ELVIS THE DOG
Until I met my wife, Juanita, I had only had two pets in my lifetime. A dog, named Rusty, who ran away after a few weeks when I was 11. I had better luck with a cat given to me by a former girlfriend, Alex (named after Alex Kintner, the little boy who is eaten off a raft in JAWS). I had Alex for several years and when I moved to Kansas gave him back to the now former girlfriend. Though he was a good cat, Alex was just that...a cat. Didn't come when you called him. Wouldn't go for walks. Pretty much stayed out of sight until it was dinner time. When I met Juanita I also met her dog, Elvis. A well mannered Shih Tzu who liked to go for walks, Elvis was an original. He was nine when we met but had the energy of dogs much younger. Once he snuck out of the house and it took every ounce of energy and speed I could muster to run him down. Coming home from work, he would hear the garage door open and greet us at the top of the steps. When we would ask him if he wanted to go "bye bye," he would stand in the landing for a moment, and then , in his best Sammy Davis, Jr.impression, would jump around so excitedly that his nails sounded like tap shoes on the hardwood floor. No matter where he was in the house, when we sat down to dinner, he would immediately appear between Juanita and I, ready to sample the evening's fare. Nothing bonds a man and his dog together like bacon! And I think we had a great bond. He was never a dog who liked to be held too long but one night, when it stormed badly, we put him in bed with us and he he slept the night away next to me. He had no problems going to the groomers but, when it was time for a bath at home, he would tolerate it for only so long and then begin to whine, which Juanita deducted was only a ploy to get my attention. I would often sit next to him on the floor and rub his ears in a way that would almost put him in a trance. Sadly, Elvis left us this week after a long, brave battle with prostate cancer. He was 13. There have been many tears shed this week for our beloved "puppy." But with those tears come great memories that we will cherish forever. We love you buddy!
Like his mom and dad, Elvis was a big "Family Guy" fan!
Since July birthday's are a major discussion on the Readers Comments board this week, I'll take the time here to wish my wife, Juanita, a very Happy 46th Birthday, which she celebrated this past Wednesday, July 15. I love you, honey.
THEY DID SOMETHING RIGHT
This past Tuesday my son, Phillip, and I went to St. Louis to take in the Fan Festivities being held in conjunction with the Major League Baseball All Star Game. We had attended previous ones in Baltimore and Pittsburgh, but it had been more then a decade since we had made the trip. I am pleased to report that it was an excellent event with many interactive displays and give aways. We walked in empty handed and came out with all kinds of souvenier baseballs, baseball cards...even a commemorative blanket. We both appeared on MLB.com radio and took advantage of the kind people from Taco Bell who had scheduled "Free Taco" events during the day. As someone who is not very pleased with some of the directions Major League Baseball is heading in, this event was definitely a step forward. Rumor has the 2012 All Star Game scheduled for Kansas City so hopefully it won't be too long before we go again.
Jesse James Hollywood, who at age 20 kidnapped a 15-year old boy because the boy's brother owed him money for drugs, has finally been convicted of the kidnapping and the boy's subsequent murder. The case was the basis for the 2007 film "Alpha Dog."
Who says things don't work fast in Hollywood? Originally this piece was going to announce that three finalists had been chosen to play Hal Jordan in the upcoming "Green Lantern" film. The three: Bradley Cooper, Ryan Reynolds and Justin Timberlake. However, before my fingers hit the keys comes word that Reynolds has been offered the part. If true, then he would become the first actor to play a Marvel and D.C. character on screen. What makes the choice even more amazing is that Reynolds is also scheduled to star in his own film featuring his X-men character Deadpool."
Production has started in Beijing on "The Kung Fu Kid," an updated version of "The Karate Kid" starring Jackie Chan as Mr. Miyagi and Jaden Smith as the young boy he tutors. Word from the set has Chan praising Smith's martial arts ability and the fact that the young boy learned enough Mandarin Chinese to speak with the crew.
Sometimes these things just write themselves. Jodie Foster will direct the upcoming film entitled "The Beaver"...insert joke here. And it gets better. Beating out such comedic talents as Jim Carrey and Steve Carell, the film will star MEL GIBSON as Walter Black, a depressed man who wears a beaver hand puppet that he treats as a real person. Wow.
Remember those cool faux trailers during "Grindhouse?" Well one of them is coming to the big screen as Danny Trejo is set to star in "Machete." Director Robert Rodriguez has assembled an excellent supporting cast, including Jonah Hill, Michelle Rodriguez and Robert DeNiro, who plays the U.S. Senator that originally betrayed Machete. Oooh, I'm getting tingly.
Though I had heard recently that he was in ill health, I am still shocked to learn of the death of Walter Cronkite. Mr. Cronkite, once dubbed "the most trusted man in America" passed away Friday evening from cerebral vascular disease. He was 92. As a rising star at CBS News in the late 1950s, Cronkite covered many important stories for the network, taking over the desk for "The CBS Evening News" in 1962. He was an indelible part of American history, informing the public of events so disimilar as the assassination of JFK to Neil Armstrong landing on the moon, ending each newscast with his trademark statement, "and THAT'S the way it is." An early supporter of the Vietnam war, Cronkite visited the country after the 1968 Tet offensive and announced that we "were mired in a stalemate." Upon hearing this, President Lyndon Johnson told his staff "If we lose Cronkite we lose the midwest." Cronkite stepped down as anchor in 1981, yet his influence still continues. He was the first television news "anchorman" and in many countries, his name is synonomous with the position. In Sweden, the lead news broadcaster is called the Kronkiter while in Holland he's called the Cronkiter.
MY FAVORITE FILMS, PART II. THE YEAR WAS 1988...
A Fish Called Wanda|
Starring: John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Palin and Kevin Kline
Directed by: Charles Crichton
FIRST SEEN: Twin Bays 4 Theatre, Tampa, Florida
FAVORITE SCENE: Kline interrogating Palin by sticking french fries up his nose.
FAVORITE LINE: "Oh, you English are SO superior, aren't you? Well, would you like to know what you'd be without us, the good ol' U.S. of A. to protect you? I'll tell you. The smallest fucking province in the Russian Empire, that's what!"
1989 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor (Kline)
1989 Academy Award nomination for Best Director
1989 Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay
1989 BAFTA Award for Best Actor (Cleese)
1989 BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor (Palin)
1989 BAFTA nominations for Best Picture, Director, Actor (Kline), Actress (Curtis), Supporting Actress (Maria Aitken), Original Screenplay and Editing.
1989 Director's Guild of America Nomination for Motion Pictures
1989 Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Picture, Actor (Cleese) and Actress (Curtis), all in the Musical/Comedy category.
1989 Writer's Guild of America Nomination for Best Original Screenplay
One of the most consistently funny films EVER, "A Fish Called Wanda," like "Brazil" before it, was another brilliant project from one of the members of Monty Python. Written by John Cleese (and, some stories go, directed by him as well) the film is the perfect blend of Python humor, including rude Americans, dog assassinations and the worse case of stuttering on screen since Mel Tillis showed up in "Cannonball Run!"
The story centers around a diamond robbery planned by a quartet of under achievers. George, the leader of the group, his animal loving-badly stuttering stooge Ken, his American lover Wanda and Otto, who is introduced as Wanda's brother but is actually another of her lovers. The robbery goes off without a hitch but the group is spotted in their getaway car by an old woman walking her dogs. When she identifies George a plan goes into effect to kill her so she can't testify. That job is left to Ken, whose attempts fail miserably, accidentally killing one of her dogs each time. Meanwhile, Wanda has taken it upon herself to seduce George's lawyer, much to Otto's chagrin. The combined results are 108 minutes of brilliant comedy.
I've done my best to research this piece and I can't find anything that suggests that Cleese and director Charles Crichton were close friends, either in business or personally. Prior to "Wanda," Crichton's last feature film job was in 1965. He spent the next 20 years directing television shows, including "Space: 1999." Some sources credit Cleese as "co-director," while others list him as the director but note he went uncredited. Cleese maintains that the film is Crichtons, yet the man never directed again in his final 11 years of life. Whether this is Cleese being modest or actually true, the pacing of the film is excellent, so whoever directed it deserves some praise.
The film is also responsible for providing break out roles for it's two American leads. Kline had enjoyed some success as a romantic lead, based in part on his recreation of his Tony Award winning performance as the Pirate King in "The Pirates of Penzance." He also gave good performances in the Lawrence Kasdan ensemble pieces "The Big Chill" and "Silverado." But "Wanda" and the Oscar that followed it, announced to the film world that Kline could be funny. Curtis had finally escaped her "horror queen" past but was still being cast in films (Trading Places, Perfect) based more on her body then her acting. However, in smaller projects (Amazing Grace and Chuck, Dominic and Eugene) she showed she was more then just eye candy. In "Wanda" she plays up her sexy image but still shows that of all the wannabe tough guys in the film she's the toughest. And the smartest.
Of course, as is always the case when a movie features an affliction in a negative light, the film was taken to task for Palin's stuttering character, Ken. However, what those behind the protests did not know was that Palin's father had a severe stutter, so he was obviously sensitive to the situation. In fact, after the film was released, Palin went on to found the London Centre for Stammering Children. G-g-g-g-great job, Michael!
As to where they are now, "director" Crichton died in 1999, having never stepped behind a camera again. Cleese continues to act and write, usually at the same time. He has appeared in guest roles on numerous television shows and has voiced several animated characters, including the King in "Shrek 2 and 3." Curtis went the action route for awhile, playing cops and supermoms, but also showed her tender side in the "My Girl" films. She even embraced her horror roots by appearing in the film, "Halloween H20." Kline has gone on to headline various comedies, including "Dave" and "In and Out" and has been nominated four times for Golden Globe awards for these performances. Palin continues to show up in the occasional film but is probably best known now for his various travel documentaries on cable television. In 1997 the entire cast reunited for the film "Fierce Creatures," which was set around the business side of a failing zoo. While funny it didn't resonate with audiences as well as "Wanda" did.
Next week we'll take a look at that rare film that dies at the box office but then explodes thanks to cable television: "Eddie and the Cruisers."
Well, that's all for now. Have a great week. See ya!
"Mike's Rant" is ©2009 by Michael A. Smith. Webpage design and all graphics herein are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2009 by Nolan B. Canova.