Saturday, August 31, 2013

Glenda Farrell Day

On Thursday, Glenda Farrell was TCM's Star of the Day. I was in and out, but watched parts of several movies and recorded others. I'll watch the recorded ones gradually. (I still have one Bette Davis movie to watch from the 14th, so I'm not sure when I'll finish with Glenda's films.)

I was psyched at the opportunity to see (for the second time) Torchy Runs for Mayor: the last Torchy Blane film with the original leads, Glenda Farrell and Barton MacLane.

I liked Torchy fighting against political corruption. But it's not one of my favorites, mainly because of the silly ending. Torchy wins the election, but is distracted by a baby and tells Steve she wants to get married and seemingly runs out on her new job. (If I recall correctly, there's no mention of marriage in the final Torchy film, Torchy Blane Playing with Dynamite with Jane Wyman and Allen Jenkins.)

I also caught Fly Away Baby, the second Torchy film. I didn't quite get the race concept, but the film was still fun.

Kansas City Princess with Glenda, Joan Blondell and Pat O'Brien was another TCM choice. It was okay; I'm sure I would have enjoyed it more as a B film in a double feature.

More as I go through the films later.

Unofficial End of Summer

It's  Labor Day weekend---the unofficial last weekend of summer.

I'm not exactly broken up. There are still about three weeks of official summer left. Fall is my favorite season. In about two weeks Jeff and I celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.

But there's still a bittersweet feeling-- did I do enough summery things? We went to a few outdoor parties, including barbecues. We've had several nice dog park Fridays. Just yesterday, we celebrated one friend's birthday and another's new job over cocktails and appetizers there. We've enjoyed al fresco dining. We've taken a few hikes--not as many as I wanted--but fall is nicer for hiking anyway. We've gotten some great food from local farmers markets. We even had a summer getaway--a long weekend in Baltimore.

Last week my mother-in-law said that her summer was complete because she finally had a lobster roll. (I had one too.) This weekend I made a mojito salad--thinking that was some kind of summer marker. Unfortunately, I learned that jicamas are between seasons, but the salad is still good without jicama.

As summer moves into fall, I look forward to changes in the season without regretting what I could have done.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Thank you Marlon Byrd

Marlon Byrd's had a career year, a comeback year. He led the Mets with 21 home runs (a career high) and 71 runs batted in.

Yesterday, the Mets traded Byrd and catcher John Buck to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

I was a bit bummed, but understand the reasoning. I'm also happy for Marlon. He has the chance to make this an even more memorable season.

In his debut, Byrd hit a three run homer in the bottom of the seventh leading to his first curtain call. The Pirates went on to beat the Brewers 7-1.

Let's go Pirates.

50 Years Ago Today

Dr. Martin Luther King made his "I Have a Dream" speech as part of the March on Washington.

Things have gotten better, but we have a long way to go. Here are some of John Lewis' thoughts.

One Life to Live Online: Season One

First, I want to say how nice it is to be able to see One Life to Live again.  I wrote about my first impressions here.

I'm still not used to watching shows on my laptop. It makes it harder to do other things while watching, especially on the laptop itself. The other problem I've had is the scheduling. First, it was four new shows each day (Monday through Thursday) with More Life to Live on Friday. More showed highlights, previews, cast interviews and  miscellaneous things such as fashion shows. Next, two new episodes appeared each Monday. There were occasional gaps in filming, and I would forget the schedule. I'd end up watching One Life marathons.

The show seemed slow to get started: setting up the new club setting Shelter, establishing new actors playing Matthew and Destiny and a new character Jeffrey. Natalie didn't do much, but according to TWoP, it was because of problems involving General Hospital actors on contract. (I say good riddance to John McBain; I always hated that character.) I missed Dorian, but apparently Robin Strasser was ill; she's back now.

As the first season ended, we learned more about the mysterious organization that targeted Todd, Victor and the rest of the Lords/Mannings. We saw a memorable gala with most of the characters attending in gowns and tuxes (old school soap event) with a shocking/embarrassing moment.

The final scene of Season One was a real cliffhanger. How long before the second season begins?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

TCM Movie Review: Catching Up on Bette Davis and More

I re-watched parts of The Girl from 10th Avenue; I saw most of it on Bette Davis day. Bette is Miriam Brady who meets society lawyer Geoffrey Sherwood outside a church where his ex is getting married. Geoffrey is drunk and broken-hearted. Miriam tries to get him away before he creates a scene and gets arrested. After a night of drinking champagne, the two get married.

Miriam offers to sign off on an annulment, but the two remain married. Geoff sobers up, and Miriam tries to improve herself with the help of their landlady, Mrs. Martin (Alison Skipworth.)

Trouble develops when Geoff's ex Valentine (Katharine Alexander) wants him back. My favorite scene has Miriam introducing herself to Valentine in a fancy restaurant where Valentine is hosting a luncheon. Miriam retains her cool even when Valentine throws a grapefruit at her.

Things look bad, but Geoff realizes he loves Miriam and all is well. The film is silly fluff, but kind of fun fluff at that.

On to Dangerous: Bette portrays Joyce Heath, a drunken actress known as a jinx. Franchot Tone is Don Bellows. He helps her when she passes out in a dive bar, later falls in love with her and finances her comeback play.

But Joyce has a secret that keeps Don and her from finding happiness and almost costs him his career. In the end, Joyce lets Don go, and sacrifices her happiness to "pay her debts."

Casting note: Alison Skipworth is in this film as Don's housekeeper. She also appeared in a third film with Bette, Satan Met A Lady. Satan Met A Lady is the worst of three versions of The Maltese Falcon with Alison in the Sydney Greenstreet role.

Bette won her first Oscar for Dangerous, although it's considered a holdover award: she should have won for Of Human Bondage the year before.

More from Hattie McDaniel: Yesterday I caught part of the movie Margie starring Jeanne Crain. It's a cute movie about a girl growing up in the roaring twenties. I had forgotten that Hattie McDaniel is in this film. Of course, she plays a maid; it's a small part but she has at least one funny line.

Monday, August 26, 2013

True Blood Season Six

Last night after a birthday dinner with my mother, I felt a bit lost; we didn't have a HBO show to watch at 9 on Sunday night. The season's finale of True Blood was last week.

I enjoyed the season; I enjoy every season, but I feel that something is missing.

The whole Bill story confused me. I still don't know what he was.

I didn't like the Warlow subplot; he seemed to swing from nice guy to big bad to wimp to medium bad. Tying him to a post for several episodes was a snooze. And why did Sookie so easily forget he killed her parents and terrorized her? And why didn't she wonder what happened to Niall? One throwaway line on a phone message to a missing Jason didn't cut it.

Speaking of Niall--Rutger Hauer is one of Jeff's favorite actors. It was great to see him on True Blood, especially as a Stackhouse. Unfortunately, he disappeared for so many episodes, that his final appearance seemed a deus ex machina. But at least he came back from the void.

In my last True Blood post,  I said that I didn't like the Sam and Emma plotline. They resolved that fairly quickly, but it seemed pointless. I hated that Sam has become pointless as a character. Why did Alcide, formerly the most rational werewolf, suddenly become an ass?

What happened to Tara and Lafayette? They had very few lines/scenes and they are my favorites. 

I've loved Andy since Season Two ("I know that pig.") Chris Bauer shined this year dealing with his surprise children and the death of three of them. I loved his protective mode with Adilyn, his apparent reconciliation with Holly and his final scene with Jessica.

I loved the return of Sarah Newlin. I liked the governor as a enemy. I was intrigued by the vamp camp as a reaction to the excesses of the Vampire Authority in Season Five.

I'm not sure what to think of the six month later scenes, the human/uninfected vampire alliance and a roaming pack of hepatitis V-infected vamps.

I just have to wait and see.

Friday, August 23, 2013

I Didn't Intend to Write Another Post Tonight...

....but, damn, this got me mad.

I had heard something about a Harriet Tubman sex video, but just read this.

The idea for the video is not even remotely funny, only stupid.

Harriet Tubman was a hero. If she had done wrong things in her life, it would be fair to expose and analyze them.

To make up bullshit like this: at best, stupid; at worst, reprehensible.

Hattie McDaniel: Star of the Day

In August, TCM has featured a different star each day. Some days feature big stars such as Humphrey Bogart and Bette Davis. On Tuesday, Hattie McDaniel was TCM's star of  the day. Of course, Gone With the Wind was shown in prime time. It's Hattie's most famous movie and contains her Oscar winning performance.

I noticed that all three of Hattie's films with Bette Davis were included.

One of the films was Thank Your Lucky Stars  from 1943. This was a wartime film dedicated to the armed services. According to IMDB, Bette insisted that the profits be contributed to the war effort. The story is about a singer and a songwriter trying to break into show business via the big show, featuring Warner Brothers stars mostly in musical numbers. Hattie was one of the featured singers in the song Ice Cold Katie.

Another film was The Great Lie (1941.) This is a melodrama with an okay script. I watch this to see Bette (of course) but also to see Mary Astor's Oscar winning performance as Sandra. This was a case in which the two actors worked together to improve the script by beefing up Mary's part. Hattie as usual played a domestic. I've seen this film many times, but last week, the scene of the "happy darkies singing" after the marriage of Bette and George Brent really bugged me. Had I really missed this scene all those times I've watched this film? It reminded me of the "happy slaves singing" scene from Bette's film, Jezebel. But Jezebel was set in the 1840's and The Great Lie in the mid-20th century. How little some things had changed.

The last Bette Davis--Hattie McDaniel film shown was In This Our Life from 1942. Hattie is a domestic for Davis' Southern family. Bette is a selfish bitch who steals her sister's husband who later commits suicide. Bette gets bored and tries to steal her ex-fiance from the same sister. At her worst, Bette is in a hit-and-run accident and tries to blame the accident on Hattie's son.

There are some poignant scenes in which Hattie and her son (Ernest Anderson) discuss the futility of trying to tell his story, which contradicts the white woman's. It takes an investigative effort from Bette's sister (Olivia de Haviland) and her fiance (and Bette's ex--George Brent) to disprove Bette's story. This film was honored for its race relations. 

In This Our Life was a melodrama like The Great Lie. At least the treatment of the black characters was more realistic and respectful.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Putting Words on the Page

Found this article today.

I needed to read it. In July, I started a writing routine that worked. For about a week. Then I lost my way; I lost my goals, my motivation.

This article may help me get back on track.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Netflix Movie Night and TV Time

I haven't been feeling well the last few days, so I've been watching a lot of TV. I watched a recording of  Parachute Jumper and wrote about it yesterday. We also watched a Dark Shadows episode and the "Out of Gas" episode of Firefly.

First, Dark Shadows: this was the first soap opera that I followed. I caught a few minutes of it as I turned into Where the Action Is  (to see Paul Revere and the Raiders) and got hooked. I didn't see the show from the beginning, but I watched before Barnabas made his first appearance. That makes me an early adopter. The pre-Barnabas years are available on Netflix disks; we saw a few but mostly we watch the instant queue selections. In the episode we watched last night, Dr. Julia Hoffman wants to try to cure Barnabas of his vampirism.

The Firefly episode "Out of Gas" may be my favorite of the series. Zoe saves the day at the beginning and at the end of the episode. We see how the crew members first came to Serenity, revealing more of them than we've seen before. It's a great episode; here is Rhiannon's take.

Today I watched Ex-Lady, starring Bette Davis. Robert Osborne said it wasn't as bad as Bette remembered. I disagree. It's pretty bad. Once again, Bette doesn't have much to do--acting wise--her talent is wasted. It's not enough for me that Bette says she doesn't want babies or that she sleeps with her lover in the same bed. The movie is bad.

The White Queen: I watched the first episode twice, missing the opening scene both times. I read the book after picking it up a a library sale. I'm not a big fan of Philippa Gregory, but was curious. The White Queen is Elizabeth Woodville, the grandmother of Henry the VIII. The War of the Roses is the background for Henry the VIII's obsession with an heir. Elizabeth's and Edward's romance is hard to believe. Things got more interesting when Elizabeth went to court. Here are thoughts on episode one by Rhiannon.

The Last Laugh:  I assume I selected this silent movie on a recommendation from riku, It depicts a man who has lost his job as a hotel doorman. It's a good portrait of how one's work becomes one's identity. The ending is unrealistic--apparently the result of studio demands for a happy ending. It's still a movie worth seeing.

Friday, August 16, 2013

TCM Movie Night: Parachute Jumper

In Parachute Jumper, Bette Davis is second billed as Alabama teaming with Douglas Fairbanks, Junior as Bill and Frank McHugh as Toodles. The "story" shows three peoples struggling during the Depression. Bill and Toodles are retired Marine flyers and Alabama a stenographer.

The title refers to one of Bill's gigs. Later he works as a chauffeur, and then as a bodyguard.As a bodyguard, Bill spends his days hiding behind a curtain with a gun. Then he and Toodles branch out into drug smuggling for a gangster (though they think they're smuggling liquor.) Ironically, the same gangster hires Alabama.

It's not a particularly good film, but I enjoy watching all of Bette's performances. Too bad she doesn't have much to do. It's also fun to see Frank McHugh. I recognized Harold Huber; I checked his credits on IMDB--he was in The Thin Man and several Charlie Chan films. Walter Brennan makes an appearance in a diner scene. Thank you IMDB, because I didn't even notice him.

I wouldn't recommend this except to see Bette. Otherwise the film is pretty much a mess.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

It's Bette Davis Day on TCM

I didn't realize that TCM's August theme is the star of the day. Luckily, I checked out the schedule yesterday. Otherwise, I would have missed Parachute Jumper at 6 AM, starring Bette and Douglas Fairbanks Junior. I've seen it before, probably only once. When I got up, I caught most of The Girl from 10th Avenue. It's no classic, but more fun than I remembered.

In addition to those two movies, I recorded Dangerous, Ex-Lady and a Johnny Carson-Bette Davis interview. I scheduled recordings of a Dick Cavett-Bette Davis interview and Payment on Demand. I watched the other selections off and on during the day--I didn't record these because I have them on DVD or have seen them several times recently.

Bette Davis day is a nice surprise-especially on days spent close to home. Plus, I'll have lots of Bette to watch in the next week.

Our Baltimore Getaway

 My last post described how our weekend began...badly.

Spike's illness overshadowed the whole weekend. When we left him Friday to go out to dinner downtown, we didn't understand how sick he was. Jeff and I didn't leave him alone the rest of the weekend.

We still had fun. I went out to lunch and antiquing on Saturday afternoon. Jeff went on boat rides late Saturday and Sunday afternoons. We all went to a farmers' market and Druid Hill park on Sunday morning. Jeff's great, great grandfather was its Superintendent (or Supernintendo as Ralph Wiggum would say) after the Civil War. The Superintendent's House is undergoing a renovation; it will be beautiful when it's finished.

I enjoyed some crab cakes and fried green tomatoes in restaurants, and fresh donuts and a smoothie at the farmers' market. Jeff also brought me back a Polock Johnny's Polish sausage from a stop on one of his boat rides. We cooked for Sunday night's dinner: grilled steak, potatoes, salad, grilled vegetables and wine (the last two from the farmers' market.)

I was pleasantly surprised to find a familiar "face": Fat Tire Amber Ale in restaurants and liquor stores. We had a Fat Tire logo pint glass for years before we first tasted the beer: in the Denver airport during a stopover on a trip to Portland. We also drank Fat Tire on a trip to Phoenix. We hadn't had it in years.

Annette's house is on the water. When I was keeping Spike company, I sat out on her deck, wrote in my journal and watched boats, egrets, herons and other seabirds. I enjoyed the peace and the solitude.

I hope we get another opportunity to visit and don't wait for another 10 years.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Off to a Rough Start

Yesterday, Jeff, Spike and I left Norwalk, picked up our friend Elaine in Stamford, and headed down to Baltimore to visit our friend Annette. Jeff and I haven't seen Annette in about ten years. Thanks to Linked-In, we reconnected and got invited for a visit. It's also the first time in about two years that we've gotten away for a long weekend.

Jeff had to get gas and we were about ten minutes late picking up Elaine. She was also ten minutes late. We hit traffic jams in Stamford (the dreaded Exit 7 to Exit 5 slowdown) the New Jersey Turnpike (we take the Tappan Zee to the Garden State Parkway, take Exit 129 to get on the Turnpike, then switch to 295 at Exit 7 to the Delaware Memorial Bridge--or Del-Mem-Ber-- as Jeff and I call it), Delaware and Maryland.

We also were behind a flatbed trailer on the New Jersey Turnpike that lost two-by-four rectangular pieces of Styrofoam; three hit us. Lovely.

We arrived about an hour later than expected. All was well, until Spike suddenly got sick. He threw up several times last night. (Damn, we shouldn't have left him to go out to dinner, but had no idea how sick he really was.) Jeff called our vet, and we took him to a local vet this morning. He's still weak and lethargic but is rallying.

It's a horrible feeling to have a sick dog, especially away from home. It's also not fun to have your dog repeatedly throw up on your first visit someplace.

But Spike is sick and our priority is to get him better. And whatever the vet gave him today is working.

Love to Spike. Get well soon.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Today in History

On this day in 1974, Richard Nixon announced his resignation as President of the United States effective the following day.

I don't have a distinct memory of that day, but I remember the Saturday Night Massacre pretty well. I had just gotten back to my dorm room at University of Delaware and saw the news. I wasn't sure what it all meant but I knew it was critical to the presidency.

As to the actual resignation, I saw clips of Nixon's farewell speech and of the Fords escorting the Nixons to the helicopter.  But, after seeing the movie, Dick, I'll never think of Watergate in the same way again.

On a lighter note, today is the 25th anniversary of the first night game under the lights at Wrigley Field between the Chicago Cubs and the Philadelphia Phillies. That game was rained out after three innings. The first official night game took place the next night; the Cubs beat the New York Mets.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Netflix Movie Night: The Spiderwick Chronicles

We don't remember how this film got into our Netflix queue, but we're glad it did. We enjoyed it.

Three kids and their mother move into a spooky, old house in the middle of the woods. They allude to some problem with the father, but it isn't spelled out until much later in the movie. One of the kids finds a mysterious book and discovers a world of goblins and fairies all around them.

The kids were realistic--first in their sibling conflicts and arguments, and later in banding together to save their family. The cast includes David Strathairn--always a plus for me.

It's funny how I can suspend my disbelief about all the creatures, the magic and the fairy dimension (True Blood also has a fairy dimension) but wonder how the family can explain the disappearance of their aunt (who went to the fairy dimension) to the authorities. But hey I also had a quibble with a minor point in Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, while accepting the overall premise.

I was also happy to see a relatively short film for a change (about 90 minutes.) That's efficient story-telling.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Sono Arts

I was disappointed when I woke up this morning and it was raining. Because this is the weekend of  the Sono Arts Celebration. We can't go tomorrow because we have plans with the parents.

Luckily, the sun came out around 3; it turned into a beautiful, summer day. We strolled down North Main and Washington Streets and saw booths with paintings, sculpture, jewelry and crafts. We stopped at one of Spike's favorite places, The Burger Bar for fried pickles and beer. We also ordered fried string beans and truffle mac and cheese. Delicious.

Then Mr. Bungles came over to our table and asked if we would like a balloon animal. I requested a balloon beagle:

I made several attempts to get a picture of the real and balloon Spikes together. This was the best:

Burger Bar is located near one of the stages. We also got to hear performers from School of Rock. They were awesome.

It was a wonderful afternoon.