73 posts categorized "Academy Awards"

12 January 2016

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

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.


04 January 2016

Close encounters of the Vilmos kind

Courtesy: est.hu

The first time a cinematographer truly rocked my cinematic soul was November 1977.

Steven Spielberg's wonder-filled sci-fi adventure Close Encounters of the Third Kind transfixed many of us to the screen with possibilities that we are not alone in the vastness of space.  John Williams' five-tone symphonic magnificence brought much to the party, of course, as did director Spielberg.

It wasn't until that afternoon at the movies in 1977, however, that I fully appreciated the contribution a gifted cinematographer adds to the movie magic.  I can still remember my insides rattling with the ferocity of those vibrating mailboxes that Richard Dreyfuss, portraying a soon-to-be-befuddled lineman for the county, was experiencing with a mixture of wide-eyed fear and curiosity.

Those unforgettable images in Close Encounters came from the creativity of master cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, who died January 1 at 85, according to published reports.

The Hungary native hop-scotched in and around San Antonio to shoot Spielberg's breakout film, The Sugarland Express, in 1974.  My Zsigmond favorites, in addition to Close Encounters, include The Deer Hunter (1978), Deliverance (1972) and, especially, The Rose, showcasing Bette Midler channeling Janis Joplin in 1979.

According to Zsigmond's obit posted on the Hollywood Reporter website, the master behind the camera, who took home home his only Academy Award for Close Encounters "was taught in the European style of cinematography with particular appreciation for light gradations and color tone.

"Zsigmond’s work was noted for its use of natural light and often subdued palette, as visible in such films as McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971). To attain this look, he utilized a photographic technique known as 'flashing,' exposing the negative to a small amount of light before lensing. The procedure would ultimately mute the colors," the Hollywood Reporter post stated.

Let me just add this.  Vilos Zsigmond shot film, baby, when shooting film -- celluloid, not that digital stuff we see today -- was not only cool, but truly magical.

Rest in peace, Vilmos, thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of movie fans around the world will not soon forget your spellbinding contributions to our movie memories.


01 December 2015

Lawrence the cinematic conqueror

Jennifer Lawrence on the run in "Winter's Bone." (Courtesy: outnow.ch)

Would you skin a squirrel in your back yard to land a movie role?

Jennifer Lawrence apparently would and, if an article posted on the Variety website is accurate, did to land the role as a tough Ozark Mountains girl searching for her drug-dealing dad in Winter's Bone (2010).

Lawrence has risen to worldwide fame as Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games franchise monster as the fearless bow-and-arrow defender of the common people.  The Hunger Games:  Mockingjay -- Part 2, the fourth and final (so they say) installment in the series, is riding high on the box-office charts.

But where did Lawrence come from?

That might just surprise you.  Aspiring young actresses and actors might be shocked to hear that Ms. Lawrence, a three-time Academy Award nominee and winner for Silver Linings Playbook in 2012, never took acting lessons.

"Lawrence had never taken an acting class, but explained how she prepared for the role: 'My brother’s friend came over with a squirrel he’d shot and we skinned it in my backyard.'

"The film earned four Oscar nominations, including best picture and best actress," the Variety article states.

If you ask me, Lawrence has risen to the top of the fame game because she isn't just a celebrity riding the wave of a huge movie franchise.  She's on top because she's the real deal; an actress with a natural gift and, from all appearances, enough smarts to keep ego and fame in check.

She's also savvy enough to step out of the movie studio tent-pole (mass market appeal) projects to flex her acting skills in less-gadget-driven movies with character depth.  I'm really looking forward to Joy, a based-on-truth drama with comedy starring Lawrence along with Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro.

Joy director David O. Russell has worked with Lawrence before with tremendous success.  He called the shots on Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle (2013).

As Joy Mangano, inventor of the Miracle Mop, Lawrence takes on something perhaps scarier than the cutthroat competition in the Hunger Games fantasy series.  This time she's fighting against the all-powerful forces of Corporate America.

Joy opens Christmas Day.


13 November 2015

Movie magic: A keystone cop-out

Jack Nicholson and "friend" in "As Good As It Gets"

Thanks to everyone over at Bonaventure Dallas for a memorable Movie Memories evening last night. 

Even though my projector opted to sit down on us a little and offer up only a slightly lopsided image (a keystone issue, according to the unhelpful "help" button), we soldiered on through memories of Hollywood's finest romantic films.

I love performing at the Bonaventure because the audience fills the room with enthusiasm and a willingness to ignore small distractions and get on with the show.

"Hollywood's Great Romantic Scenes" leans heavily on well-known classics like Gone With the Wind, On Golden Pond and West Side Story, of course.  One of the favorite moments for me, however, is the showcase of As Good As It Gets (1997), which resulted in Academy Awards for co-stars Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt.

Thanks again, Bonaventure folks, It was a memorable Movie Memories evening.


22 October 2015

The Oscars: Caught between Rock and a hard place, once again

Chris Rock hosting the 77th Oscars in 2005. (Courtesy: flavorwire.com)

Nothing against Chris Rock, he's about as sharp and quick as any comedian working today.

But the announcement yesterday that Rock will host the 88th Academy Awards broadcast on ABC Feb. 28 comes as a ho-hum, no big whoop.

Why?  Because it's the 88th year they've been doing this, that's why.  Quick, what's the last thing that inspired goosebumps or made you go "Wheeeeeeee!" the 88th time you did it?

Well, there's that.  But huge bowls of Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla ice cream don't count.

The Oscars, despite recent attempts to appeal to a younger audience like the 2011 debacle hosted feebly by Anne Hathaway and an extremely detached James Franco, have aged like a stoic, grumpy old grandpa.

And there's this:  The Academy Awards make the huge mistake of being last.  And I don't mean second or third.  I mean the final weak blip on an awards season that begins about six months earlier and drags on and on. 

Need proof?  Well, before the golden statuettes are passed out in late February, the movie industry and keen industry scribes and watchers have already endured the Golden Globe Awards, the Critics' Choice Awards, the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the Directors Guild of America Awards, the Golden Bear Awards (Berlin), the British Academy Film Awards and the Cesar Awards (France).

Let's not forget to mention kudos from local film critics groups from every semi-major city in this fine country of ours and a couple of neighborhood associations thrown in for good measure.

That's me, right, at the Academy Awards sometime in the past century.

So by the time the Oscars open with a tired fanfare, the winners' speeches are too-well rehearsed, the bloom is off the red carpet arrivals and, let's just go ahead and say it, the tux tails are dragging.

I have much respect for Rock's ability to seize what little energy is likely to still be in the room by the time late February gets here.  He was sharp and way too fast for the dozing audience when the hosted for the first time in 2005.

Maybe, however, it's time to bring in a fresh face, an outside insider, if you will.

Someone like, well, me. 

I can take a selfie with the best of them.

19 October 2015

You want the 'Truth'?

Robert Redford as Dan Rather in "Truth" (Sony Pictures Classics)

CBS can't handle the "Truth."

In what might very well be a case of reverse benefits, CBS has refused to air commercials for Truth, the dramatic-biography that focuses on Dan Rather's 60 Minutes report on the television network in 2004 that questioned then-President George W. Bush's military service.

The firestorm eventually cost Rather, once a CBS darling, and Mary Mapes, his producer, their careers.

According to a post on the Variety.com website, "The head of the firm handling media buying for the Sony Pictures Classics-distributed movie told the Associated Press that an effort to buy spots in 60 Minutes, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,The CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley and other programs was turned down by CBS."

Veteran actor Robert Redford, a best director Oscar winner for Ordinary People in 1980, takes on the role of Rather in Truth, while Mapes is portrayed by Cate Blanchett, who took home a best actress Academy Award in 2014 for her fine work in Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine.

Despite the fact that CBS is quite possibly giving Truth inflated free publicity by refusing to run the movie ads (which would have generated solid income), I suppose the execs in the carpeted offices thought the situation over and decided when it came to Truth, they'd rather (or Rather) not.


15 September 2015

From the bottle to the bottom: It's a crying fame

(Courtesy: MGM)

Susan Hayward had quite a bit to cry about in the 1950s.

She won her only Academy Award (Best Actress) playing a hooker sentenced to the gas chamber for alleged murder in I Want To Live in 1958.

Three years earlier, however, Hayward channeled young Broadway star Lillian Roth, whose serious bumps in the emotional road led her to using the unsteady crutch of alcohol in the grisly biographical-drama I'll Cry Tomorrow.

Hayward was nominated for Best Actress for I'll Cry Tomorrow as well, but lost out to Anna Magnani of The Rose Tattoo (as did Katharine Hepburn for Summertime and Jennifer Jones for Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing).

Ms. Hayward may "cry tomorrow" in the powerful drama, but we'll have to wait until Thursday to see her do it.  I'll Cry Tomorrow airs Thursday at 11 p.m. on TCM.


Please remember that all times listed in this weekly classic films on TV update are Central Daylight Time.  (Check your local listings for times in your area.)  

The theme of serious trouble continues this week with The Asphalt Jungle at 7:15 a.m. Friday on TCM.  Even though Marilyn Monroe gets 11th billing in this one and is featured on the poster, the 1950 heist drama directed by John Huston stars Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern and Jean Hagen.

Those looking for something gritty, smart and very well done, but more contemporary, need look no further than Erin Brockovich (2000) and Cinderella Man (2005). 

Both chronicle Hollywood's version of real-life stories.  Julia Roberts took home a Best Actress Academy Award for portraying Brockovich, a legal assistant fighting to protect victims from polluted water (9 p.m. Friday and 4 p.m. Saturday on AMC), and Russell Crowe got under the tormented skin of world heavyweight boxing champion James BraddockCinderella Man airs Saturday at 10 p.m. and Sunday at noon on the Sundance TV Channel.

(Courtesy: United Artists)

If I had to pick just one classic movie to see this week, you know as a great escape from reality, it would be The Great Escape.  The 1963 World War II prisoner-of-war drama stars Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough and Charles Bronson, just to name a few of the impressive actors at work here.

If it's McQueen, there must be a motorcycle involved.  And as Hilts "The Cooler King," McQueen finds one in this tale that ranks as one of the great war flicks.

The unique thing about The Great Escape (9 p.m. Sunday on MGM HD) is that the first half of this based-on-truth story has a comic theme as POWs work to escape from an "escape proof" camp.  In the final reels, however, the mood turns more serious.


01 September 2015

Celebrating Bergman, classic movies

Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa Lund in "Casablanca." (Courtesy: ona.blog.so-net.ne.jp)

Had legendary Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman not died on her 67th birthday (Aug. 29) in 1982, the radiant screen star and three-time Academy Award winner would have turned 100 years old last Saturday.

We noted Bergman's lofty place in Hollywood history Sunday night during my "Savor Those Tunes -- Great Movie Music" Movie Memories presentation at Highland Springs retirement community in North Dallas.

Bergman won Oscars for Gaslight (1944), Anastasia (1956) and Murder on the Orient Express (1974).  Since the "Savor Those Tunes" presentation is a focus on the best movie songs in history, we celebrated Bergman's performance opposite Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca (1942), which also happens to be my favorite film of all time.

Bergman, who could shed a tear on screen like no other, commanded the camera and audience attention as she asked Sam (Dooley Wilson) to play As Time Goes By "for old times sake."

Thanks to Barbara Blachly, community resources coordinator, and all the great folks at Highland Springs for an enchanted evening of Movie Memories.

Harvesting the Fields of classic movie comedy

(Courtesy: Universal Pictures)

Maybe it was the fourth-grade education, or perhaps it was the fact that his alcoholic father allegedly hit young William Claude Dunkenfield over the head with a shovel.  Whatever it was, caustic comedy came flowing out of W.C. Fields with a flourish.

One of our objectives here is to scan the classic movie TV channels early in the week to offer suggestions for viewing or recording what we consider to be the prime offerings.

That's where W.C. Fields comes in.  TCM (Turner Classic Movies) is having a Fields day, if you will, on Friday.  The high jinks begin at 7 p.m. with The Bank Dick, written by Fields (under the nom de plume Mahatma Kane Jeeves) and starring Fields as a henpecked guy who replaces a film director, appears to capture a bank robber and eventually gets hired as a guard at the bank.  Please note that all times listed are Central Daylight Time.  (Check your local listings for times in your area.)

If that's not enough, TCM follows up with It's a Gift (1934) at 8:30 Friday evening and caps off the wacky comedy at 10 with You Can't Cheat an Honest Man (1939), in which Fields shares the screen with Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy.  It's up to you to decide which one is the dummy.

That's just the tip of the classic movies iceberg this week, though.  My favorite Western of all time, John Ford's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) fills the screen with a great cast of Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne, Vera Miles, Lee Marvin, Andy Devine and Edmond O'Brien at 9 a.m. Saturday on AMC.

Later Saturday, at 7 p.m. on TCM, those in the mood for a little romance can enjoy a tangled web of romance and drama starring Bette Davis as a repressed and depressed woman looking for love in some of the wrong places in Now, Voyager (1942), co-starring Paul Henreid and Claude Rains.

If you're like me and you can't pass up a drama featuring the cinematic trifecta of Tennessee Williams (who wrote the stage play), director John Huston and gifted actor Richard Burton, check out The Night of the Iguana, co-starring Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr and Sue Lyon, at 5 p.m. Thursday on TCM.

And, you might want to consider:

  • Dr. No (1962) -- The first in a long line of James Bond action-spy thrillers features a very young Sean Connery as British secret Agent 007.  Ursula Andress provides the eye candy as Honey Ryder.  (3 p.m. Friday on MGM HD)
  • How to Steal a Million (1966) -- Audrey Hepburn and Peter O'Toole join forces in a romantic crime comedy.  (Noon Saturday on the FX Movie Channel)
  • Lars and the Real Girl (2007) -- OK, it's not quite a classic yet, but if you're in the mood for something filled with touching moments with just the right amount of dark, dark, comedy, try this extremely offbeat tale featuring Ryan Gosling as a lonely young man who falls in love with a real doll.  Note:  When I say a real doll, I do mean a real doll.  (4:55 p.m. Wednesday on MGM HD)

If I had to choose just one classic film to see, this week, I would settle in at 10 Friday night on TCM to see the great W.C. Fields do his comic magic in You Can't Cheat an Honest Man.  I'm a sucker for the outrageous ping pong match.


03 August 2015

(Dan) Rather interesting, this

Robert Redford, left, portrays Dan Rather in "Truth." (Courtesy: hollywoodreporter.com)

Can you see Robert Redford as Dan Rather?

Let me put that another way.

You can see screen legend Redford as the Houston-born news legend Rather on the big screen as early as Oct. 16, according to an article posted on the Hollywood Reporter website.

The film, to be released by Sony Pictures Classics, is titled Truth.  According to the Hollywood Reporter post, it "tells of the firestorm that erupted in September of 2004 after Rather reported that George W. Bush had received special treatment while serving in the Air National Guard during the Vietnam War."

In addition to the drama starring Redford as Rather, Cate Blanchett portrays Mary Mapes, Rather’s producer.  The plot, of course, is driven by the former CBS anchor’s fall from grace.

The plan appears to be a slow roll-out.  Truth will only be told in New York and L.A. at first with other cities to be added later, apparently.

So, as they say, stay tuned.

17 July 2015

Thanks for the Movie Memories

Madison350Thanks to all the fine folks over at Madison Estates in San Antonio for the warm, enthusiastic reception to my Movie Memories presentation "Movies Set in the Lone Star State" Thursday evening.

I was overwhelmed by the great turnout as we began and ended our cinematic journey with Alamo movies; John Wayne's classic of 1960 and the more recent 2004 version, directed by Texan John Lee Hancock and featuring Billy Bob Thornton as Davy Crockett.

In between, we discussed almost a dozen more movies set in Texas.  One of the ladies in the audience had just two words to say about the trailer of Peter Bogdanovich's 1971 black-and-white gem The Last Picture Show, shot in Archer City and based on Larry McMurtry's novel.

All she had to say was, "Ben Johnson," out of respect for the great character actor and his stunning performance as Sam the Lion.


Thanks again, all the folks at Madison Estates.  It was a great night of Movie Memories.  See you all in August for one of my favorite presentations, "The Best Movies You've Never Heard Of."

Want to catch some classic films on TV?

Thinking about taking a trip soon?

(Courtesy: Warner Bros.)

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.


(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:  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?

14 July 2015

Classic films to catch on TV this week

(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.


(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?


07 July 2015

All we have to fear is ... Look out!

(Courtesy: halloween-masks.com)
Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd president of the United States, once said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

That sounds good, but the only president to be elected to the White House four times never saw my older brother slip on his old-man mask, or false face, as my grandmother used to call them, and terrorize your humble scribe.
We run into fear quite often while we're safely sequestered (relatively speaking) in darkened movie theaters.  Usually, of course, the square-jawed heroes of the big screen do a pretty decent job of dispatching the evil forces before the end credits.
As I mention in the latest edition of my Getting Reel column in The Senior Voice newspaper, though, when you're a kid and your older brother likes to taunt you with an old-man false face, fear can send chills up your spine in the sanctity of your own bedroom.
The article begins with a simple question:  What scares you?
Click here to read my Getting Reel column about what makes us shiver with fright in the dark.

The classic movie what to watch watch

Gort, the enforcer robot, left, and Klaatu (Michael Rennie) in "The Day the Earth Stood Still." (20th Century Fox)
As usual, I've checked out the various classic movie channels to guide you through some highlights of what you might want to watch this week when it comes to classic films on TV.
There's no lack of delightful and/or dramatic and/or even sci-fi classics from which to choose.  I'm most excited about the eerie 1951 gem The Day the Earth Stood Still, airing Thursday at midnight (all times Central Daylight) on TCM.
Michael Rennie is out front as the alien Klaatu, who lands on Earth packing a stern warning and a heavy-metal enforcer robot named Gort.
Hitting the screen on the heels of World War II, The Day the Earth Stood Still, directed by Robert Wise (The Sound of Music, West Side Story), gets a little preachy about how Earthlings need to just get along or else, and it's a deadly OR ELSE.
Patricia Neal, who would win her only Academy Award a decade later trying to fight off Paul Newman's romantic advances in Hud (1963), is very good here as a World War II widow trying to raise a son and falling for an extremely mysterious stranger.
This is also the week that cinematic classics take us to heaven and Hades.  In the dramatic comic-fantasy Heaven Can Wait, circa 1943 and directed by Ernst Lubitsch, a playboy played by Don Ameche arrives at the gates of hell and may or may not be up to hell's standards, or should we say down to hell's standards?
To find out, tune to TCM Wednesday at 9:45 a.m.
But wait, as they say on those nauseating TV commercials, there's more.  In Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941), Sunday at 11 a.m. on TCM, a boxer played by Robert Montgomery is sent to heaven 50 years early by mistake and must return to Earth as a millionaire playboy.
Just don't confuse Here Comes Mr. Jordan or its 1978 remake Heaven Can Wait (starring Warren Beatty) with the the Heaven Can Wait of 1943.  They are as different as, well, heaven and that other place.  You know, down there.
For me, another must-see this week is The Shop Around the Corner, the quirky romantic-comedy pairing Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan.  Also directed by Ernst Lubitsch (Heaven Can Wait, 1943), The Shop Around the Corner (Saturday at 7 p.m. on TCM) weaves a tangled tale of pen-pal romance involving co-workers who are quite sure they can't stand each other. 
Alfred Hitchcock fans might want to check out Cary Grant in North By Northwest Wednesday at 9 p.m. on TCM, while fans of Westerns have a couple to choose from this week.
John Ford's How the West Was Won, starring Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne and Gregory Peck, hits the small screen on TCM at 11 a.m. Saturday, and Wayne hits the trail in a monumental cattle drive in Howard Hawks' Red River (1948), also starring Montgomery Clift and Joanne Dru, at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday on MGM HD.
If I had to pick just one, though, I'd be watching for an alien spacecraft hovering above Washington, D.C. in The Day the Earth Stood Still at midnight Thursday on TCM.

22 June 2015

Classic flicks on TV this week

(Courtesy: Embassy Pictures)

"Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me.  Aren't you?"

Don't worry Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman), you weren't misreading those signs.  Anne Bancroft as Mrs. Robinson is definitely trying to seduce you in, The Graduate, Mike Nichols' 1967 gem of a comic-drama-romance.

And she'll do it again Thursday at 12:30 p.m. (Central) on the Sundance TV classic movie cable channel.

The Graduate, which earned Nichols a best director Oscar and drew nominations for best picture, actor (Hoffman), actress (Bancroft) and supporting actress (Katharine Ross), just to name a few. is just one of several films I'm highlighting this week in my pleasant journey through the classic movie TV channels to make your weekly hunt for the best of the best quick, easy and enjoyable.

Before we get too far into this week's search, though, let me remind you that the times listed here are all Central Daylight Time.  Please check your local listings carefully.

Early risers and/or those handy with their TV recording device will also want to catch Dodsworth Sunday at 5 a.m. on TCM.  Directed by William Wyler, Dodsworth co-stars Walter Huston (John Huston's father and Anjelica Huston's grandfather) and Ruth Chatterton as a couple going through a mid-to-late-marriage crisis.

Would you like to see Tom Cruise in what I consider the fading superstar's finest acting performance?  That's easy.  Just be sure to catch Cruise taking on the persona of paralyzed Vietnam War vet Ron Kovic in Born on the Fourth of July Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. on the Sundance TV channel.  If you miss it Tuesday, no worries, it repeats Wednesday at 11:30 p.m., also on Sundance TV.

Directed by Oliver Stone, this gritty coming home war-drama of 1989 really gives Cruise a chance to stretch as an actor.  In fact, Cruise earned his first Oscar nomination for this gritty performance as Kovic, who became an anti-war activist.


If you haven't seen the offbeat, grisly drama Sling Blade (1996) written by, directed by and starring Billy Bob Thornton as, shall we say, unstable simple man Karl Childers, do not miss it Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. on Sundance TV.

Let's just say that once you see Thornton as the formerly institutionalized "gentle man" who loves "French fried taters," you are not likely to soon forget him.

Cinematic baseballs fans have a chance at a pretty impressive tripleheader this week.   Dennis Quaid gets under the skin of "old guy" Major League Baseball rookie Jimmy Morris in The Rookie (2002) on AMC Tuesday at 10 p.m.

But that's just the warm-up.   Kevin Costner is outstanding in his corn fields and hears voices that encourage him to build a baseball diamond in Field of Dreams (1989) Thursday at 7 p.m. on AMC.  Also, Robert Redford plays the title character in Barry Levinson's 1984 classic The Natural Sunday at noon on Sundance TV. 

I also like Tom Hanks and Michael Clarke Duncan in the fantasy prison-drama The Green Mile (1999) airing at noon Wednesday on AMC and Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous starring Billy Crudup and Kate Hudson (2000) Saturday at 11:45 a.m. on Sundance TV.

And what a pleasant surprise it was to discover that one of my favorite ensemble romantic comic-dramas of all time, Love Actually, lights up the small screen Friday at noon on Sundance TV.

Don't let the Christmas theme discourage you.  In fact, go with it.  This is an enchanting, edgy tale of eight couples dealing with the entanglements of romance in very loosely related tales.  And what a cast.  Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Keira Knightley and the great Bill Nighy are just the tip of the iceberg.

In fact, if I had to pick just one classic film to revisit this week, it would actually be Love Actually.


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.


06 May 2015

Hot, hot! Movie Memories on sale

Marilyn Monroe (Courtesy: deviantart.net)

It's the first ever Hot, Hot, Movie Memories sale.

You better act fast, though.  This is a limited offer and sales like this don't come along very often.

From now through May 31, we're offering deep discounts on Movie Memories with Larry Ratliff presentations:  Book one presentation celebrating the magic of the movies and save $50.  Book three presentations by May 31 and bump the savings to $75.

Book five Movie Memories presentations by May 31 and save a whopping $100.

The presentations can be set for anytime in the future.  They just need to be booked by May 31 to get in on this special offer.

You read right.  That means your group, corporation or senior residential facility can honor those who died in active military service around Memorial Day with "A Salute to the Great War Movies," heat up the summer with "Hollywood's Hot Movie Scandals," enjoy the much-talked-about "Best Movies You've Never Heard Of" in the early fall, keep the party going with "Romantic Comedies of the 1990s and 2000s" in late fall or early winter and still celebrate the festive season with "Happy Ho-Ho-Holidays:  Great Holiday Movies" all for just ...

Well, we don't want to shock anyone with these low prices in print, so call 214-364-7364 to book your fun, insightful trip down Cinematic Memory Lane.

But wait, there's more!  This is a mix-and-match sale, which means your group can choose from our entire menu of 26 Movie Memories presentations.  Click here to view the entire menu.  Call today -- 214-364-7364 -- to reserve your presentations before all the slots are filled.

Remember, you must book your Movie Memories presentations by May 31 to get the drastically reduced price of ... Well, you just have to call.

That's 214-364-7364.  Operators are standing by, lounging around or perhaps even dozing off, but they'll be ready to go when you call.  Are you?

Making Movie Memories in the Bayou City

Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson take on ranching, drilling for oil and loving Texas style in "Giant." (thesaasperspective.com)

It was an honor to motor over to Houston's Eagle's Trace retirement community recently for my "Movies Set in the Lone Star State" presentation, which began and ended with Alamo movies and included 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.

Thanks to Jo Pyle and all the fine folks at Eagle's Trace for a most enjoyable afternoon of classic movies, interesting moments and classy folks.

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






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.


11 February 2015

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

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.

13 January 2015

'Globes' trotting: Hanks but no Hanks

 What is the second toughest job in Hollywood?

George Clooney at the Golden Globes. (yahoo.com)

That would be deciding which aging or not-so-hot anymore celebrity gets left off the invite list of public self-congratulatory parties like Sunday night's Golden Globes that are basically seen around the world.

The absolute worst job in Hollywood?

Being a celebrity's publicist or manager and having to find a way to tell a client that no invite came in this year for The Golden Globes or The Academy Awards. That means once-revered A-list celebrities like Jack Nicholson, Kathleen Turner and more will most likely watch on the tube like us mere mortals.

I get that.  I understand that major movie stars and celebrities age like the rest of us, albeit often under semi-effective and often-atrocious facades of plastic surgery.  I suppose we age as well.  I have a mirror.  Mine appears to be playing games with me these days; showing images of my dad, but I get it.

Still, we live in a what-have-you-done-for-me-in-the-last-second age that appears to skew acceptable age downward faster than the price of U.S. oil.  And that's especially the case when it comes to aging in Hollywood.

Think about it.  George Clooney was 53 when he sprang to the Golden Globes podium to accept -- with a sheepish grin -- his Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award Sunday night.  53.  I'm surprised the poor guy was able to make it up those five or six stage steps without a walker.

On the contrary, Woody Allen was 78 when he was awarded the DeMille honor last year.  Woody passed on showing up.   Warren Beatty was 69 in 2007.  And in 1973, legendary film producer Samuel Goldwyn was 90 when his time came to make it to the podium for his Lifetime Achievement Award.

53.  Some guys still have paper routes when they're that age.  Granted, that might have more to do with a sluggish, recovering economy than choice of occupation.

So, discarding the fact that some famous faces like Meryl Streep (a Golden Globes nominee) and Clint Eastwood, whose American Sniper was snubbed by the Globes and who may have snubbed the Globes because of it, will always be around.  It saddened me to notice who wasn't sipping champagne or another adult beverage and wobbling around the room of the Beverly Hilton Hotel ballroom Sunday eve.

Where were A-list, or once A-list celebs like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie?  Where were Sandra Bullock and, for that matter, Tommy Lee Jones, Sean Penn and Michael Douglas?  What was up with major celebrities like Jodie Foster, Helen Hunt and Meg Ryan MIA.

Tom Hanks didn't appear to be in the building, but his son Colin (a nominee for the TV version of Fargo) was.

Renée Zellweger, left, and, I suppose, Renée Zellweger.

Honestly, I can't tell you if Renée Zellweger was in attendance or not.  I don't recognize her anymore.

Even that won't stop me from watching, though.  I'll keep tuning in to The Golden Globes and The Academy Awards (nominees announced Thursday), airing Feb. 22 on ABC.

Why?  For rare snippets of live television brilliance, like Ricky Gervais, a former Golden Globes emcee, stealing the show with some seemingly off-the-cuff, but I'm guessing carefully prepared "ad-libs" during his introduction of the Best Actress -- Comedy or Musical nominees. 


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.

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