Thursday, December 31, 2009

Show Tune of the Week: “Mein Herr”

Technically I should count this as a movie song because it does not seem quite right to describe it as a mere pop song. But I like the 1998 Broadway version of this song better than the one that appeared in the 1972 movie version of Cabaret. And of course, it is a little hard not to think of this song's intro this time of year. Besides, the late Natasha Richardson -- who sings the lead vocal on this tune -- just does not get enough props for her take on the Sally Bowles character in Cabaret.

I hope you all enjoy it.

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Movie Quote of the Week

You think just to please you I'm going to stay here all night and celebrate a revolution?
--Claudette Colbert, Tovarich (1937)

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TV Quote of the Week

Well, normally, I’d put on a festive hat and celebrate the fact that the earth has circled the sun one more time. I really didn’t think it was gonna make it this year, but darn it if it wasn’t the little planet that could all over again.
--Hugh Laurie, House M.D., “The Socratic Method”

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Doctor Who (The Second Series): “Utopia”

At first I thought this was going to be a rather silly episode, what with the opening sequence which had Captain Jack Harkness hanging on the outside of the Tardis for dear life and the introduction of the Futurekind, a race of futuristic mutants that seemed suspiciously like a ripoff of the Morlocks from H. G. Wells' The Time Machine. (I guess if you're going to steal, you might as well steal from the best.) However, it eventually morphed into one of the better episodes of the third season and its ending is hands-down one of the best cliffhangers of both series.

The great Derek Jacobi of I, Claudius fame played the mysterious Professor Yana, who was working on a mysterious project at the end of the universe, a project designed to take the remnants of the human race away from the planet they shared with the Futurekind and towards a mysterious location known as Utopia. The Doctor arrived on his planet along with Captain Jack and Martha Jones and started assisting the Professor on his project. But as they worked together, the Doctor got more and more suspicious of the Professor's past.

Then Ms. Jones unintentionally called attention to a mysterious pocket watch in the Professor's possession -- a pocket watch the Professor never before remembered possessing. Shortly afterward, the Doctor suddenly realized the professor's true identity. At roughly the same time, the professor also discovered his true identity -- but his discovery was not a happy one.

Meanwhile, a spaceship took off with the last remnants of humankind aboard, and the Doctor, Captain Jack, Martha, the Professor and his alien assistant were left behind in a site guarded from the Futurekind by an electric fence. Suddenly some fool started shutting off the electricity to the fence and opening the big metal gates that kept out the Futurekind. Coincidence? Probably not. For at the same time, the same fool locked the Doctor and his crew out of the same lab where the Tardis -- his only means of escape -- was located. And the Futurekind were starting to get in. And the Professor was already in the same lab as the Tardis...

But, ah, I have already said too much. See the episode for yourself. And if you can keep from asking yourself how the heck the Doctor gets out of danger this time, then you are a better man than I, Gunga Din...

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Doctor Who (The Second Series): “The Waters of Mars”

Anyone else ever wonder if writer Russell T. Davies really likes the character of Doctor Who as much as he claims to? Granted, he deserves much praise for resurrecting the series from near-certain death and making it popular again. But still the way he depicts the Doctor does make me wonder.

For example, in the latest episode, the Doctor is given several opportunities to flee a situation that seems certain to end in tragedy for all concerned. But it's been established that he is too much of a mensch to do that with a clear conscience.

And yet when he accomplishes the impossible and rescues several members of an Earth expedition to Mars from certain death, he is given a rather contrived “mad” scene in which he takes pride in having defied the laws of Time. A scene which scares a mortal human being so much that she seemingly commits suicide just to defy him.

Which begs the question: what kind of point is Davies trying to make with this episode? That the Doctor shouldn't go around trying to rescue anybody because he might scare people? That people are better off going off to their deaths than being rescued by a guy with emotional issues?

Given that Davies devoted a whole episode to the consequences of the Doctor attempting to change history, I also found it odd that this episode seems to make it seem like nothing in that episode ever really happened. Perhaps it's only when Doctor Who crosses his own time line that he gets into trouble. Or perhaps the whole thing is the fault of Davies' co-writer Phil Ford.

Oh, well. I enjoyed the episode more than I expected, considering it was basically little more than a thinly veiled rewrite of Alien combined with the “mad” scene from King Lear. Lindsay Duncan, the woman who played the commander of the Earth expedition, gave a good performance and I especially liked the way the writers tried to humanize the supporting characters. I could have done without the “funny” robot that seemed to be an obvious parody of the title character of WALL·E but even that device had its moments.

If we must have endless Alien remakes, I'd rather see them done Doctor Who style than in any other way. But most of all, I'd rather see an original story for a change. Hopefully I'll get my wish in the near future.

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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Trailer of the Week: The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)

Cool! A Sherlock Holmes movie in color! What a concept! Why can't they make movies like this anymore?

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Hey, I Don't Remember This Show: Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century

Wait, they made a show with this title in the late 90s? And I missed it?

Should I suppose that to be a bad thing -- or a good thing?

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Friday, December 25, 2009

¡Feliz Navidad y Merry Christmas, Y'all!

I hope you all enjoy the day.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Movie Song of the Week: “What's This?”

This week I post the closest thing to a traditional Christmas song you're ever likely to find in a Tim Burton movie. From 1993's The Nightmare Before Christmas, it's the deceptively titled “What's This?”

I hope you all enjoy it.

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Movie Quote of the Week

Oh, there are no strangers on Christmas Eve.
--Charles Winninger, Beyond Tomorrow (1940)

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TV Quote of the Week

Wait a minute. You're one of those Solstice lovers, aren't you? One of those rebels who thinks that everything and everyone should stop once a year just to raise a glass, eat a goose, unwrap gifts!
--Peter Vere-Jones, Xena: Warrior Princess, “A Solstice Carol”

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My Ten Favorite Christmas Movies

At least for this year. Ask me again next year and it might change.

1. Miracle on 34th Street (1947).

The original. Accept no substitutes. Writer Connie Willis once argued that it was the ideal Christmas movie because it is one of the few such movies in which the ordinarily bad elements of human nature combined to create something positive for a change. Which would count as a true Christmas miracle in my book.

2. The Shop Around the Corner (1940).

Not really a Christmas movie but it takes place around Christmas time so I guess it counts. Plus, at the risk of echoing the Self-Styled Siren, I must confess that the movie does a good job of capturing the type of Christmas time retail atmosphere that I experienced when I worked as a store clerk.

3. Remember the Night (1940).

I love Barbara Stanwyck. And I really love the way Preston Sturges took a premise that could have turned out hackneyed and made something pretty special. Especially poignant is a scene between Barbara Stanwyck and Elizabeth Patterson in which what is said is not as important as what is not said.

4. Christmas in Connecticut (1945).

I really love Barbara Stanwyck. And the rest of the movie is not bad either.

5. Holiday (1938).

The one Christmas-ish movie with Cary Grant that I like best even though it is not really a Christmas movie.

6. Holiday Affair (1949).

You would not think Robert Mitchum would be the type of person that you would associate with a decent Christmas movie but you would be surprised.

7. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993).

I actually used to know most of the songs in this by heart -- and who doesn't love Sally?

8. The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942).

A contrarian Christmas movie made long before they started making contrarian Christmas movies.

9. Love Actually (2003).

Not quite the ultimate Christmas romcom that it aspires to be but not a bad holiday movie. Some parts I like, some parts I really like, some parts are eh? One of the few movies released this decade that are anywhere near the top of my list of favorite Christmas movies.

10. It's a Wonderful Life (1946).

Some obscure movie that director Frank Capra made with actor Jimmy Stewart. Perhaps you have heard of it...

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Book of the Week

I recently started reading Marvin Kaye's Dickensian sequel The Last Christmas of Ebenezer Scrooge and while it's too soon to tell if the book lives up to the promise of its premise, I find it tempting to recommend it on the basis of that all so delicious first chapter.

But don't take my word for it. Track down a copy and let me know what you think.

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God Rest These Merry Gentlemen

Stop me if you heard this one but once upon a time, there were these three ghosts and they were haunting this guy, you see... No, I'm not talking about A Christmas Carol. As much as I love Dickens, I'd like to think that he would prefer that I not mention his name every December. And anyway, I'm talking about yet another story -- the 1940 film Beyond Tomorrow.

Beyond Tomorrow can be described as one of those old-fashioned holiday movies that really should not work but end up doing so anyway. Of course, it helps your appreciation of this movie if you actually like people and have gotten sick and tired of holiday movies that seem perpetually obsessed with gloom and misery. As much as I appreciate social realism, I cannot help but wonder if it's always a kindness to continually remind people of the down side of life at a time when most folks are getting all too many real-life reminders of such a side, especially when said movie does not really have anything novel to say apart from “Life really stinks sometimes, doesn't it?”

Anyway, Beyond Tomorrow does have enough dark scenes toward its end to satisfy the most determined pessimist but it also has a lot of likable characters and a genuine love for humanity. It may lean a bit too heavily on certain character types but it is never eyerollingly bad.

The movie begins in the mansion of three eccentric millionaires. One is a pessimistic Okie named George Melton (played by Harry Caray). Another is an optimistic Irishman named Michael O'Brien (played by Charles Winninger). And the third is an Englishman named Allan Chadwick (played by C. Aubrey Smith) whose temperament falls somewhere between Melton's and O'Brien's. Playing housekeeper for them is a White Russian refugee named Madame Tanya (played by Maria Ouspenskaya) who generally plays mother hen to the three aging bachelors.

The three men are awaiting guests for a Christmas Eve dinner, only to find that the guests have canceled at the last minute. Melton believes it had something to do with an old unnamed scandal he was once associated with; O'Brien tries to persuade him otherwise. When such persuasion fails to lift Melton's spirits, O'Brien decides to conduct a Twainian experiment by going to the window and throwing out three wallets containing only ten dollars and one of the millionaires' business cards. The idea behind the experiment is to select the ideal stranger to be a guest for dinner by seeing who among the passersby is honest enough to pick up a wallet and return it to its rightful owner.

One woman named Arlene Terry (played by Helen Vinson) blatantly flunks the test by taking the ten bucks and tossing the wallet aside. But a visiting young gentleman from Texas named James Houston (played by Richard Carlson) and a female refugee from New Hampshire named Jean Lawrence (played by Jean Parker) prove more honest and return their wallet to their rightful owners. The two honest folks get invited to dinner, get acquainted afterward and celebrate Christmas Eve with the three millionaires and their servants.

Pretty soon it becomes obvious to even the slowest observer that Houston and Lawrence are falling in love with each other and the three millionaires do their part to ease the path of Cupid. But then tragedy strikes and despite a warning from Madame Tanya, the three millionaires end up dying in a plane crash.

The two young people get an inheritance from the late gentlemen and do their best to honor their memory. But the path of true love is never all that easy and pretty soon the two lovers are parted by the above-mentioned Terry. Terry uses the promise of a singing career and her own rep as an entertainer to lure Houston away from Lawrence. At this point the movie enters rather questionable territory by modern standards because even though the movie has already established that Terry is hardly an honest person, it seems a bit much to believe that Houston bears absolutely no responsibility for allowing himself to be seduced by her. Indeed, for such an honest fellow, he seems to forget Lawrence -- his one true love -- remarkably fast.

The three old gentlemen return from the dead and witness all these goings-on but prove powerless to stop them. For a long time, O'Brien remains in denial about the situation, continually insisting to Melton that Houston is a good lad who will eventually see the light. But then Melton is called away to face his own version of the afterlife and it does not seem likely that he will be meeting St. Peter. Then Chadwick is called away to a happier fate and O'Brien alone is left to try to mend matters on the mortal plane. So obsessed he becomes with fixing things that he forgoes a chance to go to Heaven in order to stay on Earth and bring the two lovers back together. But, alas, Terry appears to have a jealous ex and he has other plans...

It is tempting to dismiss this film as yet another predictable soap opera from those thrilling days of yesteryear but I found it quite entertaining. Granted, I wish Lawrence and Houston showed a little more backbone toward the end but then there probably would not be much of a story. Besides, the best part of the movie occurs towards the beginning when we are being introduced to the main characters. Not every movie can make good people interesting and it seems ironic that despite all the palaver from critics about how bad guys are always more interesting than the good guys, this appears to be one of those rare movies in which the good guys are actually more entertaining. I'd rather rewatch that multilingual session of “Jingle Bells” that our heroes take part in during the Christmas Eve party than any scene Terry appears in. And though it's tempting to declare the fate of our characters to be hokey and corny, I kinda like the fact that for all its darker scenes, the movie actually ends on a happy note. Besides, my inner Catholic relishes the thought of an afterlife in which a heavenly messenger can be forced to change his plans because of an especially feisty deceased matriarch -- and I cannot help but wonder my own mother would think of this flick. Somehow I doubt she would hate it.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

R.I.P. Brittany Murphy

Actress Brittany Murphy, most noted for her roles in the movies Clueless, Sin City and 8 Mile and for her voice work in the movie Happy Feet and the TV series King of the Hill, had the curtain come down on her final performance yesterday. She was 32.

She will be missed.

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Hey, I Remember This Show: Big Love

Hey, look! Ice skating! Along with one of my favorite Beach Boys songs.

Granted, this show isn't as old as the most of the others I've posted here but given the current holiday season, I thought it would be nice to show a clip from a show that displays some good old-fashioned religious values for a change. Of course, it's a darn shame that none of the people in this intro is Catholic.

And no, it's not meant to be a parody of one of the clips I posted yesterday. But I must admit that watching this after seeing the trailer for Portrait of Jennie makes me feel strange.

I hope you all enjoy it.

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Movie Song of the Week: “Waltz of the Flowers”

I honestly never expected to see this on YouTube. From the 1940 Disney film Fantasia, it's “Waltz of the Flowers,” a brief excerpt from Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71A.

I hope you all enjoy it.

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Trailer of the Week: Portrait of Jennie (1948)

Don't just spend the whole weekend doing your Christmas shopping. Why not honor the late Jennifer Jones by watching a movie?

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Friday, December 18, 2009

R.I.P. Jennifer Jones

Actress Jennifer Jones, star of many classic films such as Portrait of Jennie, Duel in the Sun and Since You Went Away, skated off into the distance yesterday. Where she has gone, everyone goes.

She will be missed.

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R.I.P. Dan O'Bannon

Dan O'Bannon, former John Carpenter collaborator and writer of several classic sci-fi movies including Alien and Dark Star, got to the end of his final page yesterday.

He will be missed.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Song of the Week: “Christmas Wrapping”

This isn't the best ever video made of one of my favorite Waitresses song but at least it's watchable which is more than I can say for some of the other versions. (Though I have to admit being more than a bit awed at the chutzpah of the YouTube person who chose to use this song as the soundtrack for a collection of scenes from The Exorcist. Words fail me. No, seriously, words fail me.)

Anyway, please sit back and enjoy the song before some Scrooge makes this video disappear from YouTube.

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Movie Quote of the Week

C’mon, this is a sorority house, not a convent.
--Margot Kidder, Black Christmas (1974)

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TV Quote of the Week

Do we have to keep talking about religion? It's Christmas!
--Lisa Wilhoit, My So-Called Life, “So-Called Angels”

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bob Clark's Other Christmas Story

Remember that horror movie released back in the 1970s that incorporated the name of a famous American holiday into its title? The one that was obviously shot on a low budget and which included scenes shot from the killer's point-of-view? The one that featured a future movie star in its cast?

You know which movie I'm talking about, right?

Bob Clark's 1974 classic Black Christmas.

What? You don't remember Black Christmas?

Okay, that is not surprising. I did not remember Black Christmas either -- and I was alive in the 1970s. Of course, there was another horror film released in December of 1973 that seemed to get the lion's share of media attention. And, of course, the summer of 1975 gave us Jaws -- which definitely eclipsed most of the horror film competition.

Of course, I was only about thirteen when this film came out so it was very unlikely that I would have gone to see it anyway. And there's a good chance that if I did go, I would not appreciate it. The film starts off slow, takes its time telling its story and ends on a rather quiet and ambiguously disturbing note.

At least one movie -- When a Stranger Calls -- and one TV show -- Twin Peaks -- owe a debt to this movie for key plot elements. Indeed, the film seems to deliberately defy the rules followed by more recent slasher movies. Instead of a serial killer with a genius-level IQ, for example, we get a killer who appears to be borderline retarded. Instead of having the first female victim turn out to be a sexually active teenager, the first victim is actually a sorority girl who is described by one of her cattier sorority sisters as a “professional virgin.” Instead of stupidly defying authority, the sorority girls actually do the right thing and call the police at the first sign of trouble. Alas, it does not help them. Even a trap set by the police to catch the killer ends up backfiring.

The only scene that seems all that off is the scene in which the sorority house receives what appears to be an obscene phone call from an unknown caller -- and instead of hanging up on the guy instantly or getting him a quick dose of his own medicine, the girls just hang on the line until the caller has had the chance to creep them all out. Granted, the director was still young and had a lot to establish in that scene. But would a real-life group of sorority girls in that situation have stayed on the phone for that long?

The movie ends with more than a few questions left unanswered. And it is to Mr. Clark's credit that when I had the chance to hear Mr. Clark's answers to these questions on the commentary part of the DVD, I actually did not want to hear them. For that matter, I would have preferred a much happier ending but alas, happy endings were not all that popular among filmmakers in the early 1970s -- which might explain why the one major horror film in the early 1970s that had a happy ending basically stole poor Bob Clark's thunder. Whatever possessed the makers of that movie, I will never know.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Buscando Trabajo de Nuevo: Parte V

I'm actually receiving unemployment now so I'm stressing out a lot less over bills though money is still tight for obvious reasons.

Because so many family members are unemployed this year, my mother made us draw names so that each of us only had to buy one adult a gift. The rest of our gift efforts were to be spent on the children.

I've gone on a few interviews but so far without success. Indeed, I was depressed to learn that at least two of the unsolicited e-mails I received after posting my resume on several on-line sites came from sites that had been denounced as scams by various sources on the Internet. It's a good thing I checked them out before filling out an application. But I can't help but be fearful on behalf of those potential applicants who may be too desperate to resist such e-mails. I usually don't like waxing moralistic but I would like to believe that there's a special place in Hell reserved for those scam artists who prey upon the poor and the unemployed.

On the bright side, the female friend I was so worried about in the last installment of this feature passed her drug test. She's still having problems but at least flunking her drug test and losing her job as a result aren't among them.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Non Angli Sed Angeli

If I get anything close to a Christmas angel this year, I suspect it will look like Tilda Swinton. But, hey, I could be wrong, right?

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Trailer of the Week: Fiddler on the Roof (1971)

Don't just stay at home watching chestnuts roast on an open fire.

Go out and see a movie -- preferably one that expresses the spirit of the holidays.

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Hey, I Remember This Show: Bridget Loves Bernie

It's a Tonio Kruger bonus post this week. Not only do you get the opening credits from a popular (for one season, at least) TV show from the early 1970s, but you can also get the pre-credit sequence from the first episode. It says something about how naive and unsophisticated I was when this show first came out that when the title characters said their full names, I had to ask my Catholic mother why that was such a big deal. If only more people would ask themselves that question...

Anyway, I knew David Doyle from Charlie's Angels starred on this series but I didn't realize that Audrey Lindley from Three's Company appeared on this show as well. Live and learn. And that Meredith Baxter was quite attractive when she did this show. I wonder what she's been up to lately...

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Random Thoughts

Isn't it funny how often those same Christians who kvetch about Cafeteria Catholics who pick and choose which part of the Bible they choose to obey routinely pass over that part of the Bible that says "Judge not lest ye be judged"?

Would Jesus Christ really care that much about some poor schnook of a store clerk who dares use the words "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas"? Wouldn't he care far more about the poor and the homeless?

Aren't good Christians supposed to celebrate Jesus' death and resurrection far more than his birth?

Isn't it strange that our main response to the AIDS epidemic involved finding a new way of selling something? No one ever needed a separate store for condoms before the mid-1980s and one has to wonder about the imaginative powers of someone who is not only incapable of buying a box of condoms in an average drug store but who insists that they come in more than one color and glow in the dark to boot.

When cultural conservatives object to something, cultural liberals routinely tell them to ignore it. But when cultural liberals object to something, they can't resist making the same foolish gestures as cultural conservatives. And of course, they never just sit back and ignore what they hate but insist on giving the item they allegedly hate more and more free publicity. Witness, for example, Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series. If these books were really as bad as their detractors say, one would think that the last thing that people who hated the series would want to do is give the series more publicity but instead they find it more satisfying to go on and on about how bad they think the books are than, say, talking about how much they like some other author.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Movie Song of the Week: “Matchmaker”

In honor of Hanukkah -- which starts at sunset tomorrow -- I am posting this memorable number from 1971's Fiddler on the Roof. It took me years to appreciate this song -- perhaps because I never really listened to it the first few times I heard it. But it does make me glad that I never followed through on a relative's proposal to get me involved in an arranged marriage. For that matter, the song also makes me wonder if the real reason I never got married is because God wants me to marry a nice Jewish girl.

Oh, well. I hope you all enjoy it.

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Movie Quote of the Week

But -- But maybe he’s only a little crazy like painters or composers or... or some of those men in Washington.
--Philip Tonge, Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

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TV Quote of the Week

Aahh, they remake Fame and A Christmas Carol. Has Hollywood totally run out of ideas?
--Susan Sullivan, Castle, “Deep in Death”

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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Pop Song of the Week: “All I Want for Christmas Is You”

Yes, I posted this song last year but I can't resist posting it again.

After all, nothing really says Christmas to me like the sight of Mariah Carey in a pair of white go-go boots...

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¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Mi Hermano y Mi Mamá!

It is my mother's birthday today. We celebrated it this past Sunday, but it is still worth noting.

It is also my youngest brother's birthday today. We celebrated that this past Sunday as well -- mostly by arguing over Facebook, it seemed. But we still enjoyed ourselves despite the arguing. And given the way my late father encouraged my siblings and I to think for ourselves, such arguments are almost inevitable during family gatherings.

It is also the Catholic religious holiday known as Feast of the Immaculate Conception but you all probably knew that.

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Monday, December 07, 2009

A Thanksgiving Movie That Actually Isn't a Turkey

I've gotten so used to cringing and rolling my eyes at most of Hollywood's attempts at multicultural storytelling -- Spanglish, for example -- that I found it quite refreshing to come across an American movie with a multiracial cast that is actually quite entertaining. Unfortunately, the film in question -- the 2000 release What's Cooking? -- has the type of title that suggests that it is not a serious movie but some sort of wacky screwball comedy chockful of eccentric stereotypes. To be fair, the movie has more than a few elements -- a unfaithful Latino father, an Asian-American gangsta wannabe, etc. -- that border upon the stereotypical. But it also deals with these elements in such a believable way that I never quite found myself wanting to roll my eyes at the pretentiousness of the film's dialogue like I did with Bulworth and Crash.

The film concerns four different families -- one Jewish, one Vietnamese, one Mexican-American and one African-American -- whose members come together in Los Angeles to celebrate Thanksgiving in their own unique fashion. Each family has their own set of unique problems. Each family, nevertheless, tries to resolve its problems with a minimum of fuss, only to find that it does not necessarily always work out that way. Though various family members are continually crossing paths with members of the other families, it is not until the end that the film points out once and for all just how close to one another these four different families actually are.

It's been implied by one of the reviewers on IMDB that this film's view of L.A.'s racial politics seemed more inspired by wishful thinking than reality. And one could argue that at times the film is a bit too hopeful about its view of human nature. For example, the Vietnamese family is shown raising a fuss about a visit the daughter receives from her white American boyfriend while she is working in the family video store -- yet later on the movie suggests that a visit from a son's Mexican-American girlfriend would meet with a happier reception. In another episode, the son of an African-American political aide is shown throwing paint at his father's employer. But when the same son shows up for Thanksgiving dinner and is seen by one of the father's white co-workers, the co-worker -- who witnessed the paint throwing -- seems remarkably low-key about this revelation.

Yet every time the movie got to the point when I found myself anticipating Paul Haggis-style melodramatics, the movie would surprise me by going in a different direction. Much of the melodrama in the Vietnamese household, for example, had the potential to turn into a bad episode of All-American Girl but then we're given a rather quiet scene between the Americanized daughter and her Vietnamese-speaking grandmother in which the grandmother actually proves more sympathetic to the daughter's problems than one would expect. The melodrama in the African-American household in which the political aide's stressed-out wife is attempting to deal with various family problems while at the same time trying to keep her conservative mother-in-law happy could have very easily turned into the stuff of bad sitcoms -- but the film does not go that route. Ditto the melodramas in the Latino and the Jewish households.

The result is not the type of film that will appeal to every type of moviegoer -- but it is certainly the type of holiday movie that deserves to be remembered for far more than its less-than-memorable title. And you do not even have to be Californian to like it.

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Saturday, December 05, 2009

Trailer of the Week: A Christmas Carol (1938)

Yes, it does seem strange to see actor Lionel Barrymore introduce this movie as if expecting the average movie goer to be totally unfamiliar with this story. And it's even stranger to hear him initially describe Scrooge with words that could equally describe the Mr. Potter character he played in 1946's It's a Wonderful Life.

Then again it's not like the studio went ahead and cast someone like Jim Carrey in this movie...

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Hey, I Remember This Show: The Thin Blue Line

I suspect writer Ben Elton and actor Rowan Atkinson would rather me remember this show for some other reason than the fact that I first came across actress Mina Anwar on this series but hey! I gotta be me. And it is not like there are a lot of British shows with a star who looks like Ms. Anwar. (Okay, there was The Invisibles and now there is The Sarah Jane Adventures. But all that is besides the point -- and anyway, it is Ms. Anwar in those shows too.)

Anyway, I hope you all enjoy this brisk stroll down memory lane.

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

The Sarah Jane Adventures: “The Day of the Clown”

Oh, cool.

Sarah Jane's stepson Luke has a new schoolmate and her name is -- Rani? Are the writers of this series really all that up on the history of British sci-fi? Because I could have sworn that there was another Rani character on the original Doctor Who series.

On the plus side, it is kinda cool to find out that Sarah Jane's new neighbor is Maggie Habib from The Thin Blue Line. (Better known as actress Mina Anwar to all you spoilsports.)

And yes, this episode's villain is scary. I guess when the writers thought him up, they were not clowning around...

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

The Sarah Jane Adventures: “The Last Sontaran”

Oh, cool. Maria Jackson, one of my favorite characters in British sci-fi -- and not just because of her first name -- is back.

But not for long, unfortunately.

At least she won't be gone for good.

I hope.

And her mother Chrissie actually got a rather neat scene that almost makes up for the way she ordinarily seems to be just a blatant imitation of the Jackie Tyler character on the second series of Doctor Who.

Plus there's some story involving an evil alien who wants to destroy the world -- but you all probably guessed that.

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

Movie Song of the Week: “I'm Dancing on a Rainbow”

I really should be posting Christmas songs this month but for some reason, I'm just not in the mood. Maybe if I find something embeddable that I didn't already post last year...but that's not likely.

In the meantime, I'm posting the following number from 1933's Stage Mother, featuring a dubbed Maureen O'Sullivan (yes, the same lady who did the Tarzan movies) and what appears to be a Wagnerian variation on Busby Berkeley.

I hope you all enjoy it.

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Movie Quote of the Week

Maybe there are some things you should buy with your heart, not your head. Maybe those are the things that really count.
--Melvyn Douglas, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948)

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TV Quote of the Week

This Christmas thing? What's it about?
--Kylie Minogue, Doctor Who (The Second Series), “Voyage of the Damned”

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I've Been Sick So Long I No Longer Know What It's Like to Be Well

Okay, not really.

But I was ill nearly all day yesterday to the point that merely walking to the kitchen -- much less the computer -- seemed like a Herculean task. Apparently I either ate something bad Tuesday night or I came down with some kind of 24-hour bug.

Hopefully I will be a lot better the rest of the week.