Thursday, June 30, 2011

Movie Quote of the Week

Of course, people do go both ways.
--Ray Bolger, The Wizard of Oz (1939)

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TV Quote of the Week

It’s so encouraging to see someone happily married around here.
--Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men, "The Good News"

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Pop Song of the Week: "I Kissed a Girl"

Sometimes a kiss is not just a kiss.

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All the British Shows That I Have Seen

1. Being Human: The First and Second Seasons (UK). Between its attempts to appropriate cultural territory last touched by my beloved Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its whole "Look, Ma, We're Not Victorian" attitude, I should hate this series, but instead I have found it shamelessly addictive. Annie the ghost is my favorite character on the show thus far -- perhaps because she is the most positive character on the show. (Let's face it. Positive characters are not always easy to write nowadays.) Mitchell the ageless vampire and George the reluctant werewolf are likable in their own way too but it is Annie that provides the glue that keeps this from being just another endless stroll in the supernatural darkness. I will undoubtedly have more to say when I view the third season.

2. Shameless: The First Season (UK). I have seen so many shows and movies about the dysfunctional lives of people who live in the ghetto or the barrio that I often forget that white poor people live dysfunctional lives too. And no, I am not waxing sarcastic here. One of the major problems with focusing exclusively on the problems of the dark-skinned poor is the subsequent tendency to define poverty, substance abuse and other social problems as an ethnic thing and not a human thing. After all, as long as we can define such issues as a "black thing" or a "Latino thing," light-skinned people don't have to worry about them -- and the problems never get solved. Yet as I grow older and spend more time with people in general, it becomes obvious that you can find just as much dysfunctionality among the white poor as you can anywhere else. Indeed, it is kinda depressing to note how many such problems get ignored because no one expects to find those type of problems in a white neighborhood -- and it is even more depressing to note how the experiences of my Hispanic relatives who were born in poverty and worked their way out indicate that such things do not necessarily have to be that way.

Anyway, Shameless is one of the few TV shows that I have seen that focuses on the dysfunctional white poor. Of course, it helps in terms of audience acceptability that the show is set in Great Britain, which means most white Americans are not likely to take it personally. Moreover, it revolves around a family led by a drunken patriarch named Frank Gallagher -- so the Brits can just as well pretend such dysfunctions are an Irish thing and not a British thing. Oh, well. When the show is on the ball, it does a great job of describing the not so quiet desperation of Gallagher's children without glamourizing the behavior of their alcoholic father. Indeed, one of the virtues of the show is that its writers are realistic enough to not even pretend that the father is likely to get his act together any time soon. Instead the show chooses to focus on the oldest daughter and her efforts to keep the family together despite a mother who left home years ago and a father who rarely does anything save make things worse.

If the show has one major problem, it is that it wraps up everything so neatly in the first season that it is hard to believe that the show did not end right there. But then certain troubles never cease to be.

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Movie Song of the Week: "I Love to Cry at Weddings"

For the good people of New York -- and of course, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

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The Not So Old Dark House


It’s one thing to go to bat for a movie like the original 1932 version of The Old Dark House. After all, who doesn’t love Gloria Stuart or Boris Karloff?

But the more “modern” 1963 version directed by William Castle? Perish the thought.

Even as a kid, I thought some of the movie’s sight gags were stupid and some of the “special effects” (for example, attempting to pass off a stuffed dog as a wild hyena) worse than stupid. Indeed, it might be argued that William Castle’s The Old Dark House was one of those films you saw as a child which you expected to make more sense when you saw it as a grown-up but never did.

And yet the movie has an odd air about it, the same air you’d expect to find in an eccentric cousin whom no one else in the family liked but who nevertheless always found time to entertain you when no one else would have anything to do with you.

It is not really a very good movie. Apart from an animated sequence created by Charles Addams -- yes, the same Charles Addams whose cartoons inspired the creation of The Addams Family -- there is not much in the first twenty minutes to merit attention and more often than not, the movie’s attempts to be funny come across as more silly than comic.

But then again it has Robert Morley who is always good no matter what type of role he’s stuck in. And Tom Poston -- an actor best known for his roles on Newhart and The Bob Newhart Show -- certainly makes an interesting -- if odd -- choice for the American-born protagonist Tom Penderel. Plus the eccentric music score proves that such scores existed long before Danny Elfman composed his first overture.

But then there is that plot. Tom Penderel is a dull, ordinary American who shares a flat with an eccentric English gambler Jasper Femm. Femm invites Penderel to his family estate to meet his female cousin but he never shows up. Instead, Penderel is introduced to the various members of Femm's family, each one more eccentric than the last.

There is Petiphar who is obsessed with Noah’s ark; Agatha, who is obsessed with knitting; Roderick, who is obsessed with guns, and Casper who is the identical twin of Jasper the gambler. The two female cousins are Cecilia, a seemingly normal young woman, and Morgana, an allegedly man-hungry woman whose impromptu courtship of Penderel seems to smack more of desperation than genuine lust. Then there is Morgana’s imaginatively named father Morgan who is so possessive of Morgana that he continually threatens to beat up any man who even looks in her direction. (And yes, that includes reluctant objects of Morgana’s affection like Tom Penderel.)

No sooner has Penderel met most of the family than they begin dying off. Each time they do, a mysterious voice recites part of an old nursery rhyme involving old English church bells and the flag atop the family mansion is lowered to half-mast by some equally mysterious personage. Since there is no telling where the murderer will strike next, Penderel gets involved with the attempts to track him down, only to run afoul of various surviving family members. It’s not until the end that the true culprit is revealed -- and shortly afterwards, it becomes up to Penderel to save the mansion -- and all the living people still left within it -- from destruction.

So why do I like this movie so much when I know I shouldn’t? Well, like most people, I have a deep fondness for stuff I watched in childhood even when I know it is not good for me. Plus there is that music score I mentioned above and the sheer implausibility of that plot that seems almost breathtaking in its awfulness. At one point, we get a fight scene in the mansion’s cellar which was undoubtedly supposed to be reminiscent of the old silent film comics but instead seems more like an outtake from an old Three Stooges short. On the plus side, poor old uncle Petiphar’s obsession with arks and the end of the world seems like a possible inspiration for the apocalyptically obsessed protagonists of such later -- and better -- films as The Rapture and The Unbelievable Truth -- but I somehow doubt the makers of those films will ever acknowledge that.

Given the promise inherent in the film’s title, I can’t help wishing director William Castle tried a little bit harder in regard to this film. Then again, after seeing other William Castle movies, it seems apparent that comedy was not really Castle’s strong point. Just as one would never ask Busby Berkeley to direct a horror movie or Woody Allen to direct a Busby Berkeley-type musical, so must one reluctantly concede the fact that Castle was not much of a comedy director. Except when he was not trying to be.

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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Trailer of the Week: The Princess Bride (1987)

Yes, Peter Falk appeared in movies as well -- and this was one of his better ones.

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Hey, I Remember This Show: The NBC Mystery Movie

It's tempting to call this the Columbo theme but that's not really fair to the other TV series which were shown in this format. I watched my share of McCloud episodes when I was young and I even remember having a major crush on the Susan St. James character in McMillan and Wife. (Of course, this version merely calls it McMillan.) But Columbo was always my favorite -- perhaps because my late father was a big fan of the show.

As for the guy with the flashlight, well, we can't all be Green Lantern fans now, can we?

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Song Quote of the Week

Superman or Green Lantern ain't got nothin' on me.
--Donovan, “Sunshine Superman”

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Saturday, June 25, 2011

R.I.P. Gene Colan


American comic book artist Eugene "Gene" Colan, best known for his work on such Marvel titles as Daredevil, Howard the Duck and The Tomb of Dracula, inked his last page the day before yesterday at age 84.

He will be missed.

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Friday, June 24, 2011

R.I.P. Peter Falk


American actor Peter Falk, best known for his portrayal of the title character in the NBC television series Columbo, closed his last case yesterday at age 83.

He will be missed.

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Movie Quote of the Week

My Lord, even the computers need analysts these days.
--Cliff Robertson, Spiderman (2002)

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TV Quote of the Week

I hate heroes.
--Zachary Quinto, Heroes, "Eclipse -- Part I"

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Movie and Pop Song of the Week: "I'm Alive"

It's Olivia Newton-John, Sandahl Bergman and company celebrating the fact that they enjoy being a muse in the opening number from 1980's most notorious musical guilty pleasure Xanadu.

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I'm Baaack!

It turns out I didn't need to get my hard drive replaced, after all. I still had major issues with my computer though due to a virus I had acquired by mistake. (Then again, no one ever acquires a virus on purpose.) Said issue should be taken care of for now..but we'll see.

In the meantime, thank you all for your patience. I hope I didn't put you all to too much trouble.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Good Drives, Bad Drives, You Know I've Had My Share

The hard drive on my trusty desktop has chosen to go kaput this weekend and until it can be either fixed or replaced, there will be little if any entries made on this blog.

I may end up posting a few items in the meantime but since my internet access is currently dependent on the kindness of strangers and family, I wouldn't expect too much by way of regular features if I were you.

Many thanks and muchas gracias for your patience.

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Friday, June 10, 2011

¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Doña María del Pilar Teresa Cayetana, 13th Duchess of Alba!


It's the official birthday for the late Spanish aristocrat who was the alleged muse of the famous Spanish painter Francisco de Goya. She was born this day in 1762 and lived until July 23, 1802. She might be missed but at least we still have the opportunity to view the paintings which she inspired.

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Thursday, June 09, 2011

Movie Quote of the Week

That’s really good. The proportions are perfect... but are you drawing what you really see? The simplest thing is the hardest. To see what’s really right in front of you.
--Rita Wilson, The Glass House (2001)

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TV Quote of the Week

There was a scientist on the radio this morning. He said that it will get a lot hotter more each day. Now that we’re moving so close to the sun, and that’s why we’re... That’s why...
--Betty Garde, The Twilight Zone, “The Midnight Sun”

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Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Pop Song of the Week: "Family Man"

If only more politicians would heed the message of this song and stop trying to reenact it.

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Doctor Who (The Second Series): "A Good Man Goes to War"

Go, Rory! It's about time they started giving him more to do.

And why would a forest-dwelling people be so unclear on the concept of a body of water which wasn't a river? I hail from Michigan, a state with many forests, and they certainly know about lakes and ponds up there.

On the plus side, I did find it kinda cool that Amy named her daughter after a character on the old cartoon show Josie and the Pussycats. I'm not sure that's what she intended to do but she did so anyway.

Oh, well. I'm guessing this is one of those episodes that Moffat would rather us not think too much about. It is a big shame that it ends on a cliffhanger, though, and that the next episode won't air till next fall. Ouch!

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Monday, June 06, 2011

Movie Song of the Week: "Way Down in Dixie"

Come to think of it, I'm from the South, too. The South of Michigan, that is.

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Doctor Who (The Second Series): “The Rebel Flesh” and “The Almost People”

Seems to me that we've had not just one but two televison series in America (Battlestar: Galactica and Dollhouse) that have had fun with the concept of people who aren't really people. Now it's British producer Stephen Moffat's turn. Or rather Moffat's writer Matthew Graham's turn.

I must confess that I found Graham's term “ganger” a more original term than the usual “clone.” And the idea of two Doctors for the price of one? Amazing.

I was kinda surprised to see a little pro-life sentiment in these episodes instead of the usual “clones are evil” sentiments. Though come to think of it, we have “clones are evil” sentiments in these episodes as well. Trust a Doctor Who writer to find a way to keep every kind of science fiction fan happy.

And by the way, major props to whoever suggested Matt Smith end the episode with a verbal reference to the old Michael Mann movie The Last of the Mohicans. I certainly wasn't expecting that.

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Doctor Who (The Second Series): “The Doctor's Wife”

Heh. The villain of this episode is named “House.” As in a certain Hugh Laurie character.

And whoever guessed that a sentient Tardis would look so much like Helena Botham-Carter? Well, I guess screenwriter Neil Gaiman did since he is one of the few writers I trust enough to make me believe in as unlikely a concept as a sentient Tardis. Of course, some would say that the idea of Rory (Amy's husband) being the “pretty one” was the real unlikely concept in this episode but let's not go there.

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Sunday, June 05, 2011

Trailer of the Week: Them! (1954)

Believe it or not, the late James Arness also made science fiction movies. But alas, he didn't always get mentioned in the trailer.

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Hey, I Remember This Show: Gunsmoke

In honor of the late James Arness, actor John Wayne's famous introduction to the first episode of Mr. Arness's most famous TV series.

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Hey, I Don't Remember This Show: McClain's Law

The late Marshal Dillon and an obscure actor named Marshall Colt team up for a 1981 cop show which had the misfortune to end up being buried under a ton of other cop shows which aired during the same period. But it's not like Dillon didn't already make a name for himself in the ranks of TV law enforcement.

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R.I.P. James Arness


American actor James Arness, best known for his role as Marshal Matt Dillon on the long-running TV series Gunsmoke, rode off into the West for the final time Friday at age 88.

He will be missed.

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Thursday, June 02, 2011

Movie Quote of the Week

What a noble subject. If he had only a noble king.
--Douglas Wilmer, El Cid (1961)

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TV Quote of the Week

I love when movies end the way you hope they will.
--John McGinley, Scrubs, "Our Drunk Friend"

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