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PCR #352. (Vol. 7, No. 51) This edition is for the week of December 18--24, 2006.
Mike's RantMike's Bust
Hello, gang! Some news and notes this week while remembering those that passed. Shall we begin?

Harry and the Haunted Packing Plant....Merry Christmas and Happy New Year From PCR and La Floridiana  by Will Moriaty
"Rocky Balboa"  by Mike Smith
Give the Gift of Cult Films this Year....Publix - Where Shopping Costs a Treasure....Christmas Greeetings  by Andy Lalino
A Prophetic Rocky Balboa Article  by Mark Terry
Oscar News....Quite An Honor....Was "Phantom Menace" Taken?...Passing On This Week....Passing On This Year....My Favorite Films, Part 51: "A Christmas Story"  by Mike Smith
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Some announcements from the academy this week include: 57 songs have been submitted for consideration for the Best Original Song award. I honestly haven't heard of 40 of them. 7 films are being considered for the Best Visual Effects award: "Casino Royale," "Eragon," "Night at the Museum," "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men's Chest," "Poseidon," "Superman Returns" and "X-men: The Last Stand." If, as in the past, they pare the list down to five, I'm guessing "Poseidon" and "X-men" don't make the cut. Sherry Lansing, former head of Paramount, will receive the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian award in recognition of her work in cancer research/treatment. Composer Ennio Morricone, who began his career scoring the films of Sergio Leone ("A Fistful of Dollars," "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly") will receive an Honorary Oscar. He has received five Oscar nominations in a career that includes almost 300 scores for the films "Days of Heaven," "The Mission," "The Untouchables," "Bugsy" and "Malena." The academy also announced that Ray Feeney will receive a special award for his special effects work. However, when I tried to research Feeney, his name is nowhere to be found on the imdB. Hmmmmmm.

Imagine my shock when I picked up the "Person of the Year" issue of Time magazine and saw the winner was.....ME! Thank you all.

This week author J.K. Rowling announced the title of the last Harry Potter book: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows." Feel free to drop me a line and tell me what it means.

Very sad to hear of the passing of animation pioneer Joseph Barbera, who died this week at the age of 95. Among the shows Barbera created with his long time partner, William Hanna: "Tom and Jerry," "Huckleberry Hound," "Quick Draw McGraw," "The Flintstones," "Yogi Bear," "The Jetsons," "Magilla Gorilla," "Top Cat," "Jonny Quest," "Secret Squirrel and Adam Ant," "Scooby-Doo" and "The Banana Splits." They basically MADE my Saturday mornings for as long as I can remember.
Ahmet Ertegan, musical producer who brought fame to such artists as Ray Charles and the Rolling Stones, also passed away. He was 83. Ironically, he died from injuries suffered in a fall while attending a Stones concert.
Dennis Payton, recently nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Dave Clark 5, after a long illness. The saxophone/guitar player was 63.

Not sure how other writers do it, but I often hear of something and, no matter where I am, try to jot a quick note down on whatever is handy. Each week my desk is a collection of sticky pads and napkins, often filled with unintelligible scribbling. I've done my best to highlight the passings of those that are well known to the PCR faithful, and occasionally throw in a mention of someone perhaps not as well known. Here is a list of those that, though they weren't featured, had an impact somewhere in our world:

Logan Whitehurst - a Dr. Demento favorite of mine for many years ("Robot Cat," "Happy Noodle/Sad Noodle") - 29
Michael Siegel - son of "Superman" co-creator Jerry Siegel - 61
Joseph Ungaro - journalist whose question caused Richard Nixon to state "I am not a crook." - 76
Basil "Joe" Jagger - Mick's dad - 93
Francais "Rusty" Tullis - mother of "Mask" subject Rocky Dennis - 70
Red Auerbach - the man behind the Boston Celtics - 89
Sid Thrift - former general manager of my beloved Baltimore Orioles - 77
Nellie Connally - told JFK he "can't say Dallas doesn't love him" seconds before he was shot - 87
Joseph Stefano - co-creator of "The Outer Limits" and screenwriter of "Psycho" - 84
Milan Wilkan - keyboardist for The Commodores - 58
Claudes Charles Smith - co-founder and lead guitarist for Kool and the Gang - 57
Duane Roland - co-founder and guitarist for Molly Hatchet - 53
Richard Stahl - character actor on both television ("Empty Nest") and film "9 to 5") - 74
Robert Donner - actor best known as Exidor on "Mork and Mindy" - 75
Cy Feuer - Playwright ("Guys and Dolls") - 95
Joe Ansler - convicted of kidnapping Frank Sinatra, Jr in 1963 - 65
Lillian Asplund - last American survivor of the sinking of the Titanic - 99
Jay Presson Allen - Oscar nominated screenwriter ("Cabaret," "Prince of the City") - 84
Bruce Peterson - M2-F2 pilot whose crash/recovery was the inspiration for "The Six Million Dollar Man" - 72
Richard Bright - actor best known as Al Neri in "The Godfather" films - 68
Phil Brown - actor who played Luke Skywalker's Uncle Owen Lars in "Star Wars" - 89
Franklin Cover - half of the interracial couple on "The Jeffersons" - 77
Perry Henzell - filmmaker who introduced reggae to the masses with "The Harder They Come" - 70
Carl Brashear - the first black U.S. Navy diver, portrayed by Cuba Gooding, Jr in "Men of Honor" - 75
Tim Hildebrandt - artist who, with his twin brother, Greg, created movie posters for "Star Wars," the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and many more sci-fi/fantasy classics - 67 If I missed someone, I deeply apologize. At least I can see the top of my desk now!

Starring: Peter Billingsley, Darren McGavin and Melinda Dillon
Directed by: Bob Clark

FIRST SEEN: Northpoint 4, Baltimore, Maryland
FAVORITE LINE: "Badafinga!"
FAVORITE SCENE: Flick sticks his tongue to the light pole.

  • Genie Awards (the Canadian Oscar) for Best Director (tied with David Cronnenberg) and Best Screenplay.
  • Genie nominations for Best Picture, Supporting Actress (Tedde Moore, who played Ralphie's teacher), Cinematography, Costume Design, Film Editing, Sound and Sound Editing.
  • Writers Guild of America nomination for Best Comedy Adapted from Another Medium

    It's always a nice feeling when you see a film, rave about it, watch it slowly die and then become a certified classic. Imagine being the guy that walked out of the practically empty auditorium after seeing "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" and telling people it was great. That's how I felt in the winter of 1984. The theatre I managed was one of three that opened "A Christmas Story" in Baltimore, and when I screened it I liked it so much I watched it a second time. I thought for sure the film would play forever. Sadly, it was pulled after one week. Nobody came.

    Based on the published works of author Jean Shepherd, "A Christmas Story" is a tale about young Ralphie Parker and his wished for Christmas gift: An official Red Ryder Carbine-action 200 shot Range Model Air Rifle. Sadly, everyone from his mom to his teacher to Santa Claus frown on the request, warning him that he'll shoot his eye out.

    Meanwhile, Ralphie has to deal with bullies, his younger brother, his profanity spewing father and his two friends, Flick and Schwartz. Childhood memories flood back as the three friends bicker over the slightest things. The film is narrated by Shepherd, and his explanations of the logic of the times is often as funny as the on screen action. The discussion of how the dare system works (from a single dare to the very seldom used TRIPLE dog dare), is one of the best scenes in the film. And I'll admit here that, because of this film, I've NEVER put my tongue near a light pole in the dead of winter.

    The film is perfectly cast. McGavin is just right as the grouchy but loving father. Whether he's battling the furnace, changing a tire or haggling over the price of a Christmas tree, McGavin's performance is full of the competition these tasks bring him. His nonsensical cursing ("dang bladda bang') reaches a crescendo when his prize lamp is accidentally broken. As he spits and sputters to find the right words, he finally utters an outraged "Badafinga!"and leaves the room. Dillon is the perfect mom, dealing with dad's moods while taking care of the kids. But the star here is Billingsley, whose sweet face belies the mischief behind it. And he proves the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree when he beats up a bully while filling the air with his own brand of cursing.

    What I like best about the film is that it captures childhood the way I remember it, which sounds funny when I read it because I grew up in the 1960s, not the 1940s. However, finding ways to spend time with your dad, dealing with a bar of soap in your mouth and going to bed Christmas eve with that ONE present on your mind, is something that should be a part of every child's memories.

    Time to turn it over to ED Tucker, who has compiled some fun facts about this week's film:

    by ED Tucker

    “A Christmas Story” would never have been made had director Bob Clark’s earlier film “Porky’s” not been such a success. The studio wanted him on board for the sequel and he refused unless they agreed to make “A Christmas Story” first.

    The house that was used in “A Christmas Story” was sold on eBay and is now a museum. The website is: http://www.achristmasstoryhouse.com/

    “A Christmas Story” was followed over ten years later by a sequel in 1994 called “It Runs in the Family” (a.k.a. “My Summer Story”). This film had an entirely different cast including Charles Grodin and Mary Steenburgen. It was released with minimal advertising and failed at the box office. While it is not as good as the original it is still a fun movie and deserves a look.

    After “A Christmas Story”, Peter Billingsly starred in “The Dirt Bike Kid” (1985) one of the worst movies ever made. Posters for that film had “starring the kid from A Christmas Story” pasted prominently across the top. Scott Schwartz who played Flick went on to star in the “The Toy” with Richard Pryor and “Raiders of the Living Dead” for Sam Sherman’s Independent International film company. He then went on to star in a couple of porno films in both explicit and non-explicit roles.

    Director Bob Clark got his start making horror films in South Florida (“Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things”, “Dead of Night”) and shortly thereafter directed one of the most disturbing Christmas themed horror films of all time – “Black Christmas” (1974) (a.k.a. “Silent Night, Evil Night”, “Stranger in the House”) which has just been remade and opens this Christmas day!

    Cable channel TNT runs "A Christmas Story" for 24 hours on Christmas Eve. If you need anything that day, you know where to find me.

    Next week, I close out this series with a Christmas-themed movie that packs a big bang: "Die Hard".

    Well, that's it. I wish all of you a safe and happy holiday. See ya!

    "Mike's Rant" is ©2006 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 ©2006 by Nolan B. Canova.