‘Tis The Season for Warm Fuzzies! …and a couple of Capra Classics.

Tis the season for family, friends, and lots of warm fuzzies. But like almost everyone else I know, I haven’t been feeling very warm or fuzzy lately. So, when the warm glow of the season starts to sputter and dim, I do what any self respecting sentimental cinephile does. I turn to classic Hollywood.

When it comes to classic Hollywood, no one did warm and fuzzy quite like Frank Capra.

Ask anyone for a list of their favorite holiday movies and somewhere on the list you’ll probably find Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life.

In case you’ve been living under a rock for most of your life, It’s a Wonderful Life is the 1946 Frank Capra classic, starring James Stewart, Donna Reed, Thomas Mitchell, Lionel Barrymore, and a cast of Hollywood mainstays. It’s explained by IMDB as “An angel (Clarence, played by Henry Travers) helps a compassionate but despairingly frustrated businessman, George Bailey (Stewart), by showing what life would have been like if he never existed.

While watching ‘Wonderful Life’ for the umteen-hundredth time the other night, I couldn’t help a despairing feeling that bank CEOs apparently haven’t changed since 1946. Lionel Barrymore’s Mr Potter could very well be the CEO of Citi Group or Goldman Sachs.

‘Wonderful Life’ is an excellent movie with a superb cast but I always feel a little sad for George Bailey. He dreams of someday seeing the world but spends his entire life being the responsible citizen, putting the needs and wants of others ahead of himself. Indeed, if uncle Billy hadn’t been so careless George might not have considered such desperate measures. The extreme nature of George’s crisis is probably what makes the ending so effective. It’s why we root for George Bailey. He’s our ‘everyman’ who fights the system and wins.

george-bailey


Trivia: Thomas Mitchell (Wonderful Life’s Uncle Billy) plays Judge Henry Blake in Pocketful of Miracles


On the other end of the spectrum is Capra’s Pocketful of Miracles (1961) which, in my humble opinion, because of it’s bright view of the world and almost absurd optimism, is a better representation of the spirit of the season.

In Miracles, gangster Dave the Dude (Glenn Ford) and his girlfriend Queenie (Hope Lange) try to turn pan handler Apple Annie (Bette Davis) into a society dame when they learn that Annie’s daughter (Ann-Margret) is coming to visit from Spain with her fiance, a royal. The storyline is convoluted and far-fetched but it hits all the right bells and whistles.

What appeals to me about Pocketful of Miracles is it’s charm. Unlike the seriousness of It’s a Wonderful Life, Pocketful of Miracles is utter nonsense. It’s how we wish the real world worked. It’s a sickeningly sweet saccharine saga full of hope and improbable expectations and I love every single minute of it!

large_pocketful_of_miracles_02_blu-ray_So, whether you’re a George Bailey or an Apple Annie, I want to wish everyone a Happy and Joyous Holiday!

May 2015 bring Peace, Love, Happiness, and Good Health to all.

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“Reality…What A Concept” Remembering Robin Williams

The news of Robin’s death was such a shock. I’m still having a difficult time believing that it’s true.

There are people who touch our lives in such profound, undefinable ways. Robin Williams was one of them. He made us laugh, but he also made us think. He made us question things while we were laughing at them.

“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.” – Robin Williams

Like many Americans, I first saw Robin Williams in an episode of Happy Days called My Favorite Orkan. My six year old sister was madly in love with Henry Winkler’s Fonzie so we never missed an episode. So when Mork and Mindy debuted the following fall, it was naturally added to our viewing line up.

31CY4KZFFELWhile my family was gathered around the tube watching the weekly adventures of Robin and Pam Dawber, my friends and I were memorizing the jokes form the “Reality…What a Concept” LP, a live recording of Robin’s 1978 Roxy performance.

Through the years, Robin Williams has brought us nothing but happiness. News of his death was a complete shock. I still can’t believe it.

“You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” – Robin Williams

 Rest in peace, sir.

Things To Do In Philly When The Internet Goes Down.

You never really understand how much of your life is dependent upon the internet until it’s not there anymore.

For almost a month, my internet has been suffering drop outs and sluggish speeds. It’s been a nightmare for which I’ve been preparing a long vengeful blog post that, because of outlandish accusations and rough profanity, will probably never be published in it’s entirety.

We did find productive things to do around the house while the internet was down. Sunglasses are now required in the bathroom because the bathtub sparkles so brightly! 😎

In our downtime we caught a few good movies, some of which I share with you here.

I happened to catch a late night broadcast of Crime and Punishment (1935) starring Peter Lorre, on GetTV (one of the myriad broadcast movie channels that have been popping up lately.) I’ve never seen this early adaptation. Lorre is brilliant. Strangely enough, this version is not available on Netflix but it is available in it’s entirety on Youtube.

“The story goes that Peter Lorre wanted to star in the film version of the Dostoyevsky novel, but was certain that Columbia Pictures chieftain Harry Cohn would turn the project down. So Lorre hired a secretary to type up a synopsis of the story in words of one syllable then submitted this simplified resume to Cohn. Enthusiastic over the project, Cohn gave Lorre the go-ahead — but first he asked “Tell me —  has this book got a publisher?”” – Hal Erickson (Rovi)

Whether true or not, that rumor makes for good entertainment.

Here’s the movie, in it’s entirety. Bookmark it. Save it for when you’re looking for something good to watch.

Out of the Furnace (2013) stars Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, Forest Whitaker and Casey Afleck (yes, THAT Afleck). When police stop looking for his missing veteran brother, Russell Baze takes matters into his own hands.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but clearly not anything as deep and thoughtful as this flick turned out to be. It’s slow to unfold but it’s good story telling. Woody Harrelson is creepy as hell.

While we’re on the subject of Christian Bale… If you haven’t seen American Hustle (2013), put it on your list. it’s a great piece of entertainment that’s loosely based on the FBI ABSCAM operation of the late 1970s and early 1980s. I don’t know why people love to hate this film so much. I enjoyed it. The clothes and the cars alone gave me flashbacks.

Warm Bodies (2013) A zombie saves a teenager. They fall in love and save the world. What’s not to love? Even the Romeo and Juliet references that get shamelessly thrown in your face didn’t manage to ruin the film for me. It’s cheesy, pop corn chomping fun.

The Call (2013) How can you go wrong with Halle Berry? A 911 operator gets a call from a kidnapped teen. This is a joyride movie! It had me shouting at the screen.

The 2014 Robocop reboot was a lot better than I had expected. It’s still silly and a bit of a stretch for suspension of disbelief, but it was good entertainment. Perhaps I’m just a little biased. I’ve been a huge fan of Gary Oldman since Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, one of my all time favorite films.

I started following Simon Pegg on twitter long before I learned of his incredible career as an actor/writer/comedian. Seriously, I had no idea. That was almost four years ago. Since then I’ve gotten all caught up. I’ve enjoyed him in everything from Shaun of the Dead to Hot Fuzz, The World’s End, Star Trek and everything in between. On Monday night we had the pleasure of watching A Fantastic Fear of Everything. It’s about a crime writer whose research has turned him into a paranoid mess. It’s a little strange but bizarrely funny. Pegg spends half of the movie in his underwear chasing his imagination. The running gag is incredibly funny.

Thankfully, our internet trouble has been dealt with. Everything is running smoothly. We sacrificed a goat and danced around in circles naked while singing the alphabet song backwards. That seemed to have appeased the internet gods. …for now. 😉

Bonus Material…

Everything Wrong With Robocop (1987) in 7 Minutes or Less. by CinemaSins

 And finally…

Simon Pegg rapping old school style in ‘A Fantastic Fear of Everything

Oh, fair warning. The following clip is probably not safe for work.