Archives

What I’m Watching: Heavy Metal

 

Funny story about Heavy Metal. I used to know John Workman who was the editor of Heavy Metal Magazine when the movie came out. Lovely man, stayed at his house a few times, knew his family. Still miss him, but we lost contact about the time I went to Korea to teach. Anyway, for years Heavy Metal was only available as a bootleg and I wondered why so I asked. Apparently when the movie was made it wasn’t standard practice to get music rights for video release, just for the movie. The magazine at that time was defunct and no one was pursuing music rights so the movie could be released on VHS. Lucky for them the bootleg in circulation had a really terrible problem with the picture swaying <cough> or so I’ve been told because I would never, ever have a bootleg <cough> so when the official release came out, fans flocked to get it so they wouldn’t have to take Dramamine before watching anymore.

What I’m Watching: Oh Brother, Where Art Thou

O Brother was one of those quirky perfect matches for me when it came out. I don’t consistently love the Coen Borthers and I don’t consider myself a fan of George Clooney, but I loved reading the Odyssey in college and still own the book. (I have a more historically accurate version of the work starring Armand Assante too.) I also happen to be very fond of that musical era. It was either going to be a perfect match or something I was going to walk away from wishing I had that 2 hours back. If you haven’t seen it I suggest that you do.

Amazon

What I’m Watching: Battle Of the Bulbs

Battle of the Bulbs (2010) Poster

Another fluffy, predictable (mostly) holiday movie. What can I say, I like the Hallmark movies. This is neighbors (one of whom is new to the neighborhood) competing for the most beautiful holiday display. The men (played by Matt Frewer and Daniel Stern) have been competitive since high school and both of them go completely nuts. At first their wives are trying to keep a lid on the insanity, but they soon go off the deep end. In the meantime, in the great Romeo and Juliet tradition, their teenaged children fall in love and the families remember the true meaning of Christmas. Yeah, you saw it coming, but who cares? Fun movie!

What I’m Watching: Help For The Holidays

Help for the Holidays (2012) Poster

I will be the first to admit that this is a pretty cookie cutter Christmas film. I just did. However, it has a lot of charm in the cast. Christine is an elf who wonders if there isn’t more to life than making toys. Santa sends her south to help out a family in danger of losing their Christmas spirit. The family owns a Christmas store, but the stress of retail is sucking the joy out of the holiday for them. (I worked retail for a long time. Can’t blame them at all.) Christine arrives to interview with Sara VanCamp for the job of nanny to her two children, Ally and Will. Naturally, Christine is a much better mom than Sara has been lately so even as Sara’s brother is falling in love with Christine, Sara is starting to hate her. You can see where this is going, right? Summer Glau plays Christine as a wonderfully clueless fish out of water. Eva LaRue is extremely believable as a mom trying to do it all and failing to her great frustration. John Brotherton plays Sara’s brother Dave and Dan Gauthier plays the father, Scott. It’s a cute, fun movie.

What I’m Watching: Christmas In Connecticut

Christmas in Connecticut (1945) Poster

This is a must see every year. Elizabeth Lane is Martha Stewart before Martha was. She cooks marvelous meals in her farm kitchen with her architect husband and her perfect baby and describes it all beautifully in her newspaper column.  Jefferson Jones was on a warship in the South Pacific that was sunk by the Japanese and he spent I don’t remember how long adrift and starving. When he returns Elizabeth’s publisher (who also thinks she lives on a farm in Connecticut) comes up with the brilliant marketing ploy of inviting the returning hero to Elizabeth’s farm for the holidays. Too bad Elizabeth is an apartment dwelling, carryout ordering single woman living in New York. To keep her job, she hatches a plan with her boyfriend (who actually owns a farm in Connecticut and is an architect) and the restauranteur who has cooked all the lovely meals she described to fool everyone. This screwball holiday comedy is complete with babies borrowed from women working in war factories, a repeatedly interrupted wedding ceremony and a problematic cow.

What I’m Watching: A Wish For Wings That Work

Opus n' Bill in A Wish for Wings That Work

 

My all-time favorite Christmas special is Opus’n Bill in A Wish For Wings That Work. ALL TIME. I caught it one year completely by accident and I’m pretty sure that’s the only year it was aired. It’s required watching every holiday season. Usually twice. Sometimes three times depending on how busy I am. I regularly give it to unsuspecting friends and family members for Christmas. If you read the Bloom County comic strip, Opus and Bill need no introduction, but if you haven’t, Opus is a bird, a penguin. “An embarrassing accident at birth, for which I do not blame my mother. I prefer to blame Congress.” His main problem with being a penguin is that he is a bird, but he cannot fly. Bill is a cat who Opus rescued from an animal testing lab years ago. Bill is messed up, but his heart is in the right place. Opus is trying to convince Santa to give him wings for Christmas. In the meantime, he is attending group therapy with a kiwi (voiced by Robin Williams) whose wife left him for an albatross and a chicken who thinks she’s a 747. He’s also encountering a trio of ducks who harass him for not being able to fly, a pig who is trying on various identities like water buffalo, a cross dressing cockroach in crisis (voiced by Dustin Hoffman), a caroling Elvis, and of course Bill. On Christmas Eve, while dreaming of flying, Opus is woken up by the duck who tell him that Santa has crashed into a lake and needs help. Beautifully animated and wonderfully told, this story has heart and humor.

What I’m Watching

I can’t seem to get my grubby paws on a copy of the recent documentary about Arnel Pineda, but I do have this extremely difficult to find gem. Filmed by NFL films and documenting the 1983 Frontiers tour, this is priceless to me. At the time Journey boasted the most advanced stage show, pioneering video screens and lighting techniques – and also no glass bottles during concerts. They happened to be filming when an audience member threw a bottle at the stage and beaned Neal Schon during a song. Watching not only Steve Perry flip out on stage, but the production crew watching Steve Perry flip out on stage and worry that he was going to jump into the audience after the culprit was absolutely the highlight of the film for me. I did really love watching the technical side of the roadies and how the stage was packed and unpacked each night. It’s amusing listening to them talk about how huge and complex the job is with 8 semis of equipment. Most recent Paul McCartney documentary I watched, I counted 18 semis. This still formed the backbone of how I thought about touring while writing the Touchstone books.

What I’m Watching

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Despite the presence of Peter O’Toole, Joan Plowright and Alicia Silverstone this dopey little film is sort of a dopey little film. I watched it initially because I found it in a $5 bargain bin, but it has a sort of innocent charm. Alicia Silverstone’s character is the replacement bass player in a band that broke big and then their bass player disappeared. She’s trying to find her place in a band while all the other members are freaking out because their main song writer has vanished. They have retreated to a British estate to get it together, but there’s a sly record exec trying to get them to sign a damaging contract.

The owners of the estate were renting the place out because they’re in dire financial straits, but the temporary help they hired to take care of the band falls through leaving them the option of admitting the problem, losing income and having all their upper crust friends find out OR pretending to be the staff themselves. It’s a movie, what do you think they did?

So what you have is a tense, dramatic story of an entire band’s character arc happening in the middle of a slapstick British comedy. Neither angle really gets off the ground, but it’s charming in its own way and not a bad afternoon.