Saturday, December 22, 2007

Some Holiday Thoughts for 2007

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This morning has been a long time coming, it seems. It's the Saturday before Christmas 2007, and I know I'm going to have to get dressed--get my gas tank filled up & tires checked (for the trip home in a couple days) along with some last minute shopping--but for now it's nice to just sit here on my couch with a hot cup of coffee, watch the sun come up & enjoy the quiet of the morning.

To be honest, sometimes I very much enjoy being a single guy.

I honestly can't believe how much food I've eaten this week--besides the daily trays of Christmas cookies & candy that have been literally within arms reach at work, we had a baby shower for one of our coworkers--complete with too much pizza and too much cake.

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Jamie's baby shower at the office came complete with a dozen pizzas & a huge cake


Also of course, the company's holiday luncheon; followed 2 days later with our own Christmas feast, laden with platters of goodies, fried chicken, deviled eggs, stuffed banana peppers, meatballs, chili--the works. I ate like I couldn't get enough. (My diet has been thoroughly screwed; I've gained 4 lbs & it's not even Christmas Day yet.)

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My niece Drew sparkles at her school’s holiday program; after the show, my other niece Sophia; aren’t they beautiful?

Ever since Mom passed away (sadly, right around this time, in 2004) the holidays just haven't been the same. It was the only time of year that all her kids got together in one place; we haven't done that now since.

Fortunately, I have my sister Shawn & her family to spend the time with, and this year we're planning a get-together with Donda, Bob & Drew--which should make it feel even more like the family holiday it should be. I got Sophia the movie 'Hairspray' (which she saw at the theater 4 times--poor Shawn!) and this nifty 'Pizza Party' kit. Drew is 14 now, so I'm giving her what every girl her age appreciates--cash! Seriously though, Drew has always been a very gracious kid--she responds the same way to whatever gift she receives.

Well, not a lot more to say--other than I feel the beginnings of a sore throat coming on, and I'm praying it isn't the start of something more serious! We've had a lot of people at work coming down with stuff this week, and who needs that at Christmas?? I'd better go get things started!

Happy  Holidays  Everyone     
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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Girl Crazy Again (but this time it’s old school)

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Several years ago, I asked my sister Shawn what she wanted for her birthday; she told me she'd always wanted 'Girl Crazy', one of those early 40s Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney films (and considered their best).

I was surprised that I wasn't familiar with the film, I’m a huge Judy Garland fan myself.  I also couldn’t believe how difficult it was to find the movie (and the price, which was much higher than average).

I asked to borrow the movie, and was shocked--I loved it even more than I'd anticipated.  (Believe it or not, I saw 'Babes in Arms' for the first time just a year ago.)  I promised myself to collect these films someday.

 

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Mickey & Judy in 'Strike Up the Band' (1940)

 

I'm glad I waited.  Several weeks ago, I heard that Warner Brothers was releasing a 4 picture set of Garland & Rooney's films.  They were even on promotion ($27.00 at DeepDiscount).   While waiting for it to arrive, I thought "Hey, waitaminute--Warner DVD has a reputation for putting out premium sets...I wonder if they'll do anything special with this one?"

THEY SURE DID.

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'Babes in Arms', one of the movies in the collection

 

Opening the box made me feel like a kid on Christmas morning.  Inside the collection is 'Babes in Arms', 'Strike Up the Band', Babes on Broadway', & 'Girl Crazy'.  And not only have the movies been digitally restored (and look startlingly new), they're presented in their original theatrical format: each film comes complete with movie trailers, war-reels, intermission, short films, cartoons.  It's brilliant.

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The set also includes:

A beautiful hardcover book detailing the history of their working together, with reproductions of all the movie posters

A photo album with 20 5x7 glossy photos of Judy & Mickey; publicity stills, rehearsing on the set, costume changes, even going to dinner.  (What's remarkable is that they're NOT in a book--they're 20 photographs, beautifully bordered & suitable for framing?!)

A 'Bonus DVD' which sets off the entire collection (and almost made me cry when I put it in my dvd player).  It's the 'Judy Garland Songbook', a gorgeously produced collection of 25 of her songs from her movies--including her later films, i.e. with Gene Kelly, 'A Star is Born', etc.   I had NO IDEA this was part of the collection, and I would've gladly paid the collection price for this one disc alone.

My only regret is that I didn't buy two; the set is now $52.00, and I'm betting my sister Shawn would love this too.  (I'll be watching for the next sale!)

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Sunday, December 9, 2007

Girl Crazy (I’m talking about movies here!)

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Since rejoining Netflix around 5 weeks ago, I've already seen 21 movies.  (Waitaminute, I've seen 21 movies?!)  I saw a good (but formulaic) story with Anthony Hopkins in "Fracture", and an excellent German film (based on East Berlin in the 80s during the height of the eavesdropping craze, "The Lives of Others").  But truth be told, I really haven't been that impressed--EXCEPT FOR THE FILMS WITH CRAZY WOMEN.

(Okay, that's not entirely accurate--I should say 'films with unbalanced women in some crazy situations'.)   But the thing is, these movies easily rate an 'A' in my book, which I don't hand out lightly.

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Lonely Hearts (2006)

I rented this to see James Gandolfini & John Travolta working together in a 1950s period piece; they were ok, but Selma Hayek was a knockout.   She plays a homicidal maniac who feels she's found the love of her life in a con-man she encounters (who just so happens to be on the brink of sanity himself--and willingly lets Selma push him over).  Sexy as ever, she's the very definition of a femme fatale;  she'd just as soon love you or slit your throat.  (Watching her sympathize with a young foreign widow for days, then tire of it and give her a gruseome poison was downright chilling.)  And when she tells her crazed lover "I want to have a baby..." you can only shudder.

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Waitress (2007)

Everything that 'Little Miss Sunshine' was acclaimed for (blech!) this movie DESERVED.  Keri Russell just does an amazing job here, playing a waitress in a 'Hot n' Cold Pie' restaurant who lives to make pies and fantasizes about leaving her husband--"the worst man on the planet".  (And oh boy, is he ever; I grimaced whenever he came on the screen.) 

But then she discovers she's pregnant.  She begins keeping a journal for her future baby, apologizing in advance for "not wanting you, damn baby, I hope someone gives you hugs like my mother did with me."  (Rest assured, the movie has a terrific ending, even better than you're hoping.) 

Her life is told thru different pies she creates (always shown being made in fast-motion).  She develops a crush on her doctor--and decides to take him one of her specialties.  When she arrives, he's out for the day & an older woman obstetrician is taking his place.  "Oh, you brought a pie?  What is it, pumpkin?"  Keri lowers her head & blushes.  "It's a Naughty Lovers Super Spice Pumpkin."   The doctors reaction had me on the floor.    

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The Dead Girl (2006)

Amazing.  Brilliant.  And bleak beyond compare.  I'm thankful I got to see this, but could never sit through it again.  Told in 5 chapters:  The Stranger.  The Sister.  The Wife. The Daughter. The Mother.  Each story of a separate woman in a painful existence, none of whom know each other, and how they all tie to the last story--The Dead Girl.  (played by Brittany Murphy, who has the character of a twentysomething junkie down to a science, she is that frightening, and that good.)  Throughout the entire film, you have this strange feeling of both 'impending doom' and real despair--I still can't figure out how it was pulled off.  Toni Collette returns to her roots here, as an overweight, troubled loner who finds a dead body in the field behind her house (which she shares with her handicapped, insanely abusive mother).  It only gets better from there.

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Bug (2007)

You have to give Ashley Judd some serious credit here; this one isn't for the faint of heart, and shows her in a pretty unattractive light.  (Without makeup thru the film, dirty, naked.)  Ashley plays a woman literally on the brink of sanity--she lives alone in a seedy, filthy hotel room; she fills herself up with various medications, and keeps her closet stuffed with old toys and dirty clothes--the remnants of a son that was abducted as a toddler a decade ago.

And then by unlucky coincidence, she meets Michael Shannon, a quiet man (who is already quite insane).  He's on the run (from no one); he believes the government used him as a guinea pig for breeding insects in people.   And not only does he convince Ashley of this delusion, but soon has her believing there's a reason why they met.  Her fall from sanity is complete--what happens then is (literally) shrieking terror.

And finally, Crazy Girl Movies that the critics warned were bad but I rented anyway because I was Girl Crazy for Halle Berry & Sandra Bullock: 

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I should've listened to the critics.

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