Welcome to the 784th edition of my series. This is my last one of the year and what a year this has been. I doubt anyone will call this year "great" but I still have things to look back upon. I did not get to do as much theater that I usually do in a year but in July I got to be in YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU in Elwood so I'm glad I got to do something. As a karaoke junkie, I have been able to do it on and off depending on the bar so I still got to do that. The biggest thing for me is that the job I really liked got taken from me back in August after being under the belief that surely I would not lose that but I was wrong. I have since moved on to Navient and am trying to make the most of this job. I have been fortunate that I have been able to work full time and not be effected financially. I feel for those out there who have lost their jobs or have had to work a lot less with everything going on. I also just feel for those who have not really been able to do things in their way of life. For me, I have not done as much theater. I know people who are big on the concerts that have not gotten to attend live concerts. I also know a few who do a lot of the fan conventions but that has not happened as much. As we approach the end of the year, it does not appear that 2021 will change at least in the beginning. I will just continue to hold out hope that things will get better with the new advances. That's about all I have to say, I hope everyone has had a good holiday under the circumstances however celebrated.
The Holiday (2006): I start the week out with this holiday romantic comedy or "romcom" as some like to call it and was written and directed by Nancy Meyers. Don't go running for the hills yet. Cameron Diaz stars as Amanda who is living in Los Angeles and Kate Winslet stars as Iris who lives in the English town of Surrey. Amanda finds that Iris's house is getting put up for rent for the holidays and gets the idea to trek to England. Iris insists on swapping houses for a couple weeks. Amanda finds herself in a whole new world where it is cold a lot and meets Iris's brother Graham, played by Jude Law. Iris immediately loves the L.A. home she is staying in and meets film composer Miles, played by Jack Black, as well has legendary screenwriter Arthur, played by Eli Wallach. Edward Burns, Rufus Sewell, Miffy Englefield, Sarah Parish, Shannyn Sossaman, Bill Macy, Shelley Berman, Kathryn Hahn, John Krasinski, Alex O'Loughlin, Odette Annable, and many others co-star in this film. This was a very moving and feel-good movie for the holidays that avoids the Hallmark route. I thought the best part of this movie was the friendship between Iris and Miles. These were all very likable characters and we wanted them to get what they wanted in the end.
Ed Wood (1994): This is part three of my Patricia Arquette trilogy. Tim Burton directed this biopic that is based on the book by Rudolph Grey. Johnny Depp stars as Edward D. Wood Jr. who is hailed as "The Worst Director of All Time". This shows some of his beginnings where he struggled to find studios to do his movies so he would always find other ways to get the necessary funding along with his group of acting misfits. These misfits would include an aging Bela Lugosi, played by Martin Landau in an Oscar winning performance, who Wood befriends even if he is way past his prime. Arquette, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jeffrey Jones, Mike Starr, Bill Murray, G.D. Spradlin, Max Casella, Brent Hinckley, Vincent D'Onofrio, Lisa Marie, George "The Animal" Steele, Juliet Landau, Melora Walters, Conrad Brooks, Rance Howard, and many others co-star in this biopic. This focuses mostly on Wood's friendship with Lugosi and later the making of his most known movie PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE which many say is the Granddaddy of all bad movies. Sometime I'd like to get together a movie viewing that starts with Plan 9 to follow up with this and then watch THE ROOM followed by THE DISASTER ARTIST which is a rather similar biopic. This is my favorite of the Tim Burton/Johnny Depp collaborations.
Meantime (1983): This is part three of my Gary Oldman series and a breakthrough role for him. Mike Leigh wrote and directed this film that takes a look at the underclass in Britain. Tim Roth stars as Colin who is a very slow minded man living with his parents with his older brother Mark, played by Phil Daniels. Part of the main story is Colin being offered a job by their aunt and Mark becoming jealous that he got the job. Oldman co-stars as local skinhead Coxy who befriends Colin. Marion Bailey, Pam Ferris, Peter Wight, Eileen Davies, and many others co-star in this film. I don't feel there is any real linear story except that it is more of a character study and rather sad look at lower-class Britain. This is available to watch on the Criterion Channel.
The Fatal Glass of Beer (1933): This is my comedy short for the week which was directed by Clyde Bruckman. W.C. Fields stars as Mr. Snavely who lives in the Yukon with his with wife, played by Rosemary Theby. Their son Chester, played by George Taylor, comes to see them after being released from prison. This has many funny moments in it being out in the freezing Yukon territory. This is also available to watch on the Criterion Channel.
Don't Bother to Knock (1952): Roy Ward Baker directed this film based on the novel by Charlotte Armstrong. Marilyn Monroe stars as Nell Forbes who is babysitting a young girl in a hotel. Richard Widmark co-stars as airline pilot Jed Towers who is having relationship issues and decides to pursue Nell when seeing her through the window. He was looking for a little harmless fun but slowly sees how dangerous Nell is when Bunny, played by Donna Corcoran, walks in on her babysitter during their lovemaking. Anne Bancroft, Jeanne Cagney, Lurene Tuttle, Elisha Cook Jr., Jim Backus, Verna Felton, Willis Bouchey, Don Beddoe, and many others co-star in this film. Bancroft makes her film debut as a nightclub singer and dumps Jed which lead him to pursue Nell. Monroe gets to play a much darker role than usual and does pretty well going out of her comfort zone. I also thought this came to a very satisfying conclusion.
The Railway Children (1970): Lionel Jeffries directed this film based on the novel by E. Nesbit. Jenny Agutter, Sally Thomsett, and Gary Warren star as British siblings Bobbie, Phyllis, and Peter who were living a great life until their father Charles, played by Iain Cuthbertson disappears after an argument the kids overhear. The children and their mother, played by Dinah Sheridan, are forced to Yorkshire where the siblings look to figure out what happened to their father. Bernard Cribbins, William Mervyn, Deddie Davis, David Lodge, and many others co-star in this family drama. This is one that I believe the whole family can watch. It is a pretty moving story of these kids really trying to bring together their community. This is available to watch on the Criterion Channel.
Babel (2006): This is part three of my Brad Pitt series. Alejandro G. Inarritu directed this film where a tragedy happens in Morocco and then manages to be connected to four different families across four countries. Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Rinko Kikuchi, Peter Wight, Harriett Walter, Andre Oumansky, Adriana Barraza, Alex Jennings, Michael Maloney, Dermot Crowley, Elle Fanning, Nathan Gamble, Gael Garcia Bernal, Monica Del Carmen, Clifton Collins Jr., Michael Pena, Jamie McBride, Koji Yakusho, and many others co-star in this film. This shows how no matter how far apart, we really are not that different. This is the third of Inarritu's trilogy which includes AMORES PERROS and 21 GRAMS. The other two have similar themes of inner-connectivity but this one takes it to another level involving different countries. This is a well done multiple story film that connects really well.
Double Indemnity (1944): Billy Wilder directed this film noir which is based on the novel by James Cain. Fred MacMurray stars insurance representative Walter Neff and is talked into a scheme by unhappy housewife Phyllis Dietrichson, played by Barbara Stanwyck, involving the murder of her husband. Walter decides to go along and must do what he can to cover his tracks from his boss Barton Keyes, played by Edward G. Robinson. Obviously that plot of a perfect murder was not there and does not exist when betrayal and deception are involved. Porter Hall, Jean Heather, Tom Powers, Byron Barr, Richard Gaines, Fortunio Bonanova, and many others co-star in this film. Raymond Chandler co-wrote this film along with Wilder and apparently they did not get along very well but they ended up with a good script and possibly the best film noir of all time.
Katzelmacher (1969): This is my German film for the week which was written and directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Jorgos, played by Fassbinder in an uncredited role, is an immigrant from Greece and joins a group of young people from Munich which incites jealousy and hostility among them. Lots of rumors get started toward him leading to a lot of unnecessary tension. This is an early film from Fassbinder and is a very interesting look at the effects of gossip and prejudice. This is available to watch on the Criterion channel.
Noelle (2019): I end the week with this holiday comedy. Marc Lawrence wrote and directed this movie right out of the North Pole. Santa Claus has an untimely death and his son Nick, played by Bill Hader, is to inherit the role but gets cold feet and disappears right before Christmas. Santa's daughter Noelle, played by Anna Kendrick sets out to find him with the help of Elf Polly, played by Shirley MacLaine, ultimately discovering the true meaning of Christmas. Kingsley Ben-Adir, Julie Hagerty, Billy Eichner, Maceo Smedley, Diana Maria Riva, Anthony Konechny, Michael Gross, Billy Griffith, Aliza Vellani, Amitai Marmonstein, Ron Funches, Gary Sekhon, and many others co-star in this comedy. This was very enjoyable to me, I can always get behind Kendrick with her personality. This can also be very fun for the family. This is available to watch on Disney Plus.
Well, that is it for this week but continue on for my "Holiday Corner" segment. Tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week which so far includes Gary Oldman, and many others.
Michael Bolton's Big, Sexy Valentine's Day Special (2017): Yes, this has the Valentine's Day in the title but the special is about using Valentine's Day to save Christmas. Michael Bolton is enlisted by Santa Claus, played by Jimmy Graham, when there are too many toys and not enough children. Michael hosts a telethon on Valentine's Day in hopes that enough children will be born. He sings a lot of his own songs and other performances by other comedians. Sarah Stahl, Adam Scott, Matthew Kimbrough, Brook Shields, Grey Griffin, Janeane Garofalo, Louis Anderson, Sinbad, Bob Saget, Sarah Silverman, Randall Park, Andy Samberg, Fred Armison, Kenny G, Jorma Taccone, Michael Sheen, Akiva Schaffer, Chris Parnell, Mircea Monroe, Sal Stowers, Maya Rudolph, Tim Robinson, David Theune, Baron Vaughn, Maya Erskine, Will Forte, Eric Andre, and many others co-star in this holiday special with Bolton holding his own among this group of comedic actors. Growing up, I hated Michael Bolton for years but I found I was wrong. I started forming a new respect for him when seeing him parody himself and show he is really comedic gold so I had no reluctance to watch this. I like to watch this on both December and February kind of like how A NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS is watched in both October and December. This is available to watch on Netflix.
Santa Claus (1959): I just always have to watch this holiday B-Movie classic at some point. This is a Mexican movie where Santa, played by Jose Elias Morales, lives in the North Pole which appears to be on some other planet above Earth and has children from around the world instead of elves. The first 15 minutes are the children from each continent singing something from their country and appear to be controlled by Santa. The Devil does not want Christmas to happen so he sends his dancing minion Pitch to stop Santa and if he fails he will be punished with chocolate ice cream. If that is not enough, Merlin works for Santa now and was apparently burned out in Camelot. There are just all kinds of really weird things happening in this very bizarre movie. I always wonder what was going on in the minds of these people involved with this movie as it was being made. The people from MST3K and Rifftrax have really enjoyed riffing this one. This is available on public domain and is not really hard to find. This would be good to watch among a group of friends.
It's a Wonderful Life (1946): This is my annual holiday film that I have been watching since my late high school days. I usually either watch it with my dad or mom when it airs on NBC just depending where I am. Frank Capra directed this film where I believe that the message conveyed is anything one person does to help another can make a big difference no matter how small the favor might seem at the time. James Stewart stars as small-town boy George Bailey who wants to get out of Bedford Falls but things always happen and ends up staying there. He marries his childhood friend Mary, played by Donna Reed, and has four kids. He does what he can to prevent Mr. Potter, played by Lionel Barrymore, from taking over the town and screwing everyone over. Something happens where George feels he has hit rock bottom and contemplates suicide. An unusual angel named Clarence, played by Henry Travers, comes down to stop him and show him a world that would have happened had he not been born. Thomas Mitchell, Ward Bond, Beulah Bondi, Gloria Grahame, H.B. Warner, and many others co-star in this film. I always look forward to seeing this one and am always moved to tears each time. It always reminds me of how little things can be a lot bigger than they appear. I had the pleasure of playing Mr. Gower one year in a stage version. Please ring some bells and help angels get their wings. This is available to watch on Amazon Prime.