Archive for October, 2013

Marcia Wallace reported dead

October 27, 2013

Marcia Wallace reported dead

Marcia Wallace was one of those people who seemed effortlessly funny…but you knew, deep down, that there was a tremendous amount of work happening.

There are comedians who seem to want people to think, for a brief time, that the world is an amusing place…and do it because they believe that feeling won’t last. That’s how Marcia Wallace struck me.

It’s a humor that is about overcoming the world the way that it is.

Marcia Wallace was perhaps best known for her role as Carol Kester, the full of life receptionist for the complementarily repressed Bob Newhart.

However, contemporary audiences may know her more as Bart Simpson’s teacher, Mrs. Krabappel, on The Simpsons.

Her geek-friendly roles were many, both as a voice artist and in live-action. Those include:

  • Bewitched
  • The Castaways on Gilligan’s Island
  • Fantasy Island
  • ALF
  • Small Wonder
  • Teen Witch
  • My Mom’s a Werewolf
  • The Munsters Today
  • Ghoulies III
  • Darkwing Duck
  • Batman: The Animated Series
  • The Addams Family (the early 1990s revival with Rip Torn as Uncle Fester)
  • Captain Planet
  • the Aladdin TV series
  • Teen Angel
  • Angry Beavers

Good-bye, Marcia Wallace…the world is less wacky without you. Know that, although you are no longer with us, your work will continue to provide people who need it that escape from their troubles you wanted to give them.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

Lou Scheimer reported dead

October 20, 2013

Lou Scheimer reported dead

Over the years, Star Trek has been nominated for over 150 Emmys, and has won 34 (according to Memory Alpha).

Most of them have been technical awards, although we have to note Leonard Nimoy’s nominations for acting.

Only one series has won for being the best seriesStar Trek: The Animated Series.

Who received the award for Outstanding Entertainment Children’s Series? Filmation founders Lou Scheimer and Norm Prescott.

Lou Scheimer made many geek-friendly shows, often working with iconic properties (including Tarzan, Flash Gordon, and Batman). While the shows for the most part were certainly Saturday morning material, they often featured human beings with human emotions (even if they were in extraordinary circumstances).

Scheimer also did voice work on several series. including Orko on He-Man and Bat-villain Clayface (opposite Adam West and Burt Ward) on Tarzan and the Super 7.

That ability to attract actors from the live action shows to voice their cartoon counterparts was part of what made Filmation shows of lasting interest.

He also would do parodies of geek shows, including Waldo Kitty doing Star Trek and a parody of the Six Million Dollar Man on Uncle Croc’s Block.

There are too many credits to list them all, but here are some highlights:

  • The New Adventures of Superman (Bud Collyer)
  • Journey to the Center of the Earth
  • The Archie Show
  • Fantastic Voyage
  • Aquaman
  • Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids
  • Sabrina and the Groovy Ghoulies
  • My Favorite Martians (Jonathan Harris)
  • Journey Back to Oz
  • Uncle Croc’s Block (one of my favorites)
  • The Secret Lives of Waldo Kitty
  • Shazam! (live action)
  • Isis (live action)
  • Ark II
  • The New Adventures of Batman
  • Space Sentinels
  • Space Academy
  • Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle
  • The New Adventures of Mighty Mouse and Heckle & Jeckle
  • Jason of Star Command
  • Flash Gordon
  • Blackstar
  • Gilligan’s Planet
  • He-Man
  • She-Ra
  • Bravestarr

Good-bye, Lou Scheimer…the world is a little less animated without you.

My take on…Captain Phillips

October 18, 2013

My take on…Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips, based on true events, may be the best movie I’ve seen this year.

While I remembered quite a bit about the incident, the movie isn’t so much about what is happening, but about the people involved.

Tom Hanks gives a great, understated performance as Captain Phillips.

Even more impressive is Barkhad Abdi as the leader of the Somali pirates…and this is Abdi’s first acting credit. It is the type of performance that is so good, many people won’t realize it is acting: they’ll simply think that Abdi is Muse. That’s unfortunate, because this is a performance that deserves a Supporting Actor Oscar…and I do think a nomination is an “Oscability” (Oscar Possibility…my new term).

The directing by Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Supremacy, United 93) is superb, and certainly may garner an Oscar nom. The movie has no loose threads: it is as perfectly put together as a Tom Ford tuxedo.

I was careful to say “based on true events”, rather than a “true story”. There are crew members who were on the ship, and dispute Phillips account…and heroism:

The Guardian article by Ben Child

However, that doesn’t impact the value of the movie for me: if it is true, in fact, it may show additional skill on the part of the filmmakers.

I recommend this one.

Big Six (Acting, Director, Picture) Oscabilities:

  • Best Actor: Tom Hanks (5 Oscar noms, two wins)
  • Best Supporting Actor: Barkhad Abdi
  • Best Director: Paul Greengrass
  • Best Adapted Screenplay: Billy Ray
  • Best Picture

I could also see it nominated for a number of other Oscars, including editing.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

Gravity is not science fiction

October 9, 2013

Gravity is not science fiction

Make no mistake about it: as a geek, I’m happy to see the success of Gravity, both in terms of box office and reception.

However, I’m not as pleased to see it being labeled as science fiction (or using Forry Ackerman’s shorthand, sci-fi).

It’s not.

It’s pointedly not.

Even reviews that laud the attempt to get the science right have used that label.

I mean, for those who haven’t noticed, space travel is reality now. Perhaps some folks aren’t aware that the International Space Station actually exists…that there are astronauts right now over somebody’s head. In the right circumstances, you can actually look up and see it.

Just being set in space doesn’t make something science fiction…not any more.

Sure, that used to be true, before 1961 and the first human spaceflight.

Now, setting a movie in space is no more a guarantee that it is science fiction than setting a movie on a train. Oh, it could be, certainly, and so far, the vast majority of space movies have been.

Not this one, though.

It is absolutely presented as something that could be happening now, within consensus reality.

Yes, it’s fiction…we aren’t flying shuttle missions like that now, but it isn’t science fiction.

Maybe it’s all the special effects that confuse some writers? Well, if it’s the number of FX shots that make a movie science fiction, Backdraft would quality.

If Gravity gets Oscar love, science geeks can claim it as one of theirs. Science fiction fans? Not so much.

Note: science fiction has clearly inspired some of the advances in science over the decades. Arguably, the space program wouldn’t have been the same if its shapers hadn’t been exposed H.G. Wells and Captain Video. However, both of those (and many others) looked beyond the reality horizon: Gravity makes every effort not to do that

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

My takes on…Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Prisoners, Gravity

October 7, 2013

My takes on…Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Prisoners, Gravity

Lee Daniels’ The Butler is a movie that shows us how history consists of the impact that it has on individuals, not just on countries.

The script by Danny Strong (Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s Jonathan Levinson) doesn’t make the mistake of telling us that victims of injustice are necessarily perfect people.

There are some great performances, including Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, and David Oleyowo, all of whom might garner Oscar nominations.

If the movie only involved the core family, it would have been a truly solid work.

Unfortunately, there are performances by famous actors as the Presidents which did feel like stunt casting. Robin Williams was the strongest as Dwight Eisenhower, but John Cusack as Richard Nixon didn’t resonate with me as having the right look, feel, or attitude. The brilliant Alan Rickman was unrecognizable as Ronald Reagan…and again, didn’t seem to capture the President. I would also say that I probably wouldn’t have known he was supposed to be Reagan from his appearance.

Again, the make-up, costuming, and hair for the core family was great: for the Presidents, I didn’t find it as compelling.

I also want to single out James Marsden as turning in a great performance in a very difficult role as JFK. He not only evoked the President, but made him human…no small task.

Overall, the movie was quite good and definitely worth seeing: it was just flawed in its periphery.

The tone in Prisoners was more consistent, and there were some impressive technical elements (it should be nominated for make-up, and there was great sound work).

However, this is a movie I’m not happy that I saw. It has such a downbeat view of the world…I didn’t like any of the characters in it. I’m just not fond of movies that tell me the world is a terrible place. Certainly, there are movies where terrible things happen (Silence of the Lambs comes to mind…or Night of the Living Dead) and there are people who do horrible things, but those people are shown as aberrations, not as the norm.

This is a movie I would actually advise people to skip, although many people will like it.

Gravity is a horse of a different color…and that color is mostly space black.

You can tell the care they put into the science which is portrayed. I would not describe this as science fiction: it’s just a drama that happens to involve an unusual occupation and setting.

We saw it in 3-D, which is unusual for us, but there was nothing that seemed to depend on the 3-D.

I would assess the characters as deliberately shallow. In the real world, many people don’t reveal much of themselves…and that may be particularly true in the space program.

The technical achievements should assure a nomination for special effects. They didn’t evoke the same emotional response in me as, say 2001, but again, I would consider that to be deliberate.

The movie is very coherently directed by Alfonso Cuarón: the strength of the vision is undeniable.

I do recommend the movie, but it appears that many people would rate it much more highly than I would. The feel for me was somewhat like a 1970s disaster movie, minus the fun and Red Buttons. 😉 That certainly would have been fine if the alternative was to care deeply for the characters, but I just didn’t quite get there. While there will be a lot of talk about Oscars for acting in this movie, I’m not convinced that will happen, although I would expect to see some other nominations.

his post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

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