Saturday, December 19, 2015

25 Days of Super Christmas - Day 19

Star Wars Watch: Star Wars (or, as you kids call it, Episode IV: A New Hope)

where the hell are Leia's sleeves?

I believe I've already done a fair job already talking Star Wars Episode IV in context in recent posts, so I'll let you kids read that and come back, if the Force compels you or whatever.

Back in October I posted about how I was trying to remain calm and reasonable about the new Star Wars movie until reviews were in.  I wasn't even planning on buying tickets until after the first mass of reviews hit Rotten Tomatoes.  So, I wasn't supposed to be seeing the movie until the 27th.  I know, crazy, right?

Well, I also realized - Disney is not really all that hyped about not making money, so my belief that Episodes IV-VI would be readily available on cable this week was just fundamentally stupid.  And, to give you guys how much of an idea of how much I've been not paying attention to Star Wars, I didn't own a copy in any format.  But, a quick perusal of Amazon fixed that, and my BluRay copies of the Special Edition discs showed up (don't worry, they were pretty cheap, actually).

But it may have been 10 years since I last watched Star Wars, which is mind-boggling when I realize I've seen Three Amigos twice in the past two years.

Tonight we threw Episode IV in the ol' BluRay and gave it a whirl.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Signal Watch Reads: "Live and Let Die" by Ian Fleming (aubiobook)

Reading the first two Bond books is a bit of an odd experience.  This is still a Bond that's not yet been made into a film, and the books feel oddly slight, especially in comparison to the meandering nature of the typical Bond movie.  I'm not sure if I should rehash that the Bond of the book, at this point, is not equipped with super-science gear or any of the trappings I think of when I consider my first exposure to Bond via the movie For Your Eyes Only.  And after the exotic locales of the first book (to Americans, anyway), setting much of Live and Let Die in Harlem and then St. Petersburg, Florida is oddly pedestrian despite the death traps and odd goings on.  But with the 3rd act change in scenery to Jamaica, it does move the action to a locale I readily associate with the Bond franchise and, of course, Ian Fleming's base of operations when writing his Bond novels.

25 Days of Super Christmas - Day 18

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Growing Up With Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (and Beyond)

This is the 3rd and last in a series about being a kid in the 70's and 80's and being a part of the generation that was exposed to Star Wars first hand.  All recollections are subjective and are not intended to represent those of the other billion kids who were also around.  For Part 1 about Star Wars click here, for Part 2 about Empire, click here.

My memories about Return of the Jedi come with a lot of "firsts" attached.

It is the first movie I remember anticipating.  The Empire Strikes Back has ended on a cliffhanger, and so it only made sense that from the second we saw the Skywalkers staring off into space and the credits rolled, I was signed up for the third installment.  As I discussed in talking Empire, we moved into speculation.

What you kids have to remember is (a) there was no internet and (b) the sector of the population that obsessed over what movies were coming and when was much smaller back then.  My first inkling that the movie was actually, like, really, really coming was a slide that appeared before some other movie my mom took us to.  I don't think it said Revenge of the Jedi, I just processed that - yes, we were finally getting a 3rd movie.  But the slide was really bland - just a title and a picture of a greenish planet, if memory serves.

After that, I do believe images began to trickle out in magazines and on television.

It was also the first movie I spoiled for myself.

25 Days of Super Christmas - Day 16

It appears The Force is strong with Star Wars VII

The reviews are in.  I'm in a bit of shock.  But could not be happier.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

TV Watch: Fargo Season 2

I was on blogging hiatus during the first season of Fargo.  In the year since returning I haven't talked about the program a great deal, but if you're a regular reader (Hi, Dad!), you may have seen me make mention of the show and the Season 1 star, Allison Tolman.  Hollywood, find this person work.  She's great.

When the show came back on again this Fall, I didn't care to write about this season of Fargo on an episode-by-episode basis.  When writing about television with its weekly installments, with its endless trails of breadcrumbs leading you in to the next episode and into the next season, you wind up tallying plot points, punching holes, checking boxes and idly speculating.  I do it here all the time when I talk TV.  

But with programs like FX's Fargo in this new era of American television, we're getting a new form of the medium, something akin to the novel for motion pictures.  Obviously, TV has grown and changed.  In many corners its unrecognizable from the industry and story-telling I grew up with, and while I find the idea of "binging" a show kind of weird and self-defeating, I can understand the desire to move from chapter to chapter and stay up late to finish a good book.

Fargo the TV series was never going to be the film of the same name, and seemed a hugely risky endeavor, a tight-rope act of television.  It was to be produced by the Coens, but that's code for: they'd get a check, but have no real participation.  Instead, it was the creative vision of Noah Hawley, a guy who worked on Bones and some other shows, but who didn't seem to have made a name for himself, exactly.  Few modern filmmakers are as highly regarded as the Coen Bros., and few have been as routinely successful in plunging into new territory, film after film.  And while you can enjoy a Coen Bros. film upon a first viewing, they bear repeat viewings and never disappoint.  And the Coen Bros. are prolific. 

The movie of Fargo arrived in 1996 to well-deserved critical acclaim and solid box office.  A noir-ish tale of avarice, crime, and human monsters with the soft glint of decency still living on the edges, painting the warm bed and the mundanities of life as a refuge - a good thing - in a world that has darkness always lapping at the edges.  The film struck a chord with a wider audience than the Coen Bros. had previously enjoyed, even when the studios tried to push them front and center with Hudsucker Proxy.  Sure, a lot of folks went to see the cop movie with the funny accents, but they wound up seeing a pretty good picture, too.

So what could we expect out of a TV show with a seeming lack of participation from the Coens?

25 Days of Super Christmas - Day 15

Monday, December 14, 2015

22 years

Today is the 22nd Anniversary of the passing of Myrna Loy.

25 Days of Super Christmas - Day 14


Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet at Christmas

Star Trek: Now Safe for Dumbs (AKA - Space Bros: Bros in Space)

Did watching people talk about Prime Directives and interstellar anomalies make you... uncomfortable?  Maybe even angry?  Were you just waiting for that bald guy to quit talking and for the boney-headed guy to shoot somebody?  Was it weird that the old Star Trek was... old and stuff?

Well, buddy, have I got a Star Trek for you!

Featuring space people who KICK-ASS, CRACK-WISE and ARE SEXY AS HELL™, this ain't your DADDY'S STAR TREK (not that your Dad would have ever watched that p***y s**t, anyway.  He was more of Beastmaster guy).  We've fixed your lame-ass Star Trek to give it all the same excitement as pounding a Coors Silver Bullet while you ride your jet ski through a flaming hoop with a topless model straddling your junk!

Like 20 year old pop songs?!!  SO DOES CAPTAIN KIRK!!!  Like aliens that look mean as hell but who you could still beat in a fist fight?  We got 'em!  Like the idea of banging alien broads?  Well, Kirk was always into that.

So, stop worrying, bud!  That way Star Trek used to work where those @#$%s wouldn't just shoot first and sort it out later?  We've taken care of that.  And we've got funny @#$%ing jokes for the guys to say.  Say adios to that feeling you used to have where you just wanted to give a wedgie to every last one of those space-nerds.  Now you'll want to blast the speakers in your Camaro with your space bros while you swing through the Party Barn and grab a case of Milwaukee's Best.

@#$%.  Yeah!  They finally fixed it.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Tracy & Hepburn Watch: Desk Set (1957)

I admit to not having watched too many/ any of the classic Spencer Tracy/ Katherine Hepburn pairings.  It's not that I don't like either Tracy or Hepburn.  Look, I'm busy, okay?

I'm not.  There's no excuse.

But I have wanted to watch Desk Set (1957) for some time.  Neither Hepburn nor Tracy were kids anymore by the time this movie shot - Hepburn at 50, Tracy at 57.  And the movie dealt with the era when computers were first making their way into companies as a sign of progress as much as for the practical considerations.  What I didn't know was that the movie would actually touch the area I work in, tangentially, but certainly in recognizable ways.

25 Days of Super Christmas - Day 13

Holiday Watch: Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

I'm at the tail end of low-grade but extremely annoying cold.  Today it settled in my chest as this loud, dry cough.  So, I've been basically laying around since about Wednesday, which may explain why you've seen so much blogging and movie watching.

I really miss being twenty-five and never being sick for more than 48 hours.

I can't say I'm the world's biggest fan of Christmas in Connecticut (1945).  It's a sort of mid-century American farce.  Elizabeth Lane (Barbara Stanwyck) is the Martha Stewart of 1945, a popular home-making writer for a Redbook-like magazine, providing lifestyle and cooking tips from her New England farm as she makes delectable meals for her husband and baby.  What America doesn't know is that Lane is actually a city girl, unmarried and childless, who is sharing the recipes of her friend Felix, a restaurateur.  It's a wartime film, and so it follows a sailor who survives a U-Boat attack by drifting at sea and is considered a war hero.  Through some convoluted chicanery, Lane's publisher, Alexander Yardley (the always fantastic Sydney Greenstreet) invites both the sailor and himself to Lane's farm for Christmas.

Not wanting to lose her job, Lane borrows her stuffy suitor's farm for the event, having him pose as her husband and she manages to borrow a baby.  Like I said, it's got quite a bit of farce to the whole thing.

The movie is a bit of frothy Christmas fluff, a bit of something for the whole family.

Happy Belated 100, Frank

You're correct.  You will never be this cool.

December 12th marked the 100th birthday of singer, actor, Ava Gardner sexer, and true 20th Century man, Frank Sinatra.  Old Blue Eyes himself.

Sinatra was a complicated man, and he is beyond our judgment.  Like Thomas Jefferson, we can only try to understand such a wild contradiction in life as a product of his times and his nature.   For every nightmare story about the guy, there's a dozen about him as a humanitarian.

And now, the first Sinatra song I ever learned specifically because it was Sinatra: "Strangers in the Night".  All you need to know about why I learned the song: fifteen year old boys are weird.