We have finally, mercifully, almost reached the end of 2016.
It seems every other website is taking a look back at what you, the reading public, must want to read. Far be it for me to deny the public what it wants, so let's look at the most-read posts at Wriphe.com in each month of the past year (per Google Analytics).
- January 19: Poodle cartoons are always popular, especially when I'm making jokes about amputated toes.
- February 24: I gushed like a school girl over my love affair with Fallout 4. I have since beaten the game, so we've gone our separate ways. However, I'll always cherish our time together.
- March 16: I retired one blog tag and created a new, more appropriate one. (You're welcome, Dan.)
- April 18: I ridiculed Georgia fans who attended a glorified UGA football practice session for free. Joke's on me. The entire 2016 season was essentially a practice for future years, and I was dumb enough to pay to watch it.
- May 12: Victoria died.
- June 15: The conclusion to my 2016 Health Insurance Saga. In summary, I lost.
- July 16: I rambled at length about junk telephone calls. My solution was that we should all pay more for phone service. Remember, if telephones were illegal, only criminals would have telephones.
- August 11: Chewie died. (2016 was a terrible year for dogs, too.)
- September 23: Hmm. September 23? I don't recall anything happening on that day. Nope. Nothing comes to mind. Let's move along.
- October 23: An addendum to my 2016 Health Insurance Saga. In summary, I lost even worse.
- November 9: I expressed my, er, dissatisfaction at the outcome of the presidential election.
- December 2: I reminded you that deer are the enemy. I trust that you didn't need that reminder. How many did you kill this season?
Dead dogs, no health insurance, Trump... what a great year!
I promise I'll try to be more entertaining in 2017. I think we're going to need it.
Ok, so I've had a lot of time to watch movies in December. This batch is the second five (of fifteenish), and I'll have at least one more wrap up to go.
110. (1048.) The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946)
Apparently, this weird romance/crime noir hybrid is best known as Kirk Douglas' first movie role. He plays a sniveling leech, not the sort of role he would become known for. I have to say, he was pretty damn good, even at the beginning of his career.
111. (1049.) Funeral in Berlin (1966)
This is the second of the Harry Palmer spy movies featuring Michael Caine. (Palmer is far more believable than James Bond. When the woman comes on to him, he realizes she has to be a plant. Because who would come on to him?) Of the three made in the 60s, I think this one is the best of the bunch, though it does make "British Intelligence" an oxymoron. (The Soviet plan is obvious almost as soon as Colonel Stok is introduced.)
112. (1050.) Billion Dollar Brain (1967)
The third and final theatrical Harry Palmer movie (there were two more made for television in the 1990s) is the weakest I've seen by far. It strays too far into James Bond territory with a ridiculous villain in his own army and hidden lair. With everyone behaving so bizarrely, I often found myself cheering for Colonel Stok, the loyal Soviet returning from Funeral in Berlin. (It wasn't his funeral.) This was not the right direction for this franchise.
113. (1051.) Quintet (1979)
I admit that I watched this because it was a Robert Altman sci-fi movie, and I wanted to see how his near religious devotion to film realism (and Paul Newman) would translate to a dystopian environment. Surprisingly, it was that realism that elevated this material above its Buck Rogers-style plot whose moral is "life sucks, don't play." Wow. Thanks for that.
114. (1052.) Head (1968)
I was charmed by this, the only feature film starring The Monkees. It's incredibly endearing to see them try so damn hard to bite the hands that created them. There's a lot of fun and insightful stuff here (proudly penned in part by Jack Nicholson (yes, that Jack Nicholson)), including great use of Coca-Cola product placement in a metaphor for the market forces that created The Monkees for mass market consumption. Sadly, because it's not paced well, long stretches of this film can be a bit of a dull watch. I recommend liberal use of the fast forward button.
More to come.
The spirit raised a frightful cry, and shook its chain with such a dismal and appalling noise, that Scrooge held on tight to his chair, to save himself from falling in a swoon. But how much greater was his horror, when the phantom taking off the bandage round its head, as if it were too warm to wear indoors, its lower jaw dropped down upon its breast!
Scrooge fell upon his knees, and clasped his hands before his face. "Mercy!" he said. "Dreadful apparition, why do you trouble me?"
"Man of the worldly mind!" replied the Ghost, "do you believe in me or not?"
"I do," said Scrooge.
"I don't," said Velma, drawing aside the curtain to reveal herself and her friends. "Now, Fred!"
A lasso of rope fell over the Ghost's shoulders, squeezing its arms against its sides. "Let me free!" it demanded.
"What kind of ghost can be caught with a rope?" asked Daphne.
"This is no ghost," said Velma. She placed her hand on the captive spirit's head, and with a quick jerk, pulled off its mask to reveal an unexpected visage that Scrooge recognized immediately.
"Bob Cratchit!" he cried. "My clerk? But why? How?"
"Mr. Cratchit was jealous of your wealth," explained Fred. "His plan was to feed you spicy pepperoni pizzas for dinner so that you would have bad dreams he could influence with these fake hauntings."
"Once you were scared enough, he was going to talk you into giving your entire fortune to charity," added Velma.
"I would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn't for you meddling kids!" said Bob.
"And me," said Scooby-Doo.
"Like, those pizzas were delicious, weren't they, Scoob?" said Shaggy, rubbing his dog on the head.
Scooby licked his lips. "Dee-ricious!"
"Thank 'ee," said Scrooge. "I am much obliged to you. I thank you fifty times. Bless you!"
"Does this mean we can count on you to make a donation to our Christmas fund?" Daphne asked hopefully.
"Bah!" said Scrooge, "Humbug!"
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Last week on NPR's Ask Me Another, one of the contestants admitted to being a big Peanuts fan. He had a Snoopy tattoo on his back, but "self-identified" as Linus. Listening to him talk about himself, I naturally thought about me.
I like Peanuts. (Who doesn't?) As a kid, I most enjoyed the antics of Snoopy and Linus, but I wouldn't say I ever self-identified with either of them. Snoopy is too outgoing and Linus is too deep. I also really enjoyed Schroeder, though he's far too single-minded. None of them are really me.
After watching A Charlie Brown Christmas to get in the mood (fun fact: three of the dancing kids are officially named "3", "4", and "5"), I asked Google to point me to some sites that would help me to find out exactly which character I should be associating with.
Quizsocial.com and Playbuzz.com both suggested that I was most like Charlie Brown, the main man himself. They said that like Mr. Brown, I was a well-intentioned leader with charm and a strong work ethic, generally fun to be around despite my insecurities. That sounds to me like something someone would write in a generic horoscope.
Buzzfeed.com said I was more like Linus, a "sensitive intellectual" with book smarts. Fandango.com hit furthest from the mark, declaring that I was most like the easygoing and "super casual" Peppermint Patty. (I think I must have answered something wrong in that one.) None of these seem quite right to me, so I kept testing.
I got more agreement from Brainfall.com, Aimbo.com, AllTheTests.com, Quizony.com, and GoToQuiz.com. They all decided that I was demanding, easily irritated, and a generally insufferable know-it-all. The character associated with those traits is none other than she of the yanked-away-football herself, Lucy van Pelt.
Yeah, that sounds about right.
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The Miami Dolphins are guaranteed a winning season for the first time since 2008. It's an unusual sensation. I'd forgotten what it felt like to cheer for a winning NFL team.
If the Dolphins win on Christmas Eve in Buffalo and on New Year's Day versus the New England Patriots, they'll definitely make the postseason. There are scenarios in which they could lose one or both of those games and and still have a shot at playing for the league title. Given the Dolphins' history of poor performance in the snow and against teams much, much better than they are, I'm not holding my breath.
(It doesn't help that starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill busted his ACL in week 14 and may or may not return before September 2017. Great timing, that.)
However, don't let my pessimism about the future fool you into thinking that I'm not excited about the present. I am, indeed, very happy that the Dolphins won't finish the season as losers, something I predicted before the season started.
That's the best thing about being a pessimist. It's always a pleasant surprise when you're wrong.
Movies to start December!
105. (1043.) The Squall (1929)
Californian Myrna Loy plays a racist stereotype of a European gypsy doing terrible gypsy things, which mainly consists of seducing stupid men. I found it completely believable. (Damn sexy gypsies! *shakes fist at sky*)
106. (1044.) The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let's Do the Time Warp Again (2016)
I don't get it. I don't understand the point of remaking a movie exactly like its predecessor. This remake went out of its way to look and sound sound like the original (which it openly references at point, such as a crack about Meatloaf for dinner). The music was over produced, and for a film celebrating deviancy, everyone is just too damn pretty. The polish here only shows how much more creative the original was. Watch that instead.
107. (1045.) Beloved Infidel (1959)
A film based on F. Scott Fitzgerald and his romance with gossip columnist Sheilah Graham. I watched it to learn a little more about the final years of the great novelist, but it might as well be yet another remake of A Star is Born, with Graham in the up-and-comer role.
108. (1046.) The Prizefighter and the Lady (1933)
This is another early Myrna Loy movie. She's a (badly dubbed) singer who falls for (real life) boxer Max Baer. It's got a bit of a Rocky vibe, where the romance is more important than the boxing, even to the boxer.
109. (1047.) Night Flight (1933)
Myrna Loy has a very small part in this as the wife of a pilot. That's okay. Clark Gable has an equally small part as a pilot (though not her pilot). The main plot involves a couple of Barrymores. It's not as great as it wants to be, but it's hardly bad.
More to come.
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More original Walter artwork!
Judging by the fashion on display — I'm sure those lifts represent are cowboy boots — I'm guessing this drawn-from-life portrait is from about 1979/80. I'm not sure who this was, perhaps my aunt's boyfriend? It's not my dad. For one thing, I don't think Dad has the first clue who Rush is. He also never had that much hair.
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I'm sorry I didn't mention this sooner, but Myrna Loy is the Star of the Month at TCM.
I didn't discover Loy until I watched The Thin Man much too late in life. (After years of hearing people say "Have you see The Thin Man," I finally took the hint.) Loy's screen presence matches a keen, playful mind and a knowing, beautiful face, often with more than a small pinch of wry cynicism. I simply love her.
(According to my notes, I've watched 21 Loy movies in the past 4 years. That's a small fraction of her catalog. IMDB.com credits her with 131 movie roles in all. I've got some watching to do!)
Sadly, this warning comes too late for you to check out the terrible Mask of Fu Manchu or the underrated Whipsaw, but there's still plenty of Loy to come. All six Thin Man movies will be showing on December 23. There are much worse ways to spend a Friday.