14 posts categorized "Travel"

02 November 2018

Oh I see, your holiday event is coming up soon

Onions300I can't read your mind or anything, but I'm guessing you're looking for something a little different for your office, corporate or facility holiday gathering this year.

Well, look no further.  I have two suggestions for you, and they both just happen to involve, ahem, me.

Continue reading "Oh I see, your holiday event is coming up soon" »

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.

17 September 2014

Get your wallet running ...

Easy330r
The late Dennis Hopper, left, Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson in "Easy Rider." (Columbia Pictures)

I see them everywhere, middle-aged men (OK, a little older than that) dressed in leather that's often what we could call seam-challenged vrooming around on the motorcycles they wished they had been able to buy in their early 20s.

You know, when they wanted to feel the wind in their hair (when they had hair) as they rebelled against the man and rode, with buddies of like mind in tow, across the U.S. of A. without a care in the world, except the threat of the occasional redneck pulling alongside in a pickup and leaning out of a window aiming a loaded shotgun.

Well, good news guys.  Captain America, the customized Harley-Davidson chopper that Peter Fonda rode in the gritty drama Easy Rider in 1969 is going on the auction block on Oct. 18 at the Profiles in History auction house in Calabasas, Calif.

"The seller is Michael Eisenberg, a California businessman who once co-owned a Los Angeles motorcycle-themed restaurant with Fonda and late Easy Rider co-star Dennis Hopper. Eisenberg bought it last year from Dan Haggerty, perhaps best known for his roles in the Grizzly Adams TV show and movies, who was in charge of keeping the custom-designed bike humming during the 1969 movie's filming," according to a post on the CBS News website.

Even if you can't rustle up the $1 million or $1.2 million Captain America, that proud symbol of freedom once enjoyed by hippies everywhere, is expected to go for, it would still be a fun ride from Wherever, U.SA. to Calabasas.

I'd go with you, except for a couple of reasons.  I'm still limping from a mountain bike mishap a few weeks ago.  I wiped out on perfectly good asphalt; not even on a rocky dirt trail, so I may not be ready to straddle a hog for an extended ride right now.

Also, I'm saving all my movie auction cash for the piano used in the flashback sequences of Casablanca.  It comes up for auction every few years these days.

Let's see, right now I'm somewhere between $3 million and $4 million short, but still hopeful.

Hope.  That's what freedom is all about, man.

04 June 2013

I wonder who's Kissinger now?

Seagal465
"Above the Law"? It looks like former action star Steven Seagal might be promoting the Russian arms race. (Courtesy: sky.com)

Henry Kissinger, where art thou?

I suppose at the age of 90, Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State for both Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford and the Nobel Peace Prize winner who negotiated a settlement of the Vietnam War, is probably not available to whip this country's international affairs in shape.

That's a shame because you'll never guess who it's come down to:  An aging actor (of sorts) and a pierced, tattooed. over-the-hill athlete.

NKorea299r
Dennis Rodman in North Korea in February, where he's apparently applauding the fact that Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un "once caught a fish this big." (Courtesy: cnn.com)
You've probably heard about Dennis Rodman's trip to North Korea in February.  He posed with Kim Jong Un, North Korea's Supreme Leader and Chief Rocket Launcher.  They took in a basketball game or two, posed with the masses and sipped bubbly at dinnertime.

Rodman returned to the U.S., saying something like he'd worked out all the tension between this country and North Korea.  The words had barely passed Rodman's pierced lips when North Korea's youngun -- sorry, Jong Un -- aimed his rockets at the U.S. and Austin specifically.  I'm thinking the new supreme leader failed to get an invitation to Austin's South By Southwest Film Festival, which can be a tough ticket to snag.  (This has yet to be confirmed, but I'm pretty darn sure that's what happened.)

Now, there's even bigger trouble looming on the volatile international scene.

Russia, it seems, has decided that fading Hollywood action star Stevan Seagal, who once hinted to me that he was, or had, worked in U.S. intelligence  ("I can't talk about it.  It's that secret," he said over lunch at the time.), is the perfect guy to be the -- And I am not making this up -- "face of a new campaign to promote Russian weapons."

That's right.  According to published reports, like this one posted on sky.com, "the 61-year-old American appears to be the unlikely choice to boost the
country's arms sales as it makes a push to be the world's number one
exporter.

"Seagal accompanied Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin to the Degtyarev gun manufacturing plant in Kovrov earlier.

"According to Russian news agencies, Mr. Rogozin said the actor may head up an international marketing campaign for the factory.

"He said: 'You're ready to fight American (manufacturers) with your teeth and
your intellect, and if Americans are prepared to promote and support you, that says we're learning new ways to work on corporate warfare markets,'" the Sky.com article states.

One of my favorite phrases is, "Well, the world has still not gotten crazy enough for me."

I admit, though, with this news it's edging plenty close.

Oh brother, Henry Kissinger, where art thou?

10 May 2013

Those other Cannes Cannes girls

Hooker275rIt's oh-so ordinary for flashy starlets and would-be ingenue hopefuls to flock to the South of France to share the limelight of the Cannes Film Festival, which cranks up the projectors May 15 and unspools celluloid through May 26.

But, according to a Hollywood Reporter article by Dana Kennedy, call girls flock to Cannes during the festival in hopes of making what the article predicts may be as high as $40,000 a night.  (Quick, how many euros is that?)

"'We all look forward to it,' says a local prostitute in Cannes who goes by the name of Daisy on her website but declined to give her surname. Daisy is one of many independent escorts who have their own websites and usually avoid going to hotels and bars -- except during the festival. 'There's a lot of competition because there are so many girls, but the local ones have an advantage. We know the hotel concierges.'

"The local prostitutes, says Daisy, routinely drop cash off with concierges at the town's top hotels. In return, if they are lucky, concierges sometimes steer clients their way. During the 10-day festival, an estimated 100 to 200 hookers stroll in and out of the big hotels every day, according to hotel sources," states the Hollywood Reporter article.

That's not the Cannes Film Festival I remember from 2005.  I recall working almost around the clock to attend screenings and world premieres and attending press conferences where filmmakers and stars converged to talk about their latest project.

That included extraordinary actor Tommy Lee Jones that year.  Jones, who took the top acting award during his visit, enjoyed what might have been a career humbling highlight when his gritty Texas-set crime-drama "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" (starring Jones, Barry Pepper and January Jones) earned a 7-minute standing ovation following its world premiere.

Maybe because working film critic slugs like me didn't have the time, money or inkling to hang out in the palatial top-dollar (top-euro?) hotels, I didn't notice a swarm of girls with, let's say, monetary aspirations in mind.

Here's what I do remember.  Once I felt confident enough with my broken French to order food, I stopped off at a sidewalk bistro for lunch.  I was feeling pretty proud of myself for ordering in French as I gazed out at the busy, frenzied even, people strolling the streets of Cannes.

My pepperoni pizza arrived with one slight language barrier problem:

There was a fried egg nesting right in the middle of it.

On well, c'est la vie.

I think that means "that's life," but you might not want to take my word for it.

(Image courtesy:  nbcdfw.com)

15 April 2013

The trip to bountiful, too

Bus301rAs the brakes on the bus that isn't really a bus whoosh, the driver -- a calming soul with a Chicago Bulls cap pulled down low over his ears -- says, "OK, folks, just one more pick up."

The doors open and Jonathan Winters, looking to be in his mid-30s and grinning from ear to ear, bounds up the steps.  "Man, this is the best I've felt my entire life," Winters blurts.

"Your entire what," a serious, but polite and slightly giddy British woman replies.

"Hey, you look like ... you are Margaret Thatcher," Winters almost shouts.  "And isn't that Annette Funicello across the aisle?  I remember her.  She looks great, in fact young and energetic enough to put those Mickey Mouse Club ears back on.  Say, what's going on here?"

"You'll understand soon, Mr. Winters.  Just relax and rest assured that we're off to someplace wonderful and without prejudices of any kind.  There will be no such thing as liberals or conservatives, racial tension or even pain and suffering."

(Thatcher, with a knowing smile, nods in the direction of a woman a few seats away.)  "Isn't that right?"

"Right you are, ma'am."

"Please forgive me," Winters says to the other woman, "but I don't recognize you."

"Call me Casino Sue, Mr. Winters.  I've been a fan of yours since I saw you do that Maude Frickert routine on 'The Tonight Show' way back when Johnny Carson was host.  You were one funny lady.  I mean ... well, you know what I mean."

"Of course, Sue.  Thanks," Winters responds.

"Hey, Maggie.  May I call you Maggie, Mrs. Thatcher?"

"If you don't mind, Mr. Winters, Margaret will do."

"Sorry, ma'am.  Of course.  I meant no disrespect.  Hey, Maggie ... just kidding, loosen up a little, who's that guy hunched over that iPhone up in front of us?"

"That's Roger Ebert," Thatcher replies.  "He's been trying to send a text message to his wife and Tweets to his thousands of followers the whole trip."

Ebert scratches out a quick note and hands it to Thatcher:  "I have 600,000 online friends and fans who count on me.  I can't reach them."

"You've already reached them, Roger, and you'll always be in their hearts.  Don't worry, you won't be forgotten.  As for Chaz, your loving wife and helpmate will join you sooner than you can imagine," Thatcher says.

"Excuse me, Roger, but why are you writing notes anyway," Winters asks.

"I lost my voice years ago in a horrible bout with cancer," Ebert says.  "I can't speak."

"Well, you just did, bub," Winters replies with his impeccable comic timing.

"I did, didn't I," Ebert beams, looking like he did in his heyday.

"You sure did, Roger," the bus driver says calmly as he turns around and removes his Bulls cap.

"Gene ... Gene Siskel!  You old son-of-a-gun," Roger shouts.  "Great to see you!  But don't you need to keep your hands on the wheel?"

"I'm not really driving this bus, Roger.  I just like to keep two thumbs up there on the wheel for old times sake."

"Say, are we there yet?  How long will this trip take, anyway," Winters asks.

"Do you want to tell him or should I," Siskel asks his passengers.

In unison, Margaret Thatcher, Roger Ebert, Annette Funicello, Jack Pardee, Bonnie Franklin and Casino Sue (Taylor) say, "A blink of an eye."

(Bus image courtesy:  John Mattos/oneearth.org)

12 February 2013

Let's do the 'Groundhog Day' 'time loop' again, again, again, again

Slap462

I can't believe it's been 20 years since the almost-perfect Bill Murray comic vehicle "Groundhog Day" debuted, mostly because my face still stings a little from the slap Andie MacDowell gave me during an interview for the outrageous comedy.

GroundP226Those familiar with the 1993 comic gem directed by Harold Ramis will recall that Murray plays Phil Connors, a cantankerous TV weatherman tired of covering Groundhog Day ceremonies in Punxsutawney, Pa. and grumbling about covering a "rat" for the fourth year in a row.

Instead of waking up on Feb. 3 after being snowed in, however, Phil -- the human one portrayed by Murray (right down to rodent-like teeth) -- discovers to his horror that it's Feb. 2 (Groundhog Day) all over again.  And so it goes.  Every time Phil wakes up to Sonny and Cher's "I Got You, Babe" on the clock radio, it's Feb. 2.

That means that since Rita (MacDowell as Phil's producer) slaps Phil on Feb. 2, she will slap him on all the Feb. 2nds to come.  That's 10 by some counts, but I remember more.

The common way to slap someone when acting in a movie is not to really slap them at all.  The hand swings at the face, but either misses completely or barely strikes the other actor.  The actual sound of a brutal slap is edited in and, generally, that's enough to convince an audience that a real slap took place.

That's what I expected MacDowell to explain to me during our TV interview for "Groundhog Day" back in 1993.  It went something like this:

Me (TV guy, trying to be so cute and witty):  "You know, Andie, you had to slap Bill over and over making 'Groundhog Day.'  How did you guys manage to fake it and make it appear so real?"

Andie MacDowell:  "I'll show you.  Lean over this way.  Closer ... a little closer ..."

WHAAAAAAP!

That's the day I learned two important things:  When interviewing playful movie stars, phrase the question very carefully and Ow, that hurt!

Let's fill the Richland/Movie Memories bus again

Bonnieclyde220
Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow in a photo found by police at their Joplin, Mo. hideout in 1933.  (Courtesy:  http://en.wikipedia.org)
Thanks again to all of you who joined us for the Richland College Emeritus plus 50 Program/Movie Memories bus trip to cinematically historic Waxahachie last April.

We've got a dandy day bus trip follow-up planned for this April, and, once again, it is my goal to make Richland Emeritus plus 50 leader Mitzi Werther order a bigger bus.  That's where you come in.

It's time to sign up for the "Bonnie and Clyde Bus Tour."  It all kicks off with a screening of the 1967 Oscar-nominated crime-spree classic "Bonnie and Clyde" Friday evening, April 19.  The next morning, we'll get on a comfortable bus and begin our tour at the CRM Studios in Las Colinas.  Tim Eaton, who so eloquently guided us around Waxahachie last year, is back to show up around celebrity-themed dressing rooms at the CRM studios.

After lunch, we'll tour Dallas-area locales where notorious outlaws Bonnie and Clyde gunned down two law enforcement officers, other related sites of interest and finally visit the couple's grave sites, which are not together in case you are wondering.

Charles Heard, author, cinephile and collector of movie memorabilia, will guide us along the Bonnie and Clyde part of the tour.  Sign up early, please.  Once the bus is full, it's full.  You can call 972-238-6147 to register for the bus tour.  Here's a link with all the info:  http://www.richlandcollege.edu/emeritus/trips.php

("Groundhog Day" cover and photo courtesy:  Columbia Pictures)

23 January 2013

Don't just sit there ...

Niven300
Academy Awards presenter David Niven reacts as an uninvited guest, streaker Robert Opel, goes for his Oscar moment in 1974. (Courtesy: www.cba.ca)
Come to the Movie Memories cabaret!

The new year is under way and many of you are booking speakers for your groups, filling your calendars with events to attend or just looking for something invigorating and worthwhile to do to just get out for a little while.

Full disclosure:  This is a pitch to include a Movie Memories presentation, a non-credit college class and/or a bus day trip hot on the trail of Bonnie and Clyde as part of your 2013.  And to borrow a slightly altered phrase from late-night talk show host David Letterman, "Hey, why can't we have all three?" 

Gotta love Oscar

Whether you treat the Academy Awards as the most important television event of the year or find it mildly entertaining, the annual event looks to be exciting this year.

My Movie Memories presentation, "The Academy Awards:  Oscar's Winners and Losers," spans over 80 years of exhilarating-to-embarrassing events that took place while Hollywood's elite were patting each other on the back and handing out the golden statuettes.  We'll enjoy film clips of Sally Field's "You like me" speech in 1985 and David Niven being forced to deal with a streaker in 1974.

But we'll also dig deeper to explain the story behind both famous incidents.  Why was Field so happy, and how did Niven handle the sudden appearance of his naked co-star?

I've had the pleasure of covering the Academy Awards on a couple of occasions.  So we'll also go behind the scenes to answer these questions:

Which Oscar winner led the entourage encircling her to the wrong escape limo with her golden statuette in hand?

What happened that made me just miss holding Clint Eastwood's Best Director Oscar for "Unforgiven"?

And, who was the mystery superstar who appeared to climb over the fence to enter the ceremonies through the back door to avoid the swarm of reporters and fans out front?

All of these questions and more are answered in the "Academy Awards:  Oscars Winners and Losers" presentation.  The Academy Awards are Feb. 24 this year, and slots are filling up fast.  Call 972-599-2150 to book your group's presentation today.

Black history, 'All the President Men' 

Help300l
Octavia Spencer took home a Best Supporting Actress Oscar last year for her portrayal of Minny Jackson in "The Help." (Courtesy: Dreamworks)
February, is Black History month.  It's also the month where we take time out to honor our nation's presidents.

I'm honored to once again teach non-credit classes as part of the Richland College Emeritus plus 50 Program this year.  In February, a series of four classes will examine the early social struggles, changes in neighborhoods, pivotal men and women and great people, great struggles of African-Americans in our society.

The class is titled "Black History Month at the Movies."  In addition to discussion, we'll look at film clips from "The Color Purple," "Driving Miss Daisy," "Precious," "The Help" and many more.  The course runs from 10:30 a.m. to noon four Mondays in February, beginning Feb. 4.

There will be no homework and no final exam, just a chance to explore an important segment of film history in a friendly environment of fun and learning.

If you have a group, club or business organization and would like to book a look at black history in the movies as a Movie Memories presentation, we can do that as well.  Also, you might want to consider the "All the President Men" presentation.  It's a fun-filled look at all the actors who have portrayed presidents -- real and imaginary -- throughout movie history.

Let's fill the bus again

Bonnieclyde220
Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow in a photo found by police at their Joplin, Mo. hideout in 1933. (Courtesy: http://en.wikipedia.org)
Thanks again to all of you who joined us for the Richland College Emeritus plus 50 Program/Movie Memories bus trip to cinematically historic Waxahachie last April.

We've got a dandy day bus trip follow-up planned for this April, and, once again, it is my goal to make Richland Emeritus plus 50 leader Mitzi Werther order a bigger bus.  That's where you come in.

It's time to sign up for the "Bonnie and Clyde Bus Tour."  It all kicks off with a screening of the 1967 Oscar-nominated crime-spree classic "Bonnie and Clyde" Friday evening, April 19.  The next morning, we'll get on a comfortable bus and begin our tour at the CRM Studios in Las Colinas.  Tim Eaton, who so eloquently guided us around Waxahachie last year, is back to show up around celebrity-themed dressing rooms at the CRM studios.

After lunch, we'll tour Dallas-area locales where notorious outlaws Bonnie and Clyde gunned down two law enforcement officers, other related sites of interest and finally visit the couple's grave sites, which are not together in case you are wondering.

Charles Heard, author, cinephile and collector of movie memorabilia, will guide us along the Bonnie and Clyde part of the tour.  Sign up early, please.  Once the bus is full, it's full.  You can call 972-238-6147 to register for the bus tour.  Here's a link with all the info:  http://www.richlandcollege.edu/emeritus/trips.php

  

16 October 2012

It's a jungle in there and in here

Lassie251I had the pleasure of shaking Lassie's paw one time.

And I spent one very nervous, sleepless night in a five-star Beverly Hills hotel in 1997 directly across the hall from the snake about the size of a Buick that played the title role in the schlock-horror flick "Anaconda."

If I had to pick just one favorite movie animal, however, it wouldn't be a live one at all.  I'm drawn to Dumbo, the baby elephant with enormous floppy ears drawn brilliantly by Disney animators "back in the day."

Oddly enough, the classic tale of a ridiculed circus elephant that achieves its full potential by making the most of those big ears when it counts was released on Halloween in 1941.

I don't know how old I was when "Dumbo" first flapped its ears and its movie magic on me, but it remains one of my fondest movie memories.  It's also my first recollection of sharing a movie with my Mom, who loved movies way back then as much as I do now.

 

If I might slither back to thoughts of that big ol' snake "Anaconda" for a minute, you may be wondering a couple of things:  (1)  What's a snake measuring roughly 20-feet-long doing in a five-star Beverly Hills hotel suite? and (2) How did I end up directly across the hall from it?

Let's begin with No. 2, since that's the one that troubled, puzzled and panicked me the most at the time.  That's an easy question.  The answer is "buzzard luck," which basically means that if anything bad is going to happen, it generally happens to your faithful scribe here.

And secondly, to question No. 1: The movie studios, which invite film critics from across the U.S. and Canada and most of the free world to fly to various locales to see an upcoming movie and interview the stars, occasionally go the extra publicity mile to make those interview opportunities into what they perceive to be "an event."

So some suit in a movie studio carpeted corner office decided it would be a dandy idea to show off an anaconda to the film press during the interview days.  Forty or 50 film critics, entertainment writers and -- I can only hope -- giant snake wranglers showed up for the event.

"The movie studio wants us to remind you to please stop by Suite 1212 to see the snake used in 'Anaconda,'" the polished check-in person chirped.  "Welcome back to the Four Seasons, Mr. Ratliff.  Here's your key.  You're in Suite 1213."

Are you beginning to understand how this "buzzard luck" curse works?

The door to Suite (and sour) 1212 was partially open when I nervously unlocked my door across the hall and threw down my luggage on the bed.  I remember the spot because it's also where I almost threw up about five minutes later.

Being a good movie junket soldier, I crossed the hall and stepped lightly into Suite 1212.  A movie studio rep welcomed me in, and two or three other movie critics were staring into the giant glass case that barely contained the anaconda.

Anaconda350rI am not making this up:  That snake, no, that giant snake locked its eyes on me and never altered its gaze.  Even as other people milled about, the slithery creature -- and maybe I should be flattered by this -- only had eyes for me, tilting and moving its head this way and that as I tried to break the fixation.

I made a quick exit and double-locked my door until it was time to go to see the movie itself

Upon my return to the 12th floor about 10 p.m., there were no movie studio reps in sight and no one milling about.  (Had they all been eaten like unfortunate Jon Voight in the movie?)

As I clumsily fumbled for the credit card key to my room, I looked over my shoulder.  The snake's door was still propped open.  Light filtered out into the hall as if it was partially shielded by giant trees in the forest.  Before I bolted into my room, I had to see for myself that the snake was still contained in that glass case.  So I tip-toed ever so carefully to the open door and peaked in ...

THE SNAKE WAS STARING RIGHT INTO MY EYES AGAIN, as if it was just waiting for my return.

That was the only time I ever felt like a room service meal.

(Lassie photo courtesy:  www.cvfaf.org/"Dumbo" clip courtesy: Walt Disney Pictures/"Anaconda" photo courtesy http://robsmovievault.files.wordpress.com)

20 August 2012

Once a King was enough for me

King300This is about the time I squared off for about a 20th of a round with boxing promoter Don King in the Las Vegas airport.

At a frozen yogurt stand at the Las Vegas airport to be more exact.

Eight or 10 years ago I was returning from Los Angeles movie star interviews and had a 40 or 50-minute stopover between flights at the Sin City airport.

It only took me five minutes or so to lose $37 in the conveniently located airport slot machines.  That was all I had on me, except for a fiver I kept for emergencies.  So I looked around for another vice to keep me occupied until my flight was called.

"There it is," I said to myself as I wandered away from the ding-ding-ding of the alluring slots.  "Frozen yogurt!"

You know frozen yogurt.  It's that mystery chilled concoction -- neither ice cream nor yogurt, really -- that ice cream-a-holics like me shovel down with slightly less guilt than the full-fledged stuff that comes from the overly contented cows seen in TV commercials slurping down grass outside the Blue Bell ice cream factory in Brenham, TX.

I was looking over the wall menu when I heard some commotion behind me.  I looked around just in time to see Don King and his entourage nudging people in line aside as they plowed their way in unison -- like a well-trained NFL offensive line; No, more like a snowplow disrupting a tranquil neighborhood street full of playful kids -- to get to the counter.

"I don't care if it is Don King.  They'll have to get through me if they want the No. 1 spot in line," I thought as my lips tightened and I prepared for battle.

Well, they got through me without much of a fuss (for them, at least).  I floated out of their path with the slightest wimpy resistance.  Unlike Muhammad Ali, I never quite got around to stinging like a bee.

I was seething and hot under the collar, though.  In fact, I had to order a large to cool down after King and his court were gone.

I say all that to say this.  Somewhere, Don King is celebrating his 81st birthday today.  So, happy birthday, Mr. King.  I hope you're enjoying a celebratory frozen yogurt without having to bluster your way to the front of some line today.

And I apologize for thinking what I wanted you to do with that frozen yogurt (cone and all) back in Vegas.  I've calmed down since then.

Besides, I'm pretty sure that's not even even humanly possible.   

Great to CD you, Ron Young

RYoung260
Ron Young's been pickin' and singin' "Under the Texas Radar" too long.
I have no idea when Ron Young's birthday is.

But know this, the title of Ron's new CD, "Under the Texas Radar," sums up the talented Texas troubadour's plight and fight to claim a place as a Lone Star singer-songwriter to be reckoned with right alongside Willie Nelson (the king, of course), Ray Wylie Hubbard, Joe Ely, Robert Earl Keen, Pat Green, Billy Joe Shaver and The Derailers (a personal favorite).

Ron has pulled off the near-impossible; making the difficult transition from a music critic to a bona fide musician himself.

The first time I met him Ron walked into the San Antonio Light newspaper newsroom in the early 1980s to drop off his weekly music column.  I had just arrived in San Antonio, and was settling in as an entertainment reporter and film critic.

Although his music reviews were concise, informative and fun to read, Ron just had that look.  He was not yet where he was someday going to be.  From this aisle seat, Ron has arrived there with "Under the Texas Radar," a 15-tune declaration of independence and Young's bill of rights.

I'm still humming the catchy, somewhat playful beat of "Done (Stick a Fork in Us)," a tune of remorse over a busted relationship that somehow comes with its own musical fog machine in an attempt to shield the pain.

Young, like so many others with a heart bursting with dreams, a guitar case in hand and a notebook full of songs, made the musician's pilgrimage to Nashville, and has written more than 400 songs by his count.  "A Long Ride" chronicles those years.

What impresses me most is that Young bares his soul between the guitar strums.  That has to be the real test of a singer-songwriter worth his salt and shot of tequila at the end of a long barroom night.  The song that got to me most was "Daddy's Chair," a lament about what really matters in life.

You'll hear a little Bob Dylan, a little Hank Williams and even a little Bob Wills in Young's music.  And perhaps Young's knowledge of his musical peers, perhaps a byproduct of his old music critic days, inspired his request for a little musical mentorship in "Waitin' On Willie."

What makes "Under the Texas Radar" a four-jalapeño listening experience for me, though, are those moments when Ron breaks the bonds of his influences and just sings as himself.

Ron Young doesn't need to wait on Willie any longer.  He has arrived.

An open invitation

I'm very happy to, once again, offer a series of film classes this fall at Richland College as part of the Emeritus plus 50 program.

Things will be a little different this time.  The Movie Clips and Current Conversation series, which runs for four Thursday mornings Sept. 13 through Oct. 4 from 10-11:30 a.m., will feature lively discussion.

It's an opportunity for you, the student, to share your opinions and thoughts on subjects like "Do movies reflect our actions or dictate them?" and "The movies today:  High prices, outrageous snack costs and cell phones," just to cite a couple.

This is a non-credit course with a fee of only $18.  And remember, there is no homework, no outside study and no final exam, just a chance to get out of the house and meet some folks who, like you, have an interest in staying active and maybe even learning a thing or two.

If you'd like to join in the fun, call the Richland College Continuing Education Department at 972-238-6146 or 972-238-6147 and tell them you'd like to sign up for course SRCZ 1000 81911, registration No. 789367.

(Don King photo courtesy:  telegraph.co.uk/Ron Young photo courtesy:  Tana Thomasson/Ronlyoung.com)

13 February 2012

I've been reduced for quick sale

Shaw442

Life from the bargain rack:  Honestly, it's very good news that I've been reduced for quick sale, so to speak.

Now I can tell you that you can enjoy three great movies, including one ("Rango") nominated for an Academy Award this year, for only $18.  That's down from a previous price of 26 bucks, and it includes a discussion before and after each film.

So what do you say?

"Where do I sign up?"  That's the hoped-for response.

I'm hosting a "Brown Bag Movie Nights" series through the exciting Richland College Emeritus Plus 50 program that no devoted movie fan will want to miss.

ShawP221Even if you're just looking for something to do on Friday nights, this will be an excellent choice to get out of the house, meet some people and see some terrific movies.

The series kicks off with "The Shawshank Redemption" on Feb. 24.  Even if you've already seen this touching human drama starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman that drew seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, I'll take you behind the scenes for added enjoyment.

We'll watch the entire movie. Before we roll the projector, I'll talk a little about why the film of the evening was chosen for the series. In the case of "Shawshank," here's a hint:  Hope cannot be imprisoned.

After we've screened the movie, I'll lead a discussion of what we've just seen.

Join us, won't you?  Click here to find out how to sign up for the Brown Bag Movie Series.

Want to be a Movie Memories day-tripper?

Courthouse221It's also time to sign up for what will undoubtedly be a fun-filled Movie Memories road trip. On April 21, I'm hosting a Richland College Emeritus Plus 50-sponsored day bus trip to historic Waxahachie (just a short 45-minute ride from Dallas) to visit the sites where some memorable Oscar-winning films were shot. Films like "Places in the Heart," "Tender Mercies" and "The Trip to Bountiful," just to name a few.

You don't even have to be a Richland College enrollee of any kind to enjoy this excursion to beautiful Waxahachie. Here's how it works.

We'll screen "Places in the Heart" starring Sally ("You like me ... ") Field on the evening of April 20 at Richland. The next morning we'll board the bus for Waxahachie, where actor, film buff and Waxahachie Texas Theater proprietor Tim Eaton will guide us on a driving tour, then a short walking tour of key Waxahachie movie sites, including where Bonnie and Clyde allegedly left shotgun blast marks in the ceiling of the local bank during an actual robbery.

Seats are limited on the bus, so I urge you make your reservations soon. Or, even better, right now. Click this link for details.

Thanks Oscar; I owe you one

I'm in the rare position of being the first (as far as I know) to thank the voting members of the Academy. Not for a nomination, mind you, but for including George Clooney and his pal Brad Pitt in the Best Actor race.

Don't worry, I won't waste your time or mine thanking all the little people: my agent (don't have one), my manager (don't need one), my personal trainer (Ha! Good one) or my hair stylist, unless Supercuts counts.

Clooney221RHowever, I would like to thank Oscar, that shiny golden statuette every actor covets, for pitting Pitt ("Moneyball") and Clooney ("The Descendants") against Demian Bichir ("A Better Life"), Jean Dujardin ("The Artist") and Gary Oldman ("Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy") in the Best Actor race.

I went out on quite a limb, you see, on Dec. 5. That's when I sent my Getting Reel movie column for Jan./Feb. to "The Senior Voice" publisher/managing editor Carol Butler.

"With the 2011 Oscar race heating up, it makes sense to add George Clooney and Brad Pitt to the list of enduring leading men. Both are in the hunt for Academy Award nominations (to be announced Jan. 24) and could, if nominated, walk away with a golden statuette on Feb. 26," I wrote, way before the nominations were announced.

It was a gamble, in fact huge odds I wouldn't lay down real money on at Windstar casino. But I had a gut feeling that Clooney and Pitt would land Best Actor nods for some of the best work of each of their careers.

So thanks, Oscar.

(Photo credits -- Tim Robbins and "The Shawshank Redemption" poster courtesy Columbia Pictures/George Clooney photo from "The Descendants" courtesy: Fox Searchlight Pictures/Ellis County Courthouse photo courtesy: garygiles.net)

26 January 2012

I'd like to thank the Academy

Pitt442

As I write this, we are one month away from the glitz, glamour and drama of the Academy Awards, which will be handed out in Hollywood (on ABC) Sunday, Feb. 26.

I'm in the rare position of being the first (as far as I know) to thank the voting members of the Academy. Not for a nomination, mind you, but for including George Clooney and his pal Brad Pitt in the Best Actor race.

Don't worry, I won't waste your time or mine thanking all the little people: my agent (don't have one), my manager (don't need one), my personal trainer (Ha! Good one) or my hair stylist, unless Supercuts counts.

Clooney221RHowever, I would like to thank Oscar, that shiny gold statuette every actor covets, for pitting Pitt ("Moneyball") and Clooney ("The Descendants") against Demian Bichir ("A Better Life"), Jean Dujardin ("The Artist") and Gary Oldman ("Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy") in the Best Actor race.

I went out on quite a limb, you see, on Dec. 5. That's when I sent my Getting Reel movie column for Jan./Feb. to "The Senior Voice" publisher/managing editor Carol Butler.

"With the 2011 Oscar race heating up, it makes sense to add George Clooney and Brad Pitt to the list of enduring leading men. Both are in the hunt for Academy Award nominations (to be announced Jan. 24) and could, if nominated, walk away with a golden statuette on Feb. 26," I wrote, way before the nominations were announced.

It was a gamble, in fact huge odds I wouldn't lay down real money on at Windstar casino. But I had a gut feeling that Clooney and Pitt would land Best Actor nods for some of the best work of each of their careers.

So thanks, Oscar.

Grab your brown bag, we'll bring the flick

If I told you that you could enjoy three great movies, including one ("Rango") nominated for an Academy Award this year, for a mere 26 bucks, what would you say?

Since I can't hear you from here, I'm hoping you'd say, "Where do I sign up?"

I'm hosting a "Brown Bag Movie Nights" series through the exciting Richland College Emeritus Plus 50 program that no movie fan will want to miss. Even if you're just looking for something to do on Friday nights, this will be an excellent choice to get out of the house, meet some people and see some terrific movies.

The series kicks off with "The Shawshank Redemption" on Feb. 24. We'll watch the entire movie. Before we roll the projector, I'll talk a little about why the film of the evening was chosen for the series. Afterward, I'll lead a discussion of what we've just seen.

Click here to join us in the Brown Bag Movie Series.

Want to be a Movie Memories day-tripper?

Courthouse221It's time to sign up for what I think will be a fun-filled Movie Memories road trip. On April 21, I'm hosting a Richland College Emeritus Plus 50-sponsored day bus trip to historic Waxahachie (just a short 45-minute ride from Dallas) to visit the sites where some memorable Oscar-winning films were shot. Films like "Places in the Heart," "Tender Mercies" and "The Trip to Bountiful," just to name a few.

You don't have to be a Richland College enrollee of any kind to enjoy this excursion to beautiful Waxahachie. Here's how it works.

We'll screen "Places in the Heart" starring Sally ("You like me ... ") Field on the evening of April 20 at Richland. The next morning we'll board the bus for Waxahachie, where actor, film buff and Waxahachie Texas Theater proprietor Tim Eaton will guide us on a driving tour, then a short walking tour of key Waxahachie movie sites, including where Bonnie and Clyde allegedly left shotgun blast marks in the ceiling of the local bank during an actual robbery.

Seats are limited on the bus, so I urge you make your reservations soon. Or, even better, right now. Click this link for details.

(Photo credits -- Brad Pitt, left, Jonah Hill "Moneyball" shot courtesy: Columbia TriStar/George Clooney photo from "The Descendants" courtesy: Fox Searchlight Pictures/Ellis County Courthouse photo courtesy: garygiles.net)

30 December 2011

So long 2011, hello New Year!

Beach440

As the late, great Groucho Marx might say if he were the year 2011:

Hello, I must be going.
I cannot stay,
I came to say
I must be going.
I'm glad I came
but just the same
I must be go-ing.

Before 2011 completely fades from memory, though, here's a look at my favorite films of the year.

Help220As strong as some of the late-year arrivals are, I'm still haunted by the searing emotional drama of "The Help."

So, life in the Deep South during the racially troubled 1960s from the maids' often-tragic point of view is my No. 1 of 2011.

"The Descendants," starring George Clooney as a conflicted father fighting to cope with two rebellious daughters and a wife clinging to life in a coma, is my No. 2, followed by (3) "Moneyball," (4) "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," (5) "Midnight in Paris," (6) "My Week with Marilyn," (7) "J. Edgar," (8) "The Iron Lady," (9) "Young Adult" and (10) "The Artist."

It's Critics' Choice Movie Awards time

I'm proud to say I'm a founding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, which was formed in 1995. This year's Critics' Choice Movie Awards will air live on VH1 from the Hollywood Palladium Thursday, Jan. 12 at 7 p.m. Central Time.

The show itself gets bigger and better every year, and 2012 will be no exception. "Hugo" director Martin Scorsese will be honored with the Critics' Choice Music+Film Award this year, and that's just the tip of the iceberg of the movie award show that's truly fast and loose and -- if history holds -- a precursor to the Academy Awards on Feb. 26.

All aboard the Movie Memories road trip! Sally220

On April 21, I'm hosting a Richland College-sponsored day bus trip to historic Waxahachie (just a short 45-minute ride from Dallas) to visit the sites where some memorable Oscar-winning films were shot. Films like "Places in the Heart," "Tender Mercies" and "The Trip to Bountiful," just to name a few.

We'll screen "Places in the Heart" starring Sally ("You like me ... ") Fields on the evening of April 20 at Richland. The next morning we'll board the bus for Waxahachie, where actor, film buff and Waxahachie Texas Theater proprietor Tim Eaton will guide us on a driving tour, then a short walking tour of key Waxahachie movie sites, including where Bonnie and Clyde allegedly left shotgun blast marks in the ceiling of the local bank during an actual robbery.

There are only so many seats available on the bus, so I urge you make your reservations as quickly as possible. Click this link for details.

And don't forget

It's not too soon to sign up for our big "Brown Bag Movie Nights" series that kicks off with "The Shawshank Redemption" on Feb. 24. We'll watch the entire movie, for a change. Before we roll the projector, I'll talk a little about why the film of the evening was chosen for the series. Afterward, I'll lead a discussion of what we've just seen.

(2011/2012 Image courtesy: sandpiperportaransas.com/Viola Davis photo from "The Help" courtesy: DreamWorks Pictures.)

27 September 2011

Movie Memories road trip!

Mark your calendar for Oct. 14.  We're taking Movie Memories on the road to Waxahachie for a very special presentation titled:  "Waxahachie:  The Little Movie Town That Could."

We're doing two shows at Waxahachie's beautiful, restored Texas Theater.  But tickets are going fast.  Call 972-937-1993 to reserve your seats at either the 7 p.m. or the 9 p.m. show.

Why Waxahachie?  See below (Click poster for larger view):

Wax2 

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