Saturday, October 30, 2010

Movie of the Week

This week,


Starring- Bing Crosby

It is not Halloween unless I watch this Disney classic every year. Adapted from the story by Washington Irving, this cartoon does what Tim Burton never did- tell the story the way it was meant to be told. The story tells of superstitious schoolmaster Ichabod Crane who meets the legendary Headless Horseman on a dark Halloween night in the colonial hamlet of Sleepy Hollow. It is told through the narration and singing of Bing Crosby.

Crosby proves to be a good storyteller, and Disney does a fabulous job of mixing humor and suspense as the cartoon works its way to the fiery climax. This short film is from the era of great hand drawn animation, and the way in which the skinny Ichabod is depicted is great, as well as the foreboding journey through the hollow and the attack by the Headless Horseman. The songs are very catchy and memorable- the opening when Ichabod enters the town and Brom Bones' boisterous retelling of the Horseman's legend are the best examples. The structure of the film allows Crosby to both narrate, sing and voice the characters very easily.

This cartoon is very faithful to the original story (albeit with some Disney silliness thrown in) and it scares without being too spooky for the little ones. I have to see this every year out of habit, but also because it is timeless. Trying to find this classic is a bit difficult these days, but if it means as much to you as it does to me, try Amazon.

Things to watch for-

Shovels or feet- you decide
Ichabod's ability to hide food
Brom Bones feeds beer to animals
Katrina- what a babe!
Bing "boo boos"

"Odds bodkins! Gad zooks! Look at that old spook of spooks!"

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Next...

Over the past few years we have seen celebrities regain fame as they make fun of themselves or gain cult status for odd, funny or shameful behavior. Chuck Norris, Betty White, William Shatner and David Hasselhoff are among those who have gone from famous to off the radar to wildly popular for their work and/or embarrassing behavior. The Chuck Norris jokes have become a phenomenon, Betty White is in everything after her surprise appearance in a Snickers ad, and Germans love David Hasselhoff. I am now going to predict three celebrities that will be the next in line to come back into the fold. Let's all bask in their reflected glory.


David Hasselhoff's appeal has a lot to do with his nickname- 'The Hoff.' Well, Steve Guttenberg is 'The Gute' and should be making a pop culture comeback soon. I predict some kind of Police Academy reference in a movie or commercial that reminds us all of when we first fell in love with Det. Carey Mahoney, and how he showed us how love, laugh and use that guy who makes all the sound effects to play pranks on people. Tell your agent to sit by the phone, Steve, the call is coming.


I know that you're thinking Gary Busey already made the rounds when he went batshit crazy and when he was on Celebrity Fit Club or whatever, but I foresee a bigger pop culture moment on the horizon for Gary Busey. His prior work in this area makes him a strong candidate to repeat. I'm thinking he'll do some kind of drunken, unintentional You Tube stunt that coins the phrase, "You've just been Buseyed."


I see a child stars from the 1980's Playboy spread, followed by a viral video campaign where she gives robotic public service announcements from the future. The rekindled fame for Vicki will be super ironic, but she won't care- none of them ever do. This one is really obscure, but if it goes well I smell a comeback for Mr. Belvedere's Wesley and Donny Most from Happy Days.

Don't forget, when these "stars" get their next 15 minutes, remember who predicted it. Me, baby.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Decision 2010

As the days wind down to Election Day 2010 I am struck by the apathy of many and the anger of others. Many people right now are upset with the plight of the nation, and I can sympathize, to a point. I am worried though about how extremists threaten to take our government by storm because their outrage and platform matches that of a small, loud mass of people who are pushing the panic button. It is hard for me to see our nation freak out and prepare to take a step backward in many areas with the rise of the Tea Party.

It is true that things have not improved in the way many people, including President Obama, thought they would. I am hoping to appeal to the more level-headed, less reactionary majority that Jon Stewart hopes to rally later this month in Washington D.C. Get out and vote! Show the loud, angry minority that they don't speak for all of us. Voter apathy is abhorrent to me, and if those on the left and in the middle stay home and let Tea Partiers dominate the polls we will lose something valuable. Prejudice and discrimination are at the core of what the extremists stand for, whether they admit it or not. I don't think our country can afford to take steps backward, and the only way to make sure that we don't is to get out and VOTE!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Movie of the Week

This Week,


Starring- Paul Scofield, Robert Shaw, Wendy Hiller, Orson Welles

As a nod to my Halloween costume this year (I'm being Henry VIII) I am highlighting a great Oscar winning film that tells the story of Sir Thomas More and his struggle with Henry VIII over divorce and the king's ultimate break with the Catholic Church. Written by Robert Bolt, who adapted it from his successful play, the story portrays More as the ultimate man of principle- beloved by the common folk for his conviction and loyalty to his values and religion in the face of death. Scofield's work as More is top notch, and it garnered him an Oscar for Best Actor.

While the film takes some dramatic license with the facts, it is quite accurate overall. Henry VIII (Shaw) is upset at the fact that his wife Catherine of Aragon has been unable to provide him with a male heir, and so he wants a divorce. Unfortunately for the king, it is not up to him, but rather the Pope to grant the divorce. Henry's Chancellor, Cardinal Wolsey (Welles), urges More to help him let Henry out of the marriage. More refuses and Wolsey dies, disgraced by Henry who is still married to Catherine. More succeeds Wolsey as Lord Chancellor, but angers Henry when he says his conscience will not allow him dissolve a marriage that he feels is valid.

More is also up against the ambitious Thomas Cromwell (Leo McKern) who wants to gain power and take More down for his actions. Henry VIII, tired of waiting for the Pope to grant his divorce, creates the Church of England with himself as the head. He then marries his mistress Anne Boleyn. More refuses to recognize the union and is imprisoned in the Tower of London for treason. More is eventually put on trial where he boldly sticks to his principles. For that he is ultimately beheaded.

The story is a powerful one and is  masterfully executed by Director Fred Zinneman and his first rate cast. It is no wonder that this is still held up as the quintessential film about More and Henry VIII. Scofield was made a popular actor for his work as More and became forever tied to this role. See this film for the history, the performances- especially Scofield and Shaw, and the fact that it is way better than The Tudors.

Things to watch for-

A young John Hurt
The great score by George Delerue
A cameo by Vanessa Redgrave as Anne Boleyn
The epilogue

"I know a man who wants to change his woman."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Vietnam Thesis- Part XII

Part twelve in the ongoing series.

To respond to the Easter attacks, President Nixon resumed bombing of North Vietnam in April. In doing so, Nixon made a statement that the U.S. would not fold in the peace talks by being bullied. In July peace talks resumed with the Northern government, and by October Nixon’s top advisor, Henry Kissenger, stated, “Peace is at hand.” While this statement ended up being true, and with fewer American troops in Vietnam every day, the end of the war came for the fighting men, it would, however, not be as easy as signing a treaty. The bombings continued throughout the fall and winter of 1972, after Nixon won re-election in November. In January 1973, the peace talks came to a close, with the U.S. agreeing to pull completely out of Vietnam, knowing that their ally would eventually fall to the North.

The U.S. government did not have to admit defeat in the war because of the nature of the agreement, but defeat was obvious among those who had served in Vietnam. As Charles E. Neu put it, “The war had seared the consciousness of an entire generation, and altered the mood of the nation.” For those who made it home after the active American part of the war was over, life was very different than before. All the sacrifices that the soldiers had made went unappreciated and many resented them because of the reminder they gave of America’s first military loss. Future Senator John Kerry said of his homecoming, “You begin to see a lot of instant insanity and brutality that I don’t think anybody prepared you for, and then one land back in the United States of America. And nobody cares and nobody wants you to be in uniform.” It is sad to think that the men who had done all they were asked to do got little to no recognition for their efforts. 

The “warriors were blamed for the war,” as well as the government who made them fight, but it was not fair to lump those two groups together when assigning blame. Even after a majority of the men came home, the war was still being misunderstood by the government and the public who could not grasp the realities of what Vietnam was like. “The people who had been my closest friends really knew nothing about Vietnam,” said Marine James Hebron, “They were only interested in what the war was like in terms of their preconceptions of what war was about.” The only viable option was for the men who had fought was to educate the world about how wrong the Vietnam war was, and how unprepared the U.S.A. was to fight it. 

Vietnam was not like World War II; it did not have a clear objective or an obvious enemy. In many ways the veterans became the enemy to the nation as they tried to make sense of the mess that Vietnam had made of the country.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Book of the Month

This Month,


By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

One of the best known and mysterious Sherlock Holmes adventures is a perfect scary pick for the month of October. I have read this story many times and it never fails to entertain and scare me. Almost all of the Holmes stories are rooted in realism, but this one has an element of the supernatural that sets it apart and makes it a more foreboding tale. It is also different from other Holmes stories because in it Dr. Watson is the one trying to solve the mystery. It is only at certain points and at the end that we see Holmes' active participation in the case.

The story begins when Holmes and Watson are visited in London by Dr. Mortimer who is distressed by the recent death of Sir Charles Baskerville who was found dead on a moor by his home of an apparent heart attack with a large hound's footprints near the body. Mortimer tells the pair of the legend of the Baskervilles which has haunted the family for generations. According to the legend, Hugo Baskerville, an evil man with a sadistic streak, became infatuated with a yeoman's daughter, kidnapped her and imprisoned her in his bedchamber. She managed to escape while he was talking with his friends. A drunken and furious Hugo cried that he would give his body and soul to the Powers of Evil if he could only overtake her. He rode after her onto the moor, his hunting hounds upon her scent and his friends in pursuit. Sometime later his friends came upon the bodies of Hugo and the girl. She had died from fear and fatigue, while a giant spectral hound stood over Sir Hugo's body. With his friends watching, the hound plucked out Hugo's throat and disappeared into the night.

The young heir to the Baskerville family, Henry is due to arrive from Canada any day and it is decided that Watson will return with Henry to Baskerville Hall to investigate. An escaped convict from a nearby prison adds to the feeling of mystery, as more things happen to throw suspicion on Barrymore, the servant, and the Stapletons- a brother and sister who Watson doesn't think look very alike. Holmes stays away to let Watson do the detective work, but arrives at a critical moment to reveal some very important information.

Just like many of the Holmes stories, Conan Doyle pushes the tension to the very end, where there is a complicated, but acceptable explanation which I won't spoil here. Watson proves to be a capable detective in this story, but as always, Holmes is the one who puts all the threads together. This is one of the best and most intriguing mysteries in the Holmes canon, so read it for a good Halloween scare on a dark and stormy night this month.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Things I Think- Halloween Candy

There are a few things I'd like to say about candy this Halloween season. Pay attention all of you who are staying home to give out candy to trick or treaters.

I think that old, funky candy and treats that have been laying around the house for more than 6 months are NOT okay to hand out. Kids don't like taffy that has become hard as a rock or brittle pieces of licorice. Neither do 27 year olds, come to think of it.

I think that the best bet for anyone handing out candy is to get name brand candy that is easily recognizable. Snickers, Twix, Skittles are among the top in my book. Just because Bit-O-Honey is technically a name brand doesn't make it taste good. The same thing goes for Circus Peanuts.

I think that people who tell you to beware of razor blades in apples and brownies are nuts. Has anyone ever ingested a razor blade? None of my friends ever did- except "Bloody Throat" Frank.

I also think that the main concern from homemade treats is not so much razor blades or poison, but rather the odd curly black hair. Ew.

I think toothbrushes or pencils are super lame "treats." What are you, my dentist or my teacher? If you are it's still lame.

I think the best trick or treat experience I ever had was going to the house that gave out full size candy bars.

I think kids without costumes don't deserve candy.

I think if you refuse to give kids without costumes candy, they will probably egg and toilet paper your house.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Movie of the Week

This week,


Starring- Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis

I have probably watched this movie more times than any other, and for me that is saying a lot. As a kid I was obsessed with everything Ghostbusters- especially this film. As I got older I began to re-appreciate it because I finally understood how funny it was, many of the jokes having gone over my head as a kid. The jokes were the brainchild of writers and stars Aykroyd and Ramis and the great improvisation of Bill Murray as Dr. Peter Venkman. Originally penned by Aykroyd as a more surreal space/time ghost adventure for he and John Belushi, the film took on a more real world tone after Belushi died and Ramis was brought in to co-write. The version that director Ivan Reitman finally filmed is equal parts comedy, science fiction, summer blockbuster and going into business story.

The film follows three parapsychologists, Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz and Egon Spengler who decide to take their knowledge outside of the university setting and go into business as ghost exterminators and eliminators. Along the way they meet client and Peter's would-be girlfriend, Dana Barrett (Weaver), who has had a spiritual encounter with a ghost named Zuul in her refrigerator. The story culminates with the Sumerian god Gozer returning to Earth to bring about the end of the world, but not before Dana and her neighbor Louis are possessed and turned into dogs, the Ghostbusters get arrested and a giant Marshmallow Man terrorizes New York City.

Like so many other classic comedies, Ghostbusters is loaded with hilarious scenes and memorable quotes. The strength of this movie is obvious to all because it spawned a sequel, a great cartoon, toys (most of which I still own) and a hit theme song by Ray Parker, Jr. Aykroyd and Murray were already household names because of their time on Saturday Night Live, but this movie made them icons. I will never be able to see a tall stack of books or a twinkie or a marshmallow for that matter and not instantly think of moments from Ghostbusters. The phrase "Who you gonna call?" has, since 1984, necessitated the answer- "GHOSTBUSTERS!" What else do you need to know?

Things to watch for-

William Atherton as a great weenus- Walter Peck
Slimer (said to be the ghost of John Belushi)
The bag of Sta-Puft marshmallows on Dana's counter
A couple of wavy lines
The magic word
The Gate Keeper and the Key Master

"I collect spores, molds and fungus."

Here's a photo of me as Dr. Peter Venkman

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Remember When?

I remember things, do you?

Remember when the word celebrity meant that someone was famous for something worthwhile, like being a good actor or actress or achieving something meaningful? Not like say, The Situation or Bristol Palin or Kate Gosselin?

Remember when every movie wasn't in 3D? Two dimensions was always good enough for me at the movies. Since when did it become necessary to have everything in 3D? I'm no expert, but I think Eat, Pray, Love would be just fine in 2D.

Remember when M & M's had plain and peanut and almond and that was it? Now there's pretzel and coconut and dark chocolate. What's next, raisin? I still want to get the light brown ones back in place of blue. Oh well.

Remember Crystal Pepsi? That was really good stuff, so refreshing, but really not at all like Pepsi. I think they should bring it back. It can't be any worse than all those foul tasting energy drinks.

Remember when shows like Hoarders weren't on T.V. and we only observed people like that from across the street in our neighborhoods?

Remember when hacky sacks were cool? I do, it was seventh grade for me.

Monday, October 4, 2010

NBA Season Preview

Basketball season is less than a month away, and I couldn't be happier. With all of the hoopla surrounding the offseason moves, I am very curious to see how they all pan out once the games get going. I heard some pretty big name players switched teams- who knew? There looks to be a power shift from the West to the East, which bodes well for my Jazz, but let's break it down team by team to see for sure. Here now are my picks and thoughts for the 2010-11 season.


1. HEAT* (The big three do what LeBron's teams always do, win a lot of regular season games- lose in the playoffs)
2. MAGIC (Dwight and Co. are primed for a deep run as they prove the doubters and Heat lovers wrong)
3. CELTICS* (If this team had been assembled in 2004 it would win 72 games and a championship, but its 2010, sorry old timers)
4. BULLS* (Rose, Boozer and this improved group show flashes of championship potential in their deepest run since the Jordan era)
5. BUCKS (Bogut comes back strong, but this team isn't quite on the same level as the top four)
6. HAWKS (Was Joe Johnson worth all that money? No. Hawks were a nice story, but not anymore.)
7. 76ERS (This team surprises the league and gives the big boys a scare, led by Rookie of the Year Evan Turner)
8. PACERS (The time has come for Indiana to return to the playoffs, led by Danny Granger and point guard Darren Collison)
9. BOBCATS (Some key offseason losses prove too much for Larry Brown's team to return to the postseason)
10. KNICKS (If only they had landed LeBron. They didn't, and Amare and Raymond Felton don't get you to the playoffs)
11. WIZARDS (John Wall will have plenty of years of success, but year one isn't one of them)
12. PISTONS (This team is lacking in many key areas, and it will be interesting to see if they try to make some moves)
13. CAVALIERS (Mo Williams and Antawn Jamison are all that remain to build around. Sorry, Dan Snyder, your team isn't good)
14. NETS (Lopez is a great building block and this team has a ton of money to spend in the next few years)
15. RAPTORS (If you remembered that the NBA had a team in Canada, you'll forget it this year)


1. LAKERS* (The champs reloaded with Barnes, Blake and Ratliff in supporting roles, and they still have that guy, what's his name, leading them)
2. THUNDER* (Kevin Durant is legit and his teammates aren't slouches either. They'll be in the finals within two years- guaranteed)
3. JAZZ (With a group of new players, Deron Williams gets back to the Western Finals and makes Al Jefferson a star)
4. MAVERICKS* (When you have Dirk Nowitzki you have a chance, but that's not going to be enough this year)
5. SPURS (I like this team's chances with the depth they have- if they can stay healthy. Duncan is supposedly healthy, I guess we'll see)
6. NUGGETS (This pick gets shelved if Carmelo gets traded because they won't make the playoffs without him)
7. SUNS (Nash lost his best target, but he makes everybody else around him so much better that they might make it to the second round)
8. ROCKETS (The return of Yao is big, but the Rockets need a lot from Kevin Martin and Aaron Brooks because Yao will only play 24 minutes a game)
9. BLAZERS (Another team with health issues will be okay if Brandon Roy can be the leader he is capable of being)
10. HORNETS (Chris Paul is a great point guard, but this team lacks depth at most of the other positions)
11. GRIZZLIES (This team might be a dark horse for the playoffs with scorers like O.J. Mayo and Rudy Gay)
12. KINGS (Sacramento is trying to be like the Thunder by rebuilding through the draft, but there's no Kevin Durant on their team)
13. WARRIORS (No more Nellie is sad, but the team might be better off in the long run)
14. TIMBERWOLVES (Kevin Love and Corey Brewer are studs, but they need more pieces around them if they want to get out of the cellar)
15. CLIPPERS (It's the Clippers, where else would they be but dead last?)

*Divison Winner


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Movie of the Week

This week,


Starring- Sean Connery, Alec Baldwin, Scott Glenn, Sam Neill, James Earl Jones

To start off the month of October, here's a review of a movie with 'October' in the title. I'm so clever.

The first big screen appearance of author Tom Clancy's CIA analyst Jack Ryan is a classic Cold War thriller. Ryan has been featured in three subsequent films where he has been played by Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck, but the best movie about him was this one where he was played by Alec Baldwin. Baldwin turns in an impressive performance, and is helped along by a very strong supporting cast led by the great Sean Connery as the Soviet submarine captain, Marko Ramius.

Ramius is the senior commander of Russia's newest and most advanced sub, the Red October, which boasts a Caterpillar propulsion system that renders it almost completely silent to enemy submarines. It is a weapon that could threaten the delicate balance between the U.S. and the Soviets at the hight of the Cold War, and because of this Ramius plans to defect. It is up to Jack Ryan to make sure that Ramius and the Red October get a chance to fulfill their mission, but circumstances are complicated by the U.S. Navy who think the submarine is rogue, and the Russians who plan to sink Ramius so that the submarine cannot fall into the Americans' hands.

Thanks to the work of the U.S.S. Dallas, commanded by Captain Mancuso (Scott Glenn), the Red October is easy to find once Ryan figures out Ramius' plan. Once on board the Red October, Ryan and Mancuso accept Ramius' defection, but not before another Russian sub goes on the attack. The suspense ratchets up and up until the climax which I will not spoil here. In addition to the ever present Cold War tension, there is a good deal of humor mixed in- most of it coming when Connery and Baldwin finally share scenes together.

The Hunt for Red October is a great film that showcases some quintessential moments in the genre. There are scenes and lines that have become iconic, including the performances of Baldwin and Connery. The only better submarine movie is Das Boot, and it has subtitles.

Things to watch for-

Tim Curry as the Russian doctor
Stanley and his little brother
Alec Baldwin's Sean Connery impression

"I'm not an agent, I just write books for the CIA."