Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Throwback Movie Review

Something funny happened when I went to this movie in 2016.   I thought I was in 1958.  Or, at the very least, tuning into Turner Classic Movies on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Talk about your relics.  "Allied" is a modern day film that seems like it came from another era.   Not that this is a bad thing.   I actually liked it a lot.  But this is clearly a movie that your grandmother might love and say...

"Gee, they don't make 'em like this any more."

As somebody who grew up on World War II films, "Allied" was a perfect time travel for me.   I wonder, however, just how many current movie goers actually know anything about World War II.  I had older relatives who lived through it and were not afraid to share the memories.   But today's youth?   I am not so sure.  Indeed, that likely explains why "Allied," a perfectly fine piece of entertainment from director Robert Zemeckis, made no money at the box office.

That's a shame because folks missed out on a very engaging story with great performances by Brad Pitt (???!!!) and Marion Cotillard as star-crossed lovers in Europe during WWII.   When we first meet them, they are working to shoot and kill some Nazis in French Morocco.  Casablanca is mentioned a lot and that would make sense since a lot of this film comes off like the movie of the same name.

But, that's only the first half.   Brad and Marion, with a trail of dead Nazis in their wake, re-locate to London circa 1944.  They marry, have a child, and enjoy an idyllic life even if bombs are still going off every night in England.  But, suddenly, Pitt's military superiors tell him that there is evidence that his wife might secretly be a Nazi spy and they insist he investigate her.  

If this all sounds like something that would have starred Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart back in the day, you are right.   Okay, so nobody is playing "As Time Goes By" on the piano, but there is enough of an old Warner Brothers plot to make you think this movie was produced years ago.   That comes off as a bit of a knock, but trust me it's a good thing.  The story, however old it seems, is still compelling.    It's just too bad that fewer people thought so.

So, I heartily recommend "Allied."   The only problem is that you will probably have trouble finding it.   Maybe you wait five years until it turns up on TCM with an introduction by Ben Mankiewicz.  That's where it belongs anyway.

LEN'S RATING:  Three-and-a-half stars.

Dinner last night:  Pork chop with crimini mushrooms and baby spinach saute.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Monday Morning Video Laugh - January 16, 2017

It happens every winter.

Dinner last night:  Leftover chicken noodle soup.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Inauguration Day

Inauguration Day is this Friday and I had one friend already warn me.

"You better not be watching when that son of a bitch takes oath."

Hey, no worries.  Frankly, I haven't been watching when any of the past sons of bitches have taken oath either.   Given how the office has been degraded with each succeeding President, I can't think of a bigger waste of time for me than to plant myself in front of a TV to watch this boondoggle.

"What?!!  You weren't even watching eight years ago when the first African-American President was inaugurated??"

Well, even if I wanted to (and I didn't), I couldn't have.   You see, I was too busy firing people.

Back in 2009, the sleazoid corporation I was involved with at the time decided to use the date of January 20 as a shield to conduct a major, company-wide reduction in force as a means to save money.  They figured that, with the Obama inauguration taking Pages One through 30 in the press, there would be less attention given to this mass exodus of employees.

Eight years later, I am no longer shy about talking this up.

Indeed, this culminated the worst two weeks of my life.   We had all come back feeling good from Christmas break.   On the first day of our return, the company department leaders were each called in one-by-one to the office of the new organization's president, who had been essentially installed in the position to cut costs drastically and oversee this corporate genocide.

I had 12 people in my domain.  I was told by the head scalp hunter that I had to reduce this down to six.  He would even help and gave me a list of names that he had personally chosen, despite the fact that he didn't know a single one of them.

I surveyed the list and agreed on a few of them.   There were a couple of recent college grad hires that fell into the bucket of "last in, first out."  But there was one name on their of a more veteran employee that I just couldn't put out on the street.  He allowed me to put in my own list.

He gave me the list back.   Slightly altered with the veteran name back on.   I sent it back with the veteran name back in.  This idiotic dialogue went on for two days and every time my list came back, that one name was still on it.  It was like an Etch A Sketch where somebody kept erasing your picture.

Persistence paid off and I won this argument, but now had to continue the battle in other ways.   With the target date of dismissal still two weeks away, we we were all coached on how to terminate people.   You couldn't say they were being fired or let go.   The hot phraseology was "separating from their employment."  As if that's any nicer.  Over that two week period, I barely slept. That happens when you realize you are altering the lives of some people drastically.

On the day of execution, this was all to start being engineered by all the managers in a two-hour period first thing in the morning.   I had folks to terminate...er, separate from their employment...in both LA and NY, the latter being over the phone with an0ther manager as witness on that coast.   And then I had a horrible thought.

One of the people being terminated in NY was an African-American woman. God, on what I was sure would be a proud day for her with the Obama inauguration ultimately turning out to be a nightmare.   I decided to come in at 6AM LA time to do this.   I wanted to make sure that, at the very least, she would be home in time to watch the swearing-in.

None of this was easy, but I did it all by the book.  In the LA office, you didn't want to ride the elevator between floors because, if you saw somebody carrying the dreaded white envelope, you knew that person was toe-tagged.

There is one good story from that day which, eight years later, I feel I can now share.   At the time, if anybody knew, I could have been axed myself.   One of the youngsters in my domain had come into my office two days prior and handed in his resignation.   He wanted to go home and pursue a career as a chef in Massachusetts.   Okay, I knew he was on my list.   And I also knew that he would be getting almost nine months of severance pay.

I told the kid that I couldn't explain why but I was not accepting his resignation. I asked him to trust me for two days and he would soon know why.

On the day of execution, I did this kid last and, as I handed him the dreaded white envelope, we were both smiling from ear-to-ear.  I essentially was providing him with some seed money to follow his dream.

Oh, by the way, the veteran name that kept popping up on the kill list.   Still there.   Meanwhile, I am not.   Happily.

No, I won't be watching the inauguration next Friday.  But I also won't be firing people either.

Dinner last night:  Grilled knockwurst.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Classic Newsreel of the Month - January 2017

Fifty years ago this month.

Dinner last night:  Homemade chicken noodle soup.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Flashback Friday - Election Day Stickers I Would Have Liked to See










Dinner last night:  Chopped kale salad with bacon and Asiago cheese.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Yay! I Finished Reading Another Book - "In Such Good Company" by Carol Burnett

As I have mentioned many times, I don't read as much as I should.   To illustrate this perfectly, I started reading the book above in September and I only finished it last week.  I'm not proud of this.

Because, frankly, there is no reason why I shouldn't have zipped through this one at record speed.  I am such a fan of Carol Burnett and that variety show she did which was a TV hallmark of my early life.  It was clever.  It was funny.  It was spontaneous.   And, even though it was taped, you felt like you were watching it as it happened because they usually left all the flubs and break-ups in.

In her book which focuses on the eleven years that they did perhaps the greatest variety show that TV has ever known, Carol tells us that there were only about a dozen times where the cast broke up and flubbed.   I would argue there were more and, personally, I craved those moments because the goofs made it all seem so real.    As if you were in the audience at CBS Television City.

In this wonderful homage, Burnett exhaustively takes you through all the famous sketches and often includes the scripts verbatim.   There are juicy tidbits about some guest stars plus a captivating tale about the night she fired Harvey Korman.  It's all here with an episode guide put together by her daughter.   

Now, to really appreciate this book, you might want to go out and purchase one of the DVD compilations and view that as a compendium to Burnett's stories. Whatever the case, it is important that we remember always this terrific one-of-a-kind entertainments because there will never be another one like it.

I've heard some stories about Burnett herself and a few are not gracious tales. But I prefer to think of her being as nice as the words make her seem.   Indeed, several years back, my writing partner and I were in the Cheesecake Factory in Brentwood when we discovered that the woman at the next table, trying to hide behind a column and some clunky big sunglasses, was Carol herself.   We debated saying something and inexplicably kept to our rule of never bothering celebrities we saw in public.

A few months before that, I myself had an encounter with Harvey Korman when he, his wife, and daughter were in my church for Christmas Eve service.  I actually was the one who lit his candle for "Silent Night."  Those are the moments you remember in Los Angeles.

And Carol's new book offers us many reasons to remember those glorious moments spread out over eleven television seasons.  They will never ever be duplicated.

Meanwhile, I'm still perplexed over why it took me over three months to finish a book that was so interesting.

Oh, well.

Dinner last night:  Not feeling great so just some chicken noodle soup.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

This Date in History - January 11

Happy birthday, Grant Tinker.  Some of us remember you for stuff other than hooking up with Mary Tyler Moore.  We will miss you.

630:  MUHAMMAD LEADS AN ARMY OF 10,000 TO CONQUER MECCA.

And so the Muslim juggernaut begins.

1503:  ITALIAN ARTIST PARMIGIANINO IS BORN.

A lot of his work was cheesy.

1569:  FIRST RECORDER LOTTERY IN ENGLAND.

Hello, duck, can you get me a couple of those bloomin' scratches?

1693:  MOUNT ETNA ERUPTS IN SICILY, ITALY.  A POWERFUL EARTHQUAKE DESTROYS PARTS OF SICILY AND MALTA.

Instead of doughnuts, the Red Cross handed out cannolis.

1759:  IN PHILADELPHIA, THE FIRST AMERICAN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY IS INCORPORATED.

Whereas, previously, there was no great payout if you managed to kill your wife.

1787:  WILLIAM HERSCHEL DISCOVERS TITANIA AND OBERON, TWO MOONS OF URANUS.

Whose anus?

1805:  THE MICHIGAN TERRITORY IS CREATED.

And immediately had the highest unemployment rate in the country.

1843:  WRITER FRANCIS SCOTT KEY DIES.

No longer can he see by any light whatsoever.

1861:  ALABAMA SECEDES FROM THE UNITED STATES.

Drinks would have been on me.

1863:  DURING THE CIVIL WAR, GENERAL JOHN MCCLERNAND AND ADMIRAL DAVID DIXON PORTER CAPTURE THE ARKANSAS RIVER FOR THE UNION.

Bang, I shot a river.

1908:  THE GRAND CANYON NATIONAL MONUMENT IS CREATED.

A fancy way of saying "big hole in the ground."

1919:  ROMANIA ANNEXES TRANSYLVANIA.

Dracula, welcome home.

1922:  FIRST USE OF INSULIN TO TREAT DIABETES IN A HUMAN PATIENT.

Previously tested on several diabetic chimps.

1925:  TELEVISION PRODUCER GRANT TINKER IS BORN.

A genius amongst broadcast executives.  And not primarily because he had the good sense to once have a thirty minute phone conversation with me.

1927:  PRODUCER LOUIS B. MAYER ANNOUNCED THE CREATION OF THE ACADEMY OF MOTION PICTURE ARTS AND SCIENCES.

So, how come the Oscar wasn't called the Louie?

1928:  TELEVISION PRODUCER DAVID WOLPER IS BORN.

Another genius amongst broadcast executives.  And he did not have the good fortune to have a thirty minute phone conversation with me.

1935:  AMELIA EARHART IS THE FIRST PERSON TO FLY SOLO FROM HAWAII TO CALIFORNIA.

"Don't worry about me flying by myself all the time.  I'll be fine."

1942:  MUSICIAN CLARENCE CLEMONS IS BORN.

And ultimately died.  Five or six wives later.

1943:  DURING WORLD WAR II, THE UNITED STATES AND ENGLAND GIVE UP TERRITORIAL RIGHTS IN CHINA.

So when does China wind up with the territorial rights in San Francisco?

1943:  ITALIAN-AMERICAN ANARCHIST CARLO TRESCA IS ASSASSINATED IN NEW YORK.

The only good anarchist is the dead anarchist.

1949:  FIRST RECORDED SNOWFALL IN LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA.

Traffic must have really been a bitch that day.

1960:  HENRY LEE LUCAS, ONCE LISTED AS AMERICA'S MOST PROLIFIC SERIAL KILLER, COMMITS HIS FIRST KNOWN MURDER.

So, since ABC is cancelling "One Life to Live" this Friday, does that make the network a serial killer as well?

1964:  THE U.S. SURGEON GENERAL PUBLISHES A LANDMARK REPORT SAYING THAT SMOKING MAY BE HAZARDOUS TO HEALTH.

It took that long?

1965:  BASEBALL PLAYER WALLY PIPP DIES.

Well, at least, he beat Lou Gehrig in one category.

1972:  EAST PAKISTAN RENAMES ITSELF BANGLADESH.

Pass the mashed potatoes.

1979:  ACTOR JACK SOO DIES.

Dead.  Soo?  Si.  Who?  Soo?  Si.

2000:  BASEBALL PLAYER-MANAGER BOB LEMON DIES.

No way Billy Martin was going to replace him this time.  He was dead already.

2011:  ACTOR DAVID NELSON DIES.

Here are the Nelsons.  No, wait, there were the Nelsons.

2014:  POLITICIAN ARIEL SHARON DIES.

Bad TV reception.  No more Ariel.

2015:  ACTRESS ANITA EKBERG DIES.

La Dolce Morte.

2016:  BASEBALL MONTE IRVIN DIES.

Also frequent guest on TV's "Kiner's Korner."

Dinner last night:  Leftover tortellini.