Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Casablanca Week: Rick's Cafe Americain vs. The Blue Parrot

One of the fascinating unexplored aspects of the "Casablanca" universe is the Blue Parrot, the nightclub and ostensible competitor to Rick's Café Americain across the way. The Blue Parrot is owned by Ferrari, and since he's played by the great Sydney Greenstreet, you know you have a character and a place worth examining.

The movie only gives us hints, though, with a few tantalizing exchanges between Rick and Ferrari that establish that the latter controls not only the black market in Casablanca, but also the shipments of goods that arrive to restock their establishments. As Rick points out, it's always just a little short when Ferrari sends the Cafe's portion over. But, hey, Rick sees it all as part of the cost of doing business.

When Ilsa is pumping Sam for info on where Rick is, he lies that he has taken a girl he's seeing over to the Blue Parrot. Just because it isn't true in this case doesn't mean it isn't ever the case. I like the idea of Rick taking a hot date over to his competitor's place. It just wouldn't be classy to take her to your own bar, I guess.

We don't see much of the Parrot, but it looks like a more mysterious place with less (as in zero) live music and maybe a less festive atmosphere. We don't SEE any gambling going on there, but I would be shocked--shocked--to find that gambling ISN'T going on in Ferrari's establishment as it is in Rick's.

What really intrigues me is the relationship between the two places. Rick and Farrari clearly have a semi-friendly relationship, but I would like to see kind of a Gary's Olde Towne Tavern/Cheers vibe, only without the outright hatred. It would be great if the two had annual prank wars. Oh, Rick would pretend to be all detached and not care, and Ferrari would also place himself above the fray, but you know that they'd be sitting in the back obsessing over how to screw the other one over.

I can see Sasha doing something juvenile like putting something sticky on Ferrari's flyswatter so he wouldn't be able to get it out of his hand. Then Rick would be like, "Think bigger, guys! Think bigger!" Surely Ferrari would have no problem creating outrageous pranks. I'll bet it would only take a couple exchanges before Sam's piano ended up on top of the Café.

It would escalate until one or both of the nightclubs exploded--during the morning, of course, when no one would be hurt--and a smirking Captain Renault collected ample reparations from Rick and Farrari for "disturbing the peace." Then the two proprietors would look at each other, grin, and start rebuilding...and thinking up new schemes.

Monday, June 27, 2016

"Casablanca" Week at Cultureshark

I know I promised to catch up on some other features this week, but you know what? I just experienced my annual viewing of "Casablanca," and I'm declaring this whole week a celebration of my favorite (and the best) movie of all time.

I like to watch the film every year on or around my birthday for several reasons: For one, it's the one that got me "into" older movies. I still remember catching it for the first time on a late-night screening by a local PBS station and being mesmerized by it. Perhaps more importantly, it gives me a certain sense of renewal. Each time I watch "Casablanca," I am reminded that there is good in the world and in humanity, that people are capable of making decisions based on ideals and concepts larger than their own immediate desires, and that S.Z. Sakall is funny as hell.

It still holds up for me every time, and it still feels like about a 30-minute movie instead of a 104-minute one. Over the years I focus on different things. For a while my favorite scene was the one in which Rick helps the Bulgarian couple get money for exit visas by manipulating the roulette game. Lately I find myself admiring Sam more and more but wishing he didn't have to address Rick as "Boss" and "Mister Rick."

Another thing I note as the years go on is that I like Paul Henreid's Victor Laszlo more than I ever did. In many ways it's a tough part, but you know, Victor's a pretty good guy. It would be easy to make him a humorless, insufferable bore, but even compared to Bogart, he comes off pretty well. His charisma is just a different kind, and it's an appropriate contrast in this setting.

I'm also more convinced that Claude Rains delivers one of the finest comic performances ever in this movie and that he deserves more acclaim for his work as Captain Renault. And I notice that while there are some plot elements that make no sense, the movie at least tries to offer explanations for most of them. Besides, who cares? The whole "Letters of Transit" thing always makes me smile, but there are worse gimmicks to build a narrative around.

It's hard to say new things about one of the most beloved and discussed motion pictures in history, but I have a few more thoughts I'll share this week. Stay tuned for more "Casablanca" thoughts, and I suggest you watch it again because...because why not?

Friday, June 24, 2016

Streaming Video Power Rankings: Week 13

These rankings are late because of all the events going on in the world of SVOD, totally not because I blew off the blog for other things.

1) Netflix: At the top spot again on the strength of buzz surrounding a new season of "Orange Is the New Black," plus additions like "Spotlight" and (Hey, my kids will be happy) season 1 of "Bunk'd." I'm not thrilled about the reminders that my price is going up, nor about the news that Netflix is throwing money at "social media stars" to make shows, but nobody is perfect this week.

2) Hulu: I hope Hulu isn't spending too much money on that "cable-ish" TV service it's planning to launch. This week, it lost streaming rights to CW shows (effective in a few months). So this fall, Hulu loses CW programs and Criterion movies. What will replace them?

On the bright side, Ron Howard's Beatles movie got a premiere date and a trailer, Hulu debuted a handful of popular Disney Channel shows (Tell us again about that Disney deal, Netflix) and, because why not, added a bunch of episodes of the original "Dark Shadows."

3) Warner Archive Instant: WAI rockets up the charts this week because it did something novel: It updated its website and Roku page! Yes, no longer are there prominent pictures of titles no longer available. The "Showcases" grouping movies on various themes are now updated. Some "new" (mostly already on the site before) movies appeared. It's all enough to make me give it another month. That and the fact that I want to see more of "The Lieutenant" and "Dr. Kildare." WAI also earns this spot because I got to see the rest of "A Man Called Shenandoah" this past week.

4) Highspots TV: I don't think I'll be able to renew after my free trial, but I will absolutely consider getting it again in the future. The consistent stream really helps. This week I enjoyed a bunch of random 1980s footage from Hawaii.

5) Amazon Prime: It's another pilot season, for what that's worth, but I was bummed when I learned "Sigmund and the Sea Monsters "was one of these pilots and not a sign that the Krofft library was now streaming.

6) HBO Go: Ben Affleck's bizarre embarrassment of an interview helped give Bill Simmons' new show some buzz, plus "Game of Thrones" is surging toward its season finale.

7) YouTube: Some of my favorite channels really stepped it up with content this week. I ask again, though, is anyone subscribing to YouTube Red?

8) WWE Network: Steadily adding a variety of content, had a successful "Pay per View" special Sunday, and is generating buzz with its tapings for the upcoming "Cruiserweight Classic" series.

9) Watch TCM: Please get this on Roku. Oh, if only these movies were on the service Warner charges us 10 bucks for (see #3). You have to love an assortment of films that pays tribute to both Jimmy Cagney and Marie Dressler.

10) Pub-D-Hub: They took this week off for no apparent reason (celebrating Father's Day?) and made no update, but it gives me extra time to enjoy the likes of "The Pinky Lee Show."

Friday, June 17, 2016

Streaming Video Power Rankings: Week 12

Uneventful week for streaming video, bit here we go.

1) Hulu: Slow week, and where the heck is that ESPN OJ documentary? I read it would be on Hulu. Still, it got streaming rights to a batch of Disney Channel shows, which is a good way to beef up   its kids programming, and nobody else had a great week, either.

2) Netflix: These rankings are a few days late, and yet still I don't see much in the way of interesting Netflix adds this week. It was good news, though,  to see it snagged the upcoming "Office"/David Brent movie. But, hey, with the news that Hulu is getting these Disney Channel shows, I ask again: What is so great about that Netflix/Disney deal?

3) Pub-D-Hub: More Martin Kane and "Schlitz Playhouse" puts this outfit up with the big boys in a slow week.

4) Highspots TV: I'm enjoying my free month trial very much, and I am not even watching the modern indie wrestling on there, but rather the documentaries and classic content.  It seems to be adding new stuff regularly.

5) Amazon Prime: Hey, this is the exclusive streaming home for several more programs now, including "Mr. Robot." Good for subscribers, bad for me.  I wanted to see "Mr. Robot."

6) Watch ESPN: People flocked here to watch the complete "Made in America" miniseries. Only problem:  It requires provider authentication. Boooo!

7) Warner Archive Instant: Oh, how I want to love this service. I have been watching lots of great old TV episodes. But last weekend I sat down to watch a movie and discovered it had been yanked without notice...along with other old ones on my watchlist. WAI has 6 movies from the 1930s right now. 6. They don't seem to want to talk about it on their Facebook page.

8) Shout Factory TV: Hey, Shout, I've given up on those Glen Campbell specials that were up for like half a day, but why did you take down those 1970s "Black Omnibus" episodes?

9) Tubi TV: Were you aware that Tubi TV was streaming "Ski School" with the immortal Dean Cameron? That's enough to rate an appearance in the top 10.

10) YouTube: Still not crazy about the new Roku video controls, but I guess I'll get over it. No channels I love have been deleted lately, so that's good!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Shameless Self-Promotion: TV Time celebrates Fathers Day at ClassicFlix!

In my latest feature, I look at some of the most famous TV dads and how they deal with their imminent blessed events. Read about Rob, Ricky, Fred, and more! Don't you dare miss it...and tell 'em Cultureshark sent ya!

TV TIME: Guide for the Expectant Dad
        | by Rick Brooks
As Father's Day approaches, prospective fathers look to classic television for pointers on how to handle their upcoming blessed events. I admit that despite a misspent youth filled with reruns, when it was my turn to witness the miracle of life, I did not run around in a panicked frenzy, drive to the hospital without the mother, and hand out cigars to everyone in sight. But the rest of you might not want to take that chance, so let's dive into TV history to see how other new dads prepare for the big day.

[Click here for more]

BTW, this bit of shameless self-promotion will push back the SVOD power rankings to tomorrow, and then I have some more TV Time Extra relating to the last feature, so the Summer of Angst will continue next week!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

TV Time Bonus: All About Eve Arden

Last week, my latest TV Time piece went live at ClassicFlix, and while I enjoyed talking about the feature film version of "Our Miss Brooks," I wasn't able to share some of the more awesome moments. Here are a few screencaps:


Eve Arden with Nick Adams because...why not?

 Hijinks with Eve and Dandy Don Porter:
Classic Eve reaction on the boat:

That musical number. Ouch!

An even MORE classic Eve reaction--the take I mention in the article:

 Finally, the moment we've all been waiting for: The Two Mr. Wilsons:


Monday, June 13, 2016

The Wonderful World of TCM

One of the greatest things about The Greatest Cable Channel Known to Mankind (Turner Classic Movies to the squares) is its distinguished face of the network, Bobby Osbo (Robert Osbourne to the squares). It's understandable that a man of his age would scale back hosting duties, but while B-Mank (Ben Mankewicz to the--aw, forget it) has grown into a likable alternative for me, it's still a letdown to tune in during prime time on the channel and not see the silver fox of screen set-up welcoming me to the feature presentation.

And yet...

I don't want to suggest I want to see Bobby Osbo take more time off or that I wouldn't miss him were he not a regular, but, boy, did I see a suitable fill-in last week. Full disclosure: I am never watching TCM live these days, so I caught the 1957 crime flick "Timetable" on demand. In that format, you never know who's going to intro the movie or if there will be one, so imagine my delight when I saw the lovely and talented Madeleine Stowe discussing the film I was about to see.

Actually don't imagine it; it could get embarrassing for both of us. I'm a big fan of Stowe, and it's been a while since I've seen her in anything--I never watched "Revenge" because, yeah, it had her, but come on--so what a pleasant collision of worlds this was.

Apparently she has been a recurring guest presenter, but much to my shame, I hadn't caught her on TCM. She did a great job of setting up "Timetable," and I'd love to see more of her, but it looks like Turner is--surprise, surprise--leaning just a bit younger as it prepares for Bobby's retirement (which I fear is imminent):  http://www.turner.com/story/tcm-announces-new-saturday-daytime-host-tiffany-vazquez

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Streaming Video Power Rankings: Week 11

Let's get to it for Week 11:

1) Hulu: Not much on the movies this month, but, hey, that gives us more time to watch all those Criterions that are going away in the fall. Right? Right?

2) Netflix: Yeah, folks, that Disney deal is NOT going to give you hundreds of new things to watch in September. It's going to give you...what, one? Two, maybe?

3) Warner Archive Instant: The good news is, they added a couple hundred movies. The bad news is, almost all of them were on there before. Still, it's a step in the right direction. The even badder news: I have gone through all the "Flo" episodes. The terrible news: They deleted "Eleventh Hour" before putting it in the "Leaving Soon" category, which to me is the worst sin an SVOD service can do. I'm tempted to boot it all the way down the list, but the big movie add indicates there are signs of life. Plus I did watch a lot of stuff on here last week.

4) Shout Factory TV: Hey, Shout, this month's update is rather paltry. What happened to those Glen Campbell specials that were up for a few hours? I can wait for the Christmas ones, but the other one would be nice.

5) Pub-D-Hub: Well, I watched an "I Married Joan" involving a chimpanzee. That's something.

6) SeeSo: Season 8 "SNL" is much more entertaining than I expected so far.

7) YouTube: This week, I noticed yet another unasked-for, unnecessary update to the Roku channel.

8) Watch TCM: Some really, really good movies on here right now.

9) WWE Network: There are signs of improvement: interesting archival content being added, more frequent uploads...Plus there's a decent-looking special or two coming up. They'll get me to re-up sooner or later.

10) Highspots: Yes, another wrestling service! It's currently offering a free month in conjunction with Place to Be Nation, and there is all kinds of cool stuff to watch while you wait for WWE Network to add pre-1996 content.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Summer of Angst: The (previous) Pepsi Generation Part 2

Last time out, we examined the first of two Pepsi ads in the excellent collection "The Lost Television Legacy of James Dean." Today we kick it up a notch, as Jimmy does more than just sit on a merry go round and smile (That sounds like a put-down on "Happy Days;" I can imagine Joanie telling Potsie to go sit on a merry go round and smile.)

This second spot has Dean at the jukebox:

I love the expression on his face, like he's Edison discovering the lightbulb. "Hey, this thing plays MUSIC!"

The problem is, it's only playing a little boring old piano tune until Dean smacks the piano, and then we get the full song about bounce to the ounce:


Then it's dance time, but here's the thing: The gal behind the piano dances with 3 different guys (one of whom is said to be Hans Conreid by some wags on YouTube, though I don't buy it), none of whom is James Dean! As we will see, it took a while in his TV career before Dean got the girl. Here at least he gets the Pepsi.

Jimmy Dean with a little of the old HA-CHA-CHA!

Actually, now that I see this screenshot, I kind of understand why he didn't get the girl.

I think I'd rather have the girl, but Pepsi wants you to get the soda. In fact, the announcer urges you to buy it by the CARTON!

I assure you these first two posts in the Summer of Angst do not constitute an endorsement of Pepsi, nor of bouncing, nor fun. If Pepsi wants to send me a carton or two, though, I won't turn it down.

So far the Summer of Angst has been filled with...cheer? Fun? Most shocking of all...JOY? Yes, indeed, but fear not, folks. Our next installment will give us a chance, with apologies to the great Jermaine Jackson, to get serious!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Streaming Video Power Rankings: Week 10

Week 10! And there were those who thought we'd never make it this far. Well, as long as there are channels to rank, and as long as I have comments about that not warranting an entire post, the rankings will continue.

1) Hulu: Last week Hulu added season 5 of "Make Room for Daddy" and several more seasons of 'Family Affair." The point is, Hulu still gives a damn. Plus I am enjoying the heck out of 11/22/63.

2) Netflix: A lot of stuff got added this past week, and a few classics arrived with the June 1 dump, but I think a lot of people  are going to be irritated when they find out these stories circulating about Netflix showing "every Disney movie ever made" this fall are (I think) quite false.

3) Warner Archive Instant: It's still unbelievable that no one is updating this service, but I am enjoying the old TV that's on there...at least for a month.

4) Shout Factory TV: Odd thing happened yesterday: As part of the June 1 update, several Glen Campbell specials appeared, including a few Christmas ones. Later that night, they were gone. I know from experience that Shout doesn't always add everything right away in its monthly update, so maybe those will come back. In the meantime, I've been enjoying "MST3K" and Dick Cavett, so even if the June update is weak, Shout is still bringing it.

5) Pub-D-Hub: Hey, you saw my post about Martin Kane earlier this week, right? I thank Pub-D-Hub for making my enjoyment of that episode possible.

6) SeeSo: I'm digging several things on here, but I still  wish navigation were faster. I'd love to see more classic American content on here, too.

7) YouTube: I still dislike the new video controls.

8) Watrch TCM: Some really, really good movies on here right now.

9) Tubi TV: The June update looks like a bunch of recycled MGM movies that make the rounds elsewhere, but, hey, this is free. And if you haven't seen "Johnny Be Good" yet, now's your chance.

10) MLB.TV: Pirates are on the Free Game of the Day again tonight!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Shameless Self-Promotion: TV Time again at ClassicFlix

TV Time goes to the movies with a look at TV shows that became feature films in the 1950s and 1960s--you know, back in the day when they made good movies from TV shows.

TV TIME: Movies from Classic TV Shows
Yesterday | by Rick Brooks
Hollywood loves taking television properties and turning them into feature film franchises. If the studios think audiences will go to a theater to pay for what they've already seen on the small screen, then they will make it happen. In the 1950s and 1960s, they took shows already on television, or were just recently taken off the air, and made movies with much of the same talent. It might look like a cash grab, but the films hold up quite well.

Click here to read about "Dragnet," "Batman," "McHale's Navy," and more...and tell 'em Cultureshark sent you! Don''t you dare miss it!