Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Muppets and Me and Stuff

So...I have been toying with the idea of maybe starting another blog.

Goodness knows it's not because this one was getting so many hits......wink, wink.....or that I just have SO many posts to fit in, it's just because I can't seem to find a medium between blog-posts that actually have something to do with the theme of this blog (classic movie reviews, in case you forgot) and posts about my personal life. Now that my personal life is a messy place with a lot to write down I figured it might be a good idea to curb the inconsistent flow of unhelpful movie reviews and even more unhelpful personal reviews. So, if I am just posting mindless reviews on here for a while trust it does not mean there is nothing at all to write about going on personally but that a new blog may be in the making.

For now, I have finally come out of hiding to bring you a new movie for once: Not only a new movie, a REALLY new movie that I bet a bunch of you haven't seen yet but have been thinking about seeing, and even better, a movie I saw the day it premiered. Beat that if you can.

Nearly a whole year ago....maybe more....I learned that this movie was being made, and dreamed of the day I could review it. Ya'll remember that time in my life, when you couldn't scroll down my page without finding Muppet in every nook and cranny of this blog. There were two reasons for that: 1. I am an over-obsesser, and when I enjoy something I tend to be unable to think of anything else. Things like the Muppets, John Denver, Porky Pig, Humphrey Bogart and Lost: That for some reason or other make me feel happy or interest me, (or give me an funny excuse to parry accusations about crushing on boys) tend to take a central seat in my life (more than is healthy, I'm sure) and make me want to share them with all the awesome people around me. Ok, yes--your hunch was right. 1. can pretty much be summed up by saying I'm a nerd about stuff. 2. is that the Muppets are easy to get obsessive over. Their fun, their felt, they had very catchy music and, (really horribly old, grant it) Danny Kaye and Don Knotts. But more than that, they had a way of getting under your skin and making you feel all fluffy and mushy and happy inside. Listen to 'Rainbow Connection' if you don't know what I mean. Maybe it's just the fact that I grew up loving them and therefore they became sacred images of my childhood splendor, but judging from the large (and seriously, creepy) internet-based fan-clubs teeming with people who's lives revolve around ping-pong ball eye related stuff, (see, TheMuppetMindset, and MuppetCentral) there's a following of people who feel the same way. And as an amateur (but now 16) movie reviewer, I'm here to testify that this new movie made both of us very, very happy.

First of all: The plot is basically three of their other movies combined with something else unoriginal, but it doesn't matter a bit. With the Muppets, it's all been done before: The onstage/offstage plots of of the Muppet show were like Jack Benny except with more explosions and their puppets. This is like a Muppet show movie. Except...well darn, it's a lot more than that. Maybe I should move on to something a little easier.

The humans: For those of you who haven't tracked this movie from it's earliest conception, you may not know two things: a) it was written by, produced, and starred the same man. and b) that man is Jason Segel, whom you will know as the voice of Vector from Despicable Me. You should also know that neither of these things ought to be held against him, for we owe it to him to have created a fun, funny, heartfelt, clean and sincerely nerdy movie that hearkens back to the days when Milton Berle could be found running used car dealerships and Rowlf the Dog was a household name. Also starring in it is Amy Adams of Enchanted fame, who's role in Julie and Julia caused the author of this blog to chop all her beautiful hair off, only to see her sporting the long and wavy doo (again). Life isn't fair. Both have miniscule roles as utterly normal pair Gary and Mary, the latter of which's dreams of tying the knot are always squashed by the fact that Gary feels himself responsible for his tiny felt brother Walter, who is (yep) a Muppet. THIS much you should have gathered from the commercials already, so I digress.

Walter, again for those who don't know, is the new Muppet who was introduced for a slew of reasons, none of which I can think of right now. I will say with all honesty that when I first encountered this my first thought was "Basic Disney marketing ploy, cute new character garnered in order to shove merchandise down fan's throat"...or something to that effect, and gathered every bit of change-resistant hate I had, ready to slew at anyone and anything that tried to take screen time from the original Muppets. Whether or not all that is true, I lost the battle. Despite his annoying nasally voice and the fact that every other scene he's in is an emotional one, Walter is frickin' adorable and I may end up 'Awwing' as much as the obnoxious teenagers that sat behind me if I go to see it again. Ok, I even take back what I said at first. Walter doesn't take near as much screen-time as the trailers lead me to believe, and he is a good investment of time, giving the other Muppets something to spring-board off: their one and only devoted admiring fan in a world of people who have moved on.

This was not only a marketing ploy, it was a great one that worked and got it's point across with gusto. This subplot that no one knows or cares who the Muppets are anymore works well and makes a lot of sense, probably because of the sad but in this case, maybe fortunate ring of truth to it. (It's not like you can blame us. Let's take your favorite characters, make a bunch of cruddy B-pictures and replace your star with a disgustingly not-funny king Prawn (below) and see how nostalgic you feel about it. Oh Henson, we miss you...) In the end, the fact that it all worked out *SPOILER* grant it, after a premature "The End" sign flashed across the screen, gives hope for the future that may be as true as the bleakness of the past (namely the 90's) with people realizing and remembering how great they really were. Yeah baby.

One more thing
before I give the over-all; This movie is so nerdy you can't shake a stick at it, and I love that. So many minor characters..including my two favorites, Rowlf and Scooter, get bigger parts than they have in any movie. References are made to every single other Muppety production worth referencing, and very obviously someone involved frequented the forums of one of those sights I just mentioned. But anyway. The musical numbers, namely Tex Richman, Me Party and...yeah, Am I A Man or a Muppet (and I swear I didn't make any of those up) were so tongue-in-cheek you sometimes wonder just how cheesy they were trying to be. But the good news is, it all works. It really, really all works out into a movie that...well...let's not get ahead;

The Bottom Line: See it. See it now. Make all your friends see it. Take your kids. If there's anything good left in this crazy world, let it spawn a comeback of clean quality humor we can appreciate together. The movie is clean by the way, I racked my brain to think of a part where it wasn't and the best I could do was some women dressed in Las Vegas style showgirl outfits during one number, so I'll go ahead and warn you:

There. This is as racy as it gets. In a 2011 movie. God bless you Jason Segel.

In the end, the movie somehow becomes fantastic. I don't know where amongst that crazy mix of 80's rock and roll montages, mushy character parts and....driving, it happens, but it does, and about five minutes after watching you realize you've seen a good movie. And about three days afterwards, you want to see it again. And for an undeterminable period of time that end song will be stuck in your head. I swear.

"I've got...everything, that I neee-eed!!"

Oh my gosh that's bad.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Adventures of a Rocky and Bullwinkle Remake Hater

Starting a blog post is like hosting a television show. Every time you have to think of something different to say, to set the tone for the whole thing. But enough of philosophy. I've been watching cartoons again, which, if you are a movie reviewer, is bad. Because there's one universal fact that has been respected until the 1990's, when big-name movies studios decided to break the sacred law: cartoons and movies don't mix. Actually, they do mix, quite often. The rule is, they shouldn't.

You probably know where this is going. Locksley saw another horrible cartoon remake (probably a cartoon she's got on a T-shirt somewhere) and now she's going to use my time and valuable internet space to rant about it.---Oh, how right you are.

The reason for my pilfering the internet looking for this truly diabolical picture is that, yes, again, I love cartoons. The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, to be specific. My parents grew up with this show, my little sisters are now getting into it and even I, at one point in my very early life, was desperately in love with Rocky the flying squirrel (yes I know, squirrels, pigs, Volkswagen bugs...) It's another one of those nostalgia things I like to turn on when I'm feelin' mighty low, like Looney Tunes or Andy Griffith or bouncy German jazz songs. And you know when you stay up extremely late at night eating Butterfingers you stole from Mom and laughing your tuckus off at your own Boris Badenov impressions, your infatuated and it's time to break the illusion-

Very very easy to accomplish. Find the terrible remake the 90's inevitably made.

Shall I cite a few examples? Inspector Gadget, Looney Tunes Back In Action and yes, I'm going to say it's name again, Space Jam. There's is this grotesquely universal idea out there among the movie makers that people are going to pay to see their favorite cartoon characters in whatever horrible remake you want to put them in. It's a contemptible, hilarious, and ludicrous idea... It's an idea that anyone with a brain in their head should have realized wouldn't work...and I just kinda proved it's success by looking this movie up and watching it. Ouch. Let's uh...let's get on with the review...

There's very little plot, so I won't spend much time trying to make it coherent sounding. The beginning would have been enough to make me wanna leave the theater (if I had been watching it there) as they went WAY to far with the tongue-in-cheek narrations. Yes, the narrator from the show was snide and funny. Yours is not. It works well with a cartoon that moves one-hundred miles an hour and ends in a cliffhanger after 2 minutes to have a narrator who occasionally says something glib. It does not work well in a full length movie to have an annoying character who is sort of unseen and narrates the movie we are attempting to watch...and won't "sharrup your mouth" as Boris would say. Like I said, the beginning was terrible, and lasted forever. They seriously spend the first 30 minutes trying to obtain a Hollywood green light for the movie you are currently watching. That sounds like a funny idea, but it really wasn't. To make long story short, Fearless Leader (remember him?) Boris Badenov and Natasha get into the real world through, as the narrator calls it, "The magic of CGI." except their not CGI, their real people. Namely, Robert De Niro, Rene Russo and Jason Alexander. All three are very funny, and it's a shame they are in such a bad movie in the first place. (Fearless Leader- AKA- De Niro does ham up his part though, and being a Boris and Natasha fan I think more of them would have been funnier. Not that it would save the movie. Not even Paul Frees himself could have done that.) In a strange touch, the characters begin in their cartoon world, which is actually nothing at all like the "Frostbite Falls" of the 60's. The animation looks more like Dexter's Laboratory or the The Simpsons punning Rocky and Bullwinkle. Not a huge important thing but something that bugged me. The character of...what's her name...the girl that some forgotten actress named Piper Perabo is playing, is ridiculously underdeveloped. Not that I expected much artistic character development, but seriously, there's a whole (grant it, pathetic) subplot focusing on her 'Giving up her dreams of the past' or something like that so why not at least spend 5 minutes on her? And seriously, she tries to hard to be cute. What is she, twenty? Obviously this is some 90's star who's trade-mark image is lost on me.

The biggest problem is, it HAS funny parts, but the majority of them look like they were made by four year olds for two year olds. These people need to get it through their noggins that what's funny in a cartoon isn't funny in a high-budget movie that comes out in theaters. What's really tongue in cheek and snide in a kiddie show from the 60's looks way to much like it's not tongue in cheek and it's trying way to hard to be snide here.
The majority of the jokes center around Rocky and Bullwinkle's complete inability to relate with modern reality: ipso ergo, campy annoying puns about hip-hop music and the FBI. Plus this whole depressing plot about how miserable their lives have been since their show was taken off the air. Obviously, whoever wrote the script was still pretty bitter about that. I also completely proved how inane the plot was by missing two 10-minute parts of it the first time I watched it and never even noticing. I'm serious. Not a whole lot of points for the plot.

There is a beguiling tendency that gave the Rocky and Bullwinkle show a large part of it's charm, and which goes way overboard in the movie: and that is the statement of the obvious, in other words, saying what everyone else is thinking. For example, the narrator commenting on the plot's predictability, ect. In the movie this makes for a very annoying narrator who won't keep it's mouth shut. While in the show there was scene cut every five seconds, in the movie you wish there was, because as a substitute you get a really bad joke every five seconds. Still, this formula served for one of my favorite lines:
Fearless Leader: "There has never been a way to totally destroy a cartoon character until now."
Secretary: "What about that movie Rodger Rabbit?"

I think it's especially funny to me because I hate both movies and wish a bunch of acid-like gunk would just wash the whole mess away.

Ok- so on to real reviewing. Cinematography? Script? Character development? You will forget they exist in those ignominious 91 minutes. Maybe that is why Roger Ebert defended it against all the other critics saying it was "A funny family movie." The CGI is, I guess, for the most part good- that is, to someone living in 2011 looking back on the special effects of 2000 only made me burst into laughter once. I can't even say it's one of those movies to turn on for the kids and leave the room, because there are several uncomfortably pushing the PG limit moments. And the narrator curses. What a ridiculously unnecessary thing to do! It was as if the producers wanted more than anything to make the children that had watched Rocky and Bullwinkle wake up and say "This is the 21'st century, here we curse and good doesn't mean good. Even Rocky and Bullwinkle know that. Get over those ridiculous morals you were taught as a kid and keep up with the times!

So yes, yet again I'm wasting my time reviewing a forgotten movie that has obviously already left the world's consciousness. But me, ridiculous little me, remembered laughing my head off at this as a teeny-weeny six and a half year old when it came on TV, and just had to ruin the memory. Still, I will continue to enjoy watching the cartoon- maybe more than usual now that I know how bad it could be- undaunted by the 90's and their shamefaced film-making. The original show-like most shows of genius- had an appeal that was multilayer-ed, hit-and-run, unexpected and hard to pin down. You can't make up something like that and know it will work. It just HAPPENS sometimes and then people start falling in love with it and end up talking about it for generations. There are bad shows, there good shows, and then there are classics. Rocky and Bullwinkle was a classic. People can write books about it and still not pin down exactly what made it so durn funny, but whatever it was, the producers of this movie never found it either. They might have been able to remedy this with a lot of actually funny jokes and high-class scenes of action, but they didn't. This movie bears the same title the MST3K people illustrated about "Attack of the Eye Creatures." That is, the makers of this movie "Just didn't care..."

So yeah, bottom line. Didn't like it much. Some people tried hard- mainly the actors who played Natasha and Boris and Fearless Leader, and the original voice of Rocky (June Foray) who returned to do her role. There are, buried amidst a lot of junky direct-to-video 90's rap a possible valuable moral kids are bound to miss and even some funny and snide comments on television. When told fearless Leader plans to release television shows that will turn the viewers into: "Mindless zombies totally incapable of independent thought." to which another man replies, "Totally different from regular TV." Wink wink.

There you go. I think the makers of this movie appreciated the original show, which snidely mocked the rest of the world, but obviously didn't want to take the time and money to make it live up to it's name. Totally different from regular remakes...

P.S. I promise to watch a good movie soon. Citizen Kane is on it's way. Not that, you know, everyone and his mother hasn't already reviewed Citizen Kane, but there is hope that in the future I'll be getting some really high-grade filmmaking into my system.

P.P.S. Anyone got a vintage Rocky and Bullwinkle lunchbox sitting around? Now that I think about it, that'd be pretty awesome. And forget what I told you about Rocky the flying squirrel. It's all over now.

I just found out that there was a 1992 made-for-TV movie called "Boris and Natasha" about...guess who. Well I say "not again!" I will never watch that movie. NEVER do you hear?!

Besides, I can't find it on the internet.

Monday, September 26, 2011

If You Click This, You Will Most Likely Be Dissapointed

Hello Friends!

I have an essay due. Still wondering why I chose right now to blog? You shouldn't!

Because I'm actually not blogging, I'm procrastinating.

(Procrastinate: 1.To put off repeatedly. 2. To keep postponing something supposed to be done. [Latin procrastinare, from pro- "forth" + crastnus " Of tomorrow", from Cras "Tomorrow"]

Now that that is off my chest, I feel bad for starting this and making you click it. So I will give you two pictures of baby Peter Lorre. Yes, you heard me correctly. Two baby pictures of Peter Lorre. Here is number one, (he is the small one, as usual):

His mother's name is Elvira. Wouldn't you just know her name would be Elvira?

This is another one:

I didn't photo shop the arrows. I don't were they came from. I was gonna offer you a prize to fugure out which one is him, but I decided that was stupid. So from left to right, little brother Andre (Andrew), Lazlo (Peter Lorre before they started misspelling his name), stepsister Lesl (Don't know what that becomes), and little brother Ferenc, which by some stretch of the imagination becomes Francis in English. I read this out of a library book, and the library doesn't lie.

And that is it. That's all I have for you. I hope the idea of little bug-eyed baby versions of much-mocked Hungarian/German actors was exciting enough to make your time worth while.

If it does your weirder than I am.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

The...Blogpost Behind the Mask...Or Something...

I said I'd post today, and I am! I am totally amazing!

(I wrote that two days ago. I thought the irony of it was amusing)

Unfortunately being punctual usually means I have little time with which to write with, hence the unusually low amount of witticisms and serious nature in that last post and, probably, this one too. I read about this movie in research for my "I've got a lot of money to blow" list that I was making, looking for some obscure but interesting 30's films to make my collection look... interesting. Peter Lorre was one of the actors I've seen a lot of material from, so I thought I'd see if this one was the public domain before I bought it off of Ebay for a couple of cents. I don't know about the public domain, but I found it anyway, and watched it the dark. Thank you Peter Lorre, that was possibly the most depressing hour and a half of my life. But since I think that's what they were going for I can't necessarily call this a crummy movie. But let's try and give this one a thorough analysis:

My initial reaction was "corny", but I'm not quite sure that adds up like you'd think it would at first. It advertises like a B-grade horror flick, as the poster clearly condones, but it isn't quite; it's's like...that part in the national geographic documentary when it's talking about snake's eating habits and it shows a cute little mouse chewing something and then the scary music starts playing and your thinking "Oh man, I so don't want to see this" and that uncontrollable desire to flip ahead comes over you. It's like an examination of the viciousness of Murphy's law, or what happens when you get a really terrible fortune cookie. In other words, you take a completely innocent guy (Peter Lorre, if you can believe that) and make things get as bad as possible for him. What's more, make you guy a chubby happy Hungarian immigrant and have him run around the first half of the movie being big-hearted and optimistic about everything, and you've got yourself a 30's depression fest no one can laugh about. Except me.

THE PLOT: Peter Lorre plays the happy chubby etc. immigrant I mentioned, Janos Szaby, a watchmaker who comes to New York City with the unquestionably good intentions of making enough money to move his sweetheart over and start a watch shop. I'm completely serious. He then befriends a cop who directs him to a hotel in which there is a completely unrelated subplot about a no-cooking in the rooms rule (?). The hotel burns down and Janos' face is horribly mutilated in the fire. And from that point on it just gets better and better! He can't find work, he tells his girlfriend he's in love with someone else, he tries to commit suicide...then as if the movie wasn't cruel enough he is rescued by a man named Dinky of all things...gets involved with gangsters who don't even have funny accents, meets a pretty blind girl (figuahs, don't it) falls in love, quits gang, gang kills blind girl, flies gang out to the middle of the desert in a revengeful spree and they all die, alone and afraid. Yessir. I couldn't have thought up something worse than that if tried for weeks. The most disgusting part about it (aside from the obvious "Gee I wish I'd never started watching that" feeling it gives you) is it's predictability. The Murphy's law gone wild formula is pretty easy to follow: whatever horrible, life altering tragedy can happen is gonna happen to this guy.

So on to the fun part:

1. There figures prominently a man named Dinky who does not die a horrible fiery death like most of the other characters.

2. The main character has an awesome name. This is bad because it is a bad movie and at some point I'm going to have to tell my adorable little boy that that is where I first heard that name, and he will be angry with me. Thank you Peter Lorre for messing up my relationship with my son!

3. The woman reminds me of that nature-girl from "Open Season", only she's not actually supposed to be annoying which makes it twice as bad.

4. We see Dinky without a shirt on. No joke.

5. By the time your finished with this movie And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie will read like Pippi Long-stockings. And I don't mean the dubbed Swedish film version either.

THE ULTIMATE BAD POINT: This movie is a bleak "life sucks" drama that tries way to hard to be poetic film noir. And it makes you feel bad for a character that Peter Lorre plays. That oughtta tell you something is off.

1. The universe managed to make Peter Lorre say "Dinky." That made me snicker once or twice.

2. If your one of those sick people that likes to see cheesy characters die this is a very satisfying film. That's a sick good point but I'm scrounging here.

3. If you hate Hungary, watchmakers, little schnauzer dogs, people who love listening to the radio, hotels, or men named "Jeff" this is the movie for you.

THE ULTIMATE GOOD POINT: There isn't one. If you went through this movie like I did waiting for something good to happen your in for bitter disappointment brother.

So that's it. I'm not being vindictive, just telling it like it is. This is a movie that would have worked way better with S.Z. Sakall rather than Peter Lorre (aw! I take that back. That would suck even worse) as a believable good guy. In fact, it would have worked way better as a soap opera. That was never made.

Peter Lorre really does not appear to be enjoying himself here. Maybe I'm wrong. It just seems like when he's hopping up and down like Chico Marx at the piano, in Groucho glasses and a mustache, singing his heart out to "Ja, Die Polizie" or playing a crazy spy named colonal Gimpy (a strange, strange movie called Crack Up from 1936) he looks happier than when he's surveying his crushed hopes and dreams for the future. Let me illustrate:

Happy Peter Lorre:

Sad Peter Lorre:

Happy Peter Lorre:

Sad Peter Lorre:

Happy Peter Lorre:

Oh wait...I got mixed up. So long folks!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Dead End Blog Post

I'm going, for the sake of time and my own shame, to pretend like I haven't been absent from blogging for over a month and a half. So, moving on...

Last night was one of those times when God blesses me with the little things. Ruby wanted to watch a movie, I'd been putting her off for weeks on account of my rushed Foundations Collegium schedule and the constant necessity to use all of my spare hours trying (and failing) to sound like Regina Spektor at my new electric keyboard. I wanted to watch and MST3K, she didn't. She wanted to watch one of our old Marx brothers movies, I wasn't in the mood. We finally decided on the very un-hopeful solution of looking to see what was on Netflix...and low and behold they had just added one of my all-time favorite Bogart movies: Dead End.

I love this movie: I love it for a variety of reasons. In my Leanord Malton world of thinking myself an expert on these things, I love it because the scripts are understated and meaningful and theme of the movie drives it's point through in a captivating way. I love the cozy noir feel of it, with the limited amount of sets they had to make it look like a New York City slum. On my girlier Locksley side, I love that Bogart makes me wanna cry and all the kids sound like Bugs Bunny. But on to reviewing.

Dead End has two...or maybe three or four...plot lines, one involving those Bugs Bunny kids I mentioned earlier. Well-meaning rough teenagers who hang out at a dirty peer under the Brooklyn Bridge, fighting other gangs, avoiding the neighborhood cops and trying to taunt the rich kid who's lavish house sits above their playground. The leader of the gang, Tommy (Billy Halop) , is supported by his hard-working sister Drina (Sylvia Sidney), who is on strike with the union. Since her childhood, Drina has been in love with Dave, an architect who went to college but can't seem to get a job now. Meanwhile, a notorious gangster named Baby-face Martin returns to his childhood home, intending to visit his mother and former girlfriend. He ends up teaching Tommy some tricks with a knife, which gets him in serious trouble when he stabs the father of the rich kid who was trying to get him arrested. Martin is rejected by his mother, now old and ragged and decrepit. Then his girlfriend Francey...well...let's just say there's disappointment there too. He plots to kidnap the rich kid,and (in a sarcastic snarky tone) It's up to big brave wonderful Dave to save the day.

The point of the plot, however is not an examination of either gangsters or architects, or even despite what it looks like at first, a comedy about making it through the depression. It's a serious but captivating examination of, as Leonard Malton puts it "Humanity at the breaking point in N.Y.C. tenements." The metaphor can be summed up pretty well in the single set a great portion of the movie takes place on: the dirty dock where the apartments of the rich look directly down at the problems of the poor.

This film was made in 1937...the perfect time for a movie about the problems of the poor people to make a hit- as the dividing line between the wealthy and the desolate grew larger and larger by the day. Like I said, the script is great, the sets are interesting, but it's the directing that really shines through here. Humphrey Bogart is perfect, Joel Mcrea as boring as anyone competing against Bogart would be. I talked about this as a dramatic, or sad movie, which was being honest. But there's a good amount of humor mixed in too, mostly from the Dead End kids, who went on to make mostly comedies that banked off the same principle. It was originally a Broadway play; and a small budget one, so the caster did the obvious thing when looking for child actors to play street kids; he hired a bunch of street kids. Unfortunately their realistic dead end-ness cost United Artists some money when they got a hold of a truck and crashed through a sound stage. Not surprisingly, Untied Artists sold their contract to Warner Brothers as soon as the film was complete.

All in all, I think this is the perfect film for people above that "It's black and white and therefore boring" attitude who want to see what genius film making looks like. Also a great time-capsule from that era, just like Casablanca says so much about the 40's.

That was decidedly unhumorous, but you can blame the movie I review tomorrow (look at me making promises) on that.

I love you all, but dividing my time between Johnny Dollar, Rosetta stone, and my book is hard enough without trying to write. So until further notice, we will call this the end.

P.S....Bogie changes a baby's diaper....seriously, this isn't doctored.....

I don't know what the relevance of that is but I figured you might enjoy it.

P.P.S. No, I still haven't seen Citizen Kane. Call the classic film police if you want to.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Stolen Sea-Shells, Naomi and the Presidency.

A few moments ago, whilst contemplating blessing you with a review of "Ball of Fire", the door to my room burst open and in came a sobbing five-year-old. I soon pieced the fact that I would be expected to act as comforter. Instead of solving all her complicated childhood problems in a long face-to-face Andy Griffith style talk, I decided to solve it the way I solve my problems; blog it. So here is out on-the-scene reporter (me) to cover the drama;

Me: Esther, tell me exactly what you think right now."
Esther: "I'm thinking that Mommy doesn't like...she won't listen to me and stuff. And Mommy knows that I think that, she just wants to be mean to me."
Me: Why do you think Mommy is being mean?
Esther: "Because she's very mad at me just because I yelling on accident at Isabel and she was being mean to me too. And she doesn't know that Isabel was actually hurting my feelings by stealing stuff. She's stealing my sea-shells and saying there hers. And sea-shells are very important to me. Do you think you could put it on there that Isabel will please be nice and say that they are actually my sea-shells and because it's not nice to steal?"
ME: "Is that all?"
Esther "Yes. Go and tell mamma to check your blog post."

The evidence for a one-sided case of theft and cruelty seemed conclusive, but in the effort of fairness, I decided to call in Isabel to relate her side:

Me: "Isabel, what do you have to say about this?"
Izzy: "That she is making a deal out of nothing"
Me: "Please explain that statement."
Izzy: "Are we gonna do a whole court here? Just yell it if you want to; 'Order in the court!' So I had these sea shells in my pocket, and you know how they all look alike? "
Me: "Yes."
Izzy: "They all look alike, so she's saying that I stole these sea-shells...these...she's shaying...uhm, saying that I stole these, which I did not. "
Me; "OK."
Izzy: "So she screamed really loudly which Mom told her not to do unless something really bad happens, so she sent her upstairs and she was screaming."
Me: "So Esther was entirely in the wrong?"
Izzy: "Well she wasn't entirely in the wrong, she was right that they look like her seashells. And that's the story."

Now the plot was getting thick. Isabel seemed fair and unbiased in her view, and Mom must of had a reason for convicting Esther. Still, could I believe that broken expression to be just alligator tears? I decided to call in a third party, a witness, someone who's voice I could always trust and who's wisdom and clarity were unquestionable. I asked three-year-old Naomi:

Me; "Naomi, have Esther and Isabel been yelling at each other a lot?"
Naomi; "Uh-huh."
Me: "Why?"
Naomi: "I love this light! It's shining in my eye..." (witness was playing with lamp)
Me: "Naomi?"
Naomi: "What?"
Me: "Who was right?
Naomi: "Uhm Mama is. Uhm Essy is!
Me: "Esther is right?
Naomi: "Uh-huh."
Me: "And why do you believe Esther and not Izzy?"
Naomi: "Uh...cause Izzy's stealing sea shells...can't you get on video? I want to watch a movie!"
Me: "Let's try to stay on topic."
Naomi: "Noooo!!!!"

I decided that the case was basically unsolvable, so while I had this great intellectual in my presence I would ask her one of the great questions of the nation:
Me: Naomi, who should be president of the United States?"
Naomi: "Uhm...Essy!"
Me: "Why Essy?"
(witness then played with tongue for about five minutes)
Naomi: "Because, she's being mean! And bossy!
Me: "And you think that would make a good president?!"
Naomi: "No."
Me: "Then why did you say she'd be a good president?"
Naomi: "I didn't say she'd be good! I said she will be mean!"
Me: "Then why should Esther be president?"
Naomi: "Because Esther is the one! And I am Queen Naomi!!" (witness then sang a song entitled "Queen Naomi")
Me: "Let me get this straight. You want Esther to be the president, and she's mean, and you want that?"
Naomi: "Uh-huh."
Me: "Why do want a mean president?"
(witness then spat a spitty-hair curler into interrogator's face)
Naomi: "I want a mean president because I am mean!"
Me: "I thought you were nice ?"
Naomi: "I mean, mean! (witness then a sang a song entitled "Mean", not a cover of Taylor Swift)
Me: "Naomi, is there anything you want to say on my blog?"
Naomi: "Uh-huh." (witness then sang a song entitled 'you are blog', those were also the only lyrics.)
Me: "It was nice having you Naomi."

So who was right? Who should be president? Who stole the sea-shells? Do they really all look the same? I leave it to you to decide.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Mr. Chicken And Some Book Reviews

Ok, ok, ok-

Were back today with a few book reviews. When I put Jonathan's (he graciously allowed me to use his real name) post up the other day, I meant to quickly write up a snappy review of the three books I told you about to go along with it. However since nothing get's done quickly around here I was forced to just forget the whole thing, three days after I told Jonathan he could look for his post on my blog. So now I'm back, with a cute little 60's horror/comedy feature and three semi-short/long reviews.

1. Child Star, by Shirley Temple Black. (Yes, that little Shirley Temple with a Black added to her name)

Beginning with the first chapter, a detailed, informative, and interesting look at her birth, parents, and beginnings in show-business (at the age of three!). It then moves on to talk about her career in show-business, fellow actors and actresses, directors, agents etc. I'm making this review short because I didn't get too far in this book, in part I think because Shirley Temple was never one of those people I really took and interest in and her book doesn't seem to mention any of them, and also- her attitude as she gets farther on begins looking...cynical. How could you expect anything more? The girl has been working in the twisted world of Hollywood since the tender age of three, sure she entertained America during the depression, but she also had her childhood stolen away from her by a whirlwind career that ended in her teens.
Bottom Line; I can't say anything about age-appropriateness because like I said, I didn't go beyond her paramount and Warner brother days, and there very well may have been some gritty incidents as she got older, I just wouldn't know. Its a good look at what it was really like for her; and that was tough. I guess my biggest complaint is that nothing about her career is really remembered in fondness, not that I expected any.

Gracie; A Love Story by George Burns

Putting this one up next to the Shirley Temple just isn't fair, there was no possible way I wouldn't like this book. not only because George Burns was a funny man with a good sense of humor, but his wife was Gracie Allen and his two best friends were Jack Benny and Harpo Marx (coincidentally, those happen to be two of my most favoritest people in the world). So yes, I enjoyed it thoroughly. I would put the kid rating at like 13 and up or depending on what parents say- not that Burns is being unnecessarily crude, just honest, and it was written more for adults anyway. The cussing factor however is surprisingly low for a biography/autobiography written in the 80's. I want to give you a little snippet of the stories he tells, so here is my favorite, when he's talking about tricking his best friend Jack Benny;

"Another thing I admired about Jack Benny was that he thought I was the funniest man in the world. I could make him laugh so hard that he would literally fall down and pound the floor with his fist. Obviously, that was very embarrassing to him, so I tried to do it only when we were in public. Then I would tell people not to be concerned, he was only having a fit...

The worst thing I ever did to him took place at a party at his house. It was a lovely party, there were about one hundred fifty people there, and everybody seemed to be hav
ing a good time. But Jack took me aside and said nervously, "I don't the party's moving." "Sure it's moving," I told him. "Everybody's talking and drinking." He actually started to get angry. "I'm in show business to you know. I know if a party's not moving. This one isn't." What could I do? Tell him to take his pants off and put on a stupid hat? Absolutely. "You want to liven it up a little," I said, "here's what you do: go upstairs and take off your pants, put on one of Mary's big hats, then come downstairs in your shorts playing your violin." That appealed to him, "You think that'll make the party move?" "Oh yeah, sure." What else could I say? Trust me? Me?

As soon as Jack went upstairs I got everybody's attention and said "In a few minutes Jack is going to be coming downstairs in his shorts, wearing one of Mary's hats and playing the violin. When he does, don't pay any attention to him, Just ignore h
im completely." A few minutes later Jack appeared at the top of the stairs, wearing his shorts and one of Mary's wide-brimmed hats, playing the violin." And everyone ignored him. It took him only a few minutes to realize he was dressed in his underwear and a woman's hat, playing the violin and being ignored by one hundred fifty people. and then he realized I'd done it to him again. Jack pounded the floor. When he got his breath, he looked at me and said "NOW the party's moving."

Bottom line, I loved this book.

The last book on the list is Audrey Hepburn; An Elegant Spirit, written by her son, possibly the only not-adopted kid in Hollywood, Sean Hepburn Ferrer.

It's really more of a scrapbook than an autobiography, with plenty of glossy, full-scale pictures with helpful captions. Her son paints a brief but emotional image of her life and then moves on to talk about her as a person for the rest of the book. Lots of time is spent examining her: what kind of person she was, what kind of mother, wife, actress, etc. And I'll give you a little hint; he has nothing but good things to say about her. It's a nice book if your looking to find out what she was like as a person, but not a very helpful biography. A complete G-rating on this one.

Finished! Hooray! We've accomplished something! So on the subject of auto-biographies, I may as well tell you that I didn't find the one I really wanted. It's called Barney Fife and Other Characters I Have Known. Take a wild guess who wrote that one. The title somehow even sounds like it was said in his voice. Anyway, after watching a lot of TAGS and hearing that it's an essential in biographies department I was disappointed at not finding it. And so while were on the subject of Don Knotts (aren't I great at linking things up?) let us move on to our movie;

I love glossy old movie posters that just say it all for you.

This movie was never a classic and you may not have heard of it, but it's certainly nothing new to me. My dearest great-grandmother has been a fan of Don Knotts for years, and watching his collection of movies in her well carpeted living-room brings back many fond memories. However, I cut no movie any slack (even if it has the words 'Marx brother' or 'Muppet' in it! ). So where to begin? I think that the place the writers began was Don Knotts. It's first grade: if your going to have a movie in which your title character does a copious amount of freaking out, get Don Knotts. There's never been a better freaker-outer in the business. Can you imagine getting to write a movie for Don Knotts? It would be incredibly easy;
"OK, so what's the plot so far?"
"Well there's this haunted house."
"Ooh that's great! That's great."
"Yeah, and he has to spend the night in it."
"I dunno..we'll figure that out later. OK, so he's in front of the house..."
"And I guy pops out of the bushes!"
">laughs hysterically< Can you imagine his face?"
"OK, so then he goes into the house..."
"How? It has to be some funny way."
"He falls through a coal chute!"
"Then a phonograph starts playing!"
"Yeah, and then we do some mirror gag...."
"And the ghost starts playing the organ!

See what I mean? The majority of Knott's is acting skills in this movie...and for that matter most of his others....rely not his ability to say lines or portray emotion but to find a way to react hilariously to cornucopia of scary situations. Not that this makes him any less of a great comedian, but it does say something for this movie; and that is that brilliant original writing is not it's strong point. This plot has all the perfect elements of a "Barney Fife becomes a reporter" storyline.
I mean, it's inevitable that a guy like Don Knotts is going to be stuck playing the same kind of character in every film, so it's not the fact that there is virtually no difference between Luther Heggs from this story to any of the other characters he plays. Jim Nabors once said he asked Don how he managed to be so funny, and he replied "Well it helps to look like I do." Whether you slap the title Luther Heggs, Barney Fife, Mr. Limpet, Alexander Figg or whatever on him, he's always gonna be Don Knotts. Long story short, character development was not a problem for these people.

So what else is left? Plot, OK, well that wasn't a problem either.The makers of this film apparently decided that the audience would either be busy studying Don Knott's facial expressions or kissing (this was the swingin' 60's) by thirty minutes into the movie, and no one would bother their sweet little heads about music. Well I, as an amateur movie reviewer did: and realized that it consisted of one tune, consisting of two notes, which sounded almost identical to the opening credits of The Addams Family which is played repetitively during the entire film. Yes, in case you wondering, it gets quite aggravating around the middle of the movie.

As far as other actors go, there isn't much to brag about. There's that guy who looks like a neanderthal who plays Sam's husband on Bewitched, an Irish fella who looks really familiar but whom I can't seem to place, and...other people. Oh, and I almost forgot, (and this is a plot spoiler) in the end, thirty-something Don Knotts gets to marry gorgeous model Joan Staley.
("Atta boy Luther!") Did I mention this movie was Don's personal favorite??

So anyway, bottom line; This, despite all the problems I just underlined, is a cute, moderately funny little movie that I'm sure anyone ages 6-11 would enjoy. My 8-year-old sister has watched it three times already, and that music is really starting to grate about now. It might be just slightly scary for littler kids (there's an invisible organ-playing ghost and a stabbed portrait, just judge for yourself) but it's doubtful anyone is going to be terrified.

So anyway, thanks for a long belated listen.

P.S. My class just started back, so from now, consider that an acceptable excuse for my long bouts of absence from this blog.

P.P.S. Anyone know of a good Christian/homeschooler magazine that takes submissions from teen unknowns? Thanks!