Saturday, February 27, 2010

Trailer of the Week: A Man for All Seasons (1966)

Hey, it's a movie about my former namesake. Imagine that.

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Hey, I Remember This Show: Davey and Goliath

From the maker of Gumby, it's the Sunday morning Claymation effort that most hipsters -- apart from maybe Kevin Smith -- love to poke fun at. Yet I always had a soft spot for this show. Perhaps it is because I grew up watching it on Sunday mornings. Or perhaps because I appreciate the way it tried to get across moral lessons in a kid-friendly way that seems a considerable contrast to the glorified toy commercials that would dominate children's programming in later decades.

I am still haunted by the episode in which young Davey lost the chance to get a Good Neighbor prize because he was too busy helping out a young girl. The obvious moral: one should not always expect a reward for doing a good deed, even if said deed seems necessary, seems rather obvious to the adult me but to the me who first watched it as a child, it seemed like a major revelation.

Granted, it took me a few years of living to appreciate these cartoons. (After all, a lot of the life lessons they taught were not ones that little kids my age were particularly eager to learn.) But I eventually came around.

I hope you all enjoy it.

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I'm Dreaming of a Latino Christmas Movie

Geez, one would think that if Hollywood was going to wait until the 21st century to make a Latino Christmas movie, they would at least get it right. Not that 2008's Nothing Like the Holidays was a bad movie. It just was not the instant classic I kinda expected after all the hoopla I read about it.

The movie itself was about a family of Puerto Ricans and their assorted significant others who were gathering for a family Christmas celebration in Chicago. The father (played by Alfred Molina) was a bodega owner who might or might not be having an affair. His wife (played by Elizabeth Peña) was contemplating a divorce. One of his sons was a returning veteran who had issues with the girlfriend he left behind while yet another son was having issues with his white non-Hispanic wife. Though many scenes in the movie were neatly done -- the trailer had led me to expect a far broader comedy than ever turned up on screen -- it was still depressing to note how familiar some of the plot elements were: a murdered sibling, a non-Latin wife, a spouse who may or may not be unfaithful, an old girlfriend who may or may not have been pregnant with a certain family member's illegitimate child... To be fair, things improved toward the end but for a while there the movie seemed all too predictable.

Moreover, certain details were off. I could not help but wonder why a Puerto Rican would have the first bars of a Mexican folk song as a tune on his car horn and why Alfred Molina's character used the same Spanish term of endearment for his wife that I used to use for my Mexican grandmother. Granted, even the best screenwriters can't know everything, but given that one of the movie's screenwriters -- Rick Najera -- was Latino, I kinda expected a bit more than the same old Hollywood hand wave.

It is to the cast's credit that the movie is still watchable. (Though I must confess that seeing former I Married Dora star Elizabeth Peña as a would-be grandparent was almost as shocking to me as seeing her former co-star Juliette Lewis appear on an episode of My Name Is Earl.) Indeed, I found the movie to be a pleasant enough time-waster. But I hardly doubt I will be visiting it again next winter. And is not the whole point of a holiday movie that you wish to see it over and over again?

Maybe they will get it right next time.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Movie Song of the Week: “Isn't Love the Grandest Thing?”

From 1935's The Rainmakers, it's a belated Valentine's Day song from Dorothy Lee and Bert Wheeler.

Watch DTS Hollywood Musical Moment - "Isn't Love the Grandest Thing" in Music  |  View More Free Videos Online at

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Movie Quote of the Week

I think science does not contradict the Bible. It has only made us more aware of how great the miracle was.
--Irene Dunne, Anna and the King of Siam (1946)

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TV Quote of the Week

Why, that'll ruin half the crops! You know that, don't you, half the crops! That's what that... But it's good you're making it snow. It's real good. And tomorrow's going to be a good day too.
--John Larch, The Twilight Zone, “It's a Good Life”

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

TV Song of the Week: “I Am the Doctor”

Actually I was not quite sure what category to put this in but it is an obvious tribute to a TV character played by Jon Pertwee -- sung, of course, by Jon Pertwee -- so why not call it a TV song?

I must admit that Jon Pertwee was never one of my favorite stars of Doctor Who in the past but now that I realize he was capable of something this cool, I'm going to have to revise my opinion of him. Let's see Matt Smith top this!

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Someone published a new novel by champion sci-fi writer Connie Willis and no one told me?

If it wasn't for Shanna Swendson, I would have never heard of this book.

I just hope it's as good as her other books.

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No Snow Today?

But the weatherman said...

Oh, skip it!

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Nieve on Wednesday

Apparently we had a record snowfall here in Dallas the Thursday before Valentine's Day and now we seem scheduled to have yet more snow tomorrow. Of course, we were supposed to have snow today but -- er -- for the sake of the local weatherpeople, let's not make a fuss about that...

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Pop Song of the Week: “The Metro”

I had such a crush on Berlin's lead singer Terri Nunn back in the day. And I used to drive my sister crazy with the numbers of times I played this video on videotape.

YMMV, of course.

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Buscando Trabajo de Nuevo: Parte VI

There seems to be some kind of unwritten law that dictates that the less you want a particular job, the more likely it is that the person taking applications for it is going to call you in for an interview.

Anyway, I just talked to an older cousin in Michigan last night and it is obvious that that state has been even harder hit by the recession than Texas. It seems like not one branch of the family has been spared some setback by the current financial crisis. And I suspect things will get worse before they get better.

On the bright side, I have the option to apply for a position which may not be ideal but looks more promising than any other position I've seen thus far. It would be obtained through a friend -- which is something I really do not want to do -- but I suspect I might have to do so anyway.

And I just discovered that the one friend I have who seems to have the bubbliest personality of all my acquaintances is taking antidepressants. Make of that what you will.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Trailer of the Week: The Crazies (1973)

What? You say there is a political message in this movie? You must be insane...

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Hey, I Remember This Show: Joan of Arcadia

Wow! William Shakespeare, the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Neil Armstrong and Harold Lloyd? That's some company.

I really wanted to find out what happens in this show's third season but, alas, I'll never know.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Movie Song of the Week: “Time after Time”

In honor of the late Kathryn Grayson, I'm posting a song from the 1947 movie It Happened in Brooklyn that most definitely should not be confused with any more recent tunes.

I hope you all enjoy it.

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Movie Quote of the Week

Everything can be temporary -- except us.
--Kathryn Grayson, Show Boat (1951)

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TV Quote of the Week

Yeah, the critics have this -- like -- you know -- great tradition of being totally clueless.
--Christopher Marquette, Joan of Arcadia, “No Bad Guy”

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pop Song of the Week: “Head over Heels”

For all the women I've loved before -- and for the one I love most at this instant.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Trailer of the Week: The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

Cool! It's actor Frank Morgan. I wonder what he wants to tell us about.

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Hey, I Remember This Show: Love, American Style

This week it's another two-fer. The opening credits to an old TV series and the intro to an episode of said show that would later become the pilot for the Happy Days series.

Believe it or not, there was actually a time in my life when I thought watching this particular show would make me seem more sophisticated. Which says something about how young I still was at that time. Then again there was a time when I thought watching Happy Days was cool. And I try to remind myself of those days every time I'm tempted to start ridiculing the type of shows that my sister's children watch.

Anyway, I hope you all enjoy it.

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Movie Quote of the Week

I don’t say Joe’s the greatest thing that ever lived. I probably wouldn’t love him if he was. I’d just want to look at him. But you see, I’m not the greatest girl in the world either. Two people look at each other and they see something way deep inside that nobody else can -- and that’s it.
--Jean Arthur, The Devil and Miss Jones (1941)

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TV Quote of the Week

Loneliness leads to nothing good. Only detachment. And sometimes the people who most need to reach out are the people least capable of it.
--Olivia Williams, Dollhouse, “Haunted”

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Nieve, Nieve y Más Nieve

Apparently it's snowing again in Dallas. It started last night after midnight and it was actually still on the ground by noon. And more of it is coming down as I write this.

It's not the first time it snowed in Dallas this winter but it seems like it.

And I was just telling a Southern-born friend yesterday about how I didn't mind being out in 37 degree weather because by the standards of my hometown of Detroit, that was springtime. Of course, it helped that there wasn't much wind yesterday.

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Monday, February 08, 2010

Pop Song of the Week: “One of Us”

It's one of the most spiritually ambiguous songs of our time. Is Ms. Osborne mocking the idea of a Supreme Deity? Is she arguing on Its behalf? You can find evidence in this video to support both points of view.

Maybe it's a Catholic thing but I always preferred to give Ms. Osborne the benefit of a doubt. After all, they used this song as the theme song for Joan of Arcadia so it can't be that bad, right? Right?

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Joan of Arcadia: “Pilot”

I found Joan of Arcadia to be a surprisingly good series, at least for the first twelve episodes after which it started being a bit uneven. When it was good, it was very good, but all too often, it settled for being just okay.

Ironically, the one factor that made me reluctant to start watching the show was not the premise (teenage girl talks to God) but the casting of Joe Mantegna as the family patriarch. Mantegna has played so many bad guys in movies like House of Games and The Godfather: Part III that I initially found it hard to believe he could play such a benign character. But he won me over eventually and so did Mary Steenburgen (who plays his wife) and Amber Tamblyn (who plays his daughter -- the title character). In fact, the whole cast was better than I expected and I am sorry that the show did not last longer than two seasons.

The plot of the first episode revolves around the title character's discovery that she could talk to God and how she eventually adjusts to it. God does not just appear to her as a disembodied voice or as some old guy with a beard but in a variety of guises, no doubt intended to symbolize the various roles God plays in our lives. Each episode he gives her some vague advice that she reluctantly acts upon. Sometimes she sees the final results. Sometimes she does not.

It eventually turns out that the reason she could talk to God -- or at least, the reason she is given for being able to talk to God -- involves a prayer she made on behalf on an older brother who was injured in a car crash. Apparently the boy was near death at the time Joan prayed and now Joan feels obliged to make up for his recovery by following God's advice.

What happens to Joan as a result of said advice? That remains to be seen in future episodes.

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Friday, February 05, 2010

Trailer of the Week: Family Plot (1976)

I see a name strangely familiar...

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Hey, I Remember This Show: Eight Is Enough

Apparently this is the one TV show that certain people on the Net love to hate, which is something that I cannot help finding strange since my siblings and I always loved this show when it was in its first run. Perhaps it is because I grew up with three siblings and had cousins who came from even larger families.

This week I post the intro from its first season in which the late Diana Hyland played the family matriarch...

...and the intro of the last half of the second season, after Betty Buckley -- yes, the same Betty Buckley who played Carrie White's gym teacher -- joined the cast as the family's stepmother.

I hope you all enjoy them.

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It's Not Just the Weather That's Frightful

No wonder there seem to be few decent roles for actresses nowadays. Mary Steenburgen used them all up back in the 1980s. For example, in the 1987 thriller Dead of Winter, she plays not one but three roles.

The main role she plays is that of Katie McGovern, an aspiring actress who thinks she has gotten her big break when she is hired by the mysterious Mr. Murray (played by Roddy McDowall) to film a part for an equally mysterious Dr. Lewis (played by Jan Rubes). She is told that the part requires her to travel out to Dr. Lewis's rural estate and when she arrives, she discovers that it is just her, the not so good doctor and Mr. Murray.

For a smart woman, Ms. McGovern takes an awfully long time to catch on to what is really going on. Then again the not so good doctor and Mr. Murray prove throughout the movie that it is not just Katie whom they are good at fooling.

This film is supposed to be the remake of a 1945 thriller called My Name Is Julia Smith. Unfortunately, that film is not available on DVD so I can't really tell you whether or not Dead of Winter is an improvement. But it does tell its story well and actually got me rooting for Ms. Steenburgen -- even when she was fighting against Ms. Steenburgen.

Confused by that last sentence? See the movie and find out what I am talking about. It is hardly the worst way to spend a cold winter night.

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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Movie Song of the Week: “Easy to Be Hard”

If I had to pick one flaw in director Miloš Forman's 1979 movie Hair, it would be the way he introduces Ms. Cheryl Barnes's character midway through the picture, establishes her as a sympathetic character and then proceeds to ignore her for most of the rest of the movie. Perhaps he was trying to make a point about the way society treats black women or perhaps he just forgot. I hope for his sake it was the former.

Oh, well. At least Ms. Barnes got one good number to herself, a number that is easily one of the most memorable of the movie.

I hope you all enjoy it.

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Movie Quote of the Week

We all know what banks are. Look all right to an outsider, but no one knows what goes on when the doors are locked. Can‘t fool me, though.
--Joseph Cotten, Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

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TV Quote of the Week

We are not who we are.
--Ken Kirzinger and Sonny Surwiec, The X-Files, “Ice”

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Mistaken Identity Crisis

Suppose you woke up one day and found out that you looked just like Osama bin Laden. Suppose almost everyone you met thought you were bin Laden as well -- including the local police. Suppose some guy tried to collect the reward for bin Laden's capture by ratting you out to the cops. Suppose the only way you could prove you weren't bin Laden was if someone in authority finally vouched for you. And suppose the only way the cops could come up with to prevent a similar mistake in the future was to give you a note verifying to all would-be arresters that you were not actually bin Laden.

Now suppose you came home one night and found out that the real bin Laden had broken into your home and was prepared to steal that note away from you at gunpoint. And that if you didn't cooperate, he would take the note from your corpse's cold stiff fingers. What would you do then?

The above scenario would work just as well if you substituted the name Timothy McVeigh or Jeffrey Dahmer for bin Laden. For the whole point of the scenario is not to draw focus on just one evildoer but to point out how much it would stink if you were a totally innocent person who just happened to look like said evildoer.

Such a scenario is at the heart of 1935's The Whole Town's Talking, a dark comedy directed by -- of all people -- John Ford, a guy not normally associated with dark comedies. Among other things, the film was actor Edward G. Robinson's second attempt at a movie comedy and the true start of actress Jean Arthur's career as a comic lead. (She, of course, had been in comedies before but The Whole Town's Talking was the first such film to get her major attention.)

Robinson plays a dual role as a humble office worker named Arthur Ferguson and a vicious gangster named “Killer” Mannion. Mannion just happens to resemble Ferguson and when a fellow office worker sees Mannion's picture in the newspaper and comments on the resemblance, it starts a chain of events similar to the scenario described above.

Arthur plays one of Ferguson's office workers, a woman named Wilhelmina “Bill” Clark. Initially, she has nothing to do with Ferguson but as events go on, she becomes more and more involved with him. Unfortunately, said involvement ends up getting her kidnapped by Mannion's thugs and it eventually becomes up to Ferguson to save her, an visiting aunt and himself from an early grave. Unfortunately, he does not have a clue how to do that. Not only is he unable to stand up to Mannion but Mannion tricks him into a suicide mission that might end up having Ferguson killed by the local cops.

The Whole Town's Talking can best described as one of those odd comedies -- and yes, it is a comedy -- that were made in the good old days that nonetheless slipped through the cracks and that today are only remembered by a few confirmed film buffs. It is not a perfect movie. Among other things, it sets up a gag involving an untended bathtub that never pays off.

But it is not a bad movie either. And the questions it asks (how do you tell the innocent from the guilty, how do you avoid punishing the innocent, what can the innocent do to avoid such punishment) are questions that are still relevant today. Indeed, if there is one thing that most bothers me about this movie, it is that the questions it asks are not asked enough nowadays -- and are even more rarely answered.

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Monday, February 01, 2010

Pop Song of the Week: “Hazy Shade of Winter”

Hang on to your hopes, my friend.

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Random Thoughts

I sincerely pray that some good deeds do go unpunished.

Every so often, I feel like I’m drowning and that all too many people around me are tossing me anchors instead of life preservers.

If I’m not good enough to talk to on a regular basis, then I’m not good enough to be solicited for your cause, no matter how worthy it may otherwise be.

All too often, the only benefit of being an autodidact is knowing what an autodidact is.

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