Saturday, February 28, 2015

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - February 2015

Fifty years old this year.  Can you fathom that?

Dinner last night:  Grilled Taylor Ham sandwich.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Signs of the Cross - 2015 Lenten Edition












Dinner last night:  Filet mignon at Seasons 52 in Santa Monica.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Moron of the Month - February 2015

I've sampled the Daily Show enough to know that I don't like it.  It's about as substantive as if your stand-up comedy cousin was reading and paraphrasing yesterday's USA Today to you.  If you think there's any good information or humor coming out of that venue, you're an idiot.

A few weeks back, Jon Stewart, or as his real name Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz, announced that he was living the Daily Show last this year after 16 or so years.   Frankly, I barely blinked an eye.  But the press went crazy.

It was as if Johnny Carson was leaving the Tonight Show all over again.  Oh, my God, what will become of our children?  How will we survive without Jon's daily skewering of current events and exposing politicians as the blowhards they are?

Oh, don't get me wrong.  99.9% of all elected officials are blowhards, whether I knew that from Leibowitz or not.  But, all the printed stories gave the impression that Jon was providing us all with an invaluable service every day.   And, more importantly, he was teaching the so-called millenials (AKA the younger demographics) about what was happening in the news.

Wrong.

If, indeed, our youngsters were getting an education from Stewart, it was far from unbiased.  Clearly, Leibowitz operates from the left.   There is no secret about that.  I mean, how many times has the President been found yakking it up with the host on television?  You don't think Obama would appear on this program if he thought it wasn't all going to be a cake walk for him?

So, just what kind of service has Jon Stuart Leibowitz been providing for us all?  And subjecting our children, who adore him, to just one side of the story and the aisle.  I'm not saying either one is right or wrong.   As a matter of fact, I think both political sides in this country are a complete disaster.  But you don't get that picture from the Daily Show.   Nor did you get it from the awful Colbert Report and that host is going to make our worlds even worse when he replaces David Letterman in a while.

Back in the day, television talk show hosts were fairly apolitical.  If they leaned one way or the other, you didn't know it.  They entertained all sides of an issues when they invited elected leaders onto their shows.   That's the way it should be.

It is totally a cheat to do what Jon Stuart Leibowitz has been doing all these years. Painting one side of the canvas and pretending to be all things for all people.  And, let's face it, his credentials are certainly not what I would call astute or Ivy League.   He's just a dumb comic who got lucky.  Of course, if he figured out how to do this and gain a lucrative business model, he's hardly a moron.

Nope, the real dopes this month are the ones who thought they were getting a balanced education by watching the Daily Show.   I suppose the youth of 1933 Germany thought the same thing.

Good riddance, Jon whatever the hell your name is.

Dinner last night:  Asian chopped salad.

 


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

This Date in History - February 25

Happy birthday, Tea Leoni.  Our Secretary of State looks like this...at least on CBS every Sunday night.

138:  THE ROMAN EMPEROR HADRIAN ADOPTS ANTONINUS PIUS, EFFECTIVELY MAKING HIM HIS SUCCESSOR.

This bunch was changing leadership as much as they were changing their togas.

493:  ODOACER SURRENDERS RAVENNA AFTER A THREE-YEAR SIEGE AND AGREES TO A MEDIATED PEACE WITH THEODORIC THE GREAT.

Theodoric was later nicknamed the Beaver.

628: KOSRAU II IS OVERTHROWN BY HIS SON KAVADH II.

Who Cares II?

1336:  4,000 DEFENDERS OF PILENAL COMMIT MASS SUICIDE RATHER THAN BE TAKEN CAPTIVE BY THE TEUTONIC KNIGHTS.

Doesn't say much about the Teutonic Knights.

1570:  POPE PIUS V EXCOMMUNICATES QUEEN ELIZABETH I OF ENGLAND.

This is the Queen Elizabeth without the handbag.

1797:  COLONEL WILLIAM TATE AND HIS FORCE OF 1000-1500 SOLDIERS SURRENDER AFTER THE LAST INVASION OF BRITAIN.

Lots of tails between lots of legs.

1836:  SAMUEL COLT IS GRANTED A US PATENT FOR THE COLT REVOLVER.

Malt liquor to follow.

1843:  PROVISIONAL CESSATION OF THE HAWAIIAN OR SANDWICH ISLANDS ESTABLISHED BY LORD GEORGE PAULET.

A combination would be a Hawaiian sandwich, probably with pineapple slices.

1866:  MINERS IN CALAVERAS COUNTY, CALIFORNIA, DISCOVER WHAT IS NOW CALLED THE CALAVERAS SKULL --- HUMAN REMAINS THAT SUPPOSEDLY INDICATED THAT MAN, MASTODONS, AND ELEPHANTS CO-EXISTED.

Until, of course, the mastodons and the elephants got hungry.

1870:  HIRAM RHODES REVELS, A REPUBLICAN FROM MISSOURI, IS SWORE TO THE US SENATE, BECOMING THE FIRST BLACK EVER TO SIT IN CONGRESS.

Liberals, please note all the irony in that sentence.

1901:  JP MORGAN INCORPORATES THE US STEEL CORPORATION.

Money to be made there.

1901:  ACTOR ZEPPO MARX IS BORN.

Oh, horse feathers!

1913:  ACTOR JIM BACKUS IS BORN.

Watch out for that next step, Magoo!

1913:  ACTOR GERT FROBE IS BORN.

Gold-fing-uh.

1920:  RELIGIOUS LEADER SUN MYUNG MOON IS BORN.

Rising in the east.

1929:  MUSICIAN TOMMY NEWSOM IS BORN.

He once asked to borrow my pen.   Long story.

1932:  ADOLF HITLER OBTAINS GERMAN CITIZENSHIP BY NATURALIZATION, WHICH ALLOWS HIM TO RUN IN THE 1932 ELECTION FOR PRESIDENT.

Jesse Owens also got to run later on, too.

1940:  BASEBALL PLAYER RON SANTO IS BORN.

He used to click his heels when the Cubs won.   That was while he still had heels to click.

1941: IN OCCUPIED AMSTERDAM, A GENERAL STRIKE IS DECLARED IN RESPONE TO INCREASING ANTI-JEWISH MEASURES INSTITUTED BY THE NAZIS.

And you wonder why the Franks went to the attic.

1943:  BEATLE GEORGE HARRISON IS BORN.

My sweet Lord.

1948:  THE COMMUNIST PARTY TAKES CONTROL OF GOVERNMENT IN  CZECHOSLOVAKIA AND THE PERIOD OF THE THIRD REPUBLIC ENDS.

Czech, please.

1954:  GAMAL ABDEL NASSER IS MADE PREMIER OF EGYPT.

Nasser later is the place where all US space shots were made.

1966:  ACTRESS TEA LEONI IS BORN.

If Tea Leoni married James Lipton...

1968:  DURING THE VIETNAM WAR, 135 UNARMED CITIZENS OF HA MA IN SOUTH VIETNAM ARE KILLED AND BURIED EN MASSE BY SOUTH KOREAN 
TROOPS IS WHAT WAS LATER KNOWN AS THE HA MY MASSACRE.

Ha, indeed.

1986:  PRESIDENT OF THE PHILIPPINES FERDINAND MARCOS FLEES THE NATION AFTER 20 YEARS OF RULE.

Wait!  You forgot your wife!

1987:  ACTOR JAMES COCO DIES.

Death by Death.

1996:  ACTOR HAING S. NGOR DIES.

The Killing Fields, indeed.

1997:  YI HAN-YONG, NORTH KOREA DEFECTOR, IS MURDERED.

He didn't defect fast enough.

2006:  ACTOR DARREN MCGAVIN DIES.

I guess he was frag-ile.

2013:  SURGEON C. EVERETT KOOP DIES.

Hazardous to his own health.

2014:  GAME SHOW HOST JIM LANGE DIES.

A Straight-From-The-Coffin Kiss!!!!

Dinner last night:  Leftover sausage and peppers.




Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Saul and Heshe Live Blog (Sort of) The Oscars

Our old hard-boiled Hollywood pals are back.   Saul and Heshe, two inside veterans of the Tinseltown wars, love to meet at their favorite deli and kibbutz about what's happening in town.   And so they met yesterday, over extra lean pastrami, to chew over the Oscars that were given out the night before.   Let's listen in...

 "Oy."

"Oy is right.".

"Over four hours of that chazerei.  I got a bed sore that would choke a Nazi."

"We should choke all Nazis but we digress..."

"Bob Hope, please come back.   All is forgiven."

"Anybody but that skinny faygala."  

"Doogie Whositz.  Walking around in this bloomers.  Proud of his pecker."

"Meanwhile, he got nothing on Burt Lancaster.  Now there was a cocksman."

"Shtuping around on the beach with Deborah Kerr.  Oy.  Fan me please."

"Did you see any of the dreck that got nominated?"

"If it ain't on Me TV, I ain't watching.   Perry Mason every night at 11:30.  God bless."

"The movie Boyhood?  It took twelve years to film."

"Feh.  Back in the day, we'd wait twelve years for Marilyn to come out of her dressing room."

"There was all this mishegoss about the Birdman. Nobody I know understood it."

"The one who was in Alcatraz?  Much more interesting.  Again.  Burt Lancaster.  But no Deborah Kerr."

"These days, you want an Oscar.   You climb into a wheelchair."

"Or get Azlheimer's. That Julianne Moore won.  A whole movie about some broad losing her car keys."

"My wife does that twice a week.  Okay, sometimes I hide them, too.  Especially if I hear Nordstrom's is having a sale."

"Oy."

"Vy is mizr."

"Who are all these pishers they were using to present the awards?  Are they on like MTV or something the kids watch?"

"I was like the last macaroon on the buffet table during the High Holidays.  Where are the stars?"

"Paul Newman."

"Dead."

"Jack Lemmon."

"Dead."

"Lauren Bacall"

"I fucked her.   But also dead."

"Did you see what that Jennifer Lopez was wearing?"

"Oy."

"Oy."

"Can I get some proscuitto with those melons?"

"Those couldn't be real."

"Hello.   Miss Lopez's tits by Earl Scheib."  

"Meanwhile, what she had sticking out the front, Oprah had sticking out the back."

"Oy."

"Oy."

"What a tuches!  They needed three seatfillers for her."

"You see a behind like that on a schvatza and you want to buy stamps."

"Or renew your driver's license."

"And what about that yenta who won Supporting Actress?  Flapping her gums about equality for women."

"All those broads standing and applauding.  None of them are underpaid for sure."

"Shaddap."

"Shaddap is right.  Women in Hollywood ain't hurting.  Look at my wife's bill at Fred Segal."

"Back when, all you had to do was get your secretary a little something around the holidays.   Usually a nice box of See's Candy."

"If she wanted to make a political statement, she should have sent that Indian Marlon Brando used."

"And she didn't even have the decency to mention her grandfather Charlie Weaver."

"And, even then, she still might put a little dill in your pickle."

"God bless those days."

"Mazel."

"Let's face facts.   The business ain't the way it used to be.  When going to the Oscars with Terry Moore on your arm meant something."

"I fucked her."

"No, I fucked her.   You fucked Debra Paget."

"No, I fucked Marilyn Maxwell.  I think she may have fucked Debra Paget."

"I think you're right."

"These days, you know who gets fucked all the time?"

"Yeah, us.   But not at home."

"Let's call the waitress over for the check."

"Make sure the bitch doesn't charge us for the cole slaw she forgot to bring."

Dinner last night:  Bacon turkey burger at BJs.


Monday, February 23, 2015

Monday Morning Video Laugh - February 23, 2015

Raise your hand if you miss Paul Lynde and the Hollywood Squares.

Dinner last night:  Sausage and peppers.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Revisiting My Top 25 Favorite Movies of All Time

Oscar Sunday!  So let's go to the movies.  Again. 

I just love this photo.  It's one of my beloved childhood movie theaters.  RKO Proctor's in Mount Vernon, New York.  Doing some detective work, I can pin down the date of the snapshot.   There's obviously been a huge snow storm.   It's around Christmas time because you can see the wreath on the bank.   And "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" is played at the theater.   That film was released in the fall of 1947.   If you look at the weather records for New York, there was a huge blizzard on December 26.  So, I am guessing that's about when this photo was taken.

Memories are made from pictures like this.  

In the first year of this blog, I spent about 50 Sundays counting down my Top 25 Favorite Movies of All Time and my Top 25 Favorite TV Shows of All Time.  Heck, back in that day, I was new to this blogging thing and was looking to fill content every week and every day.  Since then, I've referenced some of these movies and TV shows from time to time.  When I reran the list in one single post several years ago, it resulted in the blog entry that is my second highest in all time hits.   Over 1100 as of yesterday.  

So, as we celebrate the magical world of films today, let's see my film one more time.

This week, let's see my Top 25 Favorite Movies...in ascending order:

25.  Since You Went Away

The ultimate movie on how a typical American family dealt with life on the World War II homefront.  A wonderful time capsule of the last time this nation was unified in a single cause.  I have to watch it every Christmas season. 


24.  Pillow Talk

The first Doris Day-Rock Hudson pairing and arguably the best.  Before there were cell phones, there were party lines.  Ridiculously innocent, but who cares?   Thelma Ritter steals every scene she's in as a boozy housekeeper.  And she appears on my list again in a similar role.

23.  White Christmas

It wouldn't be the holiday season without me popping this into the DVD player or, thanks to being in Los Angeles, seeing it on the big screen.  The movie I'm most likely to be watching on December 23 or 24.  Next time you watch it, pay close attention to Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen and see how they virtually steal the film away from old pros Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye.
22.  Marty

Completely shot in the Bronx and I could recognize locations where my parents would take me shopping when I was a kid.  A marvelous look at a single man and how he deals with perhaps finding the love of his life.  Ernest Borgnine's Oscar win and nobody deserved it more.  It looks, smells, and feel just like New York.  It won Best Picture of 1955.

21.  Radio Days

There are three Woody Allen movies I can watch over and over and over.  Annie Hall.  Manhattan.  Hannah and Her Sisters.  But the one that sings to me the most is his paean to growing up in the 30s and 40s when the radio was your family's sole source for nightly entertainment.  Wildly nostalgic and the scene where an aunt takes her small nephew to Radio City Music Hall for the first time makes me misty-eyed on every single viewing.

20.  One, Two, Three

Billy Wilder is my favorite film director and he shows up three times on my list.  But, this movie is one of his lesser known efforts but brilliant nonetheless.  James Cagney plays a Coca-Cola bottler in Berlin just before the Wall goes up.  A performance that is so funny and rapid-fire that it literally forced Cagney to go into retirement immediately thereafter.  He is talking the entire picture, but every line is a gem that's better than the last.

19.  Mildred Pierce

My earliest introduction to bitch slaps.  I first watched this with my mother one rainy Sunday afternoon when it aired on WNEW-TV Metromedia Channel 5.  Joan Crawford's finest moment on screen and Eve Arden sets the standard for the wise cracking girlfriend.  I wish people would slap each other like this in real life.
 

18.  Giant

As big as all of Texas, this saga of a ranching/oil drilling family could have been the genesis for TV's Dallas.  It's three hours long and doesn't feel it.  Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor are simply marvelous, although the late James Dean is a trifle miscast.  Still, I got to see this on a big screen out in Los Angeles and it's the only way to enjoy this George Stevens masterpiece.

17.  City Lights

Charlie Chaplin's finest.  The tramp falls in love with a blind flower girl.  If that sounds a bit sappy, you're right.  Nobody tugs on the heartstrings better than Chaplin.  As thick as the schmaltz is layered, the final scene is the benchmark for all filmmakers who want their audiences to be bawling their eyes out as they leave the theater.  If you can ever see it in a theater with live orchestration, run, don't walk.

16.  The Band Wagon

Everybody says that Singin' in the Rain is MGM's greatest musical.  And, since it shows up on my list later on, maybe it is.  But The Band Wagon is no sloppy second.  Almost completely devoid of plot, the movie still keeps you riveted through every delightful production number.  Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse's "Dancing in the Park" routine is one of those film moments that I can't turn off when I run into the film on TV.  Watch the dance once with the sound turned down.  Even in silence, it's beautiful.

15.  Ben-Hur

The 1959 edition, folks.  My mom used to take me to all the Biblical epics, but, somehow, I missed this one.   I never saw it until New Year's Eve day, 1987.  I had suffered a hairline fracture of the shoulder the night before so I decided to rent the longest movie I could find at the video store.  Even on a Zenith 19 inch portable TV screen, this film was so deeply powerful, yet amazingly intimate at the same time.  I've since gotten to see it several times on a big screen.  Yes, gang, Charlton Heston can act.  But, Stephen Boyd as Massala does steal the picture.  It won Best Picture of 1959.

14.  Yankee Doodle Dandy

My very first movie addiction.  When I was really young, WOR-TV Channel 9 in New York ran the Million Dollar Movie.  The same picture ran every night and all day Saturday and Sunday for a week.   I think I watched every showing of this terrific biography of George M. Cohan.  Jimmy Cagney tapdancing down the stairs of the White House?  Legendary.

13.  It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

When I was a kid, I gravitated to all the comedians that my grandmother used to love on television.  This was my very first exposure to the likes of Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Mickey Rooney, Phil Silvers, and Buddy Hackett.  When this finally showed up at the Loews Theater in Mount Vernon, I think I went three times the next week.  And, when it later showed up on television, I watched it with my grandmother on her black and white Philco TV.  Meanwhile, as good as Grandma's favorites were in the movie, keep your eyes on "young" Jonathan Winters as he rules the screen every time the camera's on him.

12.  Bye Bye Birdie

This is the movie that jumpstarted my hormones at a very young age.  Ann-Margret.  Ann-Margret.  Ann-Margret.  Need I say more?  This played at the Loews Mount Vernon theater and I went five times in a single week.  And, in a rather bizarre display of crossed wires, the other main attraction for me in this film was Paul Lynde who I loved to imitate.  Years later, I should have been a lot more worried about myself than I was at the time.  When the movie soundtrack album came out with Ann-Margret on the cover....well, you don't really want to know what I did with that, do you?
 11.  The Best Years of Our Lives

Along with the aforementioned Since You Went Away, I was always fascinated by the impact that World War II had on the American homefront.  I have my grandmother and her own Sunday Memory Drawers to thank for that.  This film shows you what happened when those surviving GIs came home.  The scenes with Oscar winner Harold Russell...well, they had me hooked.  Wink wink.  It won Best Picture of 1947.

10.  Singin' In The Rain

The gold standard for MGM musicals from the 1950s.  So many moments that you can watch over and over and over.  Donald O'Connor making us laugh.  Debbie Reynolds saying Good Mornin'.  Gene Kelly showing us just how drip dry his pants really were.  I can watch this once a month and not be bored.  The new Blu Ray makes it look like the movie was produced last week.  Meanwhile, despite the star power of those mentioned above, Jean Hagen almost commits a Brinks Truck-like heist of the film with her portrayal of a musical comedy star who can't sing. 

9.  The Music Man

A different day and a different time.  Yes, the setting of this musical is the very innocent Midwest back at the turn of the century.  But, this film also marked a major life event for me.  It was the first time my parents let me go to the movies by myself.  I suppose neither one of them was interested in seeing it.  So, my father dropped me off at the RKO Proctor Theater in Mount Vernon, New York.  He squared it away with the usherette to watch over me and he picked me up exactly three hours later.  Originally, I saw "The Music Man" because my childhood hero was Ronny Howard.  But, this is perhaps the quintessential Broadway musical comedy and the screen adaptation is just as wonderful.
 

8.  Jaws

I saw it on the day it opened in June of 1975 in what had to be one of the oddest-shaped theaters ever built.  It was this bizarre bandbox on Fordham Road.  The theater was so rectangular that it gave you the illusion of watching a movie in a bowling alley.  Meanwhile, none of us knew where the scares were, so, at the end of two hours, we were scared shitless.  The glory of this movie is that, even if you've seen it over and over, it still works every time.  A few years back, the Aero Theater in Santa Monica ran it on a Saturday night.  The place was packed and parents were exposing their kids to it for the first time.  They didn't know where the scares were, so the screams were real and organic.  By the way, the Blu Ray edition which was just released makes the film look like it was filmed yesterday.

7.  The Bridge on the River Kwai

My father shepherded me to all the really important war films.  He really wanted to give me a sense of the vital moments in recent American history, as he had just lived through them himself.  So, when "Bridge" first ran on network television, I got to stay up to the ungodly hour of Sunday night 11:30PM to watch it.  Perhaps the most intimate of all war movies, I make this required viewing at least once every two years.  Oddly enough, I have never gotten to see it on a big screen and I am waiting anxiously for some classic theater here in Los Angeles to unspool it for me.  It won Best Picture of 1957. 

6.  Sons of the Desert

Laurel and Hardy's finest hour.   Well, hour and about fifteen minutes.  Whenever Stan and Ollie were on television, you'd find me and Grandma in front of the tube.  She talked frequently about one of their movies which she claims to have seen in an open air theater somewhere in the Bronx.  In it, they were selling Christmas trees and she said she never laughed harder in her life.  Frankly, I thought she made it all up until I finally saw said short on Turner Classic Movies.  She was right.  It was hilarious.  Meanwhile, "Sons of the Desert" is their finest feature-length movie.  The boys lie to their wives so they can go to a convention.  How simple a plot?  How glorious a movie!  It gave me one of the movie lines I have quoted most in my life.  "Honesty is the best politics."

5.  The Godfather

The last movie I went to see with my dad in an actual theater.  Now, I had read the Mario Puzo book as did all the boys in my neighborhood.  You read Page 27.   Over and over and over.  Sex education courtesy of the Mafia.  So, when the film came out, I couldn't wait to see how they put Page 27 on the big screen.   Imagine my horror when my own father, caught up by the film's frenzy, announced he wanted to take me to see it.  Ummm.  Er.  Ummmm.  Er.  Well, Page 27 came pretty early on in the movie.  It was tame by comparison to the book.  But, still, I sat there stone-faced and never once did I look at my dad throughout the entire sequence.  There are just some things you don't share with a parent.  Meanwhile, the movie itself was then and is now still a masterpiece.  The Best Picture of 1972.

4.  Rear Window

Only Alfred Hitchcock could keep a camera trained on the windows of a New York apartment building and get a riveting two-hour movie.  Sheer magic happens whenever I see it.  The true mark of a successful movie is if you can find something new in it with every successive viewing.  I just saw it again about two years ago at the Aero Theater and I found myself looking for little nuances in some of the apartments that Hitch doesn't focus on primarily.  There are gold nuggets all over the place.  Suspense that holds you in its grip no matter how many times you see it.  Thelma Ritter again is the snappy housekeeper you want to hire for your own apartment.  And how cool a villain's name is "Lars Thorwald?"

3.  North by Northwest

Back-to-back Hitchcock in my Top 5 and why the hell not?  Both films are as perfect as they come.  There is not a single wasted shot in all of "North by Northwest."  The perfect blend of comedy and suspense, which never crosses the line into either category.  Cary Grant is the ideal "wrong man at the wrong time and at the wrong place," a device Hitchcock used over and over and over.  As dire as his situation is, he pops off one-liners that have you giggling through the terror.  His best line when he sees Eva Marie Saint working together with villain James Mason:  "You here with her.  That's a picture that even Charles Addams couldn't draw."  Meanwhile, the crop dusting scene is legendary and required repeat viewing for any movie fan.

2.  Some Like It Hot

For years and years, I called this terrific Billy Wilder concoction my absolute favorite movie of all time.  And it's damn good.  The film provided me with my very first occasion of actually hearing people laugh in a movie theater.  My parents took me at a very young age.  I had no clue where the hell I was.  But, it was in the Loews Theater in Mount Vernon, New York.   As was always the case back in the day, you entered a movie theater regardless of where you were in the double feature.  And we walked into "Some Like It Hot" during the last ten minutes, when Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon are being chased around the hotel dressed as women.  The theater was enveloped in laughter.  And so were, in a rare moviegoing moment together, my parents.  Don't get me wrong.  This is and always will be a perfect comedy.  But, as I grew older and more experienced in life, there was another film that seemed to fit me even a little comfortably as my #1 Favorite Movie of All Time...

1.  The Apartment

Indeed, this Billy Wilder comedy-drama is most representative of life itself.  With its ups and downs.  Its joyous moments.  Its disappointments.  People connecting and un-connecting and then connecting again.  Sometimes, it makes sense.  Other times, it does not.   As time and I wore on, I realized that "The Apartment" continually says more to me about the world we live in than any other movie.  Wonderfully funny and harrowingly dramatic.  Two diverse reactions that can occur within seconds of each other as the characters of C.C. Baxter, Fran Kubelik, and Mr. Sheldrake play out their lives which could be the same issues confronting you and I.  Meanwhile, there is still a smile on my face throughout.  To enjoy "The Apartment" is to experience life itself.  Jack Lemmon, Shirley McLaine, and Fred MacMurray have never been better.  I've been in screenings of the movie where grown adults hiss at Fred from the audience.  Reactions like that show you that the film, as crafted by Herr Wilder, is working.  The Best Picture Oscar winner of 1960 and my Best Picture winner of my life.  What?  You haven't seen it?  Well, "just shut up and deal."

So there's the list again, gang.  For those of you into weird trivia, you can pay attention to the following:

Billy Wilder has directed three of the movies on this list.

Alfred Hitchcock has directed two of the movies on this list.

William Wyler has directed two of the movies on this list.

Those actors appearing in films more than once on this list:  the aforementioned Thelma Ritter, James Cagney, Buddy Hackett, Cyd Charisse, and Jack Lemmon.

By decade, there are 2 films from the 30s, 4 from the 40s, 11 from the 50s, 5 from the 60s, 2 from the 70s, and 1 from the 80s.

And, speaking to the state of Hollywood today, there is not one movie on this list made after the year 1987.

Dinner last night:  Lasagna.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Classic TV Theme of the Month - February 2015

The very first season of Dallas.  Before Southfork was Southfork.

Dinner last night:  Orange chicken from Panda Express.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Your Winning Oscar Ballot, Part 2

Hattie McDaniel's big night.  Winning the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Gone with the Wind.   Legend has it they made her sit right next to the kitchen during the actual ceremony.

Yesterday, I gave you your winning Oscar office pool ballot for the smaller categories.   Today, let's tackle the really big stuff.

BEST DIRECTOR:  I tipped you off on this one yesterday.   The Cinematography award usually matches up to the winner of the Director Oscar.  It's supposedly a tight race between Richard Linklater for Boyhood and that Scrabble fifty-pointer, Alejandro G. Inarritu for Birdman.  The latter won the DGA award.   The winner is INARRITU FOR BIRDMAN.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:  The Supporting categories are where inexplicable surprises have happened.   Remember Marisa Tomei?  Hello?  Marisa Tomei???  Well, not so this year.   These awards were sealed and delivered months ago.  For the incredibly overrated Boyhood, Patricia Arquette acted a single role over a twelve year period.   Not necessarily a wise career choice, since you can watch the actress herself age.   In Arquette's case, she ages badly.   But the Academy will be impressed by this.   I just hope she takes the time in her acceptance speech to acknowledge her grandfather, Charlie Weaver.   The winner is PATRICIA ARQUETTE FOR BOYHOOD.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:  I was one of the earliest advocates for the wonderful Whiplash.   As perhaps one of the meanest men ever depicted on screen, I said, months ago, that JK Simmons was not only a nomination lock, but a certain winner as well.  Everybody agrees with me now.   And that's how it should be.  The winner is JK SIMMONS FOR WHIPLASH.

BEST ACTRESS:  The Academy has been waiting patiently to bestow accolades on Julianne Moore.  This year is the brass ring for her.   All she had to do was land a role with that surefire award gimmick---an affliction.   Here she plays a housewife with the early onset of Ahlzeimer's.  I haven't seen Still Alice yet, but I am sure Moore is fine.   How can an actress not hit a homerun when the fast ball is right across the plate?   In the movie, the housewife is married to a character played by Alec Baldwin.   Some might argue that might provide a good reason to forget.  The winner is JULIANNE MOORE FOR STILL ALICE.

BEST ACTOR:  An amazingly tight race and the only one among the acting categories that could surprise.   It's between Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawkings and Michael Keaton as Birdman.    We have, in this competition, again the almost-award-slamdunk of illness and affliction.   Redmayne plays somebody with ALS.  Keaton plays somebody who is frankly insane.   I am guessing that voters will choose ALS over insanity, since they already know so many of their actor friends who are...well...nuts.   Being a lunatic thespian is nothing new in Hollywood.  The winner is EDDIE REDMAYNE FOR THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING.

BEST PICTURE:  This year, there are eight nominations.   I'd be quite happy if the Oscar went to either Grand Budapest Hotel, American Sniper, The Imitation Game, or (my favorite picture of the year) Whiplash.   But, for some reason, the industry is in love with the gimmick-laden Boyhood and Birdman.   Personally, the former was three hours of nothing-happens.   The latter was two hours of a-lot-happens-but-nobody-understands-it.  Hmmm.  How to choose?   This race might be as much of a toss-up as Best Actor.   There seems to be a late backlash against Boyhood.   Perhaps more people saw it via screeners.   And promptly fell asleep on their couches.   While I still have no clue what it was about, Birdman never ever lulled me into a nap.   It might be thoroughly confusing but I sure couldn't take my eyes off the screen.   The winner is BIRDMAN.

Let me know how you do in your office.  And there's no charge for this premium service of the Len Speaks blog.  

Dinner last night:  Flank steak at Palomino.



 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Your Winning Oscar Ballot, Part 1

It's that time of year, gang.   You've got that pesky office pool ballot for the Oscars staring at you.   You have no clue what to do with it.   Well, consult a winner.   Me.

Those of you regulars know that I participate in an annual Oscar pool with my two good pals back East, Lorraine and Dennis.   At stake is a nice meal in a Manhattan restaurant.   The two losers pay for the winner.  Trust me when I play you.   It's usually me watching Lorraine and Dennis plunk down their Visas for the dinner.   

But, it's Hollywood and anything can happen.  We start our competition by trying to predict the nominees in all the major categories.   I'm already one point up on my friends.   Now we have to pick the winners in every category being awarded this Sunday night.  Tomorrow, I'll give you my choices for all the big Oscars.   Today, I'll address the little awards.   You know, the ones you usually ignore while you're sifting through the bag and trying to find the special sauce you need for the fried dumplings that were just delivered.

BEST LIVE ACTION:   There are theaters that actually play these short films so people can see them and intelligently fill out their Oscar office pool ballots.   This year, you could even view them on demand at home.  Okay, just how much effort do you want to put into this?  And, besides, you might actually like one and pick it on personal preference.  Do you want satisfaction or do you want to freakin' win?   

Me?  I click on the titles and figure out what these damn things are about.  If the logline has a cause in it, I vote for it because...well...Hollywood's liberal heart is always bleeding.  For instance, if you read that something tells the story of a gay Black guy whose grandfather was killed in the Holocaust and now he devotes his life to an anti-fracking cause, there's your pick to win.   This year, I see the pundits are lining up behind something called THE PHONE CALL.  It's set in the middle of Northern Ireland's religious war.    Smells cause-y enough to me.

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT:  And sometimes you can just pick the winner by the title alone.  CRISIS HOTLINE: VETERANS PRESS 1.   Duh?   Clearly, a story about veterans coming home from battle and looking to commit suicide.   Anti-war always works in Hollywood.

BEST ANIMATED SHORT:  My buddies Lorraine and Dennis go to see these cartoons every year.  It certainly hasn't given them a leg up in these competitions.   Always rely on the nominee that is produced by Disney or Pixar.  That would be FEAST, which is about a dog.   Of course, it still begs the age old question of Walt.   We know Pluto was a pooch.   But, just what was Goofy?

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE:   For the first time in several years, I have not seen one of these nominees.  I was confused by Disney's Big Hero 6.   I figured that I was far behind since apparently there were five Big Hero movies before this.  I read there was a criminal injustice that the Lego Movie wasn't nominated.   Unfortunately, Al Sharpton was incensed enough to picket about that.   Most of the pundits are opting for HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2.   PS, I didn't see the first one of that franchise either.

BEST SOUND MIXING:   The last mixer I knew anything about was at Fordham University during senior year.   I didn't do so well at that.   I'll do better here.   The winner, for all that cool jazz percussion, just has to be WHIPLASH.

BEST SOUND EDITING:  Speaking of my days at Fordham, I was the producer of a weekly radio sitcom and I did all the editing.   I got good at the process and it's probably a lot easier now in the digital world.   I'm rambling, but that's because I have nothing salient to say about this category.  The winner is AMERICAN SNIPER.

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING:  If I had a vote, I would go for all the creepy looking people in the Grand Budapest Hotel.   But, for some reason I don't understand, voters seems to be enamored with that awful putty nose Steve Carell wore in the remarkably dreadful Foxcatcher.   This is one where I am going to choose what I like.   The winner is the GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN:  Well, all those creepy looking people also wore some nifty looking clothes.  The winner is GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL.

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN:  When I saw this movie last spring at the Arclight Hollywood, they actually had the miniature mock-up of the hotel in the lobby.   It was amazing to look at.   I'll bet a lot of Academy members saw the same exhibit.  The winner is GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL.

BEST FILM EDITING:   This is all about cutting a movie.   So, that generally means the longest film somehow winds.   And since the damn thing involved footage shot over a 12-year period, I suppose the winner will be BOYHOOD.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS:  This is the one category where mindless action movies actually get recognized for cheesy computer graphics, explosions, and the like.  The more brainless, the more likely the win.   Except this year, one film supposedly had something to say.   I'll have to take the pundits' word for it.  The only nominee I saw was Guardians of the Galaxy and I watched it on a ten-inch screen courtesy of American Airlines.  The winner is INTERSTELLAR.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE:  I actually saw one of the nominees.   The fascinating Last Days in Vietnam by one of the Robert Kennedy kids.   But, lots of the Academy these days weren't even born then.   My guess is that, ripped from today's leaky headlines, the winner is CITIZENFOUR.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM:  Surveying the nominees for special causes and themes.   One stands out.   From Poland, IDA is about a Polish-Jewish girl who was hidden in a convent and raised as a Catholic during World War II, and her aunt who joined the Communist resistance and became a judge after the war.  Granted that's a mouthful, but it presses some of the self-conscious Hollywood buttons.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE:  Music that plays in the background of characters with illnesses or afflictions always...well...scores.  The winner is THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG:  There's a song by Glen Campbell from that documentary about his farewell concert tour.  Now that would be too cool to honor.   There's a song from Begin Again, a movie I loved and the tune was co-written by Danielle Brisebois!   Now that would be nice, too.   But, God forbid the Academy overlook Selma again.   The winner is some piece of garbage from that movie called GLORY.   A hip hop/rapper-like song from a movie set in 1965!!!

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:  As creepily clever as nominee Nightcrawler was, the chance to finally award the always interesting Wes Anderson is way too tempting.   Plus the movie's script was way too smart for most living rooms.  The winner is GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:  Well, the buttlescut is that this race is close between two movies I really enjoyed.  The Imitation Game and Whiplash.   For me, the tiebreaker is that the former won the Writers Guild award.   The winner is THE IMITATION GAME. 

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY:   This award almost always follows the lead of the winning Director.   Oh, wait.  I'm going to give you that winner tomorrow.   But, I suppose here's a spoiler alert for you.   The Cinematography Oscar will go to BIRDMAN.

Dinner last night:  Stir fry vegetables.



Wednesday, February 18, 2015

This Date in History - February 18

Happy birthday, John Travolta.  I love your outfit.

1229:  FREDERICK II, HOLY ROMAN EMPEROR, SIGNS A TEN YEAR TRUCE WITH AL-KAMIL, REGAINING JERUSALEM, NAZARETH, AND BETHLEHEM.

I'd walk a mile for Al-Kamil.

1268:  THE LIVONIAN BROTHERS OF THE SWORDS ARE DEFEATED IN THE BATTLE OF RAKVERE.  

Which means you get February 18 off if you're a Livonian or a Rakverian.

1478:  GEORGE, DUKE OF CLARENCE, IS CONVICTED OF TREASON AND EXECUTED IN PRIVATE AT THE TOWER OF LONDON.

Today it would be a sweeps special on Fox.

1546:  MARTIN LUTHER DIES.

Thanks to him, I have a church to go to.

1564:  PAINTER MICHELANGELO DIES.

Come on down, we've decided to wallpaper.

1766:  A MUTINY BY CAPTIVE MALAGASY BEGINS AT SEA ON THE SLAVE SHIP MEERMIN.  

Mutiny on the Meermin.   Doesn't roll off your tongue like the Clark Gable movie.

1781:  CAPTAIN THOMAS SHIRLEY OPENS HIS EXPEDITION AGAINST DUTCH COLONIAL OUTPOSTS ON THE GOLD COAST OF AFRICA.

Don't call him Shirley.

1797:  SIR RALPH ABERCROMBY AND A FLEET OF 18 BRITISH WARSHIPS INVADE TRINIDAD.

Any word from Fitch?

1861:  IN ALABAMA, JEFFERSON DAVIS IS INAUGURATED AS THE PROVISIONAL PRESIDENT OF THE CONFEDERATE STATE.

So who will be the president of Texas when they secede from the union?

1865:  UNION FORCES UNDER GENERAL WILLIAM SHERMAN SET THE SOUTH CAROLINA STATE HOUSE ON FIRE DURING THE BURNING OF COLUMBIA.

Well, there goes the housing market in Columbia.

1885:  THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN BY MARK TWAIN IS PUBLISHED.  

Cliff Notes are out when?

1890:  ACTOR ADOLPHE MENJOU IS BORN.

He was in every movie made in the 1930s.

1892:  POLITICIAN WENDELL WILLKIE IS BORN.

Nobody Won With Willkie.

1913:  PEDRO LASCURAIN BECOMES PRESIDENT OF MEXICO FOR 45 MINUTES---THE SHORTEST TERM OF ANY PRESIDENT OF ANY COUNTRY.

He was double parked.

1919:  ACTOR JACK PALANCE IS BORN.

And immediately did ten push-ups.

1920:  TV GAME SHOW HOST BILL CULLEN IS BORN.

I'll freeze, Bill.

1925:  ACTOR GEORGE KENNEDY IS BORN.

Lord, he's old.

1930:  WHILE STUDYING PHOTOGRAPHS, CLYDE TOMBAUGH DISCOVERS PLUTO.

I thought that was Walt Disney.

1930:  ELM FARM OLLIE BECOMES THE FIRST COW TO FLY AND BE MILKED IN AN AIRCRAFT.

Talk about your Stupid Pet Tricks.

1933:  SINGER (?) YOKO ONO IS BORN.

She killed more Beatles than a can of Raid.

1943:  THE NAZIS ARREST THE MEMBERS OF THE WHITE ROSE MOVEMENT.

White Rose?   Did they used to make ginger ale?

1943:  JOSEPH GOEBBELS DELIVERS HIS SPORTPALAST SPEECH.

And he goebbeled all the way through it.

1954:  THE FIRST CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY IS ESTABLISHED IN LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA.

Ironically, this occurs on the same day as...

1954:  ACTOR JOHN TRAVOLTA IS BORN.

Who knew???

1957:  WALTER JAMES BOLTON BECOMES THE LAST PERSON LEGALLY EXECUTED IN NEW ZEALAND.

I guess the key word here is "legally."

1957:  TV STAR VANNA WHITE IS BORN.

H_PP_ _I__HD_Y!

1970:  THE CHICAGO SEVEN ARE FOUND NOT GUILTY OF CONSPIRING TO INCITE RIOTS AT THE 1968 DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION.

Yeah, sure.

1977:  ACTOR ANDY DEVINE DIES.

Daughter Loretta must be distraught.

1979:  SNOW FALLS IN THE SAHARA DESERT FOR THE ONLY TIME IN HISTORY.

Put some snow chains on those camels.

1991:  THE IRA EXPLODES BOMBS IN THE EARLY MORNING AT PADDINGTON STATION IN LONDON.

Hope the teddy bear wasn't hurt.

1998:  SPORTSCASTER HARRY CARAY DIES.

No formaldehyde needed to preserve him.

2001:  SEVEN-TIME NASCAR CHAMPION DALE EARNHARDT DIES IN AN ACCIDENT DURING THE DAYTONA 500.

What color flag do they wave for that?

2006:  SINGER BILL COWSILL DIES.

The Rain, The Park, and Death.

Dinner last night:  Asian chopped salad.











Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Two Movies About Art

The sheer title of today's post probably scared off half of you.   It would have frightened me enough to leave internet skid marks.

I am not a patron of fine art.   I couldn't tell you what constitutes a good painting and what is essentially a bad one.   I have friends who paint.   I have been given some of their art work.  It's on my walls.  It looks nice.   But, beyond that, I couldn't proceed to tell you what makes them pleasing.

So, naturally, seeing two movies about the art world was an unsettling prospect for me.  What's more boring than art?   Looking at a film about art.

But, I just saw two productions devoted to just that subject.   And, symbolizing the overall ambivalence I have to that genre, I loved one and hated the other.   Now, isn't that convenient?

The one I enjoyed was Tim Burton's "Big Eyes," an uncharacteristically uncomplicated movie for the quirky director.   But, as based on a true story, the film plays as an out-and-out comedy just like Burton's "Ed Wood" two decades earlier.   Indeed, both films were also written by the same folks so the pedigree works again.  And, thus, a movie about the pretentious art world is anything but boring.

Christoph Waltz is Walter Keane, an artist who really doesn't have an artistic bone in his body.   But he's smart enough to marry somebody who is and her portraits of people with big eyes are legendary.   Amy Adams plays the true talent here splendidly and matches Waltz' marvelous over-the-top comic performance scene by scene.   

Well, Keane becomes famous and rich as long as his wife is tucked away in anonymity making one pair of big eyes after another.  Eventually, she has had enough and challenges her husband.  The last act courtroom scene is as funny as any sketch you would have seen on "The Carol Burnett Show."  And it's probably all as it happened.

As a result, "Big Eyes" is enjoyable from the first frame to the last.  And it's so delightfully funny and interesting that you have no clue that the world is all about art.

Not so with...
I misguidedly saw "Mr. Turner" because I was hearing Oscar buzz.  Of course, more often than not, that buzz usually translates into being stung by a poisonous wasp.  This film by director Mike Leigh is all about some too-many-centuries-ago painter J.M.W. Turner and it's dreary as it can be.  I know nothing about this guy, nor do I want to.

Ugh.

Turner painted a lot of European seascapes and shipwrecks.   If he was still painting in 2015, he would likely want to put on canvas the devastation of this movie.    Turner, as grunted incoherently by star Timothy Spall, goes from one unsettling view of life to another.  His father, also a painter, dies of lung disease likely brought on by all those lead fumes.    As a result, you can't wait for the same illness to afflict Turner Jr..  Sadly, he takes about two hours before he utters his first cough.   And it takes another half-hour before he checks out and the audience is free to go home and sleep in their own beds.

The audience I was with applauded at the end.  Or maybe they were simply slapping each other awake.  This is a tough one to watch because it is so completely ugly.   Sure, the cinematography, inspired by Turner's painting, is pretty to look at.   But, then Turner has his next thing to grunt and we are back to a horrendous ground zero.  Indeed, the gorilla in "King Kong" was more articulate than Mr. Turner.

So, if you're hankering to see his work, go to a museum and not your local multiplex.  

Or, you can be like me and stay home to read true art---the funny papers.

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

LEN'S RATING FOR MR. TURNER:   One-half star.

Dinner last night:  Leftover barbecue pork and rice.