Thursday, September 30, 2010

Movie Quote of the Week

A woman's heart is a deep ocean of secrets.
--Gloria Stuart, Titanic (1997)

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TV Quote of the Week

Sometimes the most adult thing you can do is... ask for help when you need it.
--Anthony Stewart Head, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Grave”

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

R.I.P. Arthur Penn

Director Arthur Penn, a man responsible for directing a great many classic movies including the 1962 movie The Miracle Worker and the 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde, shouted "cut!" for the last time Tuesday night at age 88.

He will be missed.

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R.I.P. Gloria Stuart

Actress Gloria Stuart, who appeared in such movies as the 1933 horror film The Invisible Man and the 1935 musical Gold Diggers of 1935 but who is probably best known by modern movie-goers for her role in the 1997 film Titanic, sailed away on her last voyage Sunday night at age 100.

She will be missed.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pop Song of the Week: “Running with the Night”

Sheila E. sitting all alone at a Mexican wedding reception? For some reason, I find that hard to believe. And oh, yes, Lionel Richie is in this video too.

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That's Funny. She Doesn't Look Latina: Parte VII

Linda Ronstadt (1946- ). Popular singer whose father is of Mexican and German descent and whose mother is of German, English and Dutch descent. Her Hispanic ancestry has been fairly obvious ever since she recorded a Spanish-language album back in the 1980s but back in the 1970s, I have no idea that she was a Latina -- and yet back then she was the one singer of Mexican descent to whom I most listened. Was that an odd coincidence or were my genes trying to tell me something? After all, I also listened to a lot of Carly Simon songs back then but I would hardly claim that Ms. Simon was a Latina.

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Movie Song of the Week: “Oh, Me! Oh, My! Oh, You!”

From 1934's Strictly Dynamite, it's Lupe Velez, torch singer. Of course, she's more famous for the Mexican Spitfire movies she would start doing later in the 1930s but that says more about the American movie audiences back then than about her vocal talent.

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Trailer of the Week: My Family (1995)

Well, it's not a movie about my family but it's still a good flick nonetheless, even if it does seem strange to see Jennifer Lopez playing a Latina character and Jimmy Smits not wearing a suit.

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Buscando Trabajo de Nuevo: Parte XX

Well, TEC finally honored my latest unemployment claim this past week and paid me for the last month and half. It is surprising how fast it went -- and yes, most of it went toward either gas or bills but at least I am no longer having to choose between applying for food stamps and hitting the blood bank. Plus a good friend gave me some cash and some spare groceries as a belated birthday gift which was very handy for me. God bless her very much.

Moreover, I may have a job next month. I am keeping my fingers crossed lest I jinx something but there is a strong possibility I might get hired very soon. Of course, I will not be totally sure until I am actually working but in the meantime, it is good to have hope for a change.

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Hey, I Remember This Show: I Love Lucy

Hey, who didn't watch this show growing up? True, most of us are way too young to remember seeing it in prime time but it always seemed to be around in reruns. And I remember being particularly obsessed with it because the Desi Arnaz character reminded me so much of my father. (No, my father wasn't Cuban nor did he sing for a living but otherwise, he had a lot in common personalitywise with Mr. Arnaz.)

Anyway, I suspect poor Desi might never have gotten as many laughs on this show as his co-star Lucille Ball. However, after Arnaz built up Desilu Studios (the studio he started with Ms. Ball) into a major power in the TV business, he undoubtedly laughed all the way to the bank.

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Hey, I Don't Remember This Show: Zorro

I remember hearing about Zorro the TV show growing up but I never watched it. If I did, I would have remembered this rather cool theme song. And it was from Disney too. And starred Guy Williams -- best known to young Tonio Kruger as Professor John Robinson from Lost in Space -- in the title role.

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Movie Quote of the Week

Of course I speak English, also Creole, French, Spanish. I'm a native-born American Indian, not some half-breed immigrant like you all.
--Larry Sellers, Assassination (1987)

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TV Quote of the Week

We all love the sound of our own voices. That's why we're here. Keep our own voices.
--Felicia Day, Dollhouse, “Epitaph One”

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Movie Poster of the Week

What can I say? I'm a sucker for a well-placed accent mark.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Dollhouse: “Epitaph One”

Apparently “Omega” was not the season finale of Dollhouse's first season. This episode was. And what a episode it was, indeed.

Unlike the other episodes, this episode didn't even try to stick to the season-long formula which asked the perpetual question: “Who is Eliza Dushku playing this week?” Instead, it fast-forwarded the action to the year 2019 and introduced a new set of characters who just happened to stumble across the now-abandoned Dollhouse. Through flashbacks, we learned bits and pieces of how the Dollhouse came to be abandoned and through bits of dialogue, we learned how the world as the characters knew it came to be.

Apparently the world had undergone a social meltdown thanks to a technological mindwipe. Only a handful of people called “actuals” (short for “actual-minded people”) survived and the characters we met in this episode were among them. Perpetually fleeing from groups called “butchers,” the group came across the underground dollhouse and the former doll once known as Dr. Claire Saunders. Unfortunately, a killer appeared to be stalking their group and as a non-actual, Dr. Saunders seemed like the most likely suspect. But, of course, one hardly needed to be psychic to guess that things weren't quite that simple.

In any event, this episode seemed like a breath of fresh air. Eliza Dushku did make an appearance in the flashbacks but since the episode didn't revolve around her, her appearance seemed more bearable. A number of philosophical questions were raised that the show did not even attempt to answer but for once, the lack of answers seemed more realistic than annoying.

Prior to this episode, I was a bit pessimistic about Dollhouse's second season because the first season seemed all too often a waste of a good premise. But now I'm a bit more optimistic. While I doubt all upcoming episodes will be good as “Epitaph One,” it would be interesting to see if and how the subsequent episodes deal with the ideas raised there. Of course, there's always the chance that I'll be disappointed. But then there's always the chance that I won't.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pop Song of the Week: “The Glamorous Life”

Sheila E. is on fire. Or at least her apartment house seems to be.

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Room 222: “Richie’s Story”

Five minutes into the episode and we were being introduced to spunky young student teacher Alice Johnson (played by Karen Valentine) who had just been assigned to work with high school history teacher Pete Dixon (played by Lloyd Haynes) at Walt Whitman High School. Six minutes into the episode and Ms. Johnson casually mentioned the fact that she once went to a segregated school whereupon Mr. Dixon replied that he went to one too.

And so we were off with our first reminder that this show, which aspired to be so modern judging from the multiracial crowd of students in the opening credits, was really made a long time ago. Granted, that is not something I am eager to acknowledge about a show that first aired when I was still in elementary school but then when you’re old enough to remember when the idea of a black teacher teaching a predominantly white class seemed like a new concept -- instead of the normal thing it would be nowadays -- it seems silly to pretend otherwise.

Anyway, Ms. Johnson was white and Mr. Dixon was black. Contrary to what you might expect from a liberal show, not much was made of the fact that a black teacher was teaching at a predominantly white high school. Nor of the irony of a black teacher being presented as the more experienced of two teachers at a time when most white schools in my native Detroit would have considered such a teacher a novelty. Indeed, one of the more refreshing things about this show was how much racial issues were dealt with in a subtle manner. On one hand, the show was hip enough to take racial integration for granted. On the other, it was also wise enough to acknowledge that integration was still a recent thing to most of its viewers in the late 1960s without overemphasizing this point.

That said, the show moved on to the issue of the week: an eager young black student named Richie Lane was discovered by school counselor Liz McIntyre (played by Denise Nicholas) to have used a phony address in order to gain admittance to the school. Apparently his old school -- a predominantly black school on the wrong side of the tracks, it was implied -- was not what Ritchie considered an ideal learning environment. And since Dixon once attended the same school, he had no trouble coming to the same conclusion.

Unfortunately, the school’s principal Seymour Kaufman (played by Michael Constantine) was not convinced that Richie did not deserve to be transferred back to his original school. A controversy developed and the principal finally agreed to accept Richie at Whitman High only if he agreed to take a course not offered by his old alma mater. His two choices were calculus (which he does not qualify for) and... Hebrew.

Did I mention the principal’s last name was Kaufman?

As you might guess, the episode ended on a happy note but unfortunately, the question it raised -- what exactly can we do to help students trapped in a bad public school? -- was not one that is easily answered. And it does not help to realize that this same question could have been asked today. For all the progress we have made on racial matters, there are still bad schools in this country, there are still bad schools with predominantly black student bodies and despite the many suggestions that have been floated during the last forty years, there is no clear solution to the problems raised by these facts.

It would be nice to think that someday the questions raised by this episode will be obsolete and that the Richies of the world will not have to worry about changing school systems. However, as of this writing, that has not happened yet.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Movie Song of the Week: “Put the Blame on Mame”

In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, it's everyone's favorite entertainer Margarita Carmen Cansino (aka Rita Hayworth) in a number from 1946's Gilda. Ironically, Ms. Cansino is probably best known today for being the original inspiration for Jessica Rabbit, an animated redhead in the 1988 flick Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, which was inspired by the character Ms. Cansino played in this movie.

(Edited to add: Please ignore what I said about Jessica Rabbit here. I used to think that Ms. Lake's character in that movie was a good candidate for potential inspiring the creation of Ms. Rabbit but apparently the official title goes to Ms. Hayworth.)

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the number. Personally, I preferred Ms. Cansino as a brunette but then they didn't make this movie for me.

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Libros, Libros y Menos Libros

If there is anything more depressing than having to gather up some of your most beloved books to sell at the local used book store, it is how little you usually end up getting for said books.

Okay, I am not one of those people who expects everything he owns to be worth umpteen bucks a piece on eBay but I still find it disappointing when I take in three bags of my favorite reading material and barely get back enough to buy laundry detergent.

I usually get a little more for my CDs and DVDs but only if I bring in a lot -- and am willing to accept the fact that I will never get back in cash anything but a mere fraction of what I paid for it. Not to mention the fact that I do not have a whole lot of CDs and DVDs left to sell.

Oh, well. At least I got something back this week.

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Trailer of the Week: Viva Zapata! (1952)

It was the 100th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution this past week -- which makes it a great shame there are not a whole lot of good American movies about that subject. This is undoubtedly the best of them which I have seen so far.

On the plus side, you have a script by John Steinbeck and direction by Elia Kazan. It won Mexican-born actor Anthony Quinn an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and gave Mexican actress Margo one of the few opportunities she had to play an actual Mexicana for a change. On the minus side, you have Brando in brownface.

Oh, well. At least they tried.

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

House M.D.: “Three Stories”

Some men get Sela Ward. Others get an old cane and a handful of Vicodin.

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Saturday, September 18, 2010

¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Mi Sobrino!

My sister's only son turned 14 this past Thursday but we officially celebrated his birthday today. I hope that his next year is as good -- if not better -- than his last.

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Hey, I Remember This Show: The Feather and Father Gang

In honor of the late Harold Gould, the opening credits from the one TV show he ever starred in. (He appeared on many TV shows like Rhoda and Golden Girls but that was the only show I know of in which he played a starring role.)

That's Stephanie Powers appearing as his daughter in that period of her TV career which lay between the 1966-1967 spy series The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and the 1979-1984 detective series Hart to Hart. The show lasted only one season from 1976 to 1977 but I actually remember watching an episode or two. It was all part of the lovable conpeople trend that was very big on TV in the wake of the 1973 box office hit The Sting. Other TV shows "inspired" by this trend included Paper Moon, Switch and Tenspeed and Brown Shoe.

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Hey, I Don't Remember This Show: Hustle

So this is what actor Robert Vaughn has been doing since playing the lead in the old TV series The Man from U.N.C.L.E. It's not the only thing he has done, of course but it appears to be the latest thing he has done. The show in question is a British show about con men which was apparently good enough to inspire the American rip -- er, version Leverage. So that means it must be worth watching, right?

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Movie Quote of the Week

Forget it, man. Only Mexicans can win that stuff.
--Cuba Gooding Jr., Boyz n the Hood (1991)

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TV Quote of the Week

This morning I woke up and I was the only child of 2 loving Italian parents. Now it's 11:00 pm and I'm a Mexican.
--Eva La Rue, George Lopez, “George Gets Assisterance”

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Buscando Trabajo de Nuevo: Parte XIX

I'm still officially in limbo as far as the job market is concerned. I am still in limbo as far as TEC (the Texas Employment Commission) is concerned too.

I am still looking but I find it increasingly hard not to feel depressed.

I got so far low on cash I actually paid a visit to one of the local blood banks last week to get some extra money. Of course, most such places don't admit to buying blood anymore; they admit to buying plasma. And thanks to the AIDS crisis, they don't miss an opportunity to lecture would-be donors on the symptoms of HIV -- or to discourage any would-be donor who may be looking for a free HIV test.

It seemed like it took forever to donate my blood the first time I went but this week it went quicker. I would rather not go again but I suspect I may have to if I do not find a job this week. I just hope my veins hold out.

Anyway, I gave up my cable and my cell phone last week in order to cut back on expenses. I'm beginning to wish I had done it sooner but then there is a lot of things I wish I had done a long time ago. And regret is not particularly helpful right now.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

R.I.P. Harold Gould

Character actor Harold Gould, best known for playing Kid Twist in the 1973 movie The Sting, "stung" his last mark last Saturday at age 86. He will be missed.

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R.I.P. Kevin McCarthy

Actor Kevin McCarthy, who was most famous for his role in the 1956 science fiction film Invasion of the Body Snatchers, finally stopped running last Saturday at age 96. He was also known for being the brother of the late author Mary McCarthy. He will be missed.

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R.I.P. Glenn Shadix

Character actor Glenn Shadix, best known for playing the Otho character in the 1988 movie Beetlejuice, departed the scene on September 7 at age 58.

He will be missed.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Pop Song of the Week: “Wind Him Up”

Ah, the good old days of the 1980s when people lost obscene amounts of money voluntarily. I guess it's a good thing people don't gamble anymore.

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Monday, September 13, 2010

Movie Song of the Week: “Pick-a-Little / Goodnight Ladies”

All together now! Chaucer! Rabelais! Balzac!

Of course, nowadays, they would have been sure to include the Koran in there somewhere.

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Six Feet Under: “Pilot”

The first time I tried to watch this episode over five years ago, I had to shut it off because I was still grieving over my late father and the last thing I really wanted to watch was anything that reminded me of dead fathers.

After enough time had passed, I was able to watch it and even appreciate it. It's probably best known to today's viewers as the show that first introduced actor Michael C. Hall, best known today for playing the title character in Dexter. In this series, Hall played a closeted gay mortician named David Fisher.

When his father dies in a traffic accident, Fisher is forced to take over running the family business: a funeral home. His irresponsible brother Nathaniel supposedly comes home to help out but is not all that useful. Meanwhile, his sister Claire is struggling with the fact that she was high on crystal meth when she first got the news of her father's death and his mother is feeling guilty over her infidelity to her late husband.

So...good times.

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Weeds: “The Brick Dance”

Yet another episode about Latino drug dealers. Only these guys are a bit more ominous -- and believable -- than the wimp who threatened our Heroine in the first season.

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Weeds: “A Pool and His Money”

And the cliffhangers continue.

When we last left our Fair Heroine, she just found out that her best friend had found the marijuana she had frantically trying to locate it -- and kindly deposited in Our Fair Heroine’s swimming pool.

Plus we get yet another take on the writer’s twisted view of sociology. In their worldview, only white people live in the suburbs, only brown people work as their servants and black people of course all live in the ghetto. How enlightened!

But on the plus side we get to see actress Mary-Louise Wilson strip to her underwear and dive into the family swimming pool. Because, after all, why not?

Okay, to be fair, there's something about Wilson's character's need to scream out loud -- even if it only takes place underwater -- that seems a lot more familiar than I would ordinarily like to admit. Perhaps it is because you do not necessarily need to be a drug dealer or a drug user to want to scream underwater in this current economic climate. And you do not even need to have a pool.

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Trailer of the Week: Massacre at Central High (1976)

Ah, the good old days of the 1970s. What a calm, peaceful era it was -- especially for teenagers.

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Hey, I Remember This Show: Room 222

Wow! Public schools had racial diversity back in the 1970s? Who knew?

Seriously, I grew up with this show but I never made it through an entire episode. Actor Michael Constantine -- who played the principal--is probably more famous to today's TV viewers for his role as the Greek patriarch in My Big Fat Greek Wedding than for his role on this show. I wish I knew what happened to the rest of the cast -- especially cute adorable Karen Valentine -- but I do not.

By the way, I found it interesting to hear people on YouTube comment on how the opening of this show seemed so hopeful and carefree in its view of the younger generation compared to the way young people are viewed today. To listen to such people talk, one would never guess that this show aired during a time when war crimes, political scandals, and environmental disasters were routinely featured on the evening news and adults in real life frequently badmouthed those damn teenagers and college students. It would be interesting to tune in forty years from now and see what people using the most popular media of the day think about our "carefree" times.

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Hey, I Don't Remember This Show: Our Miss Brooks

I have always liked actress Eve Arden but I had no idea that the opening of her TV show was so similar to the old comic strip Miss Peach. Who knew?

And, of course, like many shows of the 1950s, it, too, was based on a popular radio show -- both of which were way before my time.

Of course, the above opening was used in the 1955-1956 season. The show also had a more conventional opening that was used in earlier seasons but I did not think it would have been much fun to just show that.

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

September Is the Cruelest Month

I'm sure I'm not the first one who has said that but since I'm not a New Yorker and lost no loved ones on 9/11, I have little to say apart from that.

As always, my condolences to those who lost loved ones on this date.

Those who have exploited this tragedy for political gain should be ashamed.

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Thursday, September 09, 2010

Movie Quote of the Week

Uh, Arthur, you’re missing the point. We are the Arabs.
--Marlon Brando, The Formula (1980)

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TV Quote of the Week

It’s the thing I’m most afraid of. That the world will just go on without me and everyone will forget I was here.
--Sarah Lafleur, Ugly Betty, “Curveball”

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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Pop Song of the Week: “Take Me Home Tonight”

There was a Spector haunting MTV back in the 1980s -- Ronnie Spector. And oh yes, Eddie Money was around too.

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Song Quote of the Week

There's a protest singer singing a protest song -- he says,
“They wanna have a war to keep us on our knees,
They wanna have a war to keep their factories,
They wanna have a war to stop us buying Japanese,
They wanna have a war to stop Industrial Disease,
They're pointing out the enemy to keep you deaf and blind,
They wanna sap your energy, incarcerate your mind,
They give you Rule Britannia, gassy beer, page three,
Two weeks in España and Sunday striptease.”
--Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits, “Industrial Disease”

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In Vino Mentiras

You know the best way to appreciate the 2001 flick Crazy/Beautiful?

Don't know any alcoholics.

For that matter, you'd probably be better able to appreciate it if you don't know anyone who is related to an alcoholic.

For some reason, real-life experiences tend to take all the fun out of this movie. After all, once you've spent hours listening to a female friend talk about how her mother was always passed out when said friend was growing up, this movie's constant pleas for sympathy on behalf of the alcoholic female lead (played by Kirsten Dunst) just don't seem that entertaining.

It's not that Ms. Dunst isn't cute or that her boyfriend (played by Jay Hernandez) isn't sympathetic.

But it's hard to praise a movie, no matter how well-made, whose conclusion contradicts the lessons of real life. I don't expect every movie to be super-realistic and I realize that escapism is often the chief appeal of most movies. But some forms of escapism are more acceptable than others and when said escapism implies that one can get an alcoholic to reform by simply loving them enough, it's hard not to find said escapism to be an obscenity.

After all, the world is full of people who would like to see their alcoholic kin reformed and to imply that these people rarely get their wishes because they lack affection for the kin in question is just shameless. I like to think there's a special place in Hell reserved for the type of people who would promote such a belief. The screenwriter and director of this movie should pray they don't end up there.

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Monday, September 06, 2010

Movie Song of the Week: “Steam Heat”

C'mon, union. Get hot!

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Random Thoughts

You can always tell it's Labor Day in America because most of the managers will have the day off and most of the working stiffs have to work.

The more urgently you need to get somewhere, the more likely you are to encounter a traffic jam.

The more urgently you need to look something up on the Internet, the more likely you are to get one of those annoying hourglass icons.

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Sunday, September 05, 2010

Trailer of the Week: Norma Rae (1979)

It's Labor Day tomorrow. Why not watch something appropriate?

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Friday, September 03, 2010

Hey, I Remember This Show: The Paper Chase

One of the most popular unwatched TV shows of my generation, The Paper Chase routinely received accolades from critics and snubs from TV viewers when it aired on prime-time TV in the late 1970s and again on cable in the early 1980s. I remember being a regular viewer but then I was in the minority. And it is depressing to note how many members of this show's cast -- apart from director-turned-actor John Houseman -- have since vanished into obscurity. (Okay, Jan Kaczmarek of future Malcolm in the Middle fame was on for one season but apparently her character was not important enough to appear in these credits.)

On a brighter note, I cannot help but wonder how Houseman's Professor Kingsfield would have dealt with the more eccentric lawyers of Boston Legal. Something tells me he would not have put with any such nonsense if he had the opportunity to run a courtroom.

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Hey, I Don't Remember This Show: The Halls of Ivy

Apparently Ronald Coleman had a TV show too. One which received an endorsement from former presidential candidate Adlai E. Stevenson. A person on IMDB speculated that the show would have lasted longer than one season had Stevenson managed to make it to the White House but alas, we'll never know.

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Movie Quote of the Week

Business is business. You use a gun, I use a fountain pen. What's the difference?
--Hart Bochner, Die Hard (1988)

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TV Quote of the Week

I find it more comforting to believe that all this isn’t simply a test.
--Hugh Laurie, House M.D., “Three Stories”

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Weeds: “Doing the Backstroke”

And the cliffhangers just keep on coming.

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Thursday, September 02, 2010

Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Two and a Half Men: “I Called Him Magoo”

Remember that really creepy scene in Memento in which the lead character hired a blonde hooker to come to his motel room and pretend to be his late wife?

Now imagine that very same scene appearing in a prime-time TV show -- and then imagine it being played for laughs. Only the hooker in question is not a Caucasian blonde but an Asian brunette. And she is not imitating Charlie Sheen's dead wife but rather his still living ex-girlfriend. So of course, it is a lot less creepier...

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Weeds: “Pittsburgh”

Every time I am tempted to give up on this show and its rather questionable ethnic politics, it manages to come up with one of those amazing cliffhangers that make it almost impossible to resist watching the next episode. And this particular episode -- which has one of the best cliffhangers I have seen on any TV show thus far -- was at the end of the second season -- a season I did not have high -- no pun intended -- hopes for.

I dare not spoil the fun by discussing it in detail. Suffice it to say that the first time I saw it, I screamed bloody murder when I realized that I would have to wait months to see what happened next. Okay, I did not literally scream but I felt like it.

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