76 posts categorized "Current Affairs"

29 June 2015

Classic films on TV: Watch this!

(Courtesy: Warner Bros.)

I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy,

A Yankee Doodle, do or die;

A real live nephew of my Uncle Sam,

Born on the Fourth of July.

If those song lyrics sound familiar, you may be ready for this weekend's Fourth of July celebration in your area and my choice for one of the key classic movies to take in this week in the comfort of your own home.

Airing, appropriately enough, at 7 p.m. Saturday (the Fourth of July) on TCM, Yankee Doodle Dandy isn't just a great cinematic interpretation of song and dance man, playwright and actor George M. Cohan, performed brilliantly by James Cagney, it also stands as the movie that earned Cagney his only Academy Award.

It may not deal with all the highs and lows of Cohan's amazing life and career, but it captures the diehard spirit of a patriot who could rally the troops (both military and civilian) and who, as evidenced by Cagney's performance, could dance up the walls during the song The Yankee Doodle Boy, which I thought, until a year or two ago, was titled Yankee Doodle Dandy.

Perhaps you're looking for something a little edgier to celebrate your Independence Day weekend?

Got you covered:  Over on AMC, Jaws will be terrorizing the cinematic beach Friday with a trio of flicks, beginning with the original Jaws (1975), Steven Spielberg's masterpiece-with-bite, at 11 a.m.

The blood in the water continues at 2 with Jaws 2 (1978) and wraps up at 4:30 with Jaws 3-D (1983).  Just when you think it's safe to go back in the water, AMC rinses and repeats Jaws 1 and 2 beginning at 6:45.

Once we get past the Independence Day theme, there are some really terrific classic movies airing this week.  One of my favorites is Little Big Man, Arthur Penn's sweeping comic-historical-drama starring Dustin Hoffman as Jack Crabb, a 121-year-old man looking back over his long life and incredible history, including becoming a scout for Gen. George Armstrong Custer.

Little Big Man lights up your TV screens at 9 p.m. Wednesday on TCM

And getting back to James Cagney for a second, the perfect cinematic tough guy turns up the White Heat (1949) at 5 p.m. Friday on TCM.  If you've never seen the "Make it Ma, top of the world" finale to White Heat, this becomes a must-see.

If something a little tamer sounds better, you can catch Lucille Ball as quick-witted eccentric Mame Dennis in the classic musical Mame (1974) at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday on TCM.

And now for a couple personal favorites:  I've already set our DVR to record at 2 p.m. Sunday on TCM.  That's when Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe and Montgomery Clift team up for the dramatic romantic-modern Western The Misfits, directed by John Huston from Arthur Miller's screenplay.

If I was only going to see once classic movie this week, however, it would have to be Charlie Chaplin's historic classic edgy comedy The Great Dictator (1940), which airs Sunday at 8:30 p.m. on TCM.

Chaplin's first full talkie is written and directed by the man himself.  He also heads a cast that includes Paulette Goddard and Jack Oakie.  Chaplin plays Dictator Adenoid Hynkel, who's a dead ringer for a humble Jewish barber (also Chaplin).

The Great Dictator was nominated for five Academy Awards, including best picture, best actor (Chaplin) and best writing, original screenplay for Chaplin.


19 June 2015

Tropical Depression Bill blues buster

Got the Tropical Depression Bill blues?

Yeah, me too.  How about some entertaining classic movies to watch until the storm (emotional and real) subsides?

Here are some updated suggestions from the somewhat new Movie Memories with Larry Ratliff feature titled Classic Movies on TV This Week.

(Courtesy: MGM)

Who needs Botox when we've got movies like The Picture of Dorian Gray?  George Sanders, Donna Reed and Angela Lansbury are on screen in this eerie mix of drama, fantasy and horror.

It is Hurd Hatfield who plays the tormented, but never-aging womanizer in director Albert Lewin's 1945 adaptation of Oscar Wilde's wild novel.

Mr. Gray, you see, never ages, but the portrait of him locked away in a special room does.  It turns into quite a grotesque demon, in fact. 

Well, you just have to see for yourself how it all works out.  The Picture of Dorian Gray airs at 7 p.m. Saturday on TCM.  (Please check local listings to confirm the time.)

I also like Get Shorty (1995), which is set for 5 p.m. Friday on MGM HD.  It's great to see John Travolta and Gene Hackman chewing the scenery in this comic crime-thriller also featuring Rene Russo, Danny DeVito, Dennis Farina and James Gandolfini based on Elmore Leonard's novel.

Barry Sonnenfeld (Men in Black, Wild Wild West), one of Hollywood's most underrated directors, calls the shots.

Also, today (Friday) is a big day for Bill Murray fans.  AMC has loaded its schedule with a triple load of Bill; Murray, not the tropical depression.  Mr. Murray defends our country, sort of, in Stripes at 1:30 p.m., attacks a pesky rodent on the golf course in Caddyshack (a personal favorite) at 7 and sees apparitions of dead folks in the first Ghostbusters at 9.


If I were just going to see one this week, though, I guess I'd still have to dust off The Picture of Dorian Gray (Saturday night at 7 on TCM).


15 June 2015

Special invite/Classic films this week


Before we get to this week's guide to classic movies on television, I would like to personally invite you to a very special event in San Antonio Thursday evening at 6:30.

Elizabeth Taylor and Spencer Tracy in "Father of the Bride." (MGM)

Help us celebrate the grand opening of the brand-spanking new Emerald Oaks Retirement Resort, the state-of-the-art 55-and-over retirement community at 20302 Bulverde Rd. north of Loop 1604 on the Alamo City's North Side.  I'll be onstage to inaugurate the spectacular theater that seats 150 in plush, stadium seating coolness.

My topic is my Movie Memories presentation titled "Father Knows Best, Or Does He?" and you can expect film clips from classic films such as Father of the Bride and To Kill a Mockingbird.  But that's just the beginning.

There will be movies that I hope will surprise and delight you as we search for the most fantastic fathers -- and perhaps an offbeat guy or two -- in movie history.  I can promise a fun-filled evening full of clips and quips that's a perfect tuneup for Father's Day.

Admission is free, but seating is limited and RSVP is required.  Please call 210-740-8105 today to reserve your seats.  Tell them Larry sent you.

I look forward to seeing you Thursday at Emerald Oaks!

Classic movies on TV this week

Looking for some good classic movies to watch this week at home?  Well, I've got some suggestions in the latest weekly feature from Movie Memories with Larry Ratliff.

(Courtesy: MGM)

First up:  A question.  Who needs Botox when we've got movies like The Picture of Dorian Gray?  George Sanders, Donna Reed and Angela Lansbury are on screen in this eerie mix of drama, fantasy and horror.

It is Hurd Hatfield who plays the tormented, but never-aging womanizer in director Albert Lewin's 1945 adaptation of Oscar Wilde's wild novel.

Mr. Gray, you see, never ages, but the portrait of him locked away in a special room does.  It turns into quite a grotesque demon, in fact. 

Well, you just have to see for yourself how it all works out.  The Picture of Dorian Gray airs at 7 p.m. Saturday on TCM.  (Please check local listings to confirm the time.)

I also like Get Shorty (1995), which is set for 5 p.m. Friday on MGM HD.  It's great to see John Travolta and Gene Hackman chewing the scenery in this comic crime-thriller also featuring Rene Russo, Danny DeVito, Dennis Farina and James Gandolfini based on Elmore Leonard's novel.

Barry Sonnenfeld (Men in Black, Wild Wild West), one of Hollywood's most underrated directors, calls the shots.

Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn and Sidney Poitier take center stage in Stanley Kramer's comic-drama classic Guess Who's Coming To Dinner? (1967) at 7 p.m. Thursday on TCM.  Tracy huffs and puffs a lot, at least at first, when daughter Joey (Katharine Houghton) brings home an unexpected fiance.

Murder, deceit and romance are the name of the game in the original 1946 version of The Postman Always Rings Twice set for 5 a.m. (Yes, a.m.) Friday on TCM.  John Garfield plays the handsome stranger who drifts into town and woos a married woman portrayed by sultry Lana Turner in this one.

And if you enjoy a good submarine action war drama, you could do a lot worse than Run Silent, Run Deep (1958), pairing Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster.  This is my choice this week for night owls and insomniacs.  Run Silent, Run Deep ships out at 1 a.m. Wednesday on MGM HD.

If I were just going to see one this week, I guess I'd have to dust off The Picture of Dorian Gray (Saturday night at 7 on TCM).



08 June 2015

This week: Classic movies on TV

Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine have a little chat in Paris. (United Artists)

The art of viewing classic movies on TV has come a long way since the 1950s.

Back then my mother would allow me to stay up way past my bedtime to enjoy what we called at the time "an old movie."  That was before the late night talk shows, after the 10 p.m. news and before the playing of The National Anthem (as jets flew over a waving U.S. flag), sign-off, a test pattern and the annoying noise of static, which signaled the abyss of television nothingness until the next morning.

I fondly remember those magical nights that represent a close bond shared between my mom and only me, when I had her all to myself.  I didn't realize it until years later, but those wonderful nights of watching Humphrey Bogart solve murder mysteries in The Maltese Falcon or The Big Sleep  or share a riverboat with Katharine Hepburn in The African Queen forged my deep appreciation and love for classic movies.

It's much easier to find quality classic films on TV these days.  Movie channels such as TCM, AMC, MGM, Sundance TV and more dot almost all cable company and satellite TV schedules.  So much so, in fact, that it can be a chore to scroll through all the listings to pick out the cinematic gems of the week.

That sounds like the perfect job for yours truly.  It is my pleasure to offer some classic movie suggestions for the week.  Please note, all times listed are central daylight-saving time.

First up is Billy Wilder's 1963 romantic-comedy Irma la Douce, starring Jack Lemmon as a beat cop in Paris who falls in love with a prostitute portrayed beautifully by a young Shirley MacLaine.  Airing at 3 p.m. Sunday on TCM, Irma la Douce won an Academy Award for Andre Previn's score.

It also earned MacLaine her third Best Actress Oscar nomination, following Some Came Running in 1958 and The Apartment in 1960.  She finally took Oscar home in 1984 for her spectacular, nuanced performance opposite Debra Winger and Jack Nicholson in Terms of Endearment.


(United Artists)

If you enjoy the somewhat odd genre stew of romance, war and thrills, then head on over to AMC Thursday at 6:45 p.m. for Eye of the Needle (1981), starring Donald Sutherland and Kate Nelligan and directed by Richard Marquand.

It takes a pretty good actor to keep me even interested in a German killer spy nicknamed "Needle" because that is his weapon of choice.  Sutherland is up to the task in this gripping thriller, and so is Nelligan as married woman (the wife of a disabled man) who may not be able to resist the lure of a mysterious stranger.

For silly fun, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby team up as playboys trying to put past romances behind them, at least that's the plan until them encounter Dorothy Lamour in Road to Singapore (1940).  Frankly, this isn't the funniest or the finest Hope and Crosby "Road" frolic.  But it is the first one, which makes it a must-see.  Hit the Road Wednesday at 9 p.m. on TCM.

Also this weekThe Best Exotic Marigold Hotel of 2011 (Saturday at 8 a.m. on Sundance TV); Greed (1924), the great silent dramatic-thriller from Erich von Stroheim (Sunday at 11 p.m. on TCM); and Lenny (1974), Bob Fosse's biting biography of caustic comedian Lenny Bruce portrayed by Dustin Hoffman, (Wednesday at 1:15 a.m. on MGM).

If I had to pick just one this week, though, I'd be off to Paris to see Shirley MacLaine and Jack Lemmon mix it up in Irma la Douce.


27 April 2015

How's the New Year's resolution going?

Computer300rSorry, I just had to ask, primarily because mine is going so well. 

Not that I want to gloat, but I've lost enough weight that our bathroom scale is now down into the numbers range.  It wasn't always that way.

For longer than I care to remember, that little window on the scale -- the dreaded eye into our soul of self-loathing, if you will -- didn't show any numbers at all, just letters or words.

"One at a time" was probably my favorite at the highest point of actual weight and lowest ebb of self-esteem.

Then, after some half-tries to do something about my situation, I eased down into the "OMG!" range and, finally, after self-discipline which I figure equals the resolve of "The Little Engine That Could," I got the scale to merely whimper "Help" for a while.

Now I'm down into numbers, baby, and descending with the not-so-blazing speed of a packed elevator at the end of a long day touring the refried bean factory.

I guess you're wondering how I pulled off this amazing success.  Easy ...

We got bikes!

We bought them at night, in a hurry.  What could possibly go wrong?

Plenty, actually.  My wife Suellen's fun-on-two-wheels machine actually turned out to be a semi-rusted demonstrator suffering from MacArthur Park syndrome. You know, the song?  Except it wasn't the cake left out in the rain.  In this case, it was her bicycle, which will actually reluctantly shift a gear or two after five or six squirts of WD-40 and some serious handlebar-grip twisting.

Bike300rMy shiny new ride is a Huffy.  I like to refer to it as a Huffy Puffy, mainly because we have some gently sloping hills in our neighborhood that appear to transform into Pikes Peak with speed bumps once I'm on the saddle.

(Saddle:  The proper name for a bicycle seat, which I think was invented by a disturbed man or woman who enjoyed watching others suffer.  Also, "bicycle seat sore" just doesn't have a ring to it like "saddle sore" does.)

The hills in our 'hood may not actually jut 14,115 feet into the sky like that Pikes Peak thing, but it sure feels that way when I'm pedaling at about a thousand RPMs and tipping the speedometer at somewhere between 3/4 and 1 mph.

Not that I have a speedometer on my bike.  I just know I'm not setting any speed records because a newborn puppy-dog just learning to stand on all fours  beat me up the hill the other day.  Also, it's common for people on that street to come out in their front yards to snicker at me (and, I suspect, place bets) as I sweat and pedal my way up the gradual slope.

Whatever.  My diet and exercise program is working, so what do I care about how the neighbors feel?  And just for the record, I'm pretty sure that little doggie is part greyhound.  In fact, I'm declaring success.  My New Year's resolution of 1979 has finally been accomplished.  So congrats to me.

Now I can get serious about the next year's resolution:  Become a world famous standup comedian before 1980 comes to an end.

I can't worry about that right now, though.  Gotta go.  It's time for my snack.

Yum, frijoles refritos.

16 March 2015

Joanie get your gun(s)

Joan Crawford acting tough in "Mildred Pierce" (1945), in which she earned her only Best Actress Academy Award. (allaboardforskinkersswamp.wordpress.com)

Thanks to all the fine folks over at Highland Springs retirement community in North Dallas for inviting me back once again on a recent Sunday evening.

Since March was an important month for Texas history (The Alamo fell, Texas Declaration of Independence was adopted), activity director Barbara Blachly opted for the popular Lone Star Movie Stars presentation, which spotlights prominent actors from Texas.  Of course that includes Lucille Fay LeSueur, whom you may know better as legendary actress Joan Crawford.

We also spent a good deal of time talking about Dennis Quaid and Oscar winners Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones, just to name a few.  As usual, the Highland Springs crowd welcomed me warmly into their home and responded enthusiastically to the presentation.

Maybe it has something to do with baseball season about ready to throw out first pitches in a couple of weeks, but I especially enjoyed sharing the trailer for The Rookie, starring Quaid, the son of a Houston electrician who has done very well for himself since his relocation to Hollywood after attending the University of Houston.

Speaking of The Rookie, see if that young actor who played Quaid's son in 2002 looks familiar.  Can you name the TV sitcom he co-starred in later?


A fun-filled, unique opportunity for your group

Of course, Lone Star Movie Stars is just one of 26 Movie Memories presentations available.  Click this link to view all 26 presentations (with descriptions of each one) or take a look at a partial presentation list below.

Be a hero.  Get in on the fun for your corporate event, group gathering, special event or retirement community.  Call 214.364.7364 to book your Movie Memories event today.

Operators are standing (or sitting) by.

Flyer presentations464






09 March 2015

Rainy days and Mondays ...

Rainy days didn't seem to bother Gene Kelly much in the 1952 classic "Singin' in the Rain" (MGM)

Always get me down.

Well, isn't this a drippy start to spring break week?  At least it is in much of Texas.

So to cheer me -- and, perhaps, you -- up, I came across this montage of romantic scenes from movies that took place in the rain.

It's an exercise in Movie Memories.  See how many of the movie titles you can name. 

And remember what "Annie" said, "The sun'll come out ..."

Ah, shut up, "Annie."

02 March 2015

It's civic duty time

(Image courtesy: stuffwriterslike.com)

Things we forget.  Things we remember.

It's too bad we don't get to choose.

I still remember vividly, for instance, the only real fight I had as a kid.  The elementary school bully pushed me too far one day, and I snapped.  With a fury I had never experienced before, I got the best of him.  And when I let him go, got up and dusted myself off, I said, "If you want some more of me, I'll be around."

I haven't seen anyone spring to life as fast before or since.  Without going into gory details, let's just say the bully -- Mr. Bully, now -- found his second wind and knocked what little I had left out of me.

That said, I have a gut feeling we, as a society, may be sitting idly by and letting a potential injustice we can do something about snowball out of control.

You probably recall the startling news of about a month ago that Harper Lee, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird, had another "novel" stashed away in a bank safety deposit box for six decades.

Now Ms. Lee, who reportedly resides in an assisted living facility, has suddenly altered her 60-year stance that Mockingbird was her one and only novel and is delighted that the new book will be published in July, if we can believe what others, but never the lady herself, have said.

This news still gnaws at me and refuses to move farther back in my memory bank.  That's why I used my Getting Reel column space in the March-April issue of The Senior Voice newspaper to voice my concern.

Please click here to read my column titled To Revive a Mockingbird? 

Things we forget.  Things we remember.

It's too bad we don't get to choose.

23 February 2015

The Academy of Yawns & Staleness

Mama Ratliff told me two things while I was growing up that have always stuck with me:

  • Always keep a $20 bill in your wallet in case of emergencies, and
  • If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.

I've never had much luck with that first one.  Every time I have folding money at the ready, there's always an irresistible temptation lurking within arm's reach.  Like a half gallon of Blue Bell for $4.99 or Girl Scouts armed with cookies setting up tables at the entrance of grocery stores.  Luckily, the Girl Scout thing is only seasonal.

Neil Patrick Harris, working the Oscar crowd.

Saying something nice or keeping my big trap shut has been problematic as well.  I'm going to try really hard to find something nice to say about last night's sluggish, basically non-eventful, overlong, boring telecast of "The 87th Academy Awards" on ABC.  (In case you missed it, here's a link to CNN's list of Oscar winners.)

I'm not even going to mention that first-time Oscar host Neil Patrick Harris, a veteran of working tough pat-each-other-on-the-back-rooms  hosting the Tony Awards and television's Emmys, appeared overwhelmed either by an audience of about a billion worldwide or the sea of bright lights and serious Academy voting members (or both) he faced -- at least once dressed only in his tidy whities -- for what seemed like about half my life.  (And not the good half, either.)

See, I told you I have trouble saying nice things.  So this Academy Awards wrap-up is for you, Mama Ratliff:

I really enjoyed the musical numbers, with one exception:  Lady Gaga.

Lady Gaga gets classy, sort of.

Before you look for the comment button to rave on about how wonderful the often-outlandish Gaga was singing a tribute to Julie Andrews and The Sound of Music in honor of the Best Picture Oscar-winning musical's 50th anniversary, let me state my case.  

And Mama Ratliff, forgive me for whipping this out:

Lady Gaga's tats (Read carefully; that's tats) took me completely out of what could have been a lovely, moving tribute both to the movie that took five Oscar wins in 1965 and to Andrews.

I have no problem with the gifted singer who until fairly recently liked to sing while a performance artist threw up all over her doing a 180-degree turn going semi-legit.

Gaga can really warble.  But when she rolled into the finale of Climb Every Mountain and thrust out her sleeveless arms to reveal an inked rendering of a trumpet on her right arm and inspirational script in German on the left, let's just say those were not two of my favorite things.

I'm no prude and I have nothing against tattoos on sailors, especially Popeye the Sailor Man, but Ms. Lady should have worn some elegant sleeves to kept her tats under wrap last night.

Now, for the untarnished good stuff:

Tim McGraw's rendition of Glen Campbell's I'm Not Gonna Miss You from Campbell's autobiographical documentary Glen Campbell:  I'll Be Me froze me to my recliner.  So much so, in fact, that I had a little trouble catching my breath when McGraw calmly, beautifully sang the lyrics inspired by Campbell's ongoing losing battle with Alzheimer's disease.

Anyone who has a history of Alzheimer's disease in their family, as we do, can appreciate the power of words that cut right to the frightening graphic honesty of the brutal disease so much that it rips one's heart in two.


 The other powerful musical moment came from gifted singers and performers John Legend and Common.

Common, left, and John Legend bring down the house.

Glory, the emotional anthem from Selma, the best picture nominee about the civil rights struggles to secure equal voting rights in 1965, brought the Oscar crowd to its feet.

In a perplexing Academy Awards year when no non-white men or women were nominated, it was a befitting tribute that brought tears to the eyes of some, including British actor David Oyelowo, who portrayed Martin Luther King Jr., but who was not nominated.

The heart-melting title tune ends with the word "glory" repeated several times.

Glory hallelujah.


28 January 2015

Ready for Buddy Holly live-ish?

Holly240I'm all for free enterprise, even when it comes to making a few bucks off dearly departed spouses to pay the rent and have a little left over for other essentials such as facelifts, body lowerings, tummy tucks, plastic breasts and, of course, lip-and-hip enhancement.

Heck, I hope when I'm gone my wife Suellen writes the book I've never had the guts to write (so far) about the bizarre path of a film critic trying to maintain his journalistic dignity while tip-toeing through the vague and veiled world of celebrity entertainment.

That said, I'm having more than a little trouble understanding why Maria Elena Holly, the Texas music icon's widow, has signed off on a virtual Buddy Holly stage tour set to kick off next year, according to a story in the Hollywood Reporter.

That's right, a hologram of Holly will likely sing -- sort of -- all the hits from Peggy Sue to That'll Be the Day.  Who knows?  In this age of social media and anything-goes-don't bother-to-check-your-sources reporting, a flickering image of Holly might just sell a ton of tickets.

According to the Hollywood Reporter article:

"Hologram USA is already working on the hologram-like performance of the rock and roll icon, as well as on a similar show around Liberace, which will debut in Las Vegas. Through  the partnership with Buddy Holly Licensing, the company has access to music and images of Holly. Interactive elements involving the audience and back up band members are also being created."

Surely, Holly's widow is fighting this sort of tales-from-the-crypt nonsense to sell tickets.  That's what you and me and any sane person who respects what the guy in glasses from West Texas accomplished in such a short time in the spotlight would think.  Right?

We would be wrong about that.

"I am so excited that my partnership with Hologram USA on the Buddy Holly concert project will allow a new generation of fans to experience the thrill of seeing Buddy ‘live’ and in concert for the first time in many decades," Maria Elena Holly told the Hollywood Reporter.

So sorry, Mrs. Holly, but no one is going to see your late, great -- let's just go ahead and say legendary -- husband again live or even, as you put it, 'live.'

The music genius from Lubbock died along with The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens in a tragic plane crash between Clear Lake, Iowa and Moorhead, Minn. almost exactly 56 years ago.  Holly was only 22 years old.

In American Pie, Don McLean's meandering 1971 folk-rock anthem with almost hypnotic lyrics, McLean referred to Feb. 3, 1959 as "the day the music died."

Hollystory230I suggest we celebrate Holly best by just listening to his almost unbelievable collection of hits.  And if you simply must see a semi-image of the man, seek out "The Buddy Holly Story," the 1978 biopic starring Gary Busey.

Yes, that Gary Busey; the human hologram who's pushing the Amazon Fire TV Stick in commercials and can't tell the difference between a Fire Stick and a seashell.  Busey was on fire as Holly, by the way.

I know an Elvis Presley hologram concert is in the works as well.  So why not go all the way?  Bring back The Possum, the late, great George Jones, who died in April 2013.  He could sing his signature hit, although it would have to be adjusted time wise.

You know, He Stopped Loving Her Almost Two Years Ago Today.

But Buddy Holly in a hologram concert?  Line up and enjoy yourself if you must.  A word of advice:  Don't bother waiting around for an autograph.

As for me, that'll be the day-ay-ay when I ... when I ... don't know.

I've got nothing.  Rave On, indeed.