Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pop Song of the Week: "The Wall Street Shuffle"

Well, Howard Hughes has been dead for years, but apart from that, not a whole lot has changed since this song was first released in 1974 by the rock group 10cc. Funny how this song never gets any radio play on any corporate radio stations.

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You Can Tell a Rich Person Wrote This Quote

He was coming to see that being rich and working simply to get richer could be in many ways a soul-destroying business. Particularly if the work you were doing had long since become routine. But being poor and working to survive, working to keep your wife and children from sinking into an abyss of poverty, that was a thrill.
--Ben Elton, Meltdown

My Comment:

Okay, that quote probably makes sense in terms of the fictional character who thought it -- a formerly rich man who is now struggling to get by -- but it does not make much sense to anyone who has actually known any poor people. After all, the poor often engage in soul-destroying and routine work, and they rarely describe the struggle for survival as being all that thrilling.

I would like to think Mr. Elton's heart is in the right spot. I'm just not so sure about his head.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Movie Song of the Week: "If I Were a Rich Man"

It took me years to appreciate the fact that this song was not just another show tune cliché. Nor was it about Tevye the Milkman bragging about all the neat stuff he would do when he became rich. Indeed, the song only makes sense if one realizes that Tevye is not really certain he will ever be more than poor -- which makes his fantasizing about it all the more sadder. Of course, some would argue that Tevye is quite rich by his era's standards because he has a house to live in, he owns a horse and he has his own business. But Tevye doesn't see himself as rich, and even if he did, he is forever at the mercy of people who are richer and far more powerful than him. Much like a lot of the "rich" people I knew when I was growing up.

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Song Quote of the Week

I’m getting tired... of hanging around.
--The Doors, “When the Music's Over”

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The Great Brain Robbery

Oh, no, Boris! Please don't put part of that gangster's brain in your best friend's skull. After all, you have no idea where it has been.

Nevertheless, Boris Karloff insisted on doing just that in the 1940 movie Black Friday. At first, Boris Karloff's character -- Dr. Ernest Sovac -- was just concerned about saving the life of his best friend George Kingsley (played by Stanley Ridges), a kindly English professor who taught at the local college. Then Dr. Sovac discovered that the brain he used to fix his friend's injured grey matter belonged to gangster Red Cannon, the only man who knew where $500,000 in stolen loot has been hidden. Of course, Dr. Sovac did not want the money for himself but he was not exactly eager to turn it over to the authorities either. Instead Dr. Sovac tempted himself with the thought of all the lab equipment he could buy with that stolen loot. And so it went.

This being the Hays Code era, it does not really seem like much of a spoiler to note that Dr. Sovac's scheme did not exactly go off without a hitch. For one thing, he found that he was able to summon Red's personality into Professor Kingsley's body through hypnosis but he was not so good at controlling Red while he was in there. Moreover, Sovac and Cannon were not the only ones searching for the loot. The rest of Red's gang -- led by gangster Eric Mornay (played by Bela Lugosi, natch) -- were searching for it too and they could be every bit as brutal as Red too. Would Dr. Sovac be able to beat them to the dough? And if so, how long could he hold on to it?

Like most scientific horror films made in the 1930s and 1940s, much of the plot details seem almost laughable by today's standards. After all, the film would have you believe that Dr. Sovac managed to singlehandedly put off an operation on not just one but two human brains without arousing the suspicions of any outsiders. Not once did a nurse or orderly interfere or show up at the wrong time and of course, Dr. Sovac had no trouble keeping everything sterile and operating at the same time. Moreover, though Dr. Sovac was said to have transplanted part of a gangster's brain into Professor Kingsley's skull to replace brain matter that was too damaged to survive, there seemed little concern on his part about whether or not his friend's true personality would survive just an operation. Indeed, the possibility that Red Cannon's true self might live on in his best friend's brain came almost as a complete surprise to Dr. Sovac though I would think that the opposite result would be more unlikely.

In any event, the true purpose of this movie was not to tantalize viewers with the possibilities of future medical advances but to issue the same old warning about meddling with things man was not meant to mess with that we always seem to get from horror films of this era. However, for a change, Dr. Sovac seemed to worry more about the risks such an operation might pose to his medical license than the notion that he might be punished by a higher power. Then again, this being a Hays Code picture, he got enough punishment as it was.

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Trailer of the Week: Pieces of April (2003)

Katie Holmes! Whatever happened to you? Whatever happened to the days when you made good movies like this?

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Hey, I Remember This Show: The Muppet Show

Why this show ended, I'll never know.

I mean, they had so many great guest stars in addition to the equally watchable regular characters.

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Hey, I Don't Remember This Show: "Muppet Babies"

Back in the 1980s, there was this big trend toward taking the classic characters of yesterday's children's shows and juvenilizing them to provide Saturday morning cartoons for a still younger audience. Of all those efforts, this was perhaps the most famous. Fortunately, I was too old to watch cartoons back then.

Unfortunately, they didn't seem to give a damn whether people liked these shows or not. Of course, nowadays, the idea of Saturday morning cartoons seems as old-fashioned as hay-rides but still it was a great idea while it lasted. Except for shows like this.

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Movie Quote of the Week

It is infuriating that your unhappiness does not turn to fat.
--Dominique Minot, Charade (1963)

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TV Quote of the Week

Well, I think the Spaniards actually did a lot of -- Not that I don't like Spaniards.
--Sarah Michelle Gellar, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Pangs”

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Just Because They Show It on Thanksgiving Doesn't Mean It's a Turkey

I don't know what inspired my local public television station to show the 1963 movie Charade on Thanksgiving night and I know even less about the reasons why my mother and my youngest brother chose to tune into it. I do know that it proved to be a remarkably good movie that even people who aren't as ardently dedicated to old movies as yours truly can appreciate -- which might explain why my mother and my youngest sibling could not help but watch it all the way through. Some critics have called it the "best Hitchcock movie that Hitchcock never made" and some may argue that it's actually a lot better than some of Hitchcock's lesser films. (For example, Hitchcock's The Trouble with Harry could have learned a lot about suspense from this flick.)

On paper, this movie should have been a failure. After all, there was a huge age gap between the two romantic leads and it's not a big coincidence that the male lead -- Cary Grant -- retired from movies two films after this one was released. (In his last movie, Walk, Don't Run, Grant didn't even pretend to be romantically interested in that movie's female lead and in the one before that, he was matched for some odd reason with younger actress Leslie Caron, perhaps in the vain hope of capturing the same chemistry found between Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn in this flick.) Moreover, Charade itself is a mixture of romance, comedy and suspense that could have easily proved tasteless in the hands of a lesser filmmaker than director Stanley Donen.

And yet it doesn't. I actually found myself laughing at lines of dialogue I never expected to find all that funny and being amused at the actors' reactions as often as their actions. The plot, for those unfamiliar with it, involved a young widow named Regina "Reggie" Lambert whose husband was discovered by the side of a French railroad track at the beginning of the movie. Not only did she have much reason to suspect her husband was murdered, but she soon discovered that he was also suspected of being a crook. One of his last actions involved stripping the apartment that he and Reggie had shared and selling the furnishings without leaving a single clue as to what he did with all the cash he got for them.

Moreover, Mrs. Lambert found herself being pursued by three thugs who were certain she knew where her late husband hid a fortune in stolen loot. Add to that a mysterious CIA agent who claimed to have been investigating her late husband and an equally mysterious person -- played by Cary Grant -- who might or might not be another government agent and poor Mrs. Lambert had her hands full trying to get herself free of a sticky situation.

I could say more but the movie is too good to spoil. Suffice to say that Hepburn and Grant make a great team and even if you don't particularly care for May-October romances like the one in this movie, you will probably still enjoy it. I would like to think that Cary Grant stopped making movies three years afterwards because he knew deep down that he would never top this movie. But I'm sure Grant's autobiography would have you believe something else. C'est la vie!

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Guajolote Day tomorrow to all my faithful readers. May you have a pleasant week.

This will be the first Thanksgiving my family has celebrated since my sister died. So I may not be in the mood to blog much this weekend. I hope you all have a celebration that is much happier than mine.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pop Song of the Week: "We Didn't Start the Fire"

One generation's rebellion is another's cliché.

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R.I.P. John Neville

Canadian actor John Neville, best known for the title role in the 1988 movie The Adventures of Baron Munchausen as well as for a recurring role as the Well-Manicured Man on the American TV series The X-Files, took his last modicum of snuff last Saturday at age 86.

He will be missed.

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Monday, November 21, 2011

Movie Song of the Week: "Happy Feet"

From the 1930 movie King of Jazz, it's Bing Crosby, the mysterious Sisters "G" (aka Eleanor and Karla Gutchrlein), Al "Rubber Legs" Norman and the Paul Whiteman Orchestra appearing in a musical number that even animated penguins would not dare to try to pull off. At least not in this fashion.

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Trailer of the Week: Tovarich (1937)

Heh. Claudette Colbert and Charles Boyer play a couple of Russian aristocrats named Tina and Mickey -- and manage to do a splendid job of it without even trying to fake a Russian accent. I've loved this movie since I first saw it as a teenager though my Polish ancestors undoubtedly think I'm crazy to do so. I hope you all like it too.

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Hey, I Remember This Show: The New Avengers

I used to spend so much time watching this show as a teenager it was ridiculous. In fact, it was this show that got me interested in the original Avengers. (I'm referring, of course, to the British spy show, not the Marvel comic book.) For that matter, it also got me interested in actress Joanna Lumley but you probably guessed that much.

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Hey, I Don't Remember This Show: Sapphire & Steel

Well, I think it's nice that actress Joanna Lumley found something to do between The New Avengers and Absolutely Fabulous but I still don't remember seeing this show on the air. My loss, I guess.

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Song Quote of the Week

The autumn leaves have got you thinking
About the first time that you fell.
--Glenn Frey and Don Henley of The Eagles, “Wasted Time”

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pop Song of the Week: "Criminal"

Fiona Apple's version of I Am a Camera. NSFW.*

* Not Safe For Work.

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Movie Quote of the Week

I can’t stop the revolution, but until it comes, let’s have some fun. Even if it’s only for a few more days.
--Martin Potter, Nicholas and Alexandra (1971)

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TV Quote of the Week

Being different might not be as rewarding as you think it is.
--Kristanna Loken, Painkiller Jane, "Toy Soldiers"

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Movie Song of the Week: "Man of Constant Sorrow"

From the 2000 movie O Brother, Where Art Thou?, it is a musical lesson on why it is never wise to try to interfere with the taste of country music fans.

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It's Alive!

My computer, that is. For a while there, I had feared that it was on its last legs. Then I discovered my warranty was still good until next summer and that the expired warranty I thought I had was on a laptop computer I rarely use because I originally had bought it in anticipation of a job I never got. So I had the tech support people at a local electronics store take a look at it and they fixed it within a week.

So big sigh of relief at this end. It would have been better if I had heard some good news from the company with which I had interviewed yesterday but apparently, that job was not to be. So back to square one for the umpteenth time.

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Saturday, November 05, 2011

November Is the Cruelest Month

I got another virus on my computer and my warranty has expired so I have no way to pay for repairs at this time. With luck, this should change by next week but in the meantime, I won't be posting much for obvious reasons.

The funny thing is that if I still had money coming in from either a paycheck or my unemployment insurance, I could settle this easily but unfortunately, I'm not in that situation. I keep filling out applications but I'm beginning to wonder why. At least I have food stamps now so I won't starve but I'm still way too dependent on the kindness of friends and family -- and I don't want to be.

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Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Halloween and Pop Song of the Week: "Laurie (Strange Things Happen)"

In honor of the Day of the Dead.

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Pop Songs That Could Have Been Halloween Songs of the Week But Weren't

"Dancing with Myself" -- Billy Idol
“Dark Lady” -- Cher
"Dr. Heckyll and Mr. Jive" -- Men at Work
“I Want To Be Evil” -- Eartha Kitt
“Jeopardy” -- The Greg Kihn Band
"Night Moves" -- Marilyn Martin
“Psycho Chicken” -- The Fools
"Think I'm in Love" -- Eddie Money
“Why Me?” -- Planet P Project
“Wuthering Heights” -- Kate Bush

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