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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

A QUICK LOOK THROUGH MY WINDOW ON MAIN STREET.....

By Jim McAllister

There is hope for the over sixty crowd regardless of what the younger folks think. According to AARP only 5% of those over 60 believe that sex should be left to the young. About 85% of this group has some sort of intimate experience once a week including kissing and intercourse!.....In other news (ahem), what is the deal with Dick Cheney? He obviously took some lessons from the esteemed senator from Massachusetts, Mr. K. Cheney makes Dan Quayle look like a genius. As Jay Leno says, "What if it turns out that Bush is the smart one!".....Ah, Scottsdale politics. It’s the only town in the area with a population of over 200,000 and a city council that has no clue. Next month is election time and already there is a scandal over three incumbents conspiring to keep another candidate off the ballot. Immediately there are 7 write in candidates trying to take advantage and wiggle their way on to the council. Stay tuned!.....
CURT GOWDY (R) with hunter Fred Bear in
a vintage Photo (Photo: Bowhunter.net)
MOIRA SHEARER in THE RED SHOES
(1948) (Photo: WashingtonPost.com)
Recent deaths.....Noted sportscaster Curt Gowdy has died at 86. I remember Curt very well for his good calls in many major sporting events and his folksy way in the booth. He is probably the last guy to do all major events like the Super Bowl (he did the first one in 1967), the World Series, the Olympics, and NCAA Basketball. I especially remember his commentary on the famous "Heidi" game between Oakland and the New York Jets in 1968. NBC cut away from the game late in the 4th quarter to show the movie "Heidi". At the time new York led 32-29 but Oakland scored twice to win in the last minute 43-32. That is why all games are shown in their entirety these days!.....Other notable recent deaths: Writer Peter Benchley, author of "Jaws", "The Deep", and others is dead at 65.....Freddie Laker, pioneer of the low cost air fares at 83.....Al "Grandpa" Lewis, He made a career out of being a member of the TV cast of "The Munsters" in the 1960's. He also was an expert on scouting basketball players. He was 92.....Moira Shearer, the pretty red headed ballerina in Michael Powell’s classic 1948 movie, "The Red Shoes". She was 80.....Have you been watching the Olympics?
LINDSEY JACOBELLIS.....
Lost sure chance at Olympic gold
medal through youthful enthusiasm
(Photo: US OlympicTeam.com)
What in the world was snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis thinking pulling that hot dog move with a 100 meter lead on the second place opponent? I hope she didn’t have her endorsement money spent yet as she threw it away with that bonehead move and cost her and her country a gold medal. The rest of the Olympics is OK but I wouldn’t want it to be on any more than every four years. Bob Costas is doing his usual great job of hosting the affair. Costas is always good regardless of what he does and it is nice to see him between the multitude of commercials.....Do you like to read good mysteries? If you read this space with any regularity you know that I love a mystery particularly by John Dunning, Robert B. Parker, and Michael Connelly. I want to add Harlan Coben to that list. I just finished his "Just One Look" and am half way through "The Innocent". Coben is definitely "A" list with his work as he brings new meaning to "page turner" and "I can’t put this book down".....Do ten year old kids riding skateboards really need to be talking on cell phones? I was just wondering.....It has been 125 days since it rained in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area. The previous record was 101 days. Attention firemen: get ready to be busy this spring.....
HARLAN COBEN holding a copy
of his 2005 thriller THE INNOCENT
(Photo: Harlan Coben)
Water is a constant problem in an arid area like Arizona. Since it has not rained this winter the problem will become more acute this year. The building boom continues in the Phoenix area but at least builders have to show a 100 year water availability study. In the rural areas of the state, proof of 100 year water availability is not necessary to build homes. So, we now have plans in Mohave County in the Kingman area to build 160,000 homes with no proof of water availability! Currently that area averages 14 people per square mile and they are having trouble finding enough water to live on as wells continually dry up and water has to be hauled in. Of course, the developers don’t care, they just want to build and get the hell out. These homes are being built primarily as a bedroom community for Las Vegas as casino personnel are unable to afford housing in expensive Vegas and shouldn’t mind the one hour commute when the new road is built around Hoover Dam. Let’s see, 160,000 homes and no water certainty....Hmmmmmm.....once again, stay tuned.....Johnny Mathis, Connie Francis, and Patti Page have recently been or are scheduled to be performing in town. When looking at their pictures in the newspaper it reminded me of some of the photos of famous people my buddy Allen sends to me under the heading of "The importance of make-up." I’m glad to see that these people are still able to make the rounds. See you next week! (Comments? Questions? Leave them in space provided or azjimmcallister@cox.net)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

MOVIE REMAKES: AN IMPROVEMENT OR SHAMELESS RIP-OFF?

By Jim McAllister

I am going to be up front with my feelings about movie re-makes. In most cases I think they are a rip-off trying to cash in on a story that somebody else took a career and financial risk on in the past and had it pay off. Usually the re-makes are miscast with the current "flavor of the month" star banking on a proven story line to make a buck. Please notice that I said this happens "in most cases" but not always; some re-makes are actually pretty good. Many think that re-makes are a current phenomenon since Hollywood movie attendance is slipping every year and they are trying to get something into the theaters that works and the easiest way is to copy a winner. This is not so as re-makes have been around since sound movies were introduced in 1927. It is simply a case of the same philosophy being used over and over again. After all, isn’t the object to turn a profit? Let’s make THE MALTESE FALCON three times (1931, 1936, 1941) since Dashiell Hammett is hot and see what happens! (The third version was by far the best, a very successful re-make)
The Stars of KING KONG (1933) L-R
clockwise: BRUCE CABOT, ROBERT
ARMSTRONG, and FAY WRAY as
Ann Darrow. This original has all the
charm that later remakes lack. (Photo:
aboyd.com)
NAOMI WATTS as Ann Darrow in KING
KONG (2005). Long running time and
excessive special effects have hurt the
appeal of this remake. (Photo: Rotten
Tomatoes)
Another example of a good early re-make is THE FRONT PAGE. Originally made in 1931 with Adolf Menjou and Mary Brian, this one has been re-made three times and each version has been excellent. My favorite is HIS GIRL FRIDAY (1940) with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. 1974's THE FRONT PAGE and 1988's SWITCHING CHANNELS were good also.
I DIED A THOUSAND TIMES (1955) and COLORADO TERRITORY (1949) were re-makes of the Humphrey Bogart hit HIGH SIERRA (1941). Although the 1955 version is usually panned, I like Jack Palance in the Roy "Mad Dog" Earle part and the 1949 version is good with Joel McCrea. Other decent remakes are PYGMALION (1937) into MY FAIR LADY (1964), and CAPE FEAR (1962, 1991).
ALFRED HITCHCOCK and JANET
LEIGH setting up a scene from
PSYCHO (1960) (Photo: Yahoo
Movies)
And then we have the stinkers: DOCTOR DOOLITTLE (1967, 1998)...In this case, I wonder why anyone would want to make a second version. The original had the star power of Rex Harrison and still couldn’t pull it off. At 144 minutes it was a sure snoozer with the only bright spot being the award winning song "Talk to the Animals". Number two was a bit better with Eddie Murphy providing some comic relief but still pretty much a dud. ROLLERBALL (1975, 2002)...The 1975 film was just OK and didn’t really deserve to be made again. It at least had some talent with James Caan and John Houseman existing in a society where violence is outlawed. The second coming of this film is just plain silly as stars Chris Klein and L. L. Cool J go to Europe to play rollerball, a circus event more than a sport. STAGECOACH (1939, 1966)...It isn’t so much that the second making of this classic is bad; it is simply a case where the original was so good that it was impossible to improve the product. The 1939 original is a great film, not just a great western. It was one of the early "adult" westerns which featured the interaction among a disparate cast traveling on a stagecoach through Indian territory. It also features some of the best action sequences recorded on film thanks to the artistry of Yakima Canutt. This movie made John Wayne a star and Thomas Mitchell’s role as the drunken doctor earned him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. The 1966 production of STAGECOACH gave it a whirl but the shoes were too big to fill. There is nothing wrong with the cast consisting of Ann-Margret, Bing Crosby, Bob Cummings, and Slim Pickens but it is too long at 155 minutes and sorely lacking in action.
ANN HECHE in remake of PSYCHO (1998)
A valiant effort but this scene will always
belong to Janet Leigh (Photo: All Movie
Photo.com)
Then there is PSYCHO (1960, 1998). This one is similar to STAGECOACH as it is a classic that virtually can’t be duplicated. However, director Gus Van Sant tried to do exactly that by copying the original scene for scene in the shameless 1998 re-make. The biggest problem is with the stars plus the fact that it is hard to duplicate perfection. The role of Norman Bates is synonymous with Anthony Perkins, Vince Vaughn had no chance. The same goes for Ann Heche playing Marion Crane. Forget it Ann, you are not Janet Leigh. More bad re-makes: YOURS, MINE, AND OURS (1968, 2005), THE GETAWAY (1972, 1994).
One of the problems with some re-makes is the over use of special effects. I believe that is one of the problems with the 2005 copy of KING KONG. This movie has not lived up to expectations at the box office as it has barely made it’s cost of $207 million. They took all the charm out of the original and made it too long.
As I have mentioned before, one of the fun things about being a critic is you can never be right or wrong. All you are doing is giving your opinion which may or may not differ from that of your readers. However, with the track record of re-makes, if you see a re-make of one of your favorites ready for a debut, you may be better off staying home and reading the book.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

FROM THE CARIOCA TO HIP-HOP, JUST DANCE, DANCE, DANCE!

by Jim McAllister

A few months ago in this space, I talked about the benefits of running and how it helped me toward fitness starting in the mid 1970's. It worked for me but I realized then and I realize now that running is not for everyone. Some people consider it boring to go out and take in a run, some feel that it is bad for the joints, and others think that exercise is just plain silly regardless of what you do. As for me, nothing matched the exhilaration of the "runner’s high." One thing for certain; being overweight is a terrible drain on your health and running will alleviate that problem. For those who hate the idea of running there is another way to achieve fitness that may be more attractive to you: dancing.
Since the beginning of time, dancing and moving to some type of sound or music has been a natural activity for human beings. Physical activity is important to mental and physical health and dancing can provide that activity.
The latest studies recommend that a person should do some type of exercise for thirty minutes at a time about five times a week. This can include walking, running, riding a stationary bike, or some type of dancing. Even slow dancing provides about the same amount of exercise as walking. This type of exercise gets your heart pumping faster and warms you up reducing the risk of heart disease and helping lower blood pressure and the risk of diabetes.
JAMES CAGNEY in YANKEE DOODLE
DANDY (1942). He was a good dancer
and did it for exercise after he retired.
(photo: MovieActors.com)
Burning calories is a constant concern for most of us as that is necessary to maintain or lose weight. Depending on the type of dancing you enjoy, the average weight person can usually burn about 100 calories in a half hour dance session depending on the type of dance. Dancing is also good for the joints and muscles. The strain on the bones increases density thus decreasing brittleness from osteoporosis and the working of the muscles helps against osteoarthritis. Dancing also helps with balance and the reduction of the chances of injury from falling; a typical problem for senior citizens.
Seniors are constantly being reminded of the importance of staying active, both mentally and physically. They are encouraged to take classes, learn computers, try writing with the opposite hand, and do other items that keep the brain active and stall Alzheimer’s. Exercise, such as dancing, is also important in its ability to increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain.
One of the most important benefits of exercise of any kind is the improvement of a person’s general mood. I remember when I was running a lot of miles how there were some days when I didn’t feel like lacing up the Nikes and going for my run. Maybe it was cold and raining or I felt sluggish or that cold Budweiser looked more inviting that day. But, usually I would force myself out the door and when I returned I had an entirely different outlook on my day as now the juices were flowing, the heart was pumping, and I felt like I had earned that beer. It was a wonderful feeling and you can feel the same without running if you want: just dance.
ARTHUR and KATHRYN MURRAY
taking a turn around the dance floor
in the 1950's. He lived to be 96, she
lived to be 92. (photo courtesy AM
Studios of Coquitlam/Tri-Cities BC)
Have you ever seen a fat dancer? It is highly unlikely as dancers are fit, in shape people from their rigorous exercise. Here are some examples of those who benefitted from dancing: FRED ASTAIRE (1899-1987): Fred lived to be 88 and was slim and trim his whole life. He did specials on television in the 1950's exhibiting his dancing prowess and as late as 1968 at age 69 he danced in the movie "Finian’s Rainbow". JAMES CAGNEY (1899-1986): Jimmy Cagney was a song and dance man in vaudeville before he entered the movies. He never did much dancing in films except for "Yankee Doodle Dandy" (1942) where he played showman George M. Cohan and his reprisal of the Cohan role in 1955 for "The Seven Little Foys" at age 56. He did, however, do a lot of dancing in his later years to keep fit. GEORGE MURPHY (1902-1992). Murphy hoofed his way through many films with the best of them, became a U. S. Senator, and lived to be 90. FAYARD NICHOLAS (1914-2006): Recently died at 91, was half of The Nicholas Brothers dance act, the most acrobatic I have ever seen. GENE KELLY (1912-1996): Kelly was one of the best, could do any dance, lived to 84. Want more proof about the benefits of dancing? How about those two great dance teachers, ARTHUR MURRAY (1895-1991) and his wife KATHRYN MURRAY (1906-1999). I think these are some good examples of how dancing may increase one’s life span.
Whether it’s the Carioca, the fox trot or a polka, just dance, dance, dance! (Comments, Questions? Go to jmcallister.blogspot.com or azjimmcallister@cox.net)

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

THREE MOVIE TREASURES: McDANIEL, BEAVERS, AND HORNE

by Jim McAllister

McDaniel, Beavers, and Horne; it sounds like a law firm but nothing could be further from the reality of those three names. They are Hattie McDaniel, Louise Beavers, and Lena Horne; three fine actresses whose careers were held back simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. These ladies were black and during their prime years of the 1930's and 1940's it didn’t matter how much ability a black entertainer had in Hollywood, they were usually going to be subjected to minor or subservient parts, sometimes called the "Stepin Fetchit syndrome" named after the black actor of that era.
LENA HORNE...A long
and illustrious career, no
thanks to Hollywood.
(photo courtesy Denny
Jackson)
Today we have Halle Berry earning a Best Actress Oscar for her performance in 2001's "Monster’s Ball". It make one wonder what kind of career the talented and beautiful Lena Horne (b. 1917) might have had under today’s standards versus the era of her youth. She was an immense talent both as a singer and an actress. She got her start at age 14 as a dancer in Harlem’s famous Cotton Club, a place where black entertainers were mostly enjoyed by a white audience. By 16 she was packing them in as a singer and later moved on to some parts in Broadway productions. At 21 she was ready for Hollywood but was it ready for her? She had small roles in "The Duke is Tops" (1938) and "Panama Hattie" (1942) but they were singing "inserts" and not really acting parts. In 1943 she appeared in the all black production of "Stormy Weather" and the title song became her signature. Perhaps her best role as an actress was in "Cabin in the Sky", also an all black production from 1943.
By the late 1940's she was still doing inserts for major movies like "Words and Music" (1948) and "Duchess of Idaho" (1950). Although these inserts were nice productions, they rarely had anything to do with the plot. They were simply "fluff" that could be removed from the film when it was sent into the south, an area where no black person was to receive any type of favorable recognition even though the Civil War had been over for almost 100 years.
Lena has referred to her early career as being "a sepia Hedy Lamarr", a reference to the beautiful Austrian actress of that time. Fortunately, she had a nice career despite the prejudices of the times but one wonders what might have been.
HATTIE McDANIEL preparing
for a scene in GONE WITH THE
WIND. In spite of her great per-
formance they couldn't even spell
her name correctly on the clapper-
board. Look closely: it's spelled
"McDaniels".
Hattie McDaniel (1895-1952) will be known forever for her role as "Mammy" in "Gone With the Wind" (1939). She received the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for that role but not much else as far as recognition or respect. When the film premiered in Atlanta in December of 1939, neither Hattie or her black co-stars were invited since Atlanta was still segregated. A commemorative program that was printed to honor the event had to be destroyed and re-printed because of the complaints of southerners over the use of Hattie’s picture on the back page. Even at the Academy Awards presentation in 1940, where she received her Best Supporting Actress award, she and her husband were not seated with the GWTW party, but were placed in the far away reaches of the room. It was a long walk to the stage when her name was called.
Hattie went on to play basically domestic help in a few more movies and the television show, "Beulah" before she died in 1952. Once again, like Lena Horne, one wonders what Hattie McDaniel might have accomplished in another era.
LOUISE BEAVERS...played
domestic parts in countless
films of the 1930's and 1940's.
(photo: Reel Classics)
Sweet Louise Beavers (1902-1962); what a neat lady she was. She was almost universally cast as a domestic but made the most of it in such films as "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House" (1947) where her part had a big influence on the work of advertising man Cary Grant. However, in most cases her talents were wasted because of stereotyping and most of the roles she had in 130 film appearances were small and typical. Her one big opportunity for a breakthrough occurred in 1934 when she was cast as Claudette Colbert’s maid "Delilah" in "Imitation of Life". It was a large and important part and if the Academy was handing out supporting Oscars at that time she would have had an excellent chance to get one. However, they weren’t and it was left to Hattie McDaniel to earn the first African-American Oscar in 1939.
In spite of Louise’s fine performance in "Imitation of Life", she still only received fifth billing and after that film it was back into the domestic roles. She worked in movies and television throughout the 1950's and died at age 60 in 1962, another fine actress who missed opportunities because of the times.
Hattie McDaniel, Lena Horne, and Louise Beavers: Three great ladies of film when the word "diversity" was unknown. I’m sure that Halle Berry, Queen Latifah, and others know these ladies and appreciate their groundbreaking work.

SO YOU WANT TO BE A TEACHER? READ THIS FIRST!

NO PARENT LEFT BEHIND, I PROMISE YOU CANNOT READ THESE AND NOT LAUGH OUT LOUD! THESE ARE REAL NOTES WRITTEN BY PARENTS IN A SCHOOL DISTRICT. (SPELLINGS HAVE BEEN LEFT INTACT.)

*MY SON IS UNDER A DOCTOR'S CARE AND SHOULD NOT TAKE PE TODAY. PLEASE EXECUTE HIM.

*PLEASE EXKUCE LISA FOR BEING ABSENT SHE WAS SICK AND I HAD HER SHOT.

*DEAR SCHOOL: PLEASE EXCUSE JOHN BEING ABSENT ON JAN. 28, 29, 30, 31, 32 AND ALSO 33.

*PLEASE EXCUSE GLORIA FROM JIM TODAY. SHE IS ADMINISTRATING.

*PLEASE EXCUSE ROLAND FROM P.E. FOR A FEW DAYS. YESTERDAY HE FELL OUT OF A TREE AND MISPLACED HIS HIP.

*JOHN HAS BEEN ABSENT BECAUSE HE HAD TWO TEETH TAKEN OUT OF HIS FACE.

*CARLOS WAS ABSENT YESTERDAY BECAUSE HE WAS PLAYING FOOTBALL. HE WAS HURT IN THE GROWING PART.

*MEGAN COULD NOT COME TO SCHOOL TODAY BECAUSE SHE HAS BEEN BOTHERED BYVERY CLOSE VEINS

*CHRIS WILL NOT BE IN SCHOOL CUS HE HAS AN ACRE IN HIS SIDE.

*PLEASE EXCUSE RAY FRIDAY FROM SCHOOL. HE HAS VERY LOOSE VOWELS.

*PLEASE EXCUSE PEDRO FROM BEING ABSENT YESTERDAY. HE HAD (DIAHRE, DYREA,DIREATHE), THE SHITS. [WORDS IN ( )'s WERE CROSSED OUT].

*PLEASE EXCUSE TOMMY FOR BEING ABSENT YESTERDAY. HE HAD DIARRHEA, AND HIS BOOTS LEAK.

*IRVING WAS ABSENT YESTERDAY BECAUSE HE MISSED HIS BUST.

*PLEASE EXCUSE JIMMY FOR BEING. IT WAS HIS FATHER'S FAULT.

*KEPT BILLIE HOME BECAUSE SHE HAD TO GO CHRISTMAS SHOPPING BECAUSE I DON'T KNOW WHAT SIZE SHE WEAR.

*PLEASE EXCUSE JENNIFER FOR MISSING SCHOOL YESTERDAY. WE FORGOT TO GET THE SUNDAY PAPER OFF THE PORCH, AND WHEN WE FOUND IT MONDAY. WE THOUGHT IT WAS SUNDAY.

*SALLY WON'T BE IN SCHOOL A WEEK FROM FRIDAY. WE HAVE TO ATTEND HER FUNERAL.

*MY DAUGHTER WAS ABSENT YESTERDAY BECAUSE SHE WAS TIRED. SHE SPENT A WEEKEND WITH THE MARINES.

*PLEASE EXCUSE JASON FOR BEING ABSENT YESTERDAY. HE HAD A COLD AND COULD NOT BREED WELL.

*PLEASE EXCUSE MARY FOR BEING ABSENT YESTERDAY. SHE WAS IN BED WITH GRAMPS.

*GLORIA WAS ABSENT YESTERDAY AS SHE WAS HAVING A GANGOVER.

*PLEASE EXCUSE BRENDA. SHE HAS BEEN SICK AND UNDER THE DOCTOR.

*MARYANN WAS ABSENT DECEMBER 11-16, BECAUSE SHE HAD A FEVER, SORE THROAT, HEADACHE AND UPSET STOMACH. HER SISTER WAS ALSO SICK, FEVER AND SORE THROAT; HER BROTHER HAD A LOW GRADE FEVER AND ACHED ALL OVER. I WASN'T THE BEST EITHER, SORE THROAT AND FEVER. THERE MUST BE SOMETHING GOING AROUND, HER FATHER EVEN GOT HOT LAST NIGHT.

NOW WE KNOW WHY PARENTS ARE SCREAMING FOR BETTER EDUCATION FOR OUR KIDS!

God Bless our Teachers; they're trying!!!!!!!