35 posts categorized "Weblogs"

18 September 2017

Destiny's child -- The other one

I don't know if we each have a destiny, or if we're all just floating around accidental-like on a breeze, but I, I think maybe it's both. -- Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks)

Baby300Looking for treasures?  You might try the garage.

You know, lurking in those musty boxes weakened by time and multiple relocations over two or three decades

Digging through way too many of those boxes to admit we even had over the weekend in preparation for an upcoming garage sale, we came across my birth announcement from way back in 19-something or other.

Continue reading "Destiny's child -- The other one" »

27 February 2017

And the Oscar goes to ... chaos!

Beatty300
Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty fumble through the not-so-grand Oscar finale. (Courtesy: www.google.com)

See, this is what happens when you trust Bonnie and Clyde to hand out the Best Picture award at the Academy Awards.

The only thing I can think of that would have been more bizarre would be if Warren Beatty, looking totally confused and lost (for good reason, it turns out) had said, "We're Bonnie and Clyde.  We rob ballots!"

In case you missed it, the 89th Academy Awards telecast was putt-putting along fairly smoothly Sunday night until, of all things, the all-important finale.

Continue reading "And the Oscar goes to ... chaos!" »

12 October 2016

Waiting to inhale

 Betty260Today's to-do list:

1.  Do some research to see why the dog is pooping in the house all of a sudden.

2.  Check to see if the swimming pool has sprung a slow leak.

3.  Save Betty's life.

Let's begin with No. 3, shall we?  The pool and dog poop can wait (but not for long!)

Of course I can't save Betty Coleman's life alone.  I need your help, and so does Betty, the wife of my good friend Charles Coleman.

Continue reading "Waiting to inhale" »

06 June 2016

Guess what turns 83 today? Happy Birthday drive-in movies!

Drive-in400r
(Courtesy: www.movies.com)

And I bet the popcorn was rubbery and cold that first night in Camden, N.J. back on June 6, 1933.

That's when Richard Hollingshead Jr., an auto parts salesman, invented the drive-in movie by putting a projector on the hood of a car and parking it in front of two bedsheets tied together and strung up in the yard.

Continue reading "Guess what turns 83 today? Happy Birthday drive-in movies!" »

27 April 2016

Ferrell the presumptive nominee to swear in as Reagan on the big screen

ReaganFerrell350r
Mr. Ferrell, pull off that role as Ronald Reagan. (Courtesy: gettyimages.com)

Well, according to a post on the Hollywood Reporter website, Will Ferrell will soon portray former President Ronald Reagan on the big screen.

Many of us remember Ferrell knocking down a pretty mean George W. Bush in numerous Saturday Night Live skits.

But for a sustained length of time in a feature-length movie titled Reagan?

Continue reading "Ferrell the presumptive nominee to swear in as Reagan on the big screen" »

07 March 2016

When Ronnie met Nancy

Nancy Reagan, who passed away Sunday (March 6), met her beloved Ronald Reagan in 1949.

Reagans290
The Reagans pose for a publicity still for "Hellcats of the Navy." (Courtesy: Columbia Pictures)

The future 40th president of the United States was serving in another office in the late '40s.  Reagan, as president of the Screen Actors Guild, agreed to have dinner with actress Nancy Davis.  Davis noticed that her name, which, according to reports turned out to be another Nancy Davis, had popped up in the infamous Communist witch hunt.

Continue reading "When Ronnie met Nancy" »

27 February 2016

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the new us!

Reopening280rClick right on in, everyone.  No need to push or shove, there's plenty of room for everyone.

We are very proud of the newly redesigned, greatly improved LarryRatliff.com website, home of Movie Memories with Larry Ratliff and all that involves.

Continue reading "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the new us!" »

18 February 2016

Under construction: Wait 'til you see the new us

New improved350lAttention all website owners and bloggers:  When your spouse tells you it's way past time to change the post on your website, it's way past time to change the post on your website.

Suellen is right, but I do have an excuse.  Does that help?  OK, didn't think so.

The fact is that LarryRatliff.com, home of everything Movie Memories, is undergoing a major overhaul, and we've been planning and building something we think is eye-popping special.

It's a little premature to give too much away, so let's just say that very soon you will be looking at a state-of-the-art Movie Memories and Larry Ratliff website home that, hopefully, will take your breath away (But only temporarily, we hope; safety first).

But wait, there's more!

We are also excited about being very close to announcing that Larry will be digging out his old TV makeup kit for a new movie critic position on a nationally syndicated television show. 

As they say on TV, stay tuned.

And as they also say, we'll be right back:  Bigger and better than ever.

I'm Larry Ratliff, and I approved this message (right after I wrote it).

 

12 January 2016

Joy and 'Joy,' my review, to the world

Joygun325r
Jennifer Lawrence takes aim at becoming a successful entrepreneur in "Joy." (Google.com)

A quick note about joy, that inner-tingling feeling of delight, and Joy, the award-winning movie.

It is my pleasure to inform anyone who doesn't already know that The Senior Voice is now a dual North Texas publication serving both Dallas and Fort Worth with separate issues.

That makes the circulation of Carol Butler's soon-to-be-monthly brainchild to bring news, features and other articles of interest to seniors and those who deal with that special section of the population to a whopping 100,000.

It's an exciting new year for Carol and the staff, which includes this semi-humble scribe as the film columnist/critic.

The (soon-to-be) monthly format will allow more access to timely movie releases.  We'll start the film review party with Joy, which earned Jennifer Lawrence, its star, a Golden Globe award as best performance by an actress in a motion picture - comedy or musical Sunday night in Los Angeles.

My review begins thusly:

Watching Joy, the mesmerizing dysfunctional family drama-with-comedy starring Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper, this thought kept running through my mind:

“Is there anything Jennifer Lawrence can’t do?”

Click here to read my full Joy review.  And, while you're on the Senior Voice website, take a little time to look around at a new major player in North Texas media.

   

15 June 2015

Special invite/Classic films this week

EO464

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.

Father260
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.

DorianGray280
(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).

      

 

01 June 2015

Thanks again, Houston and movie titles that really get my goat

Eagle'sTrace280
Remembering "The Alamo" and other "Movies Set in the Lone Star State" with Joan Pyle in Houston. (Courtesy: Eagle's Trace)

I was fortunate enough to expand the Movie Memories presentations market to Houston recently.

It was a pleasure to meet many of the residents of the Eagle's Trace retirement community for my "Movies Set in the Lone Star State" presentation.

That presentation begins and ends with Alamo movies and includes Academy Award-winner Giant, the larger-than-life, star-studded 1956 tale of cattle, oil and bubbling emotions starring Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean.

My host, Joan Pyle, who is "Jo" to her friends, met me at the door when I arrived.  The entire staff couldn't have been nicer or more helpful.  I can't wait to return to Eagle's Trace to make more Movie Memories in the Bayou City.

What's in a title?  Well, ...

Let's get right to the point.  Some movie titles, like Of Mice and Men, It's a Wonderful Life and Thank You for Smoking (a personal favorite from Jason Reitman) are perfectly in tune with what the film is about.

They either intrigue, entice or, for whatever reason, make you want to throw down your hard-earned money and see the movie.

That's not what this item is about, however.

Let's consider for a moment the worst movie titles of all time.  Often an unfortunate or carelessly planned title provides a hint that something wicked this way comes.  That almost always turns out to be the case.

Mengoats300
George Clooney and friend in "The Men Who Stare at Goats." (Overture Films)

For every lousy film title you can think of that fronted a movie that wasn't all that bad, such as The Shawshank Redemption, for instance, I can counter with something like The Men Who Stare at Goats.  In my humble opinion, that was one of the few awful clunkers George Clooney has ever appeared in.  

Then there are the real stinkers like Freddy Got Fingered, a nearly unwatchable little ditty starring, if we can call it that, Tom Green as a cartoonist who moves back in with his parents.

Maybe you can name some yourself.  I'd love to hear from folks who over the years have come across some movie titles they feel are so bad they make it nearly impossible to appreciate even a good movie that follows the title.  

If you could use some suggestions to refresh your memory, the folks over at The Hollywood Reporter have come up with a list they call The 50 Worst Movie Titles of All Time, which does, by the way include both The Men Who Stare at Goats and that disgusting Freddy one.  (Click here for the link.)

Oh, and there's this one:  Dude, Where's My Car?  Really, dude?

  

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.

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.

Harris250r
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.

Gagatats325l
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.

Legend320r
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.

 

11 February 2015

Oh snap: I don't get 'West Side Story'

West350r
Watch out, the Jets are getting very angry. (United Artists)

Those who have questioned my comic ability over the years, including me, must at least admit I am in complete harmony in one area with George Carlin, the brilliant late comic uncanny in his ability to observe life.

When it comes to the classic Hollywood musical West Side Story, the 1961 musical that won 10 Academy Awards including best picture, Carlin didn't and I just don't get it.

What Carlin expressed in the past and what I feel right now is the notion of two bitter rival New York street gangs who hate each other so much that they ... they ... snap their fingers angrily at each other.

Oh the humanity!

Of course the lily white Jets and the Puerto Rican Sharks eventually get around to whipping out their switchblades in this crowd-pleasing rehash of Shakespeare's classic Romeo and Juliet yarn.  But after all the finger-snapping and high-jumping choreography, though, I share Carlin's take 100 percent:

"I'll cut you, man!  But first, let's dance!"

 

A lady at one of my Movie Memories presentations suggested recently that maybe West Side Story is a "chick flick" and guys just don't get it. 

WSSposter250That may be the case for some, but I really enjoyed plenty of potentially "chick flickish" musicals.  The Sound of Music comes to mind, and so does Oklahoma!  And my disdain for West Side Story has nothing to do with all the fighting and hatred.  

And I can prove it.  My two favorite musicals of all time are Cabaret (1972) and Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001), a little ditty about a transsexual punk rocker tormented by the fact that a certain life-altering operation didn't quite work out as planned.

Sorry, but West Side Story, the movie many consider to be one of the best -- if not the greatest -- musicals of all time just doesn't cut it for me, if you'll excuse the pun. 

I wouldn't suggest that you think ill of me for weak puns like that, either, I might just snap my fingers at you with that killer look in my eyes.

Making Movie Memories in San Antonio

Thanks to activity director Mario Garcia and all the fine folks over at Madison Estates for inviting us to spread a little cinematic (almost) Valentine's Day cheer Tuesday evening.

We had a great turnout of folks who really got into our Hollywood's Great Romantic Scenes presentation, even to the point of snapping their fingers right along with the Jets and the Sharks during the West Side Story portion of the presentation.

I can't wait to return to Madison Estates on March 22 for our Savor Those Tunes -- Great Movie Music Movie Memories presentation.  It's one of my personal favorites.

Among many others, we'll be Puttin on the Ritz from Young Frankenstein in that one.

 

If you haven't already, call 214-364-7364 to book a Movie Memories presentation for your event, group or senior community.

16 December 2014

Off the beaten Christmas movie path

Don't get me wrong.  Traditional Christmas movies like It's a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street and others are a glorious way to celebrate the holidays.

Sometimes, though, when the mood is just right -- and in some cases delightfully just wrong -- it's fun to venture off the beaten path and enjoy some, shall we say, unconventional holiday ho-ho-hos. 

Here are some of my favorites to watch out for, either on TV movie channels, available to order at movie websites or perhaps waiting to be discovered and rescued from the bottom of those giant bins of DVDs at discount stores.

Traditional but not widely seen

HolidayInn275lYou're probably familiar with White Christmas (1954), starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye as song and dance men who put on a show to save a Vermont inn.  Turn back the clock a dozen years to 1942 and there was Crosby also crooning White Christmas in Holiday Inn, opposite Marjorie Reynolds and teaming up with Fred Astaire.

I'm not saying Holiday Inn is the better film.  Let's just say it's a different take on a similar theme.  But wait, there's more.  Holiday Inn spans a little more than a year in the lives and loves of its major characters.  What other holiday movie serves up two Christmas seasons and an Easter parade?

Angels275rTo venture even farther off the usual holiday path, see if you can get your hands on a copy of We're No Angels, circa 1955.

Humphrey Bogart, shortly after his best actor Academy Award for his performance as the river boat vagabond in The African Queen, gives comedy a go as one of three Devil's Island escapees hiding out in the home of a kind elderly man and his family at Christmas.

Peter Ustinov and Aldo Ray play Bogart's partners in crime and comedy.  When the going gets tough, let's just say a pet in a box helps solve the situation.

Wicked and wacky

Looking for something Christmas themed and silly?  We can do silly.  Let's begin with Home Alone (1990) and add progressively hilarious doses of wickedness from there.

HomeAlone250lMacaulay Culkin was 10-playing-8 when he got his first starring role as Kevin McCallister, the son left at home by mistake when all the other McCallisters hopped a jet for the holidays.  So much for no child left behind.

Two of my favorite character actors, Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern, portray the bungling burglars who are no match for young Kevin on his home turf.  Be sure and put on your silly hat when you press "play."  Everyone in the movie will already have theirs on.

Mixed Nuts is another offbeat holiday gem.  Featuring a dandy ensemble cast led by Steve Martin, Madeline Kahn, Rita Wilson and Adam Sandler, this 1994 comic-drama directed by Nora Ephron and written by the Ephron sisters (Nora and Delia) never quite caught on at the box office.

If you're looking for some great lines, though, you could do a lot worse than this outlandish story about the crazies running a crisis hotline during the holidays.

Once the kids or grandkids are asleep, pop Bad Santa into the DVR and hang on for dear life.

From this aisle seat, the 2003 caustic comedy about an alcoholic, womanizing ne'er-do-well who takes a job as a department store Santa with robbing the place blind in mind constitutes Billy Bob Thornton's finest performance since his Oscar-nominated turn in Sling Blade in 1996.

You might want to turn the lights down low to match the low-down comedy in this one.  That way, no one can know for sure whether or not you're laughing.

10 November 2014

'Elsa & Fred': Tedious and clichéd

Elsa-fredposter225
(Millennium Entertainment)

No one has ever accused Hollywood filmmakers of capturing, or even attempting much reality in the fictional movie genre, especially when it comes to romance. 

However, just in case no one has bothered to say it before, screenplays about senior citizens dating, romancing and/or falling in love don't have to come across as mundane, tedious and over the top as it often does and definitely does in Elsa & Fred, the new so-called romantic-comedy pairing elder movie stars Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer.

What went so wrong in Michael Radford's attempt to remake the Spanish-Argentinian film of the same title that was much better, by the way, in 2005?

Click this link to my full movie review and find out.

A new Santa clause:  Time to book Movie Memories

Santa
Natalie Wood and Edmund Gwenn in "Miracle on 34th Street." (20th Century Fox)
Whether it's a corporate Christmas party, a country club holiday gathering or a retirement community seasonal celebration, the "Happy Ho-Ho-Holidays" Movie Memories presentation arrives bearing gifts of laughter, nostalgia and holiday joy.
 
In a presentation lasting a little over an hour, Larry combines Christmas classic movie clips with behind-the-scene Hollywood insight and tales of Christmases past sure to entertain your group and inspire and touch hearts along the way.
 
We'll begin by boarding The Polar Express, with stops along the way at everything from White Christmas to The Santa Clause.  Of course our final holiday stop simply must be ... Well, you just have to join us to find out.
 
Itsawonderfullife
James Stewart, Donna Reed and joyus family in "It's a Wonderful Life." (Courtesy: RKO Radio Pictures)
Or, maybe your group would prefer to go behind the scenes of one of the most beloved holiday films of all time, It's a Wonderful Life.

You’re probably aware that an angel gets his wings and grumpy old Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore) tries to run everything in Bedford Falls.

But did you know that at least one film historian says Henry Fonda was considered for the role of reluctant small-town banker George Bailey?  Of course that became a signature role for James Stewart.

And just where is Bedford Falls?  Is it a real place?  There are lots of things to learn about film critic Larry Ratliff’s favorite holiday film of all time.

 
Call 214-364-7364 or email MovieMemories@verizon.net to book your one-of-a-kind  "Happy Ho-Ho-Holidays" or It's a Wonderful Life Movie Memories presentation.  We travel anywhere in Texas, especially the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, San Antonio, Austin and Houston, with special discounts for multiple corporate bookings.
 
Hurry, though.  Call or email today to lock in prime holiday dates before they're all taken.

08 September 2014

She couldn't Medicare less

Doc180l
(Courtesy: freedesignfile.com)

My doctor broke up with me today.

She wants to see other people.  Younger people.  And she wants me to see other people as well.

She doesn't care who I see, just as long as it isn't her.

"Did you see the sign out front?  As of January 1, I'm not treating Medicare patients anymore," she said, shortly before getting physical with me for the last time.

"The doctor won't see you now."  How did I misread those signs?

On my last few visits, my doctor, whom I'm convinced is a caring soul but is also someone who's had it way past "up to here" with government red tape associated with Medicare patients, has complained about having to lug around her laptop computer to deal with patients like me.  You know, those who have committed the mortal sin of letting the clock tick too many times to suit those younger.

I've been grandfathered in before, but this is the first time I've ever been grandfathered out.

In as gentle voice and nicest tone I could muster during my physical -- after all, she was reaching for the rubber gloves -- I said, "I can certainly understand your frustration, but it sort of leaves guys (and women) like me out in the cold.  We have a doctor we really like and trust, and now we can't go to them anymore."

I don't remember exactly what my doctor said to that.  I was too concerned about her opening up the examination room door and calling for the nurse.  Any guy who's ever had his prostate checked knows what that means.  (That reminds me, the car needs an oil change.)

I do remember that she didn't say, "Oh, excuse me.  I forgot for a second that you are one of my original patients.  You came with me to start this practice when I was struggling and you've been a loyal patient for years.  And you have referred several people to me, who, by the way, are not on Medicare and pay retail.  So, of course, I'll treat you and be here for you as long as you need me, even if I do have to use this laptop computer and deal with a little red tape and, yes, reduced revenue.  Have you seen what I'm driving.  I think I can stand the slight financial inconvenience to care for loyal, longtime patients like you."

Nope, she didn't say anything like that.  I still can't believe I misread those earlier signs of approaching detachment.  Since that rather abrupt, "See 'ya" visit, I have noticed some other signs, though.  Like the physicians' Hippocratic oath:

"I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person's family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick."

A couple of my friends have mentioned something like, "It's nothing personal.  It's just business."

Really?  Does "care for a patient" merely mean reading medical charts and graphs, taking X-rays and prescribing pills?  Just business refers to my banker, or the cashier at the grocery store who barely even looks up at customers these days.

I think not.  Our personal care physician takes our blood, asks us what's going on and treats us, dammit, physically and sometimes a little mentally as well.  "You've gained a little weight since your last visit.  Is something bothering you?  Is everything all right?"

And, excuse me, doctor, but I'd like to point out one more paragraph from the Hippocratic oath, which, by the way, is not the Hypocritic oath:

"I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug."

It has never ceased to amaze me that even those a decade or so younger than people of Medicare age seem to have no notion that they, too, will soon be considered too old to be taken seriously in many areas or even given equal medical consideration.  

It's coming, doctor, quicker than you realize.  May you be treated more respectfully and with more caring consideration when your time comes.

Yes, my doctor broke up with me today.  Sadly, she left me for a younger patient.

I'm not litigious, generally.  But I am thinking about demanding illimony.

03 September 2014

At the movies: 2025

Theater350r
(Courtesy: aprillynnescott.com)

Let's begin our not-too-distant future visit to the neighborhood movie gigaplex in the parking lot.

What's a gigaplex?

Oh you silly people still stuck in the early 21st century.  Movie gigaplexes have 100 screens, of course.

Now, back to the parking lot.  No need to worry about how far away from the building you park.  That's so old learning dome.  The theater will send a personal pod for you and your guests.  Just find a parking space, glance at the button on the dash marked PI (Plug in), and your car will be all charged up when the pod returns you.

I like the pods.  Just take two or three steps from your car into the pod and those are the last steps you need to take before you return to your car.

That's right, no stopping at the ticket booth, concession stand or even, ahem, the restroom.  All of that is taken care of right there in the pod, which, when landed and locked-in-place, becomes your couch-away-from-couch.  I don't want to say too much about how the restroom-stop problem has been solved.  Just know this, catheters will soon be greatly improved.

And did I mention that movies are pet friendly now?  Sure, bring Astro along.  Each pod comes with invisible sound mufflers so your dog -- or dogs for those so-minded -- can enjoy popular movies like Guardians of the Galaxy:  Yet Another Sequel or Richard Linklater's eclectic favorite Grandpahood right along with the family.  It's all included with any $109.99 adult ticket.  That's only $107.99 for seniors, children under 3 and military (Our side only, please).

Once your pod is locked and loaded, concessions like Blast Off, the instant energy caffeine drink equal to three full pots of coffee, or Milk Duds arrive in your armrest automatically.  Yes, Milk Duds are still around but they now come in three varieties:  Melt in Your Mouth, Extra-Soft or Regular, still the favorite movie candy of dentists everywhere.

Theater300l
(Courtesy: tribecafilm.com)

Oh, here's a couple of things a little different than they used to be at the movies.  Talking is encouraged.  In fact, the louder the better.  Most people shout out how many likes they have on Bobybook (It's about so much more than just the Face these days).

And wristcomms -- once called cellphones -- are left on at all times in movie houses now.  That announcement comes right after President Bieber's safe driving plea to drivers 11 and younger and Vice President Jenna Bush Hager's Previews of Coming Tweets.

Goody, that includes Social Media.  That's what we've come to see.  

The 200-by-90-foot screen is filled with Tweets from us, you, the neighbors, celebrities (including any, let's just say, risque photos they tried to protect, but couldn't), world leaders and drone pilots safely ensconced on leather sofas in Washington bunkers bombing the heck out of undesirables (definition to come when President Bieber and his cabinet figure it out).

This is so much more fun now that privacy rules have been voted out by the TMZ-controlled Congress.  People can now post whatever they like and it's out there for the world to see.  Of course the fact that due to worldwide giga-use Twitter now limits each tweet to six digits, there is a bit of sameness to the futuristic movie-going experience.

As a theater full of people scream out their Bobybook like totals and wristcomms light up the auditorium enough for me to see the corpse-like pallor on hundreds of chubby faces slurping down caffeine and inhaling Milk Duds, here's what I'm looking at on a giant movie screen:

Wh up?  N much ... Wh up?  N much ... Wh up?  N much ... Wh up?  N much ... Wh up?  N much ... Wh up?  N much ... Wh up?  N much ... Wh up?  N much ... Wh up?  N much ...

Sweet.

19 August 2014

Please say they're kidding

China300r
(Courtesy: rixbury.com)

I've seen a lot of strange things going on in the semi-dark of movie theaters over the years.

There's been no shortage of smuggled-in food, of course.  Nothing dilutes a gripping drama more than whiff's of store-bought chicken livers and gravy when Meryl Streep is bringing tears to our eyes.  And who among us hasn't had to lift up their feet to dodge a soft drink bottle careening down slope to eventually crash at the front of the theater?

I could go on and on, but there's breaking big screen news that must be shared.

The Hollywood Reporter is reporting that movie houses in China are testing a system that allows movie-goers not only to text during the movie but -- are you ready? -- the text messages actually show up on the movie screen right along with the feature.

"The inspiration behind the idea appears to be that it mimics that of watching a movie on mobile media, which is how most Chinese people watch films, with people sending messages about what they like or dislike about the movie.

"In a censored environment like China, precautions are taken to remove sensitive or forbidden words," the Hollywood Reporter article states.

The ultimate selfie?  Maybe.  I just know it's one more reason you'll probably never see me taking in a movie in China.

Farewell to the great Robin Williams

Robin285l
(Courtesy: chicagoreader.com)

"No words."

That's all Billy Crystal, Robin Williams' good friend and fellow acclaimed comic performer, could Tweet Monday, Aug. 11 as word of Williams death, an "apparent suicide" according to news reports, spread with the same raging fire that propelled a comic genius -- yes, a genius -- to world stardom and, apparently, unbearable depths of depression.

I have words, a few at least, to say or, more correctly, to expel from my deeply saddened state.  Perhaps they might, if only a little, ease some of the kick-in-the-gut sting felt by Williams' survivors, which includes family and friends, of course, but also anyone, including this scribe, who smiles when he or she hears the bellowed phrase "Good m-o-r-n-i-n-g Vietnam!" or conjures up the image of Mrs. Doubtfire (Williams in drag) setting her breasts on fire in the kitchen.

I knew Robin Williams about as well as any road warrior film critic who, over three decades or so, sat down with the almost always manic comic tsunami for short spurts at a time to discuss his latest movie.

Often, the interviews would be what's known in the industry as "round-table" interviews.   Five, six or seven film critics or entertainment reporters sit around a round table in a hotel suite usually in Los Angeles or New York.  The "talent" enters the room and takes the empty chair at the table and chats up the movie for 30 to 40 minutes; responding to mostly softball questions.

On one occasion, which looking back might have been one of Williams' tough days in his continuing battle against substance abuse and/or depression, the master rapid-fire comedian was, let's just say, melancholy.

In a situation where press members around a table often have to verbally joust to get their question in, moments of silence were creeping in between questions to Williams.  I found myself sitting right next to Williams that day.  He was fighting the good fight to keep the banter coming, which obviously most of my fellow journalists expected.  But Robin Williams just wasn't feeling it that day.

"Carpe Diem.  Seize the day, boys," Williams said as college professor John Keating in his Oscar-nominated performance in Dead Poets Society in 1989. 

So I did.  I asked Williams where his rapid-fire comic one-liners come from and how they ignite.

"I don't really know," he said quietly.  "It's almost like my head opens up and my brain is an antenna.  Signals from outer-space fill my brain.  I just let them out."

And let them out, he did.  Brilliantly, in fact, for a lot of years.

Laughing on the outside/crying on the inside.  That classic description of a clown is too trite and too simple to explain the high highs, the low lows and the inner turmoil that Williams must have been channeling, along with his ongoing battle with horned demons of alcohol and substance abuse.

Some words:  You left us, Robin, for reasons we may never know but you, obviously, knew all too well.  Many of us, including your peers like Billy Crystal and Steve Martin, are stunned and speechless.  All I can say is that you left a very deep imprint on this place you have recently departed. 

R.I.P.:  Rockin' Robin.  Perhaps the marquee at the Hollywood Laugh Factory summed it up best for all of us Monday night.

Marquee400
(Courtesy: foxnews.com)

29 July 2014

Getting a handle on scandal

HollywoodScandal320r
Marilyn Monroe photo courtesy: www.murdermystery.com.au
"It is the public scandal that offends; to sin in secret is no sin at all."
 
That may have been true when French playwright Molière offered his opinion in the 17th century.
 
That, however, was before today's "reality" shows on TV, which more and more seem to involve "contestants" in some state of undress or out-and-out nude (either looking for a wild berry lunch or poking a dead animal with a stick).  A popular ABC network TV drama even slices right through the dramatic nuance and titles itself Scandal.
 
That's scandalous, right?  Well, probably, but what's going on on television these days has nothing on what has gone on in Hollywood -- at least partially behind the scenes -- for decades.
 
I don't often jump up on a soapbox in this space, but I have two things to say about driving scandalous material like a revved-up speedboat to get ratings or for quick profit:
 
No. 1:  How dare them, and harumph!
 
No. 2:  Don't miss "Hollywood's Hot Movie Scandals," just one of my new Movie Memories presentations available for booking starting now.
 
You may think the juicy exploits of fictional scandalous folks on TV and the latest almost-non outfit flaunted about by hiney-slinging young semi-singers are bad.  Well, you'd be right about that.  And by the way, don't sue me, Miley Cyrus.  Of course I wasn't referring to you.
 
"Hollywood's Hot Movie Scandals" dives right into real dirt; turning over some rocks and turning the spotlight on questions like:
 
Was Marilyn Monroe married to the mob?  Did screen goddess Lana Turner kill a guy?  What about silent film star Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle?  What really happened at a party in San Francisco where a young woman died?
 
And, perhaps you didn't know that the great Ingrid Bergman was once denounced on the floor of the U.S. Senate.
 
We'll cover all of that and more in "Hollywood's Hot Movie Scandals."
 
And since it's hot, the newest Movie Memories presentation deserves a special hot offer.  So here it is:  The first 10 groups that book "Hollywood's Hot Movie Scandals" between now and Aug. 15 will get a $25 discount. 
 
Hurry, though, you must book by Aug. 15 to take advantage of this special offer.  And please remember that this offer is limited to the first 10 bookingsSo call 214-364-7364 today!
 
By the way, check out our other new presentations, "Big Screen Dysfunctional Families," "Marlon Brando:  The Man Behind the Icon" and others, by clicking on the Presentations link here or above.
 

Sandra Bullock turns the big 5-0

 

Bullock300l
(Courtesy: www.yami-online.com)
The first time I met and interviewed Sandra Bullock she offered me a cookie.  And not just any cookie.
 
"Would you like a biscotti?" And she didn't say it like a prissy movie star who was too good for an Oreo or a Fig Newton, either.  Somehow when Bullock offered the twice-baked elongated Italian bread-like cookie, it was like she had just baked them in her own oven, which just happened to be in the house next door to mine.  And yours and everyone else in the U.S. of A.
 
Ms. Bullock, now an Oscar-winner for her tumbling, lost-in-space turn in Gravity last year, has had one of those birthdays with a zero in it.  In the old days -- say, oh, 10 years ago -- that might be it for a leading lady.
 
Meryl Streep, Bullock and others have shattered that glass ceiling to smithereens, though.  CNN.com recently posted a photo essay tribute to Bullock's hits and misses over her substantial career.  Click this link to take a visual trip through Bullock's hits and misses.
 
Oddly enough, though, the CNN folks left out Speed, the runaway 1994 hit that propelled America's cinematic sweetheart to fame.
 
If I remember correctly, my interview with Ms. Bullock for Speed is also where I enjoyed my first biscotti.
 

Trivial trivia, or games people play

 

Caesar300l
Rico (Edward G. Robinson) is gunning for trouble in "Little Caesar." (www.dailyfilmdose.com)
What better way to while away a little time, perhaps when the boss is away on one of those extended lunches, than with trivial pursuits, especially when they bring back classic movie memories.
 
That's why we've come up with the Movie Memories Movie Quote Quiz.  Check out our Movie Memories Facebook page (www.facebook.com/moviememories) or Twitter page (@moviememories1) every weekday for a snapply little cinematic brain teaser.  They range from the rediculously easy like "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" from Gone With the Wind to classic quotes that present a little more of a challenge.
 
On Tuesday (July 29), for instance, former Dallas Morning News film critic Philip Wuntch remembered that it was Edward G. Robinson as "Rico" Bandello who said, "Mother of mercy, is this the end of Rico?" in the gangster classic Little Caesar (1930).
 
So, when you can spare a minute, give our little Movie Quote Quiz a try.  It's fun.  You might know more than you think you know.  To be fair, though, we ask that you work from memory only, and don't peek at the answer.  And, perhaps most importantly, no wagering.  Good luck!
My Photo

My Other Accounts

Like my Facebook page Connect with me on Linkedin Follow me on Twitter


Blog powered by TypePad
Member since 02/2009