Character Assassination

What can ruin a good story for you?

For me, if I don’t care about the characters, I won’t care about the story. I felt that way while watching the film Public Enemies – John Dillinger was a horrible person, and I couldn’t invest any energy in caring whether he was caught or betrayed or killed. His charisma wasn’t enough to make me care, the cat-and-mouse game he was playing with the Feds wasn’t enough to make me care, his Johnny Depp-ness wasn’t enough to make me care. I was completely detached from the film, just waiting for it to end. (And trying to spot my friends Bill and Shannon Butler, who were swing dancing extras in the movie – the only thing that made watching it worthwhile.)

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Likewise, I have a friend who hated La Femme Nikita, because the title character murders a cop in cold blood at the beginning of the film, and he couldn’t forgive her for that. Never mind that the story was about transformation and redemption – and about how society says it’s okay to be a monster, as long as you’re a monster on the right side of the law.  (Yeah, I loved it. But I get why he didn’t. )

We all have sins we consider unforgivable.

I just finished reading Menfreya in the Morning, by Victoria Holt. It was written in the 1960s – a Daphnie du Maurier-style Gothic romance, set in the early 20th century.

I was liking it a lot, the style is spot on: sweeping rocky coasts, a glorious old manor gone to seed, horseback riding accidents, political scandals, rumors of a ghost in the east wing – the whole Gothicky works. The main character, Harriet, is likable: a lonely, odd, smart girl with a despised limp, who ends up capturing the heart of Bevil, the man she’s been in love with since she was 10 and he was 20. He’s a gorgeous Lothario, and the most eligible bachelor in all of Cornwall. Even after they get married about half way through the book, she can’t really believe that he wants her – he’s had a lot of affairs in the past and still flirts with women more beautiful than Harriet.

Menfreya

The marriage happens early on, because the rest of the the story is tres Rebecca: what with the dark suspicions about her husband’s infidelity, the ghost in the east wing, the sinister governess and all. So, although they have an ideal honeymoon, when they get back, those little dreads begin to take hold. One night they have a major disagreement over Harriet’s best friend, who is also Bevil’s sister. After the argument, Harriet is furious with him, and announces that she’s going to sleep in the other bedchamber. He says no, he wants her there with him. She refuses.

Aaaaannnnnd he rapes her. It isn’t spelled out as such, but it’s pretty clear what happens… her arms and back are covered in bruises the next day, and she describes it as “the most soul-shattering experience of her life.”

Okay, I thought. Do I put the book down now? But Holt doesn’t pull her punches. She takes care to express the rage, humiliation and fear Harriet feels, and especially the loss of her autonomy, the realization that whatever she wants, he’s stronger, he’s her husband, and she has no way of fighting back.

Meanwhile, there’s a kind young man lurking vaguely in the background, and I started wondering whether Harriet was going to ultimately end up with him. Would her husband die? Then I thought, wow. This is a totally different book than I thought it was going to be.

EXCEPT IT’S NOT. Harriet makes excuses for her husband, and eventually learns that she was wrong about the sister, and he was right, and all her suspicions about Bevil’s infidelities were unfounded, and he really just loves only her and she loves only him and those two crazy kids work it out, by gum.

Fuck you, 1966.

What story was ruined for you by a character’s actions?

 

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The Dressmaker’s Mixup Mystification

 

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Don’t mess with the dressmaker

So, one could describe The Dressmaker as “Chocolat meets The Count of Monte Cristo.” Sounds like the best movie ever, right? Except there’s no blending of these two elements: it is a Frankenfilm. First it’s the one movie, and then it’s the other.

The basic setup: Kate Winslet plays Myrtle “Tilly” Dunnage, a successful Paris fashion designer, who returns to her dusty, small-minded home town (in rural Australia), because she believes she is cursed. She wants to break the curse by finding out whether or not she committed a murder she was blamed for  when she was just a child. She can’t remember, and the townsfolk, while full to the brim with damning gossip, are closed-mouthed when it comes to facts. She has also come back to see her mother, the local loon, “Mad Molly” (Judy Davis), and quickly falls in with a boy she vaguely knew from childhood, Teddy (Liam Hemsworth), who is, as far as I can tell, part of a family of itinerant workers who have more or less settled there. (Or one might say that they’re gypsies: Hello, Chocolat.)

I wish they would have stuck to making just the one sort of film, because I liked them both: The Chocolat, Cold Comfort Farm, Hope Floats, “glamorous girl comes to rural backwater and shakes things up” plot, and the black-as-velvet comedy/ murder mystery/ revenge plot.

(Speaking of Cold Comfort Farm – there’s an almost identical scene in The Dressmaker, wherein a girl gets a makeover to win a boy above her station. I have to say, although Cold Comfort Farm is the superior film, the makeover in The Dressmaker is much more breathtaking.)

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Judy Davis and Kate Winslet are fantastic in this movie, especially in their scenes together. Davis particularly shines, as a woman gripped with dementia, slowly regaining her facilities (if not her tact), under the administrations of her long-lost daughter. If you are a fan of great acting for great acting’s sake, then see this movie. Also, if you like stunning 50’s fashion. And/or Liam Hemsworth with his shirt off. There’s plenty of that, and he holds up his end of the exchange quite nicely. Plus, there are some truly funny moments, especially anything involving Hugo Weaving as a local police officer and closet transvestite. But frustration over the thematic incertitude casts a pall over the whole enterprise.

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You’re welcome
Finally, a shout out to Those In Charge, who cast Ms. Winslet, who is 41, as someone who is supposed to be the same age as Liam Hemsworth (27) and Sarah Snook (29). They placed them all around 33 years old, which actually works – since Hemsworth has that rugged Australian complexion, and Winslet possesses a dewy beauty barely nicked by time.
Pair With: A hip flask of whiskey – but don’t let Mad Molly pinch it.

Archie and the Gang Get CWed

So, the new Riverdale.

The CW has taken the classic Archie comics, and brought them into the real world. Well, not the real world, exactly. More like a CW show. They’ve brought them into a CW show. So it’s a darker, more nuanced, grittier Riverdale. (Although not nearly as gritty as the fantastic Afterlife With Archie comics, which place Archie and his nifty pals in the midst of a zombie apocalypse.)

In Riverdale, sufficed to say, there’s murder, illicit affairs, closeted jocks, and a serious lack of lighting.

When the story starts, Jason Blossom, twin brother of Cheryl, Queen Bee of the school, has apparently drowned. No body was found. But was it muuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuurder?

Of course it was.

Right off I’ll say, I enjoyed the pilot enough to continue watching. However, it’s very much like Gossip Girl, or Pretty Little Liars, and I gave up on both of those shows a couple of seasons in. Eventually you’ve paired up everyone with everyone else, you’ve had every single character betray every other character multiple times, everyone has secrets that come out, and then more secrets that come out again.  It all becomes a bit of a yawner, frankly.

I hope the creators of Riverdale don’t just plop the Archie characters down in the CW universe, and forget their provenance – both to honor it, and to turn it on its ear.  There were flashes here and there in the pilot, but I’d like more winks to the original.  (Kevin calling Archie “swell.” Jughead’s hat. A hint as to where Moose might have gotten his nickname.) The show is, after all, written by Archie Comic’s chief creative officer.

Some general atmospheric stuff: I get that they’re going for a Twin Peaksian vibe here. That small town/soap opera noir, somewhat dreamlike, and very, very dark. Too dark. I mean, the-band-room-is-candlelit dark. I wish they would take a page from Buffy, a show that knew how to work the contrast between a sunny, seemingly perfect burb and its nasty underbelly. Give us some sun, and some bright shiny teens. Every scene at Riverdale High shouldn’t look like they’re about to be blasted with the tornado siren.

The characters in the original Archie comics never change (at least not when I read them back in the 80s.) They act out the same patterns again and again, they take the same girl to the dance (or at least the same two girls, in rotation) – they laugh at the same old bit of wackiness from Jughead, and at some point, Moose sees Reggie flirting with Midge, and we just know Reggie’s gonna get a pasting.

In Riverdale, they slap big fat labels on everyone’s foreheads right in the pilot. Many of the characters declare out loud just who exactly they are, or if they don’t, their friends do it for them. The Perfect Girl. The Fiery Bitch. The Big Jock. The Gay Best Friend. The Ice Queen. But of course, unlike in the Archie comics, these boxes are meant to be broken.

The only person who remains undefined is Archie, because at the start of the show, he’s mired in an identity crisis. He has no idea who he is, and it’s paralyzing him.

Which brings us to the character rundowns. Spoilers ahoy!

ARCHIE

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First off, Archie’s dad is played by Luke Perry, which is an inspired bit of casting. (Although, speaking of a rehash, Archie’s working-class dad and Veronica’s rich mom having a thing in the past – and now they’re both single (!) is so very Gossip Girl.) Let’s be clear: Archie in the comics is a little shit. He’s a wishy-washy, lying, misogynistic pipsqueak, who plays women against each other. Why two gorgeous, together girls like Betty and Veronica would even talk to him, let alone fawn all over him, is beyond comprehension. But I guess that’s part of the joke.

So Riverdale, smartly, gives Archie a makeover. First of all, he’s hot. And, one of those aforementioned winks, we learn he wasn’t hot the last time any of the characters saw him. He got ripped working for Dad Perry’s construction company all summer. He’s not a freckly ginger, either. Don’t get me wrong, freckly gingers can be uber-hot, but they’re not traditionally as hot as, say, oh, I don’t know, dark auburn broody boys. Just sayin’. So, Archie’s hot AF, so hot, in fact, that he loses his V card (I’m assuming) to the smokin’ music teacher over the summer. He’s still a little obsessed with her, I think (?) which is one of the reasons he can’t commit to his best friend, but never-girlfriend Betty, I think (?) but also because Betty is too good for him (yawn), I think (?). Honestly, we were left hanging as far as Archie’s feelings go. Which would be fine, except I think the writers were trying to be clear. He tells Veronica that he doesn’t think of Betty that way, but then, with the final Jughead-as-Walter-Neff voiceover, we hear that Archie’s heart is broken too, I think (?)

What we do know is: Archie love music. Archie love football. Archie torn. Archie gets to do both. Whee! I’m sure they’re going to create more conflict where this is concerned, but right now, it seems like Archie is broody for no reason, as he tends to get what he wants.

That’s the other thing, his Big Dark Secret with the teacher (aside from the naughty naughty), is that, while they were canoodling in the woods early one morning, they heard a gunshot – right around the time of Jason’s disappearance. Except, at the end of the episode, this problem too goes away for Archie, as they find Jason’s body with a gunshot wound. So he no longer needs to fret about telling the police. Although, hopefully the police will get the time of death wrong, and an alibi will be at stake or something, and that crisis can return. Otherwise, this Archie, like his predecessor, will just be a little shit who gets whatever he wants.

BETTY

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I’m liking Lili Reinhart as Betty Cooper so far. She’s a decent actress, and, like Betty in the comics, can go from sweet and perky to hella hot armed only with some hot rollers and a pink dress. Her mother is played by Mädchen Amick, a deliberate nod to Twin Peaks. I’m already fascinated with the mom, as she’s a pretty horrible person, but in a somewhat unique way. I think we’re going to find out that she’s fixated on slights she incurred in high school, and those feed every current grudge.

I’m digging the relationship with Veronica. In the comics, it was always so strange, tricky, and unbelievable. They were sort of best friends, sort of arch nemeses, both fighting over Archie, but each other’s confidants too? In Riverdale, Veronica works hard to become Betty’s friend, because she sees that Betty is a good person, and wants to be like her. In turn, Veronica forces Betty to be bold, and not just eat whatever shit is shoveled her way. It has an immediate effect, especially in regards to her mother. A friendship to root for, which is great, because we know that Archie will come between them. He already has.

VERONICA

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Those eyes though. Camila Mendes has some gorgeous, camera-loving, huge brown peepers. Also, they cast a Brazilian-American woman as Veronica, which not only is cool, but necessary, because the world of (original, early) Archie is whitey-white-whitesville. She’s a skilled actor, impressive because she has zero experience on TV before Riverdale.  I love what a wit the character is. Her references leap from literary to pop culture, several of them are deep track, all of them are on point. Because it’s been established that Veronica used to be a big ol’ bitch, we can assume that she used to use that sharp tongue for evil. Now it’s used to delight those around her. And occasionally to take down the local nasties (I’m looking at you, Cheryl.)  Also, that reformed beyotch thing is interesting. After she kisses Archie, she goes to her mom and puts her head in her lap – the camera pulls in. Although she doesn’t say it, we know she’s thinking, “Can I change? Am I just an awful person by nature?” That’s some good directing and acting. Excited to see more of her struggles with her shoulder devil.

Okay, but here’s my problem though – and it’s not her fault.

When I was 13, and staying at a friend’s aunt’s place for a week, I discovered a huge stash of Archie comics in the back of a closet. I read them all. And let me tell you, I was obsessed with Veronica. Her clothes, her face, her hair, her attitude, the whole shebang. This Veronica… is not quite there. She’s too sweet looking, her hair is too plain, her clothes are meh. This can all be fixed – step up, ye mavens of hair, makeup and wardrobe! Give her extensions- a fantastic head of glossy thick waves. Zhoosh up her makeup: play up those goddess–given eyes. And please, please, get her some fabulous duds. We should be drooling every week over What Veronica Wore. That’s who she was in the comics, that who she should be on the show.

Also, it has to be said, she needs to work on her Ice Queen game. I didn’t quite buy her takedown of Cheryl. I think she has it in her, though.

KEVIN

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When we first meet Kevin, in Betty’s bedroom, we know he’s gay. When she calls him ‘Kevin,” I thought, “Really, they couldn’t have made a canon character gay? They had to invent a new one?” BUT, I looked it up, and Kevin is a character, albeit a newish one, in Archie. He’s also gay, in Archie (Yay Archie!) BUT ALSO, bite my tongue about canon characters. Freakin’ MOOSE. Big closeted jock Moose. I love it. I wonder if there’s going to be a Midge. Will she be his beard? So curious.

The actor playing Kevin, Casey Cott, is nailing it well enough – he’s especially strong, as is the character, when he gets salty. I like that he doesn’t hold his tongue, even when he probably should.

I’m putting faith in Riverdale. Since they deliberately labeled Kevin the Fabulous Gay Best Friend, I’m assuming they’re planning on breaking him out of his box as well. Because that depiction is tiiiired, and more than a little insulting. The gay man who only lives to support his female friend with sassy little asides? Yeah, no. Granted, that character template, like all character templates, can turn out exceptionally well with good writing: as long as the character is given a unique personality, agency, and their own desires. (See: Felix from Orphan Black.)

Already we’ve gotten a bit of Kevin’s life outside singing backup for the gals, what with that Moosetacular assignation. Sadly, it ended with a corpus coitus interruptus, but I’m sure they’ll hook up in the future – and since Kev Kev (can I call him Kev Kev?) is playing a dangerous game – one that could damage his heart and/or his person- it’s bound to be interesting.

CHERYL

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A pretty stereotypical Queen Bitch of The School, except for the twist that her twin brother and “soul mate” just died, and she was apparently lying about how it happened. Also, there was definitely a creepy sexual element to their relationship in the flashback. And also, also… she seems to have bounced back to being a cheerleading bully and school dance princess pretty darn quickly.

And what’s with all the redheads in Riverdale? Hmmmm….. (Yes, I know it’s in the comics, but they could really play with that.)

JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS

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No token minority for the Pussycats – all three of them are black, and brava. Again with the smart diversity. More of this everywhere, please. Also, Josie, at least in re Archie, is really, really mean. A snotty kind of mean. I’m not sure how I feel about this, only, I hope we learn a lot more about her, and Sweet Merciful Zeus, please don’t make her yet another love interest for Archie. He has quite enough on his plate already, thank you very much.

JUGHEAD

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One of the main four characters in Archie, he narrates small bits of the show. We don’t meet him until the very end of the episode, when we learn that he had a falling out with Archie some time ago. He seems to be a bit of an artsy loner, and might end up being a favorite character for that fact alone. Looking forward to more Jughead, including how he got, not to mention held onto that nickname.

To sum up: I’m going to give Riverdale a chance to do some magic. So far, it’s fairly thin on the ground. There are some nice twists to the original characters, but many of the bits fall flat. Cheryl lording over her party, manipulating the game of Seven Minutes in Heaven? It feels like a ‘first idea’ sort of writing choice. Not terrible, but not at all original or surprising. Veronica and Betty kissing at the end of their cheerleading tryout? I get what the joke was supposed to be… we’re supposed to think that’s going to get them on the squad, and then *record scratch* Cheryl points out that that particular device is tres passe… Except, here’s the rub:  Riverdale used it in the show for the very same reason that Veronica and Betty used it in their tryout. Cheap titillation.  They try to get away with it by bending the fourth wall, but it doesn’t quite fly. Archie’s father’s lecture near the end of the show… about construction, and football, and music, and how Archie lied, doesn’t quite track with what happened earlier in the episode. And so far, Archie is an amorphous blob of a character – but I’ll give that a chance, because I know the point is that he doesn’t know what he wants.

All I can say is, remember the provenance, creators. Keep on winking at us, and you’ll be just fine.

The Worst Movie Ever?

(Originally posted at The Scribblerati)

Last weekend a few intrepid friends and I sat down to my husband’s stellar waffles and watched what some folk call the Worst Movie Ever. This was not my first experience with a movie that had laid claim to that disreputable title; I have sat through many a Worst Movie Ever in my day.

Brave, you say? Not really. I can’t make it through one of these cinematic dingleberries without the help of the cast of Mystery Science Theater 3000, or one of their current incarnations (RifftraxCinematic Titanic). Take away the constant humorous riffing from those professional Bad Movie Watchers, folks with much stronger constitutions than yours truly, and I’d be rendered a quivering pile of goo, all sense of beauty, truth and artistic integrity forcibly drained from my very cells.

But I digress.

In this particular instance, the Worst Movie was Troll 2, an experiment in, let’s for the sake of argument call it ‘filmmaking,” that fails so extraordinarily in its efforts to be remotely good that it ends up being bizarrely entertaining in its own right. We watched the Rifftrax version. A few highlights:

  • It’s a movie called Troll 2 that not only is not subsequent to a Troll 1, but also contains no trolls.
  • It features one of the hammiest performances in the history of the universe, in the form of the actress playing the goblin queen. Even if the film had been made on Planet Pig, with sets carved from pure Cumberland Gap spiral bone-in ham, she’d still be the hammiest thing around.
  • And speaking of ham, the makers were clearly anti-vegetarian, or at least anti-eating your veggies, because the goblins (not trolls) turn all their victims into trees or vegetable goop before consuming them – and our young hero saves the day (spoiler alert!) with a double-decker bologna sandwich. That’s right. You heard me.
  • And then there’s the PG sex scene featuring a young man and the goblin queen both biting a corncob, which then (presumably due to the heat of their encounter) explodes into popcorn. The scene, incidentally, has no relation whatsoever to the rest of the story, except perhaps a tenuous tie to the fact that the goblins do love them some veggies. Even in the boudoir, it seems.

Here’s a sample: Troll Clip

And of course, there’s a documentary about it.

Truly awful? Yes. But I have to say that Troll 2, popcorn sex notwithstanding, is a little too snappy and cheery to honestly deserve the Worst Movie trophy.

So then, what constitutes a truly awful movie?

The obvious: Bad writing. Acting so terrible it barely counts as acting, and actors that are inherently unappealing. Incompetent directing. Abysmal, laughable special effects. Lack of continuity.

But what constitutes the Worst Movie of All Time? To qualify, the movie has to have that certain something extra. In my mind, it’s a pervasive atmosphere of oppressive creepiness: not the creepiness derived from good horror writing and cinematography, but that icky, dirty feeling you get when you realize you’re witnessing actors as puppets, forced to perform the director’s particular twisted proclivities for his own titillation. (Honestly, I get this feeling from Tarantino’s films too, although in every other respect they’re exceptionally well done).

Ed Wood’s films fit this profile, except there’s something so gleefully innocent about his strange quirks (not the least of which was his desire, against all reason, to be a filmmaker), that I don’t feel that deep. soul-besmirching uncleanliness that only the worst of the worst can bestow upon its viewers. 

There are two movies that I feel might qualify for Giant Turd Trophy (I just made that up, but I think it needs to happen) and both have been given treatment by Mystery Science Theater 3000. The first is Eegah – a picture from the 60s featuring Richard Kiel (Jaws from the James Bond franchise) as the last surviving caveman, and a pie-faced squishy, greasy, whiney young male ‘star’ (the director’s son, natch).

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What’s the opposite of sex appeal? Sex repel? Well, you’ve got it, Mister! 

Eegah contains a truly repulsive sequence, in which the young hot female lead is trapped in Eegah’s cave with her father, played by the director, where she performs a series of humiliating tasks, including sitting on her daddy’s lap and shaving him. *Shiver*

The second, and probably champion, is Manos, Hands of Fate (or, translated, ‘Hands, Hands of Fate”), a dank and depressing devil story, in which an entirely incompetent family is trapped in a desert hotel by a big-kneed manservant. The movie features a scene where dead, ensorcelled gossamer-clad devil slave ladies have a big old pile-up girl fight accompanied by ghastly saxophone music. The scene goes on and on and on. And on. Also, the female lead gets repeatedly (and very awkwardly) pawed by Torgo, he of the big knees.

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You can’t see his knees here, but sufficed to say, they’re whoppers.

There is something so horribly weighty and depressing about Manos, that after watching it, one is left with a sense of ennui that lingers for hours, much like that feeling you get after waking up from a really oppressive, really stupid dream.

So then, now that I’ve thought it through, I highly recommend throwing a Troll 2 party (Rifftrax style): sure it will hurt your brain, but feed your friends waffles and plenty of mimosas, and eventually they’ll forgive you. After all, it isn’t actually the WORST movie ever made.

Tweeting “Teen Witch”

The other day, I live tweeted Teen Witch. If you don’t know, Teen Witch is a glorious film from the 80s, one that I somehow managed to miss back in the day, despite the fact that I was definitely its target audience. The title tells you pretty much everything you need to know. It is currently streaming on Netflix.

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Also, it is the most Eighties thing to happen ever. More Eighties than Reganomics. More Eighties than a Members Only jacket. More Eighties than The California Raisins. It is so Eighties, you guys. So. Very. Eighties.

So. I live tweeted, and I’m sure at least 3 people saw one or two of my comments. You feel left out, don’t you? Never fear. I’ve compiled the commentary in an easy-to-read fashion. (You read top to bottom instead of bottom to top. THE FUTURE IS NOW!)

This Twitter thread is for everyone. You can read it if you’ve seen the movie. You can read it while watching the movie, and try to figure out where each comment belongs. (Fun!) Or, you can save yourself the trouble of ever having to sit through the exquisitely painful Eightiesness of it all, and just read the tweets. They stand on their own, I swear. Oh, but watch Teen Witch’s opening credits no matter what. Because wow.

So then. Enjoy. TEEN WITCH TWEETSPair with: an Original New York Seltzer (vanilla creme), out of a Gizmo thermos. $_35

It’s a Wonderful Life Trivia Answers

If you missed the quiz, it is HERE. Go take it! But be forewarned –  I’m a tad bit obsessed with the film. So it isn’t particularly easy.

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So, then. here are the answers!

  1. When a guy taunts the young man to open the pool beneath the gym floor, he says, “What’s the matter, ___________, jealous? (Fill in the blank. It is a joke, but it also happens to be the character’s last name.)  Othello
  2. The actor who played the young man in the above question was way more famous for another role. What was that role?  Alfalfa (Little Rascals)
  3. When young Mary says “You like all the boys,” how does young Violet respond?  “What’s wrong with that?”
  4. What is Sam Wainwright’s catchphrase? “Hee Haw!”
  5. Young George Bailey’s druggist boss almost poisons some children by accident. What disease do they have? Diphtheria 
  6. Uncle Billy is drunk after the party celebrating Harry Bailey’s marriage. The true story is that after Thomas Mitchell (the actor playing Uncle Billy) exited his scene with Jimmy Stewart, a set hand accidently knocked over a whole props table, making a huge clamor. Mitchell improvised a line from off camera, and the whole thing stayed in the movie. What is that line? “I’m all right! I’m aaalllll right!” (A phrase you can hear in my household anytime someone drops something in the next room.)
  7. Uncle Billy has some unusual pets. Name three of them. Squirrel, owl, monkey, crow, and various other birds. And a dog – but not a 3-legged space dog or anything. Just a dog. 
  8. When Mary Hatch asks George whether or not he likes Harry’s new wife Ruth, a grumpy George replies “Of course I like her, she’s a ________!” Peach!
  9. George steals a football uniform for himself after he falls in the pool. What number is on the jersey? 3
  10. What is Mary Hatch’s brother’s name? Marty
  11. When Mary loses her robe, what kind of bush does she hide in? Hydrangea 
  12. What is Clarence the Angel’s favorite book? Tom Sawyer
  13. What does George’s dad die of? A stroke (Which, according to George, was indirectly brought on by Mr. Potter. Stupid Mr. Potter.)
  14. After his experience with Clarence, what three things indicate that George Bailey is back in the real world? It is snowing, his mouth is bleeding, Zuzu’s petals are in his pocket.
  15. What two Muppets are named after characters from the movie? Ernie and Bert after Ernie the taxi driver and Bert the cop (although some say this is just a coincidence)
  16. Mary makes a picture that says “George Bailey Lassos the Moon.” In the course of the movie, what else does she say he lassos? Stork! 
  17. What is George’s dream job? Architect – city planner – “building things”
  18. After Nick kicks George and Clarence out of his bar, he rings his cash register repeatedly, and says what? (6 words) “Get me, I’m givin’ out wings!”
  19. What award does Harry Bailey receive? Presidential Medal of Honor
  20. What is the name of the Bailey’s housekeeper? Annie
  21. After the run on the banks, how much of George and Mary’s money is left? 2 dollars
  22. Potter offers George Bailey a yearly income so large it makes George drop his cigar. What is the amount? $20,000/year
  23. When George comes home in despair after Uncle Billy loses the $8000, his daughter is playing the same carol over and over again on the piano. What is it? “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”
  24. George and Mary’s son is writing a Christmas pageant. What decidedly non-Christmasy character has a part in his play? Frankenstein (‘s monster)
  25. What is the name of Zuzu’s teacher whom George abuses over the phone? Mrs. Welch
  26. According to one of the head angels, Clarence has the IQ of what? A rabbit
  27. What is the name of the house George and Mary move into? The Old Granville House
  28. (Two parts) Who discovered a mostly-unknown Gloria Grahame, the actress who played Violet Biggs? What major musical role did she go on to play? Jimmy Stewart / Ado Annie in Oklahoma
  29. Frank Capra had to fight the censors, because the ending of the film wasn’t up to code. What didn’t he do to one of his characters that was against the rules? (And which character?) Mr. Potter goes unpunished for stealing the $8,000. According to the Hays Code, all criminals must pay for their crimes. 
  30. Name 2 of the 3 buildings George says “merry Christmas” to at the end of the film. Movie House, Emporium, Building and Loan.                                                                                                                                      So…. How did you do?

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The Ultimate “It’s A Wonderful Life” Quiz

It’s the most Wonderful time of the year!

Join me, won’t you, in celebrating that fuzziest of holiday movies, It’s a Wonderful Life. I will give the answers in a later post. For now: Guess in the comments – and MERRY CHRISTMAS!

 

It’s a Wonderful Life Trivia (Pretty difficult.)

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  1. When a guy taunts the young man to open the pool beneath the gym floor, he says, “What’s the matter, ___________, jealous? (Fill in the blank. It is a joke, but it also happens to be the character’s last name.)
  2. The actor who played the young man in the above question was way more famous for another role. What was that role?
  3. When young Mary says “You like all the boys,” how does young Violet respond?
  4. What is Sam Wainwright’s catchphrase?
  5. Young George Bailey’s druggist boss almost poisons some children by accident. What disease do they have?
  6. Uncle Billy is drunk after the party celebrating Harry Bailey’s marriage. The true story is that after Thomas Mitchell (the actor playing Uncle Billy) exited his scene with Jimmy Stewart, a set hand accidently knocked over a whole props table, making a huge clamor. Mitchell improvised a line from off camera, and the whole thing stayed in the movie. What is that line?
  7. Uncle Billy has some unusual pets. Name three of them.
  8. When Mary Hatch asks George whether or not he likes Harry’s new wife Ruth, a grumpy George replies “Of course I like her, she’s a ________!”
  9. George steals a football uniform for himself after he falls in the pool. What number is on the jersey?
  10. What is Mary Hatch’s brother’s name?
  11. When Mary loses her robe, what kind of bush does she hide in?
  12. What is Clarence the Angel’s favorite book?
  13. What does George’s dad die of?
  14. After his experience with Clarence, what three things indicate that George Bailey is back in the real world?
  15. What two Muppets are named after characters from the movie?
  16. Mary makes a picture that says “George Bailey Lassos the Moon.” In the course of the movie, what else does she say he lassos?
  17. What is George’s dream job?
  18. After Nick kicks George and Clarence out of his bar, he rings his cash register repeatedly, and says what? (6 words)
  19. What award does Harry Bailey receive?
  20. What is the name of the Bailey’s housekeeper?
  21. After the run on the banks, how much of George and Mary’s money is left?
  22. Potter offers George Bailey a yearly income so large it makes George drop his cigar. What is the amount?
  23. When George comes home in despair after Uncle Billy loses the $8000, his daughter is playing the same carol over and over again on the piano. What is it?
  24. George and Mary’s son is writing a Christmas pageant. What decidedly non-Christmasy character has a part in his play?
  25. What is the name of Zuzu’s teacher whom George abuses over the phone?
  26. According to one of the head angels, Clarence has the IQ of what?
  27. What is the name of the house George and Mary move into?
  28. (Two parts) Who discovered a mostly-unknown Gloria Grahame, the actress who played Violet Biggs? What major musical role did she go on to play?
  29. Frank Capra had to fight the censors, because the ending of the film wasn’t up to code. What didn’t he do to one of his characters that was against the rules? (And which character?)
  30. Name 2 of the 3 buildings George says “merry Christmas” to at the end of the film.

Good luck!

Its-a-Wonderful-Life-Sequel

You guys, I watched Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 and Elysium last night, and they’re the SAME MOVIE.

So.  I watched 3 movies last night, and 2 of them were the strikingly parallel Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 and Elysium.

Stick with me, here, for a moment. (And also, SPOILERS.)

Ahem.

It is a story about a follicularly distinctive man, whose greatest desire is to land his dream job /  not die a hideous death from radiation poisoning.

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ElysiumMattDamoncrop_0

 

 

 

 

In order to achieve his goal, our hero must embark on a dangerous mission to a beautiful place … FoodAnimalJungle 2013-08-09-elysium_interior_concept_art

with a technical MacGuffin in tow.

BSUSB_by_Chster_V     Elysium-2013-Movie-Poster

                                                                              BSUSB                                                                                   Brain-downloady-thingy

Our hero has a ragtag group of allies, and a love interest with an adorable daughter / strawberry. This daughter / strawberry’s life is threatened by the evil corporation / government.

MV5BNTcwNzI1ODYxOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzEzNzM5OQ@@._V1_SY317_CR9,0,214,317_AL_    Cloudy-with-a-Chance-of-Meatballs-2-Barry-the-Strawberry

DAWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW

The evil corporation / government has robots. Big, scary, strong robots to do their bidding.

Elysium-robot-image

The only way to take on these robots is to become somewhat of a robot yourself.

Matt-Damon-in-Exo-Suit

Meanwhile, our hero and his friends are dogged by a violent and unpredictable Sharlto Copley / fast food staple.

sharlto-copley-kruger-elysium-293x350   2881395510d91714671430da95074f1d (2)

There is a president who is eventually betrayed by his right hand woman: Jodie Foster / an orangutan named Barb.

2   barb2

However, our hero’s priorities are muddled, and eventually he realizes that his own goal isn’t as important as the future of humankind / sentient produce and friendship.

aaaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd SCENE.

Oh, and the third movie I watched was Philomena. I’m still working on how to tie it in with the other two films. All I’ve got so far is that the evil nuns = killer robots.

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Cheers!

Q

Alternative Universes and Time Travel and Witches, Oh My!

I  pretty much stopped reading children’s and YA fiction when I discovered Lord of the Rings at the age of 11. Then it was all Epic Fantasy and Science Fiction and American Classics and Gothic Romance and even a little Kurt Vonnegut. 

I, like everyone who actually peruses these posts, was reading “at a college level” (whatever that means) before I hit puberty, and I had very little interest in fluttering back to the YA nest once I had spread my wings.

I read Anne of Green Gables when I was in my mid-teens, but other than that, I can’t recall one children’s or YA novel I read between the ages of 12 and 30. Sure, I’d peruse an Edward Gorey or Shel Silverstein book here and there, but none of the fantastical kid’s novels I’d enjoyed as a child.

Then J.K. Rowling came along and ruined everything. Heh. I tease. She made everything awesome again. Much as my experience watching Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring for the first time in the theater shot me straight back to the unadulterated thrill I got when I first saw Star Wars or Raiders of the Lost Ark, Harry Potter made me feel like I was 8 again, reading under a bedspread tent with the aid of a flashlight. (Lumos!)

I devoured the Harry Potter series; I adored them; I speculated online, between books, about where the plot was going; I read them again and again – even out loud, twice, to friends, in their entirety. But then they were done, and I could never read them for the first time again.

 Eek! Expelliarmus! Stupify!

So, I started searching for Harry Potter Withdrawal Novels. I found some good ones too, among the best – Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials Trilogy, and To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis. (The former is considered YA, the latter is not)  But years passed, and the more I tried to dive into an exciting YA series, the more disappointed I became. The Hunger Games was ‘meh’ to me, Twilight was unreadable.

I was almost ready to give up, when I discovered Diana Wynne Jones. The mistake I’d been making was looking for new fantasy fiction. Diana Wynne Jones wrote a lot in the 80s, and once more, it’s clear that she was a very strong influence on J.K. Rowling.

(Also, Jones wrote Howl’s Moving Castle, which was made into a lovely film by Hayao Miyazaki.)

The first books I read of Jones’s were the Chrestomanci Series. The order in which you’re supposed to read them is not the order in which she wrote them. Here’s a handy guide:

CHRESTOMANCI series

You could actually read any of the books in this series at any time – they are each stand-alone novels, essentially, but the whole picture becomes clearer if you read them in order. And why wouldn’t you? The series takes place in multiple, parallel worlds, so each of the books inhabits very different settings. The one character who appears, to some degree or another, in every book, is the Chrestomanci himself, an extremely charismatic, powerful, and dandy-ish enchanter.

And that’s all I’ll say, except her books effortlessly balance some very complex ideas, and at the same time they’re funny and charming. Also, she captures the awkwardness and awe of adolescence very well. But the original cover art is often atrocious. What can I say – YA fantasy in the 80s.*

Since the Chrestomanci series, I’ve read The Homeward Bounders and A Tale of Time City, both good. Fire and Hemlock, which seems to be a fan favorite, is rooted deeply in the heroic classics, and yet it is a modern, romantic tale. Terrific.

I just checked out 6 more of her books from the library today.
Packing them into my backpack, I felt that thrill of being a kid again.

*The art for newer additions, however, is lovely.