Wow, what a terrible day it's turning out to be. Now, sad news that Ricardo Montalban has left us.
While most may not remember the origins of this phrase, for me it brings me back to sitting on the living room floor and watching television. "Soft Corinthian leather," was used, by Mr. Montalban to describe the luxurious upholstery in the (at the time) new Chrysler Cordoba vehicle.
That commercial either appeared more often than most, or perhaps it was his rich, luxurious accent that made it so memorable. Of course the spot was parodied relentlessly, but even watching the commercial now, it's amazing how regal he is, and by association makes the car appear.
Star Trek fans will remember him in one episode of the original series as Khan, a role he reprised in perhaps my favorite Star Trek movie; Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan.
He had an amazing career, appearing both in drama's, as well as musicals and comedies. In fact, his role in Naked Gun was so hilarious because like Leslie Nielson (the star of the Naked Gun films) he was seen initially as such a straight man. And perhaps it is a testament to both actors that they can portray drama and comedy with equal aplomb.
Being such a TV hog when I was a kid, I remember enjoying any number of television movies. And when Fantasy Island appeared I was glued to the set. The initial MOW featured this island caretaker who made their fantasies come true was an instant favorite of mine. While I don't remember all of the first movie, i do remember that what one guest wanted as a fantasy, turned into something other than they had expected. So, in essence, there was a moral lesson to be learned. Montalban's character would change as the MOW turned into a series, but it was still a fun show to watch.
Ricardo Montalban long suffered from an injury he sustained on a movie set. He was never shy talking about it and, in fact, later in life whenever he appeared in long shots,it was rare that you would see him walk. When the occasional scene required it, you could see that he appeared to lift his leg with his hip and almost push his foot forward. I don't know that this is exactly how he maneuvered, but in certain scenes of any number of projects in his later days, you could see that it couldn't have been a very pleasant experience.
I really will miss Ricardo Montalban. Mostly because he seemed to constant. His career was a regal one, and few movie stars exist today that can hold a light to his shining star.
It is very sad news that Patrick McGoohan has passed away.
I will admit to never fully understanding The Prisoner, the iconic British television show that he both create and starred in as well has having written and directed several of its episodes. It is a testament to the popularity of that show that it only ran for one season, yet many people thought it had a much longer TV life.
Growing up I very vividly remember him in at least one episode of NBC's Columbo if not more. He won two Emmy's for his work on that show, and deservedly so. The episode I remember most he was not just believable, but almost creepily so. Bright to a fault and just ... well, just brilliant.
This past weekend one of the cable stations was airing A Time To Kill, the Samuel L. Jackson, Matthew McConaughey starrer. But it was McGoohan who nearly stole the show.
While watching this weekend, I remember thinking to myself, if not actually saying it out loud, that he was such a brilliant actor. Though born in America, McGoohan was raised in Ireland and lived in Great Britain most of his life. He is described as having a neutral accent, but I must say, he had a distinctive voice that was always a pleasure to hear. And in A Time To Kill, playing a Southern Hang-Em-High judge his southern drawl is so convincing I found myself wondering if he were actually Southern born.
McGoohan was 80 and that's a little bit of a shock to me. While I have taken notice of many notable Hollywood legends passing away of late, I imagined McGoohan more a television star and, as such, just imagined him younger. But when I do the math, of course it all ads up. It just makes me shudder to think who else might be heading to that big network in the sky.
More accurately, it makes me shudder to think who we will be left with down here.
Of course any self respecting science fiction fan knows it's really: Gort, Klaatu barada nikto. But that's not really important.
What is important? The phrase is never used in the Keanu Reeves remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still.
There are so many reasons for the phrase to be uttered, and to throw it away shows, in my opinion, a complete lack of understanding as to what that movie meant to a whole generation of science fiction fans. And the general public as well.
The premise of the original is that the earth was bent on self destruction with real war and the cold war. While keeping an eye on us, other worlds decide that with the invention of the A-Bomb we're too violent a race to allow to continue without warning to curb our ways. They live in universes that saw war as so awful they created giant police officer robots to snuff out aggression at the first sign. Hence the earth visit by one robot (Gort) and Klaatu aka Mr. Carpenter, the alien from another planet.
In the original, the solution was a simple one. Speak to the leaders of the world to turn away from their war like behavior or risk being eliminated. Of course things don't go as planned and the rest is both an engaging story and a pretty darned terrific film helmed by the great Robert Wise (Sound of Music). A great anti war story that had some biblical undertones. And the movie holds up surprising well today.
The remake is another story.
It starts out promisingly enough with cool science fiction theories but this time the other planets are concerned for the very survival of the Earth...the planet itself. The rest of this post will have some spoilers, so read at your own risk.
So Kaatu arrives on earth in a giant sphere, and there are hundreds if not thousands of smaller spheres landing around the planet. We come to discover these are "arks" to take away as many life forms as possible while the "aliens" obliterate the one species that is responsible for the destruction of the planet.
Again, all isn't bad. I mean with global warming and the like, turning this remake into a 'save the planet' film isn't such a bad idea. Heck, I loved the scene (and I'm paraphrasing here) where Jennifer Connelly is confused by Klaatu's talk of destruction;
'You said you were here to save us."
"No, I said I was here to save the earth."
This film has none of the gravitas of the original. There is no real sense of urgency, no sense of worth for the human race to be saved. In fact, no one really learns any lessons. It could even be argued that when the planet is saved, it could have been because the alien spaceship was inundated with huge amounts of good old military firepower.
Jaden Smith, son of Will and Jada Pinket Smith, plays the young child Jacob. There is no denying Smith is a talented actor. He has a very bright future before him. But here, his role is limited to a spoiled child who does nothing to endear himself to the audience and, in fact, really makes us wish he would just stay at home and let the adults ruin this movie.
Trying not to point to the original as how it was done right, and the new version how it was mucked up is a difficult thing not to do. But this new remake is so absent in story that it's almost tedious to watch. And when, finally, the earth is saved. Nothing is learned. Klaatu decides there is good on this planet but why? How did he learn that? Not from the government. Not from the military, not ever really from the problem child to called the authorities on him.
The goodness of the planet, apparently, is realized when young Jacob cries for his dead father at a military cemetery. And if Klaatu were to bring a message to the world to curb its ways. None is given. He simply makes his way back to his spaceship, stops the impending destruction of earth and then leaves.
To be fair, Jennifer Connelly and even Keanu Reeves aren't given much latitude in this film. They have to try to do with acting, what the script can't do with description and dialogue. They shouldn't be blamed for the failure of this movie, it really is up to both the writer and director.
If you want to see a great science fiction movie. This isn't it. But rent Wise's 1951 version of The Day The Earth Stood Still. You won't be disappointed.
The last time I saw Carrie Fisher she was lounging poolside reading a book. Of course this was also the first time I saw her in person, and to say it was more than a few years ago would be an understatement.
The Stardust Motor Resort in Yuma Arizona was the lodging location for the cast of what was then the film called Revenge of the Jedi. Actually, cast and crew were booked under the production name of Blue Harvest, but that's a whole other story.
The memory of walking around the "compound" and toward the pool area is still vivid in my mind. My friend Shelley was desperately trying to convince me the little girl sitting poolside reading a book was, in fact, Princess Leia. It wasn't until we brazenly walked up to her that I conceded it was, indeed, the daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher. She was so petite. Very beautiful, granted, but so tiny.
Saying she was cordial and polite would be a disservice to those words. She was very kind to us, and when I asked if we could ask her a question, her response was quick and direct; "Only if it's deeply personal." If I hadn't already fallen in love with her, then I surely would have this day.
I bring up this meeting because, even back then at the peak of her popularity, she seemed ... normal. No hissy fits of having to deal with kids wanting an autograph and asking questions she surely must have heard a million times. No grumbling that this was her off time and asking us to get out of her sunlight while she worked on her tan. Nope, she was gracious, kind, funny and made each of us feel as if she was a friend living down the street. Her wave of "bye, see you later" at the conclusion of our meeting had each of us convinced that maybe we would, indeed see her sometime later.
So after having read Wishful Drinking, her autobiographical account of dealing with being bi-polar, I have to say ... I think she's even more normal than I ever could have imagined. Granted she has had to deal with extraordinary things, like ... well, I'll let you read the book because any attempt by me to describe her experiences wouldn't do them justice. But it's safe to say that she lives an extraordinary life and has dealt with her issues, both internal and external, in the most sane way possible.
Granted abuse of alcohol and drugs may not have been the most effective way of dealing with her issues, but reading her account, it almost seemed the most logical. 'I hurt when I think about that, but when I take this I don't think about that, and then I don't hurt.' Really, it kind of makes sense in a way. Of course she's not a doctor and self medication rarely works. She is testament to that. But her journey is a varied one and she dealt with it the best way she know how. And because of that, we benefit from her hindsight.
As someone who has battled melancholy and depression, and someone who, I often say, tends to think too much. It's refreshing to know that the internal battles I may wage aren't mine alone. It's nice to know that normal is completely relative.
An obviously gifted writer (four bestsellers), Carrie Fisher conveys her life as never before. Her previous works had bits and pieces of her life in them, but here, she lays it all out, and it's both a fast read and a terribly funny one.
Those that know me, know I"m a very slow reader, but this book was completed in two sittings the same day. I just didn't want to stop.
While she talks about a great deal there is, I would imagine, a great deal more to her life. In fact she says "If you think all of this is over-the-top, you can't even imagine what I'm leaving out!" Well she's right, I can't imagine. But I would love to read about it. I really hope she decides to let us in on other aspects of her life down the road.
If you plan to buy only one book this year, buy this book. It really is funny, heartfelt and, ultimately, liberating. It's nice to know that stardom, death, accidental overdose, gay lovers and being held in a mental facility is all not only survivable, but can be funny depending upon how you decide to look at it.
For those who spend more time in the dark places of their minds than they probably should, this book is a great shot of sunlight that tells us all to acknowledge who we are, how we think and that we're normal, even if the rest of the world thinks we're not. Because, after all, who said the rest of the world was normal?