Movies

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Joseph Bologna passed away last week. Funny name, huh? Never heard of him?

Maybe he wasn’t a huge movie star, but his achievements were quality, if not quantity.

People behind the scenes aren’t as celebrated as those who appear on the screen. Joe did both. Besides acting in many movies he wrote and directed some pretty popular works. In many of these, his wife (Renee Taylor) was his creative partner.

Joe Bologna with Renee Taylor

Husband-and-wife team of Joseph Bologna and Renee Taylor.

I stopped to think of all the pleasure Joe had given me, mainly from a sentimental favorite of mine, “My Favorite Year.”

This 1982 movie isn’t remembered by many — not like Casablanca or The Wizard of Oz. But it is a gem and meant a lot to me. It’s a great piece of writing and acting, as well as a nostalgia piece and a tribute to one of the greatest shows ever to air on TV in the golden age, and a tribute to several great talents that made that show great and went on to do other great things.

Premiere Magazine (a big glossy magazine I call “The Rolling Stone Of Movies”) voted this movie as one of “The 50 Greatest Comedies Of All Time” back in 2006. Of course, I agreed with them.

The movie is a behind-the-scenes story of a comedy variety show based on “Your Show of

Read more on “My Favorite Year” Actor Joe Bologna — RIP…

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A fond farewell to Roger Moore, probably best known as James Bond (but so much Moore).

He is the Bond most of the people my age grew up with. He was the 70s Bond and his movies reflected the era.

All actors who have played James BondIn fact, all of the James Bond movies reflect the time period in which they were made. The films had to keep contemporary, at least so they thought. It didn’t always work well, though.

Let’s pretend you have never heard of James Bond and don’t know a thing about him. Well, I would be glad to fill you in.

Bond was a naval veteran of WWII, rank of Commander. He joined the British intelligence

Read more on Roger Moore — A Bond Is Gone…

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The Academy Awards show will be the talk of the world tomorrow. Unlike most programs on television (even awards programs) the Oscar ceremony is not presented for the people watching it on TV but the live audience in the room — the movie business insiders.

And as in all awards shows (and many other facets of life) I am against competition. We have turned everything in our lives into a contest with winners and losers, and a decision on who is the best.

But — does the Oscar itself matter?

Do you think the Oscar award goes to the best movie or actress or director? Well then you probably believe in the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny. The Academy awards are presented

Walt Disney presents Shirley Temple's Honorary Oscar

Read more on Oscars: Who Will Win? Who Is Best? Bah! Humbug!…

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I carried a daily newspaper delivery route from about 2nd grade through 6th and had to quit when I started going out for after-school sports in 7th grade.  I walked — didn’t ride a bike or have a car (of course).

The trip from the newspaper office where I picked up my papers to the first house for delivery took me through the business district, and almost every day I stopped and bought a comic book to read while I walked the route.  It was 10cents for the comics until those $#%& raised it to 12cents!

Vintage Marvel Comics Dr. Strange comic book cover

Vintage Marvel Comics Dr. Strange

My main fodder was DC comics (Superman and Batman, League of Superheroes and various spin-offs). I really wasn’t into Marvel, except I like Spiderman.  But the art was not as good as DC.  I thought Steve Ditko art was “blocky.”

I eventually lost contact with those comics — although I never outgrew my love for comic art (I never really had the talent to draw, although loved to doodle and cartoon).

I left Superman behind while Clark Kent was still a newspaper reporter, before he married Lois and back when Batman still had Robin … and all the other crazy alternate Earth stories with various lives and deaths and resurrections.  I don’t know what the heck is going on in the DC universe and Marvel universe today.

However, comic books are a minor form of entertainment now.  It’s all about the movies.  Especially when they make a billion dollars apiece!

They go through all the super heroes trying to find the ones the public will embrace so they can make a franchise with ever-more popular and lucrative sequels and spin-offs.

Or they just make the same darn movie over and over again.  (How many times can Peter Parker get bitten? How many times must young Bruce Wayne see his parents murdered?)

Now they are reaching down into the well to draw up a fresh bucket of superhero to quench the fires of rabid fan demand.

The Hollywood Reporter reports that the newest is Marvel’s Doctor Strange.

Benedict Cumberbatch (with an American accent) in the title role leading a British cast, as a neurosurgeon whose hands are destroyed in an accident, so he trains with a Far Eastern mystic guru (Tilda Swinton) to learn secrets of bending time and space and whatever else he wants to bend.

Marvel's Newest Superhero Movie Features Dr. Strange

Marvel’s Newest Superhero Movie Features Dr. Strange

As movies go, audiences generally want an action movie, rather than a thinking movie.  They generally want flying and bullets-bouncing off the chest and X-ray vision and a colorful costume. Instead, Marvel is offering Eastern mysticism and an opera tuxedo.

Will it work?

The HR review complimented the casting, but the intended audience might not know Cumberbatch or Swinton — much less Chiwetel Ejiofor.

The review also compliments the witty script — but these types of movies are more noted for lines like — “Over there!  Look!” and “Hulk Smash!”

But as the review says, “they unquestionably class up the joint.”

Of note — the villain is Mads Mikkelsen who was also a James Bond villain and TV’s Hannibal Lecter.  Typecast?  I imagine Mikkelsen is cackling all the way to the bank.

Supporting cast members Rachel McAdams, Michael Stuhlbarg and Benjamin Bratt are all well-known (at least their faces are) and sturdy actors that should put in a reliable performance.

I’m looking forward to the movies.  I’m not a snob about intellectual content, but I enjoy a good mental treat as well as some good ole “Hulk Smash!”

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This is the start of a new series.  I could have called it “I Just Don’t Get It,” but that opens me to a lot of heckling.

I feel more like the child who announced that the emporer has no clothes.  There are acceptable limits in the world of serious film (or “Fillum” as the snobs say) and you can get away with a lot of sins if you stay within those guidelines.

Then there are the guilty pleasures — the low humor and vulgar sex and politically incorrect topics that we can enjoy as long as we don’t publicly announce we”re admirers.

The Royal TenenbaumsBut although I can sit through the former and have a shameful stash of the latter, there is a classification of movies where some people liked and some didn’t like, but generally are accepted as OK.  The “didn’t likes” are basically told they didn’t understand — something was too sophisticated and intelligent.

So I just shout “B.S.”  and come right out and say — I didn’t like it and there’s nothing to like.

OK — there are many, and I’ve seen more than my share.  My first one is not the most egregious of the bunch, it’s just that I saw another article praising it in a “fillum” blog.

The Royal Tennenbaums (2001) received an 80% approval from critics and 87% from fans.  So I must be wrong, huh?

Well, I’ve long ago discounted the opinions of the people who are interested in shiny objects and quick movements, or those who are motivated by big-name actors, pretty faces and sexy figures (Gene Hackman, Luke and Owen Wilson and Parker Posey, respectively) and the rest who go along with the crowd — if it says the film it good, then it’s good!

No, I like to watch a movie and then decide whether to ask for my money back (I never do, but it’s the sentiment that counts) or whether I’ll watch it over and over again on home video (Die Hard!!!!)

Tell the truth, I’ve never really gotten into Wes Anderson’s films anyway (what’s up with “The Life Aquatic?”) but I would go see his next one just on the off chance he comes up with a winner.  Likewise I don’t boycott the Wilson brothers, although my admiration for them as actors is not quite at the Pacino/DeNiro level.

I just want to be entertained.  I want to sit up and say, “My, that was well-written!” and nod knowingly at some good direction that most audience members wouldn’t even notice.

Not with “Tenenbaums.”  I would even give it a pass if it were more weird than it is.  I can do weird.  But this isn’t weird enough.  Come on, a brother with a sister-crush? We can do better than that, can’t we?

I never really got into the Gene Hackman character. I never thought this was actually a comedy. (When was the last time Bill Murray was in a comedy? Yet casting him gives a movie company the right to call it a comedy).  Dysfunctional family flicks are a dime a dozen.  As are dysfunctional families.

If you loved this movie (or even liked it) — good for you.  But I just don’t see what all the fuss was about.

WADE

 

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Alfred Hitchcock and Kim Novak on the set of VertigoFormer Hollywood blonde bombshell Kim Novak had a strong reaction to a certain Golden Globe nomination.  She felt “raped.”

“The Entertainer,” a modern silent film that is nominated for six Golden Globes, utilizes portions of the score from a Hitchcock movie in which Ms. Novak starred — “Vertigo” — and she acknowledges that there is a credit to composer Bernard Herrmann in the closing credits.

But Ms. Novak didn’t think that was sufficient and purchased a full page ad in “Daily Variety” — the bible of show biz news — stating that she felt “raped” by what she termed inappropriate use of the music.

Her contention is that the music evokes emotions generated by her work (along with director Hitchcock and co-star Jimmy Stewart) in the 1958 thriller, and using this for the modern film is cheating.

 

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It’s time for the big seasonal movies to hit the theaters, and as usual, the major brands are making a showing.

In the past few years, the trend has been to “reboot the franchise” or re-think the origins of some favorite franchises.

The exercise can often result in some radical changes in what some people consider sacred stories.

Three cases in point —

SHERLOCK HOLMES: Arthur Conan Doyle wrote four novels and 56 stories about his hero — the world’s first consulting detective.  He was a man of pure reason, using deduction to unravel seemingly impossible crimes.

This is one of the most durable franchises in history.  Many movies have strayed from the original stories — the World War II era series of films starring Basil Rathbone might find Holmes chasing Nazi spies.  So it’s not unusual to see the stories branch off in new directions.

What purists decry is the way the character is perverted.  Two recent reincarnations of Holmes include a British TV series and American Robert Downey, Jr on the big screen.

Robert Downey, Jr shirtless as Sherlock Holmes in a fist fight

Bare-chested, two-fisted Robert Downey, Jr. makes a macho Sherlock Holmes

Guy Ritchie is the auteur who decided that instead of thinking his way through problems, Holmes should strip off his shirt so we can see his rippling abs and pecs and beat evil-doers to submission with his fists, by swinging a stick or fencing.

In other words, this character was not really Sherlock Holmes — this was Generic action hero with a formula action adventure movie.

However, the first movie in 2009 (cleverly titled “Sherlock Holmes”) made so much money that “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” is due out just in time for Christmas.

Read more on Movie Re-Boots For A New Generation…

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Lord Voldemort and Harry Potter face off for the last time.

Lord Voldemort and Harry Potter face off for the last time.

With the release of the final Harry Potter movie, many are suffering a kind of separation anxiety.  No more Harry Potter?  What are we to do?

Well, if you are like me, you enjoyed the movies but never read any of the books.  I had always heard that the movies — although very well done — had to leave out a tremendous amount of JK Rowling’s story because of the limitations of cinematic treatments.

Reading a bunch of big, thick books sounds like a formidable task, but I found one person who was up to the task — Stephen Fry.

If you aren’t acquainted with Mr. Fry, this will be a terrific introduction.  He is thoroughly enjoyable as he adopts various tones of voice and accents for the multiplicity of characters in the Potter Universe.

Although I haven’t heard them, I understand in the US, Jim Dale was hired to read the books.  I love Mr. Dale’s voice, which I enjoyed during the cult-favorite “Pushing Daisies” where he also narrated.

If you spend a lot of time in the care, or just want to spend some relaxing time at home playing audio books, and you can’t get enough of Harry Potter, this is the perfect way to sooth your Potter-withdrawal.

WADE

 

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… Interesting —

Estelle and I lived in Palm Springs for a few years, and knew of Jane Russell as one of “The Ladies Who Lunch” — a bunch of Golden-Age stars who got together for coffee, cards, prayer circles and whatever.  They included Lucille Ball, Dinah Shore, Loretta Young, Alice Faye and Jane.  We weren’t really interested in what politics they followed — we just enjoyed their contributions to entertainment.

Jane Russell in The Oxbow Incident

Jane Russell in The Oxbow Incident

Things you usually don’t think about. Doesn’t make me enjoy her work any the less, though.

Throughout her career, Russell was a staunch conservative who considered Democrats in Hollywood “crazy.”

“In my day Hollywood was Republican,” she once said. “All the heads of the studios were Republicans, and we were fighting Communism. You had John Wayne and Charlton Heston and myself and Bob Mitchum, and President Ronald Reagan came right out of that same group.”

She was a vocal supporter of the Iraq war from its start in 2003, a vocal opponent of abortion, even in cases of rape or incest, a tireless fighter to “get the Bible back in schools.” She despised the Clinton administration and was a fan of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and conservative commentator Ann Coulter.

And in 2003, she described herself as “a teetotal, mean-spirited, right-wing, narrow-minded, conservative Christian bigot,” variations of which she frequently used.

WADE

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