Thursday, December 30, 2010
Oh time, my cruel mistress, why do you always sneak past me?
This is what I said to her yesterday when I realized that I wasn't going to have too much free time in the next few days to post... I got some great TV swag for Christmas and would like to write about it... maybe in a few days. Right now I'm on vacation and I headed back to my homeland of Los Angeles, where the weather isn't nearly as frightful! When I get back, or get a moment when I'm not clutching a Bloody Mary in my well manicured paw, I hope to write a blog or two. Until then, my friendlies... Happy New Year! My resolution is to watch more TV movies! I think I handle that one!
Best wishes to all!
Friday, December 24, 2010
Original Air Date: December 4th, 1995
Although ABC co-produced this gender-bend twist on A Christmas Carol, it’s a Lifetime original and let’s face it, it’s Lifetime all the way! Susan Lucci is Elizabeth Scrooge, aka Ebbie and she’s one of those humorless (but gorgeous) department store presidents that is all business and no heart. After the death of her partner in crime Jake (Jeffrey DuMunn), she seems even colder and more callous, especially during the holidays. Then, one night as she’s alone in her lush apartment, Jake comes to visit her... as a ghost... You know the drill… three more ghosts will show up and whatnot. What struck me about Ebbie is how true to the Dickens classic it is. I just read A Christmas Carol and watched the George C. Scott adaptation, as well as A Muppet Christmas Carol and Scrooged. Except for the Scott version which is almost a completely faithful adaptation, most films based on this story tend to create something fairly unique. Ebbie is in many ways completely different from the story, even if you just look at the gender of the protagonist. However, although it’s got a woman Scrooge and is told in a modern setting, the story itself is quite faithful. The sister’s death is particularly effective here, even compared to the Scott version, perhaps that's due to the modern setting. We actually watch the sister die, so it’s easy to see where Ebbie begins to close herself off. The screenwriters Paul Redford and Ed Redlich took great pains to show Ebbie’s transformation from a wide-eyed kid to a cold-hearted adult, but the film’s biggest disappointment comes when she finds redemption. It’s not as joyous as the story and ends up falling short.
I don’t think I saw this movie when it originally aired but I recall watching it on Lifetime in the late 90s. What I remembered though was that Ebbie was a little funny. And it’s not funny at all. I mean, not even one bit. Perhaps that’s what was really missing. A female Scrooge in modern times should be funny ala A Diva’s Christmas Carol, and maybe that’s what the Diva film was trying to do, add some levity to an interesting twist… I dunno. I won’t even try to guess why filmmakers choose the route they do, but it is interesting and maybe I should have viewed Ebbie and Diva together. Hmmm, well there’s always next year!
The ageless Susan Lucci is great in the role and overall, I’m a fan of Ebbie, mostly because of Lucci’s performance. She manages to evoke sympathy even when she’s being relentless in the boardroom or in love. In short, she tugs at ye olde heartstrings, and what else can one ask for when watching a Lifetime Christmas movie?
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Original Airdate: October 4th and 5th, 1982
Oh, 1982. It was an era where the women were women and the men were too! In Bare Essence you’ve got a heterosexual fashion stylist, a machismo laden gay photographer and an uber A-sexual heir to a fortune. What a great time for romance! Or maybe I meant confusing…
Genie Francis is Tyger Hayes and her B movie director dad has just bit the big one. Her absentee mom Bobbi Rowan (the fabulous Linda Evans) shows up at the funeral and basically rubs her ferocious glamour in poor (literally) Tyger’s perfectly round face. Bobbi invites no-frills Tyger to come visit her in New York and after some convoluted business regarding her father’s last film, Tyger grabs her best duffle bag and heads to the city that never sleeps. She meets Matt Phillips (the delish Joel Higgins), fashion stylist and all around sexy stud. She assumes he’s gay. I mean, he is a stylist and pretty freakin’ good at it, so it’s like two and two, you know? However, she soon realizes he’s straight and available and very interested and off to bed they go. While attempting to secure some kind of something regarding her father’s film, she is offered a job working under the less sexy but debonair Chase Marshall (hunkadelic Bruce Boxleitner), race car driver turned business magnate. Chase lost his father around the same time Tyger lost hers and now half of his family (most notably Lee Grant who is so bitch-perfect it’s impossible to take your eyes of her) is attempting to set him up for the fall of a lifetime. But he has Tyger as a secret weapon. As Matt transforms her into a lady of style, elegance and grace, her indefatigable gumption and spunk guide her through the treacherous and fabulous world of the perfume industry, making her a faboo force to reckon with.
Bare Essence was an extremely popular miniseries that was intended to shoot Genie, i.e. Laura Spencer from General Hospital, into prime time stardom. It had all the trappings of love in the afternoon but with a budget that could have financed several daytime shows. It was the height of glamour and the pinnacle of melodrama and of course, I loved it! It’s interesting how so many successful soaps dance with the world of fashion but don’t focus on it. The shows which did (notably Models, Inc. and Paper Dolls) were big old flops. I wonder why that is? Anyway, there’s a little Vogue-ish glamour here, but it mostly works in the boardrooms and the bedrooms. Joel Higgens is particularly giggle worthy. Who knew the father from Silver Spoons was so dang hot? OK, I've always thought he was gorgeous! Between this and his yummy performance in First Affair, I must admit, it’s love. But he’s not Tyger’s only man. There’s this wimpy French guy who she kind of manipulates and of course Chase, but none of them come close to the sexual charisma of Higgins. He was wonderful in comedies, but I think he should have played more leading men parts in soapy romances.
And another word about Lee Grant - As the greedy matriarch of the Marshall clan she is an unstoppable force. Lee only graces a few scenes of the mini-series, but probably deserved a movie of her own! It’s obvious she saw the over-the-top potential of her character and she takes it to the hilt! No Regrets Grant would be her war name.
Bare Essence is a really good mini-series. I had only intended to watch the first half when I started my viewing journey, but had to take it all the way when I got snared by the glamour! I really wish television would go back to these simple, fun and romantic dramas that globetrot the world while engaging the audience with its sexy fun.
The mini-series was popular enough that it spawned a short lived television series which aired the year after. Frakes, who plays the bad boy brother stayed on, I’m assuming partly because of Genie whom he married shortly after they met during the making of the mini-series. Bare Essence, the series didn’t captivate audiences the way the network had intended and it went by the wayside. I’d really love to see the show. I can only imagine what sexy goodness awaits me there.
We are legion, guys! I finally hit the 100 Followers mark! For me it's a personal victory because although there are many, many other blogs who have, like, a gazillion followers, I'm so happy to find that the world of TV movie lovers has now reached three digits! I thank everyone who stops by and comments... Believe it or not, it means a lot.
I'm a little behind on the polls, but I want to report that The Night Stalker once again walked away with top honors! This time he won the coveted Favorite ABC Movie of the Week poll! YAY! Darren McGavin was a one of a kind and I'm glad to see how Kolchak has endured. I had hoped for Bad Ronald to walk away the winner, and he came close, losing by only two votes, but I am happy either way!
I decided that for the next month I'll do a poll on 70s small screen scream queens (say that five times fast!) and I got the ten I chose from an article I did on... you guessed it... Small Screen Scream Queens over at Fangirltastic! This site used to be Pretty Scary, and when they changed names they changed website forms, so the article looks a bit wonky, but you can see all the horror/thriller/mystery/suspense movies these ladies starred in. The list I made is based on the number of films each actress made and there are way more women in my article than these ten, so stop by and check it out!
Also, I have a new review up at Smash or Trash for a series called The Adventures of Louanna Lee. This episode is titled Lovin' Fool and is a fun bit of regional filmmaking.
And finally, you should all read the review of Duel that John Kenneth Muir did over at his blog.
Thanks again, to everyone who has stopped by and I hope you enjoy more TV goodness via moi in 2011!
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
You can read the critical comparison paper I wrote on The Innocents for my Film and Lit class over at Fangirtastic!
The Assignment: Find two differing critical essays on one film or book and compare and contrast their arguments.
The essays reviewed: One discusses the ghost and a conspiracy theory and the other argues that The Innocents is a metaphor for the confused role of the female in early 60s! Wow!
I won't know until the end of the month. But I am so thrilled it found a home online. Makes me look like an academic and stuff!
Network: Channel 4, UK
Original Air Date: May 15th, 1985
Return to Waterloo is one of those films I caught during the heyday of the Bravo channel. Believe it or not, instead of tons of reality shows and re-runs of popular American programs, Bravo aired uncut/commercial-free films from around the world. It was Bravo who exposed me to the beauty of a Merchant/Ivory Production, it was they who introduced me to the quirky world of French films as well as playing host to what would become my favorite foreign film of all time, Twist and Shout.
As a teen living in Vegas in the late 80s, I don't think I have to tell you that the city was a little short on, uh, culture. It was a town of stone-washed Guns n Roses fans, which was great - I was was all about Axl Rose - but one of the only outlets we had in our desolate little town (and yes, Las Vegas might look like a Mecca, but it was a very small place for locals), was this magnificent cable channel.
Every Saturday evening, they would show cult movies and I had the great pleasure of catching Return to Waterloo. Written and Directed by Ray Davies of the Kinks, Waterloo mixes some of the most thoughtful music of the 80s (all written by Mr. Davis) with a disturbing allegory about hidden truths and innocence lost.
The story focuses on The Traveller (Ken Colley), a man who is taking a train on his way to work. He passes people reading papers and he looks a lot like the serial rapist featured on the front page. He seems normal enough when his trip begins, but as things progress and some of the passengers come in and out of his life, we start to learn that The Traveller may in fact be the rapist everyone is looking for. And his deep secrets may also be the reason his daughter ran away and is now missing.
Told mostly through music, the lyrics that accompany the film are straightforward, simple and profound. One of my favorite scenes features the song Missing Persons and some of the lyrics are:
Now I'm sitting at home, staring at the wall.
Waiting for the missing person to call.
Waiting for the message I'm dreading to hear.
Waiting to confirm my darkest fears.
She's a missing person, I wish I could see
All of the places she might be.
Maybe I stopped her from being free.
Maybe there was something missing in me.
Davies often takes a literal approach to the lyrics, like the ones above, but other times he gets very surreal, and to great effect. There are no answers given to the viewer but piece by piece, you get a fairly good sense of what The Traveller may have done and the repercussions he's endured.
I was really moved by this movie the first time I saw it. The music and imagery is very of its time. It's obvious that Davies had to make this movie on a limited budget (and he partially funded it himself), but like so many great, underrated films of that era (Dogs in Space for instance) Waterloo is a work of art. Not only does Davies convey a real feeling dread for The Traveller's journey, but also for the downfall of England itself.
Waterloo is also one of Tim Roth's first films and his performance is quite spirited (he even sings!). In fact, this film is flooded with interesting characters portrayed by wonderful actors. There's a definite British feel to Waterloo, and it captures a place caught between prim patriotism and a country on the verge of a revolution. Davies adeptly portrays the exasperation of how the middle class lived out the decadent 80s.
For years this movie was impossible to locate, but it is now on DVD (along with eight Kinks music videos!) and the soundtrack is also readily available. You can even rent it through Netflix. You got no excuses, so get on it, K?
Ray Davies has a cameo and sort of bookends the movie. Here is a clever promo video showing what his character was doing while the Traveller was on the train:
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Sorry to be such a Johnny Come Lately, uh, lately, but I'm at the critical moment in school where if I don't stop reading/writing/researching, the whole thing would have been for nothing.
Well, maybe that's an exaggeration, but I should say it's been hectic here with paper writing and studying. I should be able to post more in the very near future, but hate when I can't update my blog at all. So here I am.
Since it's Chistmas, I'd like to direct you to some Yuletide coolness.
I had a guest blogger a few months back and she just so happened to be the crazy-sexy-cool Joanna Wilson, who wrote The Christmas TV Companion. She wrote about a little ditty called The Gathering for me, and you should check it out.
I also interviewed her for her publisher's website and you can read it here. It's full of small screen holiday splendor. She has a new book out, which is the encyclopedia on all things Christmas TV. It's called Tis the Season, and you can buy it by clicking on this here link.
Also, I did a guest review for her blog on my favorite Holiday special, Nestor the Long Earred Donkey.
And because someone brought up Christmas Evil to me recently, I remembered - fondly even - an interview I did with the director, Lewis Jackson at Film Threat. And here's a link to the review.
OK, back to the books!