Debbie’s Totally Random and Completely Insignificant Pop Culture Awards of 2016

Yay, awards time! As always, these are about my personal preferences and just for fun.

The Television Episode that Kicked the Ass of Anything in Movies Award:

The Battle of the Bastards, Game of Thrones

Continue reading “Debbie’s Totally Random and Completely Insignificant Pop Culture Awards of 2016”

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Debbie’s Totally Random and Completely Insignificant Pop Culture Awards of 2015

I’m a little late with my pop culture awards—computer problems over Christmas. But at last, at last, (I know you’ve all been anxiously waiting!) here they are!

As always, these are about my personal preferences and just for fun. Continue reading “Debbie’s Totally Random and Completely Insignificant Pop Culture Awards of 2015”

Telenovelas and their Influence on American TV

This post is part of The Hispanic Heritage Blogathon 2015, hosted by Aurora at Once Upon a Screen. Read the rest of the posts in this event HERE!

When my family lived in Spain, I frequently heard radionovelas (the Spanish equivalent of radio soap operas here in America) playing in the background. My mother and our maid Carmen would often do the ironing while they were on.

Continue reading “Telenovelas and their Influence on American TV”

Lauren Bacall’s Bold Venture with Bogart on the Radio

This post is part of The Lauren Bacall Blogathon, hosted by Crystal at In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood. Read the rest of the posts HERE!

Many years ago, when I first started getting serious about writing, I took Robert McKee’s very popular story structure seminar. It was particularly famous for McKee’s scene by scene (sometimes frame by frame) analysis of the movie Casablanca.

At the point where Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman’s Rick and Ilsa confront each other for the first time, he froze the movie on each face, and declared:

“This is when movie stars had FACES!”

Continue reading “Lauren Bacall’s Bold Venture with Bogart on the Radio”

The Beatles Film Blogathon: Yellow Submarine (1968)

This post is part of The Beatles Film Blogathon, hosted by Steve at Movie Movie Blog Blog. Steve is holding this blogathon in honor of Ringo Starr’s 75th birthday (July 7) and his recent induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Read the other posts in this blogathon HERE!

Happy Birthday, Ringo, even though nothing ever happens to you!

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That’s a reference to Yellow Submarine, the animated surrealistic fantasy based on Beatles music.

The last few posts I’ve written about movies that have brought up memories of my childhood. Yellow Submarine also belongs in that category.

My mom hated children’s movies when I was a kid. She refused to take us to see them. We BEGGED to see The Sound of Music, but for some reason she wouldn’t cave to our incessant requests.

(I’m convinced the only reason I got to see Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory in a movie theater is because my friend’s mother invited a bunch of neighborhood kids to go along with her kids.)

To be fair, it was not exactly a Golden Age of children’s movies–the late 60s was one of Disney’s low points, and Hollywood was in a flux due to the death throes of the studio system. Gritty, adult movies were the order of the day and few were concerned with providing entertainment for little kids.

So Mom would take us to see what she wanted to see. To this day, I have never forgiven her for taking me to see 2001: A Space Odyssey when I was nine years old. That was just mean of her, in my opinion. Seriously, I still feel like I’m going to break out into hives every time I think of that movie. It’s a miracle it didn’t turn me off Kubrick for life.

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Somewhere around 1968, my mom’s taste in music underwent a big change. It seemed as though one day my parents were listening to Tom Jones and Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, and the next, it was The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who and all the other big rock groups of the day.

But she especially loved The Beatles. So the minute Yellow Submarine hit the theaters, she took us to see it.

My sister and I hated it.

My mother was perplexed. “But it’s a cartoon! I thought you would love it!”

Well, that’s kind of the point. It’s not a cartoon. It’s a surrealistic fantasy that is really meant for adults.

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In fact, rewatching it again for this event, it made me think about how long I’ve felt that animation is an underused format for ALL kinds of movies, not just children’s movies. This is a perfect example of how animation can be so much more.

(Not that I’m knocking animation made for children. Unlike my mom, I don’t have that prejudice against children’s movies.)

Yellow Submarine was hardly the first animated film made for adults (they’ve been around since pre-code days) but it was seminal in how it presaged the rise of the music video.

The movie is based on the 1966 song Yellow Submarine, written by Paul McCartney specifically for Ringo Starr to sing. (Ironically, McCartney has been quoted as calling it a “children’s song”–and when I was a kid, it was a popular song to sing in summer camp.)

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Many people erroneously attribute the animation style to pop artist Peter Max. Max claims he was asked by John Lennon to design the film, but he couldn’t due family obligations. He also claims he was the one who called German artist Heinz Edelman to take his place, though this has been disputed.

The “limited animation” visual style of the film was very influential, particularly on Terry Gilliam’s work on Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

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The story was written by Lee Minoff (Erich Segal, who wrote Love Story, is also credited as a writer on the film). A utopian society that exists at the bottom of the sea, Pepperland, is suddenly attacked by hordes of Blue Meanies, who despise music. A mariner named Old Fred escapes in the Yellow Submarine and journeys to Liverpool. He encounters Ringo, who before Old Fred appeared was complaining that nothing ever happens to him. The two of them persuade John, George, and Paul to return to Pepperland.

The embark on a long and perilous journey through several seas–The Sea of Time, The Sea of Science, The Sea of Monsters, The Sea of Nothing, Foothills and Headlands, and The Sea of Holes.

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In the Sea of Nothing they encounter Jeremy, an odd but very intelligent (and slightly pedantic) creature. He goes with them to Pepperland.

They arrive in Pepperland, where everyone has been immobilized by the Blue Meanies. Finding the instruments that belonged to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, they rally the populace to rebel. Armed with music and Jeremy’s cleverness, they finally defeat the Meanies. They offer friendship to the Meanies, and everyone lives happily ever after.

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The Beatles did not do the voice acting in the movie. In fact, they were unenthusiastic about the project because they weren’t entirely thrilled with how Help! came out. However, they were contractually obligated to appear in the film, so a short live-action epilogue featuring all four of them was added to the end of the movie.

(This did not satisfy the studio, which insisted they still owed them a movie. They did not fulfill the contract until Let It Be was released.)

The combination of the (for the time) unique “limited” animation style and The Beatles music resulted in a big hit. Even The Beatles eventually came around, as each admitted later that they love the film.

I’ve come around, too. The superb use of animation, the variety of comic styles, and, yes, that glorious music that was played in our house all through my childhood and teens–it’s fantastical AND fantastic.

And it’s nice that something FINALLY happened to Ringo.

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Fury Road and the Optimism of Post-Apocalyptic/Dystopian Stories

Brad Bird, director of the film Tomorrowland (as well as The Incredibles and Ratatouille) did some complaining in interviews recently about the popularity of post-apocalyptic and dystopian stories.

Here is part of what he said in an interview with Wired Magazine:

“At one time the future was consistently presented as this bright thing where all these problems were going to be solved. I remember that feeling of wow, starvation will be solved and the air will be clean, weapons will be obsolete because we’ll understand that there are better places to put our energy. And gradually that vision has just been nibbled away at until it’s basically not there. And what’s in its place is this very dark, negative version that everyone seems to have accepted.”

I haven’t seen Tomorrowland, so I’m not going to judge the film, but many film critics point out that Mr. Bird explicitly berates society in the film for abandoning the can-do optimism of the 1960s space race in favor of gloom and doom scenarios.

Continue reading “Fury Road and the Optimism of Post-Apocalyptic/Dystopian Stories”

Thoughts on Star Wars Episode VII Casting

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Happy Star Wars Day! May the 4th Be With You! I thought today would be the day that Disney would finally announce the new Star Wars cast, but they beat me by almost a week. They announced it April 29. (Which, by the way, happens to be my birthday!)

I’m going to start with the awesome parts of the casting announcement. (Only actors were announced; we as yet have no idea who they’ll be playing, except, of course, for the veterans returning from the original Star Wars trilogy).

Continue reading “Thoughts on Star Wars Episode VII Casting”

Pop Culture Roundup April 2014

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1. Stephen Colbert will replace Dave Letterman as host of the Late Show.

Dave Letterman announced he would retire in 2015 and people barely got time to speculate about who would replace him. It was quickly announced that comedian Stephen Colbert, host of The Comedy Channel’s Colbert Report, would be the new host. Continue reading “Pop Culture Roundup April 2014”

Great Villain Blogathon Reminder!

I will be participating in The Great Villain Blogathon next week! My subject is Waldo Lydecker from the classic film noir Laura. Please take a moment to check out this AMAZING line-up of bad guys and gals!

Pop Culture Roundup March 2014

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1. The Oscar telecast didn’t totally suck!

I was not crazy about host Ellen DeGeneres’ opening monologue (look, Liza Minnelli is fair game, but don’t insult her to her face on live TV where close to 1 billion people can see her reaction) but otherwise she did a good job. I thought the “selfie” segment was cute, and so was calling up for pizza. Both moments had genuine elements, such as nominee Lupita Nyong’o’s brother Junior jumping in with some of the biggest stars on the planet for the photo and a real pizza guy distributing the pizza.

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My Review of the Movie Divergent, Where I Don’t Compare it to That OTHER Franchise

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MILD SPOILERS FOLLOW FOR THE MOVIE DIVERGENT:

There was once an episode of All in the Family where Edith was recounting the story of how she hit a car with a can of cling peaches (in heavy syrup). Archie got so sick of hearing her say cling peaches, Edith began replacing the words with “Mmm-Mmm.”

I am so darn sick of reading reviews about Divergent comparing it to The Hunger Games (and alleged “think pieces,” like this especially jerky one by Entertainment Weekly’s Owen Gleiberman) that any time I feel compelled to do the same, I’m going use “Mmm-Mmm” instead.

Continue reading “My Review of the Movie Divergent, Where I Don’t Compare it to That OTHER Franchise”

J.K. Rowling, Lynn Shepherd, and Why Putting Down Fandoms is Stupid

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS – PART 2

Hey, writers, did you know J.K. Rowling is the reason you’re a big-ass failure?

That’s according to author Lynn Shepherd, who writes literary mysteries. She wrote an opinion piece on Huffington Post’s U.K. site. In a nutshell, she accuses J.K. Rowling of taking away HER chance of being a best-selling author because she’s stealing all her shelf space by writing adult books in her genre.

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Zimbio Quizzes Are Ruining My Life

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You must have taken a Zimbio quiz or two, right?

They’re fun, aren’t they?

At least, they started out being fun for me.

One of my Facebook friends posted the Which Game of Thrones Character Are You quiz. I thought, what the heck, I’ll take it, too.

I was absolutely thrilled to find out I was Daenerys Targaryan.

Continue reading “Zimbio Quizzes Are Ruining My Life”

Black Sails: Starz’s New Pirate Show Really Floats My Boat

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MINOR SPOILERS FOR FIRST EPISODE OF BLACK SAILS:

(He-he, sorry, couldn’t resist that title.)

I did not subscribe to Starz a few weeks ago. Then I stumbled on a preview episode of their new pirate series Black Sails on the Audience Channel.

I thought, “What the heck, I’ll watch for a few minutes. Michael Bay is an executive producer, I’ll probably HATE it and turn it off right away.”

Within about 15 minutes I was totally hooked and within a few moments of the end credits rolling I was a subscriber to Starz.

Continue reading “Black Sails: Starz’s New Pirate Show Really Floats My Boat”

Pop Culture Roundup January 2014

jesseplemons1. The Star Wars screenplay is finished! The Star Wars screenplay is finished! Commence hysteria about casting and other production issues! Director JJ Abrams announced that he and Lawrence Kasdan have finished the Star Wars Episode VII screenplay. Carrie Fisher confirmed that she will be in the movie and that shooting is supposed to start this spring.

Casting rumors abound. Realize with a movie like this, they see EVERYBODY. So news items that they met with this mega-star and that rising starlet and this beloved character actor usually mean nothing except that some meetings took place. However, there was one rumor–Jesse Plemons (Friday Night Lights and Breaking Bad) auditioning for the role of the young lead–that may have a bit of heat to it. JJ Abrams took the trouble to confirm the rumor. Plemons was amazing as Todd the sociopathic aspiring meth cooker in Breaking Bad. Fingers crossed that they reach a deal.

Continue reading “Pop Culture Roundup January 2014”