“The Addams Family” ūüé¨ Small Screen to Big Screen

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When I was a kid I was a tv junkie and a walking tv guide. Granted there were only 3 channels at the time and television actually went off the air at midnight, give me a time and a day and I could not only tell you what was airing but a synopsis of the program.

I also grew up loving movies of all types and even at a young age understood more about film than the average 7-year-old. My faves have always been Universal monster movies, black and white melodramas and musicals.

The intersection of movies and television got me thinking about what tv shows successfully made the leap to the big screen. The first two that came to mind are “The Addams Family” and the more famous and successful of the two – “Batman”.

“The Addams Family” was one of my favorites from childhood. Morticia’s and Gomez’s marriage¬†served as a blueprint for what I imaged mine would be. A husband with drawers full of money who’s totally head over heels about his¬†wife.¬†ūüėĄūü§Ď

Gomez and Morticia

Gomez and Morticia

The wacky and macabre Addams family, created by American cartoonist Charles Addams, consisted of caring parents Morticia and Gomez. Children Рmelancholic Wednesday and not quite right Pugsley. Uncle Fester, Grandmama, a disembodied hand named Thing, Cousin It and their deadpan-faced butler, Lurch round out the bunch.

This delightfully ghoulish family takes pleasure in most of the things of which the average person would find weird. Gomez clears his throat with a sword, Uncle¬†Fester sleeps on a bed of nails and Morticia lovingly cares for her carnivorous plants¬†including the¬†cooing venus flytrap, Cleopatra. Conversely, they’re a tight-knit, multi-generational family sending their children to public school, sharing candlelit picnics in the graveyard (okay that’s a little bizarre) and enjoying outings and family time together.

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Uncle Fester, Grandmama, Gomez, Morticia and Wednesday

One of the reasons I was a big fan is because the show represented a break from the “ideal American family” mold that had previously dominated TV, especially since Gomez and Morticia often got very affectionate with each other whenever Morticia spoke French. (drove Gomez wild:)

The series ran from 1964-1966.

The Cast

Carolyn Jones Carolyn Jones
¬†Morticia Frump Addams / … (64 episodes, 1964-1966)
John Astin John Astin
 Gomez Addams (64 episodes, 1964-1966)
Ted Cassidy Ted Cassidy
¬†Lurch / … (64 episodes, 1964-1966)
Jackie Coogan Jackie Coogan
 Uncle Fester Frump (61 episodes, 1964-1966)
Ken Weatherwax Ken Weatherwax
 Pugsley Addams (39 episodes, 1964-1966)
Lisa Loring Lisa Loring
 Wednesday Addams (36 episodes, 1964-1966)
Marie Blake Marie Blake
 Grandmama Addams (35 episodes, 1964-1966)

The Addams Family was unique for the time and the episodes were hilarious!

 

“The Addams Family” Movie (1991)

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“The Addams Family”movie, directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, was a fabulous takeoff and homage to the original tv series. Anjelica Houston and Raul Julia were outstanding and completely embodied the affectionate couple to a tee. Anjelica Houston won a Golden Globe award for her performance. It made me smile and didn’t disappoint¬†in content and feeling.

The entire family characterization was perfect. The cast really did their homework because not only did they represent the essence of the original tv characters but actually embellished them even more. Outstanding tv to film leap.

Gomez loves Morticia ♥

Family Dinner

Cast

Anjelica Huston Anjelica Huston
Raul Julia Raul Julia
Christopher Lloyd Christopher Lloyd
Uncle Fester Addams / Gordon Craven
Carel Struycken Carel Struycken
Christina Ricci Christina Ricci
Jimmy Workman Jimmy Workman
Christopher Hart Christopher Hart
John Franklin John Franklin

“The Addams Family” film from 1991 was so successful it resulted 2 years later in the sequel “Addams Family Values”. Once again we were treated to the escapes of this quirky family with the challenges of a new baby, Pubert, and Debbie, the nanny hired to care for Pubert but whose true intentions include landing Uncle Fester so she can partake of the Addams family riches. After all, “What about Debbie?”

To add to the family chaos, Wednesday and Pugsley are sent to summer camp (Camp Chippewa) at the urging of Debbie. (so her motives won’t be discovered) Morticia and Gomez are horrified but comply because Debbie assures them the kids want to go. (big lie!) With the addition of the Addams kids, this summer camp will never be the same.

Wednesday as Pocahontas and Pugsley as the turkey burning down the house!

It’s so satisfying to see the brilliant big screen version of a childhood favorite tv show. If you haven’t seen either the tv series or the movies, they’re definitely worth checking out for some hilarious and macabre fun!

Next post I’ll review “Batman” to see how the big screen version holds up against the original tv series.

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Our Prince is Gone – 1958-2016

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Ever since Prince came on the scene his music has been such a vital part of my life. His passing is a tremendous loss personally and his enormous talent leaves a hole in our collective souls.

As the memories flood my mind I flashback to Prince and Morris Day with The Time performing at Hill Auditorium on the campus of my alma mater – The University of Michigan. This was 1978¬†before Prince was PRINCE. I can still see the audience swaying, fully in tune with Prince’s dynamic energy and saw a sea change, realizing this was the last time I would intimately see this badass, revolutionary genius. Now, PRINCE would belong to the world.

Prince Rogers Nelson (June 7, 1958 ‚Äď April 21, 2016)

 

 

Brando Back on the Big Screen – “On the Waterfront”

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Fathom Events Presents:

“On the Waterfront” with exclusive commentary and a special glimpse behind the scenes from Turner Classic Movies host Ben Mankiewicz¬†that will illustrate how this movie, which was filmed in only 36 days, made such a long-lasting cultural impact.

As a classic movie fan, seeing this Marlon Brando Academy Award winning film on the big screen is an opportunity not to be missed!

‚ÄúYou don‚Äôt understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I could‚Äôve been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am.‚ÄĚ Watch Marlon Brando deliver those famous lines on the big screen when Fathom Events, Turner Classic Movies, and Sony Pictures Entertainment bring On the Waterfront (1954) back to select¬†cinemas nationwide for a special two-day event on Sunday, April 24 and Wednesday, April 27.

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Marlon Brando

Marlon Brando stars as Terry Malloy, a washed-up prizefighter who, through the influence of his brother, Charley (Rod Steiger), a lawyer for a corrupt waterfront union, is employed as an errand boy for the mob. After luring a fellow dockworker and friend to his death to keep him from testifying against labor boss Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb), the appeals of the dead man’s sister (Eva Marie Saint) and a crusading priest (Karl Malden) awaken Terry’s guilty conscience and love prompts Terry to seek redemption. (Fathom Events)

Do not miss the opportunity to see this classic, winner of eight Academy Awards including Best Picture in 1954, as it was meant to be seen ‚Äď on the big screen!

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Long Live Rock Movies! ūüėéūüéł

“School of Rock” (2003)

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Let’s start with our substitute teacher, Mr. Schneebly – what kid hasn’t wished for a sub like him? ¬†No grades, being part of a kick butt rock band, defying parents, breaking the rules. ¬†Good, right?

Jack Black’s character Dewey Finn is the forever loser and quintessential wanna be rock star, but when he steals his roommate’s identity as a substitute teacher, (Mr, Schneebly) he discovers he has a ¬†class of very musically talented 5th-grade students. So, Dewey decides to turn his class into a rock band to potentially win the Battle of the Bands and $20,000. ¬†I won’t spoil whether the kids win or don’t win the battle¬†but as a result of the contest they gain self-confidence and continue to play rock in an after school program coached by Dewey. ¬†Long live Rock!

This film totally tapped into my inner rocker!

 

“The Commitments” (1991)

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What happens when a group of white working class Dubliners forms a soul band?  A rousing film with some great music inspired by legendary artists, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett.

The band nails the soul of the greats by immersing themselves 24/7 in classic soul standards:

  • ¬† ¬† “In the Midnight Hour” – Wilson Pickett
  • “Try a Little Tenderness” – Otis Redding
  • “I Never Loved a Man” – Aretha Franklin
  • Whether on buses, hanging up laundry or in music store windows, they were feeling the soul. ¬†In the words of ¬†F√©lim Gormley (Dean Fay- Saxophone), “I’m black and I’m proud!”

I’m so glad the movie was authentic with the cast singing on the soundtrack. ¬†(The actors were cast ¬†for their musical abilities.) Lead singer (Andrew Strong “Deco”) was nuts but the standout talent of the band.

The Commitments was voted best Irish film of all time in a 2005 poll sponsored by Jameson Irish Whiskey and launched a generation of Irish musicians and actors.

 

 

¬†“This is Spinal Tap” (1984)

 

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 OMG, the funniest, dead on satire of a rock metal band ever!

Classic in every sense of the word, Director/Writer Rob Reiner’s masterpiece was also written and scored by the stars:

Rob Reiner – (Marty D. Bergi) – Mokumentarian

Spinal Tap

Christopher Guest – (Nigel Tufnel)

Michael McKean- (David St. Hubbins)

Harry Shearer – (Derek Smalls)

This mockumentary feels so real that some moviegoers thought they were an actual group!

The “Stonehenge” number during the Smell the Glove tour is priceless. ¬†Due to a mix up with size dimensions, the¬†Stonehenge¬†replica for their epic song is 18 inches instead of 18 feet tall. ¬†The little people performers in the number were taller. And Derek Smalls getting¬†stuck in the stage prop egg is hilarious!

¬†In 2002,¬†This Is Spinal Tap¬†was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the¬†Library of Congress¬†and was selected for preservation by the United States¬†National Film Registry.

 

 

These are 3 of my favorite Rock Movies – Let me know yours in the comments!

 

 

 

Corporate Media in America-Good Night, and Good Luck ūüďļ

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Media Responsibility

As a journalism student in college, I learned the role/responsibility of the press. I also studied the newspaper mogul, William Randolph Hurst, and yellow journalism (sensationalized stories of dubious veracity).

William Randolph Hearst

William Randolph Hearst

Civics class in high school informed me about the function of the press in the accountability of politicians and government. Well, today it seems all I’ve ever learned and understood about the role of journalists has been abdicated for full on “entertainment”.

Set in 1953, during the early days of television, “Good Night, and Good Luck” focuses on the potential of television to inform and educate the public, so that it doesn’t become, as Murrow put it, only “wires and lights in a box”.

“Good Night, and Good Luck” also portrays how CBS news broadcast journalist¬†Edward R. Murrow (David Strathairn) and his dedicated staff ‚ÄĒ headed by his co-producer Fred Friendly (George Clooney) and reporter Joseph Wershba (Robert Downey, Jr.) defy corporate and sponsorship pressures, and discredit the tactics used by Joseph McCarthy during his crusade to root out Communist elements within the government.

Joseph McCarthy

Joseph McCarthy

This morality tale is as relevant today as it was in 2005 (if not more so). It seems that broadcast news has turned into entertainment television and lost it’s way as the checks and balances of politics and the government. The news media is supposed to be the Fourth Estate – the fourth estate is a term that positions the press (newspapers, news media) as the fourth branch of government and one that is important to a functioning democracy. In my high school Civics class, I learned that the First Amendment to the Constitution “frees” the press but also carries with it the responsibility to be the people’s watchdog.

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In his fight against McCarthy, Murrow first defends Milo Radulovich, an American citizen (born in Detroit) of Serbian ethnicity and former reserve Air Force lieutenant who was accused of being a security risk for maintaining a “close and continuing relationship”¬†with his father and sister, in violation of Air Force regulation 35-62 (a regulation which states that ‘A man may be regarded as a security risk if he has close and continuing associations with communists or people believed to have communist sympathies.’)

Radulovich’s case was publicized nationally by Edward Murrow on October 20, 1953, on Murrow’s program, See It Now: Murrow makes a show on McCarthy attacking him. A very public feud develops when McCarthy responds by accusing Murrow of being a communist. Murrow is accused of having been a member of the leftist union Industrial Workers of the World, which Murrow claimed was false. (Wikipedia)

George Clooney (Director), a journalism student in college, held this project close to his heart.¬†In September 2005, Clooney explained his interest in the story to an audience at the New York Film Festival: “I thought it was a good time to raise the idea of using fear to stifle political debate.”

Clooney and producer Grant Heslov decided to use only archival footage of Joseph McCarthy in his depiction, demonstrating the furor with which McCarthy pressed his communist accusations.

The film was critically acclaimed upon release. It was named “Best Reviewed Film of 2005 in Limited Release” by Rotten Tomatoes, where it achieved a 93% positive review rating. The movie received six Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Director (Clooney), and Actor (Strathairn).

goodnightreviews

The late¬†Roger Ebert, in his¬†Chicago Sun-Times review, contends that “the movie is not really about the abuses of McCarthy, but about the process by which Murrow and his team eventually brought about his downfall (some would say his self-destruction). It is like a morality play, from which we learn how journalists should behave. It shows Murrow as fearless, but not flawless.”

So, the next time you’re watching the news on tv or reading your favorite print medium, ask yourself, is corporate media looking out for the people or profits for themselves.

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday Marlon Brando!

Today we’re celebrating Brando’s 92th birthday. His style, his “method”, his talent. Truly an original. One of the greatest actors of all time!

“Listen to Me Marlon” is the outstanding, award-winning documentary airing on cable’s Showtime about Brando in his own words:

 

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April 3, 1924 –¬†July 1, 2004

Marlon Brando, Jr. was an American actor, film director, and activist. He is hailed for bringing a gripping realism to film acting and is often cited as one of the greatest and most influential actors of all time.

The Wild One

“The Wild One”

Biography’s Documentary on Brando:

Brando is also credited with helping to popularize the Stanislavski system of acting, today more commonly referred to as method acting. A cultural icon, Brando is most famous for his Academy Award-winning performances as Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront (1954) and Vito Corleone in The Godfather (1972), as well as influential performances in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), The Wild One (1953), Last Tango in Paris (1972), and Apocalypse Now (1979).

Marlon Brando initially gained acclaim and an Academy Award nomination for reprising the role of Stanley Kowalski in the 1951 film adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ play A Streetcar Named Desire, a role that he had originated successfully on Broadway.

On the Waterfront

“On the Waterfront”

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“The Godfather”

The sixties were an artistic bust for Brando but ten years later he made his successful and award-winning comeback with his portrayal of Vito Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather”. The studio was opposed to his casting so he had to audition for the role. He improvised with cotton in his mouth to come up with the mumbling sound of The Don. The studio relinquished and the rest is cinema history.

“Superman”

As a result of regaining his box office gravitas with “The Godfather” and “Last Tango in Paris”, Brando became a highly paid character actor with roles in films like “Superman” which according to the Guinness Book of World Records, Brando was paid a record $3.7¬†million ($14 million in inflation-adjusted dollars) and 11.75% of the gross profits for 13 days’ work.

 

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Brando was ranked by the American Film Institute as the fourth greatest movie star among male movie stars whose screen debuts occurred in or before 1950. He was one of only three professional actors, along with Charlie Chaplin and Marilyn Monroe, named in 1999 by Time magazine as one of its 100 Most Important People of the Century. He died of respiratory failure on July 1, 2004, at age 80. (Wikipedia)

The Incredibles

The_Incredibles

“The Incredibles” is a 2004 American computer-animated superhero comedy film written and directed by Brad Bird, produced by¬†Pixar Animation Studios, and released by Walt Disney Pictures.

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Brad Bird and Edna Mode

In this lauded Pixar production, married superheroes Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson)¬†and Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) are forced to assume mundane lives as Bob and Helen Parr after all super-powered activities have been banned by the government. While Mr. Incredible loves his wife and kids, he longs to return to a life of adventure¬†and his desire to help people draws the entire family into a battle with superhero obsessed villain –

Syndrome (Jason Lee)

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and his killer robot. Omnidroid

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I must say that baby Jack-Jack is my favorite “Super”/Parr family member.

theincrediblesjackjack

Everyone thinks he has no powers and is “normal”. (which is so not true) When I saw this scene with Jack-Jack and his babysitter Kari, I would have spit milk out of my nose (if I was drinking milkūüėā) Too funny!!

When “The Incredibles” was released I felt it was the best-animated film I’d seen to date. It combined humor with drama and kept the audience engaged from start to finish. There was an audible gasp in the theater during the airplane sequence with Elastigirl and the kids (Dash and Violet).

The Incredibles was written and directed solely by Brad Bird, a departure from previous Pixar productions which typically had two or three directors and as many screenwriters.¬†In addition, it would be the company’s first film in which all characters are human.

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Brad Bird came to Pixar with the lineup of the story’s family members worked out: a mom and dad, both suffering through the dad’s midlife crisis; a shy teenage girl; a cocky ten-year-old boy; and a baby. Bird had based their powers on family archetypes.

theincrediblesEdna_mode2

After several failed attempts to cast Edna Mode, Bird took on her voice role himself. It was an extension of the Pixar custom of tapping in-house staff whose voices came across particularly well on scratch dialogue tracks.

There were 781 visual effects shots in the film and the skin of the characters gained a new level of realism from a technology to produce what is known as “subsurface scattering.”

Critic Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times awarded the film 3¬Ĺ stars out of 4, writing that the film “alternates breakneck action with satire of suburban sitcom life” and is “another example of Pixar’s mastery of popular animation.”

The film won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, beating two DreamWorks films, Shrek 2 and Shark Tale, as well as Best Sound Editing at the 77th Academy Awards. It also received nominations for Best Original Screenplay (for writer/director Brad Bird) and Best Sound Mixing (Randy Thom, Gary Rizzo, and Doc Kane). It was Pixar’s first feature film to win multiple Oscars, followed in 2010 by Up. (Wikipedia)