Saturday, August 08, 2009

24 Grapes of a Gangster

Or, "You knew we'd get there sooner or later." And actually, if I'd been running a little quicker, I would've made this yesterday's entry. Yesterday, you see, was the birthday of Tobin Bell...who stars in the Saw films (he's 67. Talk about your golden years).

Bell can dominate a scene (heck, an entire movie) while hardly ever leaving a sickbed, or seriously disturb you even while wearing a black velour v-neck shirt. His voice alone terrifies.

The link above is to what may be my favorite performance of all of Jigsaw's many "Game Over" tapes--although it's from IV, which started a downward spiral of the series (I'm hoping VI is a ninth-inning rally). Click it. You know you want to.

At the start of V, Scott Patterson's character is locked into a room with Jigsaw's corpse.

You don't want to be locked into a room with Jigsaw's corpse.

That is what you (or I anyway) call presence.

I still stand stubbornly by my belief that the Saw series requires a better class of actor than the wriggling asses and pretty faces-male and female-that make up your Texas Chainsaw Massascream 3's. Bell is the most obvious (tho not the only) example.

I wish he got more critical respect (especially for the second and third installments) but, while not being privy to his bankbook, I suspect there are, shall we say, certain other compensations.

26 Eras of Ease

(Yeah, I know, I've got to make up some time)

One of the things I find most gratifying about having my blogs is when I stumble across a musican who is previously unknown to me, and then can share them with you. Case in point: Sachal Vasandani.

This guy's good, and all that jazz...

Thursday, August 06, 2009

The Breakfast Club goes Home Alone on Vacation

Being a partial look at the John Hughes movies...

The Breakfast Club.

This is my generation, baby. And don't you forget about it. I can't imagine anyone in my age group getting through life without having seen this film. When I was in high school, I had a line or two from it written on my notebook. Didn't you?

Ferris Bueller's Day Off

I try not to hold it against it that this was Dan Quayle's favorite film.
And that it made Ben Stein a star ("Bueller? ...Bueller? ...Bueller? Anyone? Anyone?")

Planes, Trains & Automobiles

For my money, this comedy road trip movie is the best of Hughes' films to take place outside of high school. She's Having a Baby is runner-up, but the film's just not as memorable, even though its soundtrack may've been one of the first places I heard Kirsty MacColl (bless her).

(Trivia: In one scene in ...Automobiles, a character is watching a film on television. If you listen to the soundtrack, the movie they're watching is She's Having...)

Sixteen Candles.

I'll have more to say about this on one of my other blogs tomorrow, for now, suffice it to say: When people have good thoughts about this movie, one of the things they forget is that the material about the sister's wedding is uniformly unwatchable. There are other things people forget, but... (see other blog)

Home Alone

OMG. I see it all now. Thinking of those elaborate traps Culkin sets up in this movie, we might as well rename the HO movies "The Adventures of Jigsaw, When he was a Boy."

Some Kind of Wonderful

Hughes movie soundtracks were among the most influential on my musical taste (along with San Francisco's Live 105 radio station in the late '80s and early '90s). Come to think of it, Hughes may've been one of the most influental people in my entire psyche and life, certainly for somebody I never met.

How influential? Well, one of the earliest structural models for my unsold novel was this screenplay. It's grown a lot since then, but that was a basis for it.

Pretty In Pink

In retrospect, it's possible the reason I've never really liked most of the jobs that I've had is because I always wanted to go work for Annie Potts' character in this movie. And this soundtrack is the one that brought me OMD, who would become one of my favorite groups.

(again, more on this movie in forthcoming other post)

The Vacation movies. I have no proof, but I'd like to start a rumor that these were George W. Bush's favorite movies (except for the good ones, by which I mean the first and Christmas)

Teenage Angst has paid off well, now I'm bored and old

Aw, damn.

John Hughes, Bard of Teen Angst, Dead at 59

Hughes, the popular, almost-mythical filmmaker who made teen angst hurt so good in biting comedies such as Sixteen Candles, only to leave Generation Xers largely on their own as the Molly Ringwald-ruled 1980s ended, died after suffering a sudden heart attack during a walk this morning in Manhattan. He was 59.

A little over 10 years ago, back in the Usenet days (remember, Corey?), I wrote a post of what I called "the movies that Got It Right-movies that send me back to what High School life was really like, at least for me."

I thought it was one of the better online things I've written, so I've reprinted and/or updated it once or twice in my blogs. I'll be doing so again in a few hours when I have more time since, as I also said,
"John Hughes made the best High School movies of the 80’s (and therefore, of all time)."
You know he was all over it.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Least newsworthy headlines

Obama Welcomes Return of Journalists Jailed in N. Korea

28 Prime Payoffs

Ok, yeah, I know, I missed a day. Did you notice? Actually, it's a good thing--when you don't see entries here or at one of my other blogs, it means that I found things to do other than sit in front of a computer screen.

But getting back to our thematic meme for this year, I want to talk a little bit about Monk, the worldwide favorite TV show. It's finishing up this season, and actor Tony Shalhoub is talking it up.

In this interview, he talks about one or two of the things that have made it a favorite series of mine.

I think, if I had to choose one thing, I would say that I would want people to take away this idea that sometimes people’s problems or neuroses are really the things that are kind of a blessing in disguise, and even though there’s, you know, sometimes there’s pain associated with these things that sometimes in the face of adversity with obstacles to overcome, people can really kind of soar and find their higher selves and I think that’s what we’ve tried to do on the show is we’ve portrayed this character as someone who turns his liability, his liabilities into assets per his life. any comedy, what I try to do is I try and find out what are the more serious aspects of the character. And, conversely, when I do a serious role, I try and find out what’s funny about the character. And the beauty of this particular character is that I’ve had the opportunity to do both comedy and drama within one series, one character.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Ain't it nice when a movie poster does the bitter, queeny caption work for you?

Because The Ugly Truth is...

And some people are still making cigar jokes

N. Korea says 2 U.S. journalists will be freed
Announcement of pardon comes after Bill Clinton meets with Kim Jong Il

Just thought I'd mention that. It's time to get back to Bill Clinton being The Man...instead of the man.

Well, this is certainly a pickle

Ok. As you may've heard, there's a new Sherlock Holmes movie coming, directed by the ex-Mr. Madonna, and starring Robert Downey in the title role. From the ads that I've seen, the "twist" for this seemingly 201st variant on the original stories is that this will be Holmes as action/adventure hero!

Pass, I thought.

But now, now I find that I may well have to hope that the film makes a lot of money...if only because it might cause humiliation for judgemenal right-wing scold; "famly values" hack Michael Medved and his ilk.

See, another "twist" apparently, is that in this version,
the crimebuster will sleep with and have sweaty grappling scenes with Watson, played by Jude Law, in "Sherlock Holmes," due out Christmas Day.

And Medved is shocked and appalled.
"There's not a seething, bubbling hunger to see straight stars impersonating homosexuals," Medved told us. "I think they're just trying to generate controversy . . . They know that making Holmes and Watson homosexual will take away two-thirds of their box office.

Personally, I like seeing how quickly Medved came up with the words "seething, bubbling hunger" in connection with homosexuality. I'd also like to thank him for helping "them" generate said controversy.

But most of all, I'd really like to know from whence he gets his "gay=the loss two-thirds of their box office" figure. That's pretty specific, isn't it? And call me a cockeyed optimist, but from where I'm sitting, scorn for homosexuals is becoming less acceptable, not more.

Put another way: Mike, I'm sure the '60s traumatized you. But the '50s are never, ever coming back. And most of us think that's a good thing.

Ever go to read a post on a political blog and just not able be even to get past the first paragraph?

The Atlantic

Aug 4 2009, 12:33 pm by Marc Ambinder

White House Strategy: Ridicule The Angry Republicans

The White House and Democratic officials, surprised by the angry words thrown at Democratic lawmakers in their first weekend of August town hall meetings, are scrambling to put together a strategy to minimize the effects of what they see as an organized campaign to disrupt the meetings and spread anxiety about health care reform and President Obama.

Surprised? Surprised? Sigh...White House and Democratic officials, please. I'm begging you. Seriously. Wake up, smell the liars and crazy people, and more importantly, call them liars and crazy people.

Don't "ridicule" them, cut the shit and start calling them what they are. I'm fed up with which I mean I'm fed up with your pretending...that they're anything else. You're surprised? Come on.

Liars. Crazy people.

Say it.

Say it.

Say it!

Monday, August 03, 2009

My car must've crashed; I'm in heaven... Bananarama single!

The 'Narns were always one of those groups where you don't care that individually they're probably not such great singers, two out of any three of their singles are absolutely irresistible. Like...this one, say.

It's fabulous.

They're back!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

In which my love of dragons comes into conflict with my aversion to Japanese animation

Caption this photo

"Congratulations, you just said the secret woid."

(I'm saying I think the dragon looks like Groucho Marx, see, and that ball on a stick in front of him looks like a microphone, and...oh, never mind.)

30 periods of pleasure

There's a bit near the beginning of Good Morning, Vietnam where, in order to set up the contrast with Robin Williams' comedy to come, we see an old Army chaplain who probably does remember when radio was new, saying something like "This God-given gift of radio really gives me the opportunity to speak to you on the air..."

I think GMV is somewhat underrated--everybody remembers the Williams comedy bits, but I think more thought was put into it than most seem to recall. But that isn't the pleasant thing I want to talk about today.

No, it's the radio itself. Did you know that the famous NBC Chimes go back 80 years? I'm a fan of "the golden age of radio," the days before it was allegedly top 40, but seemingly the same five or 10 songs played in rotation, or political talk.

Great comedians, most famously Jack Benny and his "gang":
left to right... Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, Dennis Day, Phil Harris, Mary Livingstone, Jack Benny, Don Wilson, and Mel Blanc.

Mel Blanc was on just about every comedy show there ever was. We'll get back to Benny before this post is through, but first, a word from Rochester, answering the question...

The Great Gildersleeve (played by Hal Peary, right) was the first "spin-off" in entertainment history. Fibber McGee & Molly was the show from which it spun.

And then there was a man named Fred Allen, who was a big star in radio, a little star in pictures, star at all in television. Here's a 10 minute sample of Allen hosting an episode of Command Performance.

This was a weekly "listener request" varety show produced by the war department and intended for airing only to our overseas troops. Because of this, they could "push the envelope" a little more than shows Stateside at the time, as witness Allen's banter with Gypsy Rose Lee (the Dita Von Teese of her day) here.

And a fella called Bob Hope, who was a star in every medium, but I think he was funniest on radio.

So you can imagine how much I liked his take upon my all-time favorite state...

It wasn't all comedy, of course, there was "Radio Noir" and mystery shows.

Like The Shadow, who was once played by Orson Welles, who famously convinced the world that Martians had landed.

And the great Norman Corwin. Incidentally, at one point one of Mr. Corwin's programs was placed on the air opposite one of Hope's. This put Corwin in the rare position of, as he put it, literally "hoping against Hope."

In his book Raised on Radio (1998, Random House), Gerald Nachman says about Corwin:

"Whatever his shortcomings--purple passages, heavy-handed irony, liberal bias--they were overcome by the programs' ambitions, impact, superior writing, and high production values."

In a larger sense, you could say that of the days of radio as a whole. It had its failings--as what among us doesn't. One of these was unbelivable shilling for tobacco companies ("The makers of Camels are pardonably proud of the standing of this cigarette among doctors...").

Further in this regard, here's eight minutes of two great radio stars--Benny & Allen--and one merely OK one (Eddie Cantor) putting their talent and energy to that dubious cause:

But on balance, measured against its successes, Radio was a pretty damn good period of work--and it ran for decades.