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Colour scheme?
21 June 2007
I haven't read all the posts so please forgive if I'm repeating. This thoroughly enjoyable film suffers from one major defect. Ironically, it is a defect that results from the excellence of today's technology. In effect, the picture is so clear and the colours so vivid that it looks as though it was filmed five minutes ago! Not good for a story set in the British colonial era. Other movies have used muted colour or even sharp black and white to give that period feel. (Recently, "The Good German" in black and white and I understand that the John Boorman film "The General" was filmed in colour but printed in B/W) More consideration should have been given to the film's colour.
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Wah-Wah (2005)
Apologise to the Yanks immediately, Richard E. Grant!
28 December 2006
Richard E. Grant, if I may say so, owes a huge apology to the population of the United States. For I can see them now, those millions of Americans, earnest devotees of popular culture, trotting along to their local movie theatre in the erroneous belief that Grant's "Wah Wah" is a Barbara Walters biopic... (Anyone who needs this explained to them should consult their nearest popular culture guru...)

, That however, is where the apologies stop. For, not only does Grant give usthe real talent in the extended Walters family, the wonderful Julie of that ilk, but we get Gabriel Byrne, Miranda Richardson cornering the English Bitch market and the incredibly talented Celia Imrie (There will be those who think Imrie's performance somewhat OTT. It isn't. The English Gorgon she portrays is alive and well and infesting the Home Counties). I was also very impressed with Nicholas Hoult's sensitive performance.

Just one gripe. The material covered in the film, plus the array of talent used, would have justified a miniseries in which a good deal of desirable fleshing-out of the characters could have been done. That aside, this is a filmthat makes me look forward to Grant's future efforts as director. His first outing has resulted in a real gem.
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10 November 2005
"The Stranger" may have left no card but he certainly left an indelible impression on me when I saw him in Belfast's Broadway cinema as a child. (The equally impressive "Incident at Owl Creek" is another short film that I saw at a time when excellent short films were often offered as "support" for the main feature.) I became a great admirer of Alan Badel star of "Stranger" and am always taken back to my first viewing of the film when I hear "Swedish Rapsody".

I do not know how to obtain a copy. However,those who have expressed an interest might like to know that a re-make of the story was included in the "Roald Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected" TV series, under the title "Stranger in Town". It stars one of Britain's finest actors, Derek Jacobi, and the good news is that it has just become available on DVD from Acorn Media Entertainment.

Maybe I should also mention that, in one of those quirks of television programme-making, the "Twilight Zone" people ran out of money, apparently, and, instead of making a final series episode, bought a prize-winning film to fill the gap. That gap-filler was nothing less than the superb "Incident at Owl Creek" (see first paragraph') which, happily, is also available on DVD as part of the "Twilight Zone". Hope that makes a few people happy!
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Wonderful bean-planting
25 April 2004
I turn to this movie when I'm feeling down. My 5-year old niece (with no prompting from me) prefers it to any Disney you care to name. It's one of those movies that's so bad it's brilliant. And why Jack's Mother's line, uttered in sheer frustration, "Plant the Beans, Jack!" has not become a revered movie catchphrase I'll never know. I always shout "Plant the Beans, Jack!" at the Kiefer Sutherland character in "24", especially when he's a little slow on the uptake. Abbott and Costello's "Jack and the Beanstalk" is a little gem and does not deserve the criticism levelled at it on IMDB. The humour may be basic, the characters may be of the cardboard variety, but the director has managed to create a special little world that children and adults can enjoyable enter .
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The Golden Girls (1985–1992)
Compulsory DVD!
28 January 2004
Instead of bombarding Buena Vista with petitions for the "Golden Girls" DVDs to be issued, I have another idea. Let's ask the U.S. Immigration Service to issue them! Think of it: the "Golden Girls" offers a unique insight into American life and culture. Without them, I, a mere Irishman, would have no idea what Dramomine and Metamucil are. The Girls use them! But that's not all. Think, for instance, U.S. history. When Sophia, referring to her upcoming wedding, announced that she hadn't been a virgin since the Louisiana Purchase had been in escrow, I, for one, rushed to my American history tome. Likewise, it took Dorothy's remark apropos Rose's sparehoeven crispies that, even if the crispies had been available to the Donner Party, they still would have eaten each other, to have me make a second trip to the book! And, speaking of books, what a treasury of American literature is the "Golden Girls". Who will easily forget Dorothy's visit to the Literary Restaurant with its Crepes of Wrath and For Whom The Bell Pepper Tolls menu items? Or the wonderful moment when Blanche tells the Psychiatrist investigating her daughter's desire to be artificially inseminated that "No Hollingsworth has ever had to pay for it!' at which Dorothy adds the coda: "That's right doctor, Blanche has always depended on the kindness of strangers!" (Tennessee Williams would have loved that!)

The Golden Girls even offers grammar lessons! As in Blanche's explanation of the term "metaphor". "When I say 'men are blinded by my beauty', that's a metaphor. They usually get their sight back in a day or two!"

And, so, there we have it. "The Golden Girls" as U.S. History, Language and Culture 101. Not to mention some of the finest comedy acting ever. Just one final point: In an essentially "ensemble' series such as "The Golden Girls" I find it unacceptable that individual actors are singled out for awards ( even if the others get theirs later). We don't normally award a prize to a particular colour in a painting. Why not give the award to the team and avoid causing professional jealousy among the cast.?

So, it's over to U.S. Immigration. Do you realise what a fabulous educative tool you have in the "Golden Girls"? Why not ensure that future generations of immigrants to the U.S of A. arrive with a huge grin on their faces?
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Santa Barbara (1984–1993)
Hooked by a Soap
31 December 2003
What was it about "Santa Barbara" that managed to get dedicated non-Soapists like me hooked? Humour, in a word. SB is the only soap I'm aware of that had an all-the-way-thru' sense of humour about itself. I discovered this , as so many do, while surfing the channels. Up came an incident in SB when a lawyer character is seen in a coma. He fantasises himself into an all-white version of his lawyer's office (i.e. Heaven) where he is seen arriving bedecked in white from head to toe. His first stop is his secretary's desk. "She", also a vision in white, is not his real secretary but one of SB's male characters who is also a transvestite. He/she is seated at his/her desk, filing his/her nails AND--here is the piece of resistance that made SB irresistable to me--watching the opening credits of his/her favourite soap on the office TV. The favourite soap being--what else?--"Santa Barbara! A nice little touch of post-modernism there, I think.

Then there was the murder of the lounge singer by the local District Attorney and her husband.(A very Santa Barbara reversal of the usual plotline!) They hide the body in a freezer which provides a superb full- face picture of the corpse for the closing credits. The make-up artist has done a superb job, ice crystals mixing with mascara and blusher to achieve that all-over "dead" effect. AND, forgoing the Santa Barbara theme music, the episode ends with the dear departed lounge singer's own voice singing the highly appropriate "AM I BLUE?"!!!

From then on I was hooked. Humour and a wonderfully anarchic script that had characters trapped in dungeons at the beginning of an episode and attending a" black tie 'n' frocks party" at the end, are what made Santa Barbara a soap like no other. And I daresay we shall not see its like ever again.
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Great Performances: Broadway's Lost Treasures (2003)
Season Unknown, Episode Unknown
Great concept, Shoddy realisation...
22 December 2003
Whoever had the idea of resurrecting Broadway musical footage from the TV companies' vaults and giving it DVD-availability deserves a pat on the back. Unfortunately, the Cohen company, who present this compilation as a tribute to their Father(?), Alexander Cohen, have given us brilliant performances wrapped in shoddy presentation.

I have no axe to grind with Richard Kiley, but he does not appear in the show. Why, then, does he pop up in the montage of excerpts that precedes the excerpts themselves? ( Somebody wasn't paying attention!) If I were the excellent Barbara Erwin (Lily St. Regis in the "Easy Street" routine) I'd want to know why I wasn't named in the "opening night cast" list in the bonus features. (Somebody thought she had the role of Grace Farrell who is named in the cast credits.) And just listen to the commentary preceding the "Easy Street" number. Ask yourself why he did not correctly stress the word "their" before "luck". Because he was merely reading a script, that's why, not trying to make sense of it as he ought to have been doing.

So, should I be offloading this on the "Nitpickers" site? Not at all. My point is that the performances on "Broadways Lost Treasures" are such pure gold that they deserve professional presentation and that they did not get.

I keep returning to Ann Miller and Mickey Rooney in "Sugar Babies" What a treat it would be to have a complete performance of that show on DVD. And the wonderful Dorothy Loudun's Miss Hannigan in "Annie" gets repeat showings on my screen. (What a great pity to hear that Dorothy Loudun died recently. God rest her soul and long may her image and her filmed and audio performances continue to bring her talent to the world). My admiration for Patty Lupone increases each time I see her in a new role .And these are only a few of what were the show's highlights for me. Perhaps I should mention that, before obtaining the DVD, I thought I'd be constantly watching Chita Rivera and Gwen Verdon do their "All That Jazz" and "Nowadays" routines from "Chicago". What a disappointment! A severely truncated version of the dance routines is all that is to be seen on this DVD. I myself could have done the choreography for what we see here. Anyone who has seen Karen Ziemba and Bebe Neuwirth dance these numbers in "Broadway-The Leading Ladies" knows how they ought to be performed. I can only assume that the footage of Rivera and Verdon was not all of sufficiently high quality to be included on this DVD.

There is a special reason for being hard on the producers of "Broadway's Lost Treasures". It looks as though there will be another batch of "Treasures" soon and this time, you Cohen guys, let's have P-E-R-F-E-C-T-I-O-N. Those guys and gals of the Broadway stage deserve nothing less!
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Great, especially for those of us in the sticks.
1 September 2003
Watching this well-nigh perfect Sondheim compendium, I was struck by one incontestable fact: for most of us, these compilation shows (I include "Putting It Together and "Side by Side") ARE Sondheim. Living far from the big centres, we are unlikely to have productions of "Assassins" and "Sunday in the Park with George" pop up at our local theatres. So we owe a debt of gratitude to this "Celebration" for making the cream of Sondheim songs available ; principally, however, for presenting them, as here, in such sublime performances.

There's Liza, at the top of her game (this is 1992). Even the lady herself would admit that her days of climbing atop grand pianos in Carnegie Hall are, perhaps, (you never know with this gal!) long gone. But watch her with Billy Stritch and those stupendous dancers as she sings (what could be her own 2003 anthem!) "Back in Business".

Glenn Close shows how to handle the best known of all Sondheim songs, "Send in the Clowns". And, in what can only be described as a touch of choreographic genius, "Sooner or Later" has the wonderful Karen Ziemba do a tongue-in-cheek production number on Bill Irwin (Why didn't someone write a sitcom for these two following that performance? It's not too late!) If you like being "had", Dorothy Loudon's your girl: watch how she changes tempo, mood, even persona between "Losing My Mind" and "You Could Drive a Person Crazy".

"Sweeney Todd" provides a most effective chilling opening to the show (with the future Mrs. Lovett, the exquisite Patti LuPone, giving herself to "Being Alive") Later, the beautifully lyrical voice of Harolyn Blackwell reminds us (with "Green Finch and Linnet Bird") that "Sweeney" is not all dark and sombre tones.

Naturally, some of my own favourite Sondheim songs are not included. Some turned up in "Putting It Together" Others? Well, how about a full-scale revival and DVD-ing of "Side By Side By Sondheim"? Are you listening, Mr. Producer? We Sondheim fans out here in the sticks deserve it!
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