7 posts categorized "music"

19 March 2017

'Beauty' and the bean counters

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Belle (Emma Watson) and the Beast (Dan Stevens) trip the candlelight fantastic. (Courtesy: www.digitalspy.com)

We probably shouldn't scold the Disney Studio or its bean counters too severely for rolling out a live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast, the Mouse House's animated golden oldie that swept up a boffo $425 million worldwide in 1991.

Disney has been raiding its own vault of animated treasures for years; Alice in Wonderland (2010), Cinderella (2015), The Jungle Book (2016) with Dumbo and Mulan on the way next year.  That, folks, is why they call it show business with the emphasis clearly on the second word.

Continue reading "'Beauty' and the bean counters" »

01 July 2016

Flags of our great grandfathers and grandmothers

Yankee330rI make no apologies for star-spangled banter when it comes to Independence Day.

So, proudly fly the U.S. flag, thump an ice-cold watermelon, crank some homemade ice cream and get the family together, it's the Fourth of July weekend, time to celebrate this great country of ours.

Continue reading "Flags of our great grandfathers and grandmothers" »

04 April 2016

Missing Merle: Haggard turned 21 in prison, died on his birthday at 79

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The legendary Merle Haggard (Courtesy: yahoo.com)

NOTE:  When I published the following post about how Merle Haggard changed my life back in 1969, I had no idea perhaps the greatest influence in the history of country music would lose his battle with lung cancer and pneumonia today (April 6).  Bypassing the usual cliches, let's just say the "Silver Wings" are grounded and the "Swinging Doors" will swing no more, except in our memories and as one of the greatest legacies in the history of country music.  Rest in peace, Mr. Haggard, and thanks changing my life.

Two of the three items below were major news events of 1969.  Can you pick the one that wasn't?

Continue reading "Missing Merle: Haggard turned 21 in prison, died on his birthday at 79" »

14 July 2015

Classic films to catch on TV this week

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(Courtesy: Warner Bros.)

Going on a trip soon?

You might think twice about getting too chatty with the stranger who sits down next to you, especially if you follow my advice and check out Alfred Hitchcock's superb 1951 crime-thriller Strangers on a Train, which airs Friday at 3:45 p.m. on TCM.

That's the first suggestion in this week's Movie Memories guide to classic films on TV.  Remember, all times listed here are Central Daylight Time.  (Check your local listings.)

It all seems innocent enough at first in Strangers on a Train.  After chitchatting for a while, two train passengers (Farley Granger and Robert Walker) eventually get around to coming up with a surefire double murder plot.  Bruno (Walker) has someone he'd like to see gone, and, as it turns out, so does Guy (Granger).

Idle talk, on what seems like it at first, leads to intrigue, some of the finest black and white cinematography you'll see (Oscar nominated, in fact) and a signature cameo by director Alfred Hitchcock himself.  Look for Hitchcock as the portly fellow boarding the train with a double bass.

If you're in the mood for something diametrically opposite of Hitchcock's subtle film noir, you might want to get down to business with Dennis Quaid as he gets under the rock 'n roll skin of Jerry Lee Lewis in Great Balls of Fire!

Quaid, like his cinematic inspiration in real life, would very much like to shake your nerves and rattle your brain in the 1989 biopic of highly controversial rocker Lewis directed by Jim McBride and co-starring Winona Ryder as Lewis' young object of affection.

Goodness gracious, Great Balls of Fire! airs at 6:55 p.m. Wednesday on MGM HD.

  

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(Courtesy: MGM)

Speaking of relationships that are and appear to be flirting with danger, James Mason portrays a college professor infatuated by a 14-year-old girl in Stanley Kubrick's taboo-flaunting romantic-drama Lolita.  Based on Vladimir Nabokov's novel, Lolita heats up TV screens Saturday at 4:15 p.m. on TCM.

Guys and Dolls, the musical-comedy starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons and Frank Sinatra, airs at 12:15 p.m. Sunday on TCM.

Brando admitted in interviews after the film came out that it took quite a bit of editing to get his singing on Luck Be a Lady anywhere near presentable.

One of the great silent classics, Metropolis of 1926, takes over TCM Sunday at 7 p.m.  Fritz Lang's silent sci-fi drama about a futuristic city in turmoil is a must-see, especially for those who have never seen it.

Also:  John Wayne's on the trail of a Civil War traitor in Howard Hawks' classic Western Rio Lobo (1970) at 1 a.m. Friday on TCM; Errol Flynn swashes and buckles for the first time on screen in the pirate adventure Captain Blood (1935), airing at 5 a.m. Saturday on TCM; and you'll get another powerful dose of film noir in the 1957 drama Sweet Smell of Success, which showcases Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis and lights up MGM HD Saturday at 5 p.m.

If I had to pick just one to enjoy this week, however, I think I'd tune to TCM at 7 p.m. Saturday and catch Robert Redford in the title role as The Candidate (1972).

Peter Boyle and Melvyn Douglas are among the co-stars in the tale of an attorney (Redford) running for the U.S. Senate.  He's a do-gooder, so the question is whether or not he can maintain his integrity over the long haul.

It is, after all, the political season once again.  Or haven't you noticed?

        

29 June 2015

Classic films on TV: Watch this!

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(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.  (Note:  All times listed are Central Daylight Time.)

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.

     

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.

03 December 2014

Miracle on Southeast 11th Street

RCAvictor280I was 10 in 1957, and all I wanted for Christmas that year was a record player.  Not just any record player, but a state-of-the-art red with white top portable fold-up unit that could play 45s as well as albums and, yes, 78s.

You know that kid Ralphie in the movie A Christmas Story (1983) who really, really wanted a Red Ryder B.B. gun in the 1940s?  Well, that was me in the '50s, except I thought life would not be worth living unless Santa, or Old Santa Claus as my Dad called him, delivered the record player.

I knew we didn't have much money back then, but I never considered us poor.  Poor people didn't have much of anything to eat.  I'm not saying we had meat every night, though.  Supper in our modest little neighborhood on the southeast side of Grand Prairie (between Dallas and Fort Worth) often included a creative combination of leftovers Mother called hash.  Or we dined on cornbread and red beans.

Dad, who always dreamed of busting out to bigger things (not unlike this scribe), walked rain or shine the three or four blocks to and from The Plant five days a week, carrying a jet black lunch box.  Chance Vought Aircraft was the official name of the aircraft factory at the time.  I never heard Dad call it anything other than The Plant.  And for the short periods of time my brother Lannie and I worked there later, it was The Plant for us as well.

I wasn't worried about disrupting the family budget for something as extravagant as a $19.95 state-of-the-art red with white top portable fold-up record player that could play 45s as well as albums and, yes, 78s.  After all, that one would be on Santa, not the meager Ratliff family budget.

At first I hinted.  After all, I was clearly headed for some kind of career in show business.  All I had at the time was the desire, and that desire for some kind of spotlight in the performing arts was definitely my destiny.  (I proved that a few years later when I was awarded the privilege of announcing fried chicken specials over the loudspeaker while working as a checker at Safeway.)

As Christmas drew near, I panicked and spelled out succinctly and with gusto how necessary the red record player with the cool white top was to my future.  

It was three days before Christmas in 1957 when my Mother and Dad pulled up in front of the A&P on Main Street with me in the backseat and issued specific instructions:

"We'll be back in a few minutes," Dad said.  "You wait right here."

I saw my parents walk past A&P and duck into Skillern's drugstore next door.  Like the good son I thought I was, I did wait in the car.

For a minute.  Then I made a fatal mistake that still haunts me to this day, let's see, 57 years later.

I slithered out of our Chevy and hugged the A&P wall until I reached the plate glass at Skillern's.  Sticking just enough of my face in front of the window to get a peek with one eye, I saw my Dad talking to a clerk.  The $19.95 state-of-the-art red with white top portable fold-up record player that could play 45s as well as albums and, yes, 78s was on the counter between them and Dad was reaching for his wallet in his left pocket.

Elated, I was just about to turn and sneak back to the car when a chill shot up my spine that took decades to fade and still lingers deep down inside today.  My Dad spotted me in the window and our eyes locked; a hurtful look of a trust broken in his, terror in mine.

Before my feet got the signal from my startled brain to get the heck out of there, time froze.  I remember seeing my Dad shake his head "No thanks, I changed my mind" to the clerk as his hand eased his wallet back into its resting place.

When my parents got back in the car, nothing was said.  I knew what that meant.  And my folks knew that I knew.  The rest of the usually festive days leading up to Christmas Day were a stunned blur.  Mother made her wonderful fudge as usual; loaded with pecans for everyone except me with a little plate just for me with no nuts.

The fudge didn't seem quite as sweet that year.  My life was over.  How would I ever find my place in the spotlight without the red-and-white record player to foster my love for music, to hear Bill Haley & His Comets sing Rock Around the Clock?   The only song running through my head on Christmas Eve that year was Buddy Holly and the Crickets singing That'll Be the Day (when I die)

My brother beat me to the Christmas tree that year.  I wasn't exactly feeling it, if you know what I mean.  From behind him, though, I got a glimpse of something red and white.  Then, all of a sudden, there it was, my very own $19.95 state-of-the-art red with white top portable fold-up record player that could play 45s as well as albums and, yes, 78s!

That's why I believe in Old Santa Claus.  And forgiveness.  And second chances.  And that's why I always will. 

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