Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Ugly Betty: “Plus None”
Betty Suarez is a Billy Idol fan? Who knew?
Anyway, America Ferrera looks so cute dancing in that last scene that it doesn't really matter how plausible her character's taste in music is.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Uneven historical satire concerning a fictional British nobleman named Edmund Blackadder and his various descendants. When it is off, it is merely mediocre, but when it is on, it's one of the funniest shows on British TV. So I guess it is a good thing it is so often on.
Today it is best known for being the show on which actor Hugh Laurie first got his start. Unfortunately for Laurie fans, he does not appear on it until the last episode of the second season. But he is worth waiting for. And Rowan Atkinson -- who plays the title character -- is pretty funny too. Miranda Richardson and Stephen Fry also make notable appearances but unfortunately, said appearances are rare after the second season.
2. Fawlty Towers.
John Cleese dabbles with the sitcom format and creates a show that produced more laughs in a handful of episodes than most American comedy shows ever produce. One of the few shows which I can forgive for using a stereotypical Hispanic servant since most of the laughs that occur in the show are at the expense of his employer.
3. Nighty Night.
There is undoubtedly a great TV show to be made about the banality of evil and the willingness of good folk to tolerate even the most outrageous behavior but this is not it. Indeed, the first time I saw this on DVD, it was all I could do after the first few episodes to resist pushing the fast-forward button.
The funny thing is that prior to seeing this, I actually looked forward to a British comedy show in which the most villainous character was female. Now I know better. Perhaps evil tends to be most entertaining when there is a chance it might be thwarted. Showing it triumph over and over can get surprisingly boring -- and that is without getting into the moral aspect of whether one would wish to see such a character get away with it on a regular basis. At least on other British shows, there is always a chance that the villain will be thwarted at the last moment.
My relatives in Detroit still remember my childhood fascination with dinosaurs and this is the one show I have seen thus far that has come closest to satisfying that fascination. Unfortunately, the show is a bit formulaic after the first episode and the last season ended on a cliffhanger. Plus the show spends way too much time on conspiracy theories and not enough on the prehistoric beasties which are the main reason most viewers tune in. The second season is the best but unfortunately, it will not make much sense unless you watch the first. And I cannot resist giving a special shout-out to actor Ben Miller, who not only has some of the best lines in the series but also does a damn fine job of playing a poor man's Alan Rickman.
5. William and Mary.
A dramedy (part drama, part comedy) about a romance between a middle-aged undertaker and a young midwife. Both have children and both have complicated occupations. The premise sounds like the setup for a very, very awful sitcom but fortunately, the writers did not go that route. Instead we get a stern dose of the type of liberal humanism that we rarely seem to get in an age dominated by the likes of Survivor and Two and a Half Men. The writers love their characters and it shows. Plus the characters appear to develop organically. Even the most outlandish events come across as real to an extent I wish most reality shows could pull off.
It is tempting to compare this show to Six Feet Under but that would be unfair. The show does not emphasize black humor to the same extent as SFU and it does not dwell on the dysfunctional for the sake of dwelling on the dysfunctional. It is probably not for everybody but I liked it more than certain recent movies which also dealt with funerals. If you are tired of shows which blatantly disrespect both their characters and their audience, I suspect you would like it too.
6. Yes Minister.
One of my all-time favorite political satires. Every time I think it is no longer relevant to modern-day politics, I stumble across yet another news story that proves I am being overly optimistic.
7. Yes, Prime Minster.
Another of of my all-time favorite political satires and an obvious sequel to Yes Minister. It is not as inspired as that show but it has its moments.
Labels: Ben Miller, Comedias Británicas, Hugh Laurie, Invasores Primitivos, John Cleese, Rowan Atkinson, Series de Televisión Británicas I, Sí Ministro, Stephen Fry, Todas las Series de Televisión Que He Visto I
Monday, March 29, 2010
This is not my favorite song by the Waitresses but it's lead singer Patty Donahue's birthday today so it only seems right to play something. She would have been 54. And yes, there is a dark irony in the first few seconds of this video which probably was not intended.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Friday, March 26, 2010
Thursday, March 25, 2010
It took me a while but I finally found the ideal movie song for the first full week of spring -- and it's by Johann Strauss II. From 1941's Never Give a Sucker an Even Break, it is the oddest variation on this song that you are likely to find outside of the work of a certain comic trio. A more serious version can be found here.
Sing it again, Gloria Jean.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Suppose you got the chance to live your life all over again at a certain age with all the memories of your old life still intact. What would you do? What would you change?
Suppose you found out that your new life only lasted until you reached the same age that you were the first time that you died.
Now what would you do?
Now suppose your new life ended and you started over yet again. And you suspected that you were destined to die at the same age as last time -- no matter what you did.
Now what would you do?
Such is the premise of Ken Grimwood's Replay, a 1987 science fiction novel which is too good to be confined to sci-fi buffs. It won the 1988 World Fantasy World and I could tell why. It takes a much used sci-fi premise -- the time loop -- and makes something genuinely memorable out of it. It is tempting to share more plot details but I suspect I have already written enough plot spoilers for this book as it is. Suffice it to say that the ending seemed really obvious in retrospect yet it did not while I was actually reading the book.
Unfortunately, Grimwood died in 2003 while writing a sequel to it. Not that this book needs a sequel but it would have been nice to see what Grimwood came up with.
I just love how it seems like even the most humble employer refuses to take anything but online applications nowadays. Okay, there is one employer that still accepts them but I am almost afraid to submit an application to that one.
For that matter, I find it somewhat depressing how often you can work on an online application for more than twenty minutes and either get hung up on a last-minute glitch or else submit it in a way that seems successful -- but which produces no response via e-mail whatsoever.
Oh, well. At a time in which the biggest job opportunities seem to lie in debt collection and security work, I would like to think that there are still some things that I have too much of a conscience to consider.
And should I update my word processing system? Now is hardly the ideal time for me to be investing in new software but I recently sent a file to an online acquaintance who could not read it so I have to wonder if other people I have sent files to have had similar problems. I guess I will have to test my system with people I can be certain of getting a response from. Then again the acquaintance to which I sent that file uses a Mac and I use a PC so it just may be another part of that unending conflict between Macs and PCs. I am just so glad that modern technology is coming up with yet new ways to separate us even as it tries to bring us together.
Monday, March 22, 2010
“Mariana: Warrior Film Critic”
(Not to be confused with a certain female blogger whose persona seems to share certain physical attributes with this story's title character. Funny how stuff like that happens.)
It was a red-letter day and she was a red-headed woman, making her way through the snowy streets of Nuevayor in hopes of catching the eight o’clock show for the new art flick Marlowe in Love.
Up ahead she saw a billboard for the new Gaderan Schwein epic. It seemed like the same old militaristic flagboy fantasy film she had been seeing advertised hourly since the start of the Djinnistani War. Maybe not as bad as Yankee Doodle Baby Daddy or My Country, Right! but definitely close to that territory. It was called The Crusader, a take-off, no doubt, on the old Raymond A. Harold character Harridan Bourne. Judging from the billboard, it was all about a religiously motivated vigilante dressed in black who was all eager to fight for truth, justice and the American Way. Though the character was supposed to be a dedicated Christian with a cross around his neck that would be the envy of most Papists, he also managed to sport a hot babe on his arm, lest someone question his heterosexuality.
Don’t ask, don’t tell, she thought.
And then, all of a sudden, she stopped.
Between her and the movie theatre, three shadowy figures were waiting. Even though the street lights were shining fully upon them, she could not see their faces. Nor was she sure that she wanted to.
Draculaters, she thought. Worshippers of the vampiric self-proclaimed deity Vlad Christofor Tepes or as his followers preferred to call him, the Vampire Christ. Normally such people made a point of sparing any Nuevayorer who wore any ornament resembling the letter “T”. But unfortunately, Mariana rarely wore any such ornaments. Indeed, since the end of the Belief Wars of the 1990s, she rarely wore any ornaments at all. Indeed, every summer it was only mere modesty -- and the lack of sufficient sunblock -- that prevented her from violating the local nudity taboos.
The Draculaters were turning in her direction, their dark faces showing their canines as they looked upon her. They had had it in for her ever since she panned the movie Red Dusk which had been produced by a major sponsor of the local Church of the Vampire Christ. Not only had she given the movie a bad review but she questioned the sanity of a so-called religious person who poured millions into the production of a mediocre pot-boiler while doing nothing to help the local homeless. Not that the Draculaters lacked dealings with the poor but there were rarely the type of dealings in which anyone save the most desperate would care to participate.
But wait! They were coming her way.
And her movie started in ten minutes. She looked for an alternative route to the ticket counter but judging from the way the Draculaters were spreading out, there was none. She would have to fight her way through.
She opened up her massive Guess purse and pulled out her mace, her taser and her pepper spray. Just for fun, she also pulled out a jar of garlic powder. After all, she once had been a Girl Scout.
The Draculaters came closer. They started to surround her.
“You wouldn’t dare,” she said.
They smiled. The theatre security guard showed no signs of acknowledging their existence and there was no way the local cops would show up in time to prevent anything even if they wanted to.
They closed in.
She smiled. Beckoned them to come closer.
Then hit them with the mace and the pepper spray.
While the Draculaters pawed at their eyes, she spread out the garlic powder on the sidewalk around her. One of the fiends dared to cross it, only to collapse when his garlic allergy kicked in. As his companions hastily checked their pockets to see which of them carried an epi-pen, Mariana boldly walked up to the ticket counter and bought one ticket for Marlowe in Love.
“Isn’t that that movie about the English pervert?” said the ticket seller, smacking her gum so loudly it could be heard halfway across the Rio Hudson.
“No,” said Mariana. “It’s about a great playwright.”
“I heard it was about perverts.”
“Well, you heard wrong,” she said. And ignored the great big silver “T” that the ticket seller wore around her neck.
The movie was great. But it was way too short.
By the time she got out, the Draculaters were gone and she had just enough time to hit the subway for a ten-thirty train. With luck, she would get home in time to write a quick review and post it on the web before she had to go rest up for her day job.
She should have brought her laptop but she really did not like bringing it out in this weather. Besides, with the trouble she got into, it was usually a good idea to keep her hands as free as possible.
As she entered the subway, she was still congratulating herself on not having had to use her taser when she noticed the sound of footsteps echoing behind her.
She looked behind her.
A white-clad woman with snowlike skin and coal-black hair was following her. She noticed Mariana looking and smiled. It was not a pleasant expression.
“You saw the new Kit Marlowe movie at the Alhambra, right?” she said in a brisk yet unrecognizable accent.
“It was a horrible movie, wasn’t it?”
“No,” said Mariana. “Actually I liked it.”
“No, it was horrible. The writers of today -- they just don’t understand.”
“Understand what?” said Mariana, trying to edge her way toward the turnstile.
“How hard it is to raise a kid with filth like that being shown.”
“Actually, I found it to be a beautiful movie. And I’m not sure why you’re bringing kids into this. Not every movie has to be made for kids, you know.”
Mariana backed away and went through the turnstile.
She was just about to board her train when she suddenly felt someone grab her in a bear-hug and steer her toward the front of the train.
She tried to fight her way free but whoever was holding her was just too strong. She tried to scream but someone just covered her mouth. And no one was paying attention, anyway.
Save for a trio of Draculaters who were coming closer to her...
“No,” she thought. And with that thought, she kicked the nearest would-be assailant in his generative organs and bit the hand that covered her mouth.
She heard a woman scream from behind her. It sounded like the Woman in White. She felt a strong force drive her off the subway platform and onto the tracks in front of the nearest train. And the train was preparing to depart.
She started to get up. But two Draculaters leaped down to hold her in place. She whipped out her taser and used it on one. The other stumbled out of her way and onto the third rail. Two down, one really down.
She climbed back onto the subway platform as the train started to move. She heard a scream from behind. And a scream from in front as the Woman in White muttered something about the Curse of Lesbos and how all those people stick together.
Mariana did not bother recharging the taser. She was not a short woman and she normally towered over most of her would-be adversaries. But the Woman in White was half a head taller than her and she was holding her clenched fists as if she had been a professional fighter.
A lesser woman would have given up then and reconciled herself to a beating. But then Mariana thought of her cousin Anton who had succumbed to the SIDA demon five years ago and how little help he had received from doctors because of people like the Woman in White. Then she clenched her own fists. The rest was easy.
Her roommate Bonita was waiting up for her when she got home.
“I swear, girl,” she said. “It seems like it takes longer and longer for you to see those silly art flicks of yours. Please don’t tell me you were woolgathering again?”
“That’s right,” said Mariana. “I was woolgathering. Silly me.”
And with that, she collapsed upon her bed.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Yes, this flick was directed by the same Don Siegel who later made Dirty Harry and Escape from Alcatraz with you-know-who. I'm not particularly surprised to see Steve McQueen and Fess Parker in the cast but Bobby Darin? And Bob Newhart?
Saturday, March 20, 2010
You can tell it's the first day of spring here in Dallas because it's so cold outside.
All week we've had temperatures in the 50s, 60s and even 70s. Then along comes the vernal equinox and suddenly we have temperatures in the early 30s and white flakes coming down from the sky that look suspiciously like snow.
It's enough to make me nostalgic for Detroit. At least up there the seasons don't act up so much.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Do you know what I think, standing here right this minute looking out at the city? I think that the warmth of the sun feels wonderful and that the air is as fresh as a new young wine and that the city has never seemed more sparkling or prosperous and that this is the most beautiful spring day in at least half a million years. And the last thing that’s going to cross my mind is that the weather may not hold or that great empires always crumble and are forgotten. But perhaps you and I are different, Thimiroi.
--Christine in Robert Silverberg’s “In Another Country”
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Okay, Ms. Lesley Hazleton's book England, Bloody England: An Expatriate's Return was published in 1988 so it might seem a bit dated to some nowadays. And I suspect that if I ever did visit England, I would be pleased if I found out that the country was not quite as bad as when Ms. Hazleton wrote about it.
I found it to be a refreshing change of pace from the usual Anglocentric travelogue that has nothing but unadorned praise for all things British. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but all too often, it seems as if such praise is inevitably followed by utter contempt by all things not British.
Then again, when you grow up among people who often had to pay a bitter price for not being of English descent, you tend to be a bit biased about this sort of thing.
Anyway, I like to think the book is well worth reading even if you don't agree with me.
The 4400: “Wake-Up Call”
Actor Jeffrey Combs is famous for playing geeky characters who may or may not be scientists. Actress Summer Glau is best known for playing mysterious waif-like women who have secret abilities.
So guess what type of characters they play on this episode.
The 4400: “White Light”
Agent Warren Lytell from the previous episode kidnapped Kyle but Baldwin and Skouris kidnapped him back with help with Theory Room geek Marco, a NTAC employee who was obviously smitten with Skouris.
Kyle persuaded Baldwin to take him back to the beach where he and Shawn were when Shawn was abducted. A white light came down and seized Kyle. In an effort to free his son, Baldwin entered the white light and saw -- ah, but that would be telling.
Meanwhile, Sam and Lily finally got sick of their would-be benefactor's controlling ways and tried to leave Jordan Collier's 4400 command. Unfortunately, they had to force their way out but not before Collier inadvertently touched Lily's stomach and received what appeared to be a revelation from Lily's unborn child.
In other news, Shawn fought with his brother over Nikki and turned to Collier for sanctuary.
Six months later, Lily's baby was due and Sam drove her to the hospital. But not before the TV audience got just one more hint that this baby was going to be extraordinary...
Thus endeth the first season.
The 4400: “Trial by Fire”
Oh, no. Someone leaked a list detailing the names and addresses of the 4400 returnees and made it available to the general public. An unscrupulous newswoman who regularly encourages distrust of the 4400 was suspected of leaking the list but that's not the real problem.
The real problem was that someone was using the list to strike back at the 4400 with homemade bombs. The first targets were Lily Moore and Sam Tyler, who came home one day and found out that the front door of their apartment had been booby-trapped.
In desperation, they turned to millionaire returnee Jordan Collier, who is building a new compound especially intended to provide sanctuary for the surviving members of the 4400. Collier gave them a place to live and Sam a job as his new security chief. He even provided Lily with free medical care. But there turned out to be strings attached to Collier's generosity and the man definitely had cards he wasn't showing.
Meanwhile, Kyle woke up from his coma and returned to his mother's house, only to find himself increasingly alienated from his new surroundings. Neither his mother nor his father could figure out what was wrong with him but something definitely was out of sync. Could Kyle be having an identity crisis?
Shawn found himself increasingly attracted to Nikki and eventually acted on said attraction. Will this cause problems between him and his younger brother? Obviously, but not as great as the problems his cousin Kyle was having.
In other news, a stranger from Homeland Security named Warren Lytell (played by Mark Valley of Keen Eddie fame) showed up at NTAC headquarters to “help out” Dennis Ryland. But Ryland suspected he was up to something. Apparently D.C. wasn't too happy with the way Ryland was handling the 4400 case and sent Lytell to help sort things out.
Meanwhile, Baldwin and Skouris traced the bombs to some relatives of one of the previous episode's murder victims. Could they stop the mad bombers before they struck again?
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
The 4400: “Becoming”
Oh, no! One of the 4400 turned out to be a suspected serial killer who seemed to be taking up where he left off after being abducted. You just know that any show involving federal agents is going to mention serial killers sooner or later.
But wait! There's more.
Somebody else confessed to the crimes the suspected serial killer supposedly committed.
Two people confessed to the crimes the suspected serial killer supposedly committed. And one of them was only a kid when the first murders took place.
It looks like a job for Mulder and Skul--er--Baldwin and Skouris.
In other news, richer-than-heck hotel magnate Jordan Collier publicly admitted himself to be a member of the 4400. And it appeared that he had some plans in mind for his fellow returnees.
Will his plans eventually involve Baldwin and Skouris? What do you think?
Monday, March 15, 2010
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Saturday, March 13, 2010
The 4400: “The New and Improved Carl Morrissey”
Oh, cool. We actually got a series theme on this episode. Granted, the theme sounded a little like a cross between a certain West Side Story song and Garbage's “# 1 Crush.” But apart from that...
If anything stinks worse than being abducted by some mysterious entity and kept away from your loved ones for years on end, it is being brought back and finding out that things have gotten worse in your absence.
In the case of 4400 returnee Carl Morrissey, what had gotten worse was the neighborhood that he and his wife Gracie live in. The local park was being been overrun by muggers and graffiti artists and the old job that he loved had him being bullied by a supermarket manager who had it in for him.
Then Carl found out he had superhuman reflexes. He started to literally clean up the local park, halted an assault in progress and ended up making the local papers. He even managed to make the bullying supermarket manager back down. Tom and Diane from the previous episode came to investigate him but by then, Carl had convinced himself that he is on a mission from -- well -- whatever entity gave him his powers. So he went back to the park for yet another time...
Meanwhile, former Korean War Navy pilot Sam Tyler had gotten together with fellow returnee Lily Moore. Lily was the granddaughter of a former girlfriend of Sam's -- a white woman whose photograph had gotten Sam in trouble with his white colleagues. She still looked like her grandmother did when Sam knew her in the days prior to his abduction. Needless to say, Sam was not her actual grandfather. But had he not been abducted, he was close enough to Lily's grandmother that he could have been.
Anyway, Lily was also pregnant with a baby that she had no knowledge of conceiving, an infant whom -- as long as she knows -- belonged neither to Sam nor her ex-husband. And speaking of her ex-husband, Lily found out the hard way that the restraining order he took out in the last episode was still in effect when she tries to go to his house and secretly spy on Heidi -- the daughter she had with her ex-husband prior to her abduction. Her ex had since remarried and it was only due to Sam's intervention that he got persuaded to drop the charges against Lily.
In other news, Diana continued to bond with Maia Rutledge the psychic girl and eventually adopted her. Tom suspected his nephew Shawn had magical healing abilities and that he used them on his son Kyle. But he could not prove anything. Shawn found out that his brother's girlfriend Nikki had a crush on him and in the process of trying to discourage her, he accidentally gave away the fact that he can heal things.
Tom's current boss Dennis Ryland (played by Peter Coyote*) had a conversation with him convincing him to sign the papers making Tom's divorce final. Then something happened to Kyle in the hospital and Tom started wondering again if maybe -- just maybe -- something Shawn did was responsible.
Say goodnight, Gracie.
* Yes, the same Peter Coyote who played a pivotal part in E.T..
Friday, March 12, 2010
Thursday, March 11, 2010
You see, Hopsy. You don’t know very much about girls. The good ones probably aren’t as good as you think they are, and the bad ones aren’t as bad... not nearly as bad.
--Barbara Stanwyck, The Lady Eve (1941)
Tuesday, March 09, 2010
The 4400: “Pilot”
A friend of mine got me committed to watching this show on DVD because her daughter is obsessed with one of the show's female characters.
So far I have found it far more interesting than I expected a syndicated science-fiction series to be. The scripts are not always as imaginative as I would have liked and there are times when the characters seem to be avoiding an obvious course of action more because the script says so than because it makes sense for that particular character to do that particular thing. Then again it resisted turning two of the lead characters (both federal agents, natch) into Mulder and Scully Redux so I'd like to think that there is more to this series than I originally gave it credit for.
I have gotten so used to rolling my eyes at what passes for sci-fi on the small screen that it's nice to be surprised by a series for a change. And it doesn't hurt that sci-fi icon Summer Glau and geek deity Jeffrey Combs make an appearance in a later season. But, alas, I give away too much already.
Anyway, the show revolved around 4,400 people -- hence the title -- who were abducted by some mysterious entity during various times in the last century and who then get returned just as mysteriously in one mass event. The government created an organization called NTAC to deal with the returnees and discovered that at least one of them has been gifted with some odd superhuman power. Unfortunately, he was not the only one but you probably guessed that already.
One NTAC agent, Diana Skouris, ended up bonding with a little girl named Maia Rutledge whose parents had died since she was abducted. She discovered the little girl had the power to predict the future.
Another NTAC agent, Tom Baldwin, had to deal with the fact that his nephew Shawn was part of the 4400. Moreover, his son Kyle had been in a coma since the night of Shawn's abduction -- and the two incidents might not be unrelated.
Thus, two lead characters had a vested interest in seeing how things work out for the 4400. Funny how things worked out that way.
Monday, March 08, 2010
This week it's the New Order song that had the uncanny ability to make almost every woman in my Catholic Singles group leave the dance floor the minute they heard the first note. On the plus side, some of my former co-workers liked it well enough.
I hope you all enjoy it while it's available.
Sunday, March 07, 2010
For my sister, who was a big fan of Shaun Cassidy back in the day. And for her daughter.
Labels: Los Hermanos Hardy, Los Misterios de Nancy Drew y los Hermanos Hardy, Nancy Drew, Oye Recuerdo Este Programa, Pamela Sue Martin, Parker Stevenson, Series de Televisión de Crímenes, Shaun Cassidy
Saturday, March 06, 2010
Thursday, March 04, 2010
From 1969's Sweet Charity, it's the one song the late Sammy Davis, Jr., was born to sing. Or at least it's impossible to imagine this song without him.
For that matter, there are also some less than subtle attempts at social commentary in this number though by today's standards, this seems almost Shakespearean.
I hope you all enjoy it.
You know, if we don’t have strong leadership in this state, it’s gonna collapse on itself.
--Maury Chaykin, What’s Cooking? (2000)
Oh, those wacky Latinos and their crazy funeral traditions involving respect for the dead. Don't they realize that the true purpose of funerals is for therapy and that any other consideration is just plain silly and old-fashioned? At least that is the way some British and Anglo-Americans see it. And are not their viewpoints the only viewpoints that are really worth taking seriously?
At least that is the impression I got from two movies I saw recently: 2004's Eulogy and 2007's Death at a Funeral. Both were critically acclaimed comedies that were supposedly to be great -- and both were at best just okay.
Of the two, I liked Eulogy best. Granted, a lot of that was because of actress Zooey Deschanel who has the ability to make even the most modest movie she is in seem more entertaining than it should. But she also has a good cast to back her up. Hank Azaria plays her father Daniel, Piper Laurie plays her grandmother Charlotte, Debra Winger and Kelly Preston play her aunts Alice and Lucy and Glenne Headly plays a wacky nurse named Samantha. Former TV star Ray Romano is also in it as Uncle Skip but the less said about him, the better.
Toward the beginning of the film, Ms. Deschanel's character, Kate Collins, is informed that her grandfather has passed away. Her grandmother assigns her to write an eulogy but Kate does not quite know what to say. She tries to quiz her father, her uncle and her two aunts about the man who was their father but what she gets is of little if any help. Even the local pastor does not seem to know the deceased that well. As you might guess, there proves to be a reason for that.
The movie generally tries to get humor out of a number of family secrets. For example, Uncle Skip still screams for his late father's attention and has two boys who are obsessed with sex and very much into immature practical jokes. Aunt Lucy still fights with her older sister Alice over her open lesbianism and the fact that she brought her live-in partner Judy (played by Famke Janssen) with her for the funeral. Daniel mourns more for his lost career as a child star than he does his late father and supports himself with bit parts in pornographic movies. Kate's mother is dead but still manages to have an embarrassing secret. Aunt Alice seems to have the perfect family -- one that talks way less than she does -- but she too has her secrets...
At first, I suspected that this movie was one of those films that critics love for striking all the right liberal notes without really saying anything new or challenging. The type of movie that would be quite shocking to my grandmother's generation but seems almost old hat to the more liberal members of my own.
But it proved to have a few good moments -- most of them starring Ms. Deschanel, who does a good job of playing straight woman to the other characters. She does not have the showiest part in the movie but she does get to play the one character who is closest to being a recognizable human being.
The other characters have their moments too. For example, I liked Alice's conversation with Lucy about the hopes she had for her baby sister, the scene in which Skip's sons acknowledged his affection but noted that words were not necessary, and the scene in which Charlotte presented Judy with some of her old wardrobe. In other words, the movie worked best when it remembered that its characters were part of a family and not characters in some zany sitcom.
As for Death at a Funeral, that film had a similar formula. A family patriarch dies, all sorts of embarrassing secrets come out and every other family member decides to use the occasion as an impromptu therapy session. The movie did improve toward the end when a lead character got the chance to give an genuinely moving eulogy. But it still seemed like much ado about nothing, if not a self-congratulatory excuse to make movie-goers happy that “at least their family was not like that.”
Oh, well. A lot of my family's behavior around the time of my father's death in 2003 would have seemed strange to outsiders too. Then again we did manage to restrain ourselves from making public spectacles of ourselves and we bent over backwards to work out every disagreement we had over my father's estate in a peaceful manner. Plus -- and I know this might sound strange to some non-Hispanics -- we actually showed signs of missing and mourning our late father. I know that is not the type of stuff that makes for a particularly entertaining movie but then I am not quite convinced that a lot of the antics that took place in Eulogy and Death at a Funeral were all that entertaining either. Perhaps it is one of those Latino things that others would not understand.
Labels: Amor Prohibido, Debra Winger, Enredos de Familia, Famke Janssen, Glenne Headly, Hank Azaria, Kelly Preston, Muerte, Películas Nuevas III, Piper Laurie, Ray Romano, Un Funeral de Muerte, Zooey Deschanel
Wednesday, March 03, 2010
Modern Family: “Pilot”
This is not really a bad series but it is not a series I found all that compelling. I liked it better than 30 Rock and found it a nice opportunity to keep with veteran actors like Married, with Children's Ed O'Neill and Boston Legal's Julie Bowen. But it is not a show that is likely to top my must-see list any time soon.
I could have done without the overly broad Latina stereotype which makes even the most cartoonish moments of Ugly Betty seem like excerpts from a Norman Lear show but even that character I could probably stand -- provided I did not have to watch her every week.
Anyway, I doubt I will be watching this show as often as I watch Ugly Betty and The Office. Perhaps I am just losing my taste for popular sitcoms.
Keen Eddie: “Pilot”
Best known as the TV series actor Mark Valley starred in before he moved on to Boston Legal and Human Target, Keen Eddie showed a lot of potential in its first episode but unfortunately, it had a lot of dubious humor as well. (For example, a running gag involved the title character's pet dog having forced sex with his roommate's cat. Classy.)
The plot involved a New York City police detective (the Keen Eddie of the title) who screwed up the bust of an international drug ring when he allowed himself to be lured onto a false trail by a mysterious femme fatale. In order to atone for his mistake, he was sent to London and assigned to work with Scotland Yard to track down the British side of said drug ring. He was forced to share his apartment with a young British college student (played by Sienna Miller) and his pet pit bull -- an animal he tried to leave behind in New York but did not quite succeed.
It would undoubtedly surprise few veteran cop show fans to note that Eddie did succeed in redeeming himself in the eyes of his transatlantic colleagues in this episode but not until after a series of amusing culture clashes. The result was the start of a promising series which would have liked to seem sophisticated but more often came across as sophomoric. For every scene which was undeniably clever, there was yet another scene which was -- ahem -- dumb. And the use of annoyingly repeated scenes to emphasize humor on this show was a technique which got old really fast.
On the plus side, the show did provide work for a lot of talented British actors who rarely get seen by American TV viewers. Plus Valley proved with this series that he had a lot more flair for comedy than he ever got to show when he was playing straight man to James Spader on Boston Legal.
Too bad the scripts for this show were not as good. Now that would have been keen.
Monday, March 01, 2010
“Dark Lady” -- The Sonny and Cher Show
“I Am the Doctor” -- Doctor Who (The First Series)
“Maybe This Time” -- Glee
“My Angel Put the Devil in Me” -- Doctor Who (The Second Series)
"One Tin Soldier" -- The Sonny and Cher Show
"Tango Dominican" -- Scrubs