Sunday, September 30, 2018

Streaming Video Power Rankings #129

1) MLB TV: Many streamers could see the exciting final weekend of baseball free--legally, that is--because Major League Baseball made it so. Free is always king in these parts. Now, if only the expensive baseball streaming package included the playoffs so that I didn't have to buy a month of...(See #10).

2) CBS All Access: Speaking of free, I quite enjoyed my free month of this service and was watching the heck out of it before the 30 days ended. Well, I miscalculated by a day or so, and thanks to the miracle of auto-renewal, I am getting another month of this. Instead of being angry at myself for paying 10 bucks for a month I wasn't planning on getting, I choose to look at it as getting two months of ad-free service for 5 bucks per.

3) Netflix: I think my experience this week sums up the Netflix Experience: I was watching Argentinean minseries Historia de un Clan when a friend told me about the feature film based on the same true story.

I check, and much to my delight, the movie, El Clan, is also on Netflix! Yay!

A second later, I realize it expires at the end of the month, meaning I have to hustle to get through the rest of the miniseries so I can then follow it up with the movie. Cool that everything was there, not cool that my schedule was beholden to the tyranny of expiration dates.

4) Hulu: Hulu has been rather humdrum lately, and it actually lost a recent series as Designated Survivor moved to Netflix, which is still the big brother. Yet I can't deny that I did a lot of prep for our Battle of the Network Shows podcast this week, checking out episodes of [REDACTED] for the season opener.

5) Prime Video: Debuts a new version of King Lear with Anthony Hopkins. Perhaps more importantly, also debuts a 1962 Hallmark Hall of Fame production of Arsenic and Old Lace starring Tony Randall.

6) YouTube: Anyone else know what the heck is going on with this "gamesmaster" business and all these YouTubers? I sure don't, but my kids are into it. I am tempted to exile YT from the rankings this week for deleting one of my favorite music-related channels, but I have to factor in all the time I spent watching old commercials.

7) Pluto TV: It keeps adding to its free hodgepodge of channels, adding some more movie options this week. Hey, also, I just realized Mac and Me is available here on demand!

8) Flmstruck: I really slacked off this week but still found time to check out a few things, and it added a huge Greer Garson collection, a batch of Roberto Rossellini films, and an "Outbreaks" theme that features the likes of The Devils, Things to Come, and The Omega Man.

9) PIX 11: It can go weeks without adding any archival content, but then it goes and uploads a Billy Martin tribute and totally redeems itself.

10) YouTube TV: I just signed up for this to get the MLB playoffs (and maybe a little football while I'm at it), and I am fairly impressed apart from the fact that I found out the free trial is now 5 days instead of 7 days. Buffering was an issue a few times, but the overall price and channel selection is the best value right now if this thing works at all.

Friday, September 28, 2018

5 people I forgot were in "Singles" (1992, Cameron Crowe)

Filmstruck streamed Cameron Crowe's  1992 comedy Singles until the beginning of September, and, whoa, it had been a long time since I had seen it. Revisiting it reveals a movie that is of its time, which is good, but also kind of "dated" in its way. It's an entertaining movie, to be sure, and a valuable time capsule, but there are a lot of sitcom moments like answering machine catastrophes and mistaken identities. I highly recommend checking it out again or for the first time (it is now streaming for free on ad-supported Vudu)

1) Paul Giamatti:  In one scene early in the courtship (oh, how genteel I sound!) of the Campbell Scott and Kyra Sedgwick characters, they are seated nearby a very young Giamatti having a major makeout session (I sound a lot less genteel now) with a young woman. His indignant response to being called out for it is like a mini-classic Giamatti moment.

2) Eric Stoltz: Stoltz plays a mime who gets a ride to a show. Fear not, though, folks: Do you think Cameron Crowe would be foolhardy enough to cast Eric Freakin' Stoltz and waste him in a non-speaking role? Of course he wouldn't.  Of course he wouldn't.

3) Tom Skerritt: In one scene as the mayor who quickly shuts down Campbell Scott's dream project, Skerritt shows how great he was at being an icy prick.

4) Tim Burton: Pretentious filmmaker type who is willing and available to shoot your video (for 20 bucks) at the dating service Sheila Kelley uses. It's an amusing and clever cameo.

5) Victor Garber: A young Garber--wait, that was Godspell; this is a not-as-old, pre-Alias Garber--has an achingly sincere moment as the father of the young seatmate a chagrined Kelley gets on an airplane after asking for a spot next to a single guy.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Fall Books Preview (by "preview" I mean "list of stuff I want to read")

Do you like to read? I like to read! Sometimes I think what I really like is getting books and not having time to read them. So I shouldn't be going through lists of upcoming releases and adding items to my ever-expanding wish lists...but I do because I enjoy it. Here is a rundown of some of the Fall books (some already out) that interest me:

Big Game by Mark Liebovich (out now):  A political reporter spent time researching a book on what complete jerks the NFL owners are. Sounds pretty good to me!

Boom Town by Sam Anderson (out now): The story of Oklahoma City, somehow combining history, Big Oil, and the NBA.

The Spy and the Traitor by Ben Macintyre (out now): This guy writes a lot of acclaimed espionage-themed books, none of which I have read yet, and this one sounds very cool.

Hooked on Hollywood by Leonard Maltin (out now): A collection of archival interviews and features covering mostly old-school Hollywood cinema. No-brainer, and it happens to be available at a very nice Kindle price right now.

Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness, and the Battle for Chicago by Max Allan Collins (out now): The title says it all. Noted mystery/detective novelist Collins delivers an acclaimed nonfiction account of one of the epic crime sagas of the 20th century.

One-Dollar Football by Jeff Pearlman (out now): Pearlman has written some fantastic sports books, and this is his passion project, a history of the dearly departed USFL.

In Pieces by Sally Field (out now): I'm sure she has a lot to say!

Death of the Territories by Tim Hornbaker (September 18): Pro wrestling historian talking about the old territory system and its collapse as Vince McMahon went national with the WWF. I think I would read this in a night or two if I got it.

Grant by Ron Chernow (September 25): U.S. Grant, that is. I still haven't read Chernow's huge Hamilton bio, though (I did read Richard Brookhiser's)!

The Big Fella by Jane Leavy: (October 16): Do we really need another "definitive" Babe Ruth biography? Maybe not, but when Leavy (author of Sandy Koufax and Mickey Mantle bios) does it, it's worth a read.

My Love Story by Tina Turner (October 16): Remember when I said Sally Field had a lot to say? Well, that X2.

The Library Book by Susan Orlean (October 16): A story of a library fire and "a love letter to libraries"--sounds good to me.

American Dialogue: The Founders and Us by Joseph Ellis (October 16): I wish I had time/made time to read all of Ellis' books.

Thanks a Lot, Mr. Kibblewhite: My Story by Roger Daltrey (October 23): I'm sure HE has a lot to say!

I'll Be There for You: The One About Friends by Kelsey Miller (October 23): I'm not ashamed to say I am interested in reading an authoritative look at the show Friends. It seems like enough time has passed to get some good candor from the people involved but not so much time that the show is no longer relevant.

Seduction: Sex, Lies, and Stardom in Howard Hughes' Hollywood by Karina Longworth (Novermber 13): Longworth touched on this material in her excellent You Must Remember This podcast, and I'm delighted that she has expanded it into a book.

Heirs of the Founders: The Epic Rivalry of Henry Clay, John Calhoun, and Daniel Webster, the Second Generation of American Giants by H.W. Brands (November 13): I wish I had time/made time to read all of Brands' books.

Let's Go (So We Can Get Back) by Jeff Tweedy (November 13): Tweedy is an interesting dude, and I expect this to be a compelling read.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Streaming Video Power Rankings #129

I feel like the Emmys should play a big part in these rankings, but I didn't watch the ceremony, and nearly a week later, I feel like everyone has already forgotten about the awards.

1) HBO: Hey, Netflix, you did quite well, but HBO is still around and still way too expensive. We could all expect Game of Thrones to win Emmys, but what a showing for Barry. In addition to its own Emmy dominance, HBO celebrates the premiere of The Shape of Water and the streaming debut of Arli$$.

OK, let's not hold that last one against it.

2) Netflix: I'm still amazed that Netflix got an Emmy for Seven Seconds. Broadcast networks must really be going nuts to see a series like that, one hardly anyone remembers existed, win a huge award (Regina Hall). So Netflix must be feeling pretty good about itself.

New series this weekend include Maniac, reuniting Emma Stone and Jonah hill. I mean, everyone loves Emma Stone, right? And Jonah Hill...Well, Emma Stone seems to like him, so he can't be all bad, I guess. I saw some ads for The Good Cop  with Tony Danza and Josh Groban, and, so help me, it looks entertaining. Plus there's a documentary about Quincy Jones, and I sure hope it's 90 minutes of him rambling and dissing other celebrities.

3) Amazon Prime Video: I was pleased to see the love for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,  but perhaps more importantly, something called A Few Conversdations with Dabney Coleman just showed up. Also, random old movies from Sony and MGM keep showing up here.

4) YouTube: Tommy Wiseau's The Room (not to be confused with Jean Renoir's The Room) is now streaming officially on YouTube. 'Nuff said.

On the off chance that isn't 'nuff, last week the awesome Super 70s Sports Twitter account posted a photo of Burt Reynolds doing commentary in the CBS booth for a bowl game. A few clicks later, and I discover it's the Sun Bowl, and the complete broadcast is on YouTube. good!

5) Hulu: An also-ran at the Emmys, and is anyone talking about The First? Fortunately, I go there for stuff like Seinfeld and more classic TV.

6) CBS All Access: I think season 2 of Happy Days  is new here, and the fact that this service is quietly increasing its library bodes well. Plus the show page says, "Watch from the beginning," which is annoying as anything if it's only this one season, but will be nice if it means the whole run is coming. I also note the series--well, the token 12 episodes or whatever--is no longer on Hulu. Hmm...

I have one more week of my month trial, and I am enjoying what I am seeing. I did regret watching the end of a boring Indy/Washington game just to hope the CBS feed would switch to the Steelers game. Oh, it DID switch, and that's why I regretted it: I had to watch the sad resolution to that one.

7) Filmstruck: I can't say I'm thrilled about Debbie Reynolds being Star of the Week, but I admire the scope of the collection and the variety it represents. Plus I finally saw Night Moves with Gene Hackman, some prehistoric film animation, and an old episode of Studio One.

8) CBS Sports HQ: I only got a quick look on Saturday night, but it was valuable: scores and highlights with no fuss. This is a nice destination for cord-cutting sports fans,

9) NBC: I had way more fun than I should have watching an old Charles in Charge guest-starring the great 80s icon Jerry Levine, who was in Teen Wolf and...hey, wait. How was this guy not in like hundreds of movies in the eighties? I mean, he has a fine career and is a prolific broadcast TV director now, but, wow, I would have thought he was in everything.

10) Britbox: I have never subscribed, but I took a look at the offerings the other day. It's quietly assembled a decent lineup of new and vintage programming, I like the emphasis on "panel shows," (like a new one featuring Alan Davies), and a new sitcom with John Cleese should count for something.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Hazel: The Early Years "George's Niece"

It's been a while since we visited the Baxter residence, and I wish I could say we are coming back strong, but, no, George's Niece (November 16, 1961) is a gentle episode. It's nice. It has some very nice moments.

Dadgum it, though, I come to Hazel to see George. Well, Hazel, too, but preferably interacting with George. This episode delves into the extended Baxter family, namely snooty sister Deirdre (Cathy Lewis) and her daughter Nancy (Davey Davison).

Deirdre normally has "go away heat" with me, to invoke a pro wrestling term, but she at least gets some moments of redemption in this episode. Yes, eventually she can stop looking down her nose at Hazel long enough to give George's niece the attention she craves. Hazel even chokes up at this scene:

However, let's go back to the beginning and what is really important: the state of Mr. B's hand. Long-time readers are familiar with my theory that George injured himself in an underground pit fighting tournament. Well, we now see that the right hand is no longer wrapped up, but only that middle finger is bandaged:

Now that we have that out of the way, what else is notable about this episode? Well, it scores a strong 8.3 rating on IMDB, which indicates many viewers enjoy it more than I do. I think the sentimentality of it is appealing. There is a charming scene with Hazel and Mrs. B in which the two reminisce about Missy's own teenage days. It's nice to see them openly show the affection they have for each other and give us a reminder of the bond they share.

Hazel misses interacting with a teenage girl so much she is eager to help out Nancy as she and Deirdre move into town. Ah, the innocence of the 1960s! It's quaint hearing Hazel talk about staying up and listening to Missy talk about her dates...and to then see her do the same with Nancy.

Other highlights for me: Hazel singing fans can enjoy a few bars of "HE'LL Be Coming Round the Mountain." Unfortunately, Deirde's phone call interrupts the staircase serenade.

There's the weird notion of Hazel fixing up her own nephew with George's niece. Can you imagine the two families joining together? I don't mean to be as snobby as Deirdre, but it just seems like an odd possibility.  Worlds colliding!

Nancy will return in Hazel, but I don't think she marries Eddy Burke, even though, gosh, she sure is in love with him in this episode. And, gee, he KISSES her!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Streaming Video Power Rankings #128

Special shout-out to everyone dealing with Hurricane Florence, many of whom may not even have power this weekend. Believe me, I know how fortunate I am to be able to sit on my duff and watch streaming video in the comfort of my own place.

That said, it was a tremendous week for streaming, with tons of high-profile shows debuting and even a brand-new service launching a few days early. Let's get to it:

1) NBC: The mantra around here is, "New old stuff rules." So when I see that the NBC app (apparently the shows aren't available on the web) has added The Equalizer, The Six Million Dollar Man, and The Incredible Hulk, I give them extra credit. The first two weren't around anywhere else, and only half of the third was already on Hulu, so this is a great development. Also note that none of these shows appeared on NBC, which is embracing the "Universal" part of its library.

2) NewsOn: This aggregator on Roku collects newscasts from local stations around the country and makes it free and easy to watch them. It's a great service that is especially valuable in times of national disasters and emergencies.

3) Amazon Prime Video: I'm not even really interested in new series Forever, but I have watched a lot of Prime this week. I didn't mention Netflix debuting Black Panther last week, but that was because the highlight for me was Wait for Your Laugh, a charming documentary about the amazing Rose Marie:

I also enjoyed The Disaster Artist, and checking out recommendations after watching that led me to a bunch of, "Hey, that's on Prime!" finds.

4) YouTube: Apart from my kids getting hooked on some kind of running storyline involving a bunch of prominent YouTubers, I went down a rab-Burt hole the other day. There is always a fascinating undercurrent of hostility to Burt Reynolds, even sometimes when he is in "charming and self-deprecating" mode on Late Night or The Tonight Show. But my journey began with this gem: Burt denying he has AIDS (to Rona Barrett, no less) on Entertainment Tonight:

5) Netflix: I vowed last week to start getting back into the Netflix originals, and indeed I did, but, bam, then Netflix goes and dumps new seasons of Bojack, American Vandal, and a new show with Norm McDonald, which I intend to watch even if the obnoxious home page is trying to force me to do so.

6) Filmstruck: I sure do love Filmstruck, which gave me Advise and Consent  and Cleopatra Jones this week, then added a ton of James Mason...and Citizen Kane. Freaking Citizen Kane (and other movies with cinematography by Gregg Tolan)--come on!

7) CBS All Access: It enabled downloading/offline viewing of many of its programs this week, which is a cool move. Plus it threw up an assortment of old Murphy Brown episodes. I watched a couple, and it hit me: Yeah, I never did like Murphy Brown and probably never will. Still, credit to CBS for adding even a limited assortment of a series that isn't streaming anywhere else.

8) Hulu: Sean Penn has a new series on here, and that's a pretty big deal, right? I just have some kind of instant "UGH!" reaction when I see he's in something, so this will have to have great reviews to get me to check it out.

In other news, Hulu is adding a ton of Discovery shows, and that does nothing for me, but I'm sure some people are excited. Similarly, good timing to add The Haves and the Have Nots from OWN now that it's been in the news lately.

9) MLB TV: Well, at least it's a chance to see the young guys. That's what we tell ourselves when our teams aren't playing meaningful games in September.

10) DC Universe: It debuted a few days early on Roku, and it looks pretty good. I'm curious how the comic-reading experience looks on a TV, and I wish the Filmation cartoons and a few other things were available, but overall there is some cool content. Enough for 7 bucks a month? I'm not sure about that, but it does look worth a try.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Brooks on Books: Caddyshack: The Making of a Cinderella Story

One thing that stands out after reading Entertainment Weekly critic Chris Nashawaty's outstanding account of the making of the beloved comedy Caddyshack is the darkness. Oh, sure, we quote lines from the movie, we think of what a lark it must have been to be with all those funny people, we crack up at the sheer unhinged nature of Rodney Dangerfield...BUT...

But the movie was not a success when it premiered.

But not all the performers had a great time. It strikes me that Cindy Morgan, so sly and charismatic as Lacey in the film, had some terrible experiences during shooting, like being bullied by Jon Peters into doing nudity. Straight arrow and early riser Ted Knight resented his castmates' partying and didn't mesh with Dangerfield.

But the movie's co-writer/producer Doug Kenney died in a mysterious fall in Hawaii--way too young and believing his big project was a failure, never knowing the cultural icon it would become.

But rampant drug use throughout production may have seemed harmless at the time but casts a bit of a pall over the story now, especially considering the fate of the heavy abuser Kenney.

But if you sit and watch the movie now with fresh eyes, it's funny and memorable and a great time...but it's not really that great a movie. Even the people most involved in the production, like the late director Harold Ramis, admit it's a mess. The finished product in some ways reflects the inexperience of the filmmakers and the chaos caused by people winging it while fueled by various illicit substances.

Having said all that, I did rewatch it right after reading this book, and I had a good time. It's not a great movie, but it's a great watch, and the Dangerfield scenes are as funny as ever. Bill Murray is funny. Ted Knight is a tremendous slimy heel.

Let's talk about the book itself, though. Nashawaty began his research on Caddyshack when doing an article on the movie, then expanded it into this book. The good thing about the work's origins is that he was able to talk to Ramis before he died way too young. The author hustled and spoke to just about everybody important who was still around--yes, including Bill Murray, and, yes, there is a story behind it--and did a tremendous job shaping a focused, sharp narrative out of such a wild production.

One thing that stands out is that after a prelude, we don't really get into Caddyshack itself for over 100 pages. That's because Nashawaty goes all the way back to the beginning, telling the story of National Lampoon in great and compelling detail, then transitioning to a lively account of the making of National Lampoon's Animal House. 40% of the book is done before Caddyshack begins, but that makes perfect sense because, as Nashawaty shows, the film is a direct result of Kenney, Ramis, and co-writer Chris Miller wanting more control over their work after feeling director John Landis ended up with most of the responsibility (and power) on the smash hit Animal House.

There are many great "characters" in the narrative--Dangerfield, the volatile Chevy Chase (whose feud with Murray actually cooled during the movie), controversial producer Jon Peters...but perhaps the most intriguing is Kenney. The writer is lauded as a comic genius time and again in the text, yet his drug use spirals out of control as the book advances, ending up in death and confusion for friends like Chase, who left him in Hawaii days before his death. The realization that the troubled creative force never realized what an impact the movie had makes a bittersweet conclusion to the book.

Make no mistake, though, you get great stories about drugs, sex, and rock and roll (yes, you get the story of how Kenny Loggins came to write the movie's theme song). You learn about the original direction of the screenplay, with all those caddies whose scenes wound up shredded to ribbons. You read about the massive overlong early cuts and how editing saved the movie (with Peters, of all people, contributing the idea of using the gopher as a narrative throughline to pull things together).

It's a tremendous read, well written and backed by great research and interviews. I think the story of Caddyshack captures the highs (no pun intended) and lows of an era of comedy, and the bittersweet feeling at the end is appropriate. If you do need a solid laugh, though, just put on the movie and head right to the Al Czervik scenes.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Streaming Video Power Rankings #127: Special KICKOFF edition

I'd be tempted to put ESPN+ in this week's rankings because of the return of college football, but I tried to contact their customer service and didn't get a response until a week later, and that response did not help.

And while I'm at it, why can the NFL still not produce a decent Roku channel with interesting free content?

I think I'm done talking about channels that did not make the ratings. Let's get to the ones that did:

1) Netflix: It stands out in a slow week by just throwing a bunch of originals out there, but I'm nowhere near caught up enough to take on Iron Fist's second season. So for me it's been Cheers reruns lately. I also enjoyed seeing a few things that were expiring, like It Might Get Loud.

Who am I kidding, the main thing here is my kids trying to monopolize the TV for another Mako Mermaids marathon. While I'm being honest, I was reading a magazine from a couple months ago, and it hit me that I had totally forgotten a new season of Arrested Development came out. This week I vow to get back into some of the Netflix originals.

Hard to beat Cheers after a long day at work, though.

2) Filmstruck: I saw a couple of old John Ford comedies this week, and the service just added a ton of Ernst Lubitsch. This service is kicking it each and every week.

3) Hulu: I could talk about all the movies added for September, the return of Sarah Silverman's series,
or the addition of Comcast execs to Hulu's board--actually, I don't want to even think about something I enjoy being meddled with by Comcast--but really Hulu is high this week because I watched a great episode of Seinfeld the other day.

I think people remember The Café for the introduction of Babu, but George cheating on his IQ test is one of the all-time great scenarios on the series. I love the way he tries to casually dismiss the fact that his test has food stains on it despite him being locked inside a bedroom the whole time.

Anyway, Hulu checks in at number 3, and it should be a contender each week now that the new TV season is near.

4) Roku Channel: It added an interesting assortment of movies for September, plus early I Dream of Jeannie and Ray Bradbury Theater.

5) Amazon Prime Video: I got back into watching the Dean Martin roasts, which is good because it's one of those shows where if you go too long between episodes, you run the risk of totally losing your place when you pick it back up.

6) YouTube: If you want to do your Burt Reynolds tribute up right and watch some Dan August, you have to go here.

7) CBS All Access: You haven't streamed until you've gotten sucked into early Caroline in the City on here.

8) Shout! Factory TV: new stuff ths month includes The Prisoner, Space 1999, and not just the original Screw Balls, but Screw Balls II: Loose Screws as part of a "back to school" collection.

9) Hoopla: I enjoyed a few more episodes of British series Striking Out on here. Man, there really IS a ton of Acorn TV on here. My library system only allows a handful of downloads a month, which prevents burning through a whole series, but, hey, it's free.

10) MLB TV: Nothing beats meaningful September baseball...except meaningful October baseball. I sure wish that for the price they charged for this, they could find a way to stream postseason games on here.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

5 Fascinating Things About "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry"

"Fascinating" may be pushing it. How about interesting? Notable? Would you believe "things that aren't totally dull?"

The fact is, when something is expiring on Netflix, all of a sudden, I feel the urge to see it, even if it's something I don't think I will particularly like. Case in point: I Now Pronounce You Chuck and larry, the Adam Sandler/Kevin James "pretend to be a gay couple to get benefits" movie that really seems like it's from a different era. In fact it is--all the way from 2007!

This movie isn't necessarily "on brand" for me, but I did chuckle a few times. Here are 5 things that stand out to me after seeing it for the first time:

*Dennis Dugan cameo: Dennis Dugan may always be Richie Brockelman, or at least staple of late 1970s TV,  to a large segment of the populace, but he has this long connection with Sandler. I can't help but wonder, how does Dugan pick his spots? Is he like, "OK, this case worker is a great little part. I gotta do this"?

*Gary Valentine is in it: What is the deal with Gary Valentine, a poor man's Kevin James who keeps turning up in projects in which he A) appears with Kevin James yet B) is not related to Kevin James.

(Brief pause for research)

Oh, wait, he's Kevin James' brother! Well, that makes partial sense. Yet he played James' cousin in King of Queens, and in Chuck and Larry, he is not in any way related to Chuck--or is it Larry? I still don't know.

Actually, I don't know if they shared any shots, which almost makes it worse. In one early scene, Sandler's and James' firefighter characters are on their way to a blaze with their crew, and as everyone banters on the truck, Sandler suddenly addresses Valentine, and the shot of Kevin's bro jars and confuses me.

I forgot that the guy kept turning up in his bro's projects, so for a minute I thought James' character had grown a mustache while on the way to the fire. I mean, it's really distracting to have he and James in the same movie and not be related or not have the resemblance noted. Maybe this is an intentional rib done on the audience?

*Pointless "Asian" cameo by Rob Schneider: Speaking of the cronies who turn up in these movies, Rob Schneider "spices up" the narrative by playing an Asian gentleman who performs the marriage ceremony for Chuck and Larry. The character is Asian for no other reason, apparently, than to let Schneider do an over-the-top dialect. I mean, it's not like Sandler's buddy IS Asian, is he?

(Brief pause for research)

According to Wikipedia: "Schneider's maternal grandmother was a Filipina who met and married his grandfather, a white American army private, while he was stationed in the Philippines"

Hmm. I guess...that makes it OK? It's like they decided, "The gay stuff isn't offensive enough because we ultimately come down hard on the side of tolerance and acceptance. We gotta throw something else in there."

*Fetishization of Jessica Biel's body: Hey, I'm not complaining. I did find it fascinating. Let's again go to Mind of the Filmmakers Theatre: "No straight guy is gonna want to go see this unless we have shots of Jessica Biel undressing in the trailer. Then every straight guy is gonna want to go see this."

*Sandler as a chick magnet: This may be the single most offensive aspect of the entire film. Forget the whole theme of the movie, including the gay jokes; forget Schneider's--well, his entire performance; forget everything, really. Sandler's character is some kind of super stud right from the beginning of the movie, when two hot twins fight over him. Soon afterwards, he takes a bevy of Hooters girls back to his place and clearly has them mesmerized by his raw sexual machismo.

I guess it's good to call the shots in your movies. This whole scenario threw me so much I never could explore the sociopolitical angles of the gay marriage storyline.

Monday, September 3, 2018

'Mooners Monday: Leave it there; the cat'll get it!

I really didn;t know about the rich history of ad-libs in The Honeymooners until I plowed through The Official Honeymooners Treasury and read all kinds of anecdotes about bloopers and mishaps and cast's reactions to them as the cameras kept rolling. One of the most famous ad-libs in the series' run comes in Alice and the Blonde. Bert Weedemeyer is bringing out refreshments to the gang:

Suddenly he knocks into the coffee table and spills a little.

Art Carney as Ed Norton leans over and says in classic animated Norton fashion: "Leave it there; the cat'll get it!"

In itself, that isn't so hilarious if you don't know it's an unscripted reaction to Bert's accident. However, once you know it isn't supposed to happen, it becomes one of the more fascinating moments in 'Mooners lore.

First, I love Ralph's over-the-top reaction to Norton's comment. With a huge smile, he cackles, "Leave it there; the cat'll get it!"

He turns to Alice and repeats it with a tone of, "Come on, didn't you hear his hilarious remark?"

Gleason's reaction is entirely in character because Ralph is in classic "sucking up and trying to be charming" mode, in which he exaggerates everything to demonstrate what a good time he's having.

However, Alice is already fed up with this, so Audrey Meadows' stern, "I heard him," is also in character:

And check out Ralph's chagrined face after Alice kills the moment:

Again, by itself, this isn't hilarious stuff, though it is amusing and totally in keeping with the rest of the scene. But when you think that this is all done on the fly, it seems perfect, an amazing sequence of talented performers taking something unexpected and turning it into something entertaining and 100% appropriate to the larger purpose of the story.

In The Official Honeymooners Treasury, Art Carney himself tells the authors they didn't do a lot of ad-libbing and mostly stuck to the script, but Gleason trusted him and knew he wasn;t trying to upstage him or steal his thunder." He also tells them, "I still use that line." Even away from Norton, he would throw that into a rehearsal or scene when something fell, and sometimes, he said, they would keep it in."

Freda Rosen, who plays Rita, says in the book:

The unusual thing is that when somebody comes out with an ad-lib to save something, then usually that's it, they go back to the script. With The Honeymooners, the unusual thing is that you ad-libe, and then the other guy picks up on it, and they really turn it into something funny. You'd never know it was an ad-lib  if you didn't study this stuff and get it under your skin.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Streaming Video Power Rankings #126: Special Labor Day Edition

The 3-day weekend brings us the opportunity for rest, reflection, and...really intense streaming? I don't know. A lot happened in the SVOD world this week, so these rankings do not reflect the September 1 adds that so many of our favorite streamers will unveil this weekend. Expect them to be a factor next week.

1) CBS All-Access:  How does a fairly lame overpriced paid service win me over? Well, giving away a 30-day free trial helps. It's amazing that it includes the ad-free option. When I signed up and saw the prompt to choose ad-free or with ads, my reaction was:

" this a trick question?"

Also, CBS obviously is reading and reacting to these rankings. At some point in recent weeks, it added a bunch of Gunsmoke episodes as I recommended right here. For now it's only the first two hourling seasons (7 and 8), but it still counts. Now let's get Mannix on here before my free month expires.

2) Netflix: It might have been #1 if not for a frustrating morning I spent trying to watch an episode of...anything except the Disenchantment trailer it seemed to want to force me to sample. I thoroughly enjoyed the end of The Flash season 4, plus my kids and I enjoyed the new series Magic for Humans. Bonus points for my kids being done with Fuller House...for now.

3) Filmstruck: I caught Singles (dated? Let's say it's a time capsule, but it's a fun movie either way) and Where Danger Lives (Mitchum in an entertaining noir) before they expired, and Filmstruck just added collections devoted to Paul Newman, mockumentaries, and--this is fun--early animation shorts (or as those of us in less posh circles might say, cartoons) featuring the likes of Felix the Cat.

4) YouTube: This week, I checked out a 20-minute (or so) clip of mostly 1970s CBS TV promos and bumpers, and I loved it. I also watched Ray Parker Jr.'s Ghostbusters video for the first time in years. You know, the Jeffrey Tambor and Al Franken cameos may not hold up so well now, but I still wonder why they happened then.

5) WWE Network: On a weekend in which a huge indie wrestling event is going to celebrate ring action and non-corporate action, let's not forget that on the Network you can see an episode of Prime Time Wrestling that has a 5-minute match between The British Bulldogs and The Hart Foundation followed by 20 minutes of the Harts on a parody of The Dating Game hosted by Vince McMahon.

6) Nosey: I'm not telling you I didn't watch another episode of Sally devoted to troubled teens, but I sure ain't telling you I did. Let's say the high ranking is based on this: I can't find it there now, but one day I saw a "Nosey Hidden Gem" of an episode of a mystery daytime talk series. The description involved heroin and prostitution. What a gem!

7) Prime Video: I didn't watch a lot of Prime this week, but the service gained a ton of MGM library films this week, and it debuts the nifty-looking Jack Ryan series  this weekend. I think TV could use some more non-comic book straight-up action shows. Lethal Weapon ain't cutting it.

8) Tubi TV: The "Tubi channels" concept is going into effect, with free "channels" akin to the paid ones on Amazon Prime. The good news it's free here. The bad news is it's hard to organize and sort through them.

That said, it is very cool that a lot (but not all...yet) of the Shout! TV content is available here. It may have less ads (I haven't tested that yet), plus unlike on Shout!, you can add to a queue, the continue watching is reliable, and you don't have to add a stupid ! each time you write Tubi.

9) NBC: Give this free outlet credit for adding all episode of Heroes and Saved by the Bell. Man, I rank NBC and CBS in the same week? Feels like I'm selling out to THE MAN.

10) Hulu: I'd like to see Hulu step it up a bit in September, though Castle Rock does seem to gain momentum each week.