Gratitude and Miracles

 

thanksgiving2012

 

Today marks the start of the holiday season, but it doesn’t officially kick off for me until I’ve watched the Thanksgiving Day Parade and one of my favorite holiday films, Miracle on 34th Street (1947).

 

 

Until I see Santa arrive at the end of the parade there can be no Christmas Tree, tinsel, ornaments or stockings. This has been a tradition of mine since I was a kid. Without a doubt, Edmund Gwenn is Santa Claus. No matter what other films he’s made, each character turns into Kris Kringle. (he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor) Gwenn played a cockney assassin in Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent in 1940, but all I could scream was “Santa, don’t throw that man off the ledge!”

 

Edmund Gwenn

Miracle Kris

(September 26, 1877 – September 6, 1959)

Natalie Wood was precious as Susan, the precocious daughter of Maureen O’Hara (Doris) who doesn’t believe in fairy tales and attends a “progressive” school. Natalie Wood had an illustrious career until her death in 1981. She was able to make the transition from child star to ingenue starring opposite James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and Warren Beatty in Splendor in the Grass (1961). Known as a loving, giving person, as well as a star, she’s always had a special place in my heart.

Natalie Wood

Miracle on i believe

(July 20, 1938 – November 29, 1981)

miracle DorisDoris is cynical as a result of a bitter divorce so she’s raising her daughter to be practical and sensible. None of this believing in fairy tales and Santa crap. All was going well until Doris – the parade coordinator asks Kris to replace the drunken Santa originally set for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. Kris is a big hit and becomes Macy’s official Santa resulting in a personal relationship with Doris and Susan.

Maureen O’Hara (born August 17, 1920)

 

Kris is an immediate influence teaching Susan it’s okay to pretend after she tells him the other kids don’t play with her because she won’t join in their game and act like a zoo animal.

The production took flack from the Catholic League of Decency because how dare you depict a divorced woman with a successful career and a young child as a “normal family.” Yep, 1940’s mentality and morality were hard at work.

miracle susan at play

Susan learning to act like a monkey!

Just as Doris is learning to have more faith in life and Susan is embracing imagination, Kris’s sanity is questioned and a legal battle ensues to prove that not only is he sane but the one and only Santa Claus. Fred (John Payne) who is Kris’s lawyer and Doris’s boyfriend, understands the importance of the spirit of Santa especially in the lives of Susan and Doris.

John Payne (on left)

(May 23, 1912 – December 6, 1989)

miracle john

Kris is exonerated and Christmas day has arrived. Susan has asked for a very special present and is disappointed at the Christmas party to see it isn’t under the tree. Doris, in a refreshing change of heart, tells Susan she must have faith.

miracle on faith

But, Santa Claus moves in mysterious ways and in the end teaches them both the true value of faith and miracles.

 

 miracle end

Here’s to Faith and Miracles!

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Legendary Director of “The Birdcage” Dies

  Mike Nichols, Acclaimed Director of ‘The Graduate,’ Dies at 83

mike nichols-master675

(November 6, 1931 – November 19, 2014)

New York (AP) Mike Nichols, one of America’s most celebrated directors, died on Wednesday from cardiac arrest. He was married to ABC’s news anchor Diane Sawyer. The family will hold a private service this week; a memorial will be held at a later date.

Dryly urbane, Mr. Nichols had a gift for communicating with actors and a keen comic timing, which he honed early in his career as half of the popular sketch comedy team Nichols and May. In films like “The Graduate,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and “Carnal Knowledge” and in comedies and dramas on stage, he accomplished what Orson Welles and Elia Kazan but few if any other directors have: achieving popular and artistic success in both film and theater. He was among the most decorated people in the history of show business, one of only a dozen or so to have won an Oscar, a Tony, an Emmy and a Grammy.

For more of his legacy click here:

READ MORE »

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/21/obituaries/mike-nichols-celebrated-director-dies-at-83.html?emc=edit_na_20141120

 

R.I.P.

 

My absolute favorite of his films!

 

The Birdcage (1996)

 

What’s not to love about this film? Starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane the pairing is perfect and the performances are brilliant!

Here’s the plot:

Meet Armand, Albert and their son Val who’s engaged to Barbara Keeley and the rip-roaring evening when their families meet.

Val’s father, Armand, owns The Birdcage, a drag club in South Beach. His domestic partner is Albert, who appears regularly as “Starina”, the show’s star drag queen. Barbara’s father is ultraconservative Republican Senator Kevin Keeley of Stow, Ohio. He is up for reelection and is also co-founder of the “Coalition for Moral Order”.

Fearing the Keeleys reaction if they learn the truth about Val’s parents, Barbara tells her parents that Armand is a cultural attaché to Greece, that Albert is a housewife, and that they divide their time between Greece and Florida; she also changes the family’s last name from Goldman to Coleman to hide their Jewish background.

What could go wrong?

Based on the 1973 stage play by Jean Poiret and the 1978 French-Italian film la Cage aux Folles co-written and directed by Édouard Molinaro; it starred Ugo Tognazzi and Michel Serrault. In Italian, it is known as Il vizietto. An excellent flick definitely worth checking out.

 

Love the scene with Renaldo teaching Albin to act “straight.”  La Cage vs. Birdcage. What do you think?

(Sorry, no subtitles for the trailer but they are available on the DVD)

 

The Birdcage pays homage but definitely brings its own attitude and flair.

 

the Birdcage_imp

 

 

And Hank Azaria as Agador Spartacus is too hilarious!!!!

 

Directed by

Mike Nichols

Produced by

Mike Nichols

Neil A. Machlis

Screenplay by

Elaine May

Based on

La Cage aux Folles

by Jean Poiret

Francis Veber

Starring

Robin Williams

Gene Hackman

Nathan Lane

Dianne Wiest

Music by

Stephen Sondheim

Cinematography

Emmanuel Lubezki

Edited by

Arthur Schmidt

Production

company

Nichols Film Company

Distributed by

United Artists

Release dates

  • March 8, 1996

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minions – Show ’em some love!

In essence, I’m just a big kid at heart. Just ask my alter ego Agnes from the Despicable Me films and my About page. I love her spirit and have long believed that honoring your “inner child” helps keep life fresh and can lend a “think outside the box” perspective in this messed up world in which we live.

I’d been feeling a little beat up lately dealing with politics and the overwhelming sense of negativity surrounding the issues so I decided to call on my “inner child” and connect with my Despicable Me buddies – the Minions! I can always count on them to never fail to make me laugh and teach me to stay positive in an often times troubling world.

So excited about their upcoming 2015 spinoff/prequel to Despicable MeMinions!

 (Told you I’m just a big kid at heart:)

ENJOY!

 

 

Shout out to my girl Agnes!

 

What the F**k People?

I’ve been so angry since Tuesday’s midterm results it’s been hard to articulate all my feelings. Therefore, I’m using this video as my mode of expression. An oldie but definitely a goodie is this Youtube video from the 2012 election featuring Samuel L. Jackson’s “in your face” take on a bedtime story. It highlights the stark realities facing our country and the decisions we need to make about what kind of policies and society we want to advance progress.

But I’ll let Samuel L. do the talking.

 

 

We’ve reached a turning point in this country and the midterms were the 2014 version of “Wake the Fuck Up.” All of the issues that were at stake in 2012 haven’t gone away. As a matter of fact, we’ve lost ground on some basic principals we thought were resolved: voter rights, women’s reproductive rights, the safety net (our social contract that no child should go hungry and every citizen should be afforded the opportunity to achieve a better life.)

I’m a baby boomer so I grew up back in the day before the internet, cell phones, personal computers and social media like Facebook and Twitter. I remember reading newspapers, going to the library to research school work and watching in horror Alabama’s reigning racist Bull Connor ordering police squads to turn fire hoses and attack dogs on innocent children in Birmingham who were expressing their right to march and protest. But, because of their dedication to take on the fight, Connor’s hate filled rage backfired when his actions were broadcast into the living rooms of millions of Americans helping to facilitate the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Bloody_Sunday-Alabama_police_attack

Alabama police attack voting rights marchers participating in the first of the Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965

I also remember the 1967 Detroit Riots and riots across the country in protest of police brutality, unfair housing practices, unemployment and underfunded education. I also remember watching body bags arrive home from Vietnam on the six-o-clock news and the country being outraged and questioning the war and the world around us.

These memories drive my anger and make me want to scream – We just blew it people!! We didn’t wake up and we still refuse to deal with the ramifications of a political party that doesn’t care about the poor and struggling in this country. Women, if you aren’t already, you should be very, very afraid for not only yourself but your daughters and their reproductive health.

The facts are clear. The Teabag/Republican Party has already dismantled voter rights, will repeal the 1973 landmark decision Rove vs Wade which guarantees a woman’s right to privacy and choice. And, if the Republicans win the White House in 2016, have no doubt they will repeal and thereby deprive millions of Americans the right to affordable healthcare.

Bill of rights torn

In the light of this history, it’s outrageous how we’ve turned our backs on our ancestors who believed in and died for our freedoms. It’s just sad to know we don’t take their sacrifices seriously or honor their commitment. My question is:

What’s it going to take people to finally “Wake the Fuck Up?”