Sunday, February 28, 2010

Prospero's 2010 Oscar Picks

My track record for picking Oscar winners isn't the greatest. I usually know what or who I think should win or what or who I want to win. Those are rarely who or what actually does win. And honestly, the Oscars have been so boring lately, I haven't managed to stay tuned to an entire broadcast for the last several years.

But it is the industry's highest honor, so I do want to know who and what wins. Not that it really matters. In Hollywood, money talks, and the Oscar-nominated movies are usually very high-brow films that very few people have seen. Popular films (with very few exceptions) rarely win Best Picture, unless they don't deserve to (Titanic; Crash). In order to make amends for that (and in the hopes of garnering higher ratings), the Academy decided to expand the usual 5 Best Picture nominees to 10 this year. This may seem unusual but originally, there were 12 nominees. It was pared down to 5 in the 30's and has stayed that way until now.

Anyway, here are both my personal choices and what I think will win in the 7 major categories, for what its worth:

Best Supporting Actress

The Nominees:

Penelope Cruz in Nine.
Vera Farmiga in Up In the Air
Maggie Gyllenhaal in Crazy Heart
Anna Kendrick in Up In the Air
Mo'nique in Precious

Who Should Win: I have no idea, though Farmiga and Kendrick probably cancel each other out and Cruz (creepy as I may find her) was the second best thing in Nine. That leaves two actresses in films I did not (and probably will not) see.

Who Will Win: Mo'nique. Because it's really hard to stop a rolling boulder once it gets going.

Best Supporting Actor

The Nominees:

Matt Damon in Invictus
Woody Harrelson in The Messenger
Christopher Plummer in The Last Station
Stanley Tucci in The Lovely Bones
Christoph Waltz in Inglorious Basterds

Who Should Win: Again, no idea, as I have only seen two of these movies, and both just very recently. Harrelson has no chance; the Academy rarely awards stoners. Plummer is getting up there, but nobody saw The Last Station and while I adore Stanley Tucci as both a hot piece of man flesh and a brilliant actor, his performance in The Lovely Bones is just a little too obvious and Damon already has a naked gold guy (even if it is for writing). Which leaves:

Who Will Win: Christoph Waltz. He was without a doubt the best thing in Tarantino's alt-hist WWII talk-fest.

Best Actress

The Nominees:

Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side
Helen Mirren in The Last Station
Carey Mulligan in An Education
Gabourey Sidibe in Precious
Meryl Streep in Julie & Julia

Who Should Win: Meryl. No question about it. She practically channeled Julia Child for the film.

Who Will Win: Sandra Bullock. Mirren and Streep already have gold men, while Sidibe and Mulligan are just starting their careers. In a career that's had its ups and downs, Sandra Bullock remains America's Sweetheart and Academy members love a good comeback.

Best Actor

The Nominees:

Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart
George Clooney in Up In the Air
Colin Firth in A Single Man
Morgan Freeman in Invictus
Jeremey Renner in The Hurt Locker

Who Should Win: I guess this should really be 'Who I want to Win,' because George Clooney was just so damned good in Up In the Air. Good enough, in fact, for me to finally break down and admit he is the modern Cary Grant. Now if only he'd do a true screwball comedy.

Who Will Win: Jeff Bridges. See Best Actress. And because he should have won for Starman.

Best Animated Feature

The Nominees:

Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Princess and the Frog
The Secret of the Kells

What Should Win: Up. Pixar's delightful and surprising adventure about an old fellow who ties a million balloons to house and floats it to South America was simply a joy to watch, while say so much about so many things.

What Will Win: Up. Pixar continues its streak, no matter how much I loved Coraline.

Best Director

The Nominees:

Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker
James Cameron for Avatar
Lee Daniels for Precious
Jason Reitman for Up In the Air
Quentin Tarantino for Inglorious Basterds

Who Should Win: Again, I have no idea. I've only seen three of the five films, though I think Bigelow should win simply because I adore Near Dark so much (and I so despise sell-out Cameron and his gigantic ego).

Who Will Win: Bigelow will take the naked man home in the movie's only win.

Best Picture

The Nominees:

The Blind Side
District 9
An Education
The Hurt Locker
Inglorious Basterds
A Serious Man
Up In the Air

What Should Win: Hmmm... Well, of the five films I've actually seen in this category, Up was the best, though it certainly won't win in two categories. That leaves 9 contenders, of which the best one I saw was District 9, though it doesn't stand a chance against the year's other big Sci-Fi hit.

What Will Win: Damnit, I'm sad to say it, but I think Avatar is going to win, though it certainly doesn't deserve to.

And lest you forget just how bad the Academy Awards can be, let me remind you:

While in the past 21 years some of those of those young actors (Ricki Lake, Patrick Dempsey,
Christian Slater) have gone to variously successful careers, most of them have faded into obscurity (D.A. Pawley? Really? Who the hell was he? Malora Hardin? Matt Lattanzi? Who?) and not a single one of them has ever been nominated (though Savion Glover did go on to win a Tony). It just goes to show that AMPAS has no idea what the hell they're doing, either.

Please don't place any bets or enter any contests based on my picks. Like I said, Uncle P's track record is pretty bad.

More, anon.

Friday, February 26, 2010

I'm Your Boyfriend Now, Bitch!

There's a new trailer out for the 'reboot" (oh, how I hate that word) of A Nightmare on Elm Street, the 1984 Wes Craven classic that starred Heather Langencamp, John Saxon, Ronee Blakely, Charles "Roger Rabbit" Fleischer and Robert Englund as the pedophile Fred Kreuger (it wasn't until the film's sequel that he was officially called "Freddy"). Oh yeah, it also starred this young unknown by the name of Johnny Depp, in his feature film debut (more on Johnny in my upcoming post about Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland).

In the movie, a small town's teenagers suddenly find themselves plagued by nightmares in which a horribly burn-scarred maniac stalks them with a razor-clawed glove. It turns out their parents had long-ago stalked and killed a local pedo, burning him alive in the high school boiler room, where he had been employed as a janitor. Years later, Freddy manages to invade the dreams of their children, taking advantage of the old urban legend that says if you die in your dream, you die in real life.

The movie was a sensation and spawned almost as many sequels as Friday the 13th, ending with 2003's Freddy vs Jason, a campy mix in which the two unstoppable Horror icons joined forces to take out local teens, but ended up battling each other for supremacy. Beyond silly, Freddy vs Jason was the nadir of both franchises, both of which should have been put to bed long ago (despite the calls for an Ash vs Freddy vs Jason sequel, which, thankfully, never happened).

As a young (23 - yes, I'm old) Horror fan who, at the time, adored 80's slasher flicks, I found the first film to be both original and effective, and Fred Kreuger was probably the most frightening Horror movie villain since Craven's mutant cannibal family in the original The Hills Have Eyes. Of course, as the franchise progressed and Freddy became an increasingly campy spouter of bad one-liners, I began to lose interest. That is, until Craven returned with 1994's A New Nightmare, which pitted Langencamp as herself, battling the fictional Kreuger made real through her son's own nightmares. The movie explored the fine line between fiction and reality, but fell apart in its last few minutes. And Craven's next film, the terrible Eddy Murphy vehicle A Vampire in Brooklyn seemed to seal his fate as a has-been. It wouldn't be until the Kevin Williamson-penned slasher satire Scream that Craven would redeem himself. I'm also a big fan of Craven's non-Horror thriller Red Eye, with Rachel McAdams, Cillian Murphy, Brian Cox and giant-eyed "Glee" star, Jayma Mays.

And Craven's next film, My Soul to Take, seems to explore familiar territory in a tale about a serial killer who returns to his hometown to stalk children whose birthday's fall on the day he was supposedly buried. How much more can Craven mine from this concept? I'm not sure, but you can bet I'll be seeing it.

Anyway, here's the latest trailer for director Wesley Strick's "reboot" of A Nightmare...

Is it me, or does Jackie Earle Haley's version of Freddy sound an awful lot like Watchmen's Rorschach? At least this version of Freddy looks like he's actually been burned, rather than ravaged by some exotic, disfiguring virus. And yes, that's doe-eyed Kyle Gallner from The Haunting in Connecticut and Jennifer's Body as Quentin. I'll withhold judgment until I see the new movie when it comes out in April, but I remain dubious. If nothing else, I'll give it this: At least the damned thing isn't in 3D!

More, anon.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Weirdest Thing You'll See This Week

My dear friend and co-worker Mia sent me the below video, knowing I would love it like a son.

My response to her was "I want some of whatever this guy is smoking." Of course, it would have been so much better if she had sent it to me at 4:20, but hey...

Anyway, the video is bizarre, surreal and somehow still hilarious while taking on one of the most infamous urban legends of all time.

I know that Mia and Uncle P will be calling each other "Charlie" for many weeks to come, while our co-workers look at us, scratching their heads and asking themselves "What the hell is up with those two, anyway?" And we'll laugh all that much more, knowing we have confounded them once again.

Meanwhile, we'll just chuckle at our inside joke and hope that no gay stoner unicorns insist we accompany them to Candy Mountain. My organs are NOT for sale, thank you!

More nonsense, anon.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

22 Tips to Recieving Good Customer Service

As someone who works a day job as a service agent in a very specialized field, I talk to lots of people everyday.

The majority of folks I speak with on a daily basis are polite, calm and rational and are willing to listen when I have advice, directions and/or suggestions to give them to resolve whatever problems they may be experiencing with our company's services and/or products.

However, a good 10% of the people I talk to each day are irrational, angry and/or downright crazy, and expect that I have some sort of magic wand I can wave that will solve their problems (which in most cases, they have brought upon upon themsleves by failing to follow the very clear directions provided to them on our website and in our printed materials). These people (mostly under the age of 30) have been raised with a sense of entitlement by parents who have done everything for them for most of their lives, and cannot handle "real life" when it rears its often ugly head. To them, this post is dedicated.

When calling a Customer Service Rep (no matter what company you are dealing with), there are some things you should know which will help facilitate your call and provide you with the maximum of service.

1. Know your account number. I cannot help you if I cannot access your account. The most efficient way for me to access your file is by giving me the proper account number.

2. Have a pen or pencil and a piece of paper at hand. Please don't waste my time (and yours) by not being prepared to write down the information/instructions I am about to impart to you. Please don't ask me for a fax or phone number unless you are prepared to write it down.

3. DO NOT SCREAM AND/OR SWEAR AT ME. This is probably the worst thing you can do when calling for help. I will always respond to someone who is polite and willing to listen. Calling me an "a**hole," "motherf***er" or any other derogatory name will do nothing to make me want to help you. I am paid to help you, not to be abused by you and I WILL hang up on you if you abuse me with foul language and name-calling, as I have been instructed to do so by my superiors.

4. Do NOT call me while driving or while in a location that is exceptionally noisy. I cannot help you if you are unable to take notes/instructions or if I cannot hear you because of loud background noise. Turn off your TV or radio; leave a room filled with screaming children or barking dogs; take cover from the howling wind and don't call me from a subway or train station in which high-speed transit vehicles may roar by.

5. Do NOT call me on a cell phone. Some of the information you need to give me to help you is very personal, and cell phones are hardly secure. Also, cell phone reception isn't always reliable, and your call may be dropped through no fault of mine.

6. Listen carefully to what I am saying. I cannot be responsible for any mistakes you make because you did not follow the instructions I gave you.

7. Allow me to speak. If you continually interrupt me, I cannot give you the information you need to resolve your problem.

8. Do not assume I know what someone else has told you. I cannot be responsible for misinformation or miscommunications you have received from another company rep, or what someone from outside our company may have told you. I can only tell you what I know about our company's policies and procedures.

9. DO NOT SCREAM AND/OR SWEAR AT ME. See item #3. Screaming or swearing will get you nowhere.

10. Please make sure you have read all of the instructions; policies; terms and conditions put forth on our website and in our printed materials. If you don't read our policies and don't follow our explicit instructions, it is not my fault that you are experiencing a problem.

11. Do not assume that your issue can be resolved immediately. Some problems you may be experiencing might take time to resolve. If I ask you to allow 3 to 5 Business Days, allow 3 to 5 Business Days. Don't call me an hour later and ask why you're still having a problem.

12. DO NOT SCREAM AND/OR SWEAR AT ME. I can't express this enough. I did not personally cause the issue which you might be experiencing, and I will NOT help you if you call me names.

13. Do not assume that I know who are. You may have called me three days ago, but I have spoken to hundreds of other people since then. Unless your particular case is extraordinary, I have no idea who you are.

14. Accept that sometimes the answer is "No." If I, or even my supervisor, cannot resolve your issue because of circumstances beyond our control. Please realize that not every issue is resolvable and move on.

15. DO NOT SCREAM AND/OR SWEAR AT ME. Get it? I won't help you, nor will anyone else, if you are an a**hole.

16. Don't DEMAND anything. This is akin to items 3, 12 and 15. Ask politely, and I will do everything within my power to help you.

17. Don't assume your problem is unique to you. I have already heard your question at least 10 times today. Let me answer your question without a song and dance.

18. I Don't need your life story. Be succinct and direct. Don't waste time with elaborate details which have no bearing on your problem. Trust me, I've heard your question or issue a thousand times or more.

19. DO NOT SCREAM AND/OR SWEAR AT ME. I don't think I can express this enough. Calm and Rational wins over Loud and Crazy every time.

20. Don't blame me for your wait time. I have no control over how many people are calling us at any given time, or how long an individual call may take. Some issues may be resolved in few seconds, while others may take several minutes. Be patient and know that all calls are handled in the order of receipt.

21. Don't lie to me. If you've made an error and you know it, own up to it. Don't gve me some elaborate and obviously fake story to cover your error. I can always tell, and I've heard every story you think I haven't.


More, anon.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cable Review: "Saw VI"

I actually loved the first Saw movie. Director James Wan and co-writer Leigh Whannel actually managed to fool me with the film's twist ending, and I loved the dark, grim feel they managed to create (not to mention appearances by Danny Glover, Cary Elwes, Dina Meyer and "Lost" baddie Michael Emerson).

Of course, as the franchise has progressed, the quality has suffered (despite the almost-as-good Saw II) and the movies have degenerated into a "how can we kill them, next?" series of contrivances. I officially gave up on seeing the movies in a theater after Saw II, but have managed to catch the rest either on DVD or on cable. Such was the case while bored over the past weekend, when I caught Saw VI On Demand.

The long-dead killer Jigsaw (Tobin Bell), continues his plan to teach people the value of life through a series of deadly puzzles, thanks to FBI Agent Hoffman (former "Picket Fences" hottie Costas Mandylor), who has apparently been an accomplice since Saw III. We learn this through the franchise's by now well-known series of partial flash-backs, which also allow for more appearances by Jigsaw and his devoted acolyte, Amanda (Shawnee Smith) - think of Dr. Phibes and his beloved Vulnavia. This time, Jigsaw is targeting the Health Insurance Industry, trapping an insurance exec (Peter Outerbridge) in a building filled with kidnapped employees of his company; forcing said exec to choose which of them will live or die via a set of increasingly bizarre traps and puzzles. Aliens alum Mark Rolston returns as a police detective and Jill Tuck returns as Jigsaw's widow, following her late husband's final wishes.

Screenwriters Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton (winners of the final "Project Greenlight" contest for the amusing Feast)*, along with director Kevin Greutert, do nothing to add anything new to the franchise, other than coming up with sicker ways to kill people. Mandylor is sweaty and apprehensive throughout, knowing he is about to be caught. The film's final scenes, initially set-up to lead us to believe this will be the last of the increasingly ridiculous movies, ultimately let the audience down with a patently ridiculous ending that only leaves room for another outlandish and awful sequel.

I had hoped that Lionsgate Films would let this franchise die the death it deserves but, sadly, Saw VII has already started filming... sigh...

O Stars out of Four. Rated "R" for Violence, Gore and language.

*On a side note, Uncle P's own screenplay, Army of the Dead finished in the top 25% of entries in that last Project Greenlight contest.

More, anon.

Monday, February 22, 2010


While I can't exactly blame Avatar for the 3D explosion that has taken over the mini-IMAX screens at your local cineplex, I can complain that every movie that would otherwise be a flop will make far more money than it should, simply because it's in 3D.

Such, I fear, is the case with director Alexandre Aja's (High Tension; The Hills Have Eyes; Mirrors) next film, a remake of the Joe Dante semi-comic '80's horror film Piranha.

Piranha 3D boasts a cast of mostly B-Listers (Jerry O'Connell; Ving Rhames; Christopher Lloyd; Elisabeth Shue; Eli Roth; Richard Dreyfus) in a fishy gorefest about giant piranhas unleashed into Lake Victoria by an underground earthquake. The hungry beasties soon find an ample supply of flesh at a lakeside resort celebrating its grand opening.

I found Aja's High Tension (Haute Tension) a mostly well-made slasher flick, though it had an infuriatingly confusing "twist" ending. His 2006 English-language remake of Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes wasn't exactly terrible, though 2008's Mirrors was mostly a complete mess.

While Dante is a director whose films (the Mad Max trilogy; Gremlins) display a definite tongue-in-cheek attitude, I fear Aja may take the subject matter a bit too seriously for its own good. I'll probably see it (what self-respecting Horror won't?), but I don't know that I'll actually like it. And I know a certain Go-Go Elf that'll probably be going with me... I hope that the eye-candy of O'Connell and Roth in 3D will worth the price of admission, if nothing else. And maybe, just maybe, Aja can recapture the sense of dread he managed to create in High Tension.

Oh, who am I kidding? It's The Final Destination meets Jaws. Expect loads of jiggling boobs, spurting blood and sharp-toothed fishies coming RIGHT AT YOU!

Piranha 3D is scheduled for an August, 2010 release, despite what the below trailer would have you believe.

More, anon.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Ariel Awards

Before I start tonight's post, I just wanted to let everyone know that Mom was released from the hospital this afternoon and should be fine, as long she eats when she's supposed to. A nutritionist is scheduled to give her a weekly meal plan and you can make sure I'll be hounding her. Thanks again to everyone to expressed their concerns and sent their good wishes both here and on Facebook. You guys are the best!

Anyway - on with tonight's post.

With the Academy Awards just two weeks away, I thought it was time Uncle P started his own movie awards. While no one is likely to pick them up in person, and that statue of Ariel (the "tricksey spirit" from The Tempest, NOT the Disney cartoon mermaid) is far too big to carry in real-life, its still fun to pretend. And isn't that what the movies are all about, anyway?

So without further ado (or rather with Much Ado About Nothing), here are the winners of The First Annual Caliban's Revenge Ariel Awards:

Best Digital Performance

The Nominees:

Billy Crudup in Watchmen
Zoe Saldana in Avatar
Jason Cope in District 9
Jim Carrey in A Christmas Carol

And the Ariel goes to:

Jason Cope in District 9. While he also played a human character, Cope stood in for almost every "Prawn" in the movie, helping to make ugly, insectoid aliens sympathetic creatures who we came to came more about than most of the humans in the picture.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Horror Movie

The Nominees:

Jordan Ladd in Grace
Alison Lohman in Drag Me to Hell
Lorna Raver in Drag Me to Hell
Isabelle Fuhrman in Orphan
Amanda Seyfried in Jennifer's Body

And the Ariel goes to:

Jordan Ladd in Grace. As the obsessive mother who wills her dead baby back to life, only to discover little Grace has become a vampire, Ladd gives the kind of performance most actresses would kill for. Intense and completely believable, Ladd's Madelaine is a woman trying to hold on to her sanity amidst insane circumstances.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Horror Movie

The Nominees:

Adam Brody in Jennifer's Body
Justin Long in Drag Me to Hell
Woody Harrelson in Zombieland
James Marsden in The Box
Micah Sloat in Paranormal Activity

And the Ariel goes to:

Justin Long in Drag Me to Hell. Long started his film career in the underrated Jeepers Creepers, but is probably best known at the Mac in Apple's Mac vs. PC commercials. He was also the nerdy computer geek in Live Free or Die Hard. But just take a look at his face in the last shot of Drag Me... and you'll know just how good an actor he can be.

Best Horror Movie

The Nominees:

Drag Me to Hell
Trick 'r Treat

And the Ariel goes to:

Trick 'r Treat. This was a close call, and Drag Me to Hell almost won, but Trick 'r Treat was just so much more fun... Officially released in 2008, Michael Dougherty's Halloween anthology didn't see wide distribution until this year's DVD release. Funny, smart, original and actually scary, Trick 'r Treat is the kind of movie I hope to write, someday.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Sci-Fi Movie

The Nominees:

Zachary Quinto in Star Trek
Karl Urban in Star Trek
Sharlto Copely in District 9
Sam Rockwell in Moon
Jackie Earle Haley in Watchmen

And the Ariel goes to:

It's a tie! Jackie Earle Haley in Watchmen and Sharlto Copely in District 9. Former child star Haley is brilliant as the dysfunctional superhero Rorschach in Zack Snyder's adaptation of the supposedly "unfilmable" graphic novel, while Copely makes a stunning acting debut as the dorky cubicle nerd who suddenly finds himself the victim of circumstances beyond his control in Neill Blomkamp's brilliant feature debut. Two performances worth seeing again.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Sci-Fi Movie

The Nominees:

Zoe Saldana in Star Trek
Sigourney Weaver in Avatar
Rose Byrne in Knowing
Patricia Clarkson in Phoebe in Wonderland
Carla Cugino in Watchmen

And the Ariel goes to:

Zoe Saldana in Star Trek. As Communications Officer Nyota Uhoru, Saldana is both smart and sexy, imbuing the role with a sassyness Nichelle Nichols never could have imagined.

Best Sci-Fi Movie

The Nominees:

District 9
Star Trek

And the Ariel goes to:

Moon. Duncan Jones' debut film harkens back to the great Sci-Fi of the early 70's, proving that Science Fiction doesn't have to be about explosions, lasers and robots to be both stunning and effective. Sam Rockwell's briliant performance combined with Nathan Parker's smart screenplay make for a powerful, quiet film about what it means to be human in an age when humanity has come to mean less than it should.

Best Director of a Horror, Fantasy and/or Sci-Fi Movie

The Nominees:

J.J. Abrams for Star Trek
Sam Raimi for Drag Me to Hell
Michael Dougherty for Trick 'r Treat
Neill Blomkamp for District 9
Duncan Jones for Moon

And the Ariel goes to:

J.J. Abrams for Star Trek. Making a new version (or "reboot") of a classic is never an easy task, but Abrams film manages to be both original and faithful to its source material - something both fans and critics were ready to rip apart, but were unable to do so. The second most fun I had at the movies this year, Star Trek is undoubtedly the start of a franchise which I look forward to seeing more of.

Finally, the Moon Calf Award - The Worst Horror, Sci-Fi and/or Fantasy Movie of the Year:

The Nominees:

The Unborn
Paranormal Activity
The Final Destination
Terminator: Salvation
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Tooth Fairy
Aliens in the Attic
X-Men Origins - Wolverine

And the Moon Calf goes to:

Paranormal Activity. What a close call -- there were so many bad genre films to choose from this year. But the overrated and over-hyped Paranormal Activity was by far the worst of the bunch. Stupid, derivative, unscary and downright boring, Paranormal Activity is possibly one of the worst horror movies ever made. An amazingly successful viral campaign made this film millions, but real horror fans found it to be silly and excessive, without any truly scary moments.

I'm looking forward to what 2010 will bring us, though from what I've seen so far this year, I am doubtful things will get better.

More, anon.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Too Pooped to Post

If you read last night's post, you'll know just how tired I am. I think in the last 48 hours, I've slept for maybe 4.

Two trips to the hospital to bring Mom stuff (books, glasses, etc.), an outrageously over-priced late breakfast at a local diner ($15.00 for an omlette, toast, coffee & juice) and cleaning up the mess left by the EMTs (blood stained sheets, etc.) have left me both physically and mentally exhausted.

I also want to spend some time working on my new screenplay, so I have decided that tonight will be another night off at Caliban's Revenge. I will be writing a full post tomorrow at The Zombie Zone. But for now, I'm going to wish you a very good weekend and thank all those who posted good wishes here and on Facebook for Mom. Hopefully, she'll be released tomorrow. I promise to keep you updated.

More, anon.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

In Praise of EMTs

Uncle P had himself quite a scare tonight. My mom has had her share of ups and downs with her health over the years, but over the last few days she hadn't been feeling well, suffering from dizziness, extreme weakness and a low-grade fever. Because she didn't feel well, she hadn't been eating much, no matter how many times I told her it was important for her to do so.

She called me at work today to tell me had fallen and had lain on the floor for over an hour before she could get up (she later admitted she may have blacked out). I wanted to call an ambulance then and there, but she told me "Don't you dare!" in her typical German/Scotch pig-headed way. She told me she was going to take a Vicodin for pain (a less-than successful knee replacement about 6 years ago has left her in chronic pain, which was exacerbated today by her efforts to get off the floor) and then lie down for a while.

When I checked in on her after work, I found her in bed, moaning and writhing, her pupils as big as saucers and not responding when I tried to talk to her. I immediately called 911 and asked for an ambulance, thinking she was either having a stroke or some kind of seizure. The 911 operator was a wonderful woman who stayed on the phone with me until the ambulance arrived, doing her best to keep me calm while advising me on what to do.

The EMTs arrived quickly (though it seemed to take forever, it was probably less than five minutes), took one look at her and asked "Is she a diabetic?" When I said "Yes," they did a quick blood test and found her blood sugar at a frighteningly low 26! They administered a massive amount of glucose and she quickly rallied, responding (finally) to the questions they asked her. They asked her her name, my name and the year, all of which she got right, though she stumbled a bit on her date of birth and my father's name. Then they asked what she eaten today. She said "A banana and some chocolate." Not eating + oral diabetes meds = damn scary low blood sugar. They told me I had gotten there just in time.

Of course, upon being told she was going to the hospital, she balked, but they told her she had no choice. She was still weak, and wasn't always making sense as they wheeled her into the ambulance. After a quick call to my sister, I raced to the hospital and filled out the forms, still rather flustered. When I did get in to see her, she was still suffering from some tremors and couldn't remember my answers to questions she had to ask more than once. She was admitted at least overnight, until they got her stabilized and I finally went home, exhausted and wound-up, though relieved that she was going to be okay.

She called me about an hour ago to tell what room she was in, and actually sounded like herself for the first time in several days. She's scheduled to have a consultation with an endocrinologist in the morning, and it looks like she's going to be fine. But I have to be honest and tell you that finding her like that was one of the scariest moments of my life.

While I rarely get this personal on Caliban's Revenge, I never got the chance to thank the EMTs who did such an excellent job and probably saved her life, so I thought the best way to thank them would be to do so publicly. The two members of the Levittown-Fairless Hills Rescue Squad were professional, expedient, polite and responsive while Uncle P was panicked and just a little more than upset.

Support your local Rescue and Fire squads, folks. They do wonderful and important work. You never know when you might need them (and I truly hope you never do) and they deserve your thanks and support. Mom is going to be alright, thanks to those two terrific EMTs. And even though I may have a hard time getting to sleep tonight (adrenaline will do that you), I will sleep a little bit better knowing there are folks out there ready to help when its needed.

And I want to thank you, dear readers, for putting up with this most personal ramble. Writing is always therapeutic for me, and putting this rather surreal experience into written words has helped me process the events and get them out of my system.

Back to more movies and nonsense (hopefully), anon.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Whatever Happened to Screwball Comedies?

That's Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, May Robson and Skippy the dog in Howard Hawks' 1938 quintessential Screwball Comedy (and my personal favorite movie of all time) Bringing Up Baby.

"But Uncle Prospero, we thought you loved Horror movies." Of course I do, but that doesn't necessarily mean my favorite movie is a Horror movie. I love all kinds of movies. And just as high on my list are good old-fashioned Screwball Comedies. Fast-talking dialog, outrageously complicated plots and smart but ditsy heroines are just a few of the mainstays of the Screwball Comedy. Films like His Girl Friday; My Man Godfrey and The Awful Truth were staples of Depression-Era films and their brilliant hilarity holds up, even after 60 or 70 years.

I know I've talked about Bringing Up Baby before, but this wonderful essay by Mike D'Angelo over at A.V. Club (via) analyzes the above-pictured scene in particular and conveniently ties in with the films of a director I mentioned just a few posts ago, Peter Bogdanovich. Interestingly enough, Bogdanavich's first credited film as a director was a 1967 television documentary called The Great Professional: Howard Hawks. It wasn't until 1971's The Last Picture Show that he came into his own. Then in 1972 he made his own Hawks-inspired Screwball Comedy, What's Up, Doc? starring Barbra Streisand and a then very hot Ryan O'Neal.

What's Up, Doc? concerns a musicologist (O'Neal); his fiancee Eunice (the brilliant and sorely missed Madeline Kahn in her film debut); a wacky heiress/perpetual student (Streisand); identical plaid bags; International spies and a host of characters played by Kenneth Mars; Austin Pendleton; Sorrell Booke; Randy Quaid and Liam Dunn, among many others. Without getting too involved, a suitcase containing rocks with which O'Neal's character intends to prove a theory about ancient music is mixed up with an identical suitcase containing secret documents. Streisand serves as the wacky heiress here, while O'Neal plays the hapless intellectual whose life is turned upside down by a chance encounter with said wacko. Set in San Francisco (one of Uncle P's favorite U.S. cities), the film culminates in an outrageous car chase through the city's many winding and hilly streets.

If you aren't panting over O'Neal in that scene, you're a straight man, a lesbian or blind. And the ripping of his pajama pants? Right out of Bringing Up Baby, thank you.

Streisand would again attempt the Screwball Comedy in the inferior, but still amusing 1974 farce For Pete's Sake. But without Bogdanovich at the helm (Peter Yates directed), it just didn't have the same impact.

After What's Up Doc? Bogdanovcih directed Paper Moon, again starring O'Neal, Kahn and O'Neal's then 10 year-old daughter, Tatum. Set against the Great Depression, Paper Moon is the story of conman Moses Pray (O'Neal) and Addie Loggins, a girl who may or may not be his daughter. Kahn is the temptress who may well come between them.

How sad to see talents like Ryan and Tatum O'Neal reduced to drug-addled tabloid fodder. And sadder still that the fast-talking, wise-cracking, smarter-than-they-let-on characters of the classic Screwball Comedy are things of the past. Hopefully, a screenwriter more talented than Yours Truly and a director whose talents match Hawks' and Bogdanovich's will come along and revive one of cinema's most beloved genres. Of course, I tried my own hand at a Screwball Comedy with a screenplay called Comatose Joe, which you can read here, should you be so inclined.

As for myself, I'd rather see a Howard Hawks or Leo McCarey comedy than anything Jud Apatow or Kevin Smith made in the last ten years or so. I guess I'm just an old-fashioned kind of guy, that way.

More, anon.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Forgotten Gems: "The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T"

I know I have mentioned this film before, but I've never given it its full due. So, here it is:

Long before Uncle P and most of his readers were born, Theodore Geisel (AKA: Dr. Seuss) wrote an extraordinary screenplay about a boy who, forced to take piano lessons from a certain Doctor Terwilliker, falls asleep and dreams of a fantastic world in which Dr. T. plans to take over the world by forcing 500 young boys to play on his gigantic piano. How this plot could possibly work, remains a mystery. But it does make for one weird and wonderful movie musical.

Bartholomew "Bart" Collins (see The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins) is the son of a lonely widower. He hopes that someday his mother will find a new husband, and that the aforementioned husband will be the handsome plumber, August Zabladowski. But he fears that his piano teacher (the titular Dr. T) will ruin everything. Falling asleep at the keyboard, Bart dreams of fantastical world in which Dr. T is an evil villain to whom his mother has become hypnotically enthralled. His only hope is the plumber, whom he convinces to help in his plan to overthrow the evil musician. Creating an "atomic" weapon from various pocket junk and an air-freshener, Bart manages to thwart Dr. T's plan and free the 500 boys from his tyranny.

The plot is a typically Seuss-inspired affair, and director Roy Rowland creates a world that is "Suessian" in every possible way. From the curly/wavy set design to the outrageous costumes, there is no doubt that this is a dream only Geisel could imagine. Filled with dopey henchmen, repressed musicians and a pair of Smith Brothers' inspired twins conjoined at the beard, The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T. is a film that revels in its own absurdity. Starring a company of mostly C-List actors, Rowland's film is a riot of colors, nonsense and delightful absurdity, presented in glorious Technicolor. Fredrick Hollander's score is complemented by some of Geisel's most ridiculous lyrics. And while Geisel had his name removed from the credits, the movie is undeniably his creation.

Starring the amazing Hans Conried (Peter Pan; Barefoot in the Park) in the title role, The 5000 Fingers... is a riotous, joyously ridiculous musical that can be enjoyed by both young and old alike. Should you find it on AMC or TCM, I encourage you to watch it an revel in its nonsensical and absurdist joy. And in case you doubt, here are some clips to whet your appetite:

If you've never seen this delightful and outrageously fun movie, I urge to seek it out. You won't be disappointed.

More, anon.

PS. - I know that plenty of gay bloggers have posted a request to the HRC to demand the repeal of DADT today. But because I usually don't get to post until late in the day (usually after 10 PM Eastern Time), I thought such a request would have reached most of my regular readers by now and such a request would be redundant, at best. Still, I urge you all to contact the HRC and let them know you support their efforts to repeal this ridiculous and homophobic legislation.


Monday, February 15, 2010

Review: "The Wolfman"

I almost titled this post "The Hair of the Dog that Bit You," but thought it might be a little too on the money, especially given the plot-twist that's been added to Curt Siodmak's 1941 screenplay by modern screenwriters Andrew Walker and David Self. But since I refuse to be a spoiler, that's almost all I'm going to say about it.

Anyway, Dear D and I met this afternoon at our favorite local multiplex to see a movie both of us have wanted to see for a long time. Since today was a holiday, the place was unusually crowded for a late Monday afternoon, especially with the threat of more snow looming in the very near future. After sitting through a series of rather uninspired trailers for movies neither of us is likely to see, we settled back and watched The Wolfman with lowered expectations, hoping we wouldn't be disappointed by this remake of a childhood favorite. And I'm happy to say that were not disappointed. Well, not exactly.

Benicio Del Toro (who also serves as a producer) plays Lawrence Talbot, a classical actor raised in America, now touring London in a production of Hamlet. When his brother's fiancee Gwen (Emily Blunt) writes to him, asking him to return to the family manse to help find his missing brother, he does so, only to find out he is too late and his brother's mangled body was found in a ditch two days before he arrives at said manse, a typical Gothic mansion in need of a good dusting and a power wash. There he confronts his father, Sir John Talbot (Anthony Hopkins), a former big-game hunter with a penchant for wearing tiger's fur robes and spouting cliches. The locals seem to blame brother Ben's death on a dancing bear in the employ of some gypsies encamped nearby, so Lawrence naturally heads out to gypsy camp for some answers. There he encounters Maleva (Geraldine Chaplin), an old gypsy who warns him against digging too deep. But she barely gets the words out when the camp is attacked by a monster, and Lawrence soon finds himself the victim of the beast's bite. Lo and behold, on the next full moon he transforms into the titular Wolfman, tearing apart victims and reveling in the eviscerations and limb-tearings. Meanwhile, Inspector Abberline (Hugo Weaving) of Scotland Yard has arrived in town to investigate a series of murders which he attributes to a madman on the loose.

Director Joe Johnstone clubs us over the head with his images of the moon, while reveling in beautiful (if pointless) long shots of distant figures among the woods, in a field or atop Victorian London buildings. Blunt is fine as the damsel in distress, who inexplicably falls in love with her fiance's brother, and Hopkins is having a grand time playing a crazy old guy (something he has specialized in since The Silence of the Lambs). Weaving does a Victorian twist on his Agent Smith character from The Matrix and Chaplin tries to channel the late Maria Ouspenskaya with limited success. Sadly, the least successful performance here is Del Toro's, mumbling his way through the film in what I can only assume was an attempt to apply 'method' acting to what is obviously a 'technical' acting role. For an actor playing an actor in an era long before 'method' acting was invented, he seems far too distant and self-involved, even during what are supposed to romantic moments with Ms. Blunt. Antony Sher is hilarious and creepy as a torture-minded psychiatrist who gets his comeuppance, while Roger Frost is a hoot as the local vicar.

Makeup artist Rick Baker (who has a fun cameo as an early victim) does a bang-up job of modernizing the look created by Jack Pearce in the 1941 original, and the CGI transformations are well-done (though I did have issues with the obviously CGI dancing bear). Composer Danny Elfman turns in his most 'un-Elfman-like' score, to date, setting the tone most effectively. There is plenty of gore, intestines, flying body parts and rotting corpses, though Johnston has a habit of lingering on them for a few seconds too many. And as for that plot-twist I mentioned earlier, it might have worked if it hadn't been so obviously telegraphed so early on in the picture. Let's just say it was very much a case of "less is more' and leave it at that. I'm glad I saw it, but also glad we only paid the matinee price to do so.

All in all, The Wolfman is a fun (if flawed) B-movie, perfect for gorehounds and Horror lovers, especially those who have never seen the original.

**1/2 (Two and a Half Stars out of Four).

More, anon.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine Schmalintine

Honestly, I hate Valentine's Day. And not because I'm currently single. Thanks to my many years spent in retail, I have come to think of it more as a 'Hallmark Holiday.' Florists; jewelers; crappy plush toy makers; candy companies; restaurants and greeting card companies are the only ones who really get anything out of it. And what they get is your hard-earned cash.

Historically (or rather, mythologically) Valentine was Christian priest during the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius II (not the one played by Derek Jacobi on the BBC) who married young Roman couples despite Claudius' decree that young men should remain unmarried so they were more likely to serve in the Roman army, or some such nonsense. Jailed for his treasonous behavior, Valentine fell in love with the jailer's blind daughter, whom he supposedly cured through prayer. The night before his scheduled execution (and subsequent martyrdom), Valentine wrote a letter to the girl, saying farewell and professing his love; signing it "From Your Valentine."

Now it just so happened that the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia was celebrated in mid-February. The festival, dedicated to Juno (the goddess of marriage), was usually when young Roman men lost their virginity to willing young ladies who wished to serve their goddess in this very capacity. But sometime around 496 A.D., Pope Galasius turned the pagan holiday (as the Church so often did with pagan holidays) of Lupercalia into the Holy Day of Valentine, and ever since, St. Valentine's Day has been a celebration of carnal love. Of course, it helped that usually not long after Valentine's Day, Lent starts and carnal desires are meant to pushed aside for 40 days of self-denial. In other words, screw away now, for blue balls are forthcoming. And "carnal" (of the flesh) is where we get the modern word "carnival," which has come to mean the week before Lent. "Mardis Gras," or Fat Tuesday, is a direct descendant of the carnival, a time spent in carnal excess. Which of course dates back to the Pagan rituals of eating the last of the previous fall's harvest in preparation for the spring, fattening up for the 40 days of self-deprivation to come (see how it all ties in, there?). I promise to save the Pagan origins of Easter for another time, but you can probably see where it's going...

Anyway - February 14th hasn't always been the most wonderful of days in history. Anne Boleyn was beheaded on 2/14/1537; Al Capone sanctioned the infamous "Valentine's Day Massacre" in 1929 and Roosevelt ordered the internment of Japanese Americans on 2/14/1942. Three years later, the bombing of Dresden commenced on 2/14/1945; Malcolm X's home was fire-bombed on 2/14/1965 and on 2/14/1989 the Ayatollah Khomeni announced the fatwah on Salman Rushdie for his novel "The Satanic Verses." Not exactly romantic occasions.

Of course, on February 14th, 1999, I was personally dumped during what I had planned to be a romantic dinner with someone with whom I thought I had a real connection, but who turned out to a superficial asshat. And no, I'm not bitter, I swear. I've had romances since then and I'm sure (or at least I hope) I'll have at least one more romance again. But damnit, I am sick and tired of this stupid "holiday" where single folks are left out in the cold while couples celebrate the death of a minor Catholic Saint with candy, flowers and folded cardboard sentiments that aren't their own...

Anyway - here's David Letterman's take on VD, from 2008:

Okay - another rant over. Tomorrow, watch for my review (finally) of The Wolfman, starring Benicio del Toro and Anthony Hopkins.

More, anon.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Challenge

Well, not one, but two of my blogger pals (both of my Stephens) have tagged me on this, so I suppose I should respond. But first - a note about yesterday.

On New Year's Eve, Uncle P slipped in the inch of snow we got here in Southeastern PA (well before the two major storms this week) and did a number on my back. Not long after, I had the infamous Kitchen Disaster of 2010, which only served to exacerbate the problem. Add two more major snowstorms and no time to really heal, and I now have a chronic back issue. Currently, my GP is treating me with meds (a muscle relaxer, an anti-inflammatory and a pain killer). Yesterday (and the day before) were snow days at my day job, so while I had time off, I still had to dig out. By 6:00 PM Eastern time, I was in absolute agony and couldn't imagine sitting for an hour or more to post, so I didn't. I took today off and am feeling a little better, but still not nearly 100%. Add that to discovery that SyFy choose a screenplay entitled Sharktopus (I swear to God) over mine, and I was in no mood to blog last night.

Be that as it may, from Stephen Rader at Are You There Blog? It's Me, Stephen and Stephen in Oregon of Post Apocalyptic Bohemian comes this "challenge":

Name three classic movie moments that have, in some shape or form, made you buy things, do things or think things that perhaps you shouldn't have.

Hmmm... As influential as film has been on my life, I honestly cannot think of anything that any movie has done any of these three things to me. I can however, name at least three films that have influenced me in other ways.

Of course, the movie that made me love movies is a childhood (and adult) favorite, the original 1933 version of King Kong. Watching it every time I could catch it on TV (usually on UHF - a concept totally alien to most modern TV audiences), King Kong taught me that anything was possible in the movies: Giant gorillas could defeat dinosaurs in battle; true love saves the day; exploitation is bad and even animals have feelings. Merian C. Cooper's masterpiece stands the test of time and even 77 years later, it holds up as both a thrilling adventure and an allegorical love story:

It wasn't until I was a bit older, that I discovered the power of Silent Films. And while there are many great ones (Potemkin; Modern Times; The Birth of a Nation), none had as great an influence on me as Fritz Lang's masterpiece, Metropolis. Lang's 1927 Sci-Fi landmark used then state-of-the-art special effects to tell the story of exploited workers under the thumb of an elitist regime of wealthy industrialists using plebeians to carry out their dirty work. Metropolis may well be the first movie that made me understand the plight of the "Common Man," while instilling in me a fascination for in-camera special effects. In the 1980's, composer Georgio Moroder combined known footage with a few "lost" stills to create a more comprehensive version of the film with a modern soundtrack. More recently, additional footage was found in South America, and a "new" version is set for release later this year. Metropolis remains one of the most effective visions of a dystopian nightmare ever committed to celluloid:

Finally, a movie I didn't actually see all of until I was in my 20's, Singin' in the Rain may well be the best movie musical ever made. Starring a very young Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'Conner and the amazingly athletic dancer Gene Kelly, Singin' in the Rain is the movie that made me fall in lve with movies all over again. Not only does it tell the story of technology changing the industry (something we are seeing now with the overrated Avatar), its also a very human story about actors and what they have to go through to make it in the most competitive industry in the world. Seeing it all the way through for the first time was an almost revelatory experience.

I could probably go on and on about the movies that have influenced my take on the world (such a list would probably take forever), but these are the first three I could come up with that had a major influence on not only how I view film, but the world, itself. And of course, it doesn't include my favorite movie of all time, the Howard Hawkes masterpiece Bringing Up Baby, an underrated (at the time) comic gem that should make every screenwriter take notice:

So, while I can't imagine any movie that made me do, buy or think something I shouldn't have; I can certainly imagine hundreds (or perhaps even thousands) of movies of that influenced my love of the medium.

More, anon.

PS - This list does not include any of Peter Bogdanovich's comedies from the 70's, which I will expound upon, anon.