed to admit this because I have two uncles -- one deceased, one still alive -- who were veterans of the US Army Forces but yesterday was Veteran's Day.

In a way, I shouldn't be embarrassed. It wasn't exactly emphasized in most of the local media, and most libraries and local businesses didn't even seem to be acknowledging it. Indeed, if I hadn't gone to the Post Office and read the little sign on the door announcing that it was closed that day for Veteran's Day, I wouldn't have realized it myself.

Perhaps if I had picked up a newspaper or spent more time on the Internet--like I really need to spend more time on the Internet -- I might have realized it before then but I didn't.

So why does this matter? Because lately it seems like all official holidays except those holidays which people can make money off of -- for example, Christmas and Halloween -- get ignored in similar fashion. And it's depressing to see how nobody ever complains about this.

I suspect all but a few senior citizens have noticed the change in emphasis on these holidays and that -- worse yet -- all but a few senior citizens really care that such holidays have been de-emphasized. Nobody seems to bother closing businesses in honor of these days although many of the same people who ignore this are quick to complain about how we Americans are not quite as reverent toward our traditions as we were in the good old days.

Oh, well. I hate to think that when Veteran's Day was founded to honor our brave men in uniform, the founders had US Postal workers in mind. But what else am I supposed to think?

That honoring our fallen isn't worth doing if we can't make a buck off of it?

I hope not. And yes, it seems like I'm making quite a fuss about one holiday, but I've noticed a similar trend last Memorial Day. Apparently things aren't changing for the better.

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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Movie Song of the Week: “April in Paris”

I tried all week -- since Wednesday morning, at least -- to think of a song for this week that wouldn't come across as a cliché.

But the closest I could come with this was a certain song from 1974's Blazing Saddles. I'm not sure why I was inspired to choose this. Okay, part of me knows why I chose it but that part is currently pleading the Fifth as we speak.

Besides, Self-Styled Siren already picked another choice.

Anyway, the song I chose does make for a nifty video though, right? And how often do you see a Count Basie song played nowadays?

I hope you enjoy it.

Plus, as a special bonus, you get this special TV Song of the Week:

Oddly appropriate given the assorting mutterings I've been reading on the Internet. But perhaps I'm being unduly pessimistic. I would like to think I am...

Anyway, I was going to post the version from 1983's The Big Chill but there's something about the smugness of certain characters in that scene that just seemed so wrong to me. Especially when I thought about the experience I had at my father's funeral.

Then again I've always preferred John Sayles's Return of the Secausus Seven anyway.

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R.I.P. Michael Crichton

Apparently this November is a harsh month for published authors. First we lose Studs Terkel, now we've lost Michael Crichton, the author of Jurassic Park and the creator of E.R.. He died this week from cancer.

He will be missed.

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Movie Quote of the Week

Let there be dancing in the streets, drinking in the saloons, and necking in the parlor.
--Groucho Marx, A Night at the Opera (1935)

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TV Quote of the Week

Be patient. Things could change. More than you’ll ever know.
--Juliet Aubrey, Primeval

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All Politics Is Loco, Parte IX

I voted here in Dallas Tuesday afternoon and it took me a whole five minutes but then as I said, I went in the afternoon and not when most people were going to or from work.

I did see lines last week at some of the early voting stations which surprised me. But then I was equally surprised to note that I spent more time Tuesday conversing with a friend about the respective virtues of McCain and Obama than I did at the actual polls.

For that matter, I was surprised to note the return of paper ballots. At least for this past election.

There was a special electronic pad set up for handicapped voters at the voting station where I went and one of the people there told me that early voters got the electronic option as well. Apart from that, everything else was done the old-fashioned way.

Anyway, Barack Obama won and John McCain lost. And I would like to think that those who have been less than gracious about the results could learn a lot from the friend I mentioned above who could have said a lot of nasty comments but instead chose to look on the bright side of things and wish the winner well. I was surprised to hear McCain described by said friend as an underdog -- after all, he was endorsed by most of the conservative establishment. But then I have been surprised by a lot of things this election.

Anyway, I'm keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for the best.

I can't help but agree with the various Internet wags who have compared this election season to the inevitable Christmas season. After all, both seem to start earlier and earlier each time and, of course, both involve promises that almost seem inevitably apt to end up broken. But I would like to believe that Obama is a good man and time will show me how right or wrong that belief is. Of course, I also had high hopes for Bush in 2000 but I'd rather not think about that right now.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Three Films I'd Like to Pretend I Saw the Day Before Election Day

1. The Great McGinty (1940).

The classic Preston Sturges satire of politics involving a rags-to-riches politico who ends up in hot water the minute he tries to reform the political system. If that plot sounds similar to Warren Beatty's Bulworth, well... I doubt that's a coincidence. But at least Sturges doesn't try to insert cheap pathos into his flick by having his protagonist suffer a tragic fate. Plus there are no OJ jokes. Nor the pretense that OJ jokes made two years after everyone got sick of OJ jokes are especially daring...

2. State of the Union (1948).

The classic Hepburn-Tracy film in which Spencer Tracy runs for President while -- whoa! -- fending off special interests, spin doctors -- in 1948! -- and romantic scandal. (Yes, Presidential candidates had extramarital affairs even in 1948. How odd!)

3. The Candidate (1972).

The classic Robert Redford political film about the Vietnam War era campaign of yet another would-be reformer who ends up being swallowed by the system. Don't these people ever learn?

What I actually saw:

1. The Old Dark House (1932)
2. I Married a Witch (1942)
3. The Barkleys of Broadway (1949)

I suppose I can read political implications into the last three if I try...

1. The Political Implications of The Old Dark House:

A. Rain is a bad thing.
B. So is fire.
C. Nobody likes uninvited guests.
D. Or drunken servants.
E. Chorus girls are people too.
F. So are rich widowers.
G. Creepy religious people tend to be... well... creepy.
H. People who propose in haste end up falling for the strangest people.

2. The Political Implications of I Married a Witch:

A. The Puritans were a bunch of fuddy-duddys.
B. Witches are more fun if less socially responsible.
C. One should always be careful about that which one drinks.
D. Marriage for political ends is not a good thing.
E. However, there are times in which one's spouse can prove quite convenient for a last-minute political campaign.
F. Beware of people who tend to smoke excessively.
G. And who pay no attention to highway signs.
H. Unconventional relationships can prove more rewarding than those endorsed by respectable society.
I. One should always return borrowed items as quickly as possible.
J. People who like cats can't be all bad.
K. Sometimes it's good to bottle up one's problems.

3. The Political Implications of The Barkleys of Broadway:

A. You can't keep a good Republican girl down.
B. Don't trust the French.
C. On the other hand, you can trust the French as long as you don't let them get any ideas.
D. You never know until you try.
E. When all else fails, recite “La Marseillaise.”

Oh, well. At least I didn't waste my time this past week watching Swing Vote.

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R.I.P. Studs Terkel

Famed writer and oral historian Studs Terkel passed away this past Saturday.

He will be missed.

Indeed, in a time when few people seem interested in the type of people he interviewed for his book Working (a collection of interviews with working people) and even fewer people seem interested in the type of people he interviewed for his books Hard Times (an oral history of the Great Depression) and The Good War (an oral history of World War II), he will be especially missed. By me, at least.

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