Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, January 30, 2015

Open Letter to the Girl Ghostbusters Hate Brigade

Dear Fanboys,

I must address this letter directly to the fellas, as the voices calling loudly out against the upcoming new version of the 1980s fantasy comedy Ghostbusters are male and their big reason for objecting is due to an all female cast made up of Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon.

So, boys, I have to start this off by saying if your beef was about Hollywood once again going for the safe setting in movie making by greenlighting yet another remake/reboot/reimaging of a well established classic, I would be agreeing with you. Unfortunately, we're back in "He-Man Woman Haters Club" territory here, as one of the more polite protests raised is that this all-woman casting is a way of "pandering" to a certain audience:

Now, it would be all too easy for both you and I to point out the fact that there's  an equal number of women who were fans of the original movie(who appreciated Sigourney Weaver and Annie Potts just as much as Bill Murray and Dan Ackroyd there) as men are assumed to be, as well as the sad sexism being showcased with this pop culture kerfuffle.

 Instead, I'm going to do something that many of you wouldn't do for a woman in any case; respect your intelligence by offering a reasonable solution to your movie fan dilemma. Don't think of this new Ghostbusters as a remake or a reboot; think of it as a revival. You know, like a Broadway play such as Chicago or You Can't Take It With You, and I have a pretty good example in mind to show you what I mean.

Neil Simon's The Odd Couple began life as a stage play back in 1965 and become a major motion picture starring Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon in 1968, earning a few Oscar nominations in the bargain.

The success of the film lead to it being adapted into a long running TV sitcom with Tony Randall and Jack Klugman, which is almost better known in some circles than the original film. The show was so popular a made-for-TV reunion movie was made in 1993, over a decade after the series was aired.

 Since then, The Odd Couple has been brought back to pop culture life in several ways, with Neil Simon releasing an all-female version of the play, an African-American themed sitcom called The New Odd Couple that ran for a brief time in 1982 and at one point, even a Saturday morning cartoon called "The Oddball Couple."

No joke, it had a sloppy dog and a finicky cat as the Oscar and Felix characters(they were named Fleabag and Spiffy) and I do remember watching this as a kid, knowing it was connected to the sitcom version at the very least:

How does The Odd Couple's persistence relate here? Well, another new version of TOC is due to air this February with Matthew Perry and Thomas Lemmon as the leads. Why is this show returning to the airwaves, creative laziness or mere nostaglia, you may ask?

Actually, I think it's simply due to the fact that the basic character set-up works so well. Two polar opposites find themselves in a similar situation and team up to help each other figure out what to do and where to go with their new lives. Even if Neil Simon isn't directly involved, the frame work is still in place.

 This premise is strong enough on it's own that it can and has had different takes on it's main characters(gender, race and even species) without any problems relating to general audiences. Sure, some versions didn't last as along as others but good laughs were always to be found in any fresh rendition of TOC. The upcoming new series might even be worth watching,too:

Now, let's look at the set-up for Ghostbusters; a group of smart yet off beat individuals pool their special skills together to not only make a profit but to save humanity from supernatural menaces.  With a basic game plan like that, how could something like changing the gender of the leading characters be such a problem?

I know plenty of you fellas are not crazy about female comedians to begin with and only tolerate woman warriors in the sci-fi/fantasy realm if they're "hot" but come on, guys, this is the time to play like grown-ups in the modern era, not pout like the stereotypical nerd boys that I know you can't stand to be thought of as. 

If the fine example that The Odd Couple has set forth  in terms of creative flexibility is not enough for you, consider this: Bill Murray is totally on board with this deal and if the word of Dr. Peter Venkman is not good enough for you, then you aren't true fans of the film in the first place. Don't be afraid to cross the streams, guys, you might be surprised at how much fresh franchise goodness awaits you.


Lady T and the rest of the folks already in line for the new Ghostbusters flick:

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Gordon's fishy favor on Gotham,love troubles on Downton Abbey and the awesomeness of The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore

A lot went down on Gotham this week, as Fish Mooney barely managed to escape a gruesome fate, thanks to her henchman Butch and by calling in a favor from Det. Bullock.

She wasn't the only one who needed some dubious assistance here, as Jim Gordon's first full day back at the GCPD brought him a plateful of guilt, due to a witness to a murder being killed right inside the police station.

 Since the bad guys behind that were also cops(with crooked ties that went far up the chain of command), Gordon had no choice but to call upon his "friend" Oswald, who was reveling in the glory of Fish's downfall. Granted, it was rather naive of Gordon to actually think that his request that "no one gets hurt" was going to work but perhaps that caveat was simply meant to ease his own conscience there.

Lucky for him that he put in his favor before Fish showed up to get some payback. Granted, she didn't get too far with that but still, Penguin needs to watch his back a bit more closely these days. His good pal Jim Gordon might not always be there to return his favor:

There's been quite a bit of focus on Lady Mary's romantic issues on Downton Abbey this season as her break-up with Gillingham didn't go as well as she expected(no surprise there). However, a much more interesting affair of the heart  is developing as Lady Cora is enjoying a serious flirtation with  Mr. Brickner, a visiting art dealer.

While I highly doubt that Cora would take that particular turn away from her marriage, she has been getting some much deserved attention and praise for her intellect that Lord Grantham has been pointedly ignoring for some time here. Quit being such a jerk, buddy, and give Cora the respect and admiration she deserves and wants from you,genius!

Also, I do hope that Isobel says "yes" to Lord Morton, as his sincere proposal of marriage was so charming and sweet(plus it would irk Countess Violet to no end,another bonus there). As much as I think Lord Grantham is being quite the bore these days, I don't blame him a bit for going off at Miss Bunting during that last dinner. Woman, know when to quit while you're ahead, especially if you really want Branson to be your boyfriend or some much more:

We're at the second week mark for The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore and this late night series is not only an excellent successor to The Colbert Report, it's fast becoming must-see TV for it's own marvelous merits.

I am so glad that the folks at Comedy Central decided to promote from within(Wilmore was the "senior black correspondent" on The Daily Show for awhile) and despite what a certain reviewer might think, he's not just another Bill Maher.

 In fact, Larry Wilmore is a thousand times better and far more smartly succinct than that pompous pay cable personality is or ever will be. The format of TNS takes one topic, such as the Bill Cosby allegations, the anti-vaccine movement and the pop culture debate over the merits of the movie American Sniper, and gives it their full attention with a monologue, panel discussion and a segment called "Keep It 100", which insists on honest answers to tough questions.

The panel talks on TNS are conducted with more respect to each speaker than some "serious" news programs do and Wilmore's commitment to answering a Keep It 100 question himself at the end of each show(that question being provided by Twitter followers) rounds the whole topic of the day out nicely. If you haven't caught The Nightly Show yet, trust me when I say it is well worth staying up late for:


KITTEN BOWL: I know this is the big sports weekend for most folks but for me, I have Downton Abbey and The Kitten Bowl as my can't hardly wait viewing. Yes, the Puppy Bowl was first(and will be on this Sunday as well) but watching a pack of cute kitties take the playing field is what makes this day so special for me and my fellow feline fans:

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Chilling with some tricky TV villains

While the weather outside is frightful(altho not as bad as expected there), I thought it would be fun to enjoy some indoor chills by taking a look at a trio of major TV villains and their influence on the genre.

Granted, each one is set in a very different time and place but there are a few interlocking parts to their natures that connect them together. All three of them have literary based beginnings and their great weapon against the world is being vastly underestimated in their ability to undermine the current status quo. Also, each one gives a special nuance to both the story and heroes that they're set against.

First up in this sinister line-up is Oswald Cobblepot, aka The Penguin on the before-there-was-Batman series Gotham. While the show itself has been seen for the most part as a tale of hits and misses, this bad boy has won the hearts and minds of many viewers with his quietly calculating ways.

Much of the credit for that goes to actor Robin Lord Taylor for his fits like a glove performance, as well as the chemistry between him and Jada Pinkett as Fish Mooney, Cobblepot's former boss and now criminal rival.

However, the writers were smart enough to reinvent this well known member of Batman's Rogues Gallery by not only making him younger but portraying him as a slippery schemer who is working as many angles as he can. That is consistent with most of the comic book versions of the Penguin but here, he's not seen as merely a waddling menace to be laughed off, as some adaptations have showcased him as.

This version of Oswald Cobblepot has an air of former nobility, a once prominent family that has gone to seed  during the progressing generations. His mannerisms remind me of Uriah Heep, one of the great foils of Charles Dickens' David Copperfield, a supposedly meek and mild clerk who used ruthless means to try and dominate the weaknesses of his kindly employer.

 Cobblepot's "humble" demeanor is right in line with that character, even down to  having a wickedly doting mother who encourages her boy in his evil ambitions. This Dickensian flair is the perfect topper to the elegantly evil slice of sickly sweet cake that this future Dark Knight nemesis serves up every week:

Next up is Jonathan "Black Jack" Randall, the British officer with a taste for sadism against his Scottish foes in the miniseries Outlander. The fact that he closely resembles his future descendant Frank provides much trouble to the heroine Claire's initial resistance to believe in his outright sociopathic nature.

Tobias Menzies deserves full credit for deftly balancing Captain Randall's twisted need to torment Jamie and Claire along side the emotional torment that Frank feels as his wife's mysterious disappearance goes on with little help from the authorities or his friends.  In regards to being faithful to Diana Gabaldon's novels that are the basis for the series, this take on Black Jack is remarkably true to the page.

 This adaptation,however, has given a bit more freedom for both Frank and Jack to move around in, with Black Jack making the most of his time on stage.

His wicked word play with Claire as they verbally fence always makes for  a good scene but it's the lull before the storm moments that make Jack Randall appear all the more dangerous. Even in a simple thing like showing a young soldier how to give a proper shave can you see the real nature of the threat that Black Jack possesses.

How much time Black Jack Randall has left on Outlander I can not say(still working my way through the second book) but one thing is for certain; you can and should not take your eye off him:

Last yet far and away from least is current incarnation of Sherlock Holmes' archenemy Moriarty on Elementary. By changing genders and combining this classic villain with the hero's greatest love Irene Adler, the show has pulled off quite the hat trick here.

Adding to the delightful evil goodness is having Natalie Dormer play Moriarty, as her lively sense of fun and cold blooded charm prove to be perfect opposition for both Holmes and Watson(particularly interesting is the undertone of feminine rivalry between Joan Watson and Jamie Moriarty).

Having Sherlock deal with his greatest enemy not only as an intellectual equal but a former lover as well does up the ante on the stakes. It certainly makes all of their future interactions take on more personal meaning, for one, and for a Sherlock Holmes series, finding something new to work with is crucial to it's success.

 No doubt, some of the Arthur Conan Doyle faithful may frown on this retake for both characters(plenty of them weren't happy with Watson being a woman either) but it just proves how powerful the basic templates of these iconic characters are that such a transition serves to enhance rather than hinder them.

While we haven't seen Moriarty for some time(most likely due to Dormer's busy schedule on Game of Thrones), she is still out there and could return when least expected. When she does, her presence will be very wickedly welcome indeed:

 Small screen villainy isn't as easy as it seems. The opportunity to develop and grow is there,of course, but one wrong step or two can make a formidable foe become either a figure of flimsy threat or a ludicrous comic relief.

When it's done well, such effort should be just as appreciated as any silver screen monster is and this particular trio of TV sized trouble makers is suitably evil enough to match any of their cinematic counterparts nicely(unlike a certain pack of silly boys gone bad from Sunnydale's past):

Monday, January 26, 2015

Running through a readathon or two

This weekend, I took part in National Readathon Day, sponsored by the National Book Foundation in order to raise funds for literacy programs throughout the country.

I signed up with Good Reads and pledged to read for four hours on Saturday,Jan. 24(did a little live tweeting of my progress as well), with a trio of books, one which I managed to finish by Sunday afternoon.

It was good to switch from one book to the other, as buckling down to just read during an allotted time period can be a bit daunting. Not that I wouldn't be reading anyway during that day but making a plan to do so was both fun and rather formal there.

 So, while I made a good start in Larry McMurtry's The Evening Star(finished up Terms of Endearment before the weekend, which means my Road to Rereading project  is moving along smoothly) and advanced forth in The Barefoot Queen by Ildefonso Falcones, completing The American Heiress was the best benefit to my Currently Reading pile.

Daisy Goodwin's debut novel is pure catnip to Downton Abbey fans like me, as the story follows Cora Cash, a New York socialite in the 1890s whose social climbing mother is bound and determined to have her girl marry into English nobility. While visiting in Britain, Cora happens to literally fall down over Ivo Maltravers, a second son of a Duke thrust into the number one son position by the untimely death of his brother.

Needing to marry money in order to preserve what's left of the family estate, Ivo and Cora do find themselves falling in love with each other and getting married. However, a number of secrets and lies that some hoped would lie dormant wind up rising up to offer Cora a true challenge to her social skills as well as her heart's desire.

Not only is the main story beautifully written, plenty of supporting characters are allowed a solid moment in the spotlight as well. My favorite subplot belongs to Bertha, Cora's maid who makes many emotional sacrifices to her mistress and suffers through heartbreak and an interracial romance with the strength and dignity that many would expect to see from the so-called "upper classes".  If you haven't picked this one up, I wholeheartedly encourage you to do so at all haste(the title in England is My Last Duchess, hence this video clip):

Now, with a major winter storm brewing in my area, another readathon is ready to begin and it's about a week long, meaning it should end by the time the last of the snow is swept up from the streets and highways.

A Winter's Respite has been arranged by Seasons of Reading and in addition to the small pile of light and lively novels I have set aside for this challenge, I am adding yet one more. Considering the impending blizzard, what could be more appropriately titled than A Week in Winter?

This is Maeve Binchy's final work, published after her death, and like most of her delightful stories is set in a small town in Ireland. Geraldine "Chicky" Starr returns to her seaside home town of Stoneybridge, after twenty years in New York, to revive an old stately house and turn it into an inn. Chicky manages to recruit her niece Orla and a local young man into helping her as plans to have their first round of guests become more real.

I've already started the book(along with The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet) and it's one of Binchy's typical charmers, just the type of tale to sit back and relax with. I so miss Our Dear Maeve, she was such a lovely lady of letters:

So, being in a reading frenzy at the moment is a very good thing, especially during a snow event that is planting itself at my doorstep, like it or not. In truth, I don't mind it that much as it gives me plenty of opportunity to immerse myself in the pleasures of a good book, along with time to recover from such complete joy that finishing one brings:

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Fish is about to fry on Gotham, The Flash speeds back and the sister dilemma on Downton Abbey

Quite a bit of business went in Gotham this week, as Jim Gordon managed to bluff his way back onto the police force,thanks to the revenge antics of the Electrocutioner, and is successful in reclaiming his former badge.

However, the biggest plot in motion fell apart, as Fish Mooney made her move on Falcone by "kidnapping" her pawn Liza and giving him the option of leaving town for good with his beloved. Falcone, thanks to a heads-up from Oswald and his own inner instincts, caught onto the set-up and insulted by Fish's use of the memory of his mother to manipulate him, took matters literally in his own hands(goodbye,Liza!).

That whole ploy seemed to be rather weak tea to me; as someone planning to conquer a criminal empire, surely Fish considered a much more hostile takeover there. Leaving former allies turned enemies alive is almost always a bad idea, as her old pal The Penguin is living proof of. That Oswald played a prime part in knocking the blocks out of her sinister structure is quite the salt to the fresh wounds to come to our Miss Mooney, no doubt about it.

However, I do have the feeling that she might be rescued at some point(Alfred does own her a favor,after all, and he is quite the bad ass) from her gruesome fate but not without some serious payback being added to Fish's bill. Just have to wait and see, which shouldn't be too long:

The Flash returned from it's brief winter break this week with not one but two(and possibly a third) villains as Captain Cold recruited a flame bug pal of his to be Heat Wave.

These bad boys made their bid to rule the roost by pulling heists in order to draw Flash out into the open and  kudos must be granted to the casting department for pairing up the former Prison Break stars(Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell) as the bad guys.

The instant chemistry between these wicked warriors makes the threat from their fire and ice weapons all the more believable and menacing. That wasn't the only tough situation for Barry to deal with, as Iris moving in with Eddie proved to be an emotional toll on him and her dad.

Also, the hovering threat of the Reverse Flash came close to sidelining Barry's hero path as Dr. Wells kept pushing his guilt buttons(you are so evil, Wells, can't wait for your true colors to be revealed!) in order to make Barry stick to training for another rematch.

This show is all kinds of good and it just keeps getting better. I would like a little less naivete on Barry's part but that takes time, plus when the real deal behind the Reverse Flash is made known, the pay off will be even sweeter. In the mean time, this bout of double trouble with Captain Cold and Heat Wave was a great way to start things up again:

 My patience with Lady Mary is growing rather thin, as her big dilemma on Downton Abbey this season is pursuing her sex life. I don't begrudge her wanting some sexy time between the sheets but she is dragging other people into her personal business(some rather reluctantly) and that's not cool.

Mind you, she's a widow and should be able to enjoy a romp in the hay now and then,despite the standards of the time period, yet she is sort of leading Tony on about getting married, which is not the right thing to do in any decade.

Her whole "I need to be sure before taking that step" attitude seems to be an excuse to have her cake and eat it, too. Yes, men of that period could and did do the same thing but selfish is selfish, in my opinion and Mary has always been an entitled miss who never stops to think about the effects of her actions upon others. Plus, making Anna hide her birth control at her private home for her is so "oh,please!" there.

Contrast that with Lady Edith's near silent agony as her frequent visits to her love child are making the adopted mother(who doesn't know that Edith is the birth mom) so upset that she had to be banished temporarily from seeing her baby girl Marigold.

What kills me is how blind her family is to Edith's pain. Granted, they have plenty on their plate as it is but even the staff can see how much misery the poor woman is in-why doesn't anyone buy a fricking clue already? *sigh* I know this is the usual way that Crawleys treat Edith but it pains me, nonetheless.

 Mary tends to ignore her sister at best and sneer dismissively at her suffering at the worst yet would be so wrong for these two to have some sort of compare and contrast heart to heart at some point? If there is, I hope that Edith gives her hell and wins the fight, for once:


PENNY DREADFUL: The Showtime series returns this April, with a new set of chills and thrills and I for one intend to drink down every ghoulish drop. I only hope that this new season ups the ante on the terrors presented in their first go-round:

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Planning a Winter's Respite of reading

With a new year comes new opportunities to do better and since my Christmas Spirit read-a-thon didn't go very well(never finished the second book in my pile), I seek redemption in next week's Seasons of Reading sponsored event, A Winter's Respite.

Fortunately, this one doesn't require a set number of titles or a particular theme, leaving me plenty of options. My plan is to treat this like a vacay(or mini-break, if you're feeling British) and just read a few select books strictly for fun. I will mark my progress on Twitter and have a midway report here at LRG(and a finale one as well). So, let's look at the novels that I plan to party with:

GETTING ALL HEATED UP: The Nikki Heat mystery series that ties in the literary world created by the TV series Castle are pretty much like the source material; smart, fun and a bit steamy at times.

Having enjoyed Heat Wave, I recently picked up two of the latest books featuring NYPD detective Nikki and her journalist buddy Jameson Rook,Frozen Heat and Deadly Heat.  Both stories involve a plot line regarding the mysterious death of Nikki's mother, a story element that was a solid basis for a couple of seasons of Castle which makes me all the more eager to crack these covers open.

 It's interesting that the Richard Castle titles are getting enough readers(there are also Derek Storm books and graphic novels out as well) to warrant this much shelf space, but why not expand the pulpy pleasures that this show has in abundance? Besides, a world with Richard Castle books to read sounds like a great place to be:

LIZZIE BENNET OVERDRIVE: On my last shopping trip, I snagged a copy of The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet, the tie-in tome to the fabulous Pemberley Digital web series.

Written by the creators of the show(Bernie Su and Kate Rorick), this book promises to have a little more insight into the lives of the Bennet family and their growing circle of on and offline acquaintances.

Now, I know that this book received mixed reviews from both critics and fans alike but having a piece of this great Jane Austen themed show to turn pages in is sort of a must(besides, I don't own the official DVD). My expectations are reasonably set here, not to mention perhaps an excuse to watch a few of the videos again to better appreciate the new perspective being offered here? Plus, plenty of questions are sure to asked and answered by reading TSDOLB(too many initials, I think), no doubt about it:

HAVING A FLING WITH MISS FISHER: If I have any time left over, I will try to finish up the newest addition to my Nook library which is Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood.

Cocaine Blues is the first title in the Phryne Fisher mysteries that has become an enchanting TV series(Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries) now available in the US. The leading lady of this series is a too smart for her own good flapper that emigrates to Australia and starts up a sleuthing business.

Our Miss Fisher doesn't just catch killers with her quick wits and pearl handled pistol; she also battles social injustice along the way. Subjects like abortion, women's rights and  prejudice against race and religion crop up in her line of duty. I've heard great things about the Miss Fisher show(even caught an episode on PBS recently) and plan to watch season one via Netflix, yet reading the books as well should be even more of a kick:

 The Winter's Respite read-a-thon begins on January 26th and ends on February 1st, so there is plenty of time to join in if you like. Believe me, I could use a break from the every day right now as another brief family illness has come and gone(my little sister is thankfully on the mend).

 Also, putting aside most of my regular reading for a little while,excerpt for my Year of Rereading and Classic Morning Read, should clear up some of my book piles there. One thing is for certain with this new literary venture-complaining about having "nothing to read" will be entirely moot indeed:

Monday, January 19, 2015

Carrie Snyder gives us a Girl Runner worth keeping up with

In Carrie Snyder's debut novel,Girl Runner, we met Aganetha "Aggie" Smart at the age of 104, who is whiling away the remainder of her life alone in a nursing home. When two young people sign her out for a day trip, claiming to be family, Aggie is aware enough to know that they are not who they seem.

However, she is game for one last adventure and willing to go along for the ride this brother and sister(named Kaley and Max) act are taking her on. It turns out that both of them are interested in Aggie's past glory as an Olympic runner for Canada back in 1928, with hopes that making a film about Aggie will help raise money for Kaley to achieve her own gold medal dreams.

For Aggie, this becomes a time to run through her memories as quickly as she used to run across the fields of her family's farm. Becoming an Olympian was something she sort of stumbled into and for a woman of that time period, such a thing was almost like a fairy tale come true:

Aggie found herself at the age of 16 becoming the center of attention from many outside sources, which made her uncomfortable yet it also gained her some friends who weren't part of her family back home, one best friend in particular.

Due to having her training sponsored by a prominent candy company in Toronto, she meets Glad, the niece of the owner who is also on the team and she instantly takes a shine to Aggie. Their relationship is based on a friendly rivalry, with often times Aggie allowing Glad to take the lead both on and off the track.

As they both achieve mutual success(and even a boyfriend for Aggie), the bonds of friendship between Glad and Aggie are challenged almost harsher than the Olympic trials before them demand:

As Aggie continues her unexpected journey with Kaley and Max, more of her past life blurs into her present day thoughts until she reaches the end of one long road only to discover a brand new path before her.

While the story does have shifts in time, it's not hard to keep track of the narrative flow. Snyder's writing is as swift and fluid as any professional runner's pace, with the swirl of former events converging to make a heartfelt conclusion sing true. The tone of the book is easy to fall into step with and at times, hard to put down.

 One of the engaging aspects of her leading lady Aggie is her intense need and desire to run, not just for athletic purposes but to embrace the freedom that it gives her. Running is a strong emotional release for Aggie, especially during times of either intense joy or extreme stress, and that urge is touchingly human for such an emotionally remote character to possess:

Girl Runner is also a tribute to the value of old age and examining even those painful moments of the past in order to see how far you've come in life.

There are family secrets that slowly emerge over the course of the story(not to mention personal regrets and lost loves) that do more than connect the plot dots, yet are touching tales in and of themselves.

With Carrie Snyder also being a short story writer, I can see how this novel might have began as a series of interconnected tales but as a novel. However, I am happy that this book become the lovely novel that it is.

Girl Runner will be released in early February and I urge all readers to reserve their copies now. This beautiful story of one woman's journey through time and space is one that you'll kick yourself for if you don't book your passage as soon as may be:

Friday, January 16, 2015

All that glitters is not gold at this year's Oscars

The Academy Award nominations for 2015 have been announced and much like John Oliver regarding the World Cup, I'm rather ambivalent yet still interested in the final outcome.

In all fairness, everyone can't be made happy here as there is always a good performance,great film or outstanding achievement that gets overlooked or lost in the award show shuffle. However, there is a huge cinematic injustice that needs to be addressed and in good conscience, I must start with it first:

ROBBED OF OSCAR GLORY:  For Selma to receive only two nominations,Best Picture and Best Original Song, is just wrong,oh so wrong. One of best reviewed movies of the year and this is what it gets?

 And before anyone asks, no, I haven't seen the movie(also haven't seen most of the other Best Picture nominees either) but I damn well know quality material when I see it being presented to me. Plus, the massive amount of critical praise(as well as word of mouth) given rings quite sincere.

The vast majority of Oscar nominees this year can be best described as an endless platter of vanilla cupcakes and while certain ones may be  exceptionally flavorful and worthy of notice, that is no excuse for leaving other substantial cinematic sweets off the table.

 In addition,  I flatly refuse to accept the excuse that "Selma got LBJ wrong" contention as a good reason for this- The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game both had questions raised about their historical/real life authenticity and neither movie suffered for that.

 In addition, American Sniper got major nods in the main categories,despite the fact that the memoir it was based on was the subject of a petty and vindictive lawsuit by former pro wrestler and ex- governor of Minnesota Jesse Ventura(who won,sadly, taking money from the widow of a veteran as well as going after the publisher).

While I firmly believe that hideous and vile legal action should have no bearing on the merits of the film adaptation, it's a bit of a puzzler as to why no one has brought this up yet Selma for some reason is being held to a higher standard-don't make me say it, okay? I think we all know all too damn well.

Yes, I will still watch the Oscars but I am shaking my head in disgust. *sigh* Hopefully, audiences will reward Selma with the box office glory that the Academy appears to be reluctant to give it:

IN OTHER NEWS: Meanwhile, surprising snubs were given in the Best Actress category to Amy Adams, who just won a Golden Globe for her work in Big Eyes, and Jennifer Aniston,  who has been receiving a lot of indie cred for Cake recently.

One nominee that was to be expected here is Julianne Moore for Still Alice, where she plays a woman suffering from early onset ALS. Given the quiet radiance of her work over the years,not to mention being a five time Oscar nominee and not yet a winner, Moore's time has come to claim her award.

No doubt Reese Witherspoon won't be pleased about this but this is not your night, dear, as a great one once said in On The Waterfront. Rosemund Pike and Felicity Jones are first timers and I'm not seeing Marion Cotillard taking this one. So, let's be happy for Julianne Moore and wish her well come February 22:

ENJOYING SOME RAZZIE DAZZLE: The gang at the Golden Raspberry Awards really outdid themselves this time, with the likes of Transformers 4, The Legend of Hercules and Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas getting their well deserved knocks here.

Adam Sandler really should send Kirk Cameron a gift basket in thanks for drawing most of the Razzie ire this season away from him. While Sandler and company didn't entirely escape their notice, thanks to the horror that was Blended, Kirk Cameron's egotistic ode to enforced Christmas cheer has earned him six nominations, including one for that ideal pair,himself and his ego(so not kidding about that!).

As much as I love Christmas, Kirk Cameron's annoying insistence that there is only right way to enjoy the Yuletide season is coal in your stocking worthy indeed. Also, this ridiculous propaganda piece is bound to create a new generation of Grinchy Scrooges ready to bah humbug the holiday away:

Oh,well, the Oscar race is now off and running officially, so let's make the best of it, shall we? One saving grace is that Neil Patrick Harris is hosting this year and if anyone was ever meant to take up where the delightful Billy Crystal left off, it is definitely him. At the very least, our popcorn will be warmed by a most charming song and dance or two:

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The doings at Downton Abbey, Agent Carter's latest report and Tina & Amy's last laugh at the Golden Globes

Downton Abbey is only two episodes in and already, we're knee deep in drama. Plus, a special guest star(Richard E. Grant) who is flirting with Lady Cora and possibly the family dog(way to be not jealous, your Lordship!).

To start with, Thomas gets over his bitterness about Jimmy leaving to slip a poison pill in Moseley's ear regarding Miss Baxter's criminal past, Lady Mary gets Anna to buy her some birth control for her little love jaunt with Gillingham and Lord Grantham has  a tiff with Carson regarding the local war monument.

 I'm still concerned about Lady Edith and her "godmother" position,unlike her parents who find her interest as another attention seeking whim on her part(those people just work my nerves when it comes to Edith,honestly!), but these other plot points are worth exploring. Even Thomas, with his schemes against Bates, can be simply just as lonely and human as the others after all:

 Meanwhile,Agent Carter is still hunting down Howard Stark's missing weapons and is managing to stay one step ahead of her SSR colleagues.

Unfortunately, one of them met an untimely end due to her need for secrecy(or so she feels) but this mission has more deadly parameters than anyone knows about, except possibly for Stark himself and Jarvis.

Speaking of Jarvis, he and Peggy are getting to know each other very well(no romance, as the gentleman is devoted to his wife and Agent Carter is married to her work at the moment) and make a great team.  I just hope their combined cleverness can save them from trouble coming from all corners here:

The Golden Globes went off without a hitch and congrats are in order for Anna Froggett, Amy Adams, Eddie Redmayne and John Legend with Common(how cool was it that Prince gave them the Best Song award?!).

The big highlight of the night was, of course, the opening riffs from Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, who completed their third and final gig as hostesses of this event. The ladies were sharp and sassy as always, with some of their more pointed zingers hitting harder than others. In my opinion, they were so right about The Interview and yes, Cosby does deserve being razzed there(he should get much worse but karma will take care of that, I'm sure).

I don't know who will be replacing them but whoever it is, they certainly have quite a pair of shoes to fill(two pair, actually) indeed:


HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER: New episodes will return on January 29, along with the other Shonda Rhimes shows that precede it. Waiting is hard, but this does give me time to enjoy new Elementary episodes, so my withdrawal isn't that harsh:

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Coming to Terms on the Road of Rereading

Welcome to the first installment of The Road of Rereading, where I relive some past literary glories both on page and screen. To start things off, I have gone over a hundred pages into Larry McMurtry's 1975 novel Terms of Endearment, which has become a modern day classic of mother-daughter relationships.

The story is set in Houston, Texas as widowed Aurora Greenway delights in the attentions of her various suitors as well as critiquing her married daughter Emma's life. Emma is mostly able to give as good as she gets but certain situations even take her aback.

 The book begins with Emma telling her mother that she's expecting her first child, an announcement that Aurora handles with her usual self centered charm and grace:

The emotional contrasts between Aurora and Emma are almost polar opposites of one another. Emma may gripe about things but is more of a brooder and more often than not, will gain private payback for perceived slights.

Aurora, on the other hand, is loud and proud in her contrary ways. While in some respects, her actions seem lackadaisical(particular with her various boyfriends), she's more of a control freak than she lets on.

Such things as being late to dates and picking arguments out of random statements or momentary pique are actually passive-aggressive moves that are designed to keep Aurora well in charge of whatever situation is at hand.

 Her constant comments regarding Emma's seemingly casual acceptance of a less than stylish life, most of which are aimed at Flap,her son-in-law, are meant to be somewhat loving but are mainly attempts by Aurora to get Emma to upgrade her life. Emma has her own notions about that,however, and will only take her mother's guff up to a point:

While Aurora is quite the scene stealer here, both with her child and her friends and lovers, the character that the author found himself being surprised by was Emma.

 In the intro to my reprint edition of TOE, McMurtry calls this novel his "Europe" book, not only due to having been in that part of the world during the writing of it but having gone through a period of reading 19th century books written by the likes of Balzac, Tolstoy and George Eliot.

He had thought that perhaps Aurora would turn out to have an emotional dilemma not unlike Anna Karenina or Middlemarch's Dorothea Brooke yet it was Emma who captured that particular spirit of malaise. While she does love her husband, part of her knows that she could've done better and when the opportunity presents itself, Emma does fall back into the arms of a former lover(for a brief moment). It's a trait possibly inherited from her mother that assures that it won't be her first or last time at this either:

McMurtry took these leading ladies from their supporting player status in a pair of earlier novels(All My Friends Are Going To Be Strangers and Moving On), forming what he called his "Houston" trilogy.

I did happen to read Moving On(a book I no longer have and may get again) but you don't have to be familiar with either title to get into Terms of Endearment. I certainly wasn't when I first read TOE in 1983(yes, I write my purchase dates in my books;don't ask me why, it just feels right).

 Aurora and Emma's relationship is the template upon which many other modern mother daughter pop culture connections sprang, with Emily and Lorelai Gilmore immediately coming to mind at first thought. For that reason alone, TOE is well worth exploring yet again.  Also, one forgets the easy laid back rhyme of the story that takes it's time in going something but yet, you're not in a hurry to leave Aurora's company or tag along with Emma all the quicker. Slow and steady is the right speed for this read.

So, that's my first impressions upon Terms of Endearment for now. When I do finish reading it(and taking up it's sequel The Evening Star), hopefully my insights will be interesting, especially when I compare it to the film. In the meanwhile, I will allow Aurora and Emma to entertain me with their special brand of fire and ice follies:

Friday, January 09, 2015

Checking out what books to read at the Movie Trailer Park

While the new year is still retaining that fresh flavor, a good way to look forward to the pop culture possibilities before us is to see the crop of upcoming literary adaptations for the screen. It's a bit soon for many of them to have trailers out, so let's take a gander at a quartet of cinematic goodies set to arrive soon.

 First up is Insurgent, the second installment in the Divergent series(based on Veronica Roth's popular YA trilogy). Mental warrior woman Tris(Shailene Woodley) and the small band of Faction folk that fled with her are seeking alliance with Amity, the seemingly peaceful farming community.

However, the Erudite have bigger plans beyond their initial takeover and the deviously ambitious Jeannie(Kate Winslet) is now seeking the Divergent for a even more sinister purpose than before. Having seen the first movie(and read the book as well), this series is quite engaging and smartly written, so I won't be alone in looking forward to this:

Next is a live action version of Disney's Cinderella, with Lily James as the title glass slipper wearer and Cate Blanchett being her wicked stepmother. Other well known names in the cast include Helena Bonham Carter as the fairy godmother, Agent Carter's Hayley Atwell as Cinderella's birth mother and Derek Jacobi as the king father of Prince Charming.

The movie looks very pretty and quite opulent, no surprise since Kenneth Branagh is at the director's helm here. However, I don't detect anything truly unique about this upcoming rendition of the classic fairy tale, so it might be best to stick with the animated version, if you ask me:

For the sword and sorcery set, we have Seventh Son which is based upon Joseph Delaney's The Last Apprentice. In order to defeat the evil witch Mother Malkin(Julianne Moore), a young man with a distinctive birth order is recruited by John Gregory, known as The Spook(Jeff Bridges).

I'm not familiar with this series(called the Wardstone Chronicles in the UK) but it does sound like good old fashioned fun. There is a touch of cheesiness to be had from this trailer yet that adds more to the allure of this story.

I'm not saying I would run right out and see it on opening day but given the nature of midwinter/early spring releases, this might not be a bad time at the movies there. If this movie does well, there are a hefty stack of books to follow it onscreen, so we shall see:

For something completely different, we turn to Far From The Madding Crowd, the newest adaptation of Thomas Hardy's 1874 novel which is celebrating it's one hundred and fortieth anniversary.

Carey Mulligan stars as Bathsheba Everdene, the fiery independent woman who is torn between three men; Gabriel Oak(Matthias Schoenaerts), a devoted farmer, William Boldwood(Michael Sheen) a well to do landowner and Sergeant Troy(Tom Sturridge), whose fighting impulses do not serve him well outside of the military.

I am already committed to rereading the original novel as part of my Road to Rereading this year and no doubt many a book club will try their hand at this story as well as watch this latest version. It does look promising and perhaps shall bring about a renewed interest in Thomas Hardy, whose work has proven to be rather film friendly before:

There will be many more books arriving on film this year and it should provide some immense pleasure for both movie goers and constant readers alike. Of course, not every adaptation will get things just right but that never stops a literature lover from grabbing some popcorn and heading to the multiplex on the way to the bookstore:

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Returning to Gotham and Downton Abbey,meanwhile Agent Carter is on the case

Welcome back to LRG's TV Thursday and our first stop of the day is in Gotham, where Jim Gordon is adjusting to his new job at Arkham, Selina and Ivy camp out at his seemingly abandoned apartment and Fish Mooney is making more moves to become the queenpin of the city.

Speaking of evil ambition, Oswald,aka "The Penquin", got a slight setback this week, as his attempts to shake down the waterfront resulted in some brief jail time and a black eye. Turns out  his new boss Maroni isn't as easy to manipulate as our fierce feathered fiend was thinking he was. Oswald managed to swallow his slice of humble pie convincingly yet I have no doubt that another name was added to his personal enemies' list:

The debut of the brief series, Agent Carter, aired a double dose of  old school awesomeness as Hayley Atwell took up the mantle of the Marvel character she brought to life in the first Captain America movie.

Set in 1946, Peggy Carter is working for "the phone company" as a secret agent who is constantly being sent off to file and make coffee by her male counterparts. When old ally Howard Stark is being accused of selling deadly weapons to unfriendly folk, he and his reluctant butler Jarvis turn to Peggy for help in clearing his name.

However, Stark is not being completely truthful with her(as we'll see in the weeks to come) and her keen wits and sharp moves are allowing Peggy to remain one step ahead of her co-workers, who would see her aid to Stark as treason. However, there is a deeper plot underway involving mysteriously silent men that may only be foiled by our Miss Carter.

This show is just so smart and snappy that it feels like it ought to be illegal to be this good. Atwell is just as amazing here as she was in Captain America:The First Avenger(a movie that I always liked) and why she wasn't considered to play Wonder Woman is beyond me.

This seven part series is intended to tie in with the current season of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.(which returns in March) but you don't have to had watched that show in order to enjoy this one. If you didn't watch the premiere, do so with haste because it may be some time before we get another great female friendly action packed thrill ride like this anywhere else at any time soon:

Downton Abbey made it's fifth season debut with the expected amount of entertaining angst, a lot of it from Lady Edith who is not being subtle when it comes to visiting her love child.

The fire that occurred in Edith's bedroom offered quite a few opportunities as Thomas managed to save his job by saving her life(he's still a sneaky creep,tho) and a solution to Edith's tricky situation may be at hand. I'm rather peeved at Lady Mary's highhanded comment to Anna(who asked what had happened) "Oh, Edith decided to set her room on fire." Really, Mary? Your sister could've been roasted but oh, no, you're too miffed about your little bedroom meeting with Tony being interrupted to care about that!

Despite my ire at Lady Mary, I am pleased with many of the storylines  that were set up, as Violet attempts a little matchmaking, Daisy decides to freshen up her math skills and what is up with Baxter's criminal past? Ah, Downton, never a dull moment there:


THE GREAT BRITISH BAKING SHOW: Having seen the US version of this celebrated culinary series, I was familiar with the format but wonderfully surprised at just how charming the original UK series is. It is currently airing at a PBS station near you and should make for a tasty diversion indeed: