Category Archives: Movies

Della Street

You all know I’m a big fan of Perry Mason, particularly the two tv series with Raymond Burr.  I’ve seen them all and YA will tell you I’ve seen them all repeatedly.  Mea culpa. 

With the big storm on Sunday/Monday, I spent the day inside, watching another of my favorite old shows – Columbo.  When watching episodes back to back, I noticed something in Columbo that I have always been bothered by in Perry Mason.  Secretaries are portrayed as a bad lot.  Either they are in love with their bosses and will lie (and kill) for them or they are sexpots either having affairs with their bosses or vying for those affairs, always with the aim of blackmail of some sort. 

Except Della Street, of course.  Intelligent, resourceful, extremely loyal, kind and completely devoted to her job.  Early mornings, late nights, weekends…. she is ALWAYS working.  She goes to nice restaurants with the boss, gala affairs on occasion, holiday weekends in Mexico, an overnight on a boat with the boss to check some bit of evidence.  She even goes to the boss’ house to take care of him when he is sick.  But no canoodling of any kind, although the later series does lean a little over the line in terms of their relationship.  (And we’re not going to discuss a movie made in the late 30s in which Perry and Della get married!)

I did secretarial work for my father’s law firm for a couple of summers and winter breaks in college and I never met another secretary that fit any of the secretarial visions that Hollywood has dreamed up – no killer gals in love with the boss, no sexpots aiming to entrap the boss and no Della Streets.  Not a one.

In your opinion, what else does Hollywood always mess up?

Reading in Place

For years I’ve had way more library books checked out than even I can read before they are due; I spend way too much time (at least what most people think is way too much time) curating what I have checked out, what’s on hold, what’s in transit.  I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned that I have my 16-digit library card number memorized.  I never thought any of this would ever come in handy – looks like covid-19 is making me re-think this assumption.

By the end of last night, I am caught up.  I have read ALL the library books that I had checked out at the time the libraries closed up, plus a couple more that have arrived since my local library started allowing curbside pick-up.  I’m not in any danger of running out of things to read… plenty of online stuff and a good number of books that I’ve accumulated over the years but never read.  But it’s a nice feeling to be all caught up with the library.  I’m pretty sure that as soon as shelter-in-place is over, I’ll be back to my old habits!

Here are a few that I’ve read:

His Majesty’s Dragon (Naomi Novik).  5 stars.  Read this (again) for Blevins.  Bit of revisionist history of the era of the Napoleanic wars with dragons thrown into the mix.  First of the Temeraire series.

The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls (Julie Schumacher)  5 stars.  This is the same author who wrote Dear Committee Members and The Shakespeare Requirements.  It’s a young-adult fiction but a good read and very well written.  Four girls thrown together over the summer to discuss their school required reading list.

Natural History of Dragons (Marie Brennan).  5 stars.  Bit of very fun fiction from the viewpoint of a female “dragonologist” at a time when women were supposed to be staying home and knitting.

Murder on the Orient Express (Agatha Christie).  5 stars.  Read this again (read all of AC in high school) to refresh my memory on which of the two movies was the most loyal to the book.  Although I am normally irritated by mystery writers who don’t give you all the clues, since I already know who the murderers are in all her books, I was able to let it go and just enjoy her writing.  (And the 1972 movie was much closer to the book!)

The Crypt Thief (Mark Pryor).  4 stars.  Found this when I was looking up the video on the French cemetery that was discussed on the Trail in February.  Murder mystery involving the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

I know you’re worried that I’m going to review every book I’ve read in the last 2 months, but I’ll stop here (except to say no need to read Fooled by Randomness (Taleb) or Wreck the Halls (Graves).  Only 2 stars each.

What’s the latest book you’ve finished “in place”?

Felix or Oscar?

Today’s post comes to us from Minnesota Steve

The Odd Couple was a popular play that then became a hit movie and then became a television series that ran for five years. The original play, written by Neil Simon, features conflict between recent two divorcees who room together. Felix is a neat freak; Oscar is a slob who is comfortable being a slob. Essentially, the two characters are defined by their very different positions on the OCD scale. I particularly liked the movie. In it, fussy Felix was played by Jack Lemon, an actor who could do crankiness well. Oscar was played perfectly by Walter Matthau.

One reason I found the jokes appealing was how they mirrored my relationship with my favorite hunting and fishing partner, Bill. Bill was Felix; I was Oscar. Bill used to wear suspenders and a belt to keep his pants up; by contrast, I’ve been known to wear neither, with predictable results. We have been pals for over fifty years. Bill has gradually grown less uptight, while I have become somewhat more prepared. It has been the best friendship I ever had.

I was shocked to learn, when I was in my sixties, that I had slight OCD tendencies. One night I sat behind a woman during a small theatrical production. The tag on her blouse was sticking out. I found myself seriously tempted to tuck the tag out of sight. I didn’t, of course. Men who rearrange the clothing of women they don’t know might suffer harsh consequences. I couldn’t wait for that play to end because that loose tag was like a bit of grit in my eye.

When I moved to Michigan, a family friend helped set up in my new apartment. She donated glasses, silverware and furniture so the place would be livable when I arrived. To my disgust, I found myself freaked out by having “mixed” flatware. I lived for 48 years using nothing but the lovely Dansk flatware my erstwife and I got when we were married. After Nancy’s intervention, my elegantly stylish flatware shared a drawer with all kinds of alien forks and spoons from Walmart or who-knows-where. Every time I opened the silver drawer I was disgusted by the clash of styles. When I moved back to Minnesota I secretly dumped all the alien utensils.

So I’m still Oscar, but have a carefully hidden streak of Felix that only my best friends see.

How about you? Are you more slob or neatnik? Do you have enough OCD in you to be slightly bothered by it from time to time? Sitting in the doctor’s waiting area, did you ever straighten up the stacks of magazines?

The Razzies 2020

The Razzies are out!  They did an online reveal this year and here are the winners:

  • Worst picture: Cats
  • Worst actor: John Travolta for The Fanatic and Trading Paint
  • Worst actress: Hilary Duff for The Haunting of Sharon Tate
  • Worst supporting actress: Rebel Wilson for Cats
  • Worst supporting actor: James Corden for Cats
  • Worst screen combo: Any Two Half-Feline/Half-Human Hairballs in Cats
  • Worst screenplay: Cats
  • Worst director: Tom Hooper for Cats
  • Worst remake, rip-off or sequel: Rambo: Last Blood
  • Worst reckless disregard for human life and public property: Rambo: Last Blood

Looks like Cats took a licking this year.

What’s the worst movie you’ve ever seen?  Have you ever walked out of a movie?

Remaking Murder on the Orient Express

When they re-made Murder on the Orient Express a couple of years back, I made it a point to NOT go see it.  The Albert Finney version made in 1974 is a favorite of mine and you all know full well that I don’t generally like Hollywood to re-make my favorites.

But it’s been on tv lately, so I succumbed last week.  It wasn’t a good beginning as far as I was concerned and by the time it got to the discovery of Ratchett’s body (which was very weirdly and disorientingly shot from above), I was done.   Then a couple of nights ago, I thought “what the heck” and clicked it on.  By luck of the draw, it was right in the spot where I had turned it off before so I didn’t have to watch the first 25 minutes again.  I made myself watch it until the end.

For the most part I like Kenneth Branagh but his Poirot was dark and moody, something I didn’t expect.  The characters weren’t all the same and the two movies varied widely on how the interviews were done and the murder solved.  Not to mention a couple of wildly grandstanding moments like when Branagh is standing on TOP of the stalled train “thinking”.   This MOE just isn’t a good a film as the 1974.

The wide variations between the two films made me really stop and wonder.  Do I really know which of the two movies is closest to the book?  I have to admit that no, I do not.  I read Murder on the Orient Express in high school, which is when I read all the other Agatha Christie novels.  High school was a LONG time ago so I’ll have to say, except for the stunning “they all killed him” denouement at the end, I really don’t remember most of the book.

You know where this is going, right?  I’ve requested the book from the library to find out.  I’m hoping the 1974 version is closer to the book, but even if it isn’t, I’m pretty sure it will still be my favorite!

When was the last time you had to look something up to refresh your memory?  Any movie remakes that you actually LIKE?

FRFF 2020

I have come to love Winona’s film festival , which happens each winter after the Superbowl, and celebrated 15 years this past weekend. At the same time, I sort of brace myself because I know I’ll probably attend close to a dozen films or film sets over the span of five days, and there’s precious little time for anything else.

The films are documentaries from 4 to 84 minutes in length, concentrated on Saturday-Sunday on the WSU Campus. At the atrium of the Science Lab Center are food vendors, ticket sales and merchandise, display booths, and conversation corners for those who would like to continue discussing what they just viewed. Other local venues include the Winona Cinema 7, Senior High School, and this year there was an early day of films in Lanesboro, MN, the previous weekend. Clusters of shorter ones include the Adventure Set, Moving Mountains Set, Indomitable Spirit Set, a Local Set…

Husband and I volunteer as ushers/ticket-takers for two of the sets, which gets us a weekend pass to all films. (!) My favorite mind-bending films this time around began on Wednesday evening with Hillbilly – how we have stereotyped people of Appalachia, and how that has created the perfect “soil” for Trumpism.

Frozen Friday was wonderful:

– at the Library: I wish everyone could see The Economics of Happiness, an overview of how globalization has changed the world, and how we might survive this.

– at the Sr. Friendship Center:  Love is Listening: Dementia without Loneliness – who knew this is how to get under all the surface stuff and just be with people?

– at St. Mary’s Univ. Student Center:  The Francis Effect – the impact the current Pope has made in the world, on groups and individuals.

Saturday, I started out with The Serengeti Rules – a cadre of nature researchers have discovered that the natural world operates differently than previously though (another “must see” in my opinion), if you look over the long term. While “working” as ushers, we viewed Singing in the Grain, highlighting the music that holds Minnesota’s Czech communities together, in New Prague et al; and Blood Memory, on reparations just now being made to First Nations People who were impacted by adoption/foster care forced on them in the last century.

Sunday featured a rather disjointed but still powerful film (produced and narrated by Jeff Bridges), an overview of our current global situation:  Living in the Future’s Past.

Lest you think it sounds way too “heavy”, I also saw a horse painting pictures (My Paintbrush Bites), a goatherd high in the Tibetan steppes on her cell phone as her son played stick hockey (Jagrlama), and a club that predicts when celebrities are going to kick the bucket (Riplist).

What was the last documentary you saw?  Do you ever attend film festivals?

RIP Terry Jones

Amid all the insanity this week, the saddest news to me is the passing of Terry Jones.

I discovered Monty Python when I was in high school. This was before the television show but I had all their record albums.  One of favorites was Eric the Half a Bee:

Another favorite was An Elk:

By the time I got to Carleton, the television show was airing on Sunday nights and I was a founding member of the 4th Burton Penguin Society:

We got together every Sunday night to watch the show and drink Fosters (do not ask me why we thought we needed to drink Australian beer while watching an English comedy show – I don’t remember at all). All of us in the “club” had a small ceramic penguin; I still have mine and keep in my studio

When Monty Python and the Holy Grail came out, I laughed until I cried and went back to the theatre three times in the next couple of weeks. I have it on DVD but it loses a bit on the small screen, especially the moose credits at the beginning.  YA doesn’t even begin to understand the appeal of Monty Python.  But I loved the irreverence, the silliness, the fun graphics and the craziness of some of the sketches.  This was a great team.  It was sad to lose Graham Chapman too soon and now Terry Jones.  I gave all the record albums to tim last year because I didn’t have a turntable anymore, but I am enjoying the tv shows that are running these days and, of course, you can find a lot of it on youtube, but it’s not quite the same as crowding around a small black and white tv set in a dorm room on 4th Burton, seeing them for the first time.

Who has made you laugh over the years?

 

It’s Movie Time

Photo Credit:  Wikimedia Commons

One of my close friends, Pat, is an Oscars fan. As soon as the list of nominees comes out every year, she works hard to make sure she has seen all the nominees (in the best picture category – not every category) before the Oscars.  I’ve been getting updates since the list came out of what she’s seen.  She has a pretty good track record; most years she manages to see them all by the time of the ceremony.

I’m the opposite, since I rarely go to the movies. In fact, this year, I have only seen one nominee – Klaus, an animated Christmas film which I didn’t have to leave the house to see as it was a Netflix release (it was very good).  Reviews are not usually worth my notice; if I want to see something, I see it, not matter what the reviewers say.  I can’t ever recall a time when I left a movie screening saying “gosh, I should have listened to the reviews.”

Every now and then I do look, including the Doctor Doolittle reviews this month.  There is always a certain amount of trepidation on my part when Hollywood decides to tackle a beloved book, especially a beloved children’s book.  I’ve seen the trailers and I know that the movie bears very little resemblance to the book.  While I can’t stomach this in, say, Wrinkle in Time (one of my favorite books of all time), it may not be a deal breaker for Doctor Doolittle or even Little Women.  Both have been made into movies multiples times so I feel like the water is already completely muddied.  The newest Doolittle venture has not gotten great reviews but I don’t think that will stop me.  Dare I admit that Robert Downey Jr. is the main reason I will probably go see this movie this weekend?

Do you have an actor/actress who will entice you to see a film? Or one who will keep you out of the movie theatre?

Among Us?

Fun news this week. Astronaut Helen Sharman, one of the first seven Britons to travel to space, has come out as pro-alien lifeform.

“There are so many billions of stars out there in the universe that there must be all sorts of different forms of life.  Will they be like you and me, made up of carbon and nitrogen? Maybe not.”

Shades of Carl Sagan’s Contact.  And as if that isn’t spectacular enough, she went on to say”

“It’s possible they’re here right now and we simply can’t see them.”

This of course brings to mind the scene from Men in Black in which Will Smith says he was sure his third grade teacher was an alien:

Anybody you are sure is an alien?

Calendar Cuties

I just received the December 5th edition of the Rock County Star Herald, my home town newspaper. I was delighted to read a story about Generations, the local senior citizens center. The center started an ambitious campaign to raise 2 million dollars for a  building for senior activities which will provide meals and social activities for community seniors as well as for residents of all ages in the low income housing tower to which it will be connected.

The newest fund raiser is a calendar featuring,  each month,  a local  senior posed in a scene from an iconic movie. Costumes were borrowed from the local community theatre company, and a local photographer volunteered to take the photos. So, on the front page of the paper, there she was, Neva, the mother of one of my high school classmates, posed like Julie Andrews from The Sound of Music,  clad in that black dress with the white apron, standing in front of a mountain in the middle of the alpine meadow with her arms held out, ready to belt out The Hills are Alive.  George, director of Generations and a retired horticulturalist, posed as Forrest Gump sitting on the bench with a suitcase and a box of chocolates.

They got the idea from the Winona Friendship Center. It seems like they had a great deal of fun doing it. They are making plans for next year’s calendar.

What iconic film scene/character  would you like to pose as for such a calendar?