Fawlty Towers: Gourmet Night

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This post is my contribution to the My Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon, hosted by Terry of A Shroud of Thoughts. Read the rest of the contributions HERE!

When I was in junior high school, Monty Python’s Flying Circus was very, very big with my classmates. I watched a few episodes but didn’t care for it. It just wasn’t my cup of tea–at least, at the time. (I love it now.)

So I wasn’t that interested in seeing Fawlty Towers, starring and co-written by Monty Python alum John Cleese, when it was first broadcast on my local public television station.

The only reason I checked it out at all is because the first Masterpiece Theater showing of Poldark, starring Robin Ellis, had just finished. After the credits rolled, an announcer bade the audience to stick around to see Ellis guest star in the first episode of Fawlty Towers.

I wasn’t ready to let go of Poldark quite yet (yes, I had a crush on Robin Ellis) so I watched the pilot episode of Fawlty Towers, A Touch of Class.

Need I say more? Of course, I was immediately hooked.

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Movie Review: The Divergent Series: Insurgent

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MINOR SPOILERS FOLLOW FOR THE MOVIE INSURGENT:

I enjoyed the first movie in this series, Divergent. Based on the first novel in Veronica Roth’s dystopian YA series, it boasted good casting, energetic direction by Neil Burger, creative envisioning of Chicago after an apocalypse, and a tight screenplay. All these elements helped make it a decent, entertaining effort.

The second book in the series, Insurgent, is not as strong a novel as Divergent. In fact, it’s a bit of a mess, with a very convoluted plot and a lot of new and unmemorable characters introduced, some killed off before you got a chance to care about them (or even remember their names).

The third book is a complete miss. I wrote about why I disliked Allegiant in a detailed and spoiler-filled review here.

Still, I had hopes that when it came to the subsequent films, the filmmakers would expand on what worked in the other two books and fix what didn’t. A not-good book doesn’t automatically mean a not-good film. (Ever read the novel The Godfather? Jaws? The movie versions are much, much better.)

Unfortunately, now in the hands of director Robert Schwentke (R.I.P.D.) the movie not only doesn’t fix the problems of the book, it actually highlights them–and adds even more.

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Peyton Place: Small Town Secrets and Lies, Presented in CinemaScope!

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This post is part of the CinemaScope Blogathon, hosted by Classic Becky’s Brain Food and Wide Screen World. Check out more posts in the blogathon HERE!

Peyton Place is a movie my mom and I would call a “4:30 movie.” When I was growing up, one of our local television stations would show movies every weekday afternoon at 4:30. Most of them were from the 1950s and early 1960s, and, possibly so they could lure viewers coming off the afternoon soap opera block, most were the “women’s pictures” of the era.

Unfortunately, back then, any movie in a wide-screen format was shown in what was known as “pan and scan.” The ratio was changed to fit most TV screens of the day, cutting off part of the image on either side of the frame. If something important occurred in the cut out section, an editor would adjust the frame to include it, hence the term “panning and scanning.” The quality of the image was also rather grainy.

We didn’t know any better (until my mother started working for a film distribution company and I pursued a degree in film studies in college). We loved movies like Peyton Place. It wasn’t as if it was an epic like Ben-Hur or Spartacus, so it didn’t seem important that we were missing some of the image in the frame.

As showing films in letterbox format became more accepted, it was a revelation to see wide screen films in their original format. I remember feeling as if Spartacus and Ben-Hur were almost completely different movies in their correct format.

But our 4:30 movies? What difference did it make, really? The quality of the image and the format were irrelevant to our enjoyment of them, we thought.

We were totally wrong about that.

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Russia in Film Blogathon: Chess Fever (1925)

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This post is part of the Russia in Film Blogathon hosted by Fritzi at Movies Silently and sponsored by Flicker Alley. See the rest of the great posts in this blogathon HERE!

When I was in junior high school, chess was a massively popular game because of Bobby Fischer’s win against Boris Spassky during the World Chess Championship. Many of my friends learned the game at the time and there was a chess club at my school.

One day I attended the chess club meeting and asked the best player to teach me the game. He was actually quite nice about it and took the time (and lots of patience) to teach me.

After I felt as though I had mastered it, I went home and taught my younger sister to play. She immediately started beating me.

That was the end of chess for me.

But I remember so clearly the excitement people had for the game at the time. Chess wasn’t just for rich and super-smart people! Everyone could enjoy it. For a brief time, it became quite a pop culture phenomenon.

Watching the 1925 Russian short film Chess Fever brought back all these memories.

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The Twelve Chairs: Mel Brooks’ Unique Spin on Russian Literature

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This post is part of the Russia in Film Blogathon hosted by Fritzi at Movies Silently and sponsored by Flicker Alley. See the rest of the great posts in this blogathon HERE!

What is it about stories that feature rich people who lose their money?

For some reason, it often feels like a heart-rending tragedy, even if the rich people involved are bunch of snooty, obnoxious jackhammers.

You want so much for them to recover what they lost and return to their previous lifestyle, while the rest of us poor schnooks still have to struggle until death to make ends meet.

Scarlett O’Hara, anybody? Come on, even while you called her a bitch, you know you still wanted her to stop wearing a dress made from her mother’s drapes and get back into expensive couture, where she belonged.

It’s a weird phenomenon, and probably why it’s such a popular subject in fiction. This is especially true in film, because copious riches look so darn good on a big screen.

Add a mad chase to recover the lost fortune, and you have comedy gold. Comedy and tragedy are two sides of the same coin, and there’s something inherently hilarious about someone born to privilege subjected to the humiliations of the poor in an effort to get it back.

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Thoughts on Mythic Structure: The Ordeal

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This is Part 7 of my series on the hero’s journey, or monomyth.

1. The ordeal is the first major confrontation with the main forces of antagonism.

After undergoing many tests, forming alliances, figuring out enmities, gaining some respect in the extraordinary world of the adventure, it is time for the hero to experience her first major battle against the antagonist(s).

2. This generally occurs at the mid-point of the story.

The ordeal is not interchangeable with the climax of a story. This is the major crisis, not the end of the journey. It doesn’t have to be at the mid-point. It’s fine if the ordeal occurs later, but it’s important to remember this is not where the story ends and that it’s not necessarily the last confrontation with the forces of antagonism.

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Award for Most Unfairly Maligned Best Picture Winner: Shakespeare in Love

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This post is part of the 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon, hosted by Kellee of Outspoken & Freckled, Paula of Paula’s Cinema Club and Aurora of Once Upon a Screen. Click HERE for a list of the other posts for Week 4: Pictures and Directors.

I knew my declaration in last week’s post, naming the 1995 film Sense and Sensibility the best adaptation of Jane Austen’s work, would be a tad controversial. (Though not nearly as much, it turns out, as I thought it would be. Nice to know I’m not alone in my regard for that film.)

THIS WEEK, however, I’m certain some people will want to sharpen their pitchforks.

I’m going to defend Shakespeare in Love’s 1998 Best Picture win.

(Get your torches lit!)

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Emma Thompson’s Screenplay for Sense and Sensibility: The Best Austen Adaptation?

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This post is part of the 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon, hosted by Kellee of Outspoken & Freckled, Paula of Paula’s Cinema Club and Aurora of Once Upon a Screen. Click HERE for a list of the other posts for Week 3: The Crafts.

I can already hear cries of “blasphemy!” just because the title of this post. (I did put a question mark at the end!)

I would venture to guess if you polled Jane Austen fans, the most popular adaptation of her work would far and away turn out to be the 1995 six-part BBC TV mini-series of Pride & Prejudice, starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. It is certainly the adaptation that kicked off the now-20 year long resurgence of Austen’s work.

As lovely as that series is, and as perfectly cast as it is, it doesn’t quite do it for me as far as capturing the Jane Austen novels I love so dearly. I know when people hear Austen’s name, they think first and foremost that she wrote romances. I, on the other hand, would argue she did not write romances at all. She actually satirized the romances of her day. Her stories are survival stories, where marriage is the only respectable way for most of her heroines to escape poverty. Even in her novel Emma, that features a heroine who is wealthy and of the highest rank in her small sphere, there are two secondary characters–Harriet Smith and Jane Fairfax–for whom marriage is a vital matter of economic survival and respectability.

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Preston Sturges’ Missing Best Director Nomination

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This post is part of the 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon, hosted by Kellee of Outspoken & Freckled, Paula of Paula’s Cinema Club and Aurora of Once Upon a Screen. Click HERE for a list of the other posts for Week 2: The Oscar Snubs.

Screenwriter/director Preston Sturges was awarded an Academy Award, in 1940, for his screenplay, The Great McGinty.

So why did I choose him as my subject for the “Oscar Snubs” topic of this blogathon?

Preston Sturges was also a great, underrated director, who never received a Best Director nomination.

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Buster Keaton Enters The Twilight Zone

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This post is part of The Buster Keaton Blogathon, hosted by Silent-ology. Click HERE for a list of all the participants!

My first viewing of a Buster Keaton movie came in a roundabout way: during the early 1970s, my mother liked seeing rock concert films of the Woodstock variety. She would drag me and my sister to see them, under the theory that young people like rock music. (Perhaps we did, but that did not necessarily include liking concert movies, which we found horribly boring.)

One of these movies was playing as a double feature with a documentary film called Four Clowns, about four silent film comedic stars: Keaton, Charley Chase, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.

Now, why anyone would think to pair a documentary film about silent film stars with a rock concert film remains a mystery to me to this day, but I’m grateful to the person who did it. While I had seen Laurel & Hardy sound films on television, I had never seen any of their silent work, and this was also my very first experience watching Buster Keaton.

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31 Days of Oscar Blogathon: Child Actor Nominees/Winners

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This post is part of the 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon, hosted by Kellee of Outspoken & Freckled, Paula of Paula’s Cinema Club and Aurora of Once Upon a Screen. Click HERE to see more posts from Week 1: THE ACTORS.

I remember so clearly when Tatum O’Neal won Best Supporting Actress at the tender age of 10. I was around 12 years old at the time, had seen the film, LOVED it, loved her in it. (It remains one of my favorite movies and performances to this day.) My parents were very strict about sticking to my designated bed time when I was a kid, but for some reason were always lenient on Oscar night. I think they knew they were raising a budding cineaste.

I recall watching the ceremony on a little 9 inch black and white TV in my bedroom and jumping up and down on my twin bed when her name was announced.

She was a kid–like me! AND SHE WON A BIG AWARD! THE BIGGEST AWARD IN THE UNIVERSE! (I was probably not aware of the Nobel Prize at the time–or, at least, not cognizant of its importance relative to the Oscar.)

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I’m a Project REUTSway Winner Two Years in a Row!

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In November 2013 I participated in Project REUTSway, a short story contest held for the first time by REUTS Publications. Two out of my three submitted stories were chosen for the anthology, Fairly Twisted Tales for a Horribly Ever After, which was published in October 2014.

The first version of contest had participants twist a well-known fairy tale with some kind of horror element: vampires, zombies, demons, werewolves/shapeshifters. This year, instead of fairy tales, the contest theme was world mythology. Each week a different culture was featured: Egyptian, Celtic, Asian, and Eastern European. Each challenge had a twist.

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It’s Barbra vs. Barbra in On a Clear Day You Can See Forever

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This post is part of the Dueling Divas Blogathon 2015, hosted by Lara at Backlots. To read all the contributions to this blogathon, click HERE.

SPOILERS FOLLOW:

Generally speaking, I’m not terribly fond of musicals. But the handful I love, I really love. The 1970 film On a Clear Day You Can See Forever is one of them, and a big reason is Barbra Streisand’s tour de force in a dual role, as the same woman in two different lives.

On a Clear Day You Can See Forever was based on the Broadway musical of the same name, written by Alan Jay Lerner, who also wrote the screenplay for the movie. Burton Lane composed the music.

Initially, the movie was not one of Streisand’s (or director Vincent Minelli’s) most highly regarded films, but it seems to have grown in reputation over the decades. Perhaps its ESP/past lives/New Age-ish themes were a little too advanced for the time. Also, the movie adaptation pared down many of the musical numbers from the Broadway version. (This, I have to admit, is another reason why I probably really like this film. It doesn’t feel like a musical–it’s more like a movie with some music in it.)

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