Voices are unique, especially in the world of audiobooks. For years I worked in the Movies and Music area of the library and paid very little attention to the world of books beyond those in my own areas of interest. One day I began hearing about a series of books that was taking not only the country but the world by storm; books about a young lad named Harry Potter. I decided to check them out. Not having much time to read at the time I decided to listen to the first book in the car on my way to work. The Harry Potter series was read in the United States audio editions by Jim Dale. His manner of reading entranced me and brought me into the world of Harry Potter. I could have listened to him read the phone book and been happy. I know this is a trite overused comparison, but it is accurate. So imagine my joy when I watched the first episode of the series Pushing Daisies and heard his wonderful and unique voice starting out “At this very moment in the town of Couer d’Couers young Ned was nine years, twenty-seven weeks, six Days and three minutes old.” I was hooked just by this voice alone, then as the story progressed I was hooked by the whole show
Pushing Daisies started life as rejected script idea for an episode of the show Dead Like Me, in which the character of “George” Lass finds that she cannot collect any souls because someone was resurrecting the dead by touching them. Read more about Pushing Daisies
I have a confession to make. For years, I had a secret crush on a much older woman. She passed away in 1990 at the age of 84. I was 34 at the time. I only knew her through her films, and one, in particular, stirred me. The woman was Greta Garbo and the film that burrowed a special place in my heart was Ninotchka. The script was written by Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder and directed by Ernst Lubitsch andtells the story of a down to business, emotionally cold Russian official sent to Paris to check on the status of Russia’s sale of the nation’s former crown jewels which were being sold to help support Russia’s recovery after the revolution. Upon arriving in Paris she finds herself involved in a legal battle with Russia’s exiled Grand Duchess for possession of the jewels and finds that the Russian representatives sent originally to sell the jewels seem to have given in to the temptations and pleasures of the rich Paris life. Her mission is complicated by the attentions of Count Leon d’Algout (Melvyn Douglas) who after meeting her on the street is determined to win her heart. Unknown to her is that he is also the lawyer representing the Grand Duchess in court. Unknown to him at the time is her relationship to his case. Can the heart win over political philosophy and the law? Read more about Ninotchka
Harley Sullivan: What kind of business you figure your brother left you? John O'Hanlan: Well, the letter don't say - but that's just like a lawyer. They don't tell you no more than it takes to confuse you. But it's a... something called the Cheyenne Social Club.
After receiving a letter informing him of the death of his brother John O’Hanlan (James Stewart) leaves his position as a hired hand on a cattle drive to take over the Cheyenne Social Club the business his brother left him in his will. It might seem obvious to us by the name of the business and the movie just exactly what the nature of the business is, but this is a story about a more innocent time and John O’Hanlan is a more innocent man. He is joined on his trek across the country and into Cheyenne by his good friend Harley (Henry Fonda). The film which was directed by Gene Kelly moves fluidly through the story from one situation to another. Low Key” may be the best way to describe this film about a man of high morals, and a kind heart who suddenly finds himself the owner of the most famous brothel in Wyoming. Read more about Cheyenne Social Club
A while back I posted an entry about the 1965 movie Those Magnificent Men and their Flying Machines. In that post, I mentioned another film that came out the same year called The Great Race. While I am entranced by the old planes in Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying machines, The Great Race is really my favorite of the two. The film stars Tony Curtis as “The Great Leslie,” a stereotype 1910 pure as gold hero in white and Jack Lemmon as Professor Fate, a stereotype 1910 pure villain in black and tells the story of their race around the world by automobile. Leslie and Professor Fate are not the only cars racing. The race starts with a much larger pack of automobiles; Read more about The Great Race
Mortimer Brewster’s aunts Abby and Martha are two of the kindest, most loving women you could ever hope to meet. They are always willing to help others and always seemed to have a kind word for everyone. They raised Mortimer and his brothers Jonathan and Teddy from a young age. Mortimer has developed into a well-rounded young man who works for the city’s paper reviewing the theatre. Brother Teddy, while harmless, suffers from the delusion that he is President Theodore Roosevelt. Brother Jonathan, well, the less said about him the better. He was the type of child who enjoyed pulling the wings off of flies and the legs off of spiders. The “fun” begins when Mortimer is excitedly preparing to share the good news of his coming engagement to the girl next door rather unexpectedly finds a dead body in the window box seat of his Aunts’ home. Later that same night his brother Jonathan returns home after a long absence; who after numerous face changing surgeries looks a great deal like the actor Boris Karloff. With him comes an alcoholic plastic surgeon and another dead body. Meanwhile, Teddy seems to be digging body sized locks for the Panama Canal in the basement. Read more about Arsenic and Old Lace
In 1965, there were two racing comedies released both of them set during the first 10 years of 1900’s. The more popular of two was “The Great Race,” which was about an around the world automobile race; the second was Those Magnificent Men and their Flying Machines, about an air race between London and Paris in very early and flimsy aircraft. While I will admit there is something special about The Great Race and it certainly had more stars who were known in the United States, Those Magnificent Men and their flying Machines had something the other did not … History.
What do I mean by history? First of all, there is the light-hearted review of man’s attempts to fly featuring the comic skills of Red Skelton mixed with historic footage of some of the more outrageous of man’s attempts and failures to fly before the opening credits. You are not likely to see more historical film footage of man’s failed attempts to fly in another movie. But of even greater interest to someone like me is that every plane used in the film was a recreation of a historic airplane from the birth of aviation. In a few cases, they added some safety devices or a small change was made to better protect the pilots, but the planes did fly, or, at least, those that were supposed to fly did, and they were actually flown for the movie’s footage. Read more about Those Magnificent Men and their Flying Machines
Not too long ago I was reminded of one of my favorite romantic movies, The American President. The film stars Michael Douglas as President Andrew Shepherd and Annette Bening as Sydney Ellen Wade, a lobbyist for an ecological group. President Shepherd is something unusual in the U.S. Presidency, though not in movies, a single father. Shepherd is nearing the end of his first term, up for re-election and wondering if the real reason he was elected was due to a sympathy vote after his wife died of cancer during his campaign. Now, after a little over three years of widowhood, he spots Sydney at a meeting taking place at the White House and decides he would like to ask her out. The problem, obviously, is that he is the President of the United States. His life is a fish bowl and there is a dignity that goes with the office that makes it difficult to have close friends. His oldest and best friend now refuses to call him anything other than “Mr. President” even during their private games of pool. So just how does a President ask a woman out on a date? What happens when that date is successful and they find themselves strongly attracted to each other? Read more about American President
You may have seen the musical. You have most likely seen the movie starring John Travolta, Queen Latifah, and Nikki Blonsky, but have you see the movie that started it all? The original 1988 comedy Hairspray, directed and written by John Waters, featured Ricki Lake as Tracy Turnblad and Divine as Edna Turnblad. This movie has a grittier, earthier feel than either the musical or the 2007 movie. This is not too surprising as Hairspray was the first film by John Waters to receive less than an “R” rating. Prior to this film John Waters had been justly known in Hollywood as “The King of Bad Taste.” Hairspray was the first John Water’s films to even attempt to appeal to the general public. Read more about Hairspray (1988)
It is likely that if I mentioned the name of Mike Nesmith most of us would think of the 1960’s band The Monkees. Some of us might think to recall him for his work with the First National Band, or some of his solo musical works. You might even remember him as one of the pioneers of the modern music video. It might come as a surprise to you that he was the executive producer of a film that the magazine Entertainment Weekly named #7 on its list of the “Top 50 Cult Films of All-Time.” The film is Repo Man starring Emilio Estevez as Otto, a street punk having a bad day, who is tricked by Bud (Harry Dean Stanton) into becoming a repo man and brings him into the strange and dangerous world surrounding the repossession of automobiles. Read more about Repo Man (1984)
I remember the first time I became aware of the movie Brazil. I was reading through “Variety” magazine in an effort to keep up with the films of the day when I suddenly came across a strange full-page advertisement. It didn’t say much. It was a full page sheet bordered in black with the question, “Dear Sid Sheinberg, when are you going to release my film Brazil? Terry Gilliam.” At the time, I had not heard of the film Brazil and did not know the controversy surrounding its release in the United States. Read more about Brazil