31 posts categorized "Music"

17 July 2019

Secrets & Lies

(Courtesy: google.com)

Let's face it, thanks to the Age of Social Media everyone is free to spew their political stance, opinion, jokes, opinion disguised in jokes, photos of cute kitties romping with lions (and/or mice, doggies, etc.), what we're having for breakfast, lunch, brunch and munch and things really much too personal for universe-wide distribution ("Does this look infected to you?")

The line between truth and fiction has become severely Mr. Magooed.  For those of you who don't know and are probably under the age of 100, that means blurred.  (Mr. Magoo, you see, was ... Oh never mind!)

So, how about some unabridged truth?

Continue reading "Secrets & Lies " »

25 February 2019

Oscar rocks, rolls out 'non-hosts'

Original Queen members Brian May (guitar) and Roger Taylor (drums) with Adam Lambert. (Courtesy: spin.com)

For those of you who might have missed the non-hosted 91st Academy Awards Sunday night on ABC, here's all you need to know to keep up with the conversations at the iphone charging station or flavored-water machine today.  Of course we used to have these after-event debates around the water cooler, but try finding one of those these days.

Continue reading "Oscar rocks, rolls out 'non-hosts'" »

19 March 2017

'Beauty' and the bean counters

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

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

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

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

22 December 2016

Still missing Dave

Lady Gaga and Bill Murray with Dave on April 2, 2014. (Courtesy: CBS.com)

I can't help it, I still miss David Letterman.

Don't get me wrong.  If the Forever King of Late-night TV, in my not-so-humble opinion, wants to keep it semi-private and spend his days growing and explaining why he's grown that weird beard, I'm happy for him.

I just still miss the late-night guy, the clean-shaven one who, first on NBC, then on CBS, was a long-distance friend and as much a part of our evening routine as brushing my teeth.  Actually, full disclosure, I probably missed brushing my teeth more than we skipped "Letterman," as we called his shows.

Continue reading "Still missing Dave" »

28 October 2016

Coming attraction: The Movie Memories Film Fest

"Young @ Heart" (Courtesy: imdb.com)

Remember movies?

You know, the good ones.

The ones that moved you so much that you didn't just suggest to friends and family that they go see them, but the ones so good you actually gathered up a carload and took them to the movie house yourself just to see the look on their faces when something that can only be described as magical unfolded on screen.

Continue reading "Coming attraction: The Movie Memories Film Fest" »

16 September 2016

Blood, guts and, uh, bluegrass?

Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty in "Bonnie and Clyde." (Courtesy: google.com)

I was honored to speak to a group in Dallas last week about movies shot in and around Dallas.

I always come away from The Movie Memories presentation "Lights, Camera, Dallas!" with the music from Bonnie and Clyde bouncing around in my head.  Arthur Penn's 1967 action-crime thriller showcased Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway as the notorious outlaw duo that terrorized North Texas and surrounding states in the early 1930s.

Continue reading "Blood, guts and, uh, bluegrass?" »

01 September 2016

Missing me some truly funny guys

Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle in "Young Frankenstein." (Courtesy: www4.pictures.zimbio.com)

Think about it for a second.

Someone points a finger at you and requests/hopes/demands that you be funny right now.

Not just a little funny, but world-class funny.

Gene Wilder, who we lost in the past few days, and Peter Boyle, gone 10 years in December, were two of the funniest humans of their generation.  If you think that's easy, try it.

Continue reading "Missing me some truly funny guys" »

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.


07 August 2015

ScreenGems: Senior class of 2008

(Courtesy: impawards.com)

How do you measure movie satisfaction?

The obvious answer, I suppose, is paying hard-earned money for a movie you think will be good, and then walking away with the cinematic fuzzies; content with the fact that a proven star, say Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks or Robert Downey Jr., has delivered the goods.

I may be a little different than some, but about as good as it gets in a movie house from this aisle seat is when I have no idea what I'm in for and being swept away by chill-bump magic.

I'm talking about movies that not only make you want to tell your friends about them, but gather those friends up and drive them to the theater yourself to make sure they have a chance to share the same wonderful experience that only rare, special films can provide.

My hope with the ScreenGems spotlight is to showcase some of those magical moments I have enjoyed and share with my speaking engagement audiences in my Movie Memories with Larry Ratliff presentations.

Young @ Heart, the rousing, extremely heartfelt and often funny 2008 documentary about a chorus of senior citizens from Northampton, Mass., is a perfect example.

I know the subject matter may not shout "rousing" and "funny" at first.  But once you realize that co-directors Stephen Walker and Sally George will fill the screen with a motley gang of senior warblers (with an average age of 81) who take on rock tunes from Coldplay, Jimi Hendrix and Sonic Youth, the infectious nature of these seniors and their chorus leader Bob Cilman will grab your heart and not let go.


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.

09 March 2015

Rainy days and Mondays ...

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

Always get me down.

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

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

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

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

Ah, shut up, "Annie."

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.

28 January 2015

Ready for Buddy Holly live-ish?

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

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

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

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

According to the Hollywood Reporter article:

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

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

We would be wrong about that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I've got nothing.  Rave On, indeed.


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.

23 September 2014

Must-see TV: Balancing the ugly

Charles Osgood works weekends. (newsgirlabouttowns.com)

Excellence.  TV news.

We don't see those words connected in thought much these days; not in a TV-watching era when local news anchors announce twice without any sort of correction that a man was arrested for "indacent" exposure instead of indecent exposure.

First the bad news, but stay with me.  I promise some very good news is forthcoming.  We are constantly barraged with a plethora of indecent exposure on TV these days from Dancing with the Has-Been Stars  (Tommy Chong:  Really, man?) to Dating Naked and too many so-so sitcoms to even count.

Check out the TV evening network news and you'll be inundated with a constant backwash of gruesome stories about ISIS militants beheading innocents, college students disappearing off college campuses and other carnage almost too grisly to mention; most recently a man in Florida calmly calling 911 to report to police that  he has just shot and killed his daughter and his six grandchildren.

Now the good news.  Let's make it the wonderful news.  There's an oasis to be found in the TV airwaves that seem so glutted with depressing news sludge.  It shines like a beacon of goodness, of hope and of people doing things not to bring the human race to the brink of a worm hole of depression and hate that we -- tired of endless worldwide despair -- appear to be all-too eager to leap into.

For lack of a better term, let's call it an offsetting balance to the ugly.

If you've never seen CBS Sunday Morning, hosted by veteran CBS newsman Charles Osgood and airing at 8 a.m. in many markets; 7 in others and 9 in a few, I assure you that you are in for a treat.

Now I would like to issue a challenge to you -- yes you.  I would like you to raise your right hand and say these words out loud:

"I, ____________ ______________, promise to watch one complete episode of CBS Sunday Morning before declaring to everyone I know that Larry Ratliff has finally lost it."

That's all I'm asking, just one full show without fast-forwarding, multitasking or in any other way (including snacking) distracting yourself from what I feel is the most intelligent television available today.

Granted, Osgood, whom CBS calls its poet-in-residence, is 81 now and is prone to leaning a bit to one side from time to time.  What this remarkable journalist broadcaster brings, though, is smooth, confident calmness to a world many believe may be spinning out of control around him.

It all begins with the soothing notes of Abblasen, a trumpet fanfare originally played in recording by Don Smithers, later Doc Severinsen, Johnny Carson's Tonight Show bandleader, and now by Wynton Marsalis.

Then there's Osgood, with a bow tie perhaps a little askew, standing beside an image of a welcoming sun, as if the world has another chance -- a new beginning -- to get things right.

And this show does get it right, offering a varied progression of extremely well-produced human interest, in-depth features and historical stories that might just make you wonder -- as it does my wife and me -- if the next segment can possibly measure up.  But they do, and not solely because of Osgood, who is tremendous.

This is a show with an award-winning, experienced staff of behind-the-scenes people and reporters who know how to ask questions and report the news, whether it be a story about the Queen Mary, the infamous ocean liner that hasn't sailed in 50 years but is pretty much ready to go, to the finest Joan Rivers memoriam I saw.

Martha Teichner (cbsnews.com)

My favorite reporter on the show is Martha Teichner, a former war correspondent and eight-time Emmy Award winner who joined CBS in 1977 and has worked on CBS Sunday Morning since 1993.  If you'd like an example of Teichner's outstanding reporting, click on this link to view one of her recent stories, Monument Valley:  Mother Nature's Scene-Stealing Movie Star.

And don't you dare think of CBS Sunday Morning as old-fogey news.  There are stories of 11-year-olds making a difference in this world, for instance, and some younger journalists on the staff.  I prefer not to judge the elders on the show by notches on the calendar, but as seasoned vets; able, smart, vibrant reporters and anchors wise beyond even their somewhat advanced years.

You learn things from watching this show, things that you will enjoy learning and that will enrich your life.  Did you know, for instance, that the Queen Mary was so fast for its day that during World War II it out-ran German subs and even German torpedoes?  You would know if you watched on Sept. 21.

My final point:  The world is not really divided between the young and those older separated by a great abyss of misunderstanding.  Sometimes the two can meet in a truly magical way.  You might be amazed what really good journalists can do with the simple news that Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga recorded an album together.  Please click the arrow below.


Now repeat after me:  "I, ____________ ______________, promise to watch one complete episode of CBS News Sunday Morning ..."

21 January 2014

The way we were at C. C. Young

WayWerreThanks to everyone over at C. C. Young Senior Living near the shore of White Rock Lake in Dallas for the fantastic reception and turnout on Friday (Jan. 17). 

And a special thank you to three ladies:  Carol Butler, editor and publisher of The Senior Voice, who was generous enough to sponsor the event, and Denise Aver-Phillips (Director of The Point, C. C. Young's Center for Arts and Education) and Angela Castillo (Event coordinator & administrative assistant), who graciously welcomed our Movie Memories "Savor Those Tunes -- Great Movie Music" presentation and provided excellent support.

And while I'm gushing, something I rarely do in print, I'd like to thank Carol Butler for a terrific introduction.  Carol said such impressive things about me I almost wanted to take a seat and listen to me myself.

Also, thanks to the fine folks who filled the Point's auditorium to celebrate the joy of excellent movie tunes throughout cinematic history, and especially for responding to my comments about why I think it was a good thing that the characters portrayed by Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford in The Way We Were didn't make a lifelong relationship work out.

It was a fantastic afternoon, so thanks, everyone involved, for making it happen.

And one more thing, you could have heard a pin drop when Bette Midler poured her singing heart out as The Rose. 

27 November 2013

Parody, it's the hot new homage

Who says I'm not on the cutting edge of everything cinematic and trendy?

Well, plenty of people, but that's not the point.

George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) once caught a fish this big! Not really, but as long as we're spoofing. (RKO Radio Pictures)

Parodies are all the rage this year.

From music videos like the Bound 3 spoof of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian's Bound 2 by Seth Rogen and James Franco to feature films, videos are hotter than this year's "must-have" toy on Black Friday.

Frank Capra's 1946 Christmas classic It's a Wonderful Life appears to be the holiday target of choice this year when it comes to movies.

According to an article posted on the Hollywood Reporter website, "One is by comedian Owen Weber and the other is from Jean-Marc Vallee, director of the Oscar contender Dallas Buyers Club.

Leonardo DiCaprio as the title character in "The Wolf of Wall Street." (thewrap.com)

"Weber recut a Wonderful Life trailer to the tune of Kanye West's  Black Skinhead, which is also heard in the first trailer for Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street (opening Dec. 25).

"Weber's parody The Wolf of Bedford Falls ... depicts Jimmy Stewart's hero as a corrupt sellout to evil banker Mr. Potter," the article states.

Sacrilege or homage?

I'll say a little (actually, a lot) of both.

I know this, though.  The version of "It's a Wonderful Life" you'll see in the video below is not your mama's version of George Bailey.


Don't fret over planning your holiday party

Santa315lThe holidays are here and Movie Memories has you covered when it comes to entertainment for your event.

It is time to get serious about planning your holiday event, though.  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, I combine classic Christmas 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.
Call 972-599-2150 to book your "Happy Ho-Ho-Holidays" Movie Memories presentation today to secure your group's preferred date.

Truth?  Well, there's more truth

Most movie buffs will remember the tension-packed, screaming courtroom standoff between Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise in the 1992 military drama "A Few Good Men."

Jack Nicholson on the witness stand in "A Few Good Men." (Columbia Pictures)

Well, now there's another standoff between Cruise and Nicholson, and it's playing out in the Hollywood Hills.

Cruise, it seems, is wooing his former co-star to portray a boozing womanizer who happens to be the former president of the United States.

That's according to an article posted on the Hollywood Reporter website and other online venues.

In the upcoming El Presidente, Toothy Tom is set to play a "straight-arrow Secret Service agent.

He's assigned to protect America's worst former president, an alcoholic and womanizing sleazebag who was elevated from VP when the president died," according to the post.

Esteemed Toronto mayor Rob Ford. (zap2it.com)

If published reports turn out to be true, Cruise may have even told Nicholson, an Academy Award winner three times over, he won't make the movie without his old co-star.

Let's not be too hasty, Mr. Cruise.

Surely there's at least one other person who could pull off the role of "an alcoholic sleazebag" who also formerly wielded politial power.

I just can't think of one right now.

21 June 2013

Oh boy, what movie should I rent?

Young301I've often thought I missed my real chance to get wealthy as a film critic.

If I were in it for the money alone, I wouldn't have wasted my time writing about which movies to go see or rent, I'd just hang out in front of a popular video store and offer my expertise for cash on the spot.

A film critic as street performer, if you will.  Crowdfunding, I believe, is the term being texted around these days.

The process would go something like this:  You, confused by what movie to rent, would get out of your car in the parking lot of Blockbuster or other video store (when those were still around) and slouch toward the door.

Nine times out of 10 you knew you'd be overwhelmed by hundreds, perhaps thousands of choices inside.  And, most of the time, you had already forgotten what title your spouse, significant other or child told you to get.

And then, there I'd be, right by the door with suggestions for latest arrivals, a really good foreign film, a classic or even, dare I mention it, a documentary.  You would give me a dollar and move inside to rent your movie with confidence.

Oh, and I would get rich (counting on hordes of happy return customers, of course).

I said all that to say this.  If I were standing in front of your favorite video store today, I would urge you to rent the superb documentary titled "Young @ Heart" that graced movie screens in 2007.

"Young @ Heart" chronicles the final weeks of rehearsal as the Young at Heart Chorus of Northampton, Mass. prepares for its annual concert series.  This is not your usual chorus.  For one thing, the average age is 81, and many of the chorus members have major health problems to overcome.  Oh, and did I mention these vibrant seniors sing everything from James Brown to Sonic Youth.

The scene where they melt the hearts of young prisoners with their version of "Forever Young" will fill your heart with joy.  "Young @ Heart" never gets better, though, than when the late Fred Knittle, a former World War II machine-gunner, sings a haunting version of Coldplay's "Fix You."

Knittle died at the age of 83 in 2009.  He is survived by his wife, four children, 12 grandchildren, thousands of movie fans and one film critic you may know who desperately wanted to attend his funeral, but couldn't due to circumstances beyond his control.


Vacation Movie School

Remember Vacation Bible School when you were a kid?

Boy, I do.  Mom would drop my brother and I off at the First Baptist Church in Grand Prairie on a weekday -- and a morning at that -- for Bible study shortly after regular school broke for the summer.

And, if we could recite all the Books of the New Testament, we'd get a snow cone.

That's sort of what's going on with what I'm calling Vacation Movie School, except for the mandatory memorization and, sadly, the sugary blast of a dripping grape or red snow cone as a reward.

You need to sign up in the next week or so, but some seats are available for my "Hollywood's Hot Movie Scandals" non-credit Emeritus plus 50 class at Richland College next month.

The admission fee is a mere $22.  Over the course of four Tuesdays in July (the 9th through July 30 from 10:30 a.m. to noon) we'll dig into some of the biggest scandals that rocked Hollywood over the years.

MM352On July 23, for instance, we'll take an in-depth look at the meteoric rise to stardom and the sad end to actress, sex symbol Marilyn Monroe.  The death of the "special friend" of a couple of famous Kennedys and Frank Sinatra was ruled a "probable suicide."  But was it?  Hmmm.

The four-week series, which will also put scandals involving Lana Turner (July 16) and Ingrid Bergman (July 30) under the microscope, kicks off July 9 with the sordid tale of the crash to blacklisting and ruin of silent film star Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle in the early 1920s.  But what's the real story?

The Richland Emeritus plus 50 classroom only holds 20, so if you live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area ensure yourself a seat by signing up today.  Click here for registration info for "Hollywood's Hot Movie Scandals" (Course No. SRCZ 1000 84915), or call 972-238-6146 or 972-238-6147.

I can't promise snow cones, but there will be snacks!

31 May 2013

Go ahead, make Clint's birthday

Clint300rIf you need some inspiration to put a little pep in your step, consider this.

Near-legendary actor, director, composer and producer Clint Eastwood, who, yes, occasionally likes to chat with an empty piece of furniture before a TV audience of millions at a national political convention, turns 83 today.

What's Eastwood up to on this momentous day, you ask:  Sitting at home softly plunking keys on the piano?  Perhaps hitting the links for a little golf?  Or maybe just relaxing, contemplating his early acting roles as Jonesey in the talking-mule movie "Francis in the Navy" (1955) or his 216 episodes as feisty Rowdy Yates on the TV Western "Rawhide" from 1959 to the mid-'60s.

Clintchair326lIf you believe any of that, you rank right up there with that empty chair at last year's Republican National Convention.

Eastwood, you see, is -- as usual -- juggling future movie projects.  According to published reports, the filmmaker with the squinty eyes and low, raspy voice has put his remake of "A Star Is Born" on the back burner.

It looks like Eastwood, last in the director's chair guiding Leonardo DiCaprio through "J. Edgar" in 2011, has his late-season career sights set on Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons in a big-screen adaptation of the Broadway hit musical "Jersey Boys."

"Multiple sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that Eastwood is in talks with production entity GK Films and Warner Bros. to take on the high-profile project, though neither the studio nor the production company or Eastwood's reps would confirm the negotiations," a Hollywood Reporter article states.

Maybe Eastwood will celebrate his 83rd birthday with a little sip of sherry to pay homage to the Four Seasons' first No. 1 hit in 1962 and perhaps Clint's next as a filmmaker.  Happy Birthday, Mr. Eastwood, and bottoms up!


 Brookhaven, you're all class

Thanks to DeBorah Whaley-Stephenson and all the fine folks over at Dallas' Brookhaven College for including my "Five Decades, Five Great Movie Classics" film appreciation continuing education class in their Students 50+ Education Program spring semester.

The students were all attentive and appreciative as we watched and discussed five classic films on five consecutive Thursdays in May.

We called it a wrap yesterday (May 30) with cookies and immersing ourselves with a screen full of a very young looking Jack Nicholson sparring verbally with Faye Dunaway and a grandfatherly, yet evil John Huston in "Chinatown," circa 1974.

Thanks, students, for being a terrific class.  I'm looking forward to seeing everyone (and more) for my upcoming fall semester class, a look at classic films either about Texas, shot in Texas or starring Texas-based actors.  Let's fill up the classroom for that one.


(Clint Eastwood photo courtesy:  google.com/Eastwood and chair photo courtesy:  wheelercentre.com)

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