37 posts categorized "Weblogs"

19 August 2014

Please say they're kidding

China300r
(Courtesy: rixbury.com)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Farewell to the great Robin Williams

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(Courtesy: chicagoreader.com)

"No words."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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(Courtesy: foxnews.com)

29 July 2014

Getting a handle on scandal

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

Sandra Bullock turns the big 5-0

 

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

Trivial trivia, or games people play

 

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

04 July 2014

Going 4th (of July) -- Best movie

Yankee320
(Warner Bros.)

It's the Fourth of July.  Time to celebrate this great country's independence with fireworks, hot dogs, hamburgers, a beverage, perhaps, and a cold watermelon. 

There may only be time for one movie on this busy day, though.  Born on the Fourth of July, Oliver Stone's gritty biopic of paralyzed Vietnam War veteran Ron Kovic starring Tom Cruise, is a good choice if you want something historic, tough to watch and very well made.

There's also some real fun to be had watching Will Smith and Bill Pullman dispatch invading aliens in Independence Day.

My choice, however, is Yankee Doodle Dandy, the 1942 flag-waver starring the late, great James Cagney as song-and-dance man George M. Cohan.  Cagney took Academy Award Best Actor honors for his spirited effort, although he had to dance up the walls to do it.

Happy 4th of July!

Classic movie lines; a retort card

We've all heard the infamous classic movie lines a hundred, perhaps a thousand times:

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Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh in "Gone With the Wind." (MGM)

"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." -- Clark Gable's Rhett Butler to Vivien Leigh's Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind (1939).

What we haven't heard, though, is a snappy comeback to those familiar lines entrenched in our subconscious.

Not until now, that is.

I've decided it's my civic duty, and perhaps my new life's work, to provide a comeback, a chance for the verbally one-upped to rattle off a clever, caustic or downright nasty topper of their own.

And in this fractured cinematic universe that came to me somewhere between the time I dozed off watching David Letterman's year long late-night victory lap before retirement and my first semi-steaming cup of Folgers this morning, the time line is as bent as my core premise.

So here goes: 

First up is Humphrey Bogart's Rick Blaine in Casablanca (1942):

"Here's looking at you, kid."

"Get away from me, mister, or I'll call the cops on my iPad.  Mommy warned me about guys like you in trench coats.  And, once and for all, I'm not interested in the beginning of a beautiful friendship.  Oh, and something else, my name's not Louie!" -- 8-year-old walking to the school bus stop.

"I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse." -- Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather (1972)

"Don't bother, Cotton Cheeks.  Whatever offer you make me, Walmart will match it, right there at the register."  -- One of those smart, savvy, but slightly annoying coupon-clipping shoppers I seem to always get behind at the checkout counter.

"You talkin' to me?" -- Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver (1976)

"I sure am, Grandpa.  And I have been for 10 minutes.  Wheel of Fortune is over and Grandma has gone in the kitchen, so turn down the TV and turn up your hearing aids so I can talk to you.  Geez, Grandpa, you never answer my texts. :("  -- Any grandchild in Anytown, USA

"The stuff that dreams are made of." -- Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon (1941)

"No thank you.  We're tourists ... just looking around.  It's our first trip to Colorado."

"Wait a minute, wait a minute.  You ain't heard nothin' yet!" -- Al Jolson as Jakie Robinowitz in The Jazz Singer (1927)

"Yes I did, Grandpa.  We all did.  If you don't turn up your hearing aids, I'm only going to talk to you on Skype from now on." -- Any grandchild in Anytown, USA :(

"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." -- Clark Gable's Rhett Butler to Vivien Leigh's Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind (1939).

"You think I care, mo#&#@)%&+@&$?"  -- Any of about a dozen interchangeable hip-hop rappers spitting out profanities while grabbing their junk.

"You don't understand!  I coulda had class.  I coulda been a contender.  I could've been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am."  -- Marlon Brando as Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront (1954)

"Come on!  Hold that double chin up.  You're a Kardashian.  Be proud.  Don't you know you don't have to have talent to be famous.  A little plastic surgery will fix that chin, by the way."  -- Another Kardashian.

Want to join the fun?  Email us your famous movie line and caustic retort to MovieMemories@verizon.net and we'll keep the party going by adding your wittiness right here:

Make movie night a Movie Memorable night

Here's some Movie Memories news:  Announcing a new service!

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Liza Minnelli belts out a tune in "Cabaret." (Warner Home Video)

Many clubs, groups and facilities have movie nights.  Now I'll host your event to make the movie evening special and, dare I say, memorable for your group.  And you and your group members still get to pick the movie.

Let's say you plan to screen Cabaret, the edgy 1972 musical that produced a Best Actress Academy Award for Liza Minnelli.

Instead of just saying something like, "Well, here's Cabaret," I will introduce the movie with background and behind-the-scene facts, including personal stories related to the film, to set the mood.

After the movie's over, I'll lead a short discussion of the film and stir some personal memories about the film from attendees in the audience.  And I'll give away prizes and make it a real movie night event.

Call 214-364-7364 to book and, once again, I'll see you at the movies.

11 June 2014

The Curtis Burch (Film) Society

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Director Fred Schepisi, left, and producer Curtis Burch on the "Words and Pictures" set in Vancouver. (Roadside Attractions)

So often, especially in this bottom-line-driven economy, the word “business” dominates the phrase movie business.

If Words and Pictures movie producer Curtis Burch has his way, that might be about to change.  At least a little.

Refreshing, isn't it?  After a quarter century doing things other people's way for some of Hollywood's biggest names, former Dallas resident Burch said something like "To heck with this.  There's got to be a better way."

Words and Pictures, the romantic comic-drama starring Juliette Binoche and Clive Owen now playing in many cities around the U.S. and opening wider on Friday (June 13), is the realization of Burch's dream to bring intelligent storytelling to mature movie audiences.

It's a fascinating tale of real-world budding romance for mature teachers at a prep school in Maine.  Also enchanting is the story of how Burch struggled to bring his movie his way to a theater near you.

I interviewed Burch for The Senior Voice newspaper.  Click here to read the article.

Oliver Stone takes on Edward Snowden project

I wasn't surprised to hear about a week ago that Oliver Stone, the gifted, but just a little goofy filmmaker who spun his version of the Vietnam War with Platoon, his slant on assassination politics with JFK, his version of a dethroned president with Nixon and then focused on President George W. Bush in W would shoot for the cinematic brass ring to bring his spin on the Edward Snowden whistle-blower story to the big screen.

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(Courtesy: indiewire.com)

What does blindside me a little, however, is the fact that Stone, whom I've interviewed several times since the Platoon days, has bought the rights to a novel penned by Snowden's Russian attorney to be used as part of Stone's upcoming movie.

"The announcement of the deal with attorney Anatoly Kucherena came a week after Stone and long-time producing partner Moritz Borman acquired rights to The Snowden Files, The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man, written by journalist Luke Harding," according to Dave McNary's story posted on the Variety website.

Time of the Octopus, to be published later this year, tells the fictional story of an American whistle-blower who spends three weeks in limbo in the transit area of the Moscow airport and occupies his time there talking to a Russian lawyer about his life and what motivated him to expose a massive American surveillance program," the Variety article states.

Say what you will about Mr. Stone, a double directing Academy Award winner (Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July), but the guy isn't shy about stirring the controversy pot.

Make movie night a Movie Memorable evening

Here's some Movie Memories news:  Announcing a new service!

Cabaret250r
Liza Minnelli belts out a tune in "Cabaret." (Warner Home Video)

Many clubs, groups and facilities have movie nights.  Now I'll host your event to make the movie evening special and, dare I say, memorable for your group.  And you and your group members still get to pick the movie.

Let's say you plan to screen Cabaret, the edgy 1972 musical that produced a Best Actress Academy Award for Liza Minnelli.

Instead of just saying something like, "Well, here's Cabaret," I will introduce the movie with background and behind-the-scene facts, including personal stories related to the film, to set the mood.

After the movie's over, I'll lead a short discussion of the film and stir some personal memories about the film from attendees in the audience.  And I'll give away prizes and make it a real movie night event.

Call 214-364-7364 to book and, once again, I'll see you at the movies.

10 June 2014

Oliver Stone takes on Edward Snowden

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(Courtesy: indiewire.com)

I wasn't surprised to hear about a week ago that Oliver Stone, the gifted, but just a little goofy filmmaker who spun his version of the Vietnam War with Platoon, his slant on assassination politics with JFK, his version of a dethroned president with Nixon and then focused on President George W. Bush in W would shoot for the cinematic brass ring to bring his spin on the Edward Snowden whistle-blower story to the big screen.

What does blindside me a little, however, is the fact that Stone, whom I've interviewed several times since the Platoon days, has bought the rights to a novel penned by Snowden's Russian attorney to be used as part of Stone's upcoming movie.

"The announcement of the deal with attorney Anatoly Kucherena came a week after Stoneand long-time producing partner Moritz Borman acquired rights to The Snowden Files, The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man, written by journalist Luke Harding," according to Dave McNary's story posted on the Variety website.

Time of the Octopus, to be published later this year, tells the fictional story of an American whistle-blower who spends three weeks in limbo in the transit area of the Moscow airport and occupies his time there talking to a Russian lawyer about his life and what motivated him to expose a massive American surveillance program," the Variety article states.

Say what you will about Mr. Stone, a double directing Academy Award winner (Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July), but the guy isn't shy about stirring the controversy pot.

Make movie night a Movie Memorable evening

Here's some Movie Memories news:  Announcing a new service -- and it's on sale!

Cabaret250r
Liza Minnelli belts out a tune in "Cabaret." (Warner Home Video)

Many clubs, groups and facilities have movie nights.  Now I'll host your event to make the movie evening special and, dare I say, memorable for your group.  And you and your group members still get to pick the movie.

Let's say you plan to screen Cabaret, the edgy 1972 musical that produced a Best Actress Academy Award for Liza Minnelli.  Instead of just saying something like, "Well, here's Cabaret," I will introduce the movie with background and behind-the-scene facts, including personal stories related to the film, to set the mood.  After the movie's over, I'll lead a short discussion of the film and stir some personal memories about the film from attendees in the audience.  And I'll give away prizes and make it a real movie night event.

And there's even a special introductory offer.

The first 10 groups that book a Movie Memories Movie Night between now and June 20 will get a $25 discount.  Please don't delay.  This offer is limited.  We've only blocked out 10 of these discounted Movie Memories Movie Nights on our calendar.

Call 214-364-7364 to book and, once again, I'll see you at the movies.

25 March 2014

Celebrating memorable movie moms

MildredPierce350lPeople often ask me where my love for movies came from and when what turned into a 30-plus year career of celebrating movie magic all began.

The where is the 600 block of S.E. 11th St. in Grand Prairie, Texas.  The when is the mid-1950s.  To this day I fondly recall my mother and I sharing great, memorable and not-so-astonishing movies on the TV late-late show.

I think it's about time to celebrate that special memory and, in fact, expand on it.  The first expansion is to include all our movie memories with our mothers in a new Movie Memories presentation titled "Hollywood's Classic Movie Moms."

For about an hour, we'll focus on the best cinematic moms in Hollywood history.  Case in point is Joan Crawford in her Academy Award-winning performance as the title character in Mildred Pierce, a flawed, financially strapped mom who will do anything -- and I do mean anything -- to make a better life for her children.

Of course Crawford makes the not-so-great mommie list as well as the subject of Mommie Dearest (1981).  The focus will be mostly positive, however.  After all, this presentation, including film clips and behind-the-scenes info, is a celebration of moms everywhere.

Secondly, the best news.  Since Mother's Day is coming up on May 11, we're offering a "Hollywood's Classic Movie Moms" special for new Movie Memories customers and repeat customers to boot.

First-time Movie Memories customers will get $50 off the "Hollywood's Classic Moms" presentation.  Existing customers will receive $25 off.  Hurry, though, the deadline for this special offer is April 10,

Call 214-364-7364 today to book your "Hollywood's Classic Moms" presentation.  This is a limited offer because, well, there are only so many presentation slots available in the weeks around Mother's Day.

Remember, the booking deadline is midnight April 10.  Get your group together so we can celebrate Mom!

'Gravity' is pulling Bullock down to the bank

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Sandra Bullock, perhaps pondering, "Space, the final giant acting payday frontier," while making "Gravity." (mid-day.com)

Go ahead, guess.  How big do you think Sandra Bullock's payday is likely to be for grunting and screaming in Gravity while sporting what appears to be fairly skimpy space skivvies much of the time?

Five million bucks?  Ten, 15 ... $35 million?  You are not even close, space cadets.

According to an article by Alice Feigel posted on CNN.com under the headline Movie moola:  8 shocking celebrity paychecks (and quoting figures from the Hollywood Reporter), the Texas-based Bullock should rake in 70 million bucks for her exceptional tumbling and space-flight simulation, even if it isn't what we call a dialogue-driven performance.

Click on Feigel's article and you might need to hang onto your hat when you discover the financial year had by Leonardo DiCaprio, Johnny Depp and, shall we say, an aging Batman nemesis.  (Does the hint, "Here's J-o-h-n-n-y!" help?)

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Now we know what Robert Downey Jr. was avenging in "The Avengers." (aceshowbiz.com)

My personal favorite, though, among overpaid -- OK, extremely highly paid -- actors has to be Robert Downey Jr.

Downey, a once-deeply troubled gifted actor, in fact a Best Actor Oscar nominee for his superb title performance in Chaplin (1992), probably already has more money than he knows what to do with because of his adventures in the Iron Man franchise.

When it came to including Iron Man in The Avengers ensemble on the big screen, however, the franchise suits had to pony up an iron fist full of dollars that boggles the mind, especially when compared to what the other superhero studs walked away with.

Some of those poor square-jawed "actors" had to settle for a lousy two or three million dollars.

I say that's a real tragedy.  Somebody needs to grab a little network TV time to raise money for down and out movie stars forced to get by on so little.  That can't be enough for an entourage of "yes" folks, a personal trainer, a manager, two or three publicists, a dietitian and Bruno guarding the door.

So, I have an idea.  If you'd like to help support a deprived movie idol only knocking down two or three million per picture, send your generous donation in large denomination, unmarked bills to this address.

I'll see that the deprived actors get ... uh, what they deserve.

Expanding the Movie Memories landscape

MM Logo265Because of some very exciting personal news (a beautiful new grandbaby in the family), Movie Memories is widening its central target area to include San Antonio and Central Texas as well as the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

For all our loyal Metroplex clients, supporters and fans, nothing will change.  I will be in Dallas at least two or three days every week and more often when my Movie Memories speaking schedule requires.

The addition is that we'll now be including San Antonio, otherwise known as the original land of The Jalapeno Guy film critic 1-4 jalapeno rating system and my exciting times as movie critic at the San Antonio Express-News, the San Antonio Light, KMOL-TV, KABB-TV and Magic 105-FM radio (as well as other radio stations) into the mix.

For those of you in San Antonio who may not be familiar with Movie Memories, it's a speech/presentation series dedicated to celebrating the magic of the movies, both classic and contemporary.  It goes way beyond merely showing movie clips and talking about my 30-plus years reviewing movies and traveling the world interviewing A-list movies stars.

We'll go behind the scenes of movies you think you know everything about, such as Casablanca, It's a Wonderful Life and more, and I'll share some personal -- sometimes painful -- memories; such as the time I made the late, great Paul Newman cry.

So if you haven't already done so, click around on the Movie Memories website, especially on the Presentations link. 

Movie Memories presentations, lasting about an hour, are available for groups large and small, clubs, business meetings, conventions and senior living facilities and centers.

Please make note of the new telephone number to book Movie Memories.

It's 214-364-7364.

Hello again, San Antonio.  I'm looking forward to seeing you at your Movie Memories presentation. 

05 December 2013

True confession: The cold facts

I've been sneaking around, and I'm terrified my wife is going to find out.

Yet how can I resist her warm embrace?

Surely, someone out there will understand, even if it's only the men; some perhaps suffering the same agony.

She's there to warm me and protect me from the cold abyss of the outside world.  She's always there when I need her, and she never utters even a hint of objection or complaint.

Thermuse251 She is ... my thermostat.

I'm cold natured.  I can't help it.  I can't deny it.  I can't defend it.  So I sneak around to deal with it, but the deceit gnaws away at my soul.  Not enough, though, to shiver all day when I'm home alone during cold winter months.

My wife Suellen, through no fault of her own, has an inner body temperature that appears to reside in the desert of El Azizia, Libya, which is generally regarded as the hottest place on Earth.  How does 136 degrees sound?

So, especially during the winter months, if Suellen is anywhere near comfortable, I feel like I'm trudging naked through a raging blizzard in Antarctica.

I've tried to fight the good fight; wrap myself in blankets, wear socks in house shoes, etc.  But occasionally I have to poke my nose out of my blanket pile to move around.  And there it is.  I'm right back in the frozen tundra.

"This is why humans moved into caves, then built huts and eventually took out second mortgages on houses in the suburbs," I plead, "to get out of harsh elements like this."

That argument never flies, of course.

"If you're cold, just put some more clothes on," she says.

To which I've been known to reply:

"If you're hot, you could just take some clothes off."

Gentlemen, I don't recommend that retort.

If you just blurt it out anyway, as I have, just say something like ...

"What?  I didn't say anything.  I was shivering so much you just heard my teeth clicking together."

And so it goes, season after season.  That's why I've resorted to my savior of warmth, Ms. Thermostat.

We heat it up toasty style during winter days.  I just have to remember to restore the chill before Suellen comes home.

The deceit is killing me, though.

I can't go on living this lie.  So I'm fessing up and embracing the mantra of that great philosopher Vanilla Ice.

If there was a problem yo I'll solve it
Check out the hook while my DJ revolves it

Ice ice baby, indeed.

A sad silent (good)night

Do you appreciate, love and/or admire silent films?

I'm afraid there is some startling news bouncing around media outlets this morning.

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This single frame may be one of the few remaining from the silent version of "The Great Gatsby." (flixist.com)

In a shocking report just out by the Library of Congress, it appears about 70 percent of 11,000 silent movies made between 1912 and 1930 have been lost due to what the Associated Press is calling "decay and neglect over the past 100 years."

According to an article posted on the Hollywood Reporter website:

“'The Library of Congress can now authoritatively report that the loss of American silent-era feature films constitutes an alarming and irretrievable loss to our nation’s cultural record,” Librarian of Congress James Billington said in a statement. “We have lost most of the creative record from the era that brought American movies to the pinnacle of world cinematic achievement in the 20th century.'”

Some of the classics starring silent film era stars Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Mary Pickford (Wings) have been saved and, in many cases, restored to near-pristine condition.

Sadly, other classics like The Great Gatsby from 1926, Cleopatra (1917), The Patriot (1928) and Lon Chaney's London After Midnight (1927) are presumably lost forever.

Silents, it appears, are no longer golden.

Richland Emeritus kick-off postponed

Mitzi Werther, program director of Richland College's Emeritus plus 50 for seniors, has sent word that the Emeritus Back-to-School Spring Kick-off, originally set for Friday (Dec. 6) morning, has been postponed a week due to the threat of inclement weather.

"There is a strong possibility of a treacherous Friday morning drive.  We do not want to put anyone in harm's way," Werther said.

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Marlon Brando with his "borrowed" trophy in "The Wild One" circa 1953. (Columbia Pictures)

No worries, though, the kick-off  has been pushed back a week to Dec. 13.  Instructors will take turns touting their upcoming classes in everything from aging issues, current events, nutrition, music, religion and even screenwriting. 

Yours truly will be among the instructors.  My spring class, which will likely be my last in the Richland Emeritus plus 50 program for a while, will focus on Oscar-winning Hollywood icon Marlon Brando.  We'll dive into the fascinating subject of the man behind the myth.

This is my personal invitation for you to sign up for my spring class and others and to come to the always exciting kick-off event on Dec. 13 (Richland's Sabine Hall, Room 118).

It's free and there's snacks; coffee and muffins at 9 a.m.  Call 972-238-6972 to reserve your spot.

Parody, the new way to disrespect

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

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

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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.

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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.

 

 It's not too late to book MM for 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.
 
(Editor's note:  The thermostat column first appeared as a Life Sentences essay on this website on Nov. 23, 2010.  Thermostat image courtesy:  HunterFan.com)

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.

Stewart325
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.

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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."

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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.

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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.

11 November 2013

Fly, wave your flag for our veterans

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Whenever I have the opportunity to share my Movie Memories presentation "A Salute to the Great War Movies" with an attentive, respectful audience, as I did Sunday evening at the outstanding-in-every-way Highland Springs retirement community in Dallas, I say this:

"Forgive me if I seem a little extra patriotic, but I'm not a veteran of foreign wars, you see.  I'm a veteran of foreign war movies, so I appreciate what those who are serving, did serve and will serve this country have or will give up to let freedom continue to ring in the U.S.A."

Thanks to the Highland Springs folks for being a great audience (as usual).  I'm proud to do my little part to honor those who deserve our thanks and gratitude every day, but especially on Veterans Day.  

I can't think of anyone better than the late Johnny Cash to honor our veterans as well.  Click the button below for "The Patriot Song."  That's how we ended our salute last night; with our veterans standing and getting the applause they deserve.

 

 Happy Ho-Ho-Holidays, let's party

Santa315lThe holidays are approaching faster than a group of out-of-tune, but well-meaning Christmas carolers heading up the sidewalk to your doorbell.

That means it's time to plan your holiday event.  Whether it's a corporate Christmas party, a country club holiday gathering or a retirement community seasonal celebration, the "Happy Ho-Ho-Holidays" Movie Memories presentation arrives bearing gifts of laughter, nostalgia and holiday joy.

In a presentation lasting a little over an hour, Larry combines Christmas classic movie clips with behind-the-scene Hollywood insight and tales of Christmases past sure to entertain your group and inspire and touch hearts along the way. We'll begin by boarding The Polar Express, with stops along the way at everything from White Christmas to The Santa Clause.  Of course our final holiday stop simply must be ... Well, you just have to join us to find out.

Call 972-599-2150 to book your "Happy Ho-Ho-Holidays" Movie Memories presentation today to secure your group's preferred date.

Got some film buffs in your group?

Life275lIn that case, your group might prefer a behind the scenes look at the holiday classic, It's a Wonderful Life.

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

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

And just where is Bedford Falls?  Is it a real place?

There are lots of things to learn about film critic Larry Ratliff’s favorite holiday film of all time in the Movie Memories presentation "It's a Wonderful Life -- A Classic Holiday Must-See."

Don't wait to book your Movie Memories presentation for the holidays.  Call 972-599-2150 while choice dates and times are available.

Read this before seeing 'Last Vegas'

Vegasposter250rI'm not going to give away too much of my Last Vegas movie review here.

Let's just say I was really looking forward to seeing movie star icons Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline share the screen as aging lifelong pals who venture to the bright lights of Las Vegas to see how much party power they have left in the tank.

Even though the cast is impressive, though, ... Well, click here to read my full review.
You might thank me later if you're thinking of investing in Last Vegas.

Since I don't mention real ages of the lead actors in the review, you might be interested to know the ages of the guys who play same-age aging party dudes in the movie:  De Niro, 70; Kline, 66; Douglas, 69; and Freeman, 76.

I know.  I had a little trouble believing it as well.

Check out the new edition of The Senior Voice

Voice200lThe Nov.-Dec. edition of Carol Butler's Senior Voice newspaper is out and it's bursting with articles like a feature on Lee Majors' "bionic" career, Veterans Day events and John Tackett's compelling Kennedy assassination remembrance titled "Echoes of Shots Fired."

And, if you are so inclined, check out my Getting Reel movie column.  Click here for the link to learn what your humble movie critic was doing the day Camelot ended and one of our most popular American presidents, John F. Kennedy, was gunned down in our town.

04 June 2013

I wonder who's Kissinger now?

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"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.

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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?

03 June 2013

All in the cinematic family

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Diane Ladd, left, and real-life daughter Laura Dern share the screen in "Rambling Rose." (Courtesy: The Hollywood Reporter)

Taking your child to the movie, a common, yet usually rewarding practice, is certainly nothing new.

Movie stars, on the other hand, often take it to the next level:  Taking their kids with them to make a movie. 

Such is the case with "After Earth," the sci-fi adventure teaming established marquee idol Will Smith and his son Jaden, a rising star making his second big-screen appearance with his dad.

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Jaden Smith and his father, Will, work together for the second time in "After Earth." (Columbia Pictures)
The two-generation Smith duo drew critical kudos for their pairing in the gritty family drama "The Pursuit of Happyness" in 2006.  Praise has been rather tepid for "After Earth," though, which opened third over the weekend behind "Fast & Furious 6" (racing through its second weekend) and the debut of the magic-driven heist drama "Now You See Me."

That doesn't mean the two Smiths didn't enjoy working together, though.  So in the spirit of movie stars taking their children to the movies to make movies, the Hollywood Reporter has put together a slide show chronicling a Who's Who of stars and their siblings sharing the silver screen.

My personal favorite is "Rambling Rose," the spunky self-discovery drama that earned Academy Award nominations for Laura Dern, who plays the title character, and her real-life mom Diane Ladd, who portrays Mother, the woman who takes Rose in (along with Robert Duvall's Daddy Hillyer) to help straighten out her life.

Some of my fondest movie-going adventures involved outings with my mother.  As far as I can recall, though, Mom never invited me to co-star in one with her.

Click this link to find out which moms, dads, sons and daughters did.

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.

 

29 May 2013

Good news for moviegoers, theaters

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Kitai Raige (Jaden Smith, starring once again with his father Will) seeks a lost beacon on Planet Earth of the future in "After Earth." (Courtesy: Columbia Pictures)

Call it the NATO talks.

But not that NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Association.

While these tense negotiations do have something to do with politics, they also may have a direct impact on you and me; i.e. all moviegoers.

According to an article written by Pamela McClintock and posted on the Hollywood Reporter website, the National Association of Theater Owners  (NATO) "is pushing for new marketing rules that include limiting the length of a movie trailer to two minutes -- 30 seconds shorter than is the norm."

It's a controversial move.  Movie studios count on the Friday Night Faithful to see the "Man of Steel" trailer about a dozen times (or more) before the latest "Superman" reboot starring Henry Cavill ("Immortals") as the fellow in the tights and the big red "S," Amy Adams as Lois Lane and Russell Crowe (Jor-El) and Kevin Costner (Jonathan Kent) as the big guy's dual dads, biological and step, swoops into theaters on June 14.

 

Full disclosure:  I've sort of been enjoying the long, long, long string of trailers (up to about 20 minutes total)  that serve as a warm-up to the feature films.  That's something I missed out on while attending critics' screenings for three or four decades.  I'm seeing films with the general public more often these days.

On the other hand, frequent movie fans accustomed to showing up 15 minutes later than the posted start time may have a surprise on their hands if the theater owners get their way.  I see their point, though, the owners are the folks who take the heat from disgruntled moviegoers thinking "Enough, already" when the fifth or sixth trailer lights up the screen.

"Studios currently abide by voluntary marketing guidelines set forth by the MPAA restricting a trailer to 2.5 minutes. Each company is granted one exception a year (as an example, one theatrical trailer for 'Man of Steel' runs three minutes)," the Hollywood Reporter article states.

It's likely to be a while before any decision is made.  That means that for now if you want to change your car's oil out in the theater parking lot while your significant other or date takes in the seemingly never-ending string of coming attractions there will be no need to rush. 

Salute464

The Greatest Generation preserved our freedom.

Perhaps the Next-To-The-Greatest Generation are those who ensure that we never forget the sacrifices those who came before made for us.  That's many of us and hopefully our children, grandchildren and their children and grandchildren.

I felt a little extra patriotic on Memorial Day this year.  Here's why:

I took my Movie Memories presentation "The Greatest Generation:  A Salute to the Great War Movies" to the Town Village North Dallas senior living community Sunday afternoon before Memorial Day.  There's nothing unusual about that.  I've been invited to speak there many times before.

The audience was small.  Sundays, especially holiday weekend Sundays, are shared family time.  Relatives arrive to whisk Mom or Dad or both off to lunch, or a Sunday outing.

As we began exploring The Greatest Generation at war in film, however, I mentioned that the clip I was about to show from "Saving Private Ryan," the 1998 World War II Oscar winner directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks and Matt Damon, was noted for its authenticity.

Near the beginning of the emotional war saga, Hanks and his band of brothers hit the beach as part of the Normandy invasion.  When the movie opened, World War II vets praised Spielberg and his technical crew (cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, the effects team of Gary Rydstrom and Richard Hymns and editor Michael Kahn and the four member sound team -- all of whom took Academy Awards for their work) for recreating the hell-on-Earth that claimed loved ones, body parts and hearts as our soldiers sloshed ashore that fateful day.

As the clip played, I heard one lady in the audience sobbing.  "My husband was in the second wave at Normandy," she told the man sitting next to her.

Everyone in the room was moved.  And, for once, I was speechless.

Letters250I told the group about my father, H.R. Ratliff, who fought in the South Pacific during World War II but would never talk about it.  He verbalized his memories only in nightmare screams, which occurred on a regular basis and have been handed down, through no fault of his, to me.  During plenty of sleepless nights I've tried to make sense of them and of the Japanese sword and flag that my dad brought home, put in our attic and never spoke of either.

After we viewed a clip of "Letters from Iwo Jima," Clint Eastwood's excellent 2007 film about the Battle of Iwo Jima as told from the Japanese perspective, I shared with the group that my late dad probably wouldn't be able to understand -- or even view -- a film that humanized the "enemy" like that.

The woman who wept over her husband's experience at Normandy thanked me for coming to Town Village North Dallas to keep the memories of those who gave so much alive.

It was a quiet Sunday afternoon I won't soon forget.  And a restless night last night; those handed-down embedded emotional war wounds, you know.

So if you're feeling a little extra patriotic today, as am I, celebrate it the way we did Sunday with a heart-lifting finish.  Click the link below and know it's quite all right to tap your feet and clap along.

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)

14 January 2013

Jones, life of the 'Globes' party ... not

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Tommy Lee Jones probably not having the time of his life at the Golden Globes this year. (Courtesy: NBC-TV)
The last thing Tommy Lee Jones needs is someone like me to spring to his defense, but here I go anyway.

If any kind of publicity really is good publicity, San Antonio's part-time resident Oscar winner is having a marvelous morning.

This is the day after the night before for "Golden Globes" watchers, analysts, hangers-on, genuine movie stars, other legit members of the movie-making community and voters of the Golden Globes themselves, a minute voting group of usually less than 100 compared to Oscar's nearly 6,000.

On a morning after that should be abuzz with Ben Affleck's double-whammy "Argo" win for Best Picture -- Drama and Director (Affleck) (knocking out heavyweights like "Lincoln" and director Steven Spielberg, for instance) or even Lifetime Achievement Award winner Jodie Foster's terse, rambling, edgy declaration that she is (drum roll, please) single, many are focusing on Jones' grumpy-appearing reaction to Kristen Wiig and Will Ferrell goofing around before presenting the Best Actress -- Musical or Comedy prize as everyone around Jones roared with laughter.

Granted, Jones sat sullen and stone-faced as the two former "SNL" stars-turned-movie actors poked fun at Meryl Streep, Jones' "Hope Springs" co-star who missed the awards gala due to a bout with the flu.  Perhaps Jones, who I've seen downright giddy -- like at a dinner to celebrate the U.S. premiere of "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada," which Jones starred in and directed (and received an extended standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival that year) in Del Rio in the fall of 2005, was miffed that someone was taking comic potshots at his "Hope Springs" co-star.

Maybe Jones was extra glum because he lost earlier for his work in "Lincoln," or that "Lincoln" was virtually shut out all evening except for Daniel Day-Lewis' Best Actor-Drama win for his superb portrayal of Abraham Lincoln.

Or maybe it was unfortunate that Jones -- an extremely serious fellow (outwardly at least most of the time), was featured so prominently so close to the stage.  For my money, that's a shot-grabbing seat perfectly suited for the ever-mischievous Jack Nicholson in sunglasses, noticeably missing in action again this year.

Of course there is one other possibility:  that what we saw last night was Jones' happy face.

Don't believe that for a second.  What happened last night with Jones was just one of the oddities in a very odd but strangely entertaining "Golden Globes" telecast that should merely rank as a sideshow along the path to the main attraction, otherwise known as the Academy Awards (Feb. 24 on ABC).

 Old year's resolutions

It took me a while, decades in fact, but I've finally gotten a little smarter about New Year's resolutions.

I'm not making them anymore.

Instead, this year, I'm going back to make right on some busted resolutions from my past.

Age 7 (1954) -- After an unfortunate and soul crushing accident while asleep and spending the night at a friend's house across the street from Granny and Wally's (grandparents), I vowed that New Year 1954 would be the year that I would never wet the bed again.

That one worked itself out, thanks, I suppose, to aging a little.  Or, come to think of it, it might have had something to do with cutting down on giant Fizzies drinks shortly before bedtime.

Remember Fizzies, those giant candy pills that we plopped into a glasses of water to make our own soft drinks in the '50s and '60s?  Well, don't tell your kids or grandchildren, but Fizzies are back. (If the kids are coming over and Fizzies are on the menu, do yourself a favor and dig out the plastic sheets.)

Age 12 (1959) -- All the kids I admired on TV in the 1950s like Ricky Nelson ("The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet"), Tommy Kirk ("Mickey Mouse Club") and Jerry Mathers ("Leave It To Beaver") were slim.  Naturally, I assumed that I was too, especially since my older brother fit the sleek build profile.

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Ricky Nelson, looking cool and slim in 1959. (Courtesy: examiner.com)
Imagine my horror, then, when my Mother, who always made sure my brother and I started each new school year off with a new pair of Levi's and shoes, marched me into the Penney's Boys Department.

Someone could probably ram a hot metal rod though my brain without erasing the self esteem-crushing memory of what the salesman told my Mom:

"Well, we'll need to take this young man over to the Husky Boys section of Levi's."

That word "husky," which I still hate, hit me like a lightning bolt.  I clearly heard what the Demon From Hell (Opinions stated by this writer do, indeed, reflect the opinions of this publication) Penney's sales clerk said to my Mother.

When it settled uneasily into my rattled psyche, however, it was recorded to last until the end of time (way past when the Mayans shut everything down in mid-December) thusly:

"Would you like me to just take him out back and put him out of his misery now, or would you prefer to subject him to a lifetime of struggling to zip up his jackets because the zipper fasteners will forever be out of sight below his bulging belly?"

Mom opted to let me live, and I determined in 1959 to fight my way out of the Husky Dept.  It took some time.  If you catch me in a good place on my lifelong yo-yo weight cycle, though, I'm out of the husky (now, thankfully called "relaxed fit") section, at least until the next predictable relapse. 

Predictable?  Yeah-huh.  It almost always coincides with a week-long sale of Blue Bell Ice Cream at 10 pints for $10.  Addiction is a brutal mistress, but I can control even that when I grit my teeth and concentrate.

All I have to do is recall the painful sound of my stiff new Levi Husky jeans rubbing together between my legs and making an ear-piercing (to me, at least) "swish, swish" sound as I walked the shiny, freshly waxed halls of Robert E. Lee Junior High School in Grand Prairie, Texas.

Lunch cost 35 cents back then.  Some of us decked out in Levi's Huskies as our teen years loomed dead ahead and the 1950s were about to bow out in favor of the gritty '60s remember that an ice cream bar only cost a nickel in the lunchroom.

At least one of us recalls that when Mistress Sweet Tooth had us firmly in her grisly grasp, you could get right (until guilt took over) with seven Fudgesicles for that 35 cents.

11 December 2012

On the record about Santa Claus

SScooter463

Like Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers, whom you'll hear if you click on the video below, I believe in Santa Claus.

Perhaps unlike Ms. Parton and Mr. Rogers, though, my declaration that Old Santa Claus, as my dad used to call him, is real is based on a split decision.  Call it belief first and practicality a close second.

My brother and I grew up in what you might call a loving home of modest means almost in the shadows of the Chance Vought (later to be called Ling-Temco-Vought) aircraft plant in Grand Prairie, Tex.  Our dad worked at "The Plant" building warplanes of mass destruction.  My older brother did too, although over on the white collar side.

RPlayer251rI succumbed to the siren's blaring whistle of a solid steady, if modest paycheck as well briefly in my early college years.  At least I did until I tripped and fell about 10 feet to the cement floor out of the cockpit of an A-7 Corsair II fighter jet.  I prefer to say that I was the first one to bail out of that sleek bird of prey.

That's when I decided factories weren't for me.  A pretty good indication was that I hated the place and despised almost everything it stood for.  My anti-war feelings grew with every rivet I installed. 

In my youth, though, when I was 11 or 12, The Plant, as my dad always called it, occupied a more revered place in my curious mind.  That was where my father walked off to every morning to put food -- some meat, but lots of beans and stews -- on the table.  When there was some jingle left in Dad's pocket on weekends, we'd drive up to the Prairie Dog on East Main where -- in the early mid-60s -- we'd share a sack of seven-for-$1 burgers.

I am not making this up.

That's when I cemented my belief in Old Santa Claus that remains rock-solid to this day.

I was about 11, and more than a few of my friends were tossing around the "Santa is not real" theory.  Not me, though.  The practical side of sticking with the chubby guy in the red suit leaving gifts trumped actual faith at that time.

In our humble home, my brother and I got, at the most, two presents from our parents.  Santa left a third one. 

You do the math.  I wasn't about to take one-third of my presents, in fact usually the best one, out of the gift mix.

Figuring that out was easy.  The second part of the equation, i.e. actually believing in Old Santa Claus, came via an extremely tough lesson.

The kids across the street were doing all they could to corrupt me in my 11th year.  In addition to debunking the fact that Santa even existed, they also told me that when their parents were away from the house they would carefully open the packages to see what they were getting.  Of course, they would reseal everything.

I would never even consider doing anything that disrespectful.  So I did something worse.

I really, really, really wanted a red and white portable record player that year.  I had to have it on the same level that Ralphie needed that Red Ryder BB Gun in "A Christmas Story" (1983).  There was this sensational new singing group from Great Britain called The Beatles burning up the record charts, you see.  I simply had to have that record player.

Some of you may recall that once upon a time there was something called "being practical." My parents -- my dad especially -- were firm believers that if you couldn't afford something, you simply did not get it.  Even I knew we couldn't afford the record player I craved so much.

Did I let it go?  Nope.  As calmly as I could, I informed my parents that I'd pretty much just lie down and die if I didn't get that record player.

The Saturday before  Christmas, my mom and dad and I were motoring west on Main St. when my dad parked the car in front of the A&P.  That was just a few doors down from Skillern's Drug Store, where the red-and-white record player waited for me, just itching for me to plug it in and turn up the volume on a few "Yeah, yeah, yeahs" from The Beatles. 

"You wait in the car," my dad said.  "We'll be back in a minute."

If only I'd waited in the car like my parents said.

A tsunami of curiosity engulfed me to a point where I couldn't even take a breath.  So I slipped from the car and eased down the sidewalk toward the Skillern's window hugging the wall all the way.  I peeked in to see My Record Player out on the counter.  My dad had money in his hand.  Dad's hands were moving toward the clerk behind the counter ... 

For whatever reason, Dad glanced toward the window and saw me looking through the glass.

In what must have taken only a few seconds, but seemed like an eternity to me, my father shook his head "No" at the clerk, put the bills back in his pocket and -- with the sternest look I ever saw on his face -- escorted my mom toward the door.

I barely beat them to the car and scrambled into the back seat.  Neither of them said a word about the incident.  (In fact, they never did.)

That was the saddest Christmas Eve of my life.  How could they?  After all, The Beatles were counting on me.  For all practical purposes, my life was over.

The next morning, I slumped into the living room, merely going through the Christmas morning motions.  And under the tree, what did I see?

My red-and-white portable record player!  Yeah, yeah, yeah, life was wonderful and The Beatles' career was saved.

Merry Christmas, everybody!  Never stop believing.

Hit it, Dolly and Kenny ... (Click arrow below)

    

(Record player image courtesy:  http://www.bl.uk

27 November 2012

Of all the auction joints ...

Piano350r
Sam (Dooley Wilson), Rick (Humphrey Bogart) and Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) toast the war effort and romance. (Warner Bros.)
Must we remember this?  That's no way to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the release of "Casablanca"?

Reports are circulating that Sotheby's will auction off the downsized 58-key piano used in the Paris flashback scenes of "Casablanca," with some speculating that the scaled-down ivories used in 1942's Best Picture Oscar winner will fetch over a million bucks on Dec. 14.

According to the Associated Press, the piano Humphrey Bogart's Rick leaned on to toast Ingrid Bergman's Ilsa with "Here's looking at you, kid" is being put up for auction by a Japanese collector who bought it in a previous Sotheby's auction for $154,000 in 1988.

"As Time Goes By" is no longer just the love anthem of "Casablanca."  Now it also represents a hefty film prop profit margin.

Ho-Ho-Happy Holidays

Mir34th463

Happy holidays!  And to all a good night or afternoon, especially those who book the latest seasonal Movie Memories presentation:  "Happy Ho-Ho-Holidays:  Great Holiday Movies."

Cheerfully taking its place alongside "'It's a Wonderful Life' -- A Classic Holiday Must-See," "Happy Ho-Ho-Holidays" celebrates great movies involving Santa Claus, from Edmund Gwenn's genteel gentleman of Christmas rotundness in "Miracle on 34th Street" in 1947 to Tim Allen's reluctant call to duty as a confused St. Nick in "The Santa Clause" in 1994.

BadSan300rAnd yes, we'll get down and dirty with Billy Bob Thornton's boozing, thieving, but somehow embraceable, department store Santa in "Bad Santa" (2003).

But wait, as the pitchmen say on TV, there's more.  We'll revisit some Christmas classics, such as "It's A Wonderful Life" and "White Christmas," and include a few heart-tuggers like "Prancer," "The Polar Express" and "The Family Stone."

I don't have to tell you that the holiday season is upon us.  So call 972.599.2150 to schedule the "Happy Ho-Ho-Holidays" or "It's a Wonderful Life" Movie Memories presentation for your holiday company gathering, book club, country club, group, retirement center or senior center while slots remain available.

("Miracle on 34th Street" photo courtesy: 20th Century Fox/"Bad Santa" photo of Billy Bob Thornton courtesy:  Dimension Films.)

04 August 2011

What's wrong with this picture?

Two252 OK, the floor is open for debate.

What's wrong or right about this picture of Ashton Kutcher in Charlie Sheen's old perch between Angus T. Jones, left, and Jon Cryer in the familiar "Two and a Half Men" pose?

Can anyone suggest a reason why CBS and the production company have decided to re-tool and move forward with a show that, although a cash cow, was broke beyond Humpty Dumpty repair when Sheen moved to Mars mentally and abandoned all hope of salvaging his financial connection to "the good life," i.e. drugs and women?

Please sing to the tune of the "Two and a Half Men" theme song:

"Money ... money ... money ... money ... mon-eeeeeeeeeeeeee."

Take it from me, this creative shipwreck is doomed to failure on the artistic level.

No one could right the Titanic once it went belly up, and no one will ever recreate the magic-in-a-bottle of Sheen as the heavy drinking womanizer who reluctantly allows his nebbish brother Alan (Cryer) and nephew Jake (Jones) to share his Malibu beach house.

Kutcher, a decent actor, will give it the good go.  According to a report by the Hollywood Reporter, CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler had high praise for Kutcher (and took a slight verbal snipe at Sheen) Wednesday as she faced reporters at the fall TV network dog and pony show in L.A.

"'We have an extraordinary actor in Ashton Kutcher. You have someone who is committed to doing their job and is incredibly professional,' she said, adding that Kutcher is 'an extraordinarily talented, funny and gifted actor,'" sez the posted Hollywood Reporter article.

Tassler forgot to mention one thing.  Kutcher is not Charlie Sheen, and you can read into that what you will.

I have met and interviewed Sheen on more than one occasion.  I always walked away thinking something like, "This guy's crazy as a loon."

And that was before his cars began suspiciously falling off cliffs into deep Cali canyons.  That was before Sheen took a hike as TV's highest paid sitcom guy and showed up in Tinsel Town waving a machete and gathering a posse of "goddesses" to keep around the house.

Charlie is Charlie is Charlie.

He was also extremely funny as the anchor of the sitcom CBS is trying to rebuild.

Once Sheen exits the "Two and a Half Men" grand scheme for good, however, as he likely will when the new season debuts Sept. 19 with a two-parter that's rumored to be about Charlie's funeral, the only people who stand to "win" are the advertisers, CBS and the production company.

Bottom line men, you see, could care less about artistic integrity, on-screen chemistry or a sitcom story that makes sense.

They're keen on something else.  Hit it boys ...

"Money ... money ... money ... money ... mon-eeeeeeeeeeeeee."

Tips on beating the August Texas heat

  • Stay indoors:  If you have good air conditioning, don't even think of cracking the front door open until around mid-November.  It's too darn hot.
  • Let a neighborhood movie theater pay the outrageous electric bill to keep you cool.  Take in the  movie "Cowboys & Aliens." That'll take your mind off your electric bill because you'll be pondering the notion of high-tech aliens invading Earth in the 19th century Old West. Believe it or not, this one is fun.  Click here for my review of "Cowboys & Aliens."
  • Just for fun, drive to Dairy Queen (with your auto air conditioner on Arctic Blast) and order a dip cone at the drive-through window.  Count the number of red lights you hit on the way home.  (Hint:  Take along paper towels to clean up melted Dip Cone from your hand, arm and vehicle.)

 New Movie Memories presentations

Those of you who visit this Web page regularly probably know that you can click on the list of Movie Memories presentations on the top left portion of the page for a description of each presentation.

There may be some new additions since you last perused them.  And today I'm happy to announce that we're adding "Life Lessons I've Learned at the Movies" to the mix. 

If you have a club, group or gathering of weary senators and/or congresspersons looking for a little fun after debating the debt ceiling debacle for way too long, check out the description of "Life Lessons I've Learned at the Movies" and give us a call at 972-599-2150 to book your presentation.

Most of all, enjoy our sizzling Texas summer, stay out of the heat as best you can and brace yourself for the revised "Two and a Half Men."

("Two and a Half Men" photo courtesy:  CBS)

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