Monday, September 29, 2008

see ya, Butch Cassidy

The Sting (in the movie theater) and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (in revival at the drive-in) were my first exposure to Paul Newman and his baby blues when I was a kid.

I have to admit, he was more my mother's crush - I fell hard for Robert Redford. But Newman always was understood to be great in our house of movie buffs. My dad let us watch Cool Hand Luke on TV. And my daughter will get to know him as the voice of Doc in Cars.

I love Newman's Own ginger cream cookies. Amazing. Not to mention the charity behind the brand.

What else can I say? A great guy, who will be missed.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

shut up, old man

If McCain said one more time last night how he was in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. etc. ... All he left out of each sentence was "before you were born." It was like cranky gramps trying to tell the young dude what's what. When he went on about Afghanistan and mentioned Alexander the Great, I was waiting for him to add, "My great friend..." There was too much inside-the-Beltway speak, too. I mean, really, the acronym of DOD probably went over like DUH in many "Main Street" homes. There was too much condescension. I didn't really intend to be ageist about this election, as the differences in positions on issues were more than enough for me. Not to mention the serial bad decisions and bad choices coming from Camp McCain. But after last night, these words come to mind. Coot. Geezer. Codger. Curmudgeon. Crank. Galoot.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

rock 'em sock 'em runway

So we didn't get to see Kenley get "auf'd" last night. Oh well, it's coming.

What is it about Project Runway that is so fun? I'm not even sure why we call shows like this "reality" shows anymore. They are long-format game shows, with a dash of soap opera thrown in. Runway is the only one I watch, for a variety of reasons.
  1. It's about creativity. Some of its imitators may be, too, but Runway's got Tim Gunn and fashion is something we all participate in, on some level, unless we live in a nudist colony.
  2. It's set in New Yawk.
  3. It takes place at my alma mater (Parsons). What really adds an extra-special punch to watching this show is how accurately Project Runway captures the (my) art school experience. From the crushing deadlines, the low budget, the limited supplies, the competition. The bitchy critiques from both the judges (teachers) and other designers (students). It's like I was right back there. The only difference between art school and the world at large is that at art school (Runway) the critiques are public and out there for everyone to see and hear. This same sort of stuff goes on in our regular jobs too, it's just usually behind closed doors or your back.
  4. Did I mention creativity? Everyone has had creative experiences, if just when they were a kid with crayons. Trying to make something from nothing is very human. And fascinating to watch.
  5. It's about success and failure, something that obsesses most folks these days.
I refuse to peek ahead at the collections, as I'm enjoying my art-school-episodic-soap-opera, so please don't ruin it for me. I know you can just see the clothes, on the 'net, not who's the winner, but I don't even want to see that yet. I can wait. And it looks like next week will be a Babwa Wawa cry-a-thon. Tears at critiques? Yep, that how it was then. And still is now. Look out, Kenley...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

the only Palin that matters

Michael Palin is funny, intelligent and curious.

He will always have Monty Python's Flying Circus as a shining star on his resume, but he has also done brilliant work in A Fish called Wanda and has put together some fun and interesting travel/history shows for British TV.

He's no lightweight.

But shouldn't we have high expectations of our comedians, television hosts and authors?

thanks to Mary for the link

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

rumble in da bronx

I've been going (or been taken) to Yankee Stadium since I was a kid.

All sorts of memories.

Of a streaker who disrupted a game.

Of some ticket snafu which, after my dad said he was a newspaperman, got us down into the clubhouse where we got to meet a player and get the autographs of ball players not playing the first game of the double-header (Thurman Munson!)

Bat day, hat day, ball day.

Seeing them at Shea when the stadium was being renovated.

In college, taking the subway up to the Bronx - it took FOREVER.

Seeing them in Florida at a Spring training game. Seeing them on the road, in D.C., Baltimore.

Some of the coolest players ever.

Roy White. Thurman. Bobby Murcer. Ron Guidry. Catfish Hunter. Reggie Jackson, Dave Winfield, Paul O'Neill.

Hearing my dad talk about the stars of his day.

DiMaggio. Rizzuto.

The Yankees are more than just a team to my family and me. It's part of our background. Our Noo Yawk roots.

I just hope they can preserve the white trim.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

quantity and quality

The Onion had this recent post, which inspired me to wonder: What's my most-rewatched movie?

Thanks to cable and DVDs (and having a kid around) movies can be seen again and again and again (and again.) I've always been a film nut, and used to go to the movies ALOT (not so much these days), but I had to think about this to come up with an honest top 10 or so, in no particular order. Of course being able to quote huge passages (if not the whole text) of a film is definitely a qualifier:

Monty Python and the Holy Grail I've seen it on PBS, in the theater, in Paris with French subtitles (and believe me, the French did not accurately translate the taunting scene) "Is there someone else up there we can talk to?"

French Soldier: I don't want to talk to you no more, you empty headed animal food trough wiper. I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.

Rear Window I'm a huge fan of Hitch, but this movie somehow seems to be the one of his that I can watch the most again and again. Artists like frames and pictures, maybe the abstract quality has something to do with it. The blatant voyeurism and the city living. Plus, it's fun to watch Jimmy Stewart, Grace Kelly and Thelma Ritter unravel all the mysteries of their neighbor's lives.

Blazing Saddles Lilly von Shtupp, Cleavon Little, Gabby Johnson, Hedly Lamarr. I wasn't allowed to see this when it came out. All the kids in school were going on about the campfire scene, but when I finally saw the movie that wasn't my favorite.

Lili Von Shtupp: A wed wose; how womantic.

Hedley Lamarr: Qualifications?
Gum Chewer: [chewing gum] Murder . . . armed robbery . . . mayhem . . .
Hedley Lamarr: Wait a moment. What have you got in your mouth?
Gum Chewer: [stops chewing, looks around nervously] . . . nuff'm.
Hedley Lamarr: Nuff'm, eh? Lyle!
Lyle: [searches man's mouth, pulls out gum] Gum!
Hedley Lamarr: Chewing gum in line, eh? I hope you brought enough for everybody!

Gum Chewer: [begins to panic] I didn't know there was going to be so many!
Hedley Lamarr: [shoots gum chewer]
Jim: [hidden behind a rock] Boy, is he strict!

Young Frankenstein I saw this with my family when it came out and the punchline probably escaped me then, but it is still one of my favorite films (and the b&w photography is just stunning.) I can quote, probably, most of this movie.

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: That music... .
Frau Blücher: Yes. It's in your blood - it's in the blood of ALL Frankensteins. It reaches the soul when words are useless. Your grandfather used to play it to the creature HE vas making.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Then it was you all the time.
Frau Blücher: Yes.

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: You played that music in the middle of the night... .
Frau Blücher: Yes.

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: get us to the laboratory.
Frau Blücher: Yes.

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: That was YOUR cigar smoldering in the ashtray.
Frau Blücher: Yes.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: And it was you... . who left my grandfather's book out for me to find.
Frau Blücher: Yes.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: So that I
would... .
Frau Blücher: Yes.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Then you and Victor were... .
Frau Blücher: YES. YES. Say it. He vas my... . BOYFRIEND.

The Uninvited It's scary, romantic, charming and with Ray Milland - everything a classic Britsh ghost story should be.

Curse of the Demon I used to catch this movie with Dana Andrews on TV whenever it was on when I was a kid. It was very scary at the time, and it's still creepy now. Great shots of Stonehenge, too.

The Wizard of Oz Pretty much the greatest movie ever made.

Singin' in the Rain - Gene Kelly is the epitome of exuberance, hotness, athleticism, and he's funny, too. Plus, Cyd Charisse, Donald O'Connor and a 19 yr-old Debbie Reynolds. What a movie.

[after filming a love scene]
Lina: Oh Donny! You couldn't kiss me like that and not mean it just a teensy bit!
Don Lockwood: Meet the greatest actor in the world! I'd rather kiss a tarantula.
Lina: You don't mean that.
Don Lockwood: I don't - - Hey Joe, get me a tarantula.

The Mummy This just moves and moves and the stars have great chemistry and the Mummy is super-hot (Brendan Fraser and his Egyptian warrior friend aren't too shabby, either)

When Harry Met Sally A more accessible Woody Allen wannabe. Totally a guilty pleasure, but totally fun.

Notting Hill - The Hugh Grant we all wish he was (where About A Boy's Hugh Grant is probably closer to the truth. BTW, love that one, too.)

Honorable mentions:

The kid made me watch it, but now I'm hooked: Hairspray, Grease, Pocahontas, Shrek, The Incredibles, The Cat Returns

The boyfriend made me watch it, really: Any Schwarzenneger movie, Ronin

My parents made me watch it, but now I love it: Any Bogart movie, but especially Casablanca

Movie-buff osmosis: The Godfather, Citizen Kane, All About Eve

Friday, September 19, 2008

The women, and what they do to themselves

There is no way I am going to see the remake of this classic film, and not just because of what Meg Ryan has done to her face. I mean, Meg, what's wrong with you? You lived through the 80s. Didn't you catch Terry Gilliam's brilliant Brazil? At the time it seemed like satire, but unfortunately actress after actress (and some actors) and Hollyweird plastic surgeon after plastic surgeon makes this scene a reality. It's painful to watch.

But back to The Women and remakes. We all know that there seems to be little original thought (or collective memory) in La-la land, but it didn't take much research to confirm that this movie was already re-made - as a musical.

Sorry, as campy and dated as it can be, I'd rather watch the 1939 babes trade barbs (and check out the technicolor fashion show - take that Project Runway!):

Crystal Allen: There is a name for you, ladies, but it isn't used in high society... outside of a kennel.

Edith Potter: Darling!
Mary Haines: Hello!
Edith Potter: Your so slim I could kill you!
Mary Haines: You don't have to, The diet I'm on is pure poison!

Re Meg Ryan, one of People's most beautiful in 1984 (ahh, those were the days) - I just don't buy the crap that "mature" actresses can't get any good roles, so they mutilate themselves to try to compete with the younger ones. Our culture is (and always has been) youth-obsessed. We've all heard about how to judge beauty - basically it's the proportions of a baby's face.

Beauty regimens and standards may slightly shift through the ages, but youth has always been a draw (Henry VIII, anyone?) I'm not against trying to look good, stay healthy. Dye away the gray hair (you go, Todd Rundgren!) And if a little nip and tuck is in your budget, I guess that could be part of the routine. But the problem is, once you've started, where do you stop? Meg, please stop.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

always late to the party...

...I just heard about the new Joss Whedon show, Dollhouse, which is coming sometime this fall/winter. Sounds sort of like The Matrix meets The Fugitive meets Blade Runner meets etc., etc.

Hmmm...looks like a female Giles this time and a vampire-like crypt where all the kids hang out. This is at least worth a watch or two, if just for the possibility that Sarah Michelle Gellar's Buffy (incredibly remote) or James Marsters's Spike (not so remote, practically guaranteed) might show up. Whedon has always seemed pretty faithful to his actors - witness Dollhouse star Eliza Dushku.

The publicity blurb mentions Whedon's past shows Buffy and Firefly, but not the one I truly miss...Angel.

from the episode In the Dark [Angel has just saved Rachel from a violently abusive boyfriend, while Spike watches—and narrates—from the rooftop.]

Spike [as Rachel, falsetto]: How can I thank you, you mysterious, black-clad, hunk of a night thing?

Spike [as Angel, basso]: No need, little lady, your tears of gratitude are enough for me. You see, I was once a bad-ass vampire, but love and a pesky curse defanged me. Now I'm just a big, fluffy puppy with bad teeth. [Rachel sways closer to Angel; he steps back, warding her off with his hands.] No, not the hair! Never the hair!

Spike [as Rachel]: But there must be some way I can show my appreciation.

Spike [as Angel]: No, helping those in need's my job. And working up a load of sexual tension and prancing away like a magnificent poof is truly thanks enough!

Spike [as Rachel]: I understand. I have a nephew who's gay, so...

Spike [as Angel]: Ah. Say no more. Evil's still afoot ... and I'm almost out of that nancy-boy hair gel that I like so much. Quickly! To the Angelmobile — AWAY! [Rachel and Angel leave. Spike lights a cigarette.]

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

two months to go...

The Who Won't Get Fooled Again:

The change, it had to come
We knew it all along
We were liberated from the fold, that's all
And the world looks just the same
And history ain't changed
'Cause the banners, they are flown in the next war

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again

Verve Bittersweet Symphony:

'Cause it's a bittersweet symphony, this life
Trying to make ends meet
You're a slave to money then you die...
You know I can't change, I can't change
I can't change, I can't change

Yes, you can change.

Friday, September 12, 2008

can't touch this

There's no such thing as a content-free moment in our world. Even birthday cards are multimedia. And that's how it should be.

P.S. What really made this song was Rick James's Super Freak, but who remembers that anymore?

everbody have fun tonight

click on this card if you dare

Thursday, September 11, 2008

another cool toy

Your content, they make the video:

Pretty cool, huh? Not exactly a do-it-yourself, but maybe more interactive ability will be forthcoming...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

la, la, la, yikes

What is it with the music industry and duets? Why do they keep foisting unlikely pairings on innocent ears? The local radio station that I listen to recently changed its format from a fun eclectic mix to classic rock, so I have been switching over to the pop/rock station when the umpteenth Zeppelin song is played during my morning commute. I know, I know, I could bring CDs or plug in the iPhone, but sometimes it's fun to hear something different, that I would never play. But not this morning.

My ears were assailed by this chestnut from Cher and Peter Cetera. It got me thinking about duets. How can some be so right and some be just so wrong? Cher should know how to sing a duet. I Got You Babe is a classic, I guess (and will probably turn up in rotation in that new station format - yikes.)

What about some other good cop bad/cop situations? Stevie Nicks is a good (and bad) example. Her work with Tom Petty on Stop Draggin' My Heart Around is great and even Whenever I Call You Friend can be a fun radio song. But Leather and Lace with Don Henley - not so much. Stevie seems to be having a bit of a renaissance lately, with rumors of Fleetwood Mac touring next year, and the internet passings around of footage of a recent performance. But when I think of Stevie (apart from her famous collaboration and relationship with Lindsay Buckingham) School of Rock's Joan Cusack being summoned by Jack Black to dance to Edge of Seventeen on the jukebox also comes to mind...

Monday, September 08, 2008

pop goes my heart

So much has happened in the past ten years to the way the world communicates that it's hard to keep up. Should you blog? Tweet? Is it archaic to pick up the phone for a long gab? Or meet for lattes?

I have always loved pop culture and love to find the areas where high and low culture meet. But I wonder what it will be like for a child, who is now 4, to reminisce about the culture of its youth in 2040 and beyond.

My youth had regularly scheduled TV programs (with fewer channels, even when cable hit), radio stations that filtered a few select genres of music, and movies that came out with less frequency. You could count the blockbusters on your hands: Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Top Gun, Ghostbusters. But now, with music, movies and TV shows available at a finger's touch, everyone is a maestro of his or her own content. In a way it's great. Hitchcock, The Tudors and SpongeBob can be had whenever you want them. But the concept of "water cooler talk" may be over. If everyone is self-programming, then what's the great show, event, etc. to recap on Monday morning?

Maybe with folks watching and listening to what they want when they want, it will make dependency of the boob tube less a focus of people's lives, but somehow I doubt that. I think we are likely to transfer our evening viewing to the computer or iPhone screen instead, or in conjunction with, the TV.

If everyone is connected all the time, what will that mean for privacy? I embrace technology, but I am also looking for ways to relax, simplify - there's a part of me that could just be a beach bum (with the iPhone in a sand-proof carrier.)

For the daughter of a newspaperman, I have to admit that I get most of my news online - I haven't had newsprint in the house in years (sorry, Pop, it's the way of the world.) There was an excellent article recently from Roger Ebert on "how to read a film." Anyone who loves "old" movies might want to try his technique to look at the deeper readings of film, through composition and artistic placement. Artists have been working with the rectangle and placement for centuries. We are still in love with the rectangle via our iPhones and our computer screens, but are we still 'reading" in the same way? Most folks scan email, multi-task while the TV is on, yap on the phone while they drive. What exactly gets anyone's attention? Or does everything?

Just some thoughts swirling through my head...

Sunday, September 07, 2008

cable's guilty pleasures

On a rainy day, scrolling through too many channels, I ran across this old gem. Not a great movie exactly - we're not talking Hitchcock, here - but once I start watching it I can't stop. And the main reason for that is Gary Cole.

Mike Brady: Cindy, you know by tattling on your friends, you're really just tattling on yourself. By tattling on your friends, you're just telling them that you're a tattletale. Now is that the tale you want to tell?

He is one of those actors who, whatever he's in, he's brilliant. Not a marquee name, but a great actor, and an interesting person, if you read his resume. He made the character of Mike Brady his own, so it's actually hard to picture Robert Reed anymore - and I grew up with that show. He totally nails the "wise 70s TV dad" lectures:

Mike Brady: A gift is only a good thing when the giver has given thought to that gift. But when the gift the giver gives gives grief, then that gift should give the givee regrets.

And his truly amazing portrayal of boss Bill Lumbergh in Office Space - well, who hasn't had some work experience with someone so vile as Lumbergh? He just nails it, every time, the inflection, the drawled "positive" words at the end of key sentences. The movie, because of him (and a little red stapler) is a classic, quotable.

Bill Lumbergh: Milt, we're gonna need to go ahead and move you downstairs into storage B. We have some new people coming in, and we need all the space we can get. So if you could just go ahead and pack up your stuff and move it down there, that would be terrific, OK?

God bless Gary Cole.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

can you hear the angels singing?

I've always been a big fan of Apple. Besides their little-guy persona (little guy, my ass), their design excellence and perseverance, how graphic programs just work "better" on a Mac, they are just damn fun computers to use.

And now the new iPhone.

Besides it's over-the-top coolness factor, in the iPhone, Apple is now giving everyone the opportunity to buy a state-of-the-art (handheld) computer for under $300. So long, Blackberry. The iPhone rocks. Hard.

At the push of a button you can GPS yourself and watch your progress, as you stroll the nabe or get lost somewhere in your car. And that's just one of many, many gadgets on this phone/iPod/computer/camera/etc./etc.

This isn't an ad for the thing. Apple doesn't need my endorsement. I'm sure the lines are still queuing. It's just super cool, is all.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

the myth of the supermom

Women can do it all, right? That's what I was brought up to believe. And technically, I guess, every day I prove the point. But does anyone talk about what doesn't get done? What gets lost?

I'm not talking about seeing new releases weeks (or years) after everyone else has. That's nothing.

If mom is busy all day at work and busy at home later trying to feed you, bathe you, hold down the fort, etc., what is getting missed (besides hours of sleep)? Does the kid really get the amount of attention it needs and deserves? Does the mom get to spend any quality time with family, friends, love of her life? What about herself? What about trying to feed her mental and emotional needs? Or updating her blog?

The fast-paced world we live in can be quite exciting, but exhausting too. To me the most interesting thing about recent political events and the anti-Hillary is wondering why anyone, but especially a mom, would want to spread herself even thinner than she is already.

I'm not politically conservative, but I find it oxymoronic that a so-called social conservative isn't being lambasted yet by the family values groups. Is it good for a special-needs (or any) newborn to have a mom who wants to take a new 24-hour-on-call job? With a major stress level? In the most formative years of a child's life?

Just askin'...

All people are born alike - except Republicans and Democrats.

Groucho Marx