Monday, January 1, 2018
Today marks the 200th Anniversary of the first publication of Frankenstein (or, The Modern Prometheus). It's a book many of us were assigned to read. As with any book, your mileage will vary. Absolutely, that seems to depend upon interpretations and baggage brought to the book.
It is true that I am a fan of the Frankenstein films from Universal that appeared in 1932 and onward, but I'd read Shelley's book twice before seeing the first movie circa 1997. My Freshman year of high school I *absolutely* grokked the "wretch's" perspective and Victor's craziness, and of course the romantic torment that befalls them all.
Thursday, December 28, 2017
Say what you will about cheesy hucksterism, but I grew up knowing who Stan Lee and Marvel were years before I read a comic book. Back in the 70's and 80's, Stan didn't just have his name on every Marvel comic ("Stan Lee Presents:"), and his name on every Marvel cartoon, he was also providing editor's note voice-over to episodes of The Incredible Hulk and other cartoons. I knew what it was to be a "True Believer" before I ever read a word-bubble of Spidey's inner monologue.
Speaking of: he also wrote the Spidey daily newspaper strip (in theory), which I read in collections as I got into comics.
Of course we can go back and forth all day about the Kirby/ Ditko/ Lee contributions that made up Marvel starting in '62. But none of them would have done it without the others. And, more than that, the longterm effect of Lee's boosterism of comics and comic-book characters is utterly incalculable in a landscape littered with superhero films, TV shows, cartoons, merchandise, toys, clothing, and where even Dr. Strange is now a household name.
I know Stan has made mistakes and not always made decisions that make sense to idealistic fans. That comes with the territory of being a walking icon and making mistakes as you go.
But I'm grateful he's had a chance to see the world embrace his creations, watched his comic empire flourish for going on six decades, and become a household name himself.
Thursday, December 21, 2017
Several years ago I was out visiting San Francisco and JeniferS showed me a noir she knew I'd never seen, starring Richard Basehart, Cyd Charise and an actor she adored but with whom I was unfamiliar, Audrey Totter. The movie was Tension, and it was all kinds of terrific. But, yes, Jenifer was right, Audrey Totter was absolutely phenomenal in that movie, stealing focus in every scene.
Tuesday, December 19, 2017
Tuesday, November 28, 2017
You probably know Gloria Grahame for her small but pivotal part in It's a Wonderful Life as Violet, the attractive blonde in Bedford Falls who fails to land Jimmy Stewart and is a headcase in the Pottersville segment of the movie.
But Grahame's career included a lot of noir, some musicals (she's in Oklahoma! as Ado Annie), and a life off-screen that was dramatic, to say the least. If you follow older films and want to see some top notch noir, I recommend (very highly):
- The Big Heat
- In a Lonely Place
- Human Desire
But this list is not even close to comprehensive when it comes to her body of work.
Like a lot of women of her generation in Hollywood, her rise was incredibly fast and her path out of Hollywood was rocky, to say the least. Curiously, Annette Benning is playing Grahame in an upcoming movie that covers the final years of Grahame's life, from what I can tell. Looks promising, as far as these movies go.
Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Today marks the 95th birthday of actor Veronica Lake.
I quite like Lake and she's in some great movies, from Sullivan's Travels to The Blue Dahlia. My favorite is This Gun For Hire. Lake's career in Hollywood was brief and tumultuous, and she was gone within a few years, but she left a tremendous mark few have been able to match.
Lake passed in the early 70's, but that's a whole other story. If you only know her from glamour photos, seek out one of her films.
Tuesday, October 17, 2017
Happy Birthday to Margot Kidder!
She is, of course, one of the greats of Superman media as Lois Lane in four Superman films and with a brief stint on Smallville. Arguably, Kidder did quite a bit to pivot the popular conception of Lois as less a straight-laced member of the newsroom (something she never was in the comics, but that's how she was played on TV's Adventures of Superman) and into the gutsy risk-taker with no time for a Dictionary that made absolute sense as the kind of woman who would capture the heart of the Man of Steel.
And, she's absolute dynamite in those first two Superman movies. The interview scene is pretty incredible if you haven't seen it in a while.
Happy Birthday, Ms. Kidder!
Sunday, September 17, 2017
Sunday, August 27, 2017
You're going to see the names Jack Kirby and Jacob Kurtzberg a lot today. Jack Kirby is the pen-name of the greatest comic artist and creator to grace this orb we call planet Earth.
Here, on the centennial of his birth (August 28th, 1917), it's possible to suggest that Jack Kirby may be one of the most important artistic and literary figures of the past 100 years. The recognition came late, decades after his passing, and, still, his name is hardly a household word. But the creations he unleashed upon popular culture from the 1940's to the 1990's would either be taken up directly by the public (at long last), becoming part of the parlance, or influence generations who could never produce that same spark of imagination, but built either directly or indirectly upon what he had done before.
There are Kirby bio sketches out there a-plenty (but no definitive monograph that I'm aware of), a magazine dedicated to the study and fan-splosion around his work, and Mark Evanier - who apprenticed under him - has become the living memory of his professional life while his grandchildren have taken up the cause of preserving the memory of the man. Now there's a virtual museum (which deserves a physical location), and a charity it's worth considering giving to sometime. And a slew of collections and books celebrating Kirby's influence and work.
Kirby was not first in when comics became a way for kids from the rougher neighborhoods of New York picked up a pencil or ink brush to start bringing in bread, but he was there really early. He was a workman who put everything he had into the work, comic by comic, year by year, becoming better and better. As they tell you in art-school, master the rules before you start breaking them - and that's what he did, finding his own unique style, his own way of creating action and drama, and eventually shattering what it meant to create a comics page.
Taking from mythology, from science-fiction, from films, from his colleagues and the bottomless well within, Kirby created whole universes, pockets within those universes, and held the lens to each character, bringing the internal life of gods, men and monsters to life.
Friday, August 25, 2017
Saturday the 26th of August marks the 99th birthday of Katherine Johnson, "The Human Calculator" who was key to the early success of NASA.
I'd spend time telling you about Johnson, but suffice it to say she overcame the gender and racial discrimination of her time to become a key player in America's space race. A physicist and mathematician, her natural ability to rapidly and accurately calculate complex equations necessary for figuring trajectories, etc... in the days when we were still doing this by hand instead of super-computer, made her an invaluable asset.
It would be only in recent years that her contributions, and those of other calculators, were made part of the bigger story of NASA. But today, she has a really terrific movie roughly telling the story of her role in the Apollo missions in Hidden Figures starring the terrific Taraji P. Henson as Mr. Johnson. There's building named after her at NASA. And this happened:
Monday, August 21, 2017
|this was during the Holidays, 2016. Raylan is considerably bigger and chattier now.|
These days The Admiral has a more important title, that of "Papa" (which, to my ear, always sounds more like "Pop-Pop" when Raylan says it). Raylan's my nephew, so I'm not around all that often for their interactions the way Jason is, but when I do listen to my dad and Raylan, holy smokes, do I have flashbacks to how we wrangled me and Jason when we were little.
Where my mom was all about a two-pronged approach of (a) getting us out of the house and educated by osmosis via experiences and (b) reading*, my dad was the one who couldn't leave well enough alone when we were performing mundane tasks and turned it into a lesson.
"You know how a telephone works?" you might suddenly hear. Well, no, Dad, but I bet by the end of this conversation I will, you'd say to yourself. This is not a complaint, by the way. I was the only kid in my 4th Grade class who understood the principles of lift, thrust and wingshape or how radio waves work. In middle school it was how companies and combustion engines work. In college it was rotary engines. I don't think we've completed the list of random stuff my dad seems to know how it works, because you never know. Even now he's figuring out something with an artificial waterfall and pumping mechanism that I've got about a 1/3rd of the story on.
Now he's got another round of well-refined "How Does It Work?" to share with my brother's kid. Just last week I saw him explaining gears to a 2 1/2 year old on YouTube. Next week it'll probably be how fishtank filters work or something.
Anyway, Happy Birthday, Dad, and thanks for all the impromptu lessons that made me unbearable to my classmates but also occasionally surprisingly handy.
*so, so much reading.
Monday, August 7, 2017
The all-around film star is apparently celebrating her birthday today.
This year, she's also been a space captain of some sort in a cameo in Guardian of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (and what I wouldn't give for the movie suggested by the grouping there at the end) and will be a very different kind of Captain in Star Trek Discovery.
She really is... out of this world.
Sunday, August 6, 2017
Today marks the 100th birthday of actor Robert Mitchum, born this day 1917 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. You hear a lot about Robert Mitchum off-screen, but there's no one else like him when he's on-screen. TCM is running a marathon of his films in celebration. Tune in if you got yourself some cable.
Here's to you, Bob.
Wednesday, August 2, 2017
Monday, July 24, 2017
|Ms. Carter at the recent premier of "Wonder Woman"|
Here's to Lynda Carter, who is celebrating her b-day today.
Lately it seems Ms. Carter has been particularly busy, between appearing on the CW's Supergirl as the President of the United States, to performing live (she's a well-regarded singer), to talk show appearances, to her appearance at the UN and in partnership with the Wonder Woman film. And last year she lent her voice to a lounge performer in Fallout 4.
We're always happy to see Ms. Carter get her due. And, of course, we hope she has a great birthday.
Wednesday, April 12, 2017
by David Lynch, Angelo Badalamenti and Little Jimmy Scott
I got idea man
You take me for a walk
Under the sycamore trees
The dark trees that blow baby
In the dark trees that blow
And I'll see you
And you'll see me
And I'll see you in the branches that blow
In the breeze,
I'll see you in the trees
Under the sycamore trees
Thursday, April 6, 2017
Happy 80th Birthday to the guy who gave me very specific ideas of what a cool guy was supposed to be like when I was about 5.
Mom never did let me wear that cape.
Just noticed - Finn has Lando's blaster in The Force Awakens.
Wednesday, April 5, 2017
Thursday, March 23, 2017
Today marks the something-or-other birthday of Joan Crawford. Maybe 112th. As many actresses have done over the years, she lied about her age a few times, so it's hard to know exactly what year she was born.
I saw my first Crawford picture when they showed us Mildred Pierce in film school, and I've been a fan ever since.
I'm thrilled that it seems both the kids who are into TCM are placing Crawford in context - even my generation is lukewarm on the whole Mommie Dearest business - and now it seems FX's Feud: Bette and Joan is telling an audience about the person that was Joan Crawford (née Lucille LeSeur), and using the amazing What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? to do so ain't all bad.
She was born in San Antonio and lived in Lawton, Oklahoma - both places our own Jamie lived. In fact, I believe Crawford's childhood home was only about two blocks from Jamie's childhood home.
If you've never seen What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, do so, and then watch Feud: Bette and Joan. And then watch Mildred Pierce. And then Grand Hotel. She's got dozens of movies in her history. Not all of them are terrific or hold up, but it'd be nice to rehabilitate Joan Crawford's memory a bit and for her to be more than Faye Dunaway overacting.