Monday, February 28, 2011

Movie Song of the Week: “It's a Bore”

Anyone else get the feeling that Gaston would have made a great film critic -- and an even better Oscar judge?

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Masters of Horror: “The Washingtonians”

Forty years ago, the premise of this episode would have been considered quite scandalous. Today it barely merits a mention in the local TV guide.

Indeed, it says something about the number of historical controversies Americans have been deluged with over the years that the episode manages to make a remarkably tasteless premise seem remarkably old hat. Even the ending seemed a bit more lame than one would expect from such a premise.

Oh, well. I really doubt that the world is ready for more splatterpunk versions of alternative history, anyway. However, this episode would make an interesting counterpart to the National Treasure series for those of you who have a pitch-dark sense of humor. Just don't watch it on February 22, please. Poor George has been through enough.

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Trailer of the Week: George Washington Slept Here (1942)

Poor Jack Benny can't catch a break.

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Hey, I Remember This Show: All in the Family

Based on one of the few British comedies to never turn up on PBS or BBC America, this sitcom was very easily one of the most politically controversial TV shows of the early 1970s, attracting strong criticism from both liberals and conservatives. So naturally it turned out to be the most racially and politically influential show of my generation. Call me shameless if you will, but I, for one, happen to think that was a good thing. Most people of my generation may not have grown up to be like Mike and Gloria Stivic but they generally considered themselves damned if they were going to be anything like lead character Archie Bunker.

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Hey, I Don't Remember This Show: Love Thy Neighbour

Back in the early 1970s, adapting British sitcoms with strong racial elements into American TV shows was all the rage for American TV networks. And indeed, two of the most successful shows of the time -- All in the Family and Sanford and Son -- started out in just such a fashion.

Unfortunately, the American version of the British sitcom Love Thy Neighbor proved to be the great exception. Not only did the American version flop so badly that hardly anyone save yours truly remembers it, but the show which inspired it appears to have become one of the more obscure Britcoms of the 1970s -- so obscure, in fact, that I never even realized it existed until just last week. Perhaps because it wasn't classy enough to appeal to the type of people who liked shows like Benny Hill and Are You Being Served?...

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Pop Song of the Week: “Lies”

The ideal song for the week of George Washington's birthday.

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Movie Quote of the Week

He can’t help it —- he’s just ignorant. He doesn’t know any better than to tell the truth.
--John Wayne, McLintock! (1963)

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TV Quote of the Week

A fifty-foot monster can't swim up the Thames and attack a large building without some people noticing, but you know what politicians are like.
--Nicholas Courtney, Doctor Who (The First Series), “Terror of the Zygons”

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

R.I.P. Nicholas Courtney

British actor Nicholas Courtney, best known for his role as Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart on the original Doctor Who series, received his last salute Tuesday evening at age 81.

He will be missed.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Movie Song of the Week: “I Can't Tell a Lie”

Just in time for the day that used to be celebrated here in the U.S. as George Washington's Birthday -- but not, alas, for Presidents' Day -- it's one of the lesser known musical numbers from the 1942 musical Holiday Inn. Any inclination to feel sorry for Bing Crosby's character should wait until after the end of the number.

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


Jamie-Lynn Sigler (1981 - ). The daughter of a father who was both a Sephardic Jew and the son of immigrants from Greece and Romania and a mother who was a Cuban-born convert to Judaism. She is best known for her role as a gangster's daughter on the HBO series The Sopranos though I must confess my first memory of her occurred when she played a guest role on Ugly Betty.

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Trailer of the Week: Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940)

In honor of Presidents' Day, the trailer for the most political movie actress Ruth Gordon ever made.

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Hey, I Remember This Show: Julia

It may be hard for some younger folks to believe this now in an era in which African-American women frequently play doctors and lawyers but this show was considered quite progressive in some quarters when it debuted back in 1968. (Then again, it was considered too apolitical in other quarters but that's a subject for another time.) In any event, this is the TV show which made actress Diahann Carroll a star and proved that TV shows which did not present African-Americans in stereotypical roles could be successful.

Then again my last girlfriend was a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) so I tend to be biased in favor of shows like this.

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Hey, I Don't Remember This Show: The Beulah Show

The opening credits and a brief excerpt from The Beulah Show, one of the first sitcoms to star an African-American actress. Ethel Waters would play the title role from 1950 to 1951, only to later quit the role and be replaced, first by Hattie McDaniel and later by Louise Beavers. And yes, that is actress Butterfly McQueen from Gone with the Wind playing the role of Beulah's friend Oriole.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Pop Song of the Week: “Love Is a Battlefield”

Pat Benatar and the Charity Hope Valentine School of Feminism.

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Movie Quote of the Week

I've known you for a long time. I know you come out from work at noon every day and you fight your way out that door and you get pushed back in and three seconds later you come back out again. I walk with you to lunch and I know if it's a good day, if you stop and get that romance novel at that bookstore. I know what you order, and I know that on Wednesdays you go to that Dim Sum parlor and I know to get a jawbreaker before you go back in to work. And I know that you hate your job and you don't have many friends and I know sometimes you feel a little uncoordinated and you don't feel as wonderful as everybody else. And feeling as alone and as separate as feel you are... I love you... I love you... and I think you're the greatest thing since spiced rice and I would be knocked out several times if I could just have that first kiss. And I won't, I won't be distant. I'll come back in the morning and I'll call ya if you let me... But I still don't drink coffee.
--Robin Williams, The Fisher King (1991)

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TV Quote of the Week

Camille, I'd do anything for you. I'd compute a three million digit prime number with prime roots if I thought it would make you happy; I'd evaluate pi to infinity if it would make you smile.
--Robert Llewellyn, Red Dwarf, “Camille”

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Two Characters in Search of an Éxito


Ay, Dios! And I thought Spanglish had a condescending view of Hispanics. At least it attempted to have some sort of story and some type of characters. Writer/director Brad Silberling's 2006 “comedy” Ten Items or Less could not be bothered to attempt that much. Instead we get some type of experimental movie comedy whose “comic” high point had otherwise likable actor Morgan Freeman following around an elderly Mexican store clerk and imitating him in an allegedly humorous manner. And this, mind you, was supposed to be part of the funny part of the movie.

At the beginning of the film, Freeman played a character which was supposed to be a thinly disguised version of his real self and Jonah Hill played a character who could not help calling attention to the fact that we were watching a movie. Hill dropped Freeman off at a Mexican supermarket in order to let him allegedly research an upcoming movie role whereupon he promptly ran into Scarlett Morales, a Spanish store clerk played by Paz Vega. Freeman ended up hooking up with Morales for reasons that never really made sense and following her to a job interview. Along the way, they had more than few philosophical discussions but for the most part, the two characters seemed to exist merely to allow Silberling to poke fun at the banality of their surroundings, ridicule which might have been more sympathetic if Silberling had had anything particularly interesting or imaginative to say with these characters but he did not.

Instead we get a series of condescending looks at various locations in blue-collar LA followed by a lot of really patronizing dialogue. Both Morgan and the scriptwriter evidently wanted to give us the impression that there was something particularly amazing about Ms. Morales that made it worthwhile to sit through the entire movie but they never quite managed to put this across in a convincing manner -- and as a result, the movie seemed even more patronizing toward her and the other Hispanic characters than a more conventional movie would have been.

I suppose Morales’ story arc was supposed to be an allegory for every poor sap who had to spend countless hours at thankless jobs until he or she finally made it big in Hollywood but unfortunately we never get to know enough about Ms. Morales to care that much whether she succeeds or fails. And it does not help that the other people in such environments receive even less attention than Ms. Morales. If just once the script had showed sympathy for such people, I might have taken the movie more seriously. But instead I found myself acutely missing the days when Hollywood still made movies like Bachelor Mother and The Shop Around the Corner -- movies that perhaps were not the most politically correct but at least took their characters seriously enough to give them decent storylines and dialogue. Instead, Ten Items or Less treated these items as if they were kitsch best reserved for the type of people who usually go for black velvet Elvis paintings and portraits of card-playing dogs.

Oh, well. If nothing else, this movie taught me that putting more dark-skinned actors and actresses in front of the camera is not necessarily going to make for better movies if they receive no backup from the folks behind the camera. Nor was thinking outside the box necessarily going to lead to making better movies if you did not come up with better ideas. But then all this should have been obvious before I saw this movie. And it is not necessarily just me who needs to learn these lessons.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

R.I.P. Kenneth Mars

Noted comic actor Kenneth Mars, most famous for his roles in the 1968 Mel Brooks comedy The Producers and the 1974 Mel Brooks comedy Young Frankenstein, threw his last dart last Saturday at age 75.

He will be missed.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Movie Song of the Week: “Lament (Lonesome Polecat)”

Why, yes! I have had better St. Valentine's Day weekends. How did you guess? Granted, I wasn't quite as bad off as the guys in this video but there were moments...

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


Cameron Diaz (1972 - ). The daughter of a Cuban-American father and a mother of English, German and Cherokee descent. A former model who made her movie acting debut in 1994's The Mask and who has been active in movies ever since.

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Trailer of the Week: The Spirit (2008)

And I thought I had an odd love life...

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Hey, I Remember This Show: Desperate Housewives

I used to vow for the longest time that I'd never watch an episode of this show but seeing this admittedly clever opening credit sequence on YouTube made me change my mind. YMMV, of course.

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Hey, I Don't Remember This Show: Cupid

Okay, I remember hearing rumors about this show back in 1998 but I never had the occasion to watch a single episode. Of course if I had known they used a Pretenders song in the intro, I would have tried a lot harder to catch up with it.

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Friday, February 11, 2011

Movie Quote of the Week

It is as if the Pharaohs have returned.
--John Rhys-Davies, Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

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TV Quote of the Week

We should always tell the press freely and frankly anything that they could easily find out some other way.
--Nigel Hawthorne, Yes, Prime Minister, “The Grand Design”

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Book of the Week


Just in time for Valentine's Day...

Okay, seriously, this book by self-described loner Anneli Rufus has been out for a few years now but it's still one of the best ones I've read thus far on the subject of loners. Not I'm that much of a loner. Every so often I do crave human company and I've done enough silly things in quest for such company to make it obvious that I would never make a good hermit. However, it has also become obvious over the years that I have more in common with Ms. Rufus than I do with the usual social butterfly in that I'm not at my best in crowds and that I'm more comfortable with a small circle of friends who really “get” me than with a large circle of “friends” who may as well be strangers. And I don't consider all that to be a bad thing.

At least, right now I don't. My attitude may change closer to St. V's Day...

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Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Pop Song of the Week: “Tunnel of Love”

The British have such a cheerful attitude toward life.

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Monday, February 07, 2011

Movie Song of the Week: “A Spoonful of Sugar”

Who couldn't use a person like Mary Poppins at a time like this?

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

The Sarah Jane Adventures: “Death of the Doctor”

Oh, no! Now it's Matt Smith's turn for a crossover. And it's almost as memorable as David Tennant's appearance. Granted, it didn't help that the aliens in this particular episode are so obviously intent on evil deeds that they might as well be wearing sandwich boards advertising that fact. However, the episode managed to work quite well despite all that.

Special kudos go to screenwriter Russell T. Davies who actually managed to make me sympathize with a character that I had often found quite annoying in the past: Jo Grant. Davies obviously has a lot of affection for the Ms. Grant character and it showed. Plus he had a way of making her character relevant to today's Doctor Who viewers that I didn't quite expect and he managed to do it with stealing any thunder from our beloved Sarah Jane.

Indeed, the whole episode worked best as a shout-out to anyone who had ever received any positive influence from any of the various incarnations of Doctor Who and there is a bit towards the end which managed to become must-see viewing for any hardcore DW fan. Plus our beloved Sarah Jane Smith comes out very nicely as well. But then you all probably expected that.

Anyway, I doubt that we'll be seeing any more crossovers on this show for a while. But then after an episode like this, we really shouldn't need another crossover for a long time to come.

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

The Sarah Jane Adventures: “The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith”

Oh, no! It's the last appearance of David Tennant as the Doctor ever! And for what it's worth, it's a doozy.

Plus there's some funny business involving Sarah Jane and the mysterious gentleman she is planning to marry -- and no, she isn't marrying the Doctor but I can't say more than that without revealing -- you know -- spoilers.

However, I will admit that it was nice that the writers for this series found a way to get K-9 out of that black hole. Surely that doesn't count as a spoiler, right?

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Sunday, February 06, 2011

Trailer of the Week: Asylum (1972)

Of course, one would have to be crazy to set a horror movie in a mental hospital nowadays. Just ask John Carpenter.

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Hey, I Remember This Show: K-9 and Company

Actress Elisabeth Sladen looks so attractive in this intro to the pilot episode for a 1981 Doctor Who spin-off that it seems a shame that said spin-off never got produced. Then again there was only so much one could do with a robot dog and most of that was done right here in this intro.

Still you have to admire Ms. Sladen for seeming so happy in this sequence despite the fact that her character's name isn't even mentioned in the show's title. I suppose that's why they call it acting.

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Hey, I Don't Remember This Show: K-9

Aka You Will Believe a Dog Can Fly....

Seriously, this is an un-official “spin-off” of the popular Doctor Who character done by way of a recent British/Australian production which has yet to make its way to American shores as far as I can tell -- except by DVD.

Sombrero tip to the Flick Filosopher for informing me of this show's existence. Of course, she doesn't personally endorse it...

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It's Official

Any nostalgia I might have felt for the snow days of last year was officially satisfied by Friday's snowstorm.

Now I'm nostalgic for spring.

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Thursday, February 03, 2011

Movie Quote of the Week

Better keep the doors closed and keep out the drafts as Dr... Starr used to say.
--Geoffrey Bayldon, Asylum (1972)

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TV Quote of the Week

Well, you know journalists, always exaggerating.
--David Tennant, The Sarah Jane Adventures, “The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith: Part 2”

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Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Lesson of the Day

Falling temperatures and rolling brownouts make for such a fun combination. It makes me wonder why I never bothered to move back to Detroit.

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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Pop Song of the Week: “China Girl”

David Bowie falls in love with a Chinese woman but not with her country. Apparently her country returns the favor as well. At least I think that's the message this video is trying to convey.

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


Joanna Leanna García (1979 - ). Daughter of a Spanish-American homemaker and a Cuban-born gynecologist. Best known for a starring role in the CW sitcom Reba and a recurring role in the TV show Freaks and Geeks, she is currently appearing in the TV show Better with You.

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Thing I Hate

Fighting ice and snow to get to my local mailbox -- and then discovering that the only thing within is a bit of junk mail.

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Wow!

I did a quick errand run around 5 p.m. and was surprised to see how many businesses had already closed down by then. Fortunately I have enough groceries to last a while but still it seems like a long while since I saw business shut down this much. Apparently Mother Nature has a way of persuading business owners to close early that most major holidays just don't have anymore.

For that matter, I'm glad I filled up my gas tank Monday night because it took so long just to warm up my car to the point that I could clear my windshield. Apparently Mother Nature is determined to make us pay for all those warm weather days we enjoyed last week.

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Thank Goodness I Got That Window Fixed

Of course, it took longer to get it fixed than I would have wished but at least now it's fixed. And just in time for the next big batch of snow days!

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