Great Moments in Television History #18: Frank Sinatra Wins An Oscar

On this date, 68 years ago, Frank Sinatra won his only Oscar when Mercedes McCambridge announced that he had won Best Supporting Actor for his role in From Here To Eternity. This is the role that some claimed the mob got for him, though the truth was that he was given the role after his-then wife, Ava Gardner, made an appeal to studio head, Harry Cohn. At that time, Gardner was actually a bigger star than Sinatra, whose career was considered to be in decline.

Sinatra in decline? The Academy disagreed! And so did the audiences who would make Sinatra a star for many decades to come.

Previous Moments In Television History:

  1. Planet of the Apes The TV Series
  2. Lonely Water
  3. Ghostwatch Traumatizes The UK
  4. Frasier Meets The Candidate
  5. The Autons Terrify The UK
  6. Freedom’s Last Stand
  7. Bing Crosby and David Bowie Share A Duet
  8. Apaches Traumatizes the UK
  9. Doctor Who Begins Its 100th Serial
  10. First Night 2013 With Jamie Kennedy
  11. Elvis Sings With Sinatra
  12. NBC Airs Their First Football Game
  13. The A-Team Premieres
  14. The Birth of Dr. Johnny Fever
  15. The Second NFL Pro Bowl Is Broadcast
  16. Maude Flanders Gets Hit By A T-Shirt Cannon
  17. Charles Rocket Nearly Ends SNL

Great Moments In Comic Book History #22: Alex Ross Captures Spider-Man

This is from the 4th issue of 1994’s Marvels, in which Kurt Busiek reimagined the early history of the Marvel Universe through the eyes of photographer, Phil Sheldon.  The artwork is by the amazing Alex Ross.

On this page, Spider-Man is climbing up the Daily Bugle.  That’s something that happened frequently in Spider-Man’s own comics but Marvels was the first comic to capture what it would be like for the ordinary people inside the building to suddenly look over and see Spider-Man, complete with a wrinkled suit, climbing up the outside windows.  Long before any of the movies were released or the PS4 game meticulously recreated New York, this page from Marvels made Spider-Man seem real.

Previous Great Moments In Comic Book History:

  1. Winchester Before Winchester: Swamp Thing Vol. 2 #45 “Ghost Dance” 
  2. The Avengers Appear on David Letterman
  3. Crisis on Campus
  4. “Even in Death”
  5. The Debut of Man-Wolf in Amazing Spider-Man
  6. Spider-Man Meets The Monster Maker
  7. Conan The Barbarian Visits Times Square
  8. Dracula Joins The Marvel Universe
  9. The Death of Dr. Druid
  10. To All A Good Night
  11. Zombie!
  12. The First Appearance of Ghost Rider
  13. The First Appearance of Werewolf By Night
  14. Captain America Punches Hitler
  15. Spider-Man No More!
  16. Alex Ross Captures Galactus
  17. Spider-Man And The Dallas Cowboys Battle The Circus of Crime
  18. Goliath Towers Over New York
  19. NFL SuperPro is Here!
  20. Kickers Inc. Comes To The World Outside Your Window
  21. Captain America For President

Game Review: Locked Door VII (2022, Cody Gaisser)

After taking a month off from playing the Locked Door games, I got back to them this week by playing Locked Door VII: Out of Line.

Again, you start out in the most boring room you’ve ever seen.  Bob is standing around and being useless.  Rex is your faithful companion.  Explore the area and, once again, you’ll find the shed and the stairs and the crate and all of the things that have been present in every Locked Door game.  You’ll also find a few new rooms and a some new puzzles to solve.  It may be because I was rusty after not playing the game for a month but I found the new puzzles to be challenging.  Some of that is because the game still occasionally suffers from the “Guess the Verb” syndrome but, at the same time, some of the puzzles actually are clever and require some thought.  The game is fun but it just needs a little bit of polish.

After I played the latest version, I glanced over the other Locked Door games.  As of right now, there’s a total of 11 episodes, each with its own tag line.  The tag line of Locked Door XI: The U.S. Theatrical Cut is “Can You Beta Test This Thing?”  That does intrigue me.  Could the game’s rough edges and guess the verb moments be intentional?  From the start, Locked Door has satirized the needlessly complicated locked door puzzles that seem to show up in almost every work of Interactive Fiction.  Could all of the Locked Door games be a part of an elaborate practical joke?

Maybe I’ll learn more when I played the eighth installment next week next week.

Play Locked Door VII.

Conspiracy: The Trial of the Chicago 8 (1987, directed by Jeremy Kagan)

The year is 1969 and, in an Illinois courtroom, 8 political radicals stand accused of conspiring to disrupt the 1968 Democratic Convention.  The prosecution is putting the entire anti-war movement on trial while the defendants are determined to disrupt the system, even if it means being convicted.  The eight defendants come from all different sides of the anti-war movement.  Jerry Rubin (Barry Miller) and Abbie Hoffman (Michael Lembeck) represent the intentionally absurd Yippies.  Tom Hayden (Brian Benben) and Rennie Davis (Robert Carradine) are associated with the Students for a Democratic Society.  Bobby Seale (Carl Lumbly) is one of the founders of the Black Panthers while David Dellinger (Peter Boyle) is a longtime peace activist.  John Friones (David Kagan) and Lee Weiner (Robert Fieldsteel) represent the common activists, the people who traveled to Chicago to protest despite not being a leader of any of the various organizations.  Prosecuting  the Chicago 8 are Richard Schulz (David Clennon) and Tom Foran (Harris Yulin).  Defending the 8 are two radical lawyers, Leonard Wienglass (Elliott Gould) and William Kunstler (Robert Loggia).  Presiding over the trial is the fearsome and clearly biased Judge Julius Hoffman (David Opatoshu).

Conspiracy: The Trial of the Chicago 8 is a dramatization of the same story that inspired Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 but, of the two films, it’s Jeremy Kagan’s The Trial of the Chicago 8 that provides a more valuable history lesson.  By setting all of the action in the courtroom and recreating only what was said during the trial, director Jeremy Kagan and his cast avoid the contrived drama that marred so much of Sorkin’s film.  Kagan trusts that the true story is interesting enough to stand on its own.  Kagan includes documentary footage from the convention protest itself and also interviews with the people who were actually there.  While Kagan may not have had the budget that Sorkin did, his film has the authenticity that Sorkin’s lacked.  Kagan also has the better cast, with Michael Lembeck and Barry Miller both making Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin into something more than the mere caricatures that they are often portrayed as being.

The Trial of the Chicago 8 was a film that Jeremy Kagan spent a decade trying to make.  When he first tried to sell the idea behind the film to CBS in 1976, Kagan had Marlon Brando, Walter Matthau, George C. Scott, and Dustin Hoffman all willing to work for scale and take part in the production.  CBS still passed on the project, saying that no one was interested in reliving the 60s.  It wasn’t until 1987 that Jeremy Kagan was finally able to revive the film, this time with HBO.  It actually worked out for the best because, with HBO, there was no need to try to come up with a “clean” version for the language that was used in the courtroom or in the interviews with the actual participants.  The defendants could be themselves.

Though it has been overshadowed by Sorkin’s subsequent film, The Trial of the Chicago 8 is the definitive film about what happened in the aftermath of the the 1968 Democratic Convention.

I Watched Coffee Shop (2014, dir. by Dave Alan Johnson)

Donavan (Laura Vandervoort) owns a coffee shop in a small town.  Everyone loves her shop but she’s not making any money because she’s not a good manager and she lets her staff and her customers walk all over her.  When Ben (Cory M. Grant) comes in the shop and tries to order tea, Donavan thinks that he’s the businessman who wants to buy her shop and turn it into a parking garage.  She yells at him but then it turns out that he’s a playwright from New York who is just on vacation after his latest flop.  Donavan and Ben fall in love but then the real businessman shows up and it looks like Donavan might lose her business.  And then, on top of everything else, Donavan discovers that Ben is writing a play about her situation so she breaks up with him and tells him that he’s not welcome in her shop, even if he has the perfect plan to save it.  Who thinks like that!?  He’s so inspired by her and how much everyone in town loves her that he wants to immortalize her on stage.  How is that a bad thing?

Even though this wasn’t made for Hallmark, it basically is a Hallmark film.  There’s no profanity.  There’s no sex.  I don’t know why it was even rated PG.  I liked the small town and the coffee shop looked like it would be a nice place to hang out.  The story was too predictable and a lot of Donavan’s financial problem were due to her just being really bad at her job so I had a hard time feeling sorry for her.  She should have let someone else run the coffee shop if she was that incompetent.

On a personal note: I’d like to own a coffee shop but I would want it to be located near a baseball stadium.  Coffee and baseball is a combo I can get behind.

Artist Profile: Shannon Stirnweis (1932 — 2019)

The veteran illustrator Shannon Stirnweis passed away in 2019, at the age of 87.  The following is taken from the obituary, which originally appeared in the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript on Jan. 23, 2019:

Serving in the Army in 1954, he was stationed in Germany where he illustrated for the Army. Working as an Illustrator in NYC, he was President of the Society of Illustrators and one of the founding fathers of the Graphic Artists Guild. Shannon illustrated over 35 children’s books as well as 3 books for Grumbacher Library, “The Art of Painting Dogs”, “The Art of Painting Cats”, and “The Art of Painting the Wild West”. He recently published a book on his life as a painter, “80 Years Behind the Brush”. He wanted to be remembered most for painting scenes of the American West.

Below is a small sampling of some of his work for the pulps:

Scene I Love: Klaus Kinski in David Lean’s Doctor Zhivago

The 1965 film, Doctor Zhivago, is not only notable as one of the many David Lean-directed films to be nominated for Best Picture. It’s also remembered as being one of two Best Picture nominees to feature, albeit in a small role, the madman of European cinema, Klaus Kinski.

In this scene, set in the aftermath of Russia’s communist revolution, Kinski explains why he, despite being a prisoner, is the only free man on the train. Due to his German accent, Kinski was dubbed by actor Robert Rietty and he doesn’t have much screen time but he still manages to steal the movie.

Guilty Pleasure No. 53: Happy Gilmore (dir by Dennis Dugan)

Poor Shooter McGavin!  As played by the great Christopher McDonald, Shooter McGavin is the often unacknowledged hero of the 1996 comedy classic, Happy Gilmore.

I know, I know.  Most people will tell you that Shooter is actually the bad guy.  He’s the snooty pro golfer who tries to keep aspiring hockey player-turned-golfer Happy Gilmore (Adam Sandler) from competing on the PGA tour.  And it is true that he does allow himself to get consumed with jealousy over Happy’s popularity.  And he does definitely cross the line when he buys and holds hostage the house where Happy’s grandmother has spent almost her entire life.  (“She’s so old!  Look at her!  She’d old!” Happy exclaims at one point.)  But try to look at it from Shooter’s point of view.

Shooter has spent years playing golf.  He’s practiced.  He’s paid his dues.  He’s done what he had to do to earn his spot as America’s best golfer.  And now, he finally has a chance to win his first championship.  And what happens?  A very loud hockey player shows up from out-of-nowhere and totally changes the sport.  What really has to be galling is that Happy’s not even a good player.  He can’t putt.  He has no strategy.  His only skill is the distance that he can hit the ball.  And yet, despite all that, Happy becomes a media superstar.  The only people willing to stand up to Happy and defend the honor of the game are Bob Barker and …. Shooter McGavin.

Really, Shooter doesn’t really start to go after Happy until Happy’s fans starts to purposefully antagonize him.  Remember Happy’s ex-boss showing up to heckle Shooter even though he still had that nail in his head?  Seriously that’s not right.  I mean, who shows up to support the dude who put a nail in your head?  Shooter McGavin had every reason to be concerned about that.

Despite the fact that Shooter was treated rather unfairly, Happy Gilmore is definitely a favorite of mine.  I pretty much love the entire film, from Carl Weathers’s enjoyably demented performance as Happy’s mentor to the famous scene of Bob Barker beating Happy to a pulp.  For those who only know Adam Sandler from his later, lazier comedies, Happy Gilmore will be a bit of a revelation because Sandler and the entire cast actually seem to be making an effort to make a good and funny comedy.  The staid world of golf turns out to be the perfect foil for Sandler’s manchild antics.  And for those who prefer Sandler when he’s playing serious roles, he actually does a pretty good job in Happy Gilmore’s few sincere moments.  His scenes with his grandmother are actually rather sweet.

Happy Gilmore remains Sandler’s best comedy and it’s a personal favorite of mine.  Every time I watch it, I laugh and that’s a good thing.  I also like to think that Shooter and Happy eventually set aside their differences and got their own talk show on ESPN.  They deserved it.

Previous Guilty Pleasures

  1. Half-Baked
  2. Save The Last Dance
  3. Every Rose Has Its Thorns
  4. The Jeremy Kyle Show
  5. Invasion USA
  6. The Golden Child
  7. Final Destination 2
  8. Paparazzi
  9. The Principal
  10. The Substitute
  11. Terror In The Family
  12. Pandorum
  13. Lambada
  14. Fear
  15. Cocktail
  16. Keep Off The Grass
  17. Girls, Girls, Girls
  18. Class
  19. Tart
  20. King Kong vs. Godzilla
  21. Hawk the Slayer
  22. Battle Beyond the Stars
  23. Meridian
  24. Walk of Shame
  25. From Justin To Kelly
  26. Project Greenlight
  27. Sex Decoy: Love Stings
  28. Swimfan
  29. On the Line
  30. Wolfen
  31. Hail Caesar!
  32. It’s So Cold In The D
  33. In the Mix
  34. Healed By Grace
  35. Valley of the Dolls
  36. The Legend of Billie Jean
  37. Death Wish
  38. Shipping Wars
  39. Ghost Whisperer
  40. Parking Wars
  41. The Dead Are After Me
  42. Harper’s Island
  43. The Resurrection of Gavin Stone
  44. Paranormal State
  45. Utopia
  46. Bar Rescue
  47. The Powers of Matthew Star
  48. Spiker
  49. Heavenly Bodies
  50. Maid in Manhattan
  51. Rage and Honor
  52. Saved By The Bell 3. 21 “No Hope With Dope”

Insomnia File #53: A Nightmare on Drug Street (dir by Traci Wald Donat)

What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable or Netflix? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

If you were having trouble getting to sleep last night, you could have gone over to YouTube and you could have done what I did when I was having trouble getting to sleep two nights ago.  You could have watched the 1989 educational film, A Nightmare on Drug Street.

Clocking in at 39 minutes, A Nightmare on Drug Street opens with three people sitting in a dark room.  Though the room seems ominous and the three people often appear to only be shadows, they turn out to to be friendly enough.  (And no, Freddy Krueger is not among them.  This is Drug Street, not Elm Street.)

“Hi, I’m Jill!” the one in the middle informs us.  “I’m dead!”

Filipe, who is is sitting to left of and is a bit less perky than Jill, mentions that they’re all dead.  Eddie, the youngest of the three, speaks up and mentions that he’s been dead for two days longer than Jill.  They all have a good laugh about that.  Jill says that she’s not sure where they are but she thinks that they’re supposed to think about their mistakes and to try to prevent other people their age from making the same mistakes.

“Jill,” I nearly shouted at the screen, “you’re in Purgatory!  It’s not that complicated!”

Eddie complains as he realizes that he’s going to have to relive his story again.  Jill laughs and says that Eddie is always complaining.  Filipe does not laugh because he’s not in a particularly good mood and I don’t blame him.  His Purgatory experience is obviously not turning out the way that he was hoping.  It would appear that Filipe has gotten trapped on the boring side of Purgatory.

Anyway, we then see how each of them ended up dead.  As you can probably guess from the title it all has to do with drugs.

For instance, after winning the big game, Filipe got both stoned and drunk and then decided that it would be a good idea to steal his brother’s car.   Needless to say, it doesn’t take long until Filipe’s more intelligent friend is demanding to be let out of the car.  It also doesn’t take long to hear the sound of an off-screen crash.  Apparently, there wasn’t enough money in the budget to film a real crash.

Jill met a guy at a party and basically allowed herself to be talked into trying cocaine.  As anyone who has ever seen a film like this can probably guess, Jill goes straight from doing that one line to stealing from her friends and selling a family heirloom so she can get more money for coke.  Her family is disappointed in her.  Her friends are angry with her.  And her drug dealer keeps hitting on her.  No wonder Jill eventually end up snorting too much.

And finally, Eddie, who is still in middle school, is handed a crack pipe by a friend.  Soon, Eddie is getting high in the bathroom while his parents try to understand why his grades have gone down.

Interestingly enough, each story is narrated by a dead teen but not the teen that actually dies in the story. So, Jill tells Filipe’s story and makes fun of him for being geeky whenever he gets high.  (Yeah, Jill, like you looked really cool with your bloodshot eyes and your red nose….)  Eddie tells Jill’s story and manages to get through it without ridiculing her.  Filipe tells Eddie’s story while wearing what appears to be a hospital gown.  There’s actually a scene in Purgatory where the three of them debate who will tell each story.  Do they automatically know the stories or is it just a case that they’re memorized them because there’s literally nothing else to talk about while in Purgatory?  The film leaves that question unanswered, which is a shame.

(Speaking of unanswered questions, why are we even in Purgatory in the first place?  The three narrators look directly at the viewer when they speak so I’m guess that I’m meant to have died as well.  But if I’m already dead, what’s the point of warning me about drugs?  Seriously, there’s a lot of unanswered questions in this film.)

Anyway, as for the film itself, it’s another well-intentioned but not quite successful attempt to make an anti-drug scare film.  Like many anti-drug short films, A Nightmare on Drug Street suffers due to the fact that the characters are more interesting when they’re high than when they’re sober.  The stories themselves often veer into melodrama though, to the film’s credit, it seems to at least be a bit self-aware when it comes to this.  When Filipe jumps in his car, Jill says that she knows that we know what’s going to happen but she asks us to keep watching anyways.  After being specifically asked to watch, you kind of feel like you have to.

For the most part, this film’s main worth is as a time capsule.  It’s all about 80s fashion and 80s lingo.  Breaking Bad fans will take note that Filipe is played by Raymond Cruz, who later played a fearsome drug dealer on the classic AMC series.  I guess Filipe found his way out of Purgatory after all.

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. Story of Mankind
  2. Stag
  3. Love Is A Gun
  4. Nina Takes A Lover
  5. Black Ice
  6. Frogs For Snakes
  7. Fair Game
  8. From The Hip
  9. Born Killers
  10. Eye For An Eye
  11. Summer Catch
  12. Beyond the Law
  13. Spring Broke
  14. Promise
  15. George Wallace
  16. Kill The Messenger
  17. The Suburbans
  18. Only The Strong
  19. Great Expectations
  20. Casual Sex?
  21. Truth
  22. Insomina
  23. Death Do Us Part
  24. A Star is Born
  25. The Winning Season
  26. Rabbit Run
  27. Remember My Name
  28. The Arrangement
  29. Day of the Animals
  30. Still of The Night
  31. Arsenal
  32. Smooth Talk
  33. The Comedian
  34. The Minus Man
  35. Donnie Brasco
  36. Punchline
  37. Evita
  38. Six: The Mark Unleashed
  39. Disclosure
  40. The Spanish Prisoner
  41. Elektra
  42. Revenge
  43. Legend
  44. Cat Run
  45. The Pyramid
  46. Enter the Ninja
  47. Downhill
  48. Malice
  49. Mystery Date
  50. Zola
  51. Ira & Abby
  52. The Next Karate Kid

6 Classic Trailers For March 25th, 2022

Since it’s Oscar week, it seems like a good idea to devote the latest edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Film trailers to 6 classic films that received not a single Oscar nomination. That’s the way the Oscars are unfortunately. Sometimes, the best films are totally ignored.

For instance….

  1. Chappaqua (1967)

1967 was a great year for the movie so perhaps it’s understandable that the Academy somehow overlooked Chappaqua.  Still, this film was far more deserving a nomination than Doctor Doolittle.

2. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1971)

Valley of the Dolls received an Oscar nominations for its score.  However, it’s unofficial sequel didn’t even receive that.  Not a single nomination went to Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, not even Best Original Song.  In 1970, the Academy just wasn’t ready.

3. Coffy (1973)

Ellen Burstyn certainly deserved the Oscar for Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore but still, how could the Academy not nominate Pam Grier for her work in Coffy?

4. Dawn of the Dead (1978)

The Academy will probably never embrace the zombie genre.  They certainly weren’t prepared to do so in 1978.  That said, it’s way past time to give Tom Savini an honorary award.

5. The Warriors (1979)

The Warriors is another classic that went unnominated.  Not even the music got a nomination.  David Patrick Kelly was totally snubbed.  The Baseball Furies should have been sitting in front row on Oscar night.  It’s a true shame.

6. Death Wish 3 (1985)

Give the Giggler an Oscar!