Wednesday, December 28, 2005

A Holiday Question

Is "Merry Kiss-My-Ass" an acceptable substitute when addressing right-wing windbags?

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Monday, December 26, 2005

Is this a Wedding or a Wake?

Saw Rob Reiner's Rumor Has It... this week and really enjoyed the film. Jennifer Aniston plays a woman returning to her family home in Pasadena for the wedding of her sister. During the proceedings she discovers that her family was the basis for the book and the film The Graduate. Her long dead mother was Elaine Robinson, her grandmother (played wonderfully by Shirley MacLaine) was Mrs. Robinson and scoundrel Beau Burroughs (played by Kevin Costner) was Dustin Hoffman's Benjamin Braddock. I laughed and had a great time and what else is a comedy supposed to do? You should see it.

But, thats not what I'm here to talk about. What I wanted to talk about is Six Feet Under, the recently departed HBO show that held me spellbound for five wonderful seasons and how Rumor Has It... was a little bit of SFU heaven as three actors from Six Feet Under have parts in Rumor Has It...

The terrific
Richard Jenkins has the largest and meatiest part in Rumor Has It...playing Earl Huttinger, the father of Aniston's Sarah Huttinger. In Six Feet Under the death of Jenkins' Nathaniel Fisher, family patriarch, is the catalyst that brings the Fisher family back together and begins their five year ordeal.

Sarah's bridal sister Annie is played by the beautiful
Mena Suvari who spent the fifth season of Six Feet Under attempting to seduce Fisher daughter Claire into a lesbian relationship as the free spirited Edie.

The always wonderful
Kathy Bates has an uncredited part in Rumor Has It... playing Sarah's trippy aunt who lets the cat out of the bag regarding the Sarah's mother and Beau. Bates played Ruth Fisher's friend Bettina for the last three or four seasons of Six Feet Under.

All in all, it felt like a Six Feet Under reunion and there is nothing wrong with that!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

A Question of Talent or Taste?

So I'm looking at the NY Times Best Seller List this week and once again I am astounded by what book is on top. It's Mary, Mary by James Patterson and that just floors me.

I've only read one James Patterson book, Honeymoon which suckered me in with its designation as the 2005 International Thriller of the Year, whatever that means. I found it to be one of the worst written books I have ever read. A vapid, empty book, full of unbelievable characters spouting some of the tritest dialog I have read in years. I would read some of it out loud to my wife and we would both burst out laughing. From inept plotting to dull, lifeless characters to incredibly heat-less sex scenes this book had it all. It is a shamefully bad book.

So my question is, was Honeymoon an aberration, or is this guy a really poor excuse for a writer, and, if it is the later, why does anyone buy his books?

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Weird Trend Continues!

So tonight my wife wanted to see a Christmas movie. Well, we've seen most of them already. After 100 viewings of the outrageous National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation or a dozen viewings of the very good Elf, or five or six viewings of A Christmas Story, you're ready for something new. So I checked Video On Demand and there was Bad Santa, a film we had never seen (We were out of the country on a two and a half week cruise to Hawaii in 2003 when Bad Santa was in the theaters).

So Bad Santa it is. About halfway through the film
Bernie Mac visits a prison in search of the owner of the car that bad Santa Billy Bob Thornton is driving (If you haven't seen the film, it's a long story). In the prison he meets the Father of "the Kid" at whose house Billy Bob is staying. It takes me a few seconds, but this guy I recognize. Not so much by how he looks as by how he sounds.

And it's another Star Trek connection. In this case the ever forgettable Star Trek Voyager. I couldn't remember his name, but I hadn't forgotten his character: Neelix. A quick look on IMDb refreshed my memory and brought me to his name: Ethan Phillips. He looked a little different back in his Voyager days.

It's been a while since I saw an episode of Voyager, but I recall liking the Neelix character at first and then getting real, real tired of him. But by that time I was tired of the whole crew. The show never rang true for me.

So it seems like I see a Star Trek cast member in just about everything I watch these days. Strange trend.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Him I Know!

My wife and I saw the exceptional Syriana last night, George Clooney, Matt Damon, Jeffrey Wright, Chris Cooper, et al were wonderful. The film is a tough look at the middle east and America's intrusion there. It's a film about oil, big oil and Islam and the meddling in the affairs of others by the United States. It's a powerful film, hard to look at sometimes but beautifully filmed. You should see it.

But that's not what I'm here to talk about. I'm here to talk about Alexander Siddig. That's him to the left with Matt Damon. Alexander plays Prince Nasir Al-Subaai, the son of the Emir of an unnamed middle eastern country. He has hopes and dreams for his country, of building a better place for his people, a place that will be able to survive the furture when the oil is gone and the wealth no long flows from the ground into the contries coffers. I found him striking and despite how far down the list of credits his name appears, I found him to be the heart of the film. He was wonderful... and familiar.

I racked my brain, but could not think of where I had seen him before. Well, once again, twice in a week it was Star Trek. In this case it was Star Trek Deep Space 9 as Alexander Siddig is also known as Siddig El Fadil who was known for seven years as Lt. Julian Bashir, M.D. Another great mystery solved.

Yeah, I knew him!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Season's Greetings and Happy Holidays!

This is the first year of my long life that I am refusing to say Merry Christmas. These right-wing Republican nimrods can shove "Merry Christmas" right up their tight behinds.

Had they not made a bogus issue out of it I would never of had a problem. But they have and now I do. Once the holidays are over and this distraction will no longer work, you can be sure that they will go back to talking about missing white girls in Aruba, anything other than how crappy the country is going under Bush.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Hey, I Didn't Know Her!

At least once or twice a year one of the cable stations runs a whole weekend of James Bond films. I enjoy watching Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan do their best to give life to Ian Fleming's master spy. I never really liked Roger Moore as Bond, he played every film with the same flippant note; it was all a big joke and he knew it and the way he acted he made sure you knew it. I don't know if this was Moore's decision to play the part this way or not, but it ruined those pictures for me. It wasn't James Bond, it was the Saint.

The first Bond film I saw at the theater, and I was pretty young at the time, was the second film, From Russia, With Love. I remember three things vividly about my first James Bond experience: 1) The opening sequence where Bond is stalked and killed (only we find out that it was not Bond but a training mission for some Russian spies). 2) Robert Shaw's tougher than nails bad guy, Grant, and 3) the evil Rosa Klebb with the poison-tipped knife in the toe of her shoe.

But that's not what I'm here to talk to you about (well, OK, partly that's what I'm here to talk to you about, but not soley). I'm here to talk about how From Russia With Love connects to the Burt Reynolds/Kris Khristofferson film Semi-Tough and how both of them connect to the Bobby Darin hit song, Mac the Knife.

You can learn a lot about the song, Mac the Knife if you search the Internet. For example...

"The lyrics are Marc Blitzstein's. They are a translation of the original lyrics by the great German dramatist Bertolt Brecht and are from Brecht and Kurt Weill's socially-significant theatre piece, "Die Dreigroschenoper," or "The Threepenny Opera," as we know it. The play, which was basically a German adaptation of John Gay's "The Begger's Opera," was one of the factors that got the two collaborators run out of Berlin on the proverbial rail. Hitler was not pleased--so Brecht and Weill both fled the country and ended up in America, Weill in New York and Brecht in California (where he wrote a few unsuccessful screenplays.) Weill stayed in the U.S. and had a number of Broadway hits, most notably "Knickerbocker Holiday" (which includes the beautiful "September Song"). He died in NY sometime during the '60s, I think. In 1951, Brecht, who was a Communist of sorts, ran afoul of the infamous House Un-American activities Committee. After a rather rough and rude questioning, he saw the handwriting on the wall and moved back to Germany, settling in East Berlin, where the great master of "epic theatre" died in 1956."

Interesting but I know what you're thinking, "What has that got to do with From Russia With Love or Semi-Tough?" Good question and I'm getting to it, I swear!

A few months ago I Tivoed Semi-Tough, a film which I had not seen in years but which I remembered did a hilarious skewering of Werner Erhard's est Training. Anyway, I'm watching Semi-Tough and at one point Burt Reynolds' character goes to get "Pelfed," the latest new age trend. Getting "Pelfed" consisted of being sadisticly beaten by masseuse Clara Pelf, a scrawny little old lady. It was a funny scene, but what really caught my attention was the old woman playing Pelf; it was Rosa Klebb from From Russia With Love (see, the first connection!).

I recognized the face, but didn't know the name. When the film ended I carefully scanned the credits and there it was: Clare Pelf -- Lotte Lenya. Huh? I couldn't have read that right! Back up the TiVo and it still says: Clare Pelf -- Lotte Lenya. But isn't that the name of a character from the song Mac the Knife?

Doesn't it go somethng like...

There's a tugboat, down by the river dontcha know
Where a cement bag's just a'drooppin' on down
Oh, that cement is just, it's there for the weight, dear
Five'll get ya ten old Macky's back in town
Now d'ja hear 'bout Louie Miller? He disappeared, babe
After drawin' out all his hard-earned cash
And now MacHeath spends just like a sailor
Could it be our boy's done somethin' rash?

Now Jenny Diver, ho, ho, yeah, Sukey Tawdry
Ooh, Miss Lotte Lenya and old Lucy Brown
Oh, the line forms on the right, babe
Now that Macky's back in town

I said Jenny Diver, whoa, Sukey Tawdry
Look out to Miss Lotte Lenya and old Lucy Brown
Yes, that line forms on the right, babe
Now that Macky's back in town.....

Look out, old Macky's back!!

Well, I had to look this one up and, yep, it's her. The "Lotte Lenya" whose name appears late in the song is, in fact, the actress who appeared in From Russia With Love and Semi-Tough -- she was an Austrian-born singer and actress with a lucrative career in the years between the world wars, and on Broadway following WW II. She was also Mrs. Kurt Weill. For the opening of The Threepenny Opera, Weill wrote The Ballad of Mack the Knife as a part for Lenya the night before the premeire. The Bobby Darin version of the song changed the name of one of the characters from Polly Peachum to Lotte Lenya as a tribute to her career.

And that is how I get from Semi-Tough to From Russia With Love to Mac the Knife.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Hey, I Know Her!

A week or so ago AMC was having its "King for a Day" festival: All Elvis All Day. I TiVoed a couple of films: Girls! Girls! Girls! and Blue Hawaii. Ends up these films have a lot in common. They are produced by the same guy (Hal B. Wallis), directed by the same guy (Norman Taurog), written by the same guy (Allen Weiss), and both take place in Hawaii. Neither are great films, though Elvis does "get down" during some of the songs in Blue Hawaii and is pretty impressive to watch. But that's not what I'm here to talk to you about. No, I want to talk about the leading actress in Girls! Girls! Girls!, one Laurel Goodwin.

In Girls! Girls! Girls! she's billed as "Introducing Laurel Goodwin" and IMDb verifies that GGG was indeed her first film, of which she only made six. As I watched I was struck by her sweet perkiness and, I have to admit, her wonderful rear. Every time she turned her back to the camera I stood up and took notice (OK, maybe I didn't really stand up and take notice, but I did hit the "slo mo" button on my TiVo). She was the highlight of the film for me, which is saying a lot about a film that also stars Stella Stevens.

Yep, Laurel Goodwin: cute, perky, nice ass and something else... there was something else... she seemed vaguely familiar. The more I watched the more familiar she became. I knew I had seen her somewhere before... but where? Maybe, I thought, it was a western. After all, she had that sweet "rancher's daughter" face and a figure that would have looked great all trussed up in those constricting dresses the women inevitably wore in most westerns. That seemed about right... but it was wrong. I didn't remember Laurel Goodwin from a western, well, unless you remember that Star Trek was pitched to Paramount as Wagon Train in space.

Laurel Goodwin played Yeoman J.M. Colt in Star Trek:The Cage the original pilot to the Star Trek series. The Cage footage was later used in the Star Trek two-parter, The Menagerie, where footage from the Cage was presented as alien recordings of a previous voyage of the USS Enterprise under Captain Christopher Pike.

When I saw the entry in Laurel's IMDb listing I remembered her like I saw the episode yesterday, not 20 or so years ago. As a kid I thought she was just cute as a button and wished she had been one of the cast members to make it to the series, but such was not to be. Laurel only made one other film after the Star Trek pilot. Seems a shame to me.

A little more snooping on the web located this biography of Laurel at a Star Trek site.

Like I said, "Hey, I know her!"

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Christmas Question

Christmas Question

If I spend more money shipping the gift than I spent on the gift, did I spend too little on the gift, or did I ship it too late?