Friday, April 25, 2008

"Royal Wedding" (1951) -- Initial Thoughts

Today, I watched Royal Wedding (1951), which stars Fred Astaire, Jane Powell, Peter Lawford, and Keenan Wynn. Kind of an interesting cast, huh?

Astaire and Powell play a brother-sister team of singers and dancers, but not all the musical numbers are part of their show. Jane Powell sings several songs as she falls for Peter Lawford, and Fred Astaire does two of his most memorable dance routines off-stage as well: dancing with a hat tree, and dancing on the ceiling and walls of his hotel room. Their numbers together on-stage are pretty good, particularly the classic "Why Do You Believe Me When I Tell You That I Love You When You Know I've Been a Liar All My Life?" :-D They had a nice, friendly chemistry, and you could believe they were siblings.

But I enjoyed the two supporting guys, Lawford and Wynn, most of all. I've only seen Peter Lawford in a handful of things like Ocean's Eleven and Easter Parade (which I barely remember and should really watch again -- maybe next week?), and I was unprepared for his dry, boyish charm. I may have to try to find more of his movies!

As for Keenan Wynn, well, who doesn't love Keenan Wynn? He's always funny, whether playing a Disney villain or an overbearing Combat! colonel (I did half expect him to belt out, "Don't just stand there suckin' on a prune pit!" in this). And he plays twins in this, one American, one British (a difference that is never explained), so we get several split-screen scenes of him confusing himself with British- and Americanisms.

It ended a bit abruptly, but not unenjoyably so. I think of all the "new" musicals I've watched so far this year, this is one of my favorites.

Oh, and how's this for some interesting trivia? According to, Jane Powell and I currently reside in the same county!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Yesterday, I tried out a new recipe for my birthday. I decided to make "Tuxedo Bars," so called because they have white and semi-sweet chocolate chips in them. I've had the recipe for years, but never got around to trying it. So I figured, hey, it's my birthday, I can make me whatever I want, right? Right.

Good thing I wasn't making them for someone else's birthday. They didn't exactly turn out the way I'd anticipated. After baking for almost ten minutes longer than the recipe suggested, the top was done and the bottom was done, and the inside was a gloopy mess. As they cooled, they fell, and the top cracked, so it looked like a dried-up watering hole in the desert. Never let me kid you and say that everything I bake is a masterpiece!

Once they were cool, I stuck the pan in the fridge, and eventually they got solid enough to cut. They're actually not too terrible -- sort of like funky fudge with a crust and a cracked top. Cowboy took a bunch to work and returned with none, so I guess I fooled the public with them. But it's not a recipe I'll be keeping.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

"Love Me or Leave Me" (1955) -- Initial Thoughts

This week, I watched a kind of unusual musical: Love Me or Leave Me (1955). It wasn't unusual in form or content, or in who it starred; it was a biopic of 20s jazz singer Ruth Etting and her gangster husband Marty Snyder, and it had lots of songs and dance numbers, all of the entertainer-doing-a-show-for-an-audience variety. It starred Doris Day and James Cagney.

Wait a minute -- Doris Day was a singer, James Cagney played gangsters a lot -- what's so unusual?

How about the fact that Doris Day played a pretty unsympathetic character? That strike you as unusual? She was manipulative, she was greedy for fame, she pouted and threw tantrums. Not the Nice Girl Next Door that she usually played.

As for James Cagney, while he played a crook and a jerk and a self-serving jackal, he actually ended up getting more of my sympathy than Doris Day. Because for all his faults, Marty Snyder really did fall for Ruth Etting, and she used him to get famous and then divorced him. There were a couple scenes where Cagney nearly had me misty-eyed.

Of course, it's a fictionalized account of their lives, so who knows what they were really like. But that's how they struck me in the movie.

Monday, April 14, 2008

We've had two Red Letter Days in a row here!

Yesterday, Dano and I were separated for the first time since his birth. For the first time in six months, I was more than shouting-distance away from him. I went to the library to watch a foreign film: The Wages of Fear. It's a French suspense film from the 50s, rather like cynical Hitchcock with subtitles. I was gone three hours and fifteen minutes, and when I got home, both Cowboy and Dano were still alive :-) Dano napped for almost half of it, so neither of them were too traumatized. But after an initial wide-eyed, jaw-dropped reaction when I walked in, Dano gave me the cold shoulder for about fifteen minutes, just to remind me not to make a habit of abandoning him to the devices of his daddy.

Today, I introduced him to solid food. I mixed a little baby rice cereal with some breast milk, and after he figured out we weren't playing some new gnaw-the-spoon game, he caught on pretty quickly. More than half of what went in his mouth ended up back out on his bib, but he did swallow some of it, so I consider that a victory.

Friday, April 11, 2008

"Meet Me in Las Vegas" (1956) -- Initial Thoughts

After a couple of weeks off, I'm back to watching and reviewing new (to me) musicals. This week it was Meet Me in Las Vegas (1956), starring Cyd Charisse and Dan Dailey. I'd never heard of this movie before, and that's probably because overall, it's not very memorable. It has some splendid moments, like Charisse dancing to a 50s jazzed-up version of "Frankie and Johnny" narrated by Sammy Davis, Jr. And I'm liking her ballet more and more -- until I saw Band Wagon a few weeks ago, I didn't realize how seriously good at ballet she was. Zowie! There are several numbers here that showcase her classiness, including one ballet that involves volleyball (yeah). And Dan Dailey gets to sing a couple times in his crumbly, down-home way that I can't help but smile at.

The premise is that a rancher-gambler discovers a that snooty ballerina is his lucky charm when they bump into each other in Vegas. This is the Rat Pack's Vegas, not CSI's, so no one ends up dead, they just gamble and bump into celebrities. Among those providing cameos are Frank Sinatra (of course), Peter Lorre, Vic Damone, Steve Forrest, and Debbie Reynolds. We also get treated to entirely superfluous songs by Lena Horne and Frankie Laine, I suppose to make us feel like we're really in Vegas seeing famous people at the casinos. If you watch really closely, you'll also catch a young George Chakiris, who went on to win an Oscar six years later for West Side Story.

Paul Henried and Jim Backus round out the real cast, as well as Agnes Moorehead. She's provides the most fun in the whole movie, as Dailey's sensible mom. She's less acid-tongued than in some roles, but still plenty feisty. The scenes with them all out at Dailey's ranch are my favorite part of the whole movie, hokey modern cowboys and all.

All in all, it was a fun enough way to spend two hours, but I can see why it's not on lots of top ten lists. Enjoyable, but not particularly enchanting.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

They have a new limited-edition Snickers bar out called the Indiana Jones Adventure Bar. It has a hint of coconut to it, but is otherwise like a normal Snickers. Of all the variations-on-a-Snickers they've come up with, this is my favorite, and not just cuz it's got Harrison Ford on the wrapper :-) I think that's because they're the most like a normal Snickers, and you really can't improve on those.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Mmmmm, I'm enjoying the last few swigs of the first cup of coffee I've made with an early birthday present from my parents: a personal-sized French Press coffeemaker. This thing is ingenious! And it makes tasty coffee, too :-) I have an espresso machine and a traditional coffeemaker, but they both require being plugged in, and the Crow's Nest's kitchen has limited counter space as well as a limited number of outlets. And Cowboy doesn't like coffee, so both of my coffee-making apparatuses are in their boxes, sitting on top of the fridge. Because I can't see using precious counter space for something only I use. Especially since I don't drink coffee every day.

So Mom found this French Press thingie at a local coffee palace and got it for me as an early birthday gift. It's perfect! It makes one cup at a time, I can adjust how strong I want it by how much coffee I put in, and it's easy to use and clean. What you do is put in coffee grounds (coarse grounds so they don't sneak past the filter), pour in hot (not boiling) water, let it steep for 4 minutes, and then press down on the filter, which squishes all the grounds down to the bottom. Then you pour out the coffee and enjoy!

You do end up with a little sediment at the bottom of your cup, but that's really just a bonus caffeine jolt :-9 And it's less sediment than I usually get from instant coffee. If you think this is way nifty, the brand I got is called Bodum and here's the exact model I got. Drink up, me hearties, yo ho!