Thursday, April 30, 2009

Movie Quote of the Week

Are you insured? I’m insured. It’s good to be insured. At least it cheers you up.
--Duncan Lamont, Quatermass and the Pit (1967)

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Resolution of the Week

I will not think of C. L. Moore's "Vintage Season."

I will not think of C. L. Moore's "Vintage Season."

I will not think of C. L. Moore's "Vintage Season."

I will not think of C. L. Moore's "Vintage Season."

I will not think of C. L. Moore's "Vintage Season."

I will not think of C.L. Moore's "Vintage Season."

I will not think of C. L. Moore's "Vintage Season."

Nor will I think of Stephen King's The Stand.

Or Connie Willis' Doomsday Book.

I am kinda glad our local drugstore has a supply of Tamiflu. At least it has right now.

However, I don't think WHO's decision to change the name of a certain disease is going to help matters.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

So What's Up with All the Old Movies, Tonio?

And why are you always asking yourself all these questions on your blog?

Okay, seriously, I am quite aware of the irony of being a young -- okay, not-so-young -- Hispanic half and half who spends so much time writing about and praising movies that were made at least a decade or more before I was born. And yet every time I try to write about more recent films, I have difficulty finding the same enthusiasm that comes when I write about some of my favorite old movies.

Perhaps it's because I'm burnt out on recent movies and no longer find them capable of surprising me in the manner I have become accustomed to. Perhaps it's because I'm genuinely interested in old movies and welcome the chance to give some of my favorites the same publicity that the newest releases get. Perhaps it's because certain old movies remind me of the type of old movies I used to watch with my late father.

I don't kid myself that the filmmakers of yesteryear were more politically correct than today's filmmakers. After all, it was a time when Jim Crow was the law in many states and even a liberal northern city like Detroit was not above passing a law in my paternal grandmother's youth restricting Mexicans from sitting outside the balcony at a local theatre. However, I'm not convinced that today's filmmakers are all that liberal, either -- especially when it comes to people like me -- and I weary of the endless combinations of bad storytelling and stereotypes that pass for filmmaking today.

Perhaps the last straw came a few years ago when I had bought a ticket to see a much-praised movie called Sideways, only to realize that the movie wasn't all that entertaining and, in fact, quite dull. Halfway through the movie, a female character starts giving a speech about her wine and how it makes her think of where it came from and all the people who worked on it. It's a very inspirational speech -- but unfortunately, it's also an unwelcome reminder that movies like that were never going to concentrate on the type of people the woman was talking about, especially the migrant workers.

And when -- like me -- you're the grandson of a migrant worker and you're watching a highly praised movie that seems to have no problem dismissing migrant workers except when they're needed to provide material for the so-called "important" people -- who, surprise, surprise, are never Hispanic -- and no critic who reviews it seems to have a problem with that, you start to realize how unlikely it is that so-called "liberal" Hollywood is ever going to make movies about people like your grandfather -- well, there was La Bamba but nobody seems in a hurry to imitate that flick -- and it's hard to avoid losing all faith in the modern movie business.

Not going to bother with people like me? Then fine. Perhaps I'll find more entertainment among movies that don't even pretend to depict the modern world. Most of the modern movies I see get life all wrong anyway.

And yes, I realize movies are fiction and they're not supposed to be 100% percent accurate at depicting reality. But it would be nice if so many of them didn't automatically exclude people like me and my late grandfather. And even nicer if so many people didn't act as if they had no problem with such exclusion.

I don't expect all movies to be about people like me but it would be nice if movies that were weren't as rare as unicorns.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

R.I.P. Beatrice Arthur

Beatrice Arthur, title star of the TV series Maude and co-star of the 1974 movie Mame, died this Saturday.

She will be missed.

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Stereotypes? What Stereotypes?

Heh. My late father's oldest sister regularly sends me E-mails and communicates via the same medium with her relatives in Mexico. My late father -- who was born in Mexico -- took pride in not only writing computer programs that were often too complex for his colleagues to duplicate, but also inspiring one of my Mexican-American cousins in Detroit to go into the computer business. At least two of my Mexican-American cousins have been experimenting with Facebook, one of my Mexican-American nephews already has a blog there, and more than a few of my past supervisors in my current job as a computer operator have had Spanish surnames.

Yet for a long time, the media promoted the notion that the use of computers was not a Hispanic thing. Indeed, prior to 21st century shows like American Family and Ugly Betty, the only recognition that we can use computers came from a mention in an old X-Men comic book written back in the 1980s which showed a Hispanic schoolchild doing homework on a home computer. And even that example couldn't help undermining its credibility by having the child's relatives refer to each other as "us Latinos" -- instead of, say, "us Mexicans" or "us Puerto Ricans" or even "us Americans" like most of the real-life Hispanics I know do.

Why does this matter? Because one of the biggest lies told about Hispanics during the recent immigrant crisis was that we don't assimilate. Not only that, but for many years, we were considered too dumb to work with computers, so much so that when my late father started his first job in a computer library, the only other Hispanics he saw there were janitors. And quite often when he applied for such jobs, he was pressured to pass for "white" or "Italian" on the grounds that a mere Mexican couldn't possibly be smart enough to work with such technology.

Today the same routine persists. Hispanics are regularly presented to be maids and gardeners and other subordinate characters in the movies and TV shows of so-called "liberal" Hollywood but rarely as professional types. And those few exceptions to the rule that do exist are rarely seen to represent true Hispanics.

True, the situation is not as bad as it was in my father's youth and certainly not as bad as it was in my grandparents' time. Unlike my grandparents, neither I nor my darker-skinned relatives have to worry about being barred from certain restaurants or movie theatres or schools or swimming pools. And I'm not blind to the fact that so many of us have entered the middle class is a good thing.

But the fact that my generation of Latinos has more freedom than previous generations does not mean we live in a perfect country nor that such freedom is incapable of being reversed. A famous American once said that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance and it saddens me that a mere "hyphenated American" like myself seems to be more familiar with those words than many a so-called "real American." But it also gives me an obligation to not only speak out on the behalf of my freedom but on behalf of the freedom of other Americans, both Hispanic and otherwise.

Do I say all this because I'm politically correct?

No. I say this because I'm an American. Though I'd like to think I'd be just as vocal about my rights if I lived in my father's native Mexico.

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Heroes: “The Eclipse -- Part 1” and “The Eclipse -- Part 2”

The eclipse is a lonely child. It's waiting by the door...

Okay, that last paragraph doesn't really mean anything but it makes about as much sense as anything that happens in this episode.

This time out, a solar eclipse takes away every super-powered person's powers and gives Noah Bennet his first real chance to kill Sylar since the show began. However, you know what they say about things that are too good to be true...

And yes, it's not much of a spoiler to guess that everyone eventually gets their powers back.

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Heroes: “Eris Quod Sum”

Should I consider it evil of me that the first thought that came to mine when I saw this episode's title was the old Xena character Discord -- whose name in Greek is, of course, Eris?

And what the hell happened to Janice, the original spouse of everyone's favorite telepathic ex-cop, Matt Parkman? Is she not going to appear on the show anymore or did the producers decide that blonde supersprinter Daphne is more photogenic?

And speaking of Parkman, anyone else get the feeling that “Didn't I throw you out a window” is going to become a running gag for this show? Apparently it's now The Defenestration Show. Tune in next week to see who else gets thrown out a window...

And anyone else wonder if the producers have a same-sex subplot in mind for Claire the ex-cheerleader and Elle the electric girl? Of course, it could just be wishful thinking on my part but stranger things have happened. However, I doubt they're going to go in that direction.

However, it does seem like someone on the production staff has a thing for blondes almost as serious as Nathan Petrelli's. And incidentally, his wife appears to be seriously AWOL as well. (Maybe she's sharing a timeshare with Janice Parkman.)

And given that Matt Parkman has already proven capable of involuntarily reading someone's thoughts (look what happened with his wife in the show's first season), the decision to have Daphne pretend to go along with Matt at Arthur Petrelli's request seems really, really stupid.

Anyway, the most shocking thing I found about this episode was the Viagra ads that were being shown during the show on the NBC site. Apparently they're trying to vanquish whatever family audience that still remains after first season's stripper mom subplot. Good thing we live in such a Puritanical society...

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Heroes: “Dying of the Light”

An episode in which it is discovered that second season villain Adam is just as unpopular with the writers as he is with me.

And in which it is discovered that even veteran character actors like Robert Forster can play surprisingly boring villains. Though I suppose that his character, Arthur Petrelli (father of Nathan and Peter, natch), does earn a prize for being the one TV character this season who's most unlikely to get a Father's Day card.

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Dollhouse: “Haunted”

This week, it's the Freudian Follies as Adelle DeWitt downloads the memories of a dead friend into Echo and lets her loose to attend her own funeral and catch her own murderer. Along the way, the dead woman discovers that she wasn't as beloved by her surviving loved ones as she thought she was. Except by one particular loved one who almost loves her too much.

Meanwhile, Agent Ballard is learning some unpleasant truths about himself and Mellie while on a lighter note, Topher uses an imprint upon a Doll to create his own birthday pal.

Do things end happily? Well, I guess that depends on your definition of “happily.”

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Movie Quote of the Week

Your mother and I think that if the American economy can be billions in debt and still survive, so can you.
--John Goodman, Confessions of a Shopaholic (2009)

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TV Quote of the Week

All that stuff that you think never happens, it happens. You just got to be ready for it.
--David Boreanaz, Bones, “The Boneless Bride in the River”

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Mi Mejor Amiga!

Mi mejor amiga has a birthday this upcoming Monday but she's going out of town this weekend so she and I and her husband and her mother celebrated it yesterday.

Just in case you all were wondering where I was.

Monday...I was apparently shopping for a birthday gift.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Movie Quote of the Week

O.K. folks, but remember your manners. No stampeding. Walk slow, like you do when you come to pay your taxes.
--Harry Holman, Meet John Doe (1941)

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TV Quote of the Week

These “taxes”, they are like sacrifices to tribal gods?
--Louise Jameson, Doctor Who (The First Series), “The Sun Makers”

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Abandon All Metal, All Ye Who Enter Here

I had the opportunity to go into this club the other night -- only I balked the minute I realized that going in meant emptying my pockets and submitting to a metal detector not too dissimilar to the ones employed at the entrances to courthouses and airports.

Now I understand the various reasons why a club may use metal detectors on its would-be customers.

But I'm also aware that such use inevitably produces at least one of two assumptions among would-be customers like myself:

1. The club in question doesn't trust its customers.

2. The club in question tends to attract the type of people who don't deserve to be trusted.

Neither of which exactly inspires me to go into such a place and start spending money.

So I didn't go in.

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Whew!

Tax season is finally over.

Now I gotta work on earning next year's taxes.

But seriously, folks...

It became obvious over the Easter weekend that my family is not as insulated from the current economic crisis as I had thought. One family member has been laid off (but found another job, gracias a Dios), and the others are having money worries. I myself know at least three people who were laid off last month -- people who lost their job not because they were lazy or incompetent or dishonest but because their employers need to make budget cuts and they were the unlucky people who got to have their positions sacrificed for such cuts.

On the plus side, my sister has given up Starbuck's so maybe some little good may come of this crisis...

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Doctor Who (The Second Series): “Planet of the Dead”

Geez, all this time since the last episode (which aired around Christmastime) and now we gotta wait until November until the next episode. It's a good time there's so much classic Who on DVD because, otherwise, the wait would be unbearable.

As for the episode itself...

Well, I enjoyed it but I saw no real reason why it had to be filmed in Dubai. (Other countries do have sand, you know.)

Michelle Ryan was okay as the female lead character, Lady Christina de Souza -- though I'm a bit stumped as to why the first character on new Who to bear a Spanish name thus far got to be a streetwalker -- and quite possibly a nanny as well -- while the first character to bear a Portuguese surname -- Ms. de Souza, natch -- gets to be an aristocrat. True, she's a crooked aristocrat, but still... Way to counter those obnoxious ethnic stereotypes, Russell T. Davies. Fight the power.

Anyway, apart from that, the story was not all that bad though I could have done without a character who looked suspiciously like Donna Noble's grandfather and another who looked suspiciously like Jackie Tyler and yet another who looked suspiciously like Mickey Smith and so on and so forth. Yes, we get it. Mr. Davies. You love these characters. I love these characters too. But I'd love them a lot more if you gave them a rest every once in a while.

And if you're going to introduce flylike aliens just so you can make a joke about excrement -- well, you're not writing a screenplay for The Dark Light-Years so I'd just prefer it if you didn't go there.

On the other hand, the Quatermass reference was way cool. So kudos for that.

I'm not sure why UNIT -- and not Torchwood -- showed up to help out -- but at least you didn't depict the good folks of UNIT as imbeciles... So good on you again, Mr. Davies.

It's still going to be a long, long wait until November, though.

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Dollhouse: “A Spy in the House of Love”

Actually, if you want to get technical about it, this episode has two characters who can be classified as “spies in the house of love.”

Plus Agent Ballard finds out a shocking secret about Mellie. A secret even Mellie herself doesn't know -- and can't ever know. Talk about putting stress on a relationship.

And yes, contrary to what last week's episode hinted, Echo is still in the Dollhouse.

And we learn that the Dollhouse's boss lady, Adelle DeWitt, has a human side. Not that that changes the fact that she is not the type of person that you want to have angry with you but still.

I must confess that Olivia Williams' performance as Adelle is one of the few reasons I've been as patient with this series as I have been. I wish I could say the same about Eliza Dushku's performance as Echo but at this point, no. I give Ms. Dushku credit for being a good sport about some of the costumes she has to wear on this show, but it would be nice if the show got to the point where it didn't have to rely on the sight of Ms. Dushku in a tight-fitting outfit to keep its ratings.

Anyway, plot elements are finally starting to jell and characters are starting to get more complex. Will it be enough to save the show for a second season?

I don't know. But I suppose we'll always have fan fic.

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Dollhouse: “Needs”

Things are finally happening on this show. And it looks like Echo might finally escape from the Dollhouse. So it guess this means that this episode is the show's final episode.

No, wait, it isn't.

But on the plus side, we learn a lot more about some of Echo's fellow dolls.

Plus Agent Ballard is having dreams. And not the type of dreams he'll be sharing with Mellie any time soon.

Stay tuned.

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!


After all, it's a tradition...

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And You Thought the Easter Bunny Was a Dubious Concept...

Well, I mentioned this before and I'll mention it again. I just don't get the connection between this and Easter -- unless it's yet more proof that some people will sell anything if they can connect it to a national holiday.

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Why I Blog

1. Because I can.

2. Because I get so tired of Latino blogs that are either endless apologies for illegal immigration or else endless lectures on the virtues of assimilation.

3. Because if I don't write about certain things, no one else will.

4. Because I need some place on the Net to vent and it would be rude to continually do so on other people's sites.

5. Why not?

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Thursday, April 09, 2009

Movie Quote of the Week

Is that a rabbit in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?
--Joanna Cassidy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)

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TV Quote of the Week

Might wanna stop saying “you” and start saying “we”.
--John Barrowman, Torchwood, “Day One”

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Friendship

The older I get, the less I care about the gender of my friends and the more I care about whether they possess more abstract qualities like loyalty, honesty, reliability, etc. I have more respect for the few friends who genuinely try to understand me and who have stood by me throughout many a crisis than I do the more lukewarm friends who don't try and haven't stood by me.

Indeed, I find myself regretting the many years when I did concern myself with my friends' genders.

Does this make me weird? Then okay, I'm weird.

But, as an old song once noted, there are times when it's okay to feel like a fifth wheel.

And quite frankly, we all have qualities that distinguish us from someone else's idea of the norm.

Besides, I'd rather have ten friends of the "wrong" gender who really "get" me and to whom I can really talk than a hundred so-called friends of the "right" gender who don't "get" me and who are not really interested in anything I have to say.

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Back to the 30s Again

Apparently Mother Nature knows how much I love the movies and music of the 1930s because that's where the temperature keeps going. It got all the way into the 30s on Sunday and Monday morning but this morning it only got into the 40s. Which is a shame because I'm not all that fond of swing music...

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Monday, April 06, 2009

Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Doctor Who (The Second Series): “The Next Doctor”

Wow! Who knew there were so many Hispanic people running around the British Isles? First we get the Maria character in the Doctor Who spinoff, The Sarah Jane Adventures, and now we've got Rosita, who pops up in Victorian London in time for the latest episode. Unfortunately, Rosita appears to be a bit lower down on the social scale than Maria. Plus the episode hints that she was a streetwalker. Which is hardly the type of stereotype I expected to see in this series, but alas, there it is.

Rosita, for what it's worth, is also black, and it could be said that she was deliberately written to combine the features of the Doctor's last three assistants (Rose, Martha and Donna). Unfortunately, she's not an official assistant though. The doctor she helps out is not the same doctor we all know and love but rather another character altogether. The script hints that that this doctor might be a future incarnation of the present doctor but apart from owning a sonic screwdriver, he doesn't seem much like a doctor.

Meanwhile, the Cybermen are back. And a mysterious lady in red appears to be associated with them.

Can the present doctor solve the mystery of the future doctor, defeat the Cybermen and save the day?

Well, what do you think?

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Heroes: “One of Us, One of Them”

Hilary ensues when Noah Bennet is forced to work with Sylar, the man who attacked his daughter Claire, in order to track down dangerous supervillains. Okay, it doesn't but I suspect that the Sylar-like writers had such a thought in mind.

Meanwhile, Claire gets self-defense lessons from her biological mother, Meredith, who is using her pyrokinetic abilities to play bodyguard while Noah is gone.

PresentPeter gets his body back but also gets a vision of the future.

And Tracy visits Micah Sanders, who thinks she's his mother. She isn't.

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Heroes: “The Butterfly Effect”

Claire Bennet, the cheerleader whom Sylar symbolically raped in the last episode, is now acting like Seventh Season Buffy, what with the angst and the “I can't feel anything” and so on and so forth. Considering what happened to her in the last episode, this is understandable. Yet, apart from a conversation with her mother, she doesn't seem to be getting much sympathy from anyone.

Meanwhile, FuturePeter (the Peter Petrelli from a distant future) is still messing things up, PresentPeter (the Peter Petrelli from our present time) is trapped in the body of an imprisoned supervillain, Nathan Petrelli is seeing dead people, Tracy Strauss is discovering her superpower at the worst possible time, and Elle is trying to make her father proud by tracking down Sylar. Only Sylar tracks down her father first and almost kills her.

Sylar ends up being captured but in the process, Elle accidentally knocks out the electrical system in Level 5 of the Primatech Paper facility where supervillains are imprisoned, and as a result, a trio of nogoodniks gets away, taking PresentPeter with them.

Hiro and Ando do their damnedest to track down the mysterious blonde girl who stole the secret formula in the last episode -- a blonde girl who looks almost like Elle but isn't and who goes by the name of Daphne -- but don't have much luck.

Angela Petrelli takes over Elle's late father's position as the head of the Pinehurst facility and decides to talk to the imprisoned Sylar. Only to reveal to him that he is actually a member of the Petrelli family and that she is his mother.

And the poor guy didn't have a chance to buy a Mother's Day card. I just knew he'd pay for that Claire Bennet attack in some way...

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Pensamientos Acerca De Televisión

Heroes: “The Second Coming”

The second season of the series seemed devoted to proving that the show's top villain, Sylar, could be as much of a bastard without his super-powers as he is with them. So much so that it seemed genuinely disappointing to see the guy get his powers back at the end of the second season since he was certain to become an even bigger bastard with such powers than without them.

So in the first episode of the current season, the show's writers waste no time in proving me right. One of the first things Sylar does in this episode is symbolically rape one of the most likable female members of the cast. Nor did he get punished for this act. Instead, he walks away to live another day.

In other scenes, Senator Nathan Petrelli ends up being shot by a mysterious figure that turned out to be his own brother Peter. Actually it wasn't his actual sibling who did the shooting but a sibling from the far-flung future. A future in which Clair Bennett has dark hair and does evil things and Future Peter is genuinely unpopular with his fellow heroes.

Meanwhile, Niki Sanders -- who was last seen trying to rescue her son Micah and his cousin Monica from a burning building -- is now apparently dead. But wait. In Washington, D.C., there's a mysterious blonde woman named Tracy Strauss who looks just like Niki. You don't suppose...

As for Hiro and his friend Ando, they uncover a mysterious secret formula entrusted to them by Hiro's late father. So naturally they lose it.

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Thursday, April 02, 2009

Movie Quote of the Week

I may not be street wise and all that, but at least I'm not that dumb!
--Jennifer Lopez, Selena (1997)

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Song Quote of the Week

Aunque soy pobre todo esto que te doy
Vale más que el dinero porque sí es amor.
(Even though I'm poor, all this that I give you
is worth more than money because it truly is love.)
--Selena, A. B. Quintanilla III and Pete Astudillo, “Amor Prohibido”

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

R.I.P. Selena

It was 14 years ago yesterday that the late singer was killed.

As of this writing, she is still missed.

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R.I.P. Andy Hallett

Actor Andy Hallett, who played Lorne on the TV series Angel, died of heart failure Sunday night.

He will be missed.

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