Friday, August 30, 2013

¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Cameron Diaz!

AKA Cameron Michelle Diaz.

Born August 30, 1972.

She is an American actress whose father was of Cuban and Spanish descent and whose mother was of German, Scotch-Irish and English descent. She started out as a model when she was in her teens, then made her movie debut in the 1994 film The Mask. She has since made a lot of movies including My Best Friend's Wedding, The Holiday, The Box and The Green Hornet, and she is pretty much close to being Hollywood's ideal of the All-American Girl -- which, of course, I should find ironic because of her ethnic background.

It is hard for me to believe that she is already 41 years old...

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Comic Book Image of the Week

Courtesy of writer Peter David and Justice League Task Force # 8, I present the real reason we will probably never see a Wonder Woman movie. Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.

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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Pop Song of the Week: "Cover of The Rolling Stone"

When this song was first recorded way back in 1973 by Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, it used to be considered quite an achievement to be able to get one's photo on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine. But nowadays, it seems like anyone -- even terrorist suspects -- can get on the cover of that rag.

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Movie Song of the Week: "Beach Party"

This week I post the title song from the 1963 "classic" Beach Party, performed by an uncredited Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello and including the memorable dance style of one Ms. Candy Johnson. I hope you all enjoy it.

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Movie Quote of the Week

River, we're not trying to tell people what to think. We're just trying to show them how.
--Tamara Taylor, Serenity (2005)

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TV Quote of the Week

They can't just leave viewers hanging like that. Firefly had a movie to wrap things up. Buffy the Vampire Slayer continued on as a comic book. Heroes lowered their quality season by season until we were grateful it ended.
--Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory, “The Closure Alternative”

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Dorothy Parker!

AKA Dorothy Rothschild.

Born August 22, 1893. Died June 7, 1967.

She was an American writer best known for her membership in the Algonquin Roundtable. She also wrote quite a few screenplays in her time as well as some short stories and poems. In short, she was a regular Renaissance woman who had the misfortune to live through a modern-day Reformation.

She has been missed.

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Reflections on the Revolution in Hollywood: Part II

One would think that a film released in 1970 would be more progressive than a film released in 1938 but the 1970 French Revolution comedy Start the Revolution Without Me makes it hard to tell. Granted, the later is supposed to be a comedy -- and therefore not likely to be historically accurate -- but even considering that, there is something about StRWM's take on history that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

For one thing, there is an air of hypocrisy about the 1970 effort which makes it hard to take seriously as either a comedy or a social comment. The film does not really identify with the aristocrats -- apart from one exception -- but it does not identify that much with the common people either and the main glimpse we get of the French revolutionaries is so lacking in either humor or humanity that one would think that this film was commissioned by the French monarchy. Indeed, the most sympathetic character in the movie, believe it or not, is King Louis XVI, who is depicted as a unfairly maligned cuckold who could have readily solved this whole "rights of man" business if he had just been given a chance.

To be fair, the movie's other two sympathetic characters are fictional in nature and not all that likable themselves. Indeed, the main virtues of the characters of Claude and Charles Coupé (played respectively by Gene Wilder and Donald Sutherland) are that they are not quite as cruel or haughty as their aristocratic counterparts Phillipe and Pierre DeSisi (also played by Wilder and Sutherland). Add to that a royal conspiracy involving King Louis XVI's wife Marie and her villainous consort, the Duke d'Escargot, and one can't help sensing the basis for what could have been a very intriguing Alexandre Dumas parody which unfortunately never quite gets off the ground.

Part of the reason the movie ultimately does not work is that it is too busy trying to execute an awkward political allegory. In this allegory, the French Revolutionaries are obvious stand-ins for the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society), the French Revolution a metaphor for the campus upheavals of the late 1960s and poor Louis XVI an obvious symbol for former U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson. Unfortunately, the idea of Louis XVI as a misunderstood do-gooder just does not seem all that believable and the hamhanded attempts to relate the actions of the movie to current events seem more embarrassing than emotionally moving. Indeed, the movie's idea that the French Revolution could have been "solved" if the masses had just gotten out of the way and allowed the King to sign the right paperwork seems intellectually idiotic even by humor standards. And yet such are the movie's politics that one rarely sees any signs of sympathy for anyone rebelling against the status quo -- just sympathy for people like the Coupés who get caught up in the crossfire.

Nor does it help that none of the movie's villains get an emotionally satisfying comeuppance. Indeed, even the film's conclusion proves unsatisfying. Instead of an emotionally satisfying finale, we get a parody of an ending -- a parody which might have worked if the rest of the movie was more humorous but alas, it was not. To be fair, Wilder and Sutherland have some funny scenes but not as much as one would expect. Heck, even narrator Orson Welles can't save this movie. Fortunately, Wilder and Sutherland will do far better work in more recent movies but not, alas, in the same movie.

In any event, I wanted to like this movie far more than I did. But I guess I was too rebellious to appreciate it.

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Reflections on the Revolution in Hollywood: Part I

No, I'm not afraid of you. Nor of the nobles. Nor of the people. Nor of ideas.

The state will last my time. After me, the deluge.
--John Barrymore, Marie Antoinette (1938)

Heh. John Barrymore takes such joy in enunciating that above quote that one can be readily forgiven if one's first impulse upon hearing it is to examine the on-screen scenery for teethmarks. And that quote seems especially compelling when you consider that the character John Barrymore was portraying -- King Louis XV -- was not a very likable guy.

Of course, part of the odd fun of the 1938 film version of Marie Antoinette is the way it takes the well-known story of the French Revolution and tells it from the pov of one of history's least likable characters: Austrian-princess-turned-French-queen Marie Antoinette -- and manages to get away with it at the height of the Great Depression. On paper, such a project should not work. On film, it does -- due in part to such performances as Barrymore's which defy the audience to like them. It does not hurt that lead actress Norma Shearer -- who plays the title character -- can find likable qualities in her character as well. Even English actor Robert Morley -- who plays Marie Antoinette's husband King Louis XVI -- manages to be more sympathetic than one would expect.

Unlike more modern works, Marie Antoinette does not even pretend to tell a fair and balanced version of the French Revolution. The main person with whom it sympathizes is Marie Antoinette, who is portrayed not so much as the classic callous aristocrat of popular legend but as just another country cousin who got a chance to see the big city of the day -- Paris -- and ultimately paid for it with her life. Though many scenes are told from her point-of-view, few are told from the view of the common people and indeed, what glimpses we get of the French rebels are less than flattering.

Of course, it might be argued that Marie Antoinette was made in a different time. That back then movie audiences expected a bit of Hollywood glamour and that many movie-goers of the time had little if any interest in seeing on-screen depictions of the type of poverty that they could see for free in real life.

Then again it is not like movie audiences are all that progressive today. There is still a tendency for today's movies to focus on the rich and prosperous and ignore the poor and downtrodden. Indeed, one of the most popular series of movies -- The Hangover movies -- does not even pretend to portray the poor and downtrodden as anything but yet another obstacle for its protagonists to maneuver around.

If Marie Antoinette makes one especially bad mistake in the eyes of contemporary movie-goers, it is that it does not even attempt to deny its sympathy with aristocrats like Marie and her husband. There is no pretense about "feeling your pain" or "lifting up the masses" for this film.

Yet in an odd way, Marie Antoinette's approach seems more honest than I might have expected. Indeed, after seeing all too many modern movies encourage its audiences to cry crocodile tears for the down and out, Marie Antoinette's celebration of aristocratic disdain seems almost refreshing. Granted, it is not likely that the real-life Marie Antoinette was as likable as her movie counterpart is in this flick. But it would be nice for her sake to think so.

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

¡Feliz Cumpleaños, H. P. Lovecraft!

Born August 20, 1890. Died March 15, 1937.

He was the most archetypical horror story writer since Poe. Nuff said.

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Monday, August 19, 2013

¡Feliz Cumpleaños, La Filósofa de Felícula!

AKA MaryAnn Johanson or the Flick Chick or the Flick Filosopher.

Born August 19, 1969.

She, of course, is one of my favorite web-critics and the one person who got me inspired to start blogging in the first place. I hope she considers that last part to be a compliment.

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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Pop Song of the Week: "Spill the Wine"

Eric Burdon's summer fantasy.

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Movie Song of the Week: "Rolling Stone"

From the 1975 film Nashville, yet another song posted in honor of the late Karen Black.

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Trailer of the Week: Five Easy Pieces (1970)

In honor of the late Karen Black.

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¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Columba Bush!

AKA Columba Garnica Gallo.

Born August 17, 1953.

She is the Mexican-born daughther-in-law of former U.S. President George H. W. Bush as well as the wife of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and the sister-in-law of former Texas Governor and U.S. President George W. Bush. She is one of the few famous people I know who was born in my father's home state of Guanajuato. Although she was not born in the same town that he was, she was born in León, which is very close to it.

At this point, she is still more famous for the people she is related to by marriage than anything else though that could change if her husband decides to run for president in 2016. She also appears to be one of the most likable members of the Bush family thus far and I would like to think that is not a false impression on my part.

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Gaylen Ross!

AKA Gail Sue Rosenblum.

Born August 15, 1950.

She is a former actress whose best known role is that of Francine Parker in George Romero's 1978 horror film Dawn of the Dead. She also appeared in the 1982 horror film Madman and in a segment of the 1982 horror anthology Creepshow as well as in two episodes of Walker, Texas Ranger. Nowadays she is best known for producing, directing and writing documentaries. She was born in a traditional Jewish family but generally is not identified with Jewish roles for some reason.

Let us all wish her pleasant dreams.

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Monday, August 12, 2013

R.I.P. Karen Black

American actress Karen Black, best known for starring in such movies as Five Easy Pieces and Family Plot as well as starring in the made-for-TV horror movie Trilogy of Terror, left the set for the last time on August 8 at age 74.

She will be missed.

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Friday, August 09, 2013

¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Gillian Anderson!

AKA Gillian Leigh Anderson.

Born August 9, 1968.

Despite numerous motion picture roles, this American actress is still best known for her role as Agent Dana Scully in the popular TV series The X-Files. She also played a female version of "M" in the 2011 movie Johnny English Reborn and is currently starring in the TV series Hannibal.

Contrary to what her most popular role and the above photograph may have you think, she is a natural blonde.

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Thursday, August 08, 2013

Movie Quote of the Week

No Atomo... I Superman!
--Vin Diesel, The Iron Giant (1999)

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TV Quote of the Week

Out! We need no urging to hate Humans. But for the present, only a fool fights in a burning house. Out!
--Michael Ansara, Star Trek, "Day of the Dove"

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Wednesday, August 07, 2013

R.I.P. Michael Ansara

Syrian-born American actor Michael Ansara, best known for playing Klingons and American Indians, ended his days of multiethnic roles on July 31 at age 91.

He will be missed.

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R.I.P. Eileen Brennan

American actress Eileen Brennan, best known for her roles in such movies as Private Benjamin and Clue, took her last bow on July 28 at age 80.

She will be missed.

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R.I.P. Kidd Kraddick

Local radio personality David "Kidd" Kraddick, one of my late sister's favorite radio personalities as well as host of the Irving-based radio program "Kidd Kraddick in the Morning", signed off for the last time on July 27 at age 53.

He will be missed.

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Tuesday, August 06, 2013

¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Lucille Ball!

AKA Lucille Désirée Ball.

Born August 6, 1911. Died April 26, 1989.

She was the star of one of the most popular TV sitcoms of all time, not to mention the most famous TV spouse of an Anglo-Latino couple ever to appear on television. It says something about how mainstream her family's status was that when I was growing up, I never once considered her daughter Lucie Arnaz to be a Hispanic half-and-half like myself even though her father was obviously Cuban. To this day, Ms. Ball continues to be a major influence on the pop culture world. And yet my maternal grandparents used to think my siblings and I were crazy because we watched I Love Lucy much.

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Sunday, August 04, 2013

¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Anita Page!

AKA Anita Evelyn Pomares.

Born August 4, 1910. Died September 6, 2008.

She was a blue-eyed blonde actress whose father's family came from El Salvador. She was most famous for appearing in the 1929 Academy Award-winning movie The Broadway Melody. Back in 1929, she received more fan letters than anyone apart from Greta Garbo.

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Saturday, August 03, 2013

¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Dolores del Río!

AKA María Dolores Asúnsolo y López Negrete de Martínez del Río.

Born August 3, 1905. Died April 11, 1983.

She was one of Mexico's most famous exports. She was also an iconic actress best known for her role in the 1933 movie Flying Down to Rio. Unfortunately, she is not as well-known nowadays as she used to be but she still left her mark on many an old movie.

She has been missed.

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