Category Archives: TV/Movies

Hey You, Get Off Of My Lawn

Grumpy

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — There are a lot of people I like.

You know who you are.

All eight of you.

Everyone else?

Eh, not so much.

I have followed a collision course from my younger self and, right on time, became a grumpy middle-aged man.

A combination of Archie Bunker, Frank Costanza, Fred Flintstone and Andy Sipowicz.

Perhaps, on a good day, a little bit of the great curmudgeon philosophers — Bob Dylan and George Carlin — sprinkled in.

And I guess we can’t forget Sonny Corleone, had he not met his premature fate as a younger hothead.

While you’re getting off my lawn and turning down the Justin Bieber noise, keep the following grievances in mind as I dance around my Festivus pole:

1) This “Merry Christmas” Thing: I do know a lot of people from a lot of backgrounds. Life has been good to me that way. And guess what? I know no one — at all — who ever said you can’t say “Merry Christmas.” As matter of fact, even though the holiday is now past us, say it twice and call me in the morning. There are real societal outrages right outside your window. Why create one that doesn’t exist?

2) Road Work At Rush Hour: A necessary evil. I get it. What I don’t get is creating a backup on a major thoroughfare between the hours of 8 and 9 a.m. Unless it’s an emergency, go have breakfast at your local diner. Speaking of which …

3) Male Waiters At Diners: I expect to be waited on by an old-school waitress — not waiter — with a bouffant hairdo who calls me “baby” and “honey” and has a natural instinct to fill up my coffee (and remembers I’m a decaf guy) and pre-butters my toast. I have nothing against male waiters in other dining scenarios — like, say, certain authentic ethnic restaurants (even if they are faking the accent for effect) — but we really don’t need the world spinning off its axis any more than what it already is, do we?

4) Casual Cyclists: I’m all for exercise (especially if I’m not the only doing it), but can’t they stick to the bike path? It’s not like we haven’t made them a few hundred to use. As far as I know, if a cyclist is on the road — even if it’s merely to get to one bike path to another on the other side — they are supposed to obey the same traffic laws as a motorist already stuck behind rush-hour roadwork. The next cyclist I see actually yield the right of way — or actually stop at a stop sign — will be the first. And don’t even get me started on the way they hog the roadway, oblivious to the world, once they are on it.

5) Royal Families: They can do what they want in the UK, but we won the Revolutionary War (in all the history books, if you’d like to check). If there any leaves floating about from the John Adams family tree, no thanks. Same for Roosevelts, Kennedys and Bushes. Suggestions of Michelle Obama running are just as bad as those of Chelsea Clinton. And don’t get me started on Ivanka (my eyes just rolled so hard that I got a detached retina). We are better than thinking certain bloodlines are better than others.

6) Guys Who Aren’t Sports Fans But Pretend They Are: You know the type? They show up at a Super Bowl party asking who is playing and then they ask the line (a real sports fan could care less who does or doesn’t cover the spread). Listen, buddy, if you don’t follow sports, that’s fine. Just be upfront about it. I don’t play the stock market. I don’t hunt or fish. I don’t even know how to play poker. I don’t have a woodshop in my house. If you’re into those things, I won’t insult your intelligence by trying to fake my way through a train-to-nowhere conversation. I’m into sports, so don’t insult mine. This is especially if the game in question is a life-or-death scenario involving a Philadelphia pro team or Temple. Speaking of which …

7) Ersatz Dallas Cowboys And/Or Penn State Fans: If you’re from the Dallas-Ft. Worth metropolitan area, or if you attended Penn State (or one of its 32,492 satellite campuses), fine. I’ll even be nice about it. I’ll let you slide on Penn State if you are Pennsyltuckian, and maybe even on the Cowboys if you are from a place in the country cursed with no pro team and have a weird fetish about blue stars on silver helmets. Otherwise, for your own safety, keep moving. You are morally bankrupt and spiritually corrupt. Side Note: Villanova is a national basketball program that happens to based on the Main Line. Unless you went there, which probably means you are from North Jersey or Connecticut anyway, zip it.

8) Lincoln Was A Republican: Easy there, cowboy. Not quite. We’ll get into this more down the line, but let’s leave this here for now: Lincoln was a progressive, which is what the Republican party was then but the polar opposite of what it is now.  If you have to go back nearly 16 decades — doing a selective hop, skip and jump over a clear role reversal in between — you don’t have much to go on, do you?

9) Self Checkout: When people in our moral conscience to the north — Canada — are refusing this concept of eliminating minimal wage jobs, it’s mirror time for us in the US. So wrong on so many levels, it’s yet another sign of apocalypse.

10) Unwanted Calls: Don’t tell me about a Do Not Call List. Been there, done that. No such thing. We still live with daily calls from weird numbers (i.e. 111-111-1111). Because I’m me, a stubborn curmudgeon, I sometimes call back and turn the tables. The best joys are when I get someone clearly from a foreign country trying to tell me his name is Tom or Joe — or Archie, Frank, Fred or Andy.

This column originally appeared in The Times Herald (www.timesherald.com) on Dec. 30, 2018.

 

 

Holiday Flicks You Can’t Refuse

Alastair Sim

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — Last week, a survival guide of holiday songs.

This week, pop the popcorn and gather ‘round the TV.

It’s movie time.

Here are 10 you need to see:

10) The House Without A Christmas Tree – You may not have heard of this long-forgotten TV movie starring a much-younger Jason Robards, but the simple period piece set in mid-1940s Nebraska was a December staple from its 1972 airing until the early 1980s. If you never saw it, or are in need of a refresher course, I suggest hunting it down with the same verve I am now doing for Sofia. For what it’s worth, this gets near perfect scores across the board from both viewers and critics.

9) Miracle On 34th Street – Yeah, OK, I may not want to sit through it again, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth at least one viewing as a requirement for a quick path to US citizenship. Sofia now knows there is no Santa, which is a little sad but also takes a lot of pressure off. Still, a legal argument for his spiritual existence could hit the spot.

8) A Charlie Brown Christmas – Made in 1965, the year of my birth, it should seem dated. And yet, somehow, it never seems to be. Call it a Christmas miracle (nearly 12 years of fatherhood has made me very sappy).

7) A Very Brady Christmas – The Brady Bunch cast was reassembled (sans the original Cindy) in 1988 and the show’s original corniness was a perfect match set against the backdrop of a made-for-TV holiday family movie that led to an ill-fated attempt at a series. As disappointing as that series was, all of us who grew up “Brady” were not let down by this holiday effort.

6) Little Drummer Boy – Made in 1968, in what was called “stop motion,” the figures in this 25-minute short film look so fragile that, if it doesn’t tug at your heart strings, you have none to tug upon. This was my favorite seasonal TV flick at a tender age, which may explain why the song – notably the Bob Seger version – is also No. 1 in Gordonville.

5) Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer – Made back in 1964, with a running time of under 60 minutes, those of us growing up on this – and the song — learned the power of redemption. I know there is some alleged bullying in it, and Santa comes off as a half a jerk, but Rudolph rose above it, literally and figuratively, did he not?

4) It’s A Wonderful Life – It’s a wonderful premise. What if I had turned left instead of right, gone north instead of south, etc.? I actually never saw this, start to finish, until a few years back. What if I hadn’t?

3) The Homecoming: A Christmas Story — Another TV movie, it was based on the novella of Earl Hamner, Jr. (the real John Boy) about his family’s struggles in depression-era rural Virginia. It was so well-done that it spawned the long-running series “The Waltons,” albeit with different actors – thankfully – in a majority of the adult roles.

2) A Christmas Carol — The 1951 version, originally called “Scrooge” — and starring Alistair Sim – reigns supreme over all others (no offense to George C. Scott). I caught this spin of the Dickens classic one lonely Christmas on PBS in the early 1990s and it became required viewing ever since. Sim hits it out of the park as Scrooge, but I want to give a tip of the cap to the women in this film for their nuanced acting. This list – topped by Kathleen Harrison (Mrs. Dilber) and Carol Mask (Fan) – also includes Hermoine Baddely (Mrs. Cratchit), Rona Anderson (Alice) and Olga Edwardes (Fred’s wife).

1) The Godfather — Huh, what? Well, it’s my list and my all-time favorite movie is required viewing in and around Christmas Day. And, while my general sanity is always worth questioning, several outlets do consider this classic an “incidental” Christmas movie (another would be “Trading Places,” for example). It may be because the pivotal scenes take place around Christmas. Example: Michael (Al Pacino) and Kay (Diane Keaton) are walking around New York City while Kay is talking about Christmas gifts she purchased for his family, leading to her noticing a tabloid newspaper headline about Don Corleone (Marlon Brando) being shot. Michael goes into a phone booth (remember those?), while Kaye looks in from the outside, which serves as unspoken symbolism of him locking her out of his small enclosed Corleone enclave. Meanwhile, Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall), is taken hostage while shopping for a sled for his kids, only to be released with a message for Sonny (James Caan).

Honorable Mention: Jack Frost; Trading Places; Full-Court Miracle; Polar Express; Frosty the Snowman; Eight Crazy Nights; Santa Claus is Coming to Town; How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

This column first appeared in The Times Herald on Dec. 23.

Jive Turkeys To Avoid on Turkey Day

Nugent

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — Three years northbound of 50 (the new 30), I’m old enough to remember when the term “jive turkey” was as common as men wearing platform shoes and women all trying (and failing) to look like the one and only Farrah Fawcett (my second celebrity crush after Marcia Brady).

With us now into Thanksgiving week, we are a country in such turmoil that we are deathly afraid to stray from narrowing choice of safe topics just to avoid the fun of the healthy political debate that should be as required as cranberry sauce.

Adding to the tension is the outside noise from jive turkeys keeping the volume raised.

A start would be to end the constant “gobble-gobble” of certain attention seekers. They have their pulpits – i.e. blogs, Twitter accounts, microphones in front of their non-stop traps, etc. – but that doesn’t mean anyone is required to take in their sermons as gospel.

For this pre-Thanksgiving public service, we will exclude elected officials and full-time employees of accredited media outlets, from the PNML (Pay No Mind List).

As for the rest, get these noisemakers out of your life:

1) Michael Avenatti – During minutes 10-12 of his 15 of prime-time exposure as Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, some saw him as an out-of-the-box Democratic presidential candidate who would actually bring some fight into the ring. His act has since worn thin, though. A recent poll of Democrats showed him with less than 1 percent support as a candidate in 2020. Bye, Michael. Hello, Richard Ojeda of West Virginia, a new gloves-off kind of a guy.

2) Steve Bannon — For many of us, any chance to give the president half a chance was ruined in Charlottesville. That horrific August weekend in 2017 – from the planning, to the chilling nighttime Nazi-to-English chants to the equal blaming of both sides afterward – had the DNA of Bannon, then serving as White House Chief Strategist, all over it. He has since departed from that role. That’s the good news. The bad news? He still draws the same air as the rest of us, and has a full calendar of public speaking engagements to prove it. Ain’t that America for you and me?

3) Ann Coulter – If we had a dollar for every idiotic thing this Cornell graduate has written and said just to grab back the attention she briefly enjoyed a decade ago, every homeless veteran would have shelter and every hungry child would be fed. She has a right to spew her nonsense – “liberals love America like O.J. loved Nicole,” etc. — but we have a right to ignore it.

4) Louis Farrakhan – No denying the good he has done within the black community, with the Million Man March of 1995 serving as a highlight, but there is no denying the bad vibes puts out simply because he just won’t let his raging anti-Semitism rest. With each incendiary remark (questioning what Jews did to Hitler to earn what they got), he loses any credibility in the mainstream — let alone the mainstream black community.

5) Kardashians – Not going to break it down to this Kardashian or that Kardashian. They are not even worth the time I just spent on them.

6) Ted Nugent – Going back to the Classic Rock era, when people used the term “jive turkey,” this guy was just another B-level turkey mostly known for one song – “Cat Scratch Fever.” It seemed nonsensical at the time, with lyrics just to serve as fodder for his half-decent guitar chops. Upon further scientific review, “Cat Scratch Fever” is an ailment with long-term side effects of brain damage. Nugent is entitled to extreme right-wing views, but a “tough guy” who admittedly did whatever it took to get out of going to Vietnam shouldn’t be considered a cogent voice in the political debate.

7) Sarah Palin – Oh, man, what was the late John McCain was thinking by adding someone with limited political experience (not even one full term as governor of Alaska and mayor of a small city) to the bottom of his presidential ticket in 2008? Right idea, going with a woman, but the wrong choice. Those who were bitter about Barrack Obama winning the presidency, and immediately – and curiously – demanded their country back, should trace their angst to Palin, as she may have cost McCain the election (I know it made my decision easy). She seemed to go away for a bit, but was empowered all over again by the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. Ugh!

8) Phil Robertson – Ah, the Duck Commander of Duck Dynasty infamy. Remember that? The once formidable A&E Network chose to grab the low hanging fruit and produced a reality show about a family of duck hunters. You can’t make this stuff up. His relatives grew beards to fit the façade and, with consequences we are still dealing with, western civilization went on life support as ratings soared. The show ended, and his kinfolk shaved their beards and went back to the real world. Meanwhile, Robertson’s sense of self-importance continued when he became a right-wing Buddha often propped up by Bannon. If you hear this guy’s patented duck call (eye roll), please duck!

9) Melania Trump – I have kept her off-limits, but no more. The first “lady” is suddenly sticking her beak in where it does not belong, ripping a page out of Nancy Reagan’s playbook (and we know why Mrs. Reagan had to become increasingly protective of her husband). Isn’t it ironic that Mrs. Trump’s stance is supposedly against bullying, especially cyber bullying? She not only condones it with her husband’s 3 a.m. Twitter tantrums, but she is becoming one herself. What’s up with that? Three cheers for the Einstein Visa.

10) Kanye West – Already public enemy No. 1 on the Glantz home front for that bizarre awards-show incident with Taylor Swift back in 2009 (Sofia was only 2 at the time, but she knows every detail the way I do about the JFK assassination that took place two years before I was born). “Kanye being Kanye” was a cover-up for clear untreated mental health issues. He lauded the president’s persona, earning a bizarre visit to the White House, and then changed what is left of his mind about his support. We are dealing with the ultimate jive turkey. And don’t get me started on the “music.” I’d rather listen to Ted Nugent.

This column first appeared in The Times Herald.

A Cool Idea

hot_day_thermometer

By GORDON GLANTZ

@Managing2Edit

 

GORDONVILLE – It is a typical pastime for a typical American.

What will your child be when they grow up?

Not sure yet on Sofia. Many roads to travel, and passions to come and go.

However, it would surprise me if she wanted to be like her old man and be a writer – even if it’s a side thing while making real money in the real world with a real job.

How do I know this?

Because she loves stories. Not just to be amused, but to retain for future use. I can talk by the look in her eyes that it is being retained, kind of like bank deposits to retain interest (i.e. embellishment).

We drive through Conshohocken, and she queries her mommy all about her hometown with questions well beyond that of the average incoming missile of a ‘tween.

The other night, she asking me about old Atlantic City – the Atlantic City I remember as a kid around her current age; the Atlantic City before gambling made it the weird combination of glitz and the pits that it is now.

Among the stories was how my grandfather, Poppie, would wake up each day and, with a broad smile on his easy-going face, ask if it was a “beach day or a Two Guys day.”

Two guys, for the uninitiated, was a catch-all department store – a sorta pre-historic Target – where they had it all, from an arcade and a place to eat to a furniture department.

You could buy food, a new baseball glove or bell-bottom jeans for your platform shoes.

After Sofia drifted to sleep – these stories are often meant as biofeedback to cure summertime insomnia – an old idea resurfaced it what is left of my brain.

Beach day or a Two Guys Day?

That more or less sums up the forecast for every day from Memorial Day through Labor Day, does it not?

Especially here in the Melting Ice Age, the forecast is pretty much in the same octave range, is it not?

It is either going to be hot or very hot, with a chance of rain to varying degrees.

So, I wondered, why do we need met meteorolgists in the summertime?

No offense to them, or the profession.

And the world doesn’t need more journalists working at a coffee shop.

And the loss of eye candy – from any perspective — would mean less sweetness in the world.

All I’m talking about is a three-month furlough.

I’m willing to bet that nine out of 10 of us could care less, especially if the time is better spent on real news.

Seriously, why do we need to be told the obvious three times in a half-hour span – and all before the important news, like the sports?

Just throw a graphic up on the screen and the anchor can do a quick summary. Hot or very hot, and the chance of a thunderstorm by percentage.

In and out faster than Chris Christie at a burger joint drive-thru on his way to the beach.

And, since this is my idea, it must follow the rule of being after the sports, lest you run the risk of FCC fine.

I took the liberty of breaking out the calculator.

According the “fake news” on the “internets,” the average weather person makes $89,820 a year. There are four stations – the three networks plus FOX in Philadelphia, employing an average of three meterologists – which brings our three-month (Memorial Day to Labor Day) savings to $269,460 that can be donated to help causes more worthy than letting people know if it is going to be a beach day or a Two Guys Day.

 

We Laughed And Cried

Robin Willams

By GORDON GLANTZ

Gordonglantz50@gmail.com

@Managing2Edit

GORDONVILLE — My maternal grandfather – i.e. Poppy – was among an interesting ensemble cast of characters than made up the first act of comedy-drama that is my life.

Born in 1900, it was always easy to mark history by his life. When the stock market crashed in 1929, he was 29. When Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941, he was 41. When I was born in 1965, he was 65.

In a time when non-WASPs were put on quotas at most colleges of distinction, he rose above the intolerance.

He went to the University of Pennsylvania and Jefferson Medical School, becoming a physician.

He served his country during the back end of World War I and, as a doctor, volunteered to give physicals for the draft board during World War II (he even received a letter of commendation from FDR).

An avid reader, Poppy’s mind was like a steel trap on a variety of subjects. He loved sports, watching game after game on the tube, and music. He played every string instrument created, with the violin being his specialty.

And, like most people, he was a dichotomy.

Many summer mornings in Atlantic City, I would be awakened by the sound of his distinctive laughter. The source of his bemusement was the low-brow humor of the “The Three Stooges.”

At 11 p.m., when most were tuning in the nightly news to see who shot whom or have Jim O’Brien tell us the weather by throwing clouds off his map, Poppy would turn to some UHF channel to catch “The Gong Show.”

Even at a young age, I found zero humor in silliness and slapstick, but this man of more education than the rest of the family put together responded to it.

In the late 1970s, I had already outgrown “Happy Days.” It was the show where the term “jump the shark” originated, and it had done that for me.

I don’t recall Poppy ever watching Fonzie and Co., but he somehow got hooked on one of its spinoffs, “Mork and Mindy.”

It ran from 1978 to 1982 — meaning 13-17 for me and 78-82 for Poppy — and I tried humoring him and watching it, I really did.

But, to be kind, we’ll say it didn’t float my boat.

At that age, I was either watching hockey or playing hockey.

I remember my school mates talking about it, but I tuned them out. I had been there, done that and didn’t want to go back.

So, while that show introduced many of my generation to its star, Robin Williams, I was off to a late and shaky start with the guy playing Mork.

I think that aversion, and lack of girls wanting to go the movies with me anyway, kept me away from his first major role in “The World According to Garp.”

By 1984, when Poppy was 84, the CE (Cute Era) had commenced for me. Girls would go the movies with me and I caught “Moscow On The Hudson” on a date. The girl said Williams kind of reminded her of me, which I wasn’t sure how to take at the time. It may have had something to do with him being so hairy, as I didn’t speak with a Russian accent.

Beyond that assessment, which I have since come to realize was a major compliment – even if not intended – I was coming around.

He made his share of middling movies in the 1980s, but two more – “Good Morning, Vietnam” (1987) and “Dead Poets Society” (1989) – cemented him in Gordonville as a talent who can make you both laugh and cry with nuanced facial expressions or gestures.

He was the ultimate sad clown of my generation, matching Charlie Chaplin of Poppy’s era, but there was a more daring side.

He had an edge to his game.

I also caught some of his HBO specials and, in addition to laughing at humor that would not have been Poppy’s style, appreciated the all-important underlying social commentary.

In 1997, the year that he had a small part in Woody Allen’s “Deconstructing Harry,” Williams stepped to the plate as Sean Maguire, Will Hunting’s therapist, in “Good Will Hunting.”

I consider that movie a modern classic, one that should be required viewing for young adult males looking to find their place in the world they are about to enter. It would have been a good movie without Williams, but it was his spin on the role — often improvising on the script of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon – that made it great (and I rarely use that overused word).

He won an Oscar for best supporting actor.

And won my heart by touching my soul.

Poppy left us three years earlier, and likely would not have believed that it was Mork from wherever up on the big screen.

He also would have had a hard time understanding that Williams, at age 63, succumbed to depression and took his own life (We are now hearing that a recent diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease may have factored in.).

It is hard for all us to believe, but we are not in his shoes. All that made Williams who he was to the world is what proved to be what haunted him. He felt too deeply. He felt a need to laugh and cry at one time, perhaps not knowing which emotion would win out, and was able to get us to do it as well.

All we can do now is enjoy the body of work – whether it is “Mork and Mindy” or some of my personal favorites (“What Dreams May Come” and “The Fisher King”) or one of the new movies that will be released posthumously – that he leaves behind.

All of it is not for all us, but most of it is for most of us.

And instead of pounding our judge’s gavels about how his life ended, let’s focus on how he brought life to his alter egos.

If I could talk to him now, I would thank him for making Poppy laugh through his grief during the years when my beloved grandmother — and Sofia’s namesake — died suddenly of stroke.

And I would steal a line from my favorite Robin Williams role and say: “It’s not your fault.”

If I had to repeat it, like he did to Will Hunting, I would.

And if he needed a hug, I’d give him one.