Friday, April 30, 2010

Hey, I Don't Remember This Show: The Roaring 20's

In honor of the late Dorothy Provine.

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Hey, I Remember This Show: The Twilight Zone

It is the one TV show every fantasy and sci-fi buff discovers sooner or later, even if it is on late night television. I'm referring, of course, to Rod Serling's classic anthology series The Twilight Zone.

The first season's opening credit sequence always struck me as dreamlike -- as if the composer was in the middle of a dream when he wrote the music for it. But it does not have the music most people associate with this series.



That music came with the second season.



The third season used the same music but different visuals.



The opening credits sequence for the fourth and fifth seasons was the one I remembered most for some reason. Perhaps it was that strange door. Or the many times I tried to figure out what the strange object was that appeared from the upper right hand corner after Einstein's famous equation.

In the long run, it does not really matter. They were all worth watching.

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Movie Song of the Week: “Bye Bye Life”

I have no idea whether or not the Angel of Death would look anything like Jessica Lange. In fact, the one woman in my life who looks anything like Jessica Lange actually saved me from a premature death back in 2004. But it says something about Bob Fosse's vision that Lange's performance as the Angel of Death in 1979's All That Jazz received an endorsement from priest/author Andrew M. Greeley of all people. And I kinda like it too -- though I would probably envisage my angel as looking more like Salma Hayek or Dolores del Río.

Anyway, I hope you all enjoy this week's number. Even if you disagree with Ms. Lange's performance, the song is still good.

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TV Song of the Week: “My Angel Put the Devil in Me”

Since we seem to have a theme going today, let's play this little number from the third season Doctor Who soundtrack.

I hope you all enjoy it.

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Movie Quote of the Week

Would you ever really want to see an angel?
--Elias Koteas, The Prophecy (1995)

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TV Quote of the Week

One may tolerate a world of demons for the sake of an angel.
--Sophia Myles, Doctor Who (The Second Series), “The Girl in the Fireplace”

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Doctor Who (The Second Series): “The Beast Below”

Here we have yet another episode proving the creepiness of British schoolgirls. Which is odd considering that the ending of this episode is more child-friendly than most other episodes.

Kudos to the writer for not using such obvious jokes as, say, a reference to Jefferson Starship.

I'm not sure I buy the believability of the central gimmick -- a large alien creature which apparently has no need to breathe and which can negotiate the cold vacuum of space and the dense atmosphere of a planet with equal ease. But it was nice to see an episode that seemed fated for a tragic ending come up with a comparatively pleasant ending without negating its own story logic.

And the machines that gave voters a choice between “protesting” and “forgetting” seemed all too believable in today's political world. I guess it was a good thing that this was meant to be a fictional story, right?

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Doctor Who (The Second Series): “Blink”

This is very easily one of the creepiest episodes of the second series -- apart from maybe “Midnight” -- to air thus far.

It was so good it could very easily have produced a spin-off involving its main character (the one who is not the Doctor). But it never got one.

It was also so good that it did not really need a sequel. But it got one anyway.

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Pop Song of the Week: “Twilight Zone”

In a real dark night of the soul it is always two o’clock in the morning.

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Literary Quote I Like

So much bad theology and empty talk about faith over works. Better the dispirited cynic complaining as she dishes free food in the soup kitchen than the pieties of cloistered prelates, theologians, purveyors of empty rituals, thesis-writers, makers of religious regulations. If you’ve done no good for anyone in your life, then to Hell with you! Simple as that.
--The Celestial Narrator in Wilton Barnhardt's Gospel

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Cuento de Mi Id

“To Taste the Flesh Not Yet Deceased”

(I normally don't comment on the stories I post here because I prefer any comments made about them to come from the people who read this blog. But this story is one of the first ones I ever showed to other people and I wrote it for a college creative writing course. Hopefully it should be apparent that my writing skills have improved since then -- even if it is not by much.)

They say there are no more demons, yet I know better. I sit here with my AK-47 and my batch of silver bullets awaiting the biggest demon of them all. The Trinity protects me; the black-and-yellow symbols of Saints Albert, Robert, and Enrico have been hung at every entrance. Yet I know he’ll get in. He always does.

They have made it unlawful for civilians to possess the only substance that will stop him; they even say it does not exist. However, it does not matter.

My wife looks at me as if I’m crazy.

“John,” she says. “No such thing exists.”

I know better, of course. God help me, I know better.

***********************************************************

Demons did not always stalk our world. They first came out after the bombs fell. The government did not want to acknowledge this. When a little girl was saved from a food riot, when a notorious black marketer was found bound and gagged by unknown assailants, they blamed it on coincidence. The clerics wished to credit it to divine intervention, but the Old God was not popular anymore since they bombed the Vatican, so they didn’t. A few spoke of making a pilgrimage to Paris, to pay a visit to the shrine of Saint Marie, who still lay unburied in a lead-lined chamber after two centuries. But the government discouraged such visits. Travel was not considered a good idea for anyone not under armed escort, and there were not enough soldiers to go around, so guess who stayed home.

Rumors arose, however. Hades was sighted, thundering across the now empty highways in a black horseless chariot. Hera appeared, too, now attired in a costume apparently fashioned from a flag of the old Republic. Satan finally appeared, as the pessimists among us had guessed he would. There was no doubt he was Satan for he wore a big red “S” on his chest and everyone knew that letter could only stand for “Satan.” He wore a blue suit, a red cape and had the Aryan features of a German warlord. He also had a pearly grin which could only be borne by a man to whom radiation and fallout meant nothing.

My wife and children insisted upon joining the cult of this new-found deity while I still clung to the old faith.

“Father,” my daughter Lois would say, “don’t you realize the Old God doesn’t exist anymore.”

“Of course, He does,” I answered. “There is only one God and I am His Prophet.”

My words were in vain though for my wife and children continued to attend prayer meetings dedicated to the new God and pore over copies of the ancient chronicles of his life and works. I once confiscated one of these sacred scrolls and tossed it upon the fire, only to find another one in its place the next day.

Then one day I looked up in the sky and I saw Him -- Satan -- as big as life. At first, I thought it was an illusion, yet after I had blinked, He was still there.

It was then that I realized that I was in the grip of forces much greater than myself. The citizens of the post-war U.S.S.A. (United Socialist States of America) had hungered for a miracle worker so badly that they had created one out of their own minds. It was too late to fight this creature with mere disbelief; the gestalt forces which had given it life were much too strong now. The only way to deal with it was on its own terms.

So I studied the ancient scrolls and I devised a way to lure it to its doom. I have already set out a sacrificial victim -- a virgin, I hope -- and now I merely await the arrival of the Grand Adversary Himself. I have heard him referred to as the Man of Steel, but the bullets in my gun are Teflon-coated and can pierce three feet of steel. It will be a grand contest I think -- as grand as the one that is said to occur when the Great King Jayefkay rises from his tomb to do battle once more with the Demon-King Kastrow.

My daughter says I’m foolish and I think she hates the ropes, but after all, I’m doing this merely for her sake but for the sake of all humanity.

There is only one God that I worship; one who has risen from the dead and promises eternal life to all His followers.

I speak, of course, of the one true Lord -- Dracula.

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Trailer of the Week: The Invisible Woman (1940)

No, this movie was not inspired by any female celebrities or politicians and shame on you if you actually think otherwise. I do find depressing, though, to note the great John Barrymore was not playing the leading man but rather the eccentric scientist. However, Virginia Bruce is still easy on the eyes -- er, at least she is when you can see her.

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Comic Book Image of the Week


Yes, I know. Nowadays poor Sophie would be using a laptop but if that's the only response you have to this scene from Alan Moore's Promethea, you're probably better off not seeing the rest of it.

Besides, I actually have moments in my life when I identify with this scene. Perhaps it's because I still do a lot of my rough drafts on paper rather than on a computer. Of course, such moments in my life are rarely as dramatic as Sophie's but I still have them.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Hey, I Remember This Show: Off to See the Wizard

I was beginning to think I had imagined this show because I could swear I used to watch it as a kid on Friday nights -- yet it was never mentioned in any books or TV shows. And it certainly never played on Nick at Nite or TVLand.

As I recall, I also used to enjoy it -- perhaps because I was too young to realize what a weird concept it was for a Wonderful World of Disney-style anthology series.

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

The Office (U.S.): “Secretary's Day”

Aw! Poor Erin.

And for that matter, poor Andy. He really did want to make her happy after all.

And once again, Michael Scott proves that though he's still totally clueless about so many things, he still has an uncanny way of dealing with women. Of course, the show has hinted for some time that he and Erin have a secret bond, perhaps because Erin looks up to him far more than Pam ever did.

And speaking of Pam, kudos to her for coming up with just the right thing to say to Erin even though her message was taken totally the wrong way. If more real-life people were like her, this would be a better world.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Movie Song of the Week: “Check Your Husbands”

I have no idea why this never caught on. From the 1932 short Over the Counter, it's yet another pre-Code musical number.

I hope you all enjoy it.

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Movie Quote of the Week

Thousands of people across eastern Europe still experiencing lung complications because of Chernobyl -- and he’s telling me these should be the happiest days of my life.
--Adrienne Shelly, The Unbelievable Truth (1989)

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TV Quote of the Week

I'm glad you're up on your foreign languages, Robin, they come in handy when fighting crime.
--Adam West, Batman, “The Purr-fect Crime”

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Fantasy Quote of the Week

What can be imagined can be done.
--Celeste in Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire

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Science Fiction Quote of the Week

“There is no such thing as magic,” she translated. “There are scientific principles, which scientists discover and write down, and these principles are followed by engineers who invent such things as what you call the flying monster or the electric lights. Scientists discover principles, engineers act on them. Yes?”

“Hail the priests of Science and their temple slaves the engineers,” I said. “Truly the god Science is a great god. You worship a great god.”

“It is not worship. It is science.” Semyonus angry, Olava smiling.

“I am sorry to have given offense to the god Science but you must understand this is a strange land to me. Will your god understand?”

Semyonus was very angry. Olava translated for him.

“Science, Eugeni, is immutable. It understands nothing and forgives nothing. It is what it is.”

“A mysterious god, great for the Pantheon.”

“Science is not a god. It would not like you calling it a god. If you think of it as a god, it will never let you know its mysteries. You must approach it in a scientific manner, with an open mind. Men devote years of their lives to it, their entire lives. It has given us everything we have today.” Thus said Olava for Semyonus.

“Hail Science, giver of things,” I said. “Let us sacrifice to it.”
--Richard Ben Sapir, The Far Arena

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

All Greek to Me


So that's why I'm having such a hard time appreciating today's movies -- my brain is hardwired for ancient Greek. Okay, it is not but after the many times I have read Bulfinch's Mythology as a kid and watched the original Clash of the Titans as an adult, one would think it would be.

In any event, since I am a hardcore mythology buff I was really looking forward toward seeing Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief and I am glad that I recently got the chance to see it. But I must confess I had mixed emotions about the movie. On one hand, enough of the action sequences worked that I feel silly pretending that I had a bad time watching the movie. But the setup for those action sequences -- ay, Dios! The filmmakers made it seem so obvious that they were only marking time till the next action sequence that I wondered why they bothered.

Director Chris Columbus -- the director of this movie -- apparently wanted to make another Harry Potter movie -- which explained why so much of this movie plays like a thinly veiled Harry Potter movie. Now I understand that Harry Potter movies are hot right now but not everyone who goes to the movies nowadays wants to see a Harry Potter movie. Even if they are Harry Potter fans. Or at least they do not want to as often as Chris Columbus seems to think they do.

Even if they did, it is hard to endorse a movie that used a bright and funny actress like Catherine Kenner so badly that I cringed every time I saw her onscreen. I get that the movie was not about her character -- but so what? The James Bond movies are not really about Q, the Indiana Jones movies are not really about Indy's mentor Marcus and the Harry Potter movies are not really about Hermione but all these supporting characters still get better treatment than Ms. Kenner's character does in this movie -- and she is playing the hero's mother. (I guess I already know what movie I am not renting for my mother this Mother's Day.)

But seriously, the one good point in the movie's favor is that it made me want to read the Rick Riordan novel that inspired it. After all, the movie does have some clever ideas in spite of itself -- it even manages to come up with a good way to work in a Lady Gaga song, which I did not think was possible -- and I suspect most of them came directly from the book.

Indeed, given the movie's premise -- a boy discovers that he is the son of an Olympian God and has to go on a quest to recover a fabulous talisman (the lightning of the title) to help rescue his mother -- I am surprised that the filmmakers had such trouble. Do not all kids think their parents are gods at some point in their lives? Do not all children like to think they are special? Do not a lot of modern children have issues with missing parents who may as well be mythological deities as far as the children are concerned? And do not most children who grow up have to learn to fight back against real-life monsters? Such monsters may not be as obvious as the Medusa or the Minotaur but they can still be formidable. For example, the mythological beings in Hollywood who keep making abysmal movies seem all too powerful nowadays. Where is the likes of Perseus or Hercules now that we need them?

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Doctor Who (The Second Series): “Victory of the Daleks”

That Winston Churchill was a bastard. A bastard, I say. First there was that foolishness at Gallipoli, then he tried to steal something from the Doctor. In addition to that, he authorized the use of a special secret weapon which will help Great Britain hold out against the Nazis, if not win the war. The weapon in question: Daleks.

Granted, this is an alternative history version of Churchill -- which might explain why the actor who plays him looks so little like the traditional image of Churchill nearly all American schoolchildren grew up seeing in our history books.

And this, of course, is an alternative history version of Doctor Who, whose writer dares to ponder the question: if use of the Daleks had been offered to Churchill during World War II, would he had accepted it? (Of course, I cannot help wondering what would have happened had the Daleks been offered to Stalin or Roosevelt instead, but then that is just me.)

Okay, I must confess at this point that I have gotten pretty sick of the Daleks. Yes, they were a memorable enemy in the first series, but they tend to be most effective when they are underused. The Daleks are supposed to be the Doctor's worst enemy -- so bringing them up every time one of the second series' writers is stuck for a story idea diminishes their impact.

Thus, while I found it neat to see Moffat and company stumbling across an alt history idea that has yet to be used by Harry Turtledove, it is hard for me to pretend that a whole lot happens in this episode beyond the opening sequence that was not predictable.

Will the Doctor confront the Allied Daleks? Yes, he will.

Will trouble come of said confrontation? Yes, it will.

Will the Daleks prove to have a secret plan? Are you kidding? The Daleks would not be Daleks if they did not have a secret plan.

Will the Doctor's assistant, Amy Pond, play a key role in defeating the plans of the Daleks? Of course.

I did think it was a neat touch that one of the characters in Churchill's military headquarters had a lady friend named Dorabelle. Is that Dorabelle as in Adora Belle Dearheart, the golem expert in Terry Pratchett's Discworld Series? Not necessarily but it would be a nice touch if it was. So let's pretend it is until we find out otherwise.

Edited to add: No, wait, the lady friend's name is Dorabella. Still close enough for government work, though.

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Doctor Who (The First Series): “Remembrance of the Daleks”

Wow! Who ever knew that British schoolgirls could be so creepy? And that they all dress like Catholic schoolgirls? (Or do Catholic schoolgirls dress like them? Inquiring minds, yadda, yadda, yadda.)

Seriously, this episode was best known as being one of the better Doctor Who episodes of the Sylvester McCoy era and definitely the most memorable one since he acquired would-be punk rocker Ace (an Earth-born girl exiled to outer space) as an assistant. Not that the other McCoy episodes were all that bad but most of them were not really my cup of tea and I always felt a bit sorry that an actor as likable as McCoy was stuck playing the Doctor in such episodes. I suspect if he had better scriptwriters, the show would have lasted a lot longer. But, alas, it did not. Anyway, if it had continued, we might never have got the second series.

In any event, the show opened up with the Doctor and Ace landing in 1963 London, just in time to get involved in an alien invasion of Daleks. It turned out that the city of London was not just being invaded by one faction of Daleks, but two -- the second being less racially pure by Dalek standards than the first. The result was a civil war between Dalek factions that just happened to involve the human race.

It was up to the Doctor and Ace to help sort things out -- in part by combining Ace's gift for explosives and the Doctor's gift for troubleshooting into an united front. Along the way, Ace and the Doctor stumbled across the creepy British schoolgirl mentioned above who seemed to know a lot more about the Doctor than one would expect. The Doctor also stumbled across a British military man who was a younger version of the Brigadier, a character who played a key role in the Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker eras. Not much was made of this encounter. Indeed, for all the interaction that occurred between the Doctor and Brigadier, Jr., the writers might as well have named him John Smith. And despite the fact that much of this episode took place on locations used in the show's first episode, there were surprisingly few nostalgic in-jokes in this episode.

One thing that was noticeable in this episode was the use of a racial subtext usually not employed in the first series -- perhaps because most racial conflicts on the show tend to be more of an alien versus terrestrial variety. Not only did the episode have the racial differences between the two Dalek factions play a key role in the plot, but one human Dalek sympathizer in this episode (a bad guy, natch) revealed himself to be a former Nazi sympathizer (and thus, a racist) and yet another revealed himself to be a white supremacist who, unlike Ace, had no problem with the segregated restaurants of 1963 London. Ace and the Doctor, needless to say, were against both racism and both factions of the Daleks and in the end, the Doctor managed to play the two factions off against each other until both were destroyed and the surviving human sympathizers were either killed or vanquished.

Was this a perfect episode? No, and I have seen many episodes in earlier seasons that I liked way better. But it is not bad and if I ever had a chance to see it again, I would.

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Doctor Who (The First Series): “Genesis of the Daleks”

If you see just one episode of the original Doctor Who series, it probably should be this one, which took place in the Tom Baker era. Granted, if you do see it, you run the risk of finding out how addictive watching Doctor Who episodes can be. And how hard it is to go cold turkey. (Why, you would almost have to wait until the show went off the air.)

Seriously, this is one of the more memorable episodes of the Tom Baker era. Elisabeth Sladen's Sarah Jane Smith makes a great Girl Friday for Tom Baker's Doctor and Davros, the evil alien scientist who invented the Daleks, makes a great villain.

If I had to choose the most memorable scenes of this episode, it would not be the endless action scenes that play up the similarities between the Daleks and the Nazis -- or for that matter, the scenes that play up the similarities between the Daleks' opponents and the Free French resistance movement. It would be the scene in which the Doctor tries to talk Davros into destroying the Daleks by likening their creation to that of a deadly virus -- only to find to his horror that Davros is fascinated by the concept of such a virus. But then Davros is a villain so the good Doctor really should not have been surprised.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Pop Song of the Week: “Straight Up”

I fell in love with this video the first time I saw it on MTV back in the late 1980s. In fact, I used to like it so much I couldn't resist pestering my cousins in Detroit about it. I'll admit the song isn't much but then I wasn't watching it so much because I liked the song.

Among other things, this video features a cameo from singer Paula Abdul's friend Arsenio Hall. It was also one of the many music videos directed by Fight Club director David Fincher before he moved on to other stuff.

Please enjoy it while it lasts.

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Cuento de Mi Id

“Balcony Scene”


It was Saturday night at the local movie theatre and Cinnamon Rivers was dancing across the silver screen with Alfredo Aster while dozens of pure-bread couples looked on in envy.

In the audience, Rubia Keeler looked up at Cinnamon and tried to imagine herself in the same role. Just suppose I was a dancer, she thought. Just suppose I was a movie star and all those people in the audience were staring up at me.

Stop having such silly dreams, her conscience told her. Be grateful that you were lucky enough to get that job at the shop around the corner. Mr. Matuschek may not the best of bosses but he's sure better than that factory foreman who tried to peer down your dress or that guy at the warehouse who was always trying to get you to climb a ladder just so that he could try to look up your skirt.

But I don’t want to work in that shop, she thought. I get tired of having to be nice to all the angry customers and the lecherous co-workers. And I just know the new salesgirl is dating the owner’s assistant. No wonder she gets so many privileges.

If only I could be a star, she thought. Then I could rise above all that and I wouldn’t have to worry about where to go or what to do or how I was going to pay my rent. At long last I could just be me.

Just then the lights came up. Rubia realized that the movie was over. She took care to sneak out the side door so that no one would see her in the lobby, praying against hope that no one she actually knew would see her.

She had just gotten to the street outside when she heard someone call out, “Hey, Rube!”

She turned. Coming down the street was Marta, one of her cousins from across town. She seemed to be smiling and beneath the radiance of the nearby street lamp, her bronze cheekbones made her look like one of those Mexican movie stars that her late father used to like. She appeared to be in a good mood but you could never really tell with Marta.

“What’s the matter, Rube?” she said. “You too good to sit with us in the balcony tonight?”

“Er, I didn’t realize you’d be going to see this particular movie,” she said. “Besides, I -- er -- just didn’t feel like sitting in the balcony tonight.” She started edging her way down the street.

Marta grinned. “It must be nice to have a choice about that, Rube. I wasn’t aware that it was possible for a girl like you to have a choice. But then I guess that’s why you don’t hang out with me and my sisters like you used to. So you could have a choice.”

“Oh, please, Marta. Not here.“

“Why? You think those people up the street actually care what we say? That our opinions matter to them? What type of booze have you been drinking?“

“I just wanted to sit on the ground floor for a change,” said Rubia. “I get tired of always having to sit in the balcony whenever I go to the movies.”

Marta frowned. “I get tired of sitting up there, too. How come you didn’t think to invite me to sit with you? Or to invite my sisters and my mom to sit with you? Is there something you’re trying to tell us, Rube?“

“Er, you know why,” Rubia said.

“Yes, I do,” said Marta. Her smile was no longer so beautiful and the nearby street lamp no longer seemed so bright. “I know why. I know exactly why.”

Marta walked off into the darkness.

If only I was a star, Rubia thought, that wouldn’t happen to me. I wouldn’t have to worry about what section of the movie section I had to sit in or what restaurant I could go eat at. Even Marta and her snotty sisters would have to look up to me then. If only.

Rubia walked off in a different direction than Marta, hurrying past the signs that said “No Mexicans allowed” and past the department store where her mother had said a young Mexican woman had been once forced to stand in a store window with a sign around her neck that said “Shoplifter.”

That will never be me, she thought as she remembered that. I do not intend to end up that way. I am an honest person.

And she kept telling herself that all the way home.

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Trailer of the Week: Harold and Maude (1971)

If you have to see one comedy about funerals this week, please make it this one.

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Quote of the Week

I walk beneath your pens, and am not what I
truly am, but what you’d prefer to imagine me.
--Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

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Buscando Trabajo de Nuevo: Parte VIII

And then I dug right down to the bottom of my soul to see how a successful job applicant felt.

Yes, I dug right down to the bottom of my soul and I tried... to melt!

Sigh!

If only it was that simple.

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Hey, I Remember This Show: Designing Women

In honor of the late Dixie Carter.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Movie Song of the Week: “But We Must Rise (The College Song)”

This pre-Code Busby Berkeley number from 1932's The Kid from Spain has absolutely nothing to do with taxes. I sincerely hope you all aren't disappointed to hear that.

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Movie Quote of the Week

This is America. You cannot kill every person just because you get mad at them. You have to have permission first.
--Cheech Marin, Things Are Tough All Over (1982)

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TV Quote of the Week

You know, I was beginning to think all you guys had were tea parties.
--Scott Fults, She-Wolf of London, “The Juggler”

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Songs That Were Stuck in My Head All Weekend

1. "Insomnia" -- Faithless. Apparently, I. Can't. Get. No. Sleep.

2. "Add It Up" -- Violent Femmes. Apparently I like to count.

3. "Taxi" -- Harry Chapin. We might not all be Harrys but more than a few of us have our share of Sues. And oddly enough, one of the unrequited crushes I most regret was on a woman named Susan.

4. "Tainted Love" -- Max Raabe. It's official. We really are reliving the 1930s.

5. "If You Love Me (Let Me Know)" -- Olivia Newton-John. I have no idea how this got on the same list of songs as a Violent Femmes tune. Personally I suspect a certain post by the Flick Filosopher is to blame.

6. "Wuthering Heights" -- The Puppini Sisters. Apparently we are reliving the 1940s as well.

7. "It's a Tuff Life" -- Pat Benatar. For some strange reason, this song has been in my head a lot. It goes away every now and then but whenever I am tempted to start taking myself too seriously, it comes back.

8. "Taxman" -- The Beatles. But of course.

9. "Somebody Told Me" -- The Killers. Someday I will tell you a funny story concerning this song but not today.

10. "Tales of Brave Ulysses" -- Cream. Wait, they're not singing "Latin winter," are they?

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Ugly Betty: “Hello Goodbye”

SPOILER for those who haven't seen it yet.

Oh, cool. Everyone got a happy ending. But then most hardcore fans saw that coming so it was no big surprise.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

She-Wolf of London: “She-Wolf of London”

Once upon a time, a snarky young American girl got together with a stodgy British gent to fight supernatural beasties, all the while cursing the fates which gifted her with an unwanted supernatural power. Sound familiar? Of course, it does. But the show in question is not Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer; it's She-Wolf of London, a short-lived syndicated show which aired briefly in the early 1990s and then vanished. And while it would be nice to imagine that such a show inspired Buffy, I suspect that only Joss Whedon and his lawyers would know if that was really true.

Anyway, I thought it a pity that SWoL never really took off since the two main characters -- Kate Hodge's Randi Wallace and Neil Dickson's Dr. Ian Matheson -- had a lot of chemistry together and I must admit that there were times that I wish the show had not felt compelled to throw in the whole supernatural angle since the personal interactions of Randi and Ian seemed a lot more interesting than any of the show's insights on lycanthropy. Hodge especially had a way of saying her lines in a way which made even the clunkiest line -- and sadly there were many -- seem interesting.

Perhaps the highlight of the first episode was a scene in which Ms. Wallace was alone in a tent on the British moors, typing an essay about the supernatural on her laptop and absorbing the noises of the wilderness around her. Wallace came across as a smart young woman whose writing unfortunately ended way too soon when she was attacked by a wild animal. Later on, she discovered that no wolf in his right mind would have jumped her at the fir -- er -- attacked her in the tent. And when the full moon rose, she found that she was cursed to become the title character of the episode.

She enlisted Matheson's help in finding a cure for the curse but unfortunately, there was no cure to be found in this episode. An attempt to end the curse by severing the bloodline of Wallace's original attacker ended in futility when her assailant died in an accident -- and she stayed cursed. In the last few scenes, Matheson was preparing Ms. Wallace to undergo yet another lupine transformation by chaining her up in the basement of his parents' house, promising her that they would eventually find her a cure. Eventually...

If I had to pick the most obvious drawback to the series -- and the most probable reason it never caught on -- it would be the fact that the show never came up with a convincing reason why the death of Wallace's attacker did not end the curse. Indeed, the show itself suffered from a rather odd paradox -- if you liked the title character, you really did not want her to stay a werewolf, and yet if she ever stopped being a werewolf, the show would end. Of course, other shows -- for example, The Fugitive and The Incredible Hulk -- managed to survive similar no-win premises. But this show did not. Add to that some not quite convincing special effects and the fact that the show was on an obvious low budget and it is a wonder the show lasted as long as it did.

And yet I do not consider it a bad show. I liked the two main characters, I liked the supporting cast and I genuinely enjoyed many lines in the otherwise uneven script. At worst, the show stands out as part of the obvious transition between campy horror shows like the 80s series Tales from the Darkside -- which did not even pretend to resist indulging in the campier side of their subject matter -- and more sophisticated shows like the 90s series The X-Files -- which proved you could write such shows on a more serious level and still get a large audience.

Of course, it is still kinda hard for me to believe that my beloved Buffy Summers would have ever hit the small screen if Miss Randi Wallace had not been there to pave the way. After all, TV executives may show no shame in blocking the way to a petite blonde -- but how many have the cojones to stand up to a female werewolf?

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Modern Family: “My Funky Valentine”

Believe it or not, I actually liked this episode. I'm still not as fond of this series as I am Ugly Betty or The Office but I am starting to warm up to the characters now and appreciate the writers' attempts to breathe new life into old plotlines -- even if it sometimes seems as if their creativity peaked with the idea of using the same fictional documentary approach used in The Office on a family sitcom.

It is nice to see actor Ed O'Neill play a character who is actually supposed to be likable for a change and I like the fact that the writers are starting to depict his Colombian wife more like an actual person and not just some walking ethnic joke. I appreciate the fact that actress Julie Bowen actually gets more airtime -- and sympathy -- on this show than she ever seemed to get on The James Spader Show AKA Boston Legal. I like the interaction between the gay couple on the show. At times it seems a bit over-the-top, but then I could say the same thing about some real-life heterosexual couples I know. Indeed, after some of the real-life dysfunctional families I've witnessed, the sight of a couple who are actually doting on their child seems like a breath of fresh air, even if the doting couple and the child are just fictional.

It would be interesting to see what happens when the show gets older and the children on it -- especially Lily, the adopted Asian child of the gay couple -- start growing up. Indeed, this appears to be one of the few new TV shows I have seen this year which has me looking forward to a second season. Then again, I have not been watching a lot of the newer shows so please feel free to take that for what little it is worth.

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Pop Song of the Week: “Sixteen Tons”

From 1965, a version of a classic country song that virtually begs any red-blooded American to say, “You gotta be kidding me!”

The sad fact is that recent events would seem to indicate that not a whole lot has changed in regard to coal mining since this number was first aired.

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Cuento de Mi Id

“Does the Word Morlock Mean Anything to You?”

September 21. It’s raining again today. I like it when it rains.

Sister Natalie once asked me why I like to see rain, and I told her about how it drowns the ants. She said that it was a bad thing to like things like that. Ants have the same right to live that we do, she told me, and it is not right to wish bad things about them.

I tried to tell her about how the ants came into my old house one time, but she wouldn’t listen. She said the only reason the ants would have come into my old house would have been because they’re hungry, and it’s not right to wish bad things about a living thing just because it’s hungry.

I wish I could make her understand just how icky ants really are, but it’s hard work making the Sisters understand anything.

Sometimes I wish my parents would come back from camp so I wouldn’t have to stay with the Sisters. We could go back to our old house and stay there and live like we used to live before the War. I wouldn’t mind living that way for a while -- even if my house did have ants. I wouldn’t even mind if we had to live in an attic again.

My friend Bobby says the Sisters aren’t really sisters. They just call themselves that because they want to look nice.

I told Bobby I already know that, but he never listens.

He’s always reading stuff the Sisters tell us not to read. Then he tries to tell me about it and get me in trouble.

I don’t know where he finds this stuff because the Sisters are supposed to have thrown all the bad stuff away.

But he does.

He’s always reading these old books full of bad words and pictures of people with no clothes on. He tried to tell me how grown-ups make babies, but I refused to listen because the Sisters say we should not talk about that kind of stuff.

Lately he’s been telling me about this book he read called “The Time Machine.” It’s a book the Sisters specially don’t want us to read because it was written by a bad man and it tells a lot of lies about history and stuff.

Bobby says that’s not so. He says that the guy who wrote it was a good man and that “The Time Machine” was a good book. He says it’s all about the future and how this man from the past goes there in a special machine. In this future, he says, there are no Sisters or camps or houses or anything. Just two tribes -- the Eloi and the Morlocks. The Eloi are the good people. The Morlocks are the bad. The Morlocks are always killing the Eloi, but the man from the past doesn’t like this, and he helps the Eloi defeat the Morlocks.

I told Bobby this was a strange story and I couldn’t understand why the Sisters objected to it.

Because they’re Morlocks, he told me.

I told him he must be joking.

Bobby insisted he wasn’t. The Sisters were Morlocks, he said, and they considered us all Eloi. And in the book, they ate Eloi.

I told Bobby he was just trying to scare me like he did that time he put that spider down my back.

But again he insisted he wasn’t.

I don’t know what to believe.

***********************************************************

September 22. Bobby showed me his “Time Machine” book during recess today. He said it proved the Sisters really were Morlocks.

I told him he was dumb. The Morlocks shown in the book looked nothing like the Sisters. They were all short and squat and ugly and stuff, and the Sisters don’t look anything like that.

Of course, they don’t, said Bobby. The Morlocks had a chance to read the book.

I told him he was stupid, and I threatened to tell Sister Natalie on him.

He asked me not to. He said what he told me was a secret and that I shouldn’t go blabbing about it to the Sisters.

Suppose I’m right, he said. Then we’d both be in big trouble.

I think Bobby’s just trying to scare me again.

***********************************************************

September 23. I asked Sister Natalie what a Morlock was but I didn’t mention Bobby’s name. She got very angry with me. She told me that Morlock was a bad word, and little girls like me should not be using words like that.

“Suppose someone called you a Spic,” she said. “Or your friend Bobby a nigger. Would you like that?”

“I don’t know what those words mean,” I told her.

“Of course you don’t,” she said. “Because me and the other Sisters have taken great pains to stop our students from using bad language like that. The word Morlock is just the same. It’s a bad word that only bad people use, and I don’t want to hear a student of mine using it. Do you understand?”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said.

I was afraid to ask her another question after that.

***********************************************************

September 24. Bobby called me an idiot today after I found out what happened between me and Sister Natalie.

“You dummy,” he said. “Now the Morlocks are going to go after you for sure.”

“Go after me for what?” I said.

“For guessing their true identities, stupid,” Bobby answered.

“So what?” I said. “Morlocks are just make-believe. They don’t exist in real life. And even if they did, your book says they lived in the future.”

“My book was written a long time ago,” said Bobby. “For all we know, this could be the future the writer was talking about.”

“You’re an idiot, Bobby,” I said.

“Look who’s talking,” he said.

I ignored him for the rest of the day.

***********************************************************

September 25. It stopped raining today. Today was the first day all week I could see the sun. But it doesn’t seem the same without Bobby.

I asked Sister Natalie about him and she said he must have run away in the middle of the night. He used to talk to me a lot about running away to camp to join his parents. So I suppose that is where he went.

We finally had fresh meat in the cafeteria today. But it doesn’t seem the same without Bobby there to make yukky comments about it.

My friend Indira thinks I’m being silly. She believes Bobby will come back just as soon as he realizes how rough it is on the outside. But somehow I don’t think so.

Sister Natalie kept urging me to eat during mealtime, but I just couldn’t finish a bite. I wish I could eat as much as her and the other Sisters do, but I’m just not in the mood.

Sister Barbara came by during lunch today and said she understood how I felt. She said that Bobby and I will probably be together quite soon and that I shouldn’t worry. I wonder what she meant by that and why she had that strange look on her face when she said that.

Sometimes I get the feeling that she and the other Sisters know just exactly where Bobby went.

But that would be stupid.

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Trailer of the Week: Roberta (1935)

What can I say? Astaire and Rogers may not be as popular nowadays as Carrell and Fey but I happen to think they're still pretty watchable.

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Hey, I Remember This Show: Charlie's Angels

For some reason, the late John Forsythe sounds so different in Spanish.



Seriously, this opening from the show's pilot is probably closer to what most of you all remember.

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Still Waiting to Be Impressed


I finally broke down and saw the 2003 movie The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen a few years ago. To paraphrase a line from Roxanne:

I heard it was going to be bad, but I didn't expect it to be... bad.

The sad part is that with a little effort and foresight, many of this movie's problems could have been avoided in a way that even a die-hard Alan Moore fan like myself -- who was quite an aficionado of the original Moore comic book series which alleged inspired this movie -- would be won over.

Wanna have a vampiric character go out in the sunlight? Then take a cue from author Chelsea Quinn Yarbro and EXPLAIN why she can be out in the sunlight. Show her wearing earth-filled shoes or mention that it is okay for her to appear on cloudy days or something. As many readers of the original Bram Stoker novel have noted, the whole “sunlight kills vampires” thing is mostly a Hollywood invention anyway.

But hey, if John Sayles can take time in The Howling to have a character explain what works and does not work against werewolves, then why not a similar exposition scene in this movie?

Also, if you are going to set a film's story in Venice, it might be a good idea to actually film in a locale that looks like Venice. And not like, say, Prague... And if you wish to have a car chase -- which would be dubious enough in a movie set in the Victorian era -- it might be a good scene to write your script in such a way that said chase does not take place in Venice.

While I am at it, that last scene in the movie was supposed to be... What? A homage to Fritz Leiber's short story, “The Automatic Pistol”?

Even if I could bring myself to forgive these nitpicks, there is still the fact that the story just does not work. The script takes a handful of fictional characters who were already famous, drafts them into the Victorian equivalent of the Dirty Dozen and yet depicts them as being just so eager to help out their comrades in arms that it seems ridiculous. Okay, maybe not as ridiculous as the sight of a confessed vampire using the mirror in her compact to adjust her makeup -- but still ridiculous.

Granted, it would probably have taken a mini-series to do Alan Moore’s original work proper justice and even then they would probably screw something up...

In the meantime, there is always the original comic book series...

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Friday, April 09, 2010

Penguins Rock!



And apparently so do I, according to this award Jaquandor gave me.

There are no official rules about how to pass it on so I'll choose the following (though I like to believe that everyone on my blogroll who is still posting qualifies):

Bluejay's Way
Recovering Nice Girl
The Flick Filosopher
Violins and Starships

Many thanks to Jaquandor for this honor.

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Thursday, April 08, 2010

Movie Song of the Week: “Hernando's Hideaway”

Wait! They serve chop suey at Hernando's Hideaway? How come I never noticed that before?

And is Carol Haney's character really wearing her hair cut in the same style that my last ex-girlfriend used to prefer? It's definitely strange that I never noticed that before but then the last time I saw this movie was years before I met my ex-girlfriend.

Anyway, this week I post the most famous song from 1957's The Pajama Game. I hope you all enjoy it.

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Movie Quote of the Week

Are we not to find the Vatican guilty?
--Maximilian Schell, Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)

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TV Quote of the Week

With all that's going on in the world these days, who among us hasn't wanted to take an axe to a priest?
--William Shatner, Boston Legal, “Legal Deficits”

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Ugly Betty: “The Past Presents the Future”

Oh no they didn't.

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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

R.I.P. John Forsythe

Actor John Forsythe, best known for his starring role in the TV series Dynasty and his vocal role in the TV series Charlie's Angels, called his last angel last Thursday at age 92. Hopefully, he's still dealing with angels, just on a face-to-face basis. He will be missed.

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Whew!

Well, it took longer than I had expected but I finally got my taxes done today. After waiting until the last day to fill out my census form last week -- which was not intentional but nevertheless what I did -- I feared that I would not be able to put my tax forms in the mail before April 15.

Now it is just a question of waiting until they receive my paperwork in Austin -- and hoping they do not send it back and ask me to start all over again like they did one year.

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Doctor Who (The Second Series): “The Eleventh Hour”

Yes, I know we're all supposed to hate the new guy and that fans my age are supposed to especially hate him because he's so darn young. Plus one could argue that the show hardly needs yet another red-headed companion while visions of my beloved Donna Noble are still echoing in most people's minds.

And yet...

I liked this episode.

I wondered for a bit whether writer Steven Moffat was starting to lose his touch because I actually anticipated some of this episode's plot twists but the episode still managed to be an emotionally satisfying one. And even the new assistant was likable. I must admit the prayer scene in the first five minutes was a nice touch as well. However, I can't help but wonder if the last shot of the episode was supposed to be Moffat's way of telling former show writer Russell T. Davies that he didn't need to use any of his stinking characters any more than he needed any stinking badges. But I'm probably projecting that part. So never mind.

Will the next episode be as watchable?

Time will tell.

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

The Big Bang Theory: “The Adhesive Duck Deficiency”

At long last the show gives us proof that the seemingly asexual Sheldon is not quite as asexual as he seems. Of course, I should be embarrassed to admit I found this out via a rerun but I guess that is still better than waiting for the DVD.

Then again how exactly am I supposed to react to an episode that makes fun of a character for having had sex with his cousin when more than a few relatives in my family had actually married -- and on one occasion that I know of, had children with -- a cousin? Yes, they are aware of the laws of genetics. And most of them chose to marry said cousin after they had conceived all the children they want with a former spouse. And to be fair, not every cousin in my family seeks to marry another cousin.

Then again if it was good enough for Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, who am I to look down on the practice?

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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Random Thoughts

I don't know if I care for the fact that my niece and nephew are more likely to learn in their history books about some foreigner like John Calvin than they are about a real American like Thomas Jefferson.

Let's teach Texas schoolchildren about the Tejanos who fought against Santa Ana because they are part of the history that actually happened, not because we wish to do local Hispanic politicians a favor. After all, some people are going to hate Mexicans no matter what kind of history book they read. So let's stop worrying about those people and concentrate on the truth.

There are many reasons I remain a Catholic but agreement with the Vatican's latest speeches is not one of them.

If I worked for the Vatican right now, I would worry less about The New York Times and more about lightning bolts.

Many of the people who have been most critical of the Vatican's handling of the clerical abuse scandal are Catholic. And it is precisely because they have respect for the odd notion that a Catholic priest should be held to the same moral standard as a Catholic layperson -- if not higher -- that they are so critical. After all, if we cannot expect high morals from a Catholic priest, then what is the point of having Catholic priests?

People may be willing to shrug off any differences they have with the Vatican about birth control, abortion or gay rights but they do tend to take it seriously when it involves the possibility of their children getting hurt. And calling them names is not going to change that.

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Monday, April 05, 2010

Pop Song of the Week: “She Bangs”

Ricky Martin parties with mermaids and sings about the virtues of a female love interest. I'll leave it to you all to decide which is more believable.

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Cuento de Mi Id

“The Ultimate Monster”

I met an old man in the marketplace. He promised to show me the ultimate monster. But all he had to show me was a piece of silvered glass.

I feared he would laugh at me so I beat him to death with my fists and buried him beneath the floor of his own shop.

Much later, it occurred to me that he might have given me a magic mirror. But the only image I ever could see in the glass was my own face.

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Sunday, April 04, 2010

Happy Easter!

I hope all my readers are fortunate enough to have a carefree holiday.

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Saturday, April 03, 2010

Trailer of the Week: Watership Down (1978)

Please don't just sit at home this weekend and hunt for eggs.

Why not go out and see a movie?

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Hey, I Remember This Show: Mission: Impossible

This week it's the opening credits from the TV show which made the late Peter Graves famous. Unfortunately, he does not appear in this sequence but for what it is worth, he is better remembered than poor Steven Hill whose role he would take over in future episodes.

But is he better remembered than Barbara Bain who appears to have the most memorable scene in this particular credit sequence? Aye, there's the rub. And why is Ms. Bain -- who is so blonde and pale-skinned -- playing a character named Cinnamon? Could the actress originally considered for said role been a bit darker? Inquiring minds want to know -- but suspect they will never find out.

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A Girl and Her Dog


Poor Madeline Kahn. Her supporting roles in such films as What’s Up, Doc?, Paper Moon and Blazing Saddles made her one of the most memorable comic actresses of the early 1970s.

Yet when she got a starring role in 1976’s Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood, she had to not only share star billing with a mere dog but also star in one of the worst films of her career. She also shared billing with an ill-cast Bruce Dern, who played aspiring screenwriter Grayson Potchuck, Art Carney, who played lecherous studio head J.J. Fromberg, and Terri Garr, who played her roommate Fluffy Peters. (Ms. Garr, incidentally, gave the best performance in the film apart from Ms. Kahn and the dog.)

Granted, this film was not that bad when Ms. Kahn was on screen. Director Michael Winner did not quite seem sure what to do with her but she still managed to make a good impression even when she was forced to share screen time with the above mentioned dog.

But the film was supposed to be a comedy -- and a lot of the things that happened to Ms. Kahn’s character Estie Del Ruth just were not that funny. For example, at the beginning of the film, Estie, an aspiring actress, was so desperate for work that she was willing to sleep with a stagehand who had passed himself off as a director. And the screenwriters thought this was funny. Towards the middle of the film, she finally had a chance to meet Fromberg, who insisted on greeting her with his pants off. And the screenwriters thought this was funny. And towards the end, poor Estie was so desperate that she attempted to make a living as a prostitute. And the screenwriters -- you know…

If the director had been looking to make a dark comedy in which there was an element of social commentary to be found in the fact that a likable character like Estie kept running into problems, this might be understandable. But I was never quite sure what type of film Winner had in mind. The film was marketed as a spoof with the title character obviously meant to be a humorous take-off on the old Rin Tin Tin character (a fictional German Shepherd who routinely rescued babies and damsels in distress in the films of yesteryear.) Moreover, its trailer attempted to hype up the nostalgic appeal of this flick by boasting of the fact that there were over 70 old-time Hollywood stars in this movie‘s cast. But none of these stars were used in a way that seemed especially memorable and some of them -- such as Edgar Bergen, who was cast as a dog-abusing vaudeville performer, and Joan Blondell, who was cast as a show biz-hungry landlady -- were cast in roles that seemed more sad than entertaining. The film even attempted to mine humor from the imminent death of the title character -- not just once, but several times. Fortunately, however, it never went so far as to kill a dog in order to garner cheap laughs. But I would not be surprised to hear that that possibility was considered during production.

A running gag in the movie had Potchuck continually pitching ideas to Fromberg about a “new” concept for a movie that just happens to be based on a movie already familiar to modern-day audiences -- for example, a shark attacking a New England town, a little girl possessed by the devil, etc. -- only to be shot down. Needless to say, this gag got old fast and was based on an idea that was old even in Edgar Allan Poe’s day. (Poe once wrote a story which attempted to mine humor from the premise of having classic works of literature rejected by one of the editors of his day. Needless to say, it is not one of his more highly regarded tales.)

However, it does make me wonder how exactly the idea for this movie was pitched? Did the producers think that movie audiences would really be interested in a movie that was this lame? We all know from Shakespeare in Love that audiences in the English-speaking world tend to have a special place in their hearts for any bit with a dog. But don’t they draw the line somewhere? Or did the producers of this film believe their potential audience to be so hungry for nostalgia that they would overlook that line? After all, this film was produced after nostalgia-friendly movies like Paper Moon and The Sting had made big money at the box office. Then again it was also produced in the wake of the equally nostalgia-friendly The Great Gatsby -- which was one of the most notorious flops of its day.

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Friday, April 02, 2010

R.I.P. Jaime Escalante

Jaime Escalante, the Bolivian-born schoolteacher who inspired the 1988 movie Stand and Deliver, went to teach in a higher realm Tuesday at age 79.

He will be missed.

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

Movie Song of the Week: “Easter Parade”

From 1942's Holiday Inn, it's that song.



Plus, from 1948's Easter Parade, it's that song again.

I hope you all enjoy both versions.

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Movie Quote of the Week

No, it's just a thaw -- winter isn't over till Easter.
--Kelli Garner, Lars and the Real Girl (2007)

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TV Quote of the Week

I'm making a New Year's resolution to find a job... right after Easter.
--Karyn Parsons, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, “Hilary Gets a Life”

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