Wednesday, February 29, 2012

This Date in History - February 29

Well, this date only happens once every four years.  That means, Dinah Shore, you are a leap year baby.  Air kiss to you!

1504:  CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS USES HIS KNOWLEDGE OF A LUNAR ECLIPSE THAT NIGHT TO CONVINCE NATIVE AMERICANS TO PROVIDE HIM WITH SUPPLIES.

Who knew that Columbus was an eclipse-o-phile?

1704:  DURING QUEEN ANNE'S WAR, FRENCH FORCES AND NATIVE AMERICANS STAGE A RAID ON DEERFIELD, MASSACHUSETTS, KILLING 56 VILLAGES AND TAKING MORE THAN 100 CAPTIVE.

This time, there was no lunar eclipse to keep those Indians distracted.

1712:  FEBRUARY 29 IS FOLLOWED BY FEBRUARY 30 IN SWEDEN, A MOVE TO ABOLISH THE SWEDISH CALENDAR FOR A RETURN TO THE OLD STYLE.

As if this leap year shit isn't confusing enough.

1720:  QUEEN ULRIKA ELEONORA OF SWEDEN ABDICATES IN FAVOR OF HER HUSBAND, WHO BECOMES KING FREDERICK I.

This is Sweden.  She couldn't wait till February 30??

1796:  THE JAY TREATY BETWEEN THE UNITED STATES AND GREAT BRITAIN COMES INTO FORCE, FACILITATING TEN YEARS OF PEACEFUL TRADE BETWEEN THE TWO NATIONS.

So, all those tea leaves in Boston didn't go to waste after all.

1836:  AMERICAN BASEBALL PLAYER AND MANAGER DICKEY PEARCE IS BORN.

All together now......WHO????

1892:  ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA IS INCORPORATED.

Thank God.  Now the Mets will have someplace to play spring training games in 1962.

1892:  BASEBALL PLAYER ED APPLETON IS BORN.

Again.  One, two, three......WHO????

1904:  BANDLEADER JIMMY DORSEY IS BORN.

Mom always liked Tommy best.

1904:  BASEBALL PLAYER PEPPER MARTIN IS BORN.

Okay, I've heard of him.

1908:  GUNSLINGER PAT GARRETT DIES.

Killed actually as countless movies will depict.

1916:  SINGER DINAH SHORE IS BORN.

My grandmother always said she had a Black baby.  Okay, Grandma, you stand corrected.  The real rumor is that one of Dinah's parents are Black.  Done.

1916:  IN SOUTH CAROLINA, THE MINIMUM WORKING AGE FOR FACTORY, MILL, AND MINE WORKERS IS RAISED FROM TWELVE TO FOURTEEN YEARS OLD.

Kathie Lee Gifford, please note.

1932:  TIME MAGAZINE FEATURES ECCENTRIC AMERICAN POLITICIAN WILLIAM "ALFALFA" MURRAY ON ITS COVER AFTER MURRAY ANNOUNCED HIS INTENTION TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT.

On the ticket for Vice President?  Buckwheat.

1936:  BABY SNOOKS PLAYED BY FANNY BRICE DEBUTS ON THE RADIO PROGRAM "THE ZIEGFELD FOLLIES OF THE AIR."

I've heard recordings.  Gee, people had low thresholds for humor back when.

1940:  FOR HER ROLE AS MAMMY IN "GONE WITH THE WIND,"  HATTIE MCDANIEL BECOMES THE FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN TO WIN AN ACADEMY AWARD.

And makes the long walk from the ballroom kitchen to come and get it.

1940:  FINLAND INITIATES WINTER WAR PEACE NEGOTIATIONS.

Since when do we worry about them?

1944:  DURING WORLD WAR II, THE ADMIRALTY ISLANDS ARE INVADED IN OPERATION BREWER LED BY GENERAL DOUGLAS MACARTHUR.

The first time he returned.  There would be others.

1956:  PRESIDENT DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER ANNOUNCES TO THE NATION THAT HE IS RUNNING FOR A SECOND TERM.

And promptly took a nap to rest.

1960:  THE COMIC STRIP "FAMILY CIRCUS" MAKES ITS DEBUT.

Not me.  Not me.  Not me.  Not me.  If you don't get that joke, you obviously have never read "Family Circus."

1972:  HANK AARON BECOMES THE FIRST PLAYER IN THE HISTORY OF MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL TO SIGN A $200,000 CONTRACT.

Beating the $3.95 contract once signed by Ed Appleton.

1980:  HOCKEY PLAYER GORDIE HOWE MAKES NHL HISTORY BY SCORING HIS 800TH GOAL.

Howe?  Easy.

1984:  CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER PIERRE TRUDEAU ANNOUNCES HE WILL RETIRE AS SOON AS THE LIBERALS CAN ELECT ANOTHER LEADER.

Au revoir.

1988:  SVEND ROBINSON BECOMES THE FIRST MEMBER OF THE CANADIAN HOUSE OF COMMONS TO COME OUT AS GAY.

Tres....

1992:  CAR REPAINTER EARL SCHEIB DIES.

All those fumes....

Dinner last night:  Soup and sandwich.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Saul and Heshe Chew the Oscar Fat

Back again with our two favorite Hollywood veterans, Saul and Heshe.  Meeting for a nosh at Canter's Deli and kibitzing about the Oscar broadcast they saw Sunday night.

"Oy."

"Gevalt."

"Who was the meshugeh who invited Billy Crystal?"

"He was like my cousin Maury.  The one we don't invite to Passover."

"The guy with the cleft palate?"

"Exactly.  At least, Maury can pop off a one-liner.  Billy Crystal?  Your career?  When do we get to sit shiva?"

"Please embrace your AARP card.  It's time.  We have a seat for you here at the counter, you shlemiel."

"Standing up there like some alter kocker.  Waiting for the laugh.  And then bupkis."

"One joke he said the band liked.  Playing to the trombone section.  Hello?  Not even Doc Severinsen would have laughed."

"You should see him shvitzing."

"Oy."

"And, Billy, bubby, what's with the bad plastic surgery?  Did you have it done maybe at Costco?"

"His head looked like a jack o'lantern six weeks after Halloween.

"Please somebody call Bob Hope."

"He's dead."

"Still funnier than that little pisher.  I hope he gets the worst seats in shule for the high holidays."

"They could call Carson.  They could call Benny.  Hello, Danny Kaye, please!"

"Dead, dead, and gay and dead."

"Still funnier...and that includes when he put on the black face to do Samm-ila."

"Except half the audience didn't know who that was.  Sammy smoked his last Newport twenty years ago."

"The jokes were older than us."

"I thought nothing was older than us."

"The whole show I needed like a luch in kup."

"Nobody knows how to do these things anymore.  I go back to the days when they had real stars."

"Whatever happened to Terry Moore?  A shikseh, but nice tits."

"Instead, we got Angelina Jolie with that slit up her leg and we can see all the way to China."

"Which is where her last three kids came from."

"Meanwhile, what was with her face?  She move next to Three Mile Island?"

"What did happen to Terry Moore?  She had a cute face."

"And nice tits."

"Got in himmel!"

"Did you see Chris Rock's hair?  Time machine back to 1974."

"He looked like an old Norman Lear sitcom that my cousin was story editor on."

"These people don't know how to dress.  Even my wife does better and she's strictly outlet mall these days."

"The Artist was the big winner."

"A silent movie.  If only the host picked up that cue."

"Maybe the dog can host next year?"

"Me?  I hope they should all go back to France.  What was the big whoop with that movie?  Was Jerry Lewis in it?"

"Even he would be funnier than Billy Crystal.  And that's without Dino."

"They gave Oprah Winfrey some special award.  What did she ever do for the movie industry?"

"You know how much butter she uses on her popcorn?"

"Was that Christopher Plummer winning an Oscar or was I watching the roll call of dead people?"

"Both, I think." 

"Was your name shown?"

"No.  Yours?"

"No.  Good.  We can order the cole slaw."

"Oy."

"Gevalt."

"That housekeeper from the Help won Best Supporting and she cried like a baby."

"Reminded me of my housekeeper when I bought a new Swifter mop."

"You won an Oscar, lady.  You didn't get next Friday off."

"But the other maid didn't win for Best Actress.  A-ha, the Academy enforced their "one shvartz" rule."

"And neither of them had to sit in the kitchen like Hattie McDaniel."

"Meryl Streep finally won again.  Last time that happened, Billy Crystal was funny." 

"That long ago?"

"She's a class act.  Not like that Jennifer Lopez whose boobie we got to see by accident."

"I would have liked to see Terry Moore's boobie.  Just once."

"When I saw Ben Stiller presenting with that tall redhead Emma Stone, I remembered how much funnier his parents were on the Ed Sullivan Show."

"Funnier than Billy Crystal."

"All of them were.   Stiller and Meara.  Wayne and Shuster.  Totie Fields.  Even with just the one leg."

"Did you see how off-the-beam Robert Downey was?

"Gevalt.  Whose backyard is he sleeping in tonight?"

"I wish Terry Moore had slept in my backyard.  Just once."

"You've got a one track mind."

"I know.  The only trouble is my mind is working express and everything downstairs is local and making all stops."

"Oy."

"Oy.  Pass the mustard."

Dinner last night:  Salami sandwich and salad.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Monday Morning Video Laugh - February 27, 2012

When all else fails, resort to a classic clip from "I Love Lucy."  Quick set-up:  Ethel thinks she's doing a one-woman show in her hometown.

Dinner last night:  Pepperoni and mushroom pizza from Maria's Italian Kitchen.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Sunday Memory Drawer - My Very First Movie

On Oscar Sunday 2012, is there a better way to celebrate movie going than a flashback to my very, very first foray into a cinema?

Of course, knowing me, you know it couldn't have gone smoothly.  The location of the disaster is shown above.  The wonderful Loews Theater right across from City Hall in Mount Vernon, New York.  Well, that's where it used to be.  It's nothing but a dumpy parking lot now and just another sterling example of how my hometown has turned into nothing but a toxic waste dump raped and pillaged by a conga line of inept and crooked politicians over the past three decades.  A hamlet that used to have two beautiful movie palaces now has none.  As soon as my one friend still residing there moves out, the whole city can easily be blown off the Google map. 

But I digress...

Back to the movies, I can remember that they were a big part of my mom's life.  She was always reading the fan magazines.  Photoplay.  Modern Screen.  TV/Radio Mirror.  At least one night a week and with my dad working evenings, she was off to the theater with her girlfriend, Ronnie, who was a dead ringer for Susan Hayward herself.  I always knew they had been to the movies if I found a box of Pom Poms or Milk Duds on the kitchen table.  The breakfast of four-year-old champions.

If my mother and Ronnie weren't at the movies, they were on the phone talking about what they had just seen or what they were planning to check out the next week.  And they'd gossip about some of the screen stars as if they knew them.

"Maurice Chevalier looked a little bloated in Gigi."

"Did you see how bloodshot Eleanor Parker's eyes were in Home From the Hill?"

"Do you think Kirk Douglas dyed his hair for Spartacus?"

I can only imagine how catty they were with people they actually knew.

Nevertheless, I guess my mom couldn't wait to include me in her movie going world.  I couldn't have been more than four years old when I was considered cinema ready.

And, from my vivid recollection, my very first movie would be...
Perfect entertainment for somebody my age.  And, oh, look, "it's colorsome."

So, on one warm weekday afternoon, Mom walked me down Stevens Avenue to Loews for the first of what would be thousands of motion picture experiences for yours truly.

Except...

I remember the huge and glorious edifice being empty.  It was the first show of the day and apparently even a colorsome movie like Tom Thumb wasn't packing them in just yet.   We made the long climb to the balcony, which was my mother's prime viewing location.  Why?  It was the smoking section.

I probably was in awe of my surroundings.  It was so eerily quiet.  But the hall was very pretty.  And the velvet curtain that faced us all.

Moments later, the lights began to dim.

Uh oh, what's happening?

The curtain slowly started to inch its way apart to reveal a huge white wall.  

Suddenly, this all didn't look so inviting.  I had no clue what was happening.  But none of it looked good.  And I reacted the way any well-adjusted child would.

I started to scream.

'WHHHHAAAAAAAA!   WHHHAAAAAAAAAAA!"

My mom was so off-put that she probably had to douse her cigarette.  What the hell was wrong with me?

"WHHHHHAAAAAAA!  WHHHHAAAAAAAAAA!"

If there was anybody else in the theater at that moment, I am sure they were complaining to the manager.  Can you shut that freakin' kid up?

Mom had no luck with me.  This freakin' kid wouldn't shut up.  I sounded like Lucy Ricardo on the umpteenth time that Ricky wouldn't let her be in the show down at the Tropicana.

There would be no Tom Thumb for me that afternoon. 

I think I stopped the histrionics several blocks away.  And re-ignited them  anew when Mom had her say.

"You've wasted my money, today, young man."

Young man?  Okay, I was four.

With a great flourish, my mother ripped apart the two movie tickets.  Wasted money, indeed.  The tickets were probably no more than fifty cents each.  Needless to say, the rest of my afternoon was spent in my room.  A just punishment for having squandered my family's fortune.

Not wanting to repeat the scream fest ever again, my mother got smart at how to get around my "dimming lights/curtain parting" phobia.  For the next two years whenever I was taken to the movies, we arrived ten minutes into the first feature.  I clearly recall one afternoon while we hung around Hartley Park just up the street from the RKO Proctors theater.  The show had started at 1PM.  My mom looked at her watch.

"1:15PM.  I guess we can go in now."

Now, this late arrival trend was admittedly a little strange.  And it couldn't have gotten more bizarre on the occasion where I first remembered ever going to the movies with not one, but both of my parents.  And I previously told this particular saga when I wrote about my Top 25 Favorite Films.  The movie that came in at # 2....

"Some Like It Hot" holds a very special place in my own personal film history, as it was the very first time I heard a movie theater audience laugh. Out loud. I was very, very, very young, but I distinctly remember going to Loews' Mount Vernon theater to see it. It was even more noteworthy since it was probably the only time I ever went to an indoor theater with both my parents in tow. Back in those days, your neighborhood movie house ran two pictures and you frequently didn't pay attention to start times. You just showed up when you wanted to. There were many times when we would show up and see the final 20 minutes of one movie, see the next one, and then leave at the exact spot where we came in. Very weird and I would never even fathom doing that today.

We inexplicably arrived to see "Some Like It Hot" about ten minutes from the end. I remember very little except that it was the big chase scene through the hotel. And the audience was roaring with laughter. I did not know what to make of it all. Many years later, I truly understood.

There is not one single wasted moment or line of dialogue in this whole movie. Every word has a purpose and a function. And, more importantly, it gets you to where Billy Wilder wants you. In the palm of his hand. Laughing hysterically till it hurt. I've read the screenplay several times and it is a master course in film comedy. It should be used as a textbook in film schools all over the country.

I've seen "Some Like It Hot" probably 30 or 40 times in my life. It never gets old or repetitive. I've seen it on TV and on the big screen. It never gets any less funnier than it was the very first time. When I walked into that Loews theater across from City Hall in Mount Vernon.

And heard all those people enjoying a truly phenomenal movie.

Oddly enough, there are days now where I crave to see a curtain open up to reveal a movie screen.  Nothing excites me more.  You sadly see it done any more.  The Alex Theater in Glendale does it.  The Bruin and the Fox Westwood Theaters do it.  But, otherwise, it is a lost art.

And just when I got over that screaming thing...

Dinner last night:  French dip sandwich at GO Burger.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - February 2012

One of the weirdest movie trailers.  Leave it to that crazy Otto Preminger.


Dinner last night:  Steak, mushrooms, grilled vegetables, and mashed potatoes---a great meal at the home of good friends Connie and Leo.

Friday, February 24, 2012

My Predictions for ths Year's Oscars - Part 2

Here's the sick-bedded Joan Crawford accepting her 1945 Best Actress Oscar for her terrific performance in "Mildred Pierce."  And now my question is how many times one of her kids got whacked with that statue right across the kisser. 

Today, I'm giving you my guesstimates for the really big awards this Sunday.  Feel free to use them in your Oscar pool.  These will be the picks in mine.

SUPPORTING ACTOR:  In my viewpoint, there are some acting nominees every year that are essentially "limo riders."  Yep, the biggest reward you will get all night is, well, that stretch limousine ride to the Kodak Theater.  Maybe Ryan Seacrest will ask you where you got your shoes.  And maybe your date for the gala will treat you afterwards to...ahem. 

So, looking at the five nominees in this category, I am seeing three "limo riders."  Kenneth Branagh, Jonah Hill, and Nick Nolte?  Eat as many peanuts as you want from the open bar.  That will be the highlight of your night.  The race is between Max Von Sydow for "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" and Christopher Plummer for "Beginners." 

It would be way too cool for Von Sydow to win since he didn't have a single word of dialogue in the movie.  But, despite the fact that I heard "Beginners" was dreadful, it's Plummer's day for a lifetime achievement award.  I'll pretend he is accepting an Oscar for playing Captain Von Trapp in "The Sound of Music."  The winner is CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS:  Cue my major yawn.  There are two "limo riders" in this category.  Janet McTeer in "Albert Nobbs?"  Who the hell are you anyway?  Jessica Chastain for "The Help?"  I didn't even realize you were in that film.  Enjoy the broccoli florets and the ranch dip. 

You can pretty discount as well Berenice Bejo for her cloying performance as Peppy Miller in "The Artist."  No Oscar winner should have the bad dental structure she sports in that movie.  It'd be great to see Melissa McCarthy score one for "Bridesmaids."  But, I'm thinking the diarrhea scene hits way too close to home for those Academy members over the age of 70.  Excess bowel movements are particularly annoying to people who don't have one in a single seven-day period.

Months ago, the Academy seemed to bestow this Oscar on Octavia Spencer as one of the housekeepers in "The Help."  Sassy, sharp, moving, and, oh, by the way, she's Black in a movie that once again reminds us that there was once slavery in this country...over 150 years ago.  And, while Melissa McCarthy had lots of toilet issues in her performance, Octavia literally makes her boss eat shit.  Fitting since Spencer's first name reminds me of that yogurt Jamie Lee Curtis eats to be regular.  Enough bathroom humor, folks.  Yeah, yeah, the winner will be OCTAVIA SPENCER.

ACTOR:  Another trio of "limo riders."  Demian Bichir in "A Better Life?"  I don't even know who you are and what your movie is.  Gary Oldman for "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy?"  That played for about a week and a half at the Arclight.  Sadly, I loved Brad Pitt in a totally layered and brilliant performance in "Moneyball," but he, too, has no shot.  The solace is that all three of you will probably get really nice consolation prizes when you hit the sheets later that night with your significant others. 

The race is between George Clooney for "The Descendants" and Jean Dujardin in "The Artist."  George, you were a lot, lot better in "Up in the Air" two years ago.  The movie you're nominated for is really mediocre.  And that fake tear at the end?  How many takes did you need to manage that?  Sorry.

Yeah, despite the fact that the film is bloated and grossly overrated, the winner will be JEAN DUJARDIN and his ultra-cheesy moustache.  With any luck, he'll be on an Air France flight out of LAX by Monday night and we'll never see him again.

ACTRESS:  Glenn Close for "Albert Nobbs" and Rooney Mara for "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?"  Thank you for playing this year's Oscar game.  You got a new dress out of it.  You, too, Michelle Williams for "My Week with Marilyn."  Please try again next year.

I thought Meryl Streep was absolutely luminous as Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady."  But, as I travel the environs of Hollywood, I am noticing that people are confusing their feelings for her performance with their opinions of Mrs. Thatcher's leadership.  For Pete's sake, it's a freakin' movie.  In any other year and with a more politically intelligent voting body, Streep is the winner.

But, wait, we have Viola Davis in "The Help" and Hollywood is craving another moment where they can build yet another bridge of racial relations.  Not only will we have one acting award to a Black actor, but we can have two.  Imagine the photo opportunities.  What a historic night!  And maybe that will stop once and for all that loudmouth Denzel Washington from bitching about the Academy being too White.  Personally, I' m anxiously waiting for the year where two Oscar acting winners are both Dutch. 

The winner will be VIOLA DAVIS.  But, Hattie McDaniel, you're still my favorite Oscar-winning household help.

DIRECTOR:  Unfortunately, a non-contest.  It would be terrific if venerable directors like Woody Allen for "Midnight in Paris" or Martin Scorsese for "Hugo" could win.  But, the juggernaut will continue for "The Artist" as Hollywood falls over itself to embrace a gimmick.  There are much better films than "The Artist" in 2011.  There were much better silent films in 1927.  But, once again, style wins over substance.  The winner will be MICHEL HAZANAVICIUS.  Let's hope he has the Air France seat right next to Dujardin on Monday night.

PICTURE:  Can I please raise my hand for two nominated films that I truly loved?  "Midnight in Paris" worked as well on my second viewing as it did on the first.  Incredibly clever and downright educational.  "Moneyball" was my favorite film last year.  The filmmakers took an overly clinical non-fiction book about statistics and economics and somehow gave it a tender heart.  It was so much more than a baseball movie.  Friends of mine who don't even follow the sport loved it. 

The rest of the nine total nominated features I either didn't see, dismissed, or simply just liked.  The battle for the top honors here is between "The Help" and "The Artist."  Groan.  The former is nothing more than a Road Runner cartoon with real people.  Let's watch how a White person can get pummeled with an anvil from the Acme Company.  I wrote here that this movie was terribly wrong-headed and, in a bizarre way, set race relations back about 60 years.  It could be a surprise winner Sunday night.  If you really want to see a great film about race relations in the South, may I suggest the new restoration of "To Kill a Mockingbird" on DVD and Blu-ray?

But, in recent years, the Academy has had no interest in upsets.  Harvey Weinstein has worked his magic again and shoved "The Artist" down our throats as if he wants to make sure we all eat our peas for dinner.  He bought an undeserved Best Picture Oscar for "Shakespeare in Love" and he does it all over again when 'THE ARTIST" wins on Sunday night.  And, if you really want to see a silent movie that was truly the best film of its year, may I suggest the new restoration of "Wings" on DVD or Blu-ray? 

Dinner last night:  Teriyaki beef and vegetables.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

My Predictions for This Year's Oscars - Part 1

It's that time of year again. Fire up the office pools.  NCAA Brackets time? Nah, not yet. We need to first consider the Oscars.

You might remember that this is an annual happening on this blog.  I participate in a competition every year with good friends Lorraine and Dennis back in New York.  We first try to guess the nominees in the major categories.  That's done and, at this juncture, I have 28 points.  Lorraine is at 27 points and Dennis holds up the rear with 24 points. 

Now we have to predict the winners in each and every category this Sunday night in an effort to add to our respective totals.  On the line is a dinner hosted by the two losers for the winner. 

So, if you're looking to win in your own personal Oscar pool, you might want to consider my guesses.  Today we tackle all the lesser awards.  That's where the surprises happen.  And there's no better place to start than...

LIVE ACTION SHORT:  As opposed to Dead Action Short.  Lorraine and Dennis actually go to see all these things.  Me?  I guess from the titles and pick anything that looks even remotely tied to A) the Holocaust or B) Black oppression.  I'm not seeing a thing this year.  I'm going for THE SHORE.  Why?  It's about Ireland.  That would be Handwringing Topic D.

DOCUMENTARY SHORT:  Now, even though I haven't seen any of the nominees, my heart would normally go to "God is the Bigger Elvis," which is all about former actress Dolores Hart who left the business to become a nun ages ago.  She's even going to show up at the ceremony.  But, I read there's another one about Pakistani women recovering from acid attacks.  Damn, that sort of drama beats the Vespers any day.  The winner will be SAVING FACE.

ANIMATED SHORT FILM:  Why don't they call it what it really is?  A freakin' cartoon!  I'm not seeing any Bugs Bunny titles amongst the nominees.  In that case, always go for the Pixar offering.  The winner will be THE FANTASTIC FLYING BOOKS OF MR. MORRIS LESSMORE. 

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE:  Searching, searching for my Holocaust and/or Black oppression topics.  Wait.  There's one about three convicts in Memphis, who killed some kids.  Close enough.  The winner will be PARADISE LOST 3 - PURGATORY.  You mean there were two other documentaries before this???

SOUND MIXING:  One of those awards when, during your home Oscar bash, you use this time to put the Chinese food containers in the garbage.  I have this sense that the Academy wants to salute the dazzling technical elements of Martin Scorsese's HUGO.

SOUND EDITING:  The award when, during your home Oscar bash, you announce "Okay, anybody want anything else to drink?"  The winner again will be HUGO.

ART DIRECTION:  Why did I just tell you?  The movie was really cool to look at, even with those damn 3-D glasses which always give me a headache.  The winner again will be HUGO.

VISUAL EFFECTS:  Okay, I'm a little Hugo-ed out, aren't you?  You would think it would take this award as well.  But when your competition is a bunch of chimps running across the Golden Gate Bridge, it's hard to keep that juggernaut going.  The winner will be RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES.

MAKEUP:  It's ultimately a battle of who can put more junk on the faces of Glenn Close and Meryl Streep.  In "Albert Nobbs," they made Glenn look like a man.  I would argue that's not such a hard trick.  My winner is THE IRON LADY.

ORIGINAL SCORE:  Original?  Phooey!  We know it's not going to be on Kim Novak's ballot, but I'm thinking that most of the Academy doesn't give a shit that Ludovic Bource stole a lot of his "original" music score of THE ARTIST.

ORIGINAL SONG:  Hollywood could only muster up two nominees this year and one of them is from a Muppet movie.  Never bet against felt.  The winner will be MAN OR MUPPET FROM THE MUPPET MOVIE.

COSTUME DESIGN:  I'm sure it deserves an award for essentially raiding the armoire of Clara Bow, but the competition this year is as weak as the crotch lining in that suit you bought from Walmart.  The winner will be THE ARTIST.

FILM EDITING:  "Hugo" is up for this, but the winner of this award almost always matches up to the Best Picture victor.  And, blowing off one headline for tomorrow blog's, that will be THE ARTIST. 

ANIMATED FEATURE:  What???  No Disney???  Oh, the humanity!  I only saw one of the nominees, so that's my pick---RANGO.

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM:  Even though their one entry from Israel and another one about the Holocaust from Poland, I'm thinking they will bestow the olive branch to the movie offered up by Iran.  Gee, with all the shooting and rioting, they had time to make a film?  The winner will be A SEPARATION.

CINEMATOGRAPHY:  This frequently matches up with the Best Director and the Best Picture.  But, this year, I'm guessing the Academy wants to throw a bone to director Terrence Malick for his picture postcard THE TREE OF LIFE, despite the fact that it was eight hours long and shunned at the box office.

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:  As much as I thought "Moneyball" was the best movie of the year with an amazing script that turned a boring book into an incredibly lyrical story, I don't get a vote.  The Academy is in love with THE DESCENDANTS, which I swear I saw five years ago on Lifetime with Joan Van Ark in the lead role.

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:  As funny as "Bridesmaids" was and as fascinating as "Margin Call" was, Woody Allen's love letter to the City of Lights was his best work in years.  I recently saw it for a second time and felt like I was hearing words for the first time.  Very few movies can do that to me.  The winner will be MIDNIGHT IN PARIS.   And here's a bonus prediction.  He won't show up to get it.

Tomorrow, I tackle the biggies.

Dinner last night:  Asian chicken wings plus broccoli salad.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

This Date in History - February 22

Live from New York, it's "Happy Birthday, Don Pardo!"

1371:  ROBERT II BECOMES KING OF SCOTLAND, BEGINNING THE STUART DYNASTY.  

If being king of some place where men wear skirts is your thing, go have at it.

1495:  KING CHARLES VIII OF FRANCE ENTERS NAPLES TO CLAIM THE CITY'S THRONE.

And pick up a large pepperoni pizza.

1632:  GALILEO'S "DIALGOUE CONCERNING THE TWO CHIEF WORLD SYSTEMS" IS PUBLISHED.

Yeah, but it wasn't one of Oprah's book picks of the month.

1797:  THE LAST INVASION OF BRITAIN BEGINS NEAR FISHGUARD, WALES.

The last invasion?  What was the Nazis in 1939?  A class field trip?

1819:  BY THE ADAMS-ONI TREATY, SPAIN SELLS FLORIDA TO THE UNITED STATES FOR FIVE MILLION DOLLARS.

And they have been sending their people to live there ever since.

1847:  DURING THE MEXICAN-AMERICAN WAR, 5,000 AMERICAN TROOPS DEFEAT 15,000 MEXICANS.

That's 3 Mexicans for every American soldier.  Meanwhile, I don't think this war is over yet.

1855:  THE PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY IS FOUNDED IN STATE COLLEGE, PENNSYLVANIA.

When were the boys' showers built?

1856:  THE REPUBLICAN PARTY OPENS ITS FIRST NATIONAL MEETING IN PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA.

Why are these political groups called "partys?"  They don't look like much fun to me.

1862:  JEFFERSON DAVIS IS OFFICIALLY INAUGURATED FOR A SIX-YEAR-TERM AS THE PRESIDENT OF THE CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA.

A six-year-term?  Yikes.  For me, four years is way too long if the guy stinks.

1872:  THE PROHIBITION PARTY HOLDS ITS FIRST NATIONAL CONVENTION IN COLUMBUS, OHIO.

Prohibition?   That is definitely not a party in my book.

1879:  IN UTICA, NEW YORK, FRANK WOOLWORTH OPENS THE FIRST OF MANY FIVE AND DIME WOOLWORTH STORES.

And, on this day only, you probably could buy something in there for fifteen cents.

1889:  PRESIDENT GROVER CLEVELAND SIGNS A BILL ADMITTING NORTH DAKOTA, SOUTH DAKOTA, MONTANA, AND WASHINGTON AS US STATES.

Well, that probably added about 27 people to the country's population.

1907:  ACTOR SHELDON LEONARD IS BORN.

Psst, hey, buddy....

1907:  ACTOR ROBERT YOUNG IS BORN.

Father knows best...and, in this case, also drinks most.

1915:  DURING WORLD WAR I, GERMANY INSTITUTES UNRESTRICTED SUBMARINE WARFARE.

You mean it was once restricted? 

1918:  BASEBALL OWNER CHARLIE FINLEY IS BORN.

Is it redundant if I call him a jackass?

1918:  TV ANNOUNCER DON PARDO IS BORN.

He worked till he was 90.   Hopefully, it wasn't because he had a lousy pension plan at NBC.

1924:  US PRESIDENT CALVIN COOLIDGE BECOMES THE FIRST PRESIDENT TO DELIVER A RADIO BROADCAST FROM THE WHITE HOUSE.

So he was officially the first one not to have anything to say.

1930:  SINGER MARNI NIXON IS BORN.

Really not a big deal until the day that Audrey Hepburn and Natalie Wood were born.

1932:  POLITICIAN TED KENNEDY WAS BORN.

Can you imagine the labor pains when little Rose had to push this fat load out?

1942:  DURING WORLD WAR II, PRESIDENT FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT ORDERS GENERAL DOUGLAS MACARTHUR OUT OF THE PHILIPPINES AS JAPAN'S VICTORY BECOMES INEVITABLE.

That's an awful quick hook, if you ask me.

1958:  EGYPT AND SYRIA JOIN TO FORM THE UNITED ARAB REPUBLIC.

The last moment of unity ever in the Mideast.

1965:  JUSTICE OF THE US SUPREME COURT FELIX FRANKFURTER DIES.

Hot dog!

1974:  SAMUEL BYCK TRIES AND FAILS TO ASSASSINATE US PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON.

Talk about blowing your chance at immortality.

1976:  SUPREME FLORENCE BALLARD DIES.

She was stopped...in the name of love.

1980:  IN LAKE PLACID, NEW YORK, THE UNITED STATES HOCKEY TEAM DFEATS THE SOVIET UNION HOCKEY TEAM, 4-3. 

Do you believe in miracles??  Nah!

1983:  THE NOTORIOUS BROADWAY FLOP "MOOSE MURDERS' OPENS AND CLOSES ON THE SAME NIGHT.

That's what I get for buying tickets for February 23.

1984:  DAVID VETTER, THE BOY IN THE BUBBLE, DIES.

Symbolically, he died during the closing credits of the Lawrence Welk Show.

1985:  VIOLINIST EFREM ZIMBALIST DIES.

77 Sunset....no, wait, this is the father.  Never mind.

1987:  ARTIST ANDY WARHOL DIES.

In his memory, I ate a can of Campbell's Tomato Soup.

1995:  ACTOR ED FLANDERS DIES.

He killed himself.  Sad.  A terrific performance on one of my favorite TV shows of all time, St. Elsewhere.

1997:  IN SCOTLAND, SCIENTISTS ANNOUNCE THAT AN ADULT SHEEP NAMED DOLLY HAS BEEN SUCCESSFULLY CLONED.

So, well, hello...  Any need to finish this obvious joke?

2002:  CARTOONIST CHUCK JONES DIES.

That really is all, folks.

Dinner last night:  Smoked beef sausage, rice, and pickled beets.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Poor, Poor Whitney

Some of you aren't going to like what I have to say today.   

Tough.  My opinion.  My blog.  Deal with it.

Whitney Houston is dead.  Another magical voice stilled way too early.  I couldn't help but note that she lived about one year longer than Judy Garland and that led me to all the other similarities between those two.  Most notably the uniqueness of their voices, their tortured lives, and the fact that both of them went buns up in the can.  Note to any other 40-something female singers with great talent: you might want to stay out of the bathroom.

But I digress....

Houston's death became official on, gasp, my birthday when she did her best impression of Captain Nemo in a Beverly Hilton bathtub.  One would argue that she died years ago, like one of those bugs whose head comes off but still walks around for a while.  Photos of her last night out on the town showed someone careening down a winding road and, at least, we can be thankful that she didn't take any innocent folk out in her certain collision with a Smart Car driven by the Grim Reaper.  Like Michael Jackson, folks were totally surprised by the news.  Like Michael Jackson, I was shocked she lasted this long.

But, unlike Michael Jackson, Whitney's family chose not to turn their mourning and subsequent memorial services into extended editions of Don Kirshner's Midnight Special.  The Houstons tried to do it with class, while the ultra lowlife Jacksons rented out the Staples Center and, oh, by the way, in between tributes, hot dogs are available for sale at nearby concession stands.   Nope, Whitney's relatives did it with decorum...or as much dignity that one can muster up in downtown slummy Newark, New Jersey.  Of course, Whitney's aunt, Dionne Warwick, knows something about professionalism.  Another God-given voice as long as you ignore the fact that she stole millions and millions of dollars from innocent schlubs who joined her Psychic Friends Network.

But, I digress again...

The outpouring of grief for Ms. Houston has been intense.  Okay, from everything I ever heard about her, she was an absolute scumbag of a person.  But that should not take away one iota from the immense joy her singing gave many.  There's tons of hand wringing about her demise.  A great deal of it naturally coming from the Black community.

Hell, the wrong Reverend Al Sharpton called for a national day of prayer in Houston's honor.  Of course, this is as fraudulent as it is laughable.  But, then again, who ever listens to anything that fat felon has to say?  Oh, wait, he's got his own nightly show on MSNBC and that should be enough evidence for the FCC to strip them of their broadcast license and end that nightmare of a cable network once and for all.

Oh,  there I go digressing again...

It's the mea culpas from the Black community that has me giggling.  Poor, poor Whitney, they lament.  We will miss you so.

Yeah, right.  There's some long term memory loss at play here.

Because I remember vividly when Whitney's career first skyrocketed.  There was nobody hotter.  There was nobody that could touch her talent.  There was nobody...well, nobody else.

Except the buzzing from the Black community was a little less than welcoming.  I remember it.  Don't you?

Whitney was acting too White.

She was nothing but an Oreo cookie.

What's she doing in a movie with that White lunkhead Kevin Costner?  By the way, "The Bodyguard" might be the only movie where Costner isn't the worst actor in the cast.  Yet, beyond that, Whitney was very much ripped apart like a rag doll by her own folks.  And why?

She wasn't acting Black enough.

We'll never know if this criticism is what started Houston on her slippery slope downward.  But, it might have been what propelled her to start keeping company with Ultra-Black dude Bobby Brown.  But, that match wasn't one approved by Gene Rayburn.  Beyond long, Whitney became nothing but a punching bag for this complete fuck-up of a human being.  And when she wasn't taken one across the kisser, she was snorting up anything she could find in his pant pockets.

If Whitney was embracing her heritage more, she certainly was doing it...no pun intended...in spades.

Career over.  Life over.

In all the tributes the past week, nobody recalled this controversy.  But I certainly did.  And when I saw that gospel choir at the funeral service on television singing so soulfully about their sister, I couldn't help but recall that, not longer ago, the same idiots were trying to disown her.


Dinner last night:  Italian sub from Jersey Mike's.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Monday Morning Video Laugh - February 20, 2012

This ran this past Saturday on SNL and it's a hoot from Maya Rudolph. Perfect for Black History Month.


Dinner last night:  Tortellini with chicken and pesto.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Sunday Memory Drawer - The Kid

This week, I was coming up empty.  Through a myriad of lousy excuses, my memory meter was closing in on "E."  Usually, something spurs me along for a Sunday piece.

Remembering something Grandma did?  Nothing was coming easy.

An old school photograph?  Damn, I already wrote that.

A bad date?  Way too many to put down and that's not very interesting anyway.

And then I heard that Gary Carter died.

Cue the flood.  My mind suddenly working overtime.  Conjuring one memory after another about the legendary Met.  Sure, he was only with the club for five years.  But, it wasn't the quantity but the quality.
Gary Carter was pure baseball class.  And he was a part of one of the most lasting memories of my life---the 1986 World Series.

I thought about how consumed I was with the New York Mets in the mid 1980s.  This were my very first baseball fans as an adult.  I didn't need to clear it with the folks when I wanted to go out to Shea Stadium.  I just went.  I was working, but my schedule and really my whole life was planned around the Mets.  Between my Saturday plan tickets and the weekday evening games I enjoyed with my pal, the Bibster, on his seats, I literally had two home addresses.  Yonkers and Flushing.

There had been many years of baseball drought at Shea Stadium.  Seasons of absolute shame.  And denial whenever somebody asked you this question.

"You root for the Mets, right?"

Ummm, er, well.....

My head resting sadlessly on my chest was the only answer you needed.

Suddenly, glimmers of hope.  They landed some pitcher named Darling in a trade.  Wasn't that the family name in "Peter Pan?"  Nevertheless, he was supposed to be a star. 

Oh, yeah, and there's this big kid in the minors.  He's supposed to be Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron all rolled up in one.  Strawberry something or other.  When they called him up to the majors and he was to start his first game on a warm May Friday night in 1983, my dad and I were so intrigued that we simply drove out to Shea and bought game day tickets.  Maybe this was the start of something to see.

Then, in 1984, some string bean named Dwight and he seemed to strike out every hitter he faced.  All of a sudden, my mother was interested in baseball and the Mets.  Sure, she was enticed by announcer Tim McCarver and his good looks, but this pitching phenom also dragged her into regular viewing on WWOR Channel 9.

The Mets that season were actually in a pennant race and I had to look up the expression in a dictionary so I could remember what it was.  They didn't make the playoffs mainly because they needed one more bat.  And, oh, yeah, a better catcher.

On December 10, the Mets traded for both.  And, oh, yeah, it was the same person.  Gary Carter, the long time catcher of the Montreal Expos, now belonged to us.

And we thought nothing could stop the Mets now. 

I will never forget New Years Eve several weeks later.  This would be the very best year-end celebration of my life.   Dancing to the oldies at Shout in Manhattan.  As midnight approached, my friend and fellow Met fan Glenn and I started to randomly toast to things.   I yelled out.

"And here's to Gary Carter who will bring us to the World Series next year!!"

The guy hadn't even squatted down at Shea Stadium and we were already lining up for a tickertape parade down Broadway. 

Opening Day in the frozen tundra of Shea the very following April did nothing to chill those expectations.  Especially when I shivered and cheered at the same time when Gary's debut appearance as a Met culminated in his walk-off tenth inning home run.


Yeah, nothing was gonna stop our Mets this season.

Except, well, the St. Louis Cardinals did.

We'd have to wait a little longer.  

But it was amazing to watch the transformation aided and abetted by this curly-headed catcher named Carter from Culver City, California.    His boyish energy and team spirit made Met fans feel that the corner would be turned sooner than later. 

My mother loved Dwight Gooden.  My dad fancied Keith Hernandez.  Me?  Gary Carter was suddenly my favorite New York Met.

And I was not alone.  There's my good friend and then work colleague Patti.    A fellow Met fan.  And a Gary Carter devotee.

To say the least.

Beyond the baseball prowess,  I guess there was a hormone thing going on as well.  She absolutely adored Gary.  She'd refer to him by his first name as if he lived next door and frequently borrowed cups of sugar.  While certainly not stalker material, Patti and her friends liked to go watch the Mets play in Florida spring training.  And, oh, by the way, have her picture taken with her favorite Met.
This photo became Patti's badge of honor.  She had it framed on her desk.  She used it as the cover of a customized Christmas card.  I remember vividly her boss standing in her cubicle and sizing up the photo above.  He shook his head.

"I'm really worried about this girl."

Yeah, but none of it was creepy.  A baseball fan's gotta do what a baseball fan's gotta do.

In 1986, the New York Mets and Gary Carter would not be denied.  A juggernaut of a season that led us to the promised land of late night October baseball.  Still, as good as that team was, it would not be easy.  In Game 6 of the World Series against the Boston Red Sox...

Well, here's what I wrote here a few months back.  Two outs.  The bottom of the tenth.  One strike away from another depressing winter.  Down in the left field Loge, I had a single thought in my mind as Gary Carter strode to the plate with his bat.

"Please don't let Gary Carter make the last out."

That worked somehow.

I carried it over, although I didn't have the same affinity for Kevin Mitchell as I did for Carter.

"Please don't let Kevin Mitchell make the last out."

And that worked, too. I didn't mess with a good thing.

"Please don't let Ray Knight make the last out. Please don't let Ray Knight make the last out. PLEASE DON'T LET RAY KNIGHT MAKE THE LAST OUT."

I sounded like one of those lunatics in Bellevue. Slumped over in a fetal position and reciting over and over the lyrics to "A Spoonful of Sugar."

Knight also did not make the last out.

Okay, now I was on a mission. Despite the fact there were 56,000 people (and countless others at home) around me with the same goal, I became convinced that I was single handedly spearheading this miraculous comeback. I couldn't go off the standard operating procedure now. Plus I was worried about my high school best friend Danny who was over in the Loge around third base. What must he be thinking? His very favorite New York Met was at the plate to hit next.

"PLEASE DON'T LET MOOKIE WILSON MAKE THE LAST OUT. PLEASE DON'T LET MOOKIE WILSON MAKE THE LAST OUT. PLEASE DON'T LET MOOKIE WILSON MAKE THE LAST OUT. PLEASE DON'T LET MOOKIE WILSON MAKE THE LAST OUT. PLEASE DON'T LET MOOKIE WILSON MAKE THE LAST OUT. PLEASE DON'T LET MOOKIE WILSON MAKE THE LAST OUT. PLEASE DON'T LET MOOKIE WILSON MAKE THE LAST OUT. PLEASE DON'T LET MOOKIE WILSON MAKE THE LAST OUT."

To this very day, nobody really made the last out that night.

I was numb for the first few moments after the game. The human body is not equipped to handle two wildly diverse emotions in the same ten minute period. When my mind finally "woke up," I immediately had to share this emotion with a good friend...and a Met fan. I didn't realize that my buddy Danny on the other end of the loge had the same sensation. From the right field corner, I scampered down to the loge corridor and started running toward his end. He did the same. We converged around Section 1 behind home plate.

And two grown men hugged for about five minutes.

I look back on that evening and postseason and I remember now what the Mets did for me in October 0f 1986. The month before, I had broken off a relationship. Well, I broke it off. She essentially dumped me. Not that this was the great love of my life. But, still, the residual aches of a guy with inner turmoil and self-doubt had lingered.

The pain all dulled and virtually erased by the New York Mets. Yes, it all evaporated in almost a blink of the eye.

"Behind the bag, it gets through Buckner..."

Keep in mind that none of these emotions ever happen unless Gary Carter gets that single to left field.  In one single stroke of the bat, he made it all possible.

Cue the tickertape.  And my most memorable moment as a baseball fan.

There would be other days and nights and years with Gary Carter on the Mets.  I remember a freezing Sunday night of playoff baseball against, gasp, the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1988.  In the Mezzanine section behind home plate, I heard Patti screaming for her Gary several rows back.  I was too busy screaming at Met manager Davey Johnson to take out a tiring Dwight Gooden in the ninth inning.  Somebody's gonna hit a bomb off him and tie the score.

Exactly.

He didn't, they didn't, and we definitely didn't.

In reality, Gary Carter was only part of Mets lore for five years.  But, for that one moment in time on October 25, 1986, I will always remember...and never forget.

When Gary passed away last Thursday, I posted the news on Facebook, citing that he still hasn't made the last out in that game.

Three thousand miles away, Patti was on a commuter bus and learning the news from me.  And she responded.

"While my heart is broken, it seems more appropriate that I found this out from you.'

And that's the legacy of one Gary Carter.  A simple guy who simply could swing a bat and catch a ball.  And also could bring together a team, a city, and a dream.  Something that I will share with friends like Patti the rest of my life.

Dinner last night:   Kung Pao Beef from First Szechwan Wok.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Classic TV Theme of the Month - February 2012

That announcer's voice always scared me.



Dinner last night:  Spaghetti and meatballs.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Your Weekend Movie Guide for February 2012

Ticket stubs from back in the day when going to the movies was a big deal.  Even if it was a bloated mess called "Cleopatra" starring a bloated mess called Elizabeth Taylor.  Note the road show ticket prices.  $4.50!!  In 1963, that was big money.

Of course, in 2012, we are saddled with the usual shit at the multiplexes for tickets that cost almost fifteen bucks.  Oh, the humanity.  Well, you folks know the monthly drill.  I'll flip through the Los Angeles Times movie pages and let you in on what to see and, more likely, what to avoid.

The Descendants:  I wrote twice that this George Clooney flick is way overrated.  Watch as I announce that for the third time.   It is way overrated.

The Artist:   I wrote twice that this silent flick is way overrated.  Watch as I announce that for the third time.   It is way overrated.

The Vow:  I'll make one myself.  Never to see this weepy chick flick.

Albert Nobbs:  Glenn Close crossdressing is redundant.  By the way, the star already has a guy's name.

The Woman in Black:  Daniel Radcliffe in some horror dribble which probably has nothing to do with that woman who shows up at Rudolph Valentino's crypt once a year.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy:  I'm personally waiting for Cey Russell Lopes Garvey----a movie about the Dodger infield in 1978.

The Iron Lady:  Unlike other Oscar worthy movies, I thought this biopic was way underrated.  See it for another bravura performance by Ms. Streep.

Safe House:  A young CIA agent is tasked with looking after a fugitive in a safe house. But when the safe house is attacked, he finds himself on the run with his charge.  With Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, and nobody that even remotely looks like me in the theater.

In Darkness:  A dramatization of one man's rescue of Jewish refugees in the Nazi-occupied Polish city of Lvov.  It's nominated for Best Foreign Film Oscar, but, then again, isn't every movie with a logline like this???

The Grey: In Alaska, an oil drilling team struggle to survive after a plane crash strands them in the wild. Hunting the humans are a pack of wolves who see them as intruders.  I'd go if I could root for the animals.

Journey 2 - The Mysterious Island in 3D:    This mess stars The Rock, which means it's the first 3-D movie with acting that doesn't get past the first dimension.

Man on A Ledge:   As a police psychologist works to talk down an ex-con who is threatening to jump from a Manhattan hotel rooftop, the biggest diamond heist ever committed is in motion.  I'd go only if they let me yell out "jump."

Ghost Rider - Spirit of Vengeance:  The supernatural antihero teams up with a rebel monk to save a young boy.  Is this a franchise?  Have there been other Ghost Rider movies?  Wake me up, please.

The Secret World of Arrietty:  The Clock family are four-inch-tall people who live anonymously in another family's residence, borrowing simple items to make their home. Life changes for the Clocks when their daughter, Arrietty, is discovered.   Japanese animation with a French slant.  I can't think of anything worse except maybe having a root canal done by the Pep Boys.

Bullhead:  A young cattle farmer is approached by a veterinarian to make a deal with a notorious beef trader.  Litigation from Omaha Steaks pending.

Thin Ice:  An insurance agent looking for a way out of frigid Wisconsin is blackmailed by an unstable locksmith in the theft of a rare violin that belongs to a retired farmer.   It stars Greg Kinnear and Alan Arkin and also presents another good reason to avoid ever visiting Wisconsin.

Undefeated:  A documentary on an underdog football team in Memphis who look to reverse their fortunes with coach Bill Courtney.   Skip and simply rent the first seasons of "Friday Night Lights."

How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster:  The film traces the rise of one of the world's premier architects, Norman Foster, and his unending quest to improve the quality of life through design.  This actually sounds worse than having dental work at your car mechanic.

One for the Money:  Unemployed and newly-divorced Stephanie Plum lands a job at her cousin's bail-bond business, where her first assignment puts her on the trail of a wanted local cop from her romantic past.   It stars Katherine Heigl.  It must suck.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close:  A surprise Oscar nominee for Best Picture.  People actually hissed when they announced that.  As for me, the movie is much better than I expected.  Certainly more interesting than The Artist.  And it also features sound.

Big Miracle:  In small town Alaska, a news reporter recruits his ex-girlfriend - a Greenpeace volunteer - on a campaign to save a family of gray whales trapped by rapidly forming ice in the Arctic Circle.   Purely for nature fanatics or people who love to see Drew Barrymore in skin tight scuba gear.  Wait, that's me.

This Means War:  Two top CIA operatives wage an epic battle against one another after they discover they are dating the same woman.   A cross between "24" and  "Sex and the City."  Purely for people who love to see Reese Winterspoon in skimpy clothing.  Wait, that's me.

Contraband:  To protect his brother-in-law from a drug lord, a former smuggler heads to Panama to score millions of dollars in counterfeit bills.   Mark Wahlberg stars, so expect at least fifteen minutes of shirtless footage.

Chronicle:  Three high school friends gain superpowers after making an incredible discovery. Soon, though, they find their lives spinning out of control and their bond tested as they embrace their darker sides.   I can't wait to see them take the SATs.

Dinner last night:  Taylor ham sandwich.

 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Harry Potter and The Marathon Viewing as a Result of a Bad Knee

Here are two things you've heard here a lot lately.

I've got a bad left knee currently awaiting repair.

I never saw the Harry Potter film franchise.

Well, those two little factoids have recently collided.  Stuck on a couch for several days, I decided to get through as many of these movies as I could.  Previously, I had seen the first installment when it was first released.  I didn't like it.  I also had read J.K. Rowling's first book.  I didn't like that either.  

Yet, I had resolved to tackle them once and for all.  Knee swelling and the need to ice with compression will do crazy things to one's mind.

So, I can announce now that, after a four day swing where I never left the couch, I have seen the first four Harry Potter movies.  I'm not sure but I think I have another two dozen to go.   They did finally stop making them, right?

These films usually were produced and released at one or two-year intervals, which effectively dragged out the franchise through two Presidential administrations.  But, I watched the first four with less than 24-hours between each.  When you watch them in that matter, the plotholes and inconsistencies are so evident that you don't need to be a wizard to see them.  

Still, in some bizarre way, I enjoyed them.  Sure, they're all about 45 minutes too long.  Most of these stories could have been told in a crisp 90 minutes, but, then again, that would have sent about 500 special effects technicians to the London unemployment line.  And, of course, I've always been a bit befuddled by all the made-up words and expressions invented by Rowling---all of which made the scripts look like they needed to go through one more round of Spellcheck.

There's some school for wizards called Hogwurst or something like that and it always made me think of the head cheese my grandfather used to eat for lunch.  In the first two movies, this is a real sleepaway school.  By the fourth movie, Hogwurst morphs into some deadly haunted house worthy of a Six Flags theme park thrill ride.  The kids go to this school every semester and somehow skirt death on a regular basis.  It made me wonder what their parents were thinking when they asked their children what happened at school this year.

"Well, I almost got electrocuted and then I got swallowed into a cave by a killer tree."

Mom, Dad, would you pay tuition for that???

Harry Potter is apparently mourning his dead parents because they pop up as bubbles over his head continuously.  Instead of learning how to use a magic wand or a flying broomstick, he might have opted for some grief counseling.  Meanwhile, he gets to school every year by boarding a train through a concrete wall.  Hmm, doesn't everybody?

On his first day at Hogwurst, Harry meets his school chums.  Hermonica and Ronny Weasel, who looks like Ronny Howard with a bad case of eczema.  Together, they will battle the demons presented to them by school.  If they think they have it bad with all the treachery there, they should have gone with me to Mount Vernon High School, where you took your life into your hands by simply trying to pee in the bathroom.

You meet all the teachers.  The guy who runs the place is Professor Dumbo Doors.  Richard Harris played him in the first two movies and then was replaced after he died.  The sad thing is that the character is so caked with make-up and a beard I didn't notice Harris was gone.  Maggie Smith is some headmistress who occasionally appears as a cat.  The always creepy Alan Rickman is Professor Snipe, Snake, or Snot.  I think the name changes each picture or perhaps the pronounciation does.  Then Harry has some giant who acts as his bodyguard.  His name, I think, is Hybrid, whihc might mean he's part electric.  Harry's life is always in danger, so you get a rough idea of how good this bodyguard is.  Whitney Houston's security did a better job and look where she wound up.

We learn somewhere between the third and fourth picture that somebody named Lord All The More killed his parents so there will be some kind of Charles Bronson vendetta unfolding for us.  That character is played by Ralph Fiennes in some bizarre make-up that has him resemble Curly of the Three Stooges with a bad case of diarrhea.  I assume the final battle between these two will occur in the last chapter.  I trust it will be as ugly as some of the debates between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.

In practically every film, there is an athletic contest where the kids ride around on flying broomsticks and chase some golf ball with wings.  Why didn't Titleist seize this opportunity for nifty product placement?  The rules of this sport make no sense, but Harry always wins so it really doesn't matter. 

Over the course of the four movies I saw, the acting of the youngsters improved measurably.  Daniel Radcliffe grows admirably into his role as Harry and does command the screen eventually, even if he does lose his glasses in some fight at least twice in every picture.  And why didn't Lenscrafters seize this opportunity for nifty product placement?

After I watched the very first film with the title I can't remember, I liked it more than I did when I saw it twenty or so years ago when it first came out.  The second movie with another title I can't remember was terrible and essentially a rip-off of the first plot.  If J.K. Rowling was really that uncreative with her follow-up novel, she should be jailed for grand theft larceny.

I do remember the name of the third movie.  Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Lorazapam and I'll still waiting to see how the drug plays into the plot.  The director changed for this installment and this is where the plot creepiness started to sift in.  All of a sudden, this is wizardry as presented by Wes Craven.  Things got back to normal with the fourth film.  The kids start acting like teenagers and go to school dances.  All of a sudden, it's Shelley Fabares and Paul Petersen from "The Donna Reed Show."  Harry starts to sprout some hormones and I'm hoping the title of the fifth movie is "Harry Potter and the Leaky Condom."

I'm resting now.  Both my knee and my mind.  I will space out the remainder of the Potter series over the next few months.  Too much of a senseless thing can leave you, well, a bit senseless.

Dinner last night:  Bobboli pizza with pepperoni.