Wednesday, September 28, 2016

This Date in History - September 28

Happy birthday, Thomas Crapper and no, he did not.  Invent the toilet, that is.  But, he did....well, you'll see.

551 BC:  PHILOSOPHER CONFUCIUS IS BORN.

So now we have something to write on those little pieces of paper that get stuffed into cookies.

48 BC:  POMPEY THE GREAT IS ASSASSINATED ON THE ORDER OF KING PTOLEMY OF EGYPT.

Pompey the Great is now Pompey the Dead.

365:  ROMAN USURPER PROCOPIUS BRIBES TWO LEGIONS PASSING BY CONSTANTINOPLE AND PROCLAIMS HIMSELF ROMAN EMPEROR.

Talk about being pushy.

935:   SAINT WENCESLAS IS MURDERED BY HIS BROTHER, BOLESLAUS I OF BOHEMIA. 

What happened to the good king we sing about at Christmas time?

1066:  WILLIAM THE BASTARD INVADES ENGLAND BEGINNING THE NORMAN CONQUEST.

Hence, the name.

1238:  MUSLIN VALENCIA SURRENDERS TO THE BESIEGING KING JAMES I OF ARAGON THE CONQUEROR.

Gee, this sure is a tough day to be a king.

1542:  NAVIGATOR JOAO RODRIGUES CABRILHO OF PORTUGAL ARRIVES AT WHAT IS NOW SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA.

He was quite disappointed when he found the zoo was closed for maintenance.

1708:  PETER THE GREAT DEFEATS THE SWEDES AT THE BATTLE OF LESNAYA.

There's an awful lot of guys in history who thought they were Great.

1787:  THE NEWLY COMPLETED UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION IS VOTED ON BY THE U.S. CONGRESS TO BE SENT TO THE STATES FOR APPROVAL.

Back in the days when we actually had united states.

1836:  INVENTOR THOMAS CRAPPER IS BORN.

...but he did invent the ball cock that is used in flush toilets.  And that's a funny name, too.

1844:  OSCAR I OF SWEDEN-NORWAY IS CROWNED KING OF SWEDEN.

But apparently wasn't Great.

1867:  TORONTO BECOMES THE CAPITAL OF ONTARIO.

And the Maple Leafs couldn't be far behind.

1868:  BATTLE OF ALCOLEA CAUSES QUEEN ISABELLA II OF SPAIN TO FLEE TO FRANCE.

Trying to avoid becoming Isabella the Sick.

1895:  SCIENTIST LOUIS PASTEUR DIES.

Don't cry over spilled....

1901:  BROADCAST PIONEER WILLIAM S. PALEY IS BORN.

It's funny that, on the very same day....

1901:  TV HOST ED SULLIVAN IS BORN.

Who wound up making oodles of money for his fellow birthday mate.

1909:  CARTOONIST AL CAPP IS BORN.

H'ppy b'rthdy.

1918:  ACTOR ARNOLD STANG IS BORN.

He was the voice of Top Cat.  And also ate an awful lot of Chunky Candy.

1919:  ACTRESS DORIS SINGLETON IS BORN.

Carolyn Appleby from I Love Lucy!!!!

1928:  THE U.K. PARLIAMENT PASSES THE DANGEROUS DRUGS ACT OUTLAWING CANNABIS.

Buzz killers.

1928:  SIR ALEXANDER FLEMING NOTICES A BACTERIA-KILLING MOLD GROWING IN HIS LABORATORY, DISCOVERING WHAT LATER BECAME KNOWN AS PENCILLIN.

That's what he gets for buying week-old bread.

1934:  ACTRESS BRIGITTE BARDOT IS BORN.

Now we're talking.

1939:  WARSAW SURRENDERS TO NAZI GERMANY DURING WORLD WAR II.

You really didn't expect them to put up much of a fight, did you?

1951:  CBS MAKES THE FIRST COLOR TELEVISIONS AVAILABLE FOR SALE TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC.

So how come all the first color TV programs were on NBC???

1960:  MALI AND SENEGAL JOIN THE UNITED NATIONS.

Who lowered the annual dues?

1964:  ACTOR HARPO MARX DIES.

His last words?   ............................................

1971:  THE PARLIAMENT OF THE UNITED KINGDOM PASSES THE MISUSE OF DRUGS ACT BANNING THE MEDICINAL USE OF CANNABIS.

And even more buzz killing.

1978:  POPE JOHN PAUL I DIES.

He barely had a chance to unpack.

1991:  JAZZ MUSICIAN MILES DAVIS DIES.

Miles is now six feet under.

2003:  TENNIS PLAYER ALTHEA GIBSON DIES.

Game, set, match.

2003:  DIRECTOR ELIA KAZAN DIES.

He was on the waterfront, but now is a bit further inland.

2004:  DESIGNER GEOFFREY BEENE DIES.

No longer in fashion.

2004:  RADIO DISC JOCKEY SCOTT MUNI DIES.

This guy was a real scumbag.  I'm just saying...

Dinner last night:  Chef's salad.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Son of Big Chill

Somebody once told me that there are really only five original ideas for a movie.   And the more I go to films, the more I believe this to be true.

You all remember "The Big Chill?"   A great movie about a bunch of college pals reconnecting after one of their friends commits suicide.   They spend a weekend together to talk and repair their lives.   Indeed, that might be standard movie plot #4 because it's been redone a thousand times.    Most recently, that copycat would be "The Intervention," a small and strangely entertaining film that owes its entire existence to "The Big Chill."  The youngins in this story could be the children or even...gasp...grandchildren of the characters of "The Big Chill."

While the former was a terrific movie that I watched over and over again, "The Intervention" probably has a shelf life of about a week.   I saw it two weeks ago and it's already available on demand.   It's a work that's not going to save lives or win Oscars.   But it's a perfectly good way to spend ninety or so minutes.  

As I said, the plot is Big Chill-ese for sure.   In this case, we're talking a bunch of thirty-somethings...three couples who want to take a weekend at a house that looks just like the one in "The Big Chill" and help a fourth couple with their marital issues.  Essentially, a group of busy bodies who just can't help butting into each other's lives.  

Yeah, that's it. plot wise.

The writer/director/producer/co-star is Clea Duvall and you will recognize her from about two hundred TV and movie appearances.   She has fashioned this script from her real life as she apparently has a similar bunch of busy bodies around her.  As a result, a lot of the humor rings true and there are some genuine laughs as well as awkward moments where friends insert themselves into your business a little too far.   

While the characters are pretty stereotypical including the now token gay or lesbian couple that shows up in everything Hollywood produces in 2016, I give Duvall props for not succumbing to the demands for diversity.   There are no Blacks or Hispanics or Asians or Muslims in "The Intervention."  Maybe there are none in Duvall's circle.   And, frankly, that's okay.  Not every single film should be required to promote the demographic rainbow.

The acting in "The Intervention" is pretty spot-on and the always welcome Melanie Lynskey is perfect as the busiest body of them all.  Yes, there is a sameness to the plot and the movie forges no new ground.  But, frankly, sometimes that's okay, too.  If you're entertained, don't think about how you got there.   Just enjoy the ride.

A side note about "The Intervention."   It's one of those many small independent films that tries to get traction by scheduling Q and A sessions with the moviemakers when it's being shown.   This happens in Hollywood and my screening of "The Intervention" had such a session afterwards.   Clea Duvall was there and I was really curious on how she came to this story...with or without "The Big Chill."  The only problem with this forum was she brought along one of her co-stars, some dipshit named Ben Schwartz, who hijacked the proceedings with his incessant need to be funny and/or drop the F bomb. Indeed, his performance in the movie was by far the weakest and certainly didn't merit a personal appearance.  He was available likely because he couldn't get a date for Saturday night.

Too bad.   Because I was dying to hear somebody ask Clea this question.

"How much did 'The Big Chill' influence you when you were writing this movie?"

LEN'S RATING:   Three stars.

Dinner last night:  Caprese salad.






Monday, September 26, 2016

Monday Morning Video Laugh - September 26, 2016

Boy, do we miss Charles Nelson Reilly?

Dinner last night:  BLT at Cafe 50s.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Sunday Memory Drawer - All Around Us

Oh, the memories.   My best pal from childhood, Leo, recently revisited this legendary novel.   This is noteworthy because he and I read the book originally when we were much, much younger.   The lure of the story, despite being a classic, was the infamous dirty pages at the beginning.  For years, I remember these passages on Page 23.   Then, for some reason, that morphs into Page 27.

Well, I just bought this and I am going to reread it myself.   PS, in this paperback version, the really spicy stuff is on Page 26.

Regardless of how memories can do acrobatics in your mind, I am looking forward to renewing acquaintances with the Corleone family.   Neighbors like no others you might know.

Or not.

Back in my youthful era of my hometown of Mount Vernon, New York, the city itself was mysteriously and uncomfortably divided.   The New Haven Railroad tracks cut through the center of town and created an odd geographic divide. The so-called "South Side," where we lived was a little poorer and skewed African-American.   The "North Side" was a little more affluent and skewed White and Jewish.

But, in the center of it all, was City Hall.  And, back when I was a kid, everybody in there was Italian.  

Ahem.

I used to hear it all the time in my neighborhood and my own home.   If you need something done on your block or in your school, you called somebody.   And everybody seemed to know that certain somebody with a name ending with either an "i", an "a", or an "o."   Heck, I was a kid and all the racial or ethnic divisions meant nothing to me.   I went to school with all of them and didn't give it a moment's thought.

What I also didn't consider was the folks running the town.   Who knew of such things when you were 8 or 9?  But, when something needed a tree branch cut or an old sofa picked up, whispers started.   I saw it with my own folks.

"Call City Hall and talk to..."

When I was a teenager, I desperately wanted a summer job with the city recreation park.   Playground supervisor.  Hell, it was the cushy gig of all time. Great money and you sat around all day.  Maybe, once in a while, you had to put a Bandaid on some kid's scraped knee.    

Now everybody wanted this job and you had to take a test to do so.  My high school bestie Danny and I did.   The room was full of about fifty hopefuls for maybe five openings.  It was like "A Chorus Line" except with basketballs and slides.   We took the exam but I am sure we didn't exactly get a grade of 100.

My dad stepped in.

"I'll call somebody."

Both of us got hired within the next week.

So, even a few years beyond that, I was cleaning out some drawers where my mother kept mementos.   Newspaper clippings of me making the junior high honor roll.   Old report cards.   And then I stumbled upon a dog-eared page ripped haphazardly from the town newspaper.   It was about a sting operation that nabbed a couple of horse racing bookies.   In among all the names that ended with a vowel was one I couldn't miss.   My jaw hit the floor.

My dad had been arrested.  I looked at the date of the story and did the mental math in my head.  I was probably ten years old when this happened.   How did I miss this?  Was I too wrapped up watching the Three Stooges?

It took me a few days to muster the courage to ask my mother about this.   Of course, this was likely one of the subjects never discussed above a whisper.

"We don't talk about this."

Another classic non-answer brought to you by my parents.  But I was a little older and a bit more relentless.   Whatever happened?

"Nothing.  Your father knew somebody."

Ah, yes.   Somebody.

Dinner last night:   General Tso's Chicken from Panda Express.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - September 2016

With the disgusting Presidential election we have at hand, this great movie comes to mind more and more often.

Dinner last night:  Bacon wrapped Dodger Dog on Vin Scully Night.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Your Weekend Movie Guide for September 2016

Here's what was playing at the Radio City Music Hall in September 1950.  Even back then, you could see that the more important (and possibly Oscar-worthy) films would start to come out as soon as the Fall season hits.

Finally, we might be rid of comic book junk and the usual world-apocalypse nonsense that clutters theaters every Sunday.  Stuff with a brain for people who also have...well...a brain.   Let's keep our movie going fingers crossed.

You know the drill, gang.   I'll wander through the movie pages of the local newspaper to give you my gut reaction to what is out there this week.   Here's hoping there's something there for all of us to see.    

Or you could always wait for "Sunset Boulevard" to show up on TCM.

Southside With You:   The first official romcom starring Barack Hudson and Michelle Day.   Yeah, some asshole in Hollywood thought we all needed to see a movie about their first date.   Fuck.  No.   I hear that the south side of Chicago looks virtually idyllic in this film.   I guess they weren't shooting it during the usual weekend gang war and gun battle.

Bridget Jones' Baby:  Abortion.

Sausage Party:  A dirty cartoon from Seth Rogen.   Which also means it's not funny.   Rogen is as hilarious as testicular cancer.

The People Vs. Fritz Bauer:   Relation to Jack?

Blair Witch:  A reboot of something that shouldn't have been booted in the first place.

Bad Moms:  Joan Crawford better be in this.

Don't Think Twice:  Reviewed here on Tuesday.  Scroll back.

Hell or High Water:   Blog review coming.   There is a finger pointing upward. Is it the thumb or the middle finger?  Stay tuned.

The Hollars:   Are there any families in America that are not dysfunctional?

The Magnificent Seven:   The annoying Denzel Washington shits all over another classic.   Is there an original idea in your head, Stupid?

Best Democracy Money Can Buy:   Certainly not in America.

Beauty and the Beast:  That threadbare story redone again, but not as a cartoon.   Pass.

Chicken People:  A look at the word of competitive poultry.  I wrote that just as I read it.

The Dressmaker:  Kate Winslet stars in another weepy tale---her annual acting enema designed to entice Oscar voters.

Goat:  College hazing and abuse.   They should have seen my first year at Fordham.

I.T:  Pierce Brosnan's latest attempt to prove he's relevant.   Spoiler alert: he's not.

Is That A Gun In Your Pocket?:  I don't why you ask...I'm not enjoying this movie.

My Blind Brother:  About somebody's...wait for it...blind brother.

Queen of Katwe:  A young Ugandan girl who....never mind.

People You May Know:   A woman gets pregnant by her gay ex-boyfriend. Will and a Distinct Lack of Grace.

Storks:  The latest animal spotlighted in a dreary cartoon.

Indignation:  Reviewed here recently.   Interesting, talky drama.   Should have been a play.

Kubo and the Two Strings:  Bigger budget could have gotten you three.

The Beatles - Eight Days a Week:   Will be long gone from theaters by the time my blog review runs.   But you can check it out on Hulu.

Cardboard Boxer:   Somebody fights the homeless...literally.

Don't Breathe:   Does it smell that badly?

The Light Between Oceans:   A romance about...good bye.

Mechanic - Resurrection:   All about padding an invoice, I suppose.

Mr. Church:  Who dug up Eddie Murphy?

Snowden:  Oliver Stone's take on the legendary snitch.   Expect him to look like Saint Snowden.

Suicide Squad:   It's your life.

Sully:   On my list.   Clint Eastwood does know how to tell a story.

War Dogs:  A comedy about Middle Eastern terrorism.   Because ISIS is just so damn funny.

When the Bough Breaks:  This movie will fall.

Dinner last night:   Mexican feast at Lucy's El Adobe.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Yay! I Finished Reading Another Book --- "The Eternal Party" by Kristina Hagman

Well, I sort of finished reading another book.   I'll explain.

I was back on a plane and that's really the only time I crack open a book.  By the way, it's an actual book and not a Kindle.   I like the feeling of a book in my hand as I turn the pages.   No scrolling for me.  But I digress.

A friend loaned me this book, knowing that I was a big fan of the old (and then rebooted) "Dallas" TV show.   Larry Hagman, whom I know was an odd duck, was always interesting to me.   This would be a fast read.

Um, no.   Seated in 13C on AA Flight 172 to JFK, I dozed off several times while attempting to read Larry's daughter Kristina's memories of her dad.  You want to talk about uninspiring prose?   This book is filled with it.  Perhaps the dullest writing you will ever encounter.   The ingredient label on a bottle of Snapple is more compelling.

You would think this would be a juicy tome.  I mean, how can you screw up a memoir about a legendary actor living in Hollywood?   Well, Kristina did.   Indeed, I am sure her intentions were good.   She opens the tale with her dad on his death bed.  In the throes of pain, he is babbling jibberish but clearly keeps repeating "please forgive me."  Okay, Kristina's literary journey will be to try and uncover what Larry was seeking forgiveness for.

It beats me if she ever found it.   Now I want to hear her repeating the same phrase for putting this book together.

The saga meanders from her childhood to adulthood as her dad mounted an acting career first on the stage, then film, and finally TV.  Along the way, she liberally recounts their pot parties together.   I guess the father and daughter who smoke joints together form a special bond.  Then there's a lot of family nudity and all sorts of stuff that was perfected in the mud at Woodstock.  This is was quite the free wheeling life style.   And, essentially, that's all the author focuses on.

Yawn.

By half way through the book, I was so completely uninterested by it all that I started to skim the rest of the pages.   I started to look for names that might trigger some nice tidbits.  Patrick Duffy.  Linda Gray.  Victoria Principal. Barbara Eden.   

Nothing.   Even when the TV work was discussed, it was indeed some goofy drug episode or an art gallery showing that Kristina's work was featured in.   Ugh.   At least, she can paint.   She certainly can't write.

Technically, I guess I did finish the book because I did look at every page of it.  But absorb any of it?  Lord, no.

Kristina, please forgive me.

Dinner last night:  Prosciutto, heirloom tomato, and mozzarella salad.