7/31/2011

Sequels to Cowboys & Aliens


Not since Snakes on a Plane have I enjoyed a movie title as much as Cowboys & Aliens.  Waxing (semi) serious for a moment, though, isn't it as likely that aliens would visit the West during the 1800s as it is likely they would visit Devil's Mountain in the 1970s, the plot of plausible sort of movie called Close Encounters of the Third Kind?  Which got me thinking about all kinds of ideas for sequels, should Cowboys and Aliens prove to be a hit.  Here are some of my favorites:
  1. Aliens vs. the 300.  Sure, the aliens win in the end, but not before we get to see a lot of alien corpses pile up in the pass of Thermopylae. 
  2. Aliens vs. the Gods of Olympus.  Ray guns vs. thunderbolts ... I'd like to see that match-up!
  3. Aliens vs. Ninjas.  Speaking of matchups, I'm gonna have to take the ninjas in this one.  What use are high tech weapons against warriors who can move invisibly, shield their body temperature from sensors, and dodge energy pulses?
  4. Aliens vs. the Roman Legion.  I'm not sure who would win, but love the idea of the Roman Senate desperately sending forth champions to halt the alien onslaught.  Boy are they going to wish they hadn't turned Russell Crowe into a gladiator.
  5. Aliens vs. the Barbarians.  Doesn't matter which barbarians, but am voting for whatever tribe Arnold Schwartzenagger's Conan came from, in hopes all the men are as well developed.
  6. Aliens vs. The Knights of the Round Table.  Think about it - this could be a great fit.   Excalibur turns out to be the only weapon that can kill them, and the Holy Grail turns out to be a signaling device that has to be found and destroyed so the aliens can never find us again.  The script practically writes itself!
  7. Aliens vs. Nazis.  This is a win-win, because no matter who loses in the end, it's okay with us.
  8. Aliens vs. Vampires (or zombies).  Since almost every movie being filmed these days has something to do with vampires or zombies, figure this is a natural.* 
  9. Aliens vs. Planet of the Apes.  They've figured out how to outsmart humans, but are the big monkeys ready to outsmart aliens? 
  10. Aliens vs. Rednecks. My favorite potential sequel of all, and I'm definitely taking the rednecks.  Can't imagine much more fun than 2hrs of watching aliens get run over by trucks, plowed down by trains, and picked off from behind duck blinds.  And for the finale, the rednecks can lure the aliens to a trailer park just as a tornado is coming ...! ("They never saw it coming, Bubba!" "How could they? We never do!")
(*My son says that Plan 9 From Outer Space has already taken this on, but my recollection is that vampires/zombies are allied with the aliens rather than pitted against them.  Totally different.)

7/29/2011

Tonight I'm Gonna Cry Playlist: Songs That Make Me Cry


What is it about some songs that make us bawl like a baby?  Is it regret? (Cats in the Cradle, Wasted Time, The Living Years, Yesterday)  Death? (Amazing Grace, Tears in Heaven)  Doomed Love? (Somewhere) Lost Love? (Against the Odds, Weekends in New England) Lost youth? (Growin' Up, It Was a Very Good Year, I Loved These Days) The glory/horror of war? (Brothers in Arms, Some Gave All, Goodnight Saigon, Taps) Patriotism? (The Battle Hymn of the Republic, America) Songs that fill you with hope that, no matter how bad things get, there's something better Over the Rainbow? (What a Wonderful World, Imagine, Rainbow Connection).  Sometimes the words don't even matter - all it takes is a heart-breaking chord change or crescendo to tear at our hearts, like Samuel Barber's haunting Adajio for Strings or Jeff Buckley's wrenching version of Hallelujah.

Then again, does it really matter? The point is that whenever I feel the need for a good, purging cry, these songs are guaranteed to deliver the tears.
  1. 100 Years, Five for Fighting
  2. Adagio for Strings, Samuel Barber
  3. Afterglow, Genesis
  4. Against the Odds, Phil Collins
  5. All By Myself, Eric Carmen
  6. Allegretto, Symphony No. 7, Beethoven
  7. Amazing Grace, any version
  8. America, Ray Charles
  9. American Pie, Don McLean
  10. Angel, Sarah McLachlan
  11. Are You Lonesome Tonight, Elvis Presley
  12. At 17, Carly Simon
  13. Ave Maria, any version
  14. Auld Lang Syne, any version
  15. Battle Hymn of the Republic, any version
  16. Big John, Tennessee Ernie Ford
  17. Bird on the Wire, Leonard Cohen
  18. Blue in Green, Miles Davis
  19. Both Sides Now, Joni Mitchell
  20. The Boxer, Simon and Garfunkle
  21. Brandy, Looking Glass
  22. Bridge Over Troubled Water, Simon & Garfunkel
  23. Bring Him Home, from Les Miserables
  24. Brothers in Arms, Dire Straits
  25. Candle in the Wind, Elton John
  26. Canon in D, Pacelbel
  27. Cat's in the Cradle, Harry Chapin
  28. Crazy Love, Van Morrison
  29. The Crying Game, Boy George
  30. The Dance, Garth Brooks
  31. Dang Me, Roger Miller
  32. Danny Boy, any version
  33. Dante's Prayer, Loreena McKennitt
  34. Days, Elvis Costello
  35. The Death of Falstaff, from Henry V
  36. Desperado, Eagles
  37. Don't Cry for Me Argentina, from Evita
  38. Don't Take the Girl, Tim McGraw
  39. Dream, Bob Dylan
  40. Dust in the Wind, Kansas
  41. Eleanor Rigby, Beatles
  42. Empty Chairs and Empty Tables, from Les Miserables
  43. Empty Garden, Elton John
  44. Evergreen, Barbra Streisand
  45. Everybody Hurts, REM
  46. Fanfare for the Common Man, Aaron Copeland
  47. Fields of Gold, Eva Cassidy
  48. Fire and Rain, James Taylor
  49. The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, Roberta Flack
  50. Fix You, Cold Play (or Young at Heart)
  51. Forget Her, Jeff Buckley
  52. The Gambler, Kenny Rogers
  53. Georgia on my Mind, Ray Charles
  54. The Ghost of Tom Joad, Bruce Springsteen
  55. Good Riddance, Green Day
  56. Goodnight Saigon, Billy Joel
  57. Greatest Love of All, Whitney Houston
  58. Growin' Up, Bruce Springsteen
  59. Hallelujah, Jeff Buckley
  60. Hurt, Johnny Cash
  61. Hushabye Mountain, from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
  62. I Can't Make You Love Me, Bonnie Raitt
  63. I Don't Want to Miss a Thing, Aerosmith
  64. I Grieve, Peter Gabriel
  65. I Had a Dream, from Les Miserables
  66. I Was a Fool to Let You Go, Barry Manilow
  67. I Won't Let Go, Rascal Flatts
  68. If, Bread
  69. If You're Reading This, Tim McGraw
  70. I'm A Fool To Want You, Carly Simon
  71. I'm Moving On, Rascal Flatts
  72. Imagine, John LennonIn Your Eyes, Peter Gabriel
  73. In a New York Minute, Don Henley
  74. In a Sentimental Mood, Duke Ellington
  75. In the Ghetto, Elvis Presley
  76. In the Wee Small Hours, Carly Simon
  77. Iris, Goo Goo Dolls
  78. It Was Very Good Year, Frank Sinatra
  79. It's Not Easy Being Green, Ray Charles
  80. It's Too Late, Carole King
  81. I've Loved These Days, Billy Joel
  82. Landslide, Fleetwood Mac
  83. Last Goodbye, Jeff Buckley
  84. The Last Song, Elton John
  85. The Leader of the Band, Dan Fogleberg
  86. Let It Be, Beatles
  87. Lilac Wine, Jeff Buckley
  88. The Living Years, Mike and the Mechanics
  89. The Long and Winding Road, Beatles
  90. A Long December, Counting Crows
  91. Lover, You Should Have Come Over, Jeff Buckley
  92. The Luckiest, Ben Folds
  93. Mad World, Michael Andrews
  94. Memories, from Cats
  95. Memories, Barbra Streisand
  96. A Million Fireflies, Midway State
  97. Moon River, Louis Armstrong
  98. Mother's Pride, George Michael
  99. More than Words, Extreme
  100. Mr. Bojangles, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
  101. Music of the Night, from Phantom of the Opera
  102. My Eyes Adored You, Frankie Valli
  103. My Funny Valentine, Sarah Vaughn
  104. My Immortal, Evanescence
  105. My Way, Frank Sinatra
  106. Nessun Dorma, Turnadot
  107. Nightswimming, REM
  108. On My Own, from Les Miserables
  109. One Day More, from Les Miserables
  110. One Hand/One Heart, from West Side Story
  111. One Moment in Time, Whitney Houston
  112. Operator, Jim Croce
  113. Philadelphia, Bruce Springstein
  114. Promentary, from Last of the Mohicans
  115. Proud to be An American, Lee Greenwood
  116. Puff the Magic Dragon, Peter, Paul and Mary
  117. Rainbow Connection, Kermit the Frog
  118. Rainy Days and Mondays, The Carpenters
  119. Redemption Song, Joe Strummer and Johnny Cash
  120. Romeo & Juliet, Dire Straits
  121. Seasons in the Sun, Terry Jacks
  122. Send in the Clowns, Judy Collins
  123. Set Fire to the Rain, Adele
  124. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, Nat King Cole
  125. Solsbury Hill, Peter Gabriel
  126. Some Gave All, Billy Ray Cyrus
  127. Sometimes When We Touch, Dan Hill
  128. Somewhere (A Place for Us), from West Side Story
  129. Somewhere Out There, Linda Rondstadt
  130. Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Israel Kamakawiwo'ole
  131. Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word, Elton John
  132. Sound of Silence, Simon and Garfunkle
  133. Stand By Me, BB King
  134. Stardust, Glen Miller
  135. Strange Fruit, Billie Holliday
  136. Streets of Philadelphia, Bruce Springsteen
  137. Summertime, Louis Armstrong
  138. Sunrise/Sunset, from Fiddler on the Roof
  139. Superman, Five for Fighting
  140. Taps, any version
  141. Tears in Heaven, Eric Clapton
  142. There's a Place For Us, from West Side Story
  143. These Three Words, Stevie Wonder
  144. This Woman's Work, Maxwell (or Kate Bush)
  145. Time After Time, Cyndi Lauper
  146. Time in a Bottle, Jim Croce
  147. Time to Say Goodbye, Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli
  148. Times of Your Life, Paul Anka
  149. To Sir With Love, Lulu
  150. Tonight I'm Gonna Cry, Keith Urban
  151. Unchained Melody, Righteous Brothers
  152. You Were Always on My Mind, Willie Nelson
  153. Walking in Memphis, Marc Cohn
  154. Wasted Time, Eagles
  155. Weekends in New England, Barry Manilow
  156. Weight of Lies, Avett Brothers
  157. We're Just Friends, Wilco
  158. What a Wonderful World, Louis Armstrong
  159. When Somebody Loved Me, Sara McLachlan
  160. Who Wants to Live Forever, Queen
  161. Wildfire, Michael Martin
  162. The Wind, Cat Stevens
  163. Wishing You Were Here, Chicago
  164. Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, Gorden Lightfoot
  165. Yesterday, Beatles
  166. You Are So Beautiful, Joe Crocker
  167. You Raise Me Up, Josh Groban

7/20/2011

"Guilty Pleasure" Movies


It's easy to pick awful movies; much more difficult to fess up to those "guilty pleasure" movies.  You know - the ones you hide under your coat at the video store so that no one sees you check them out.  The ones you quickly click away from when someone walks into the room.  The ones you lie about when friends call: "Oh, I'm just watching a movie.  Yeah - um - Private Ryan."   The ones that you love, but that you're not willing to publicly admit you love.

Here are some of my guilty pleasures; feel free to snigger.
  1. The 10 Commandments.  It's epic-ly cheesy, but there's something about the combination of over-the-top costuming, shameless overacting, and goofy special effects that keeps me coming back every Easter for more. 
  2. St. Elmo's Fire.  Actually, pretty much any of those movies staring the "brat pack":  16 Candles, Pretty in Pink ....  They were all so painfully '80s and yet I can't help watching them everytime they come on television.  Maybe it's the music? the fashion? the 80s angst? the really big hair?
  3. Planet of the Apes.  I don't even listen to the dialog anymore - I just enjoy the monkey makeup and the many fabulous quotes, to include a favorite of mine: "Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!"
  4. Army of Darkness.  Not sure I'm allowed to include this on the list, since - unlike the other movies on this list - it was made with the intention of being bad.  But something funny happened along the way: they made a movie so goofily hilarious that it's practically irresistable.
  5. Starship Troopers.  Recently named one of the worst movies ever made, yet there's something captivating about the timeless "man vs. bugs from outer space" theme that keeps sucking me in.
  6. 9 to 5.  It's everything that's wrong/right about movies made during the 70s* - socially preachy conflict (sexual harassment) + questionable 70s icons in starring roles (Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton) + the same incredibly juvenile slapstick sense of humor that brought us movies like Every Which Way But Loose, pairing Clint Eastwood with a monkey. And yet, I never tire of watching the gals avenge themselves on their sexist rat of a boss, played by ubiquitous '70s baddie Dabney Coleman.  (*Okay, technically the movie was released in 1980, but that means it was written/filmed in the '70s.)
  7. Three Muskateers + cheesy pirate/swordfighting movies.  The acting is extraneous, the time period is inconsequential, the plot is immaterial; they have me at "swordfight."  Honorable mentions in this category include Highlander, Conan the Barbarian, and the truly terrible Cutthroat Island. 
  8. Dirty Dancing + all cheesy dance/cheerleading/band/music movies.  You know, those movies where the plucky young lead has to conquer obstacles in order to achieve thier dream of becoming a successful dancer/singer/musician/cheerleader.  (And, along the way, win the heart of their "other side of the tracks" love interest.)  Think Fame, Flashdance, Center Stage, Drum Line, etc.  People knock this genre for being so predictable, but that's what I love about it: a little music, a bit of a love interest, and a happy ending.  All that's missing is a bit with a dog.
  9. Muppet movies. I never specified that "guilty pleasures" have to be bad movies, just embarassing!  One way or another I've managed to furtively enjoy many of these - The Mupppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, Muppet Treasure Island, A Muppet Christmas Carol - and foudn them to be uniformly entertaining and charming.  I'm just not necessarily ready to share this with others.
  10. Anything starring Goldie Hawn.  You know what I'm talking about.  Overboard.  Wildcats.  Swing Shift.  Private Benjamin.  They're preposterous, they're formulaic, and they're almost always insulting to women. (The ditzy character GH inevitably plays was, I think, meant to be a throwback to The Honeymooners and All In the Family, a period when Hollywood considered ditzy female characters to be entertaining rather than condescending and insulting).   And yet, everytime they pop up on one of the cable channels, I find myself watching ... while simultaneously keeping one finger poised on the "back" button so that, at any time, I can quickly return to The History Channel should someone unexpectedly enter the room. 
So, what are your "guilty pleasures"?

7/16/2011

Insults of the Famous and Literate

Think you're pretty adept with witty insults, taunts and put-downs?  The following collection of insults by the famous and literate is guaranteed to leave you humbled, and wholly amused.
  1. “He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.” -Winston Churchill
  2. “A modest little person, with much to be modest about.” -Winston Churchill
  3. "A sheep in sheep's clothing." - Winston Churchill
  4. "I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.” -Clarence Darrow
  5. “He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.” -William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway)
  6. “Does he really think big emotions come from big words?” -Ernest Hemingway (about William Faulkner)
  7. “Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I’ll waste no time reading it.” -Moses Hadas
  8. "This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force." - Dorothy Parker
  9. “He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know.” -Abraham Lincoln
  10. “I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it.” -Groucho Marx
  11. “I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.” -Mark Twain
  12. “He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends.” -Oscar Wilde
  13. "Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go." -Oscar Wilde
  14. “I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend…. if you have one.” - George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill
  15. “Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second… If there is one.” - Winston Churchill, in response to Bernard Shaw
  16. “He is a self-made man and worships his creator.” - John Bright
  17. “I’ve just learned about his illness. Let’s hope it’s nothing trivial.” - Irvin S. Cobb
  18. “He is not only dull himself, he is the cause of dullness in others.” -Samuel Johnson
  19. “He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up.” - Paul Keating
  20. “He had delusions of adequacy.” - Walter Kerr
  21. “There’s nothing wrong with you that reincarnation won’t cure.” -Jack E. Leonard
  22. “He has the attention span of a lightning bolt.” -Robert Redford
  23. “They never open their mouths without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge.” -Thomas Brackett Reed
  24. “He inherited some good instincts from his Quaker forebears, but by diligent hard work, he overcame them.” -James Reston (about Richard Nixon)
  25. “In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily.” -Charles, Count Talleyrand
  26. “He loves nature in spite of what it did to him.” -Forrest Tucker
  27. “Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?” -Mark Twain
  28. “His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork.” -Mae West
    “He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts for support rather than illumination.” -Andrew Lang (1844-1912)
  29. “He has Van Gogh’s ear for music.” - Billy Wilder
  30. "She looked as if she had been poured into her clothes and had forgotten to say 'when.'" -P.G. Wodehouse
  31. "O, she is the antidote to desire."  -William Congreve
  32. "I could eat alphabet soup and shit better lyrics."  -Johnny Mercer,
  33. "The problem with the gene pool is that there's no lifeguard."  -David Gerrold
  34. “I can’t believe that out of 10,000 sperm, you were the quickest.” - Steven Pearl
  35. "Some people stay longer in an hour than others can in a week." - William Dean Howells
  36. "Pushing 40? She's hanging on for dear life." - Ivy Compton-Burnett
  37. "I feel so miserable without you; it's almost like having you here." - Stephen Bishop
  38. "I have never liked him and I always will." - David Clark
  39. "I regard you with an indifference bordering on aversion." -Robert Louis Stevenson
  40. "He's completely unspoiled by failure." -Noel Coward
  41. "Fine words! I wonder where you stole them." - Jonathan Swift
  42. "You had to stand in line to hate him." - Hedda Hopper
  43. "The trouble with her is that she lacks the power of conversation but not the power of speech." -George Bernard Shaw
  44. "There, but for the grace of God, goes God." - Winston Churchill
  45. "Some folks are wise and some are otherwise." -Tobias George Smolett
  46. "She never lets ideas interrupt the easy flow of her conversation." - Jean Webster
  47. "Ordinarily he is insane.  But he has lucid moments when he is only stupid." - Heinrich Heine
  48. "She has been kissed as often as a police-court Bible, and by much the same class of people." - Robertson Davies
  49. "He was trying to save both his faces." -John Gunther
  50. "Failure has gone to his head." - Wilson Mizner
  51. "God was bored by him." - Victor Hugo
  52. "He had delusions of adequacy." - Walter Kerr
  53. "He has no enemies, but he is intensely disliked by his friends." - Oscar Wilde
  54. "He is as good as his word - and his word is no good." -Seamus MacManus
  55. "He is one of those people who would be enormously improved by death." - H.H. Munro
  56. "He was happily married - but his wife wasn't." - Victor Borge
  57. "She not only kept her lovely figure, she's added so much to it." -Bob Fosse
  58. "He never chooses an opinion; he just wears whatever happens to be in style." - Leo Tolstoy
  59. "He was born stupid, and greatly increased his birthright." - Samuel Butler
  60. "He was distinguished for ignorance; for he had only one idea and that was wrong." - Benjamin Disraeli
  61. "That woman speaks eight different languages and can't say 'no' in any of them." - Dorothy Parker
  62. "He has not so much brain as ear wax." -William Shakespeare
  63. "He's a tried and valiant soldier.  So is my horse." -William Shakespeare
  64. "Her beauty and her brain go not together." - William Shakespeare
  65. "Better a witty fool than a foolish wit." - William Shakespeare
(I gathered these from sources all over the internet so can't vouch for their accuracy; only their entertainment value!)

7/08/2011

A Thousand Words: Cookie Monster


Sometimes change is a good thing. 
Sometimes things are fine just the way they are.

7/05/2011

Book Look - The Monk, Matthew Lewis



Don't be scared off by the book's 18th century publication date: this story is great fun - as shocking and titillating as anything in modern lit. The Monk has it all: scandal, conspiracy, murder, villainy, hypocrisy, incest, rape, betrayal, ghosts, demons, corpses, and enough gruesome detail to rival an episode of CSI.

The story is set in Spain during the time of the Inquisition, and focuses on the corruption and eventual destruction of Ambrosio, "The Man of Holiness", a Capuchin monk whose outward piety conceals vanity and a lust for power, from which seeds grow spiraling tendrils of evil that eventually destroy him, with a little help from Old Smokey himself. (Lucifer actually makes a juicy cameo appearance at the end - don't miss it!).

Love how "meaty" the story is: within the main narrative, Lewis embeds digressions and side stories that add to the entertainment and general spookiness of the story. Caught up in the main narrative (in which the Brave Cavalier Lorenzo attempts to woo the Innocent Virgin Antonia; Noble Raymond attempts to rescue his True Love Agnes from the schemes of Villainous Family Members and an Evil Prioress; and the Mad Monk Ambrosio is gradually corrupted), you may be tempted to skip these parts, but don't! Elvira's sad history, the story of Lorenzo's brush with bloodthirsty bandits in the forests of Germany, and especially the tale of the Bleeding Nun and the Wandering Jew are fully as diverting as the main narrative.

Love, too, how the author incorporates all the stereotypical elements of gothic fiction - mad monks, wicked nuns, brave knights, naïve virgins, scheming family members, crypts, corpses, and sorcery - while still managing to create a story that feels fresh, literate, and well-crafted. Lewis may have picked a dubious genre, but there's nothing dubious about his plotting or prose. Indeed, Ambrosio's decline is presented in so gradual and logical a fashion, will shock you almost as much as it shocks him at the end to realize how far he's fallen, and how fast.

Finally, love how the book lays the foundation for so much literature that's come since. Reading along, you'll catch definite whiffs of Bronte, Poe, Hawthorn, Byron, Eco, and Perez-Reverte, among others. Were I a scholar, would love to research how this text provides a bridge between the old-style horror of medieval morality plays and modern lit.

Because, beneath the shock and titillation, this is at its core a morality play, in which evildoers are punished and virtue is rewarded. (Except for a few necessarily tragic consequences, because evil can't happen without victims, after all). A little spooky, a little melodramatic, a lot entertaining, and good triumphs over evil yet again ... what more do you want from a book?