Showing posts with label TV. Show all posts
Showing posts with label TV. Show all posts

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Cursed Films: Review by Ally Russell

Review by Ally Russell

Cursed Films is a five-part documentary series about some of Hollywood’s most troubled horror movie productions. From real skeletons on the set of Poltergeist (1982) to The Omen (1976) star Gregory Peck’s airplane being struck by lightning, Cursed Films examines the factual and fictional stories surrounding The Exorcist (1973), Poltergeist, The Omen, The Crow (1994), and Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983).

These films were plagued with on-set accidents, seemingly supernatural occurrences, and even tragic deaths, like that of young film star Heather O’Rourke (Poltergeist, 1982). But were these films actually cursed (or blessed by the Devil himself—as claimed by the crew of The Omen)…or did they simply suffer from a series of untimely but purely coincidental occurrences?

Beauty Day (2011) was filmmaker Jay Cheel’s debut documentary, and in addition to it premiering at the New York Museum of Modern Art as part of the Canadian Front Programming series, the film was also nominated for a Genie Award in the Best Doc category and was an official selection at the Hot Docs. Cheel is also the co-host of the podcast Film Junk.

Considering his enjoyable and compelling film short Twisted (2016) and the subject matter of his 2016 documentary How To Build a Time Machine, writer and director Jay Cheel is no stranger to subjects that are taboo or just plain weird, including urban legends and curses.

I was granted access to episodes two and three of Cursed Films (2020). Episode two, which focused on the 1982 film Poltergeist, was outstanding. Woven throughout with commentary from horror fans and expert interviews from individuals like film critic April Wolfe and science writer Matthew Hutson (The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking), episode two offered insightful analysis on society’s obsession with one of the horror industry’s most beloved films.

The episode delved deep into the film’s history with interviews from Special Make-Up Effects Artist Craig Reardon (Poltergeist, 1982) and Director Gary Sherman (Poltergeist III, 1988), both of whom serve up some sage advice about our collective ability to get swept up in the sensationalism of Hollywood horror and its gory details.

What I found most enthralling about episode two of Cursed Films was Jay Cheel’s treatment of the subject matter. Cheel is careful to avoid cheap thrills and instead handles the topic with sensitivity—letting the horror of the history speak for itself.

With commentary and past footage, Cheel explores the anxiety, fear, and grief that the cast and crew experienced and gently reminds viewers about the unfortunate loss of human life that occurred during and after the filming. That combination of horror and heart makes for a strong documentary episode about the tragic legacy of a film that has touched the lives of many horror fans.

Episode three, which focuses on the 1976 film The Omen, is enjoyable and worth watching, but it is noticeably less cohesive than episode three. And while episode two is emotionally charged, episode three seems to lack that same sentiment because we don’t spend as much time with the cast and crew.

The beginning and end of episode three focus on the unfortunate events surrounding the production of The Omen, including airplane and automobile accidents, but the remainder of the episode is dedicated to commentary from expert occultists. Commentary from these individuals is interesting and provides viewers with a new perspective on the occult and curses in popular media. However, interviews with these experts shift the focus of the narrative away from the film itself, so viewers who are hoping to get an in-depth look at the dark history of The Omen may be disappointed with the change in tone between episodes two and three.

For those reasons, episode three of Cursed Films felt slightly disjointed and didn’t seem to complement episode two.

It’s undeniable that Cheel has respect for the genre and endeavors to give horror fans more than the recycled and regurgitated content that we’re used to. So, despite the contrast between episodes two and three, I’m still looking forward to watching the remainder of the series when it premieres on AMC’s streaming video service Shudder.

Opting for sentiment over sensationalism, Cursed Films gives horror lovers the documentary series they deserve; a worthwhile watch for horror fans and film history buffs alike.

Ally occasionally creates content for the Horror Writers Association’s Young Adult & Middle Grade blog, SCARY OUT THERE. She also hosts the FlashFrights podcast, which can be found on Apple Podcasts and SoundCloud. Ally lives in Boston and works in publishing. She can be found on Instagram at @OneDarkAlly.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In 50th Anniversary and Second Season

Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In

On January 22nd, 1968, 50 years ago today, the Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In premiered for its very first season. After a successful pilot aired the previous year, NBC, in beautiful downtown Burbank, ordered a full series. You bet your sweet bippy that Laugh-In became one of the zaniest shows ever to grace the small screen. With it's wacky skits, rapid fire jokes, political commentary, self-deprecating humor, and it's sock it to me gags, the show quickly became a hit with audiences. It was all verrrrry interesting. The name Laugh-In pokes fun at the protests and gatherings of the era which included sit-ins and love-ins. You didn't know that? Well look that up in your Funk and Wagnall's!

Dan Rowan and Dick Martin on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In
Dan Rowan and the beautiful Dick Martin (or so-and-so)

Gary Owens on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In
Announcer Gary Owens

"A wonderful world of fantasy. That's what Laugh-In brought to the public." - Gary Owens

Comedians Dan Rowan and Dick Martin met in 1952 when Rowan was a used car salesman and Martin was a bartender. They both had an interest in acting and comedy and when a mutual friend suggested they work together as a comedy team at nightclubs, the Rowan and Martin act was born. They worked their way up the ranks as a comedy duo. In the summer of 1966, they covered as guest hosts on The Dean Martin Show. The exposure catapulted them and producers took notice. NBC needed something to replace the recently canceled show The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and to compete with rival network programming Gunsmoke and The Lucy Show. Variety shows were popular in the late 1960s and would be easy to produce and inexpensive. Producer George Schlatter and Ed Friendly developed the concept and produced it under their joint production company. NBC booked a one hour special for September 1967. After premiering as a series, Laugh-In went on for 140 episodes and 6 seasons before being canceled in 1973. The show was insanely popular and helped launch the careers of regulars like Goldie Hawn, Dave Madden and Lily Tomlin. Many writers worked for the show, including SNL's Lorne Michaels, and went on to successful careers in the business. It won several Primetime Emmys and two Golden Globe awards.

Judy Carne on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In
Judy Carne in beautiful downtown Burbank

Henry Gibson on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In
Henry Gibson

"Blow in my ear and I'll follow you anywhere."

Laugh-In was one-of-a-kind with rapid fire delivery of humor. Inspired by burlesque and vaudeville, a series of skits and gags were stitched together. The end result was a show that jumped from joke to joke at almost a blindingly fast pace. In the earlier days of TV, the only way to put together a show with so many small parts the editors had to splice the footage with a razor and piece it together. Because of this a master was created for each episode which helped preserve the show for future audiences.

Arte Johnson on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In
Arte Johnson
Alan Sues on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In
Alan Sues

"This won all those Emmys?"- Don Rickles

I started watching Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In last year with episodes airing on the TV network Decades. The zaniness took some getting used to but once I warmed up to the show I was hooked. So far I've dipped into pretty much every season of the show. Time Life recently released season 2 in a DVD set and having seen the episodes I have to say this one is the highlight of the series. It contains some of the best moments from the show and the cast of regulars had great chemistry.

Chelsea Brown and Goldie Hawn on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In
Chelsea Brown and Goldie Hawn

Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In
Ruth Buzzi and Arte Johnson in the Gladys and Tyrone Skit

"Anne Bancroft is an undergraduate."

On season two you can expect some great comedy and a plethora of extra special guests. Dan Rowan, the straight man, and Dick Martin, the daft womanizer, are lovingly referred to as the big kids. I adore them as a comedy team. Today you can't get away with two middle-aged men dressed in tuxedo, with Rowan puffing away at a cigarette or pipe, delivering some rather adult jokes. Although technically the stars, its the motley crew of comedic talents that steal the show. These include announcer Gary Owens, actresses Ruth Buzzi, Goldie Hawn, Judy Carne, Jo Anne Worley and Chelsea Brown and actors Alan Sues, Arte Johnson, Henry Gibson, Dave Madden and Dick Whittington.

Arlene Dahl on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In
Arlene Dahl

Don Rickles on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In
Don Rickles, AKA the best special guest ever in the history of mankind

Recurring skits on the show include:

Cocktail Party — The Flying Fickle Finger of Fate — News: past, present and future — Gladys the spinster and Tyrone — Sock it to Me —  Here Comes the Judge —  C.F.G. Automat —  It's a Mod, Mod, Mod, Mod World with the painted go-go dancers —  Discovery of the week — Good night Dick — the Joke Wall

My favorite recurring skit? The cocktail party of course!

Classic film enthusiasts will love spotting some of their favorite stars as special guests on the various episodes. And anyone who was anyone made an appearance was on the show. Some of the guests on season two include:

Eve Arden —Jack Benny — Mel Brooks — Rosemary Clooney —  Joseph Cotten — Robert Culp— Tony Curtis — Arlene Dahl — Bobby Darin — Sammy Davis Jr. — Phyllis Diller — Kirk Douglas — Douglas Fairbanks Jr. — Zsa Zsa Gabor — James Garner — Greer Garson — Mitzi Gaynor — Frank Gorshin — Hugh Hefner — Bob Hope — Lena Horne — Rock Hudson — Van Johnson — Martin Landau — Peter Lawford — Jack Lemmon — Gina Lollobrigida — Ann Miller — Bob Newhart — France Nuyen — Otto Preminger — Vincent Price — Don Rickles — Cliff Robertson — Rod Serling — Sonny Tufts — Robert Wagner — John Wayne — Shelley Winters and more...

"Raquel Welch Smothers Brothers."

Guests performed skits, delivered one-lines and jokes while poking fun at the fact that they were on the show. An appearance on Laugh-In could do wonders for a guest. Presidential candidate Richard Nixon appears on season 2 in a short clip asking "sock it to me?" His appearance was credited with helping him win the election. His opponent Hubert Humphrey refused to be on the show and the rest is history.

Second Season

First Season

Time Life's Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In Season 2 DVD Box set includes 26 episodes on 7 discs. The first disc includes three interviews with Dick Martin, Gary Owens and Ruth Buzzi. All 26 episodes have been remastered and the set comes with a small booklet highlighting the content on each disc. I encourage you to pick this up because it's infinitely much more enjoyable to watch these restored episodes on DVD than on Decades where the quality is poor and the episodes are highly edited to fit in more commercial time.

Last year Time Life also released a 50th Anniversary set featuring all 140 episodes and 6 seasons of the show.

Thank you to Time Life for sending me the second season set to review!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

I Heart Jack Klugman ~ Quincy M.E. (1976-1983)

Quincy M.E. is a TV show starring Jack Klugman as the title character. It aired from 1976 to 1983 and is well-known as the antecedent to the popular CSI and forensic TV shows of today. It's a formulaic show in which Quincy, a Medical Examiner for the Coroner's Office in L.A., solves murders. Each show features a death which is a result of foul play but appears to be either accidental or as a result of natural causes. Quincy , to the dismay of his bosses and colleagues, goes above and beyond his job to investigate the death further. He puts himself in danger, involves himself directly in the case and the lives of the victim's family and friends and collects the evidence along the way. In his search for the truth, Quincy uncovers various forms of corruption in modern day society. He's driven by the sole need to help people and to bring justice to those who have been wronged.

Sam (Robert Ito) works in the lab with Quincy and is the only character who doesn't doubt Quincy's instincts, even though on occasion he is reluctant to him. Lt. Frank Monihan (Garry Walberg) is hot-headed and often reacts emotionally to cases and to Quincy's ideas. Dr. Robert Asten (John S. Ragin) is Quincy's boss and always proves to be the biggest obstacle in Quincy's path to find the truth. Quincy proves everyone wrong yet they never seem to learn their lesson. Danny (Val Bisoglio) is Quincy's best friend. Danny's bar is Quincy's regular hangout and Danny is often caught in Quincy's adventures much to his dismay. Quincy also has several girlfriends and love interests. He's a bit of a player and demonstrates an unwillingness to settle down because of the nature of his job. Quincy, a widower, finally gets married by the end of the series.

Seasons 1, 2 and 3 are available on DVD. Season 4 will be available in November 2011. It's taken a long time to get these DVDs out on the market. There was a four year hiatus between the first two and the third and two years between the third and fourth. There have been legal issues including Jack Klugman's lawsuit against NBC Universal which claimed that he was missing profits from the show. The case was settled in 2009 and I wouldn't be surprised if the suit was one of the reasons it's taken so long to release the DVDs. This isn't the only problem Klugman has had with Universal. He really hated the writer/producer team of the show and disliked one of the scripts so much he refused to appear in the episode (it was worked around his character and entitled "Has Anybody Here Seen Quincy?"). Klugman went on to rewrite scripts to get them to his liking.

This show is relatively new to me and I don't know much about it. They are really fun to watch due to their over-the-top nature. Unlike today's CSI, there is no gore porn in Quincy M.E.. The bodies are not shown in a gratuitous way. It's really all about the case and the characters. Even though the show is a drama there are a lot of funny moments as well. In the first 7 episodes of the show, Quincy had a girlfriend named Lee played by Lynette Mettey. Their romantic rendezvous were always interrupted by Quincy being called on for one job or another. I loved her character and thought she suited the show well. I was sad to see her go! Her presence helped audiences understand how Quincy's job consumed his life and their interaction added both romance and comedy to the storylines. I really wish they had kept her!

In talking with people online about Quincy M.E., several people mentioned the Punk Rock episode. It was particularly infamous because it blames Punk Rock music for the deaths of young people. I don't know much about the episode nor do I care to watch it but clips are available to watch on YouTube.

It's fun to watch the show and see all the celebrity guest stars. Some of these include:

Van Johnson 
Carol Lynley
Creed Bratton (The Office) <-- my personal favorite
Melora Hardin (The Office)
Kim Cattral (Sex and the City)
Robert Webber (12 Angry Men)
Ann Blyth
Jamie Lee Curtis
Bob Crane
Gloria DeHaven
Casey Kasem
Elisha Cook Jr.
Buddy Hackett

Do you like Quincy M.E.? Which is your favorite episode? Don't you just LOVE the theme music? Bum ba da ba da da!

I hope you enjoyed my I Heart Jack Klugman week!

Friday, September 30, 2011

I Heart Jack Klugman ~ The Odd Couple (1970-1975)

The Odd Couple was a television series that aired from 1970 to 1975 and starred Jack Klugman as Oscar and Tony Randall as Felix. The original story was a Neil Simon play that was performed on Broadway. The Broadway production had Walter Matthau as Oscar. Matthau would later reprise his role as Oscar in the 1968 film with the same name and opposite Jack Lemmon as Felix. Jack Klugman had seen Walter Matthau perform Oscar on Broadway and when Matthau suffered a heart attack while filming Fortune Cookie and couldn't continue also performing Oscar on Broadway, Klugman took on the role. Klugman performed the role for a year and for less money than Matthau had earned. Matthau and Klugman weren't the only actors who played Oscar. Mickey Rooney did too!

With the hit of The Odd Couple (1968), it was inevitable that the popular film would produce a spin-off TV series. Lots of '60s films did especially if they were comedies. Garry Marshall produced the show and brought Jack Klugman on board, even though Tony Randall encouraged him to pick Mickey Rooney instead.

The basic premise of the story is that Oscar Madison and Felix Unger are friends. Oscar is a messy sports journalist who loves to drink, gamble and chase women. Felix is an uptight neat freak (on the TV show he's a photographer) who loves to clean, organize and cook. Oscar has been divorced for a while and Felix is recently separated from his wife. Oscar takes Felix in and with their opposing personalities they clash and hilarity inevitably ensues.

For the first season, they kept somewhat close to the original film. They filmed on the same set that was used in the movie and they even reprise the roles of Pigeon Sisters as well as the circle of Poker playing buddies (same actresses but different actors). During the filming of the pilot, the wardrobe people had a very difficult time finding appropriate clothing for Oscar's character. So someone had asked Jack Klugman that if in exchange for $350 he could give them his entire personal wardrobe. Klugman was more than happy to oblige.

The first season was comprised of 15 episodes and shot with one camera. It did poorly in ratings and the show was canceled after the first season. Jack Klugman and Tony Randall both thought the first season was crap. Klugman went as far as saying only one episode out of the 15 was decent according to his opinion. They begged ABC for more cameras and for another shot at a new and better season. Klugman and Randall worked with the writers, improvised a lot and came up with a lot of their own dialogue and plot. They fed off each other's energies and became great working partners. The ratings improved with each season and the format changed greatly. The poker buddies all but disappeared except for Al Molinaro who played Officer Murray. They added actress Penny Marshall as Myrna Turner and got rid of the Pigeon Sisters. They changed the set and Klugman and Randall became more and more involved in the storyline of each episode. It was filmed in front of a live studio audience because Klugman and Randall both hated the laugh track and they enjoyed the energy they got from doing the show in front of an audience. However, the show was canceled after each and every season. It would be revived with begging and pleading until it was canceled for good in 1975. For a show, which is still well-known to so many today over 40 years later after it first aired, it's a wonder it was canceled so many times!

The TV show is well-known for it's fun theme song. Tony Randall hated it but Klugman was okay with it. Originally, the intro showed Neil Simon's The Odd Couple. Simon was horrified and asked for them to remove his name. He hadn't even seen an episode! When he did, he saw how true it was to the concept of The Odd Couple but his name was not associated with it nevertheless. Randall, Klugman, Garry Marshall and the writers had a difficult time with the whole two-men-living-together plot. They were under constant scrutiny and felt pressure to make it very clear to audiences that the were not a couple in the romantic or sexual sense of the term and they were both clearly interested in women. You'll see in many episodes Oscar is a big-time skirt chaser. In the early episodes, Felix is a bit of a womanizer himself however he is later given the goal of getting back his ex-wife. 

I don't agree with Jack Klugman. I think the first season was wonderful. I didn't like the shift away from the Poker player group and the addition of Penny Marshall. However, the show continued to be as funny as ever. One of the big flubs of the first season is that they have a 12 Angry Men (1957) inspired episode in which Oscar and Felix meet for the first time while on Jury duty. Felix plays a Henry Fonda-like role and Oscar is like Lee J. Cobb. Later on in the season, they added some voiceover to the intro and the narrator mentions that Oscar and Felix were childhood friends. How could they be childhood friends if they met during Jury duty?! Oops! I find this kind of mistake happens a lot on TV shows especially when new writers are introduced and those new writers perhaps are not familiar with all the details of the show when they come on board.

The Odd Couple is definitely one of my favorite shows of all time. The dynamic between Oscar/Klugman and Felix/Randall is hilarious and continually entertaining. Both actors were so talented and so well-suited for their roles that it just made that show just the more fun to watch. My favorite episode is from Season Four. It's called "The New Car". Oscar wins a radio contest of Opera trivia, to which all the answers come from Felix, and his prize is a car. Oscar is determined to keep the car but he has to share with Felix who is half-responsible for the prize. The problem is, they live in New York City (the interior shots were all filmed in L.A.) and parking is tricky. Very tricky. Hilarity ensues.

Do you like The Odd Couple? Are you an Oscar or a Felix? Which is your favorite episode? If you have fun trivia facts about the show I'd love to read them!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Bye, Bye Birdie (1963) & Mad Men

This film has been on and off my Netflix queue for goodness knows how long. I was interested in watching it but would always push it off to the side (I do that a lot it seems). However, a few weeks ago on a lazy Sunday evening, I was watching my favorite TV show Mad Men and Bye Bye Birdie (1963) was an important part of the storyline. The folks at Sterling Cooper (the fictional advertising agency at the center of the TV show) were given the assignment to come up with a commercial for Patio Cola. The opening sequence of Bye Bye Birdie (1963) is shown to the board. It features the bubbly '60s icon Ann-Margret in front of a blue screen singing the title song "Bye Bye Birdie". What seems to be a very plain set up, is actually quite alluring. Ann-Margret's vivacity, the shock of the blue and the catchiness of the tune gets you all riled up for the movie that follows.

Beware of Mad Men spoilers below!

The men are captivated by the clip and enamored by Ann-Margret and how she oozes youthful sexuality. They want to do a spoof-type commercial for the soda Patio Cola based on this clip. Everyone thinks it's a great idea except for the one lone female in creative, Peggy Olson, who thinks it won't work. Patio Cola is a diet soda with the intended target of young women who are trying to maintain their figures. Recreating the vivacious reprise into commercial form is selling sex to a male audience, who wouldn't necessarily want to buy the soda anyways. No one listens to Peggy and they continue with the project.

Salvatore, the repressed gay man in a sham marriage, is put in charge of creating the commercial. He's an illustrator in a time when the public demands more and more photography, so this is a great way for him to use his creative juices. He puts together the concept and explains the project to his wife. This results in probably one of my favorite scenes of the show. The subtlety and the indirectness of this scene says so much! Just look at his wife's face as the scene progresses. Genius!

Well the commercial fails big time. The Patio Cola people just don't like it. There is something off about the commercial. If you get a chance to see it, you might know what their talking about or you might be confused. I thought there was something off about it too. As though the girl in the commercial was trying too hard to be Ann-Margret. As though this commercial was trying to be sexy, but it just came out seeming forced. As though you feel a little molested after watching it! When everyone leaves the boardroom, Peggy has a very triumphant look on her face because she knew the whole time that this would be a complete failure!

So after all of this, I was DYING to see Bye, Bye Birdie. I put it at the top of my Netflix queue and it was sent to me almost immediately. I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the film. The musical numbers were good and even the bad ones were still enjoyable. What I like most about it is that it explores teen culture as well as the effects of the burgeoning pop culture amongst youth. Conrad Birdie is a popular, hip-swinging singer who has all the girls swooning. In a not-so-very-veiled reference to Elvis Presley, Birdie is being shipped off to war and his music company wants one last chance to make some money off him. A big media appearance is just their meal-ticket. Starry-eyed Kim McAfee (Ann-Margret) wins a contest to get a kiss from Birdie live on the Ed Sullivan show. A whole media-storm infiltrates Kim's town and everyone comes down with Conrad Birdie fever. The women are all flustered and the men are all disgusted. Hilarity inevitably ensues.

I think that it was very wise for Mad Men to include Bye Bye Birdie (1963) in the show's plotline. If the film both spoofs and exemplifies pop culture, then an advertising agency in the 1960's would definitely look to it for inspiration, especially if the film itself becomes part of the contemporary culture that it mocks/explores. If you are a fan of Mad Men and haven't seen this film yet, please take some time out to watch it! In fact, make sure you research any cultural references you see on the show. Even if you don't watch Mad Men (and I know some of you out there even dislike the show), watch the film anyways!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Black-Eye Griffin

One of my favorite TV shows is Family Guy. It's fun, raunchy, clever and full of classic film references. Yes, that's right. You read that correctly. Classic film references. Everyone from Mickey Rooney to Ronald Reagan to Barbara Stanwyck to even Karl Malden have been featured/poked fun at on the show. One of my favorite segments is called "Black-Eye Griffin". The patriarch of the family, Peter Griffin, is telling his wife and kids the history of the Griffin family. Black-Eye Griffin was a silent screen star who was a hit in the 1920s but didn't transition well into talkies. Luckily,, one of my favorite new websites, had a clip of it up. Fox has a tight reign on this show, so any YouTube clips will be pulled immediately. So is your best bet for watching and sharing Family Guy clips.

Hope you like this one! If you are outside the US and can't see this clip, let me know as I can direct you to another site that has it.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Latino Images in Film Schedule for 5/28

The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez (1983)

Lonestar (1996)

Popi (1969) - read Tommy Salami's take on this here.

My Family (1995) - superb contemporary Latino family drama

Terror in a Texas Town (1958)

While I'm not writing a proper review about this, I would like to post a little something about this Western being shown on TCM tonight. It's a very interesting little movie about Swedish and Mexican immigrants in a small Western town being run by corrupt and dangerous men. Sterling Hadyen stars as a George Hansen, a Swede, who comes to visit his father's farm only to find out that his father has been killed. A wealthy tycoon had hired a professional hitman/gunfighter to kill anyone who refused to give up their land, which it has been discovered to be oil-rich. His father's best friend, Jose Mirada (Victor Millan), a Mexican, witnessed the murder but is reluctant to give George information about the hitman who was hired to kill him. Hayden's character is determined to avenge his father and the corrupt men in the town, especially the gunfighter/hitman Johnny Crale (Ned Young), is worried that George knows too much and that his freedom as a gun wielding murderer is at stake.

I like the bond between the Swedes and the Mexicans. I think this has to do with me being a Latina and having formed a really great friendship with Jonas from All Talking! All Singing! All Dancing!, who happens to be a Swede. If you get a chance to watch this/DVR it tonight, please do! Otherwise, it's available on DVD as well.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Latino Images in Film Schedule for 5/26 & Winners of Giveaway

And the winners of the fabulous giveaway (as chosen by are...

Frank ~ Guest Blogger
Jonas ~ All Talking! All Singing! All Dancing!
Mercurie ~ A Shroud of Thoughts
Tommy Salami ~ Pluck You Too!
Casey ~ Noir Girl

I will be e-mailing the winners today. Thank you to everyone who participated. If you missed out, there is still time to enter the sweepstakes at TCM's Latino Images in Film website.

Here is tonight's schedule for TCM:

Stand and Deliver (1988)
Walk Proud (1979)
Boulevard Nights (1979)
Badge 373 (1973)
Strangers in the City (1962)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Latino Images in Film ~ The Young Savages (1961)

The Young Savages (1961) stars Burt Lancaster as Hank Bell an assistant D.A. put on the case of three teenage Wops (Italians) that stabbed a blind teenage 'Spic (Puerto Rican) to death. At first the case seems really clear, this innocent blind kid out of nowhere gets brutally murdered by rageful strangers. However, the story unfolds and things are more complicated than they seemed. District Attorney is lusting after the governor's position and wants Bell to get the death penalty. Bell, who grew up in the slums with his fellow Wops, at first wants the same but starts to sympathize with old fiancee Mary DiPace (Shelley Winters) whose son was one of the three boys involved in the crime. Bell gets caught between two violent gangs Thunderbirds (Italians) and the Horsemen (Puerto Ricans), blood thirsty newspapermen, incapable cops, the loves of his life, and the list goes on and on. The film ends with riveting court scenes as the three Italian boys face their sentencing.

This is director John Frankenheimer second film and first with legendary actor Burt Lancaster. The cinematography is gorgeous. Many shots are layered and the mise-en-scene is dramatic with objects and faces frozen in the foreground and action happening in the background. The film deals with social issues in a way that only a '60s movie can do. The decade really opened filmmakers up to explore human nature more freely and with less restriction as the Code's reign was nearing it's demise. I place The Young Savages at the upper-echelon of superb dramatic movies! (Please read the excellent article on TCM's website about the film. Lots of great trivia and facts to be found there!)

I'm a bit torn about how the Puerto Ricans are represented in this film and find myself more ambivalent than offended. At first, the blind Puerto Rican boy is the epitome of innocence. His family, friends and neighbors all seem angelic in their mourning. However, as the story progresses the separation balance of evil on both sides changes with the Italians looking better and the Puerto Ricans looking worse and worse. We initially hate those three Italian boys but then we pity them. I'm not sure if this story would have worked in reverse with three Puerto Rican teens killing a blind Italian boy or if Bell would have been Puerto Rican, and in that case we wouldn't have had the wonderful Burt Lancaster in the starring role. This is such a great film than I really don't want to think to think ill of it but really in the end the representation of Latinos in this film can be considered poor at best. If you have any thoughts on these, please share!

Level of Brown Face ~ 0 out of 5 shades. 100% real Hispanic actors. Woot!

TCM Latino Images in Film Line-Up for Tuesday May 19th

The Lawless (1950)
Trial (1955)
Cry Tough (1959)
The Young Savages (1961)
Blackboard Jungle (1955)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Latino Images in Film ~ Giant (1956)

Giant (1956) is a superb film which is often overshadowed by the fact that it was the iconic James Dean's 3rd and final picture. While Dean's performance is nothing short of amazing, I feel that this film has many other merits which are often overlooked. The family saga follows the story of the Benedicts and their Texas ranch Reata. Jordan Benedict (Rock Hudson) runs the ranch with the same old-fashioned sentiment that was handed down to him by his ancestors. He marries fiery and compassionate Leslie (Elizabeth Taylor) who balances him out and also butts heads with him in the best way a wife can. Together they raise three children and we see how the family, ranch and the world evolves over the years. The family's story parallels the story of Jett Rink (James Dean) Jordan's arch-nemesis and the oil tycoon with a trouble soul.

I believe that Giant (1956) may be one of the best films ever made, and that is no hyperbole on my part. The first time I watched it I broke down in tears as I was so moved by the story. This epic is one of the best treatments on the social issue of racism and prejudice against Mexican-Americans or even Latinos in general. It exposes the prejudice while at the same time humanizing Mexican immigrants in a way that very few films have done. Jordan Benedict (Rock Hudson) has a clear idea about the separation between white Texans and Mexican "wetbacks". They work the same land but their lives are kept separate and social interaction is discouraged. When Leslie moves to Reata, she brings a compassion to her fellow human beings that disturbs Jordan. Many years later, when Jordan's son, Jordy (Dennis Hopper) marries Mexican nurse Juana, Jordan has to come to terms with his irrational prejudices.

Spoiler Alert - My favorite scene comes towards the end when Jordan Benedict takes Leslie, Luz and Juana to a restaurant. The owner of the restaurant makes a big fuss about serving Mexicans like Juana and her young son. When a Mexican family tries to eat there, the owner kicks them out. This angers Jordan who now sees all Mexicans as part of his family and Jordan and the owner get into a fistfight which results in the whole family being kicked out. This is quite a momentous scene as we see Jordan come full-circle.

For how wonderful this film is, it is big on "brownface". Sal Mineo is one of the worst cases. He is almost irrecognizable with his heavy brown pancake makeup. Even the Hispanic actors such as Elsa Cardenas (Juana) were given extra foundation for some ethnic enhancement. This film goes a bit overboard with almost everyone's make-up and I think that it in part has to do with it being shot in Technicolor. Several characters get specialized makeup to show the advancement of years and with the brownface, I feel like this film was in part an experiment on the use of makeup in film to enhance the visual elements. The merits of the story as a whole I believe outdo the offense of the brownface. It's lucky that the Best Make-Up Oscar was still a few decades away, as this film may have been a contender for that time!

Level of Brown Face ~ 5 out of 5 Shades.

TCM Latino Images in Film Line-Up for Thursday May 14th

Mexican Spitfire (1940)
My Man and I (1952)
Giant (1956)
The Texican (1966)

Friday, May 1, 2009

TCM's Latino Images in Film Festival

After successful runs with their Asian Images in Film, Screened Out: Gay Images in Film and African-American Images in Film, Turner Classic Movies is giving my people their due with Latino Images in Film festival for the month of May. I have been super excited about this festival since I heard about it a few months ago on the TCM message boards. On Tuesday and Thursdays, TCM will air 5 films that deal touch upon Latino culture and issues. They also have a snazzy new site devoted to the festival (check it out here).

Why am I excited about this? Because I'm a Latina. I'm first generation American and my mother is 100% full-blooded Hispanic from the Dominican Republic. I am fluent in Spanish, I eat my arroz con habichuelas and have the cadera to prove it. What does it mean to be a Latina? For me it means maintaining the culture, learning about my heritage and embracing that Latina fire and passion that runs through my veins.

Classic films are predominantly Caucasian but it has been surprising to find out over the years how many films either have Latino characters or showcase Latino actors. With TCM's list of films for their festival, I have discovered even more!

In honor of Latino Images in Film, I'll be doing a month long series on this blog. For the first three weeks I'll be posting a review of one film on Mondays and Wednesdays before it airs the next day and will also include the following day's full schedule. I'll be reviewing a total of 6 films and all of them happen to be available on DVD just in case you don't have TCM. I hope this will encourage you to watch the films or at least be aware of the films that are out there. For the last week, I tentatively have planned a Latino Images in Film contest.

Each review will contain a summary, background information and what I think about the representation of Latinos in the film. I'll also include a rating level of "Brown Face". Brown face is what I call the Hispanic equivalent to Black face. This is when they take Caucasian actors and put some dark make-up on them to make them look more ethnic. They also used Mediterannean and olive-skinned European actors to look Latino and I also consider this a form of Brown face. I'll point out along the way the level of brown face in each film.

Disclaimer - I'm doing this purely because I want to and not because I was asked to.

I hope you'll enjoy the series!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

TCM's 15th Anniversary ~ Favorite Promos

I've been having fun playing around on Turner Classic Movies' 15th Anniversary celebratory website. You can flip through the timeline and see the promos they have used over the years. I thought it would be fun to list my favorite promos TCM has aired and I would love to hear which ones are your favorites too. My top favorite is the Sunny Side of Life promo which single-handedly introduced me to Edward Hopper's paintings and Chet Baker's music. Click on the picture of that promo for a special treat. Enjoy!

Sunny Side of Life
(I cried when they retired this!)

One Reel Wonders
(the original version)

Darkness After Dawn

Open All Night

Silent Sunday Nights

Private Screenings
(The ending credits)

This Week in Hollywood History

Happy 15th TCM!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

TCM 31 Days of Oscars Contest

Even though this year's Oscars are over, Turner Classic Movies annual 31 Days of Oscars festival is still going strong, showcasing more Oscar winning movies from now until March 3rd. If you haven't already gone to the TCM University website, please do so soon before they take it down!

In honor of the 31 Days of Oscars festival, I'm doing a fun contest on this blog. I have some TCM University composition notebooks to give away and this is your chance to win one.

How to Enter
  • Watch the TCM 31 Days of Oscar Promo clip below and write down the names of 10 of the films featured in the clip.
  • E-mail your list of 10 films, the name of your favorite Oscar winning movie or performance, and your name to me: QuelleLove at Gmail dot com.
  • DO NOT post your entry as a comment.
  • Submit entry by March 3rd.

[Contest is now over. Special thank you to those who participated.]

Saturday, January 31, 2009

I Heart Ernest Borgnine

If reading his biography wasn't enough (read my review of it here), watching the great Ernest Borgnine on TCM's Private Screenings made me half-fall in love with the man. Borgnine is a cheerful, optomistic, hardworking actor who pursued his craft for pure love of it. He has just such a great attitude about the life he's led. His enthusiasm just rubbed off on me.

I promise Ernest Borgnine that I will watch more of his films, for sure. He has garnered so much of my respect that I at least owe him that. And I want to thank Ernest Borgnine for making Marty (1955), which is very high on my list of all-time favorites. I really identified with the Marty character and he played the role so well, I often find myself confusing Ernie with Marty. While I don't make such a huge fuss about the Oscars, I am really glad that he won Best Actor Oscar for this movie. Marty was a little film that almost didn't get made and Borgnine was a man who almost didn't go into show business (if it wasn't for his mother). And Borgnine is one of the few character actors to get the Best Actor Oscar!

So do any Ernest Borgnine enthusiasts have any recommendations for this budding fan? I would love to beef up my Netflix queue with some goodies. I've only seen Marty and From Here to Eternity (1953) thus far and already have Poseidon Adventure (1972) and The Catered Affair (1956) on my list. And if you saw the Private Screenings episode on TCM, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

I don't want to set the world on fire, I just want to keep my nuts warm. - Ernie


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Emergency Alert! Watch Mad Men Immediately!

If you have yet to watch Mad Men the AMC original drama, go out and watch it. NOW! It's amazingly good. I was skeptical myself until I watched the first episode and got sucked in. It takes place in the 1960's during America's hey-day of Advertising. "Mad Men" refers to the men who worked in advertising on Madison Avenue in New York City. The period detail is exquisite and they bring in a lot of cultural and technological references. It's also a lot of sex, booze and tobacco but all the characters are interesting and their individual stories along with the relationships with each other makes for amazing TV. This is exactly what we need right now in what's proven to be a very tough economic climate. During the Depression, people flocked to the cinemas to watch others live the glamorous life on screen so they could live vicariously through them. Although I think today's contemporary audiences don't necessarily need to watch other contemporaries rejoice in their wealth, we do however want to escape to another time and place where things were very different. Either a time we lived in or a time our parents lived through. I'm a firm believer in understanding the present by understanding the past. But also take this show with a grain of salt. It's an exaggeration as TV shows tend to be.

So watch it please. Season 1's DVD is available now. I just ordered mine and am anxious to receive it in the mail.

I'll be keeping an eye out for classic film references made in the show. So far I have two. As I see them I'll point them out.

The Apartment (1960) ~ First Season. I think it's part of the foundation of the story as it also deals with affairs between men and women in an office setting. A character sees this in the theater and is affected by how Shirley MacLaine's character tries to commit suicide.

Butterfield 8 (1960) ~ Second Season. Conversation about how an old friend became a call girl and the comment was that that is very Butterfield 8.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Dick Cavett Show ~ Hitchcock Edition

If you haven't watched The Dick Cavett Show yet, shame on you! For the classic film fanatic, it is absolutely essential to watch. Where else will you see amazing one-hour interviews with film legends? The best part is that during the late '60s and '70s, most of these stars had already gone through the best moments of their career and you get to hear wonderful stories. An added bonus - Dick Cavett knew how to showcase these film legends at their best.

There is no excuse not to watch it. It's on DVD, and available to buy or rent. They've been aired on Turner Classic Movies and perhaps might be in the future (pretty please good folks at TCM!). You get to see Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, Groucho Marx, Orson Welles and other greats. One of my personal favorites is the witty Alfred Hitchcock. It opens with a very amusing sequence and I thought I'd share some screenshots so maybe you'll be enticed to watch the show. Here they are...

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