Category Archives: TV/Movies

Blending In With The Scenery (Finally)

Brynner

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — North of 50, actually nearly 55, my short-term memory is becoming seriously challenged.

Long-term, though? Forget about it – pardon the pun.

I remember the almost-frozen ice cream sandwiches on the beach in Atlantic City (this is before I became Lactose intolerant).

I remember drinking a coke from a seemingly bottomless bottle (this is before I developed a sensitivity to caffeine).
I remember going into the ocean (this is before I stopped wading in past my ankles after seeing “Jaws”).

 

And I remember going to a lot of movies (before there were video stores) and getting popcorn you didn’t have to butter yourself.

And the TV shows, with only three network channels and the UHF stations (no cable, no Netflix) that always needed rabbit ears for better reception.

When I loved a movie, I would see it multiple times. Being from a broken home – yeah, I am playing that card again – it was automatic that one I saw during the week could be seen again on the weekend to get out of the way of the missiles flying at my father’s home.

One movie that was a hit in Gordonville was “The Ten Commandments,” an epic drama about the exodus of the ancient Hebrews from bondage in Egypt.

Starring Charlton Heston as the protagonist, Moses, the plot of what now strikes me as embarrassingly hokey dialogue was stirred by Rameses II, the antagonist played by Yul Brynner.

What set Brynner apart — beyond an accent that was a mish-mash of Russian, Swiss and Mongolian – was his shaved head (with had some weird ponytail thing hanging out of it for a while).

The movie was made in 1959, six years before I was born, but it made the rounds again in theaters in the early seventies.

At a time when men had hair longer than a lot of women, it struck me as a bit unique.

On television, there were a plethora of classic detective shows that all 264 high-tech CSI shows combined could never match.

Savalas

A standout was the gritty “Kojak,” starring Telly Savalas.

In addition to his signature lollipop, the character had a shaved head.

Maybe shoulder-length hair of men had given way to the more “disco” blow-dry look (think John Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever”), but going all shaved was still way out of the norm.

Most bald men just went bald, usually with those awful fringes around the side that some would let grow out of proportion.

That horror hit close to home.

Clarke

My father would go to a barber – the same guy who “styled” the hair of some of the Broad Street Bullies (he claimed he used the same scissors and comb on my hair as boyhood idol Bobby Clarke) – whose supposed specialty was covering bald spots.

My maternal grandfather used an at-home pullover approach that would never fly today.

The shame of it was so powerful that some resorted to hair pieces that were obnoxious.

Genetically, I was doomed to be bald.

A sad fate for someone who could never get it right.

One constant through my misbegotten youth was a lot of bad hair days trying to emulate either the rock stars or sports stars I so admired.

There was one respite from the madness. It came in fifth grade, when even older women in sixth grade, seemed to have crushes on me.

I got hitched to the adorable Barbara Padgett one day at recess (breaking many hearts in the process), and figured I’d be set as a playboy for life.

But an early onset of puberty was not kind.

By sixth, I was playing in the minor leagues.

My father would order the barber, the Flyers’ guy, to turn my Juan Epstein thing into a “camp cut” before going away to camp (thus assuring being turned down by the fairer sex for roller skating or dance at a record hop).

In protest, once back in the world, I let it grow out into an all-out Brillo pad atop my head.

I made matters worse by blow-drying it, because it seemed like the cool thing to do, as opposed to letting it dry naturally.

Daltrey

Giving up trying to look like Bobby Clarke – or some other hockey players (a guy named Ron Duguay from the New York Rangers had the ideal look) – it turned into an all-out quest in high school to nail the look of Roger Daltrey (lead singer of The Who).

On a good day, the best I could do was Neal Schon from Journey, and that was usually right after a shower.

I eventually went to the John Oates look in college, and got by enough to do OK with the opposite sex – and meet my eventual wife, who says I “grew on her like fungus” – but then genetics set in and I started losing hair.

Fortunately, and fortuitously, I noticed more and dudes on TV – from guest experts to law enforcement officials to aging rockers to athletes – doing away with those hideous fringes and either go closely shaved or all bald.

My cousin, Aimee, told me I could “rock that look” a few years ago, but I filed it away for future reference.

I took it slowly, but I recently instructed my barber – former Kennedy-Kenrick athlete Steve Devlin of Mike Devlin’s Barber Shop in Broad Axe – to shave it all the way down before our trip to Nova Scotia.

I was thrilled. Finally, I looked like everyone else.

Me now

We were north of the border, where people are nice to one another, for so long (2 weeks) that I was sick to my stomach when it grew in too fast.

I have been back twice since, within the span of a week.

Yul Brynner and Telly Savales have become the new Bobby Clarke and Roger Daltrey in Gordonville, and I couldn’t be happier.

This column ran in The Times Herald on Oct. 6, 2019.

No More Grieving For Your ‘Loss’

Bruce

BY GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — While there are some things worth fighting for, others just aren’t worth the time.

After going to the brink of World War III on the topic of Bruce Springsteen, I have come to the realization that it is simply not worth the spike in blood pressure.

Either you get it, or you don’t.

And if you don’t, you don’t.

I feel more pity for you than anything else.

I don’t get the entertainment value of NASCAR or professional wrestling – let alone more meaningful saving graces for others, such as organized religion or thinking the founding fathers were seers and mystics with all the answers.

Either you see the light – and are willing to be blinded by it – or you are mired in darkness.

And, yes, this is coming on the heels of seeing the movie inspired by the music of Springsteen, “Blinded By The Light.”

It’s actually not the first attempt to incorporate the impact of Springsteen’s music on film characters.

Early in the filmmaking career of indie icon John Sayles, a movie called “Baby, It’s you” (made in 1983 but set in Trenton, N.J., circa 1966) featured Springsteen’s music. Although the songs in that film, starring a young Rosanna Arquette, were anachronistic (Springsteen didn’t record his first album until 1972), they surely represented how it he felt as a New Jersey high school student in the 60s (and were ideal for the lead male character).

Unfortunately, this critically acclaimed flick was more arthouse fare, and not something for large audiences.

The movie “Mask” (1985), was the true story of a teen boy with a facial deformity who was inspired by the music of Springsteen. The original movie had four Springsteen songs in it that were cut out by studio executives, who thought a swap with Bob Seger songs wouldn’t matter.

The director’s cut of the film, which netted Cher a well-earned Oscar nomination, has since been released with the intended Springsteen music and some powerful additional scenes.

Unfortunately, the damage was done.

A good movie could have been great. As such, it is now semi-forgotten in time, as it is both uncomfortable for some to watch and not as effective as it could have been.

So, now we have “Blinded By The Light.” It is neither set in the familiar Springsteen terrain of 1960s New Jersey of “Baby, It’s You” nor the outlaw biker California lifestyle depicted in “Mask.”

It is a true story about someone who came of age as an outsider – a Pakistani Muslim immigrant in 1987 London (when lack of jobs caused a lot of intolerance) – and yet it rings as true as if the central character were from a traditional Springsteen hub on the U.S. East Coast.

Like, for example, myself in high school in Northeast Philadelphia.

As a 10-year-old, I bought Springsteen’s “Born To Run” album when it came out in 1975, so I was well aware of who he was for a long time.

When I entered high school in 10th grade, circa 1980, his album “The River” was all over the radio, but I have to admit that it wasn’t speaking to me.

I was more into Genesis, Pink Floyd, the aforementioned Seger, Tom Petty and The Cars.

Then came the mandatory heavy 1960s trip of The Doors and Jimi Hendrix, before coming to believe that the members of Led Zeppelin were living Gods.

But, as high school progressed, so did the natural feelings of alienation that almost all teens – from those in the Homecoming Court to the marching band to the delinquents catching a smoke between classes outside – felt.

All those bands had a place and stirred something inside me, but nothing spoke to my soul.

Not until I felt like taking a knife cutting the pain from my heart.

Not until I wanted to say that I wasn’t a boy, but a man.

Not until I talked about a dream and tried to make it real.

For the uneducated – and that’s OK – those are all paraphrased lines from Springsteen songs.

I don’t know who or where I’d be today – not that I’m anything anyway, but I can’t complain – without learning them like a seminary student learns to recite, and interpret, scripture.

I should have nothing in common with the main character of “Blinded By The Light,” but I actually related to Javed as much I have with any character in any movie I’ve ever seen.

I was semi-skeptical going in – I read they turned some songs in to Bollywood-style dance routines – but I knew pretty quickly that it was tailor-made when Javed, also a writer, first popped in a Springsteen cassette.

The song was “Dancing In The Dark.”

It was generally regarded by some of my Bruce brethren as just a frivolous pop song, while casual fans see it as a fun tune that doesn’t dig too deep and make them think too hard.

I never felt that way about “Dancing In The Dark.” From the moment it was released as a single in advance of the eponymous “Born In The U.S.A.” album that made Springsteen an international star, the lyrics – though set against non-threatening synthesizer chords and a steady beat that almost sounded electronic – came at me at a time in my life when I was transitioning from high school, where the music of Springsteen helped me find my niche, to college.

I was nothing but tired – tired and bored with myself.

I wanted to change my clothes, my hair, my face.

They said I had to stay hungry. I was just about starving.

I knew there was something happening somewhere.

And I knew – with the words of Bruce Springsteen – I’d find it.

And I did.

Just like many of you did.

Because you get it.

Some of you don’t.

If you don’t, you don’t.

All I can say is that I’m sorry.

I really am.

This column appeared in The Times Herald on Sept. 1, 2019.

No Friction With Fiction

Anne with an E

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — After nearly two weeks north of the border – in Halifax and Charlottetown in Prince Edward Island (that’s Nova Scotia, for those of you who can’t find Nebraska on a map) — it was interesting to see how long it takes for me to be impatient and brusque with people after consistently encountering the complete opposite.

And it will be interesting to note if I will ever want to see a lobster ever again or if I will now crave the best lobster on the planet.

Probably won’t take much more than some deplorable aggressive driving by a grunt in a pickup truck, but I digress.

Just about every elevator trip at both hotels involved friendly conversation.

And my Flyers tee-shirt was a key spark in the land where hockey was invented.

“Philly, eh?” I was asked.

Since the Flyers are pretty much struck in neutral and don’t inspire the same ire they once did from hockey purists, the conversation switched quickly to Philadelphia’s pride and joy.

Independence Hall?

Nope.

Liberty Bell?

Nada.

The Eagles?

If you saw what passes for football up there, you’d know better (although my Eagles’ shirt did get one passing thumbs-up).

Give up?

Try Rocky Balboa.

Rocky Raw Meat

It struck me as interesting that Philadelphia, known for being the alleged birthplace of the so-called liberty we enjoy, is universally noted for a fictional character.

Then again, Charlottetown was where the groundwork for Canada’s independence was first laid when members of the rest of the British Commonwealth gathered in 1864, for what became known as the Charlottetown Conference, to discuss how to break from the clutches of the Crown.

And yet, that is not why we – or most others – were there.

It was also for a fictional character that Sofia has come to adore after reading all the books about her.

That’s Anne Shirley, the semi-biographical alter ego of author L.M. (Lucy Maud) Montgomery.

At the time of my elevator encounter, during which the friendly chap said “Rocky” was his favorite movie because of the life lesson about taking a beating and not giving up, the better half and Sofia were seeing a stage play based on the series of “Anne” books.

We spent multiple days in Cavendish, where the life of the author is a literal cottage industry, and we saw a musical version of the character’s life (I survived by dozing off for a good portion of it).

So I guess you would say that the two historic places are better known for their fictional icons is kind of messed up, huh?

Three mass shootings in a week, including two in the span of 24 hours? That’s messed up.

A grown man in Montana fracturing the skull of a 13-year-old for not removing his cap during the national anthem? Messed up.

Fictional characters being larger than life? No way.

As much as I dig history, and think it should be studied thoroughly (we did a whole walking tour to learn the history part of Charlottetown), I have to say it’s kind of cool.

Two characters were created that were so sympathetic — and relatable — that they are the first thought for many outsiders of the home terrains upon which they were created.

Visitors from around the world making it the first order of business of running up the Art Museum steps to play the role of Rocky, the brainchild of a then-struggling actor named Sylvester Stallone, is not an anomaly.

In PEI (Prince Edward Island), there was an abundance of Japanese tourists. It didn’t strike me as odd until it was explained to me that a local woman once went to Japan to teach and, due to the lack of age-appropriate literature of the time, she introduced the series of “Anne” books to her students.

It reminded me of a conversation I had with a Swedish co-counselor at summer camp, who happened to be a 6-foot-4 Olympic swimming hopeful that I could never convince to play on the counselor hockey team. He related how the original “Rocky” was common viewing at places where athletes there trained, and added how the sequels (there were only a few at that time) were a disappointment.

It struck me how what seemed to be the experiences of Rocky Balboa on the streets of my hometown were not uniquely unique.

That is the power of art.

That what makes bitter reality easier to swallow.

This column appeared in The Times Herald on Aug. 11, 2018.

Moved By A Movie — Twice

Bernie and Elton

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — I don’t often go to the movies anymore.

Nope, not even the lure of the taste of popcorn mixed with the taste of Raisinets can pry me away from being able to choose from a menu of at-home snack choices and the autonomy of the remote control.

Plus, if a flick provokes me to extreme laughter – or tears (Sofia jokes that “every movie” makes me cry, and she is close) – I am free to be me.

While I do still go to the movies from time to time to see something I just can’t wait on, what I don’t often do is go to the movies twice in one week – let alone see the same film twice in that time span.

Until that “Sopranos” prequel comes out next year, Vegas odds placed it as an extreme longshot.

But anyone who plunked down the money on the 250-1 chance that I would do so beforehand cashed in big recently.

The movie that got me out there twice in less than seven days?

“Rocketman,” the biopic about Elton John.

I wouldn’t say Elton John is at the top of my list of favorite acts. Maybe Top 25 (although there has been a resurgence lately, pushing him into the 18-20 range).

But, once upon a different time in Gordonville, he was it.

No. 1 with a bullet.

Before Bruce Springsteen. Before Bob Seger. Before even The Beatles or The Rolling Stones.

In the early 1970s, my family tree had a lot of those “long-haired freaky people that need not apply” (as described in the song “Signs” by the Five Man Electrical Band), so I was introduced to rock and roll a little sooner than my friends who were still singing the theme from Batman around the schoolyard.

Once I heard “Bennie And The Jets” on the radio, I wanted in.

My first purchase was Elton John’s first Greatest Hits album, and the first cut was one I had not personally heard before on AM Radio, as it had predated what was being played in 1973-74.

It was “Your Song,” which featured direct lyrics like “my gift is my song and this one’s for you,” and may have been the first song to ever strike a chord in deep my soul.

The next in my collection was a double-album –“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” – meaning twice the fun.

Like many of the others that followed in quick succession, it came complete with a readable lyrics booklet.

I was struck to soon learn that someone besides Elton John had the job of just writing the lyrics that captured an imagination that was ripe for the taking for a kid from a broken home whose best skill was daydreaming.

That lyricist was Bernie Taupin, with whom I always identified ever since (I consider myself a self-renowned lyricist of about a zillion songs myself).

When people asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was Bernie Taupin.

Still is.

When I read that Taupin’s role in John’s career was going to be a big part of “Rocketman,” it got me out of my viewing comfort zone (while the other two-thirds of my family were seeing “Aladdin” in an adjacent theater).

When Sofia had a slumber party a few nights later, I returned with the better half for a second viewing that was just as powerful for me – and her — as the first.

As much as I saw my scribe-like self in the way Taupin was portrayed – always at the ready to write out lyrics as moved by the creative spirits that cannot be explained – I also saw a bit of myself in some of John’s character.

This included a hot temper and a doting maternal grandmother, which I had as well.

In the climactic scene, Elton John was faced with a 5-year-old version of himself – little Reggie Dwight (his real name) – and bends down and hugs him, teaching the viewer the lesson that we all need to embrace who we really are to be at peace with ourselves.

For me, seeing “Rocketman” twice in less than a week was a lot like that scene.

It was a chance to go back and embrace a lot of who I was in a different time and place, where his music was a salve in a lot of wounds for a lonely kid who had some of his albums in one house (apartment, actually) and different ones at the other.

His gift was his song back then.

And it was for me.

This column first appeared in The Times Herald on June 29, 2019.

Us And Them

Sopranos

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — The Brady Bunch or The Partridge Family?

Sounds innocuous enough, but in the alternate universe of nonsense that is Facebook, it sparked an argument that simulated how World War III might unfold.

And this one was not the work of Russian bots.

It was just another sign of the rapid decline of Western Civilization.

Do I get involved?

Guilty as charged.

For starters, blatant grammar errors – “your” instead of “you’re,” or “there” instead of “their” – will turn me rabid on someone already taking the opposing opinion (The Partridge Family, in this case).

Yeah, I take the bait faster than a trout in a pre-stocked lake on the first day of fishing season.

If faced with some of the following, you would, too:

Star Trek or Star Wars?

How do I say this nicely, without coming right out and saying it? If I’m sharing the same oxygen as anyone who prefers Star Wars, I need Scotty to beam me up ASAP. There is no intelligent life down here. And, if you don’t get that reference, there is little hope. Go stick your lightsaber in a dark place.

Lou’s or Eve’s?

This is the ongoing debate for the best Zep in Norristown, the “home” to the sandwich that can actually be found in many other locales, but under other names.

With all due respect to Lou’s, which I admit to having not graced in years – and, when I did, I got that look from the regulars that Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei got from the locals in “My Cousin Vinny” – I have to go with Eve’s here.

One more plus that Eve’s has going for it is that it is one of the few suburban joints that has an edible cheese steak.

Elmwood Park Zoo or Philadelphia Zoo?

Elmwood Park by a mile.

Main reason? The miles.

There is also another reason. I have never heard a traffic report where it wasn’t nearly impossible to get to the Philadelphia Zoo. I don’t care if they have Bigfoot or Loch Ness Monster in captivity, it’s just not worth it.

Schuylkill Expressway or Route 422?

Neither, as I avoid both like the plague (see above).

Never ever?

Never ever.

Eagles games?

Kelly Drive, or weave through the city.

Limerick outlets or a baseball game in Reading?

Backroads.

Like I said, never ever.

McDonald’s or Wendy’s?

I used to keep McDonald’s in this conversation because of its semi-edible breakfasts, but there seems to be a conspiracy afoot to screw up every drive-thru order.

I’m working on 11 times in a row, and I’m not looking to make it 12.

Once we get past breakfast time, forget about it.

The only place with an edible burger is Wendy’s.

As for other fast food joints, Burger King does not float my bloat. We have to watch some of the others around because they cook their fries in peanut oil, and Sofia is allergic to nuts.

I am going through a bit of a Taco Bell resurgence, but I know I’m setting myself up for a rude awakening.

Chic-Fil-A? Even if the food floated my boat, which it doesn’t, the franchise joins Mel Gibson on boycott list.

The reasons? Look it up. I’m not alone.

Dogs or Cats?

We have a dog (Rex), three cats (Hank, Licorice and Hershey) and a bunny with floppy ears (Buttons). If it has four legs and a tail, they are welcome here.

That said, while cats are cool to have around a house, dogs make a house a home.

Walking or Running?

Because of Rex, I get my walking in that way, and it is fine with me.

Why run when you can walk? Why stand when you can sit down, and why sit down when you can recline?

Game of Thrones or The Sopranos?

Well, let’s put it this way, The Sopranos remains my favorite show of all-time. I still watch it on a continual loop, and it is so nuanced that I still pick up on different twists.

As a show, it set the bar for all to follow – from cable networks to Netflix and other formats – and that was not by accident.

I did watch the first season of Game of Thrones when it originally aired and found it compelling, considering the whole fantasy genre is not my plate of pasta with homemade meatballs.

When Ned Stark was beheaded, it had impact. The only reason I didn’t keep up with the show was because the subsequent season rolled around with both the Flyers and Sixers making 2012 playoff runs and, well, a guy has to have priorities.

With the better half ceding to water-cooler peer pressure at work, we endeavored to go back to the beginning and get caught up, via the binge.

She is still binging, and is somewhere into Season 4 or 5.

I barely made it into a few episodes of Season 3, and this was after finding Season 1 just as compelling as the first time around.

Amazing how the show gained in popularity the sillier, and more violent, it became – almost to the point of becoming a high-budget parody of Season 1.

Actually, it’s not amazing at all. It’s reflective of the sadistic culture in which we live, where we are numb to mad kings and tragic violence.

Give me the bell bottoms and min-skirts of The Brady Bunch any day of the week.

This column originally appeared in The Times Herald on May 26, 2019.

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.