2016 in Music – 15 Favorite Songs

2016songs2016 may be over, but I have a blog tradition to uphold! I love picking out albums and songs each year to share on my site. You’ll find 15 key songs in no particular order, though I do have a number one listed at the end. Have a listen, and thanks for stopping by!

Continue reading “2016 in Music – 15 Favorite Songs”

2016 in Music – The 10 Best Albums

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What a year. No matter how you read that sentence, 2016 was a doozy. According to my notes, I listened to 83 new releases in music, though I struggled a bit to make a top 10. Somehow I always end up with a list even if the year in music was not as exciting as years past.

Continue reading “2016 in Music – The 10 Best Albums”

My 16 Film Highlights of 2016

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You may have noticed the lights went dim in Coolsville for the majority of 2016. The year wasn’t a personal best, and I didn’t actively seek out fresh movies. (I ended up revisiting old favorites and binge watching sitcoms instead.) I continued keeping tabs on what little I saw and handpicked 16 titles to represent my mild cinematic year.

The Best
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Learning to Drive (2014) is a simple beaut of a film about two different people in New York City brought together through a driving school. It’s no romance, but I fell in love watching the stories of a divorcee at a crossroads (Patricia Clarkson) and a Sikh driving instructor tied down by his culture (Sir Ben Kingsley). Over the summer HBO and Amazon Prime taught me about the famous Temple Grandin (2010), starring Claire Danes in the title role. Grandin is best known for her work in livestock handling and her openness about living with autism. My interest in the biopic came from a desire to learn more about autism yet after the movie was over, I proceeded to watch YouTube videos about humane animal slaughtering practices. Whether you agree with Dr. Grandin’s work or not, I think she is a fascinating figure who used her special interests for the greater good and didn’t let her disability stop her.
Then an unexpected surprised showed up bearing the name of Cloak & Dagger (1984). What can I say, if you like video games, the little boy from E.T., and Dabney Coleman, then do I have a movie for you! I was expecting a corny kids flick, but Cloak & Dagger comes along with a violent streak all while retaining an adventurous charm. Now there’s something you don’t hear everyday – “it’s kind of violent, but kind of cute!” And let’s be honest, wouldn’t Dabney Coleman make a super imaginary friend?

The Letdowns
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I expected more from Prozac Nation (2001), a film based on Elizabeth Wurtzel’s autobiographical account of growing up with depression. I never read her book but after seeing the movie, I’m not sure if I want to. While the cast is rock solid, the script reduces Wurtzel’s story to a collection of anger spurts and dysfunction at every corner. The movie can be summarized as Christina Ricci chain-smoking and blaming others for her problems at Harvard while Michelle Williams and Jason Lee hopelessly look on. The narration barely sheds light into Elizabeth’s world, only stream of consciousness better suited for a poetry slam. Switching gears – really switching – please don’t take my cue and watch the Home Alone knock-off Babysitters Beware (2009). I judged the movie by the cover: two kids and a tied up Danny Trejo. I originally envisioned Trejo letting the kids walk over him before kicking their butts in a surprise move, but the reality is he’s a minor character with 5 minutes of screen time. What a rip off!

What the Heck Am I Watching?
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Two movies that had me scratching my head were The Congress and Under The Skin. Though not terrible films, they leave much to be desired. The idea behind The Congress (2013), using Robin Wright as an aging actress who gives up her image to live on forever in the evolving technological practices of Hollywood, has potential to deliver layer upon layer of discussion on vanity and innovation in the entertainment industry. Once Ms. Wright’s signature lands on the contract, what happens next is less Hollywood satire and more science fiction animation. I preferred the former in the first-half. As for Under The Skin (2013), Scarlett Johansson plays an alien with two skills: picking up unsuspecting Scottish men and creeping us out with what she does with them. I appreciate the artistic side of the film: dreary, haunting imagery and a musical score by Micachu. Do I feel like watching it again? Nah, too creepy. Finally, we have The Fairy King of Ar (1998), which is not creepy. I just wanted to publicly mention that I never thought I’d see Malcolm McDowell swatting at a bunch of animated fairies in a movie co-written by Christopher Atkins from Blue Lagoon. Family features can produce some strange scenarios…

Hey, James Franco.
4francoI never had much to say about James Franco, but he appeared in two of my favorite titles this year. Produced by J.J. Abrams and originally written by Stephen King, 11.22.63 (2016) was the only brand spanking new release I caught this year! I realize it’s a mini-series but it plays like an epic film. 11.22.63 is a thrilling account of a modern-day teacher time traveling to the 1960s in order to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Franco fits right in with the ’60s motif as the principal character Jake Epping, and he’s supported by knockout performances by Daniel Webber as Lee Harvey Oswald and Sarah Gadon as Epping’s love interest Sadie. I must read the book next! James also starred in a little known independent feature entitled Maladies (2012) as a retired actor with undisclosed mental issues. His inner circle of friends and acquaintances are also dwelling with problems of their own. The film suffers from the indie cliche of depressed people in small towns stewing about. However, the interactions and characteristics mesh in such a unique way I remained more captivated than confused. We don’t really know what’s going on with everyone because it’s not presented clearly. But since when is mental illness clear? I feel like I’ll write more about this film later in a separate post, but Maladies will either have you feeling absolutely nothing or everything.

It’s About Time!5abouttime

2016 was the year I FINALLY saw the b-movie homage Matinee (1993) with John Goodman. Matinee has been on my watchlist since the 90s. The retro style is exact and the attention given to a monster movie about a half-man, half-ant is so serious it’s funny. Look for director John Sayles in a supporting role. I also learned something new early in the year: Robocop (1987) eats baby food! Peter Weller is just terrific in the lead role of a human officer turned law enforcement robot. And just in time for the holidays, I took my Sunday School students’ advice and finally watched Will Ferrell as the manchild Buddy in the highly popular holiday comedy Elf (2003). Sweet and silly wins the Christmas film race!

Respect Your Elders
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We live in a world of Ryan Goslings and Ryan Reynolds-es. No discredit to them, but I much prefer finding new stories acted by seasoned Hollywood pros. Christopher Plummer and James Cromwell, anyone? In Elsa & Fred (2014), Plummer plays a widower who falls for his scatterbrained apartment neighbor. Whoever took charge of casting Shirley MacLaine deserves a handshake. The understated Le Week-End (2013) follows a couple (Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan) looking to rebuild their relationship with a second honeymoon in Paris. I could watch Broadbent and Duncan converse for hours! James Cromwell isn’t stubborn in Still Mine (2012), just deeply devoted to his sick wife (Geneviève Bujold) and his land. His plans to build a better home on his property is met with strong opposition by the government, but that doesn’t stop him from trying to make a better life for the one he adores.

I have lots of movies waiting for me in the new year, and I look forward to getting back in the swing of things and sharing my latest discoveries. See you in 2017!

C-Song: Sigur Rós – Svefn-g-englar

The transition from summer to fall and fall to winter has a tendency to bring melancholic feelings at some point. At the same time, a burst of excitement kindles within, thanks in part to the arrival of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. The temperature drops, we bundle up in coats and sweaters, and we prepare to hibernate.

I have a favorite song for this time of year, the slow-tempo epic “Svefn-g-englar” by the highly respected band Sigur Rós. Certain songs sound better given the proper atmosphere, and who better to provide a soundtrack to a chilly time of year than a band from Iceland?

It’s a tradition for me to listen to “Svefn-g-englar” in the autumn and winter. I almost forgot to press play until recently when I had the opportunity to watch the International Space Station pass over my house. I managed to see this powerful moving light three nights in a row. As I waited for the ISS to come into view, I sought out the nearby constellations. Something in the stars captivated my mind and sparked off music memories of similar nighttime settings.

“Svefn-g-englar” either translates to “Sleep Walkers” or “Sleeping Angels.” The song can be found on the group’s 1999 LP Ágætis byrjun. If you’re unfamiliar with Sigur Rós, their work contains Icelandic lyrics and unique gibberish, which the band refers to as Hopelandic. And even though I hinted of melancholia in the first paragraph, I don’t necessarily mean “Svefn-g-englar” is a number of sorrow. Quite the contrary! The Sigur Rós catalog is filled with songs that evoke a sense of wonder – sweet medicine for anyone who may feel down in the dumps.

One might say “Svefn-g-englar” helped propel Sigur Rós into international stardom. The 10-minute track remains a favorite among fans and casual listeners. While researching the band, I read a number of stories shared online of the song’s emotional punch. Some admitted they were under the influence and bawled like babies while others drove home in the wee hours of the morning, teary-eyed and sober. I find “Svefn-g-englar” peaceful with the bowing guitars and lead singer Jónsi‘s sincere, whispery vocals.

Movie Review: Mr. Art Critic (2007)

mr-art-criticIt’s evident from the start of Mr. Art Critic that the movie was filmed with low production values: long plodding shots, dragging dialogue, and a musical score nowhere near the caliber of Hans Zimmer or Howard Shore. Not that I expect to hear sweeping strings in every movie that comes my way, but the instrumentals here have a tendency to parallel what you hear in PC games. I digress. What Mr. Art Critic lacks from a technical standpoint, it gains from a cast and crew making the most from their limited resources to tell a fitting story for the indie comedy circuit.

I chose this movie because of the eye candy – I mean, the lead actor. Our star of Mr. Art Critic is the Yale-trained Bronson Pinchot, best known for his role as Balki in the 80s sitcom Perfect Strangers. As M.J. Clayton, he’s an insufferable critic of the art scene in Chicago. His reviews have a scathing bite, quickly revealing that it takes a lot to please him, if anything at all. Up and coming artists are honored to have Clayton view their work but even they can’t escape his ruthless commentary. His employer is fed up and Clayton retreats to Mackinac Island, Michigan to get away from it all. While there, he’s gifted a beer from one of the sculptors (John Lepard), whose exhibit closed early because of Clayton’s bad review. One drink leads to another, and our hateful critic wakes up hungover, and he remembers a bet he made to participate in an upcoming local art contest. M.J. Clayton must prove his drunken claim that any idiot can make art. In other words, the guy who always has something bad to say about art must create a piece that people will adore.

As if the presence of Mr. Pinchot wasn’t enough, my interest grew in relation to the scenery as the movie played on. Mackinac Island is a striking location. I didn’t know of its existence beforehand, and I’m not sure if I would have liked the film as much if M.J. Clayton vacationed in a larger tourist spot. Surrounded by water, Mackinac Island can only be reached by boat, ferry, or plane. Vehicles are not permitted on the streets of the small, historic area. Less than 500 people live on the island all year, though thousands of tourists flock during the summer season.

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Mackinac Island, Michigan – featured in the movie Mr. Art Critic (image credit: mackinac.com)

Another actor featured in Mr. Art Critic is Toni Trucks, as an aspiring painter who befriends M.J. and offers assistance in his struggle to create a profound work. Bronson delivers a mean-spirited performance in a way that leaves viewers entertained yet cringing. I hate his acting talents are often underutilized.

So, can anyone make art? Is it a learned skill or is it something nestled in each and every one of us? Mr. Art Critic attempts to answer the question but ultimately we’re left to decide for ourselves. The feature also brings the topic of criticism to the forefront – should critics have the final say? Do we put too much trust in them in regards to which movie to watch or what book to read? To quote the film: “don’t pay attention to damn critics!”

(Watch the trailer for Mr. Art Critic)

Movie Review: The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

lasttemptationposterI wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I started to watch Martin Scorsese’s controversial film about Jesus Christ, The Last Temptation of Christ. I’m a very religious person and knew of the long-standing infamy associated with the film. When The Last Temptation of Christ was released in the late ’80s, many fundamentalists denounced it, crying blasphemy in the treatment of Jesus’s relationship with Mary Magdalene and the portrayal of the son of God as weak and doubting while he walked the earth. Reactions were so strong the film provoked bans in multiple countries, protests by Christian groups, and a scary arson attack at a Parisian theater, resulting in a number of injuries to members of the audience. Even before The Last Temptation of Christ started filming, production was halted when a major theater sent a notice in advance, refusing to screen the completed movie. According to PBS, after its theatrical release, Blockbuster Video said no thanks to supplying VHS copies at their store chain.

Mounting objections influenced a large sum of potential moviegoers to stay away, and I believe many of the objectors didn’t see the film to start with. I wish they did, for they might be singing a different tune! The tweaks and curveballs thrown toward the famous story of Jesus Christ was twisted not to upset the masses but to impart a scenario of the Son as a flawed human rather than the holy man we declare him to be.

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The Last Temptation of Christ reveals Jesus as a man of doubt, a man hardly willing to act on the responsibilities as the son of the Most High. He’s frustrated during his walk on Earth but soon realizes how he can change others by accepting his duty of preaching God to the masses. What he isn’t ready to accept is his fate of sacrificing his life on behalf of sinners. As I watched this interpretation of someone who plays a big part in my spiritual life, I couldn’t help but look into myself and find a closeness with Christ that I had never felt before whenever I saw other portrayals. His fears, doubts, and temptations almost paralleled my own. It was almost scary.

The scene that cemented my respect for The Last Temptation of Christ was the desert scene. In the Bible, Jesus fasted in a desert for 40 days and faced temptation from the devil. Normally this storyline is acted by two men, but here we are subjected to a fascinating variety of beings attempting to lure the Messiah. He draws out a circle in the sand and sits within, tense and tested.

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The most controversial moment in Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece shows the main character consummating his relationship with Mary Magdalene. The subject of Magdalene herself has been a source of infamy for years within the church, so the thought of Jesus of Nazareth doing such a thing rattled a lot of nerves. But it all goes back to the question asked by the author of The Last Temptation of Christ, Nikos Kazantzakis: What if Jesus walked away from his holy title and lived life as an ordinary man instead?

I saw Siskel and Ebert’s review of the film on YouTube and found their views closely matched mine. They referenced the controversy of the film but admitted it brought them closer to God instead of pushing them the other way like many critics warned. Below is the video and quotes that matches my thoughts about the film:

Gene Siskel: I almost want to say to everybody you heard the protest, now see the movie, because it is quite an extraordinary film that truly generated a religious experience within me, portraying a more human Jesus, one who trembles at God’s calling and yet manages to his own amazement at times to spread the message of love….the effect, at least on me, was not to trash Jesus but rather to make its message more accessible, for if he has doubts and fears, we can be more comfortable with our own.

Roger Ebert: This movie made me think more deeply and more seriously, after a longer time, I’m still thinking about it, about the mystery of the fact that Jesus was both God and man, at least within the Christian teaching….this movie is a devout movie that does Jesus the compliment of taking him more seriously than any other movie ever made. It’s an ironic, I think, contradiction that people who worship Jesus and who haven’t seen the film are attacking this film, which is actually more of a religious experience than any other movie that they could think of about Jesus.

The cast includes Willem Dafoe as Jesus, Harvey Keitel as Judas Iscariot, and Barbara Hershey as Mary Magdalene. The score blends traditional middle-eastern sounds with 80s production by Peter Gabriel. An astounding, thought-provoking film, The Last Temptation of Christ is the best movie I’ve seen about Jesus Christ so far.

High School Hip Hop (2002-2006)

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my public school days. 10 years ago this week I graduated from high school. I’m not sure if there’s a reunion happening since it hasn’t been that long (if I was on FaceBook, I would probably know by now). Time flew! Lots of moments I remember so well it’s as if they happened only recently. I think about classmates who have either passed away or moved away, and I remember the songs playing in the background of our innocent past.

Where I lived, only two genres reigned supreme: country and hip-hop. Country was never my thing, but hip-hop – now there’s something with a beat! I grew to appreciate the genre after seeing the effect it had on my mates – how their faces lit up when the first few seconds of a song started to play and when some loser attempted to spit a rap at the same pace before failing miserably only seconds in.

Today’s hip-hop is different, not just because of the newer artists (hi there, Nicki Minaj and Drake) but the majority has their guard up. It sure wasn’t the case when I walked the school hallways. The jams sounded like one big party to me. I handpicked 10 hot tracks from 2002-2006 to give you an idea of what went down.

Continue reading “High School Hip Hop (2002-2006)”

Triple Feature: Woody Allen’s Celebrity, Play It Again Sam, and Hollywood Ending

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I added 3 more Woody Allen movies to my roster, and each one holds elements related to celebrities and/or the entertainment industry. Woody is no stranger to using the subject of showbiz in his films. His latest feature, Cafe Society, is reportedly based around the elite of Hollywood during the early-20th century.

celebrityI watched Celebrity (1998) for the second time since I first saw it sometime last autumn. I forgot how much I enjoyed Allen’s observations of our celeb-obsessed culture. Celebrity was filmed during the late 90s when Allen was attempting to bounce back from the family scandal in the earlier part of the decade, and his work pushed the envelope and took darker tones. Woody is nowhere to be found, hiring British actor Kenneth Branagh to take his place instead. One must wonder how many hours of footage Kenneth studied to emulate his director – the result is laughable, but I’ll admit, fun to watch. Branagh plays Lee, a journalist whose failed marriage culminates in his ex Robin (Judy Davis) getting hospitalized for a breakdown. His hope is to make it in the entertainment industry as a successful author/screenwriter and attempts to work his way to the top by rubbing noses with famous figures and pitching his script when the opportunity calls. Robin emerges from rehab a new woman and reinvents herself with the help of a dashing TV producer (Joe Mantegna). The movie is arranged in an episodic way, where Lee and Robin encounter different people and situations as their characters develop. We’re treated to a wide selection of celebrity appearances, like Charlize Thereon, Melanie Griffith, Leonardo Dicaprio, Winona Ryder, and Bebe Neuwirth. Donald Trump even makes an appearance! Quickly did I notice in these encounters the vapidity of the world of the rich and famous – the vanity, the lack of genuine relationships, getting ahead, sex, drugs, the pretentiousness, etc. In the case of Robin and Lee, we watch how the nature of showbiz affects those passing through the establishment, for better and for worse. The black and white photography of Celebrity resembles Allen’s Stardust Memories, in a less avant-garde fashion of course, and the mindlessness of how fame changes people is ever present.

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Another second-time viewing, Play It Again, Sam (1972) is not one of Woody’s directorial efforts, though he did write and star in this film adapted from one of his earlier stage productions. The title might ring a bell as it’s taken from the classic film Casablanca, Allen’s key source of inspiration for this story. If you prefer Woody Allen’s “earlier, funnier” films, Play It Again, Sam entertains with his awkward, bumbling self. As the aptly named Allan, Woody forms a heavily clumsy character fresh out of a marriage and trying to find a new love with the help of his two friends, married couple Linda and Dick (Diane Keaton and Tony Roberts). But when they’re not around to listen to his neuroses, Alan vents his frustrations to an imaginary friend – Humphrey Bogart. I believe we all have found ourselves drawn to a certain on-screen character, so a story-line like the one in Play It Again, Sam represents a cinema nerd’s secret dream of having a celebrity speak to us and offer advice. Alas, the concept behind this early WA vehicle over shines the movie itself. I mentioned how Woody’s role is that of a clumsy divorcee – and boy, is his awkwardness milked from gag after gag! It all gets childish and excessive after awhile: something’s dropped, spilled, and broken while Woody neurotically tries to play it cool in front of a potential mate. Some of the displays are funny, but the heart of the story of a man in love with movies and desiring the company of the opposite sex gets pushed back in favor of silliness. I really liked Play It Again, Sam when I screened it in high school, but I suppose I’ve grown to prefer Woody’s deeper works. Props to him for weaving in Casablanca references into the narrative so effortlessly, though.

hollywood-endingI’ll cut to the chase. Hollywood Ending (2002) is a disappointment. Is it Woody Allen’s worst film? I haven’t seen them all yet, but this one’s pretty stale. Ending’s beginnings build slowly, throws a handicap to shake things up, but little excitement ignites as the movie plays on. Woody takes the reins as our lead, a washed up, famously temperamental director with a dying career, hoping for one final chance at Hollywood redemption. Val Waxman gets that opportunity from his ex-wife (Tea Leoni) and her successful producer husband (Treat Williams), whom he still holds a grudge towards for contributing to the dissolve of his marriage. Desperate, Val agrees but his issues of anger and neuroticism boil over, and he faces the ultimate nightmare during the first days of shooting – total blindness. The kicker of Hollywood Ending is a director shooting a movie without vision (and without anyone finding out in order to keep his job). Clever, but that’s pretty much all the film’s got going for it. Much like Play it Again Sam, Hollywood Ending relies on gags to push a character’s flaws. We are constantly reminded via scenarios that Waxman is blind. Thankfully he doesn’t run into countless doors and walls – that would be repetitive – yet it’s a bummer that the running joke tramples over the cast of characters. Most of them are stuck doing much of nothing, like George Hamilton and poor Tiffani Theissen, whose screentime amounts to her using her voluptuous figure to seduce her director, unknowing of his handicap.

Catching Up…

“Hello? It’s me!” So far 2016 has kept me occupied with work and other matters of life, but I’m hoping things will slow down soon so I can start posting again. During the final months of 2015 and into the new year, my habit of reviewing every movie finally broke. More than 20 films slipped through the cracks, and I’m sorry to say I have no plans to revisit my viewing experience of Cop and a 1/2. Trust me, it’s a wise decision.

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Edward Herrman in “Christmas Oranges” (2012)

I caught a few good movies I can’t let slip away without mentioning here. In the fall, I saw An Unfinished Life starring Jennifer Lopez and Robert Redford about a family mending old hurts in rural Wyoming. A star-studded cast plus a beautiful, countrified location gives the underrated melodrama a big boost. During the Christmas season, I caught the quiet indie Christmas Again, which centers around a melancholy guy selling Christmas trees during long nights in New York. It captures the emotion of holiday loneliness in a stark and honest way. Shortly after, I fell head over heels with the Christian-sponsored family feature Christmas Oranges, starring the late, great Edward Herrman. I think it was the last movie I saw in 2015. Most of the actors were amateurs, but the story tugged at my little heart strings! The movie’s stayed on my mind ever since; Christmas may be long gone, but I want to see the orange ornaments again.  Watch the trailer!

Warren Beatty is "Bulworth" (1998)
Warren Beatty is “Bulworth” (1998)

America is gearing up for a crucial election later this year. The zany coverage of political front-runners almost mirrors Warren Beatty’s satire Bulworth, also starring Halle Berry. Beatty portrays a candidate-in-crisis who desires to connect with the African American community, and gets involved in a way that jeopardizes his campaign and image. Warren raps, ya’ll. Parts humorous and embarrassing, Bulworth’s take on race relations in the U.S.A. is hardly dated if you watch today. The soundtrack has one of my favorite 90s tracks, “Ghetto Supastar” by Pras, ODB, and Mýa!

Gwyneth Paltrow and the producers of Shakespeare in Love - you never forget your first Oscar telecast!
Gwyneth Paltrow and the producers of Shakespeare in Love – you never forget your first Oscar telecast!

Last month I rediscovered Shakespeare in Love, and unlike my first reaction when I was 12, the clever but fictional links of Shakespeare’s love life to his writing of Romeo & Juliet charmed my socks off. Did Ben Affleck have to be there, though? Did Judi Dench really win an Oscar for 8 minutes of screen time? Maybe the movie didn’t deserve all those accolades, but it’s a nice, romantic comedy inspired by the bard. Gwyneth Paltrow is at her peak, and Geoffrey Rush proves to be the master of scene stealing.

F.W. Murnau's "The Last Laugh" (1924)
F.W. Murnau’s “The Last Laugh” (1924)

If you’re looking for an example of silent brilliance, I wholeheartedly recommend F.W. Murnau’s The Last Laugh. Murnau is the legendary German director behind the famous vampire classic Nosferatu. You won’t find any fangs in The Last Laugh, but the tale of a hotel worker suddenly stripped from his duties due to old age is devastating and presented with that special artistic touch found in classic German expressionism. The climax of Laugh gives way to a finale that you won’t soon forget.

I hope to write more if all goes well. FYI, if you’re a resident of the Twitter-verse, feel free to join me at @mscoolsville (I’m trying to be more active there too).

6 Years, 6 Recommendations

Hard to believe, but my blog turned 6 on Friday! I haven’t been as active as I used to be, but I appreciate all of you for stopping by to read, like, comment, and follow my postings. In January I noticed my follower count passed the 300 mark, which made me happy. 🙂

I realize six isn’t a milestone number. I’m feeling festive anyway and wanted to hand out a few party favors in the form of recommendations. I hope you find them cool.

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MOVIE: My Afternoons With Margueritte (2010)

For my birthday last fall, I bought a subscription to Amazon Prime. Their library of streaming movies is a definite plus. If you have it, check out this French comedy starring Gérard Depardieu as a middle-aged handyman who learns to stick up for himself when an elderly woman teaches him how to read. Your heart will ache when his friends make fun of Depardieu’s clumsy character, and he can’t find the words to defend himself. Veteran actress Gisèle Casadesus also shines in this sweet film about friendship. Viva la literacy!

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TV: Jeeves and Wooster

Okay, so I’ve only viewed a few episodes of this classic English series from the early 1990s. When I heard Hugh Laurie singing “Minnie the Moocher” with the assistance of Stephen Fry in episode 1, I knew my $20 for the DVD set was well spent. In short, Laurie plays an upper-class Brit who gets into frequent trouble, and Fry plays his valet Jeeves, who always finds a way to get him out. That’s it.

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APP: Mediahhh

Speaking of UK programming, Mediahhh is the ultimate TV app from across the pond. Watch a variety of channels like BBC News and The Food Network for free! You can download the app on your PC or Mac desktop and Android smartphone/tablet. Learn more at mediahhh.com.

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YOUTUBE CHANNEL: Jolene Sugarbaker, The Trailer Park Queen

If you like to cook, if you shop at stores with Dollar in the title, and you know far too many southern ladies with big hair and bold make-up, then an episode of Jolene Sugarbaker’s Trailer Park Kitchen show will feel like a homecoming. The cramped kitchen of her trailer is filled to the brim with all sorts of fun decor, and the recipes are easy on the budget. Every December, you’ll find daily videos leading up to Christmas where Jolene prepares crafts, desserts, casseroles, and finger foods. Click here to visit her YouTube Channel!

SONG: Laub – Wortspur
Germans and electronic music go together like peanut butter and jelly – the perfect marriage! I’ve been a fan of female producer AGF for awhile now and her collaboration under the name Laub. I find myself returning to “Wortspur” often, especially when I’m not feeling my best and need to de-stress. The title translates to “Word Trail.”

WEBSITE: Online Monome
A monome is a grid of buttons that can be used for a variety of things when linked to a computer, including making musical patterns. It’s not hard to figure out, so what are you waiting for? Click a square! Click two! Click 25! Just make sure your sound is on.