Showing posts with label movies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label movies. Show all posts

20 June 2020

A Movie Quiz for the Pandemic




Before I start, let me say a quick thank-you to all those who commented on my last two posts, on the Do's and Don'ts of writing. That can be a touchy subject, because all of us have our own ideas about the "rules" of writing fiction, and I was pleased that both posts seemed to kick off a good exchange of views about everything from grammar/style to the story-submission process. Thanks again.

As for today's column, I have noticed that my fellow SleuthSayers seem to be writing a lot of posts lately about the coronavirus and social injustice and other meaningful issues. Since I admire them and I admire that, I considered doing the same for my post today.

But didn't. The truth is, I'm sort of tired of the news.

So . . . today's offering is a quiz for movie lovers. If you fall into that group, try your hand at the following questions.
What do these movies have in common?


Example:

Top Gun / Iron Eagle / The Blue Max / Flyboys
Answer: fighter pilots


1. The Breakfast Club / Clueless / Napoleon Dynamite / Ferris Bueller's Day Off

2. Peggy Sue Got Married / A Sound of Thunder / Deja Vu / Back to the Future

3. On the Beach / Miracle Mile / These Final Hours / Melancholia

4. Rocky / Cinderella Man / Million Dollar Baby / Raging Bull

5. Dante's Peak / Krakatoa, East of Java / When Time Ran Out / The Devil at Four O'Clock

6. Hellfighters / There Will Be Blood / Boom Town / Oklahoma Crude

7. The Eiger Sanction / Touching the Void / Free Solo / K2

8. Terminal Velocity / Point Break / The Gypsy Moths

9. The Cincinnati Kid / Molly's Game / A Big Hand for the Little Lady

10. Victory / Kicking and Screaming / Bend It like Beckham

11. Match Point / Battle of the Sexes / Love Means Zero

12. Apocalypto / The Emerald Forest / Romancing the Stone / Mogli / Medicine Man

13. The Greatest Show on Earth / Water for Elephants / The Wagons Roll at Night

14. The Outlaw / The Left-Handed Gun / Dirty Little Billy / Young Guns

15. Gunfight at the O.K. Corral / My Darling Clementine / Hour of the Gun / Tombstone

16. The Gathering Storm / Darkest Hour / Into the Storm / The Eagle Has Landed

17. The Aviator / Rules Don't Apply / Melvin and Howard

18. Pearl Harbor / The Descendants / Diamond Head / From Here to Eternity

19. The Big Easy / Tightrope / Cat People (1982) / A Streetcar Named Desire

20. Mystic River / Gone Baby Gone / Patriot's Day / The Town / The Departed

21. Bullitt / Vertigo / The Rock / Pacific Heights / Dirty Harry

22. Crocodile Dundee / Mad Max / Walkabout / The Man from Snowy River

23. The Quiet Man / Ryan's Daughter / The Wind that Shakes the Barley

24. Death on the Nile / Evil Under the Sun / Dead Man's Folly / Murder on the Orient Express

25. Lady in the Lake / The Long Goodbye / Poodle Springs / Murder, My Sweet / The Big Sleep


Answers:

1. high school
2. time travel
3. the end of the world
4. boxing
5. volcanoes
6. oil wells
7. mountain climbing
8. skydiving
9. poker
10. soccer
11. tennis
12. the jungle
13. the circus
14. Billy the Kid
15. Wyatt Earp
16. Winston Churchill
17. Howard Hughes
18. Hawaii
19. New Orleans
20. Boston
21. San Francisco
22. Australia
23. Ireland
24. Hercule Poirot
25. Philip Marlowe



Now . . . What TWO things do the following movies have in common?


Example:

Sleepless in Seattle / Joe vs. the Volcano / You’ve Got Mail 
Answer: Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan


1. Field of Dreams / For the Love of the Game / Bull Durham

2. The Longest Yard / Semi-Tough

3. The Hustler / The Color of Money

4. Sully / Cloud Atlas / Cast Away

5. Alien / Aliens / Galaxy Quest

6. National Velvet / Thoroughbreds Don't Cry / The Black Stallion

7. The High and the Mighty / Island in the Sky / Flying Leathernecks

8. Crimson Tide / The Poseidon Adventure

9. The Shawshank Redemption / The Green Mile

10. The Jewel of the Nile / The Ghost and the Darkness

11. Rio Bravo / Texas Across the River / Five Card Stud / Four for Texas

12. Seven Days in May / Tough Guys / The Devil's Disciple / Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

13. The Odd Couple / The Front Page / Out to Sea / The Grass Harp / Grumpy Old Men

14. Good Will Hunting / Chasing Amy / Dogma / Jersey Girls

15. Heat / Righteous Kill / The Godfather, Part II / The Irishman

16. Eyes Wide Shut / Days of Thunder / Far and Away

17. Barefoot in the Park / The Chase / The Electric Horseman

18. The Wedding Singer / Blended / 50 First Dates

19. Serena / Silver Linings Playbook / Joy / American Hustle

20. Pretty Woman / Runaway Bride

21. Speed / The Lake House

22. Key Largo / The Big Sleep / Dark Passage / To Have and Have Not 

23. State of the Union / Desk Set / The Sea of Grass / Adam's Rib / Pat and Mike

24. North by Northwest / Notorious / Suspicion / To Catch a Thief

25. Rope / The Man Who Knew Too Much / Vertigo / Rear Window


Answers:

1. Kevin Costner and baseball
2. Burt Reynolds and football
3. Paul Newman and pool
4. Tom Hanks and plane crashes
5. Sigourney Weaver and outer space
6. Mickey Rooney and horses
7. John Wayne and airplanes
8. Gene Hackman and boats
9. Stephen King and prisons
10. Michael Douglas and Africa
11. Dean Martin and the old west
12. Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas
13. Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau
14. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck
15. Robert De Niro and Al Pacino
16. Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise
17. Jane Fonda and Robert Redford
18. Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler
19. Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper
20. Julia Roberts and Richard Gere
21. Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves
22. Bacall and Bogart
23. Hepburn and Tracy
24. Hitchcock and Cary Grant
25. Hitchcock and James Stewart


Bonus question:

What odd/unusual thing do the following movies have in common?

Example:

Presumed Innocent / Regarding Henry
Answer: Harrison Ford as a lawyer


1. Just Cause / Finding Forrester / Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade 
2. Nighthawks / Cobra / Copland / Tango and Cash
3. Will Penny / The Big Country / The Last Hard Men / Pony Express
4. Bandolero / 100 Rifles / Hannie Caulder
5. The Devil's Disciple / Elmer Gantry 
6. The Cooler / The Juror / Fun with Dick and Jane / Motherless Brooklyn
7. Batman Begins / Immortal Beloved / The Dark Knight / The Prisoner of Azkaban
8. Awakenings / Patch Adams / Flubber / Good Will Hunting / Nine Months 
9. Deep Impact / Olympus Has Fallen / London Has Fallen
10. Hombre / Cool Hand Luke / The Left-Handed Gun / Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid


Answers:

1. Sean Connery as a professor
2. Sylvester Stallone as a cop
3. Charlton Heston as a cowboy
4. Raquel Welch as a cowgirl
5. Burt Lancaster as a preacher
6. Alec Baldwin as a bad guy
7. Gary Oldman as a good guy
8. Robin Williams as a doctor
9. Morgan Freeman as the President
10. Paul Newman gets shot at the end




How'd you do? In my opinion, the first section was pretty easy and the second section and bonus items were hard. (But I sure had fun putting them together. As my wife could tell you, I'm easily entertained.)

Can you think of some I missed? Groups of movies with the same actors or acting duos or actors playing against type? Movies about the same topic or famous person or location, etc.? Let me know.

Next time, I'll get back to more serious matters. Maybe.


Everybody stay safe!




18 April 2020

Downer Endings


As most of you know, we at this blog usually write about (1) mysteries or (2) writing or (3) mystery writing. And when the subject is writing, I've noticed that it's usually about either our own creations or about what it is that makes fiction (stories/novels/movies) effective and interesting and entertaining. (As if we know.)

Today I want to talk about stories that don't have happy endings. Movies, specifically. There are of course many of those, and some have endings that aren't just sad, they're downright depressing. Yes, I know, that might not be a good topic to focus on right now, during these uncertain times, but hey, I needed something to post today. Velma, our secretary and first-sergeant here at SleuthSayers, gets grumpy if I don't turn in my column.

For the record, I've always felt that the end of a story doesn't have to be either happy or sad (or even totally believable--look at The Black Stallion, or The African Queen)--but it does have to be satisfying. Every good story needs a problem for the hero/heroine to solve, and if by the end of the tale he doesn't get what he's been seeking, whether it's love or treasure or freedom or redemption or the world championship or whatever, the audience needs to understand why. Some of my favorite movies have clear, positive, cowboy-in-the-white-hat-wins endings. Everybody likes those. Other favorites of mine--Witness, Casablanca, Rocky, Vertigo, Hombre, Chinatown, Rain Man, and many others--end with the hero not getting what he wanted, or what he thought he wanted. But with those stories there was always a reason for that failure, and usually the outcome was for the greater good, or to teach him (and/or the audience) a life lesson. In Dead Poets Society, to mention just one example, the hero is fired from his job, but because of the way it was done the viewer leaves the theater feeling uplifted.

I once heard there are two words that come to mind when the subject is depressing endings: foreign films. That of course isn't always true, but I had to throw it in.

With regard to downer endings in general, I think they come in several flavors:



1. The death of the hero

Cool Hand Luke
Thelma and Louise
Braveheart
Saving Private Ryan
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Love Story
Bonnie and Clyde
Shane
Easy Rider
The Room
The Wild Bunch
Gran Torino

2. A continuation of the disaster/crisis

On the Beach
Night of the Living Dead
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Melancholia
Cloverfield
Fail-Safe
I Am Legend
The Happening
The Birds
Miracle Mile
The Road

3. An unresolved ending

No Country for Old Men
The French Connection
Blade Runner
2001: A Space Odyssey
Inception
The Blair Witch Project
The Wrestler
Doubt
Taxi Driver
The Florida Project
Barton Fink


4. A surprise ending

Shutter Island
The Mist
Planet of the Apes
Primal Fear
Fight Club
10 Cloverfield Lane
The Departed
Atonement
Seven
Soylent Green


NOTE: In my opinion, some of the above (Shane, No Country for Old Men, Seven, The Wild Bunch, Fail-Safe, etc.) were extremely good movies and some (The Happening, The Room, Love Story) were not. This isn't about good or bad or my idea of good or bad; we're just talking about endings.



Not that it matters, but I think the movie that had the most depressing ending ever was The Mist--probably because it was both tragic and needless. I enjoyed the story, but boy that ending was a punch in the gut. If you've seen it, you know what I mean. The odd thing is, the Stephen King novella from which it was adapted wasn't as bleak at the end. (On the flip side, the movie Cujo ended happy and King's novel Cujo ended sad.) The second most depressing ending I can remember was to one of the most depressing movies I've ever seen: They Shoot Horses, Don't They? But it was also satisfying in that it explained with crystal clarity, in its final thirty seconds, its mysterious title.

One more observation: Some movies with depressing subjects have upbeat endings (The Shawshank Redemption, Deep Impact, Ghost, Oklahoma Crude, Stand By Me); some fairly upbeat movies have depressing endings (Somewhere in Time, Titanic, King Kong, Million Dollar Baby); and let's face it, some depressing movies have depressing endings (Leaving Las Vegas, The Road, They Shoot Horses, The Elephant Man, The Wrestler, Requiem for a Dream). Something for all tastes.


How do you feel about all this? What are some of your favorite downer endings? Which are the worst? Have you ever seen an otherwise good movie whose ending ruined it? Ever seen an otherwise bad movie whose ending saved it? How about those that started bad and went steadily downhill? Have any of your own stories and novels ended with a letdown?

I suppose, since I have nothing positive to add, that's the way I'm ending this column.

Stay safe!

07 March 2020

Pure Goldman





The name William Goldman might or might not be familiar to you. It's probably familiar to me only because I watch, and have always watched, a lot of movies. All of us are familiar with Goldman's movies.

I intended to write this column more than a year ago, shortly after I heard about his death, but I just never got around to it. There is general agreement that screenwriter William Goldman was a man of incredible literary talent, and I've long been a fan of not only his screenplays but his novels and memoirs. (I think Adventures in the Screen Trade should be "must" reading for all writers of fiction.)

Very quickly: William Goldman was born in Chicago in August 1931 and died in New York in November 2018, and over the course of his long career he won two screenwriting Oscars (for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and All the President's Men), won two Edgars (for Harper and Magic), and received the Laurel Award for Screenwriting Achievement from the Writer's Guild of America.

I won't go into a lot of detail about his life; if you want that, there's plenty of information available. What I'd like to do here is give you a list of some of his accomplishments. He was the author of the following screenplays, novels, and books.

Note: I have not included any of his plays, TV scripts, unproduced movie scripts, or short stories. And--not that it matters--the asterisks indicate my favorites in each category.

Movies:

Masquerade (1965)
Harper (1966)
*Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
The Hot Rock (1972)
The Stepford Wives (1975)
The Great Waldo Pepper (1975)
*Marathon Man (1976)
*All the President's Men (1976)
A Bridge Too Far (1977)
*Magic (1978)
Heat (1986)
*The Princess Bride (1987)
Twins (1988)
*Misery (1990)
A Few Good Men (1992)
Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992)
Year of the Comet (1992)
Chaplin (1992)
Indecent Proposal (1993)
Last Action Hero (1993)
Malice (1993)
Maverick (1994)
Delores Claiborne (1995)
The Chamber (1996)
*The Ghost and the Darkness (1996)
Fierce Creatures (1997)
Good Will Hunting (1997)
Absolute Power (1997)
The General's Daughter (1999)
*Hearts in Atlantis (2001)
Dreamcatcher (2003)
Wild Card (2015)

Novels:

The Temple of God (1957)
Your Turn to Curtsy, My Turn to Bow (1958)
Soldier in the Rain (1960)
Boys and Girls Together (1964)
No Way to Treat a Lady (1964)
The Think of It Is . . . (1967)
Father's Day (1971)
*The Princess Bride (1973)
*Marathon Man (1974)
*Magic (1976)
Tinsel (1979)
*Control (1982)
The Silent Gondoliers (1983)
*The Color of Light (1984)
Heat (1985)
Brothers (1986)

Nonfiction:

The Season: A Candid Look at Broadway (1969)
The Story of A Bridge Too Far (1977)
*Adventures in the Screen Trade (1983)
Wait Till Next Year (1988)
*Hype and Glory (1990)
Four Screenplays (1995)
Five Screenplays (1997)
*Which Lie Did I Tell?: More Adventures in the Screen Trade (2000)
The Big Picture (2001)


William Goldman was, along with screenwriters like Kubrick, Sorkin, Wilder, and a few others, one of the very best in the business, and the three movies he adapted from his own novels--Magic, Marathon Man, and The Princess Bride--are, in my opinion, among his finest. There are things about all three (ventriloquists' dummies, dentists' chairs, giants who like rhymes, etc.) that'll probably stay in my head forever. And his nonfiction was especially interesting to me because of the way he wrote. He presented facts as if he were sitting in the chair next to you, chatting instead of lecturing. Those of you who've read him know what I mean.


Goldman once said, of himself: "I don't like my writing. I wrote a movie called Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and I wrote a novel called The Princess Bride and those are the only two things I've ever written, not that I'm proud of, but that I can look at without humiliation."

Author Sean Egan once said, of Goldman: "He was one of the late twentieth century's most popular storytellers."

I know which I'd rather believe.

All of us, writers and moviegoers alike, can learn from his work.








17 February 2020

When They Say It's Not About Politics...


My daughter gave me The Last Widow, Karin Slaughter's newest novel, for Christmas and I tore through it in about three days. Slaughter is one of my favorite writers, and the first half of the book felt like a freight train with no brakes careening down a steep hill. I turned pages quickly enough to leave a trail of smoke and risk uncountable paper cuts.

I seldom pay attention to online reviews, but when I finished this one, I looked on Amazon out of curiosity. Slaughter is one of several authors I read who gathers mixed reviews because she takes chances and doesn't adhere to the standard template. Sure enough, The Last Widow had 795 reviews, 63% five-star, and 9% one-star.

The one-star reviews often complained that Slaughter let her politics get in the way of the story. Well, a group of white nationalist kidnaps Sarah Linton, the female protagonist, as part of their deadly plot, and, given that premise, it's hard to be apolitical.

That's why I usually ignore online reviews.

In one way or another, MOST art is political because artists deal with important issues in life.

Sophocles wrote Oedipus the King as a reaction to the contemporary debate about predestination. His play takes the issue head-on, and his opinion is clear. Euripides leaves no doubt what he thinks of war in The Trojan Women. Nice people don't throw the child of a vanquished rival off the battlements and turn the surviving women into sex slaves.



Shakespeare's 37 (or 40, or 50, depending on whose count you believe) plays constantly involve politics.
Macbeth, Hamlet, and King Lear discuss, among other issues, who succeeds to the throne. Measure For Measure asks tough questions about women, love, sex, and relationships, and offers no easy answers (The main "good guy" has a creepy voyeuristic streak, too).
All the histories involve kings and, usually, war. Even comedies like Much Ado About Nothing and Twelfth Night discuss the roles of women in society, and the misuse of power, still timely as the Me Too Movement and Roe vs Wade are still crucial issues.

Jane Austen and Emily Bronte present the situation of women in the 1800s, unable to vote, own property, or inherit. Pride and Prejudice features Mr. Bennet with five daughters who will starve if he can't marry them off to husbands who will support them. Wuthering Heights is built around the British Law of Entails, a devious way to control who inherits property if no sons succeed.

In America, Twain looks at slavery through bitter eyes in Huckleberry Finn, one of the most banned books in our country's schools, along with To Kill A Mockingbird, which looks at the same issue from 80 years later...although we haven't advanced much. Uncle Tom's Cabin, far more racist than either of the others, was a blockbuster best-seller before the word existed.

Robert Penn Warren gives us All The King's Men, a fictionalized vision of Huey Long, the Louisiana Governor who used graft and kickbacks left and right...and used the money to build highways and hospitals. Alan Drury won the Pulitzer in 1960 with Advise And Consent (102 weeks on the NYT Bestseller list and later a film with Henry Fonda), and that's all about politics.

Other novels, off the top of my head: 1984, Brave New World, The Handmaid's Tale, Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy (if you haven't read these, do so before the second of the three books appears next fall on HBO.)

I know almost nothing about painting, but even I can point to Picasso's Guernica.

Plays: Lee Blessing's A Walk In The Woods is about two arms negotiators meeting to talk during the Cold War. Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible (maybe my least favorite play of all time), All My Sons, A View From the Bridge, and Death of a Salesman. Miller always looked at the shafting of the little guy by big business or bigger government. Lawrence and Lee's Inherit the Wind, which the Religious Reich should go see sometime.

Films: Stanley Kubrick's Dr Strangelove, or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb.

The classic western High Noon asks if we deserve freedom and law if we won't fight to defend them.Many in that production were blacklisted because of their involvement, and I still don't understand why. What about The Grapes of Wrath? Steinbeck dodged a death threat after writing the novel, and the film, made on an 800K budget, still gives me chills when I listen to Henry Fonda deliver
Tom Joad's farewell speech in that flat monotone.

Beethoven first called Symphony #3 the "Bounaparte," but changed it to "Eroica" after Napoleon became Emperor.
Where would American folk music be without Woody Guthrie,Pete Seeger, and the Weavers?  Or their descendants, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, The Doors ("The Unknown Soldier") and Country Joe & The Fish (I Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag--remember "Gimme an 'F'?).

Politics should be separate from art. Yeah, right.

Maybe flavor should be separate from food, too.

This list barely unscrews the lid from the jar. What other works can you name?

19 December 2019

Angelic Voices


by Eve Fisher

'Tis the week before Christmas, and the rituals have begun:

Image result for vintage ceramic christmas treeWe put up our Christmas tree.  (Forty years ago, it was real; twenty years ago, it was artificial; the last five years it's been vintage ceramic!) 

We watch our favorite Christmas movies:  We're No Angels (the original 1955 version); The Man Who Came to Dinner; Reborn; Scrooge (1951, Alistair Sim); The Muppet Christmas Carol (I'm a sentimentalist at heart); The Bishop's Wife (1947, Loretta Young & Cary Grant); National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation; Blackadder's Christmas Carol; and all the Christmas Specials from Last of the Summer Wine.

We go driving around at night and look at Christmas lights.  Falls Park does a great light show; downtown's pretty; and there are all these old houses over by McKennan Park and elsewhere that have wonderful decorations.

Winter Wonderland at Falls Park
Sioux Falls - Falls Park's "Winter Wonderland"

And we go to various musical concerts.  Some years, Handel's Messiah, or Christmas at the Cathedral, or any of a variety of musical Christmas offerings.  This year we went to hear the Singing Boys of Sioux Falls at East Side Lutheran Church.  I hadn't heard of them before, and while I knew that there were men's choirs in Sioux Falls, I hadn't known there was a boys' choir.  So we went, and it was wonderful - beautiful music, beautiful voices, beautiful church.

Now boys' choirs developed in the Middle Ages, when women were barred from participating in any sort of performing arts in mixed company in churches, and they had to get sopranos from somewhere.
NOTE:  Later, of course, women would also be barred from participating in theaters, which leads to the crazy plots in Shakespeare, et al, in which a man playing a woman in disguise as a man courts another man playing a woman, who sometimes pulls a double switcheroo, and basically good luck keeping up with who's playing what when.  It makes our current touchiness about gender roles look pretty strange.
Anyway, it wasn't until the mid-1800s that women were allowed to join church choirs, which is why boys' choirs remained strong well past the Victorian Age. Cathedrals had cathedral schools for young boy singers, where a good voice could get you an education and perhaps even a career where you weren't plowing fields or living on the streets with Fagin.

And there were plenty of boys to choose from. This was because (1) people had a lot more children before birth control and (2) children didn't hit puberty until their mid to late teens because most of them were malnourished. Poverty was a huge factor. Most people were poor. Very poor.

We tend to forget how prevalent poverty was, is, and how it was one of the major subjects of most Christmas stories. Until now. Probably the last Christmas special on TV that centered on the poor - with any sort of accuracy - was the precursor to The Waltons, 1971's The Homecoming:  A Christmas Story.

But almost all Victorian Christmas stories were about the poor.  That or ghost stories (see my blog post https://www.sleuthsayers.org/2015/12/ghoulies-and-ghosties.html) .  Part of the reason why Dickens' A Christmas Carol became such a runaway bestseller is that it combined the two.


Christmas (12 days of it, thank you) with ghosts, and the poor, and sometimes they died! As in Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Match Girl - because no Victorian ever shied away from death, even the death of children. Especially the death of children. Think Little Nell, Tiny Tim (until Scrooge's repentance), Beth March, Smike, as well as a host of lesser known victims of the Victorians' love of a good cry, especially at Christmas. And well past Victorian times. There's O Henry's The Gift of the Magi.  There's Mary Mapes Dodge's Hans Brinker, or the Silver SkatesLittle Women opens with this famous sequence:
"Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents," grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.
"It's so dreadful to be poor!" sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress.
"I don't think it's fair for some girls to have plenty of pretty things, and other girls nothing at all," added little Amy, with an injured sniff.
"We've got father and mother and each other," said Beth contentedly, from her corner.
The four young faces on which the firelight shone brightened at the cheerful words, but darkened again as Jo said sadly,—  "We haven't got father, and shall not have him for a long time." She didn't say "perhaps never," but each silently added it, thinking of father far away, where the fighting was.
Nobody spoke for a minute; then Meg said in an altered tone,—
"You know the reason mother proposed not having any presents this Christmas was because it is going to be a hard winter for every one; and she thinks we ought not to spend money for pleasure, when our men are suffering so in the army. We can't do much, but we can make our little sacrifices, and ought to do it gladly. But I am afraid I don't;" and Meg shook her head, as she thought regretfully of all the pretty things she wanted.
And then Marmee shows up and the girls go off to get the real Christmas spirit by helping the Hummels, German immigrants who are desperately poor, crammed 6 in one room, with a dead father and a very sick mother.

Besides the actual story of the birth of Jesus, i.e., the Incarnation (which most Victorian authors considered too sacred to write directly about), this was what Christmas used to be all about - helping the poor.  But any more it seems that modern Christmas movies are either comedies (increasingly raunchy) or the neverending Hallmark offerings, which specialize in Christmas Princess and other glittery tales of beautiful young women meeting the perfect hunky guy in the perfect snow-covered site - well, I think this video sums it up best:




But back to boys' choirs.  Most of the old 1940s/1950s movies (The Bishop's Wife, Going My Way, and The Bells of St. Mary's) showcased the Mitchell Singing Boys, led by Robert Mitchell from 1934-2000.  (Mr. Mitchell himself lived from 1912-2009!).  The example below is from The Bishop's Wife.



Today, boys' choirs are up against increasing affluence.  Frankly, boys today get a lot more to eat, so the boys go through puberty earlier and earlier.  This means that the general age of boys' choirs have decreased.  And a 10 year old can't be expected to have the same musical ability, understanding, and musical ability as a 15 year old.  The result is that modern boys' choirs have greater turnover, and are often singing much less complicated music than they used to.

Meanwhile, let's listen to the Vienna's Boys' Choir from 1957, with (according to YouTube) boy soloist Michael Paddy Quilligan.  And have a very Merry Christmas, with or without ghosts!







29 November 2019

Good Movies of the early 1950s


After criticizing some of the popular music of the early 1950s, here are some of the good movies of the early 1950s. Listening to the radio might have been painful but we had a lot of great movies to choose from at theaters. Here are some:

Released in 1950:

Sunset Boulevard (Paramount) William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich von Stroheim, Nancy Olsen



Harvey (Universal) James Stewart, Victoria Horne, Cecil Kellaway, Josephine Hull

The Asphalt Jungle (MGM) Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern, Sam Jaffee, John McIntire, Marilyn Monroe



D.O.A. (Harry Popkin Productions) Edmund O'Brien, Pamela Britton, Luther Adler, Beverly Garland

Winchester '73 (Universal) James Stewart, Shelly Winters, Dan Duryea, Stephen McNally

Father of the Bride (MGM) Spencer Tracy, Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Bennett

Cinderella (Disney) Ilene Woods, Eleanor Audley, Verna Felton, Mike Douglas, William Phipps

Released in 1951: A banner year for good movies

A Streetcar Named Desire (Warner Brothers) Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter, Karl Malden

Strangers on a Train (Warner Brothers) Farley Granger, Robert Walker, Ruth Roman, Leo G. Carroll



An American in Paris (MGM) Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant, Nina Foch

A Place in the Sun (Paramount) Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth, Taylor, Shelly Winters, Raymond Burr

Detective Story (Paramount) Kirk Douglas, Eleanor Parker, William Bendix


The African Queen (Horizon Pictures) Humphrey Bogart, Katherine Hepburn, Robert Morley

Ace in the Hole (Paramount) Kirk Douglas, Jan Sterling, Richard Benedict


When Worlds Collide (Paramount) Barbara Rush, Richard Derr, Peter Hansen, Rachel Ames

The Thing from Another World (RKO) Kenneth Tobey, Margaret Sheridan, James Arness

The Day the Earth Stood Still (29th Century Fox) Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, Hugh Marlowe, Sam Jaffe



Alice in Wonderland (Disney) Kathryn Beaumont, Ed Wynn, Sterling Holloway, Jerry Colonna

Released in 1952: Another banner year

High Noon (Stanley Kramer Productions) Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, Lloyd Bridges, Lon Chaney, Jr.

The Snows of Kilimarjaro (20th Century Fox) Gregory Peck, Susan Hayward, Ava Gardner

Carrie (Paramount) Jennifer Jones, Laurence Olivier, Eddie Albert)


Against All Flags (Universal International) Errol Flynn, Maureen O'Hara, Anthony Quinn

The Crimson Pirate (Warner Brothers) Burt Lancaster, Nick Cravat, Eva Bartok, Dana Winter


Deadline – USA (20th Century Fox) Humphrey Bogart, Ethel Barrymore, Kim Hunter

Singin' in the Rain (MGM) Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Jean Hagen

Viva Zapata! (20th Century Fox) Marlon Brando, Jean Peters, Anthony Quinn

Released in 1952: Now this was a year for movies

From Here to Eternity (Columbia) Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr, Montgomery Clift, Donna Reed, Frank Sinatra, Ernest Borgnine



Shane (Paramount) Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, Van Heflin, Brandon De Wilde, Jack Palance

How To Marry a Millionaire (20th Century Fox) Lauren Bacall, Betty Grable, Marilyn Monroe

House of Wax (Warner Brothers) Vincent Price, Frank Lovejoy, Sue Allen, Carolyn Jones, Charles Bronson

Mogambo (MGM) Clark Gable, Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly



The Robe (20th Century Fox) Richard Burton, Jean Simmons, Victor Mature, Michael Rennie

Roman Holiday (Paramount) Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck, Eddie Albert

Stalag 17 (Paramount) William Holden, Don Taylor, Otto Preminger, Robert Strauss

The War of the Worlds (Paramount) Gene Barry, Ann Robinson, Les Tremayne, Cedric Hardwicke

The Wild One (Stanley Kramer Productions) Marlon Brando, Mary Murphy, Robert Keith,  Lee Marvin

Peter Pan (Disney) Bobby Driscoll, Kathryn Beaumont, Hans Conried

This is a subjective list. There were many other good movies I did not list.

That's all for now.
http://www.oneildenoux.com

20 November 2019

Bon appetit!


by Robert Lopresti

This is my last column before Thanksgiving so I thought I would offer something food-related.  It's simple enough.  Below you will find ten foods (or something foodish).  Your task is to recall the crime movies in which they play important roles.   Actually two of them are from crime TV shows, but they may be the easiest on the list.

To make your life easier, they are arranged alphabetically by the title of the movie/show.  Answers are below. See you in December.  Don't overeat!

Elderberry wine.

Goldfish.

Cannoli.

A towel full of oranges.

Coffee brewed from yesterday's grounds and filter.

Leg of lamb.

Half a grapefruit.

Big Kahuna Burger.

Liver, fava beans, and a nice chianti.

Cherry pie and a damn fine cup of coffee.

SPOILERS BELOW!

Elderberry wine. Arsenic and Old Lace. 
Aunt Martha (Jean Adair): For a gallon of elderberry wine, I take one teaspoon full of arsenic, then add half a teaspoon full of strychnine, and then just a pinch of cyanide.
Mortimer (Cary Grant): Hmm. Should have quite a kick.

Goldfish. A Fish Called Wanda.
In order to get animal-lover Ken (Michael Palin) to talk, the maniacal Otto (Kevin Kline) eats his goldfish.  By the way, the goldfish in the scene were made of Jello.

Cannoli. The Godfather.
After a brutal murder in a car Clemenza (Richard Castellano) shows his priorities.  "Leave the gun.  Take the cannoli."  Fun fact: whenever oranges or even the color orange show up in a Godfather movie, it spells danger, and probably betrayal.  And speaking of that fruit...

A towel full of oranges. The Grifters.
Mobster Bobo Justus (great name), played by Pat Hingle,  is dissatisfied with the work of his  employee, Lilly (Anjelica Huston). He threatens to beat her with a towel full of oranges, even making her prepare the weapon.   The idea is that the beating leaves no telltale bruises.  (Oh, and speaking of the color orange... not related to food, but to filmmaking; the color red shows up only once in the movie, and it's there for a very specific purpose.)

 Coffee brewed from yesterday's grounds and filter.  Harper.
After William Goldman finished the screenplay, based on Ross Macdonald's novel The Moving Target, he was told to wrote a scene for the opening credits.  Resisting the usual private eye-meets-client opening, he started with a close-up of Paul Newman's famous blue eyes.  Then the P.I. tries to make coffee and finds he has nothing left but yesterday's stuff in the trash.  One writer notes: "This coffee moment follows the character through the entire the film, haunting him. Harper wears a suit and tie, but there are old coffee grounds in his shoes, his socks, his soul..."

Leg of lamb.  "Lamb to the Slaughter."
The wife of a police chief kills hubby with a frozen leg of lamb, then roasts it and serves dinner to the investigating officers.  A classic Road Dahl short story turned into a classic episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. It reminds me of Susan Glaspell's classic early feminist short story "A Jury of her Peers," since both turn on the inability of men to think from a woman's point of view.    Hitch was a well-known gourmet, of course, so I was amazed that I had to go to his TV show to find a memorable food scene.  There is even a website that points out food scenes from his movies, but I repeat my claim: no specific food gets a memorable scene.

Half a grapefruit.  Public Enemy.
Gangster Tom Powers gets irritated by his girlfriend during breakfast and smacks her in the face with half a grapefruit.  There is a ton of violence in the flick but this is the scene that became famous.  Supposedly Mae Clarke asked Jimmy Cagney to go easy on her.  He promised to do so, but once the camera was rolling...

Big Kahuna Burger.  Pulp Fiction.
Packaging for the (fictional) Big Kahuna Burger brand appears in several movies by Quentin Tarentino and his friend Robert Rodriguez, but it was in Pulp Fiction.that Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) endorsed the dish: "This is a tasty burger!"  The movie is actually obsessed with food, with characters discussing what the French call a Quarter Pounder (Royale with Cheese), visiting a 1950s-themed restaurant, robbing a diner, and getting shot over a pop tart...

Liver, fava beans, and a nice chianti. Silence of the Lambs.
Dr. Hannibal Lecter: "A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti."  I've always wondered how fava bean farmers felt about this odd advertisement.  Several webpages  suggest that novelist Thomas Harris gave Dr. Lecter a characteristically subtle and erudite joke.  It seems liver, beans, and wine are forbidden with certain kinds of anti-psychotic drugs. So the doc was explaining that he had been off his meds.

Cherry pie and a damn fine cup of coffee.  Twin Peaks.
During the summer of 1990 the TV-watching public went nuts for David Lynch's bizarre and highly stylized mystery series.  One memorable set was the Double R Diner where FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper would go for pie and, yes, a damn fine cup of coffee.  This could have been a throwaway line but Kyle Maclachlan really sold it, making it seem as if "damn" was the most extreme cuss word his character could imagine.

Did I miss any of your favorites?  Put them in the comments.

 

24 September 2019

Once Upon a Time In… Corriganville


by Paul D. Marks

Famous Corriganville rock in upper left of picture,
Silvertown Street, Corriganville
One of my favorite places to go as a kid was Corriganville. And knowing that Quentin Tarantino recreated the Spahn Ranch of Manson fame (or infamy) for Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood on what’s left of Corriganville brought back lots of memories. So I thought I’d talk a little about it today. (Next time I’ll talk about other locations he used in that flick.)

But Corriganville really does have a special place in my heart. It was a movie ranch out Simi Valley way, north of Los Angeles. Tons of B westerns and other movies were filmed there and at the nearby Iverson Ranch (more on that in another piece, too). But on the weekends it was opened up as an amusement park of sorts, sort of a pre-Universal Studios Tour studio tour—or movie ranch tour. My grandparents took me there several times and in those days it was quite an excursion to get out there, if not quite a covered wagon journey over Donner Pass. And the reason it’s special to me is that it’s the only place my grandparents took me that no one else ever took me. So that gives it a special significance.

Quentin Tarantino's Spahn Ranch set at Corriganville - photo by Cliff Ro berts
The ranch was owned by actor and stuntman Crash Corrigan, who could be found there on the weekends—he lived there. Some of the things filmed there included Sky King, Lassie, the Roy Rogers show, the Lone Ranger (for a time it was even known as Lone Ranger Ranch) and tons of mostly B, but some A movies. One of those A flicks was the John Ford/John Wayne/Henry Fonda Fort Apache movie. The fort at Corriganville was built for that movie and was used in many other things, including the Adventures of Rin Tin Tin TV series. I was a huge Rinty fan. So going there as a kid, getting to go to the fort and play around was a big thrill.

John Wayne (back row, third from left) and John Ford (se ated front row) on Fort Apache set
There’s a famous rock in the background—Corriganville Rock—that you can see in many of the TV shows and movies (see postcard pic at top). The western town street was called Silvertown, but the ranch also included a Mexican village, outlaw cabins, caves, Robin Hood Lake, a Corsican village and plenty of rugged scenery.

And what a kick it was to go there as a kid when it was still in use as a movie ranch. As one knows, one should always dress for the occasion and Corriganville was no exception. I would don my cowboy hat and bright red cowboy boots, my six shooters, maybe a vest or even chaps. And off we'd go—because in those days a kid could wear a fairly realistic-looking gun and holster to an amusement park and nobody would look or think twice about getting shot for real.

Girl and boy playing at Fort Apache, Corriganville
I remember the excitement of being on a “real” western street with real cowboys and Indians and staged shootouts. But one of my strongest memories is of going into the western street saloon, through those swinging saloon doors and finding that instead of a false front there was an actual restaurant or cafeteria. It was more of the modern variety but still fun. And in my mind I was a real cowboy in a real cowboy saloon and pity the poor fool who drew against me.


Being a fan of Rinty, Rusty and Lt. Rip Masters my favorite site on the ranch was Fort Apache. It was like being there in the old west. And it was a kick to see it in person to go along with my Marx Toys Rin Tin Tin Fort Apache playset and autographed photo of Jim Brown (Lt. Rip Masters) in cavalry uniform, posing with Rin Tin Tin himself.

Several fires at various times burned down most of the sets. Eventually, Bob Hope bought the property from Crash Corrigan. He changed the name to Hopetown and also built a housing development by that name on some of the property. Eventually, most of the ranch was sold off for development. But about 200 acres of the property, where most of the sets were, has been turned into a park.
Corriganville western town set remnants 
Some time during the late 1970s or early eighties, I saw a newspaper—you remember newspapers, don’t you?—announcement saying there was to be a chili cook-off at Corriganville, the old movie ranch. I was more than a little excited to relive some of those fond memories of yesteryear. So my cousin and I took our nephew and headed to the land of Crash Corrigan. And, like the smell of a Madeleine pastry in Proust's novel Remembrance of Things of Past (yeah, I know they changed the name), which brings on a lifetime of memories for the protagonist, just being at what used to be Corriganville, still called Hopetown at the time of the cook-off, brought on a flood of memories, even if most of the sets were gone with the wind. See the pix here of set remnants—and now even the remnants of the sets that were there then are gone.

Corriganville Fort Apache set location pad

 And then Amy and I went there after it had become a park and even more was gone, but some things remained, mostly the lake/river bed channel and some foundations of the old sets. Still, it was fun to be there and share the experience and reminiscences with her as she’d never been.

Me with Pepper and Audie at Corriganville Park
Since Tarantino is such a fan of Hollywood, I’m sure it was a kick for him to film there. And, corny as it may sound, although Corriganville is gone it will always be there in my mind, a place of fun, wonderful grandparents, and good memories. Who could ask for more? And what are some of your special childhood memories?

You can find out more about it here: www.corriganville.net .

~.~.~

And now for the usual BSP:

Don't forget to check out Broken Windows, the sequel to my Shamus award-winning novel, White Heat. Betty Webb at Mystery Scene magazine says: "Broken Windows is extraordinary."


Please join me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/paul.d.marks and check out my website  www.PaulDMarks.com