Friday, January 26, 2018

Getting Things Done

Once again began my day with chores and movies after breakfast. Put on An American Tail: Fivel Goes West while I was eating. Fivel dreams of becoming a great lawman like his hero, Wylie Burp (James Stewart). He gets his chance when his family heads out west on the word of smooth-tongued Cat R. Waul (John Cleese). When Fivel inadvertently discovers that Waul intends to lure the mice into a trap, he's knocked off the train and is forced to make his own way to Green River. Meanwhile, his good friend Tiger the Cat (Dom DeLouise) is also on his way out west, hoping to find his girlfriend Miss Kitty (Amy Irving), who went out to the country looking for "a new breed of cat." The duo enlist the over-the-hill Burp to help prove Waul's treachery to the towns-mice.

I like this follow-up to An American Tail much better than the original. Stylish animation, good songs, and a plot that's a lot more fun make this worth checking out. (There's also a bit of history here - this would be James Stewart's last film role.)

Did some more cleaning while the movie was on. I hadn't swept the dust and crumbs out of the pantry or under the sink in ages. (The pantry is a two-shelf storage space that's squeezed between the sink and stove.) They both really needed to be done.

Gave the LP for the 1959 musical version of Destry Rides Again a spin as I did the dishes and got organized. Destry (Andy Griffith) is the son of a famous sheriff called into Bottleneck to help create law and order. The citizens are dismayed when he arrives, wearing fancy clothes and not carrying a gun. He doesn't believe in violence. The gambler who more-or-less runs the town orders his girl Frenchy (Dolores Gray) to seduce Destry...but she ends up falling for him instead. Musical western has some ok songs, but is best known today for the Kylo Ren-level temper tantrums Dolores Gray threw during its run.

The only errand I really needed to do today was grocery shopping...and even then, I didn't have a huge list. Restocked grapefruit, apples, yogurt, skim milk, ground turkey, canola oil, soup, and canned Mandarin oranges. Thought I'd up my fiber and protein quotient with lentils, which are cheap, nutritional, and make an excellent stew. (They also don't require the overnight soaking that most dried beans do.) There was a sale on Quaker items; went with the cranberry-almond Breakfast Squares and Cinnamon Oatmeal Squares. Used an online coupon for the Acme's generic organic cheese pull-apart snacks - thought they might be a good way to get even more protein in my diet.

The Acme just got in a whole pile of new Eagles merchandise (including an amusing line of t-shirts that play on the Eagles' underdog status in the playoffs and the Super Bowl). I bought a "2017 NFC Champions" shirt. First of all, when is that going to happen again? Second, I actually do need to replace my old Eagles t-shirt. I've had it since college, and it has holes in it.

I'm not too happy with my schedule next week. Other than slightly different hours on Sunday, they're the same hours as this week...up to and including the 8-hour day on Wednesday followed by 3 days off in a row. I know we're not going to be that busy Wednesday. It's the day before the beginning of the month, and it's right before all the Super Bowl festivities are really supposed to kick in. And why give me most of next weekend off? I'm surprised they aren't going to want all hands on deck to deal with football-crazed customers.

Ran an episode of The Backyardigans as I put everything away and had a really quick lunch. Tyrone is off to a "Polka Palace Party" with Sherman the Worman, hoping to play polka at his brother's birthday celebration. On the way, he helps out Uniqua, Pablo, and Austin, each of whom play an instrument and love polka. They form a band, only to lose their instruments in the river. But the wormen have a surprise in store when they finally make it to the party...

Worked on my story for a little while. Here's where my version of the story diverges from Hans Christian Anderson's. Leia is helped off the lily pad by Luke, a kind-hearted fairy scout, and Chewbacca, a swallow. They're searching for Prince Han, the ruler of the fairies, who disappeared while trying to negotiate with the beetle army. Leia tells them she'll help them search from the ground.

Broke for a quick dinner at 6:30. Ran two episodes of the Happy Spook-day, Scooby Doo! set while I ate. "Happy Birthday, Scooby Doo!" was apparently the pilot episode for The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries, the mid-80's series with Shaggy, Daphne, Scooby, and Scrappy. This has a few things in common with the Yogi Bear birthday episode, including it revolving around a This Is Your Life-style special. The whole gang is back together to find out just who has revived the ghoul from one of Scooby's scariest cases. It looks like it might be Fred...until the ghost starts attacking Scooby...

The next episode comes from Scooby Doo, Where are You? "The Backstage Rage" moves from the world of TV to puppets, as the gang goes behind the scenes at a puppet show. Scooby and Shaggy found a violin case filled with counterfeit money, but it's stolen when Scooby is distracted by a poodle puppet. Having solved the "why," the gang now has to figure out just who is running the counterfeiting operation.

Played a few more rounds of Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga next. Finished out Revenge of the Sith, then did the first two rounds of New Hope. I've gotten better at jumping, but it still wasn't enough for me to get True Jedi on "Fall of the Jedi." Just barely missed it on the last round where Anakin fights Obi-Wan in the lava pits, though I did get most of the pieces there. "Secret Plans" is much easier. Got True Jedi there and several pieces. "Through the Jutland Wastes" takes forever, including a trip into the Jawas' sandcrawler to rescue the droids. Just barely got True Jedi, though not much in the way of pieces.

Finished out the night with Star! This musical biography of beloved British stage actress Gertrude Lawrence (Julie Andrews) begins with her origins as a poor child in London. Her father left the family when she was a baby. Her mother took odd performing jobs to support them and allow Gertrude to take classes in singing and dancing. This was how she met her life-long friend Noel Coward. Running away, she joined her dad and his girlfriend in music hall in South Africa, where she honed both her temper and her comedic chops. She takes chorus girl jobs on returning to England. She's happy to be reunited with Coward (Daniel Massey), but wants to really show her stuff. Her chance comes when the star of producer Andre Charlot's (Alan Oppenheimer) can't go on, and she turns her number into a tour-de-force. She gets married and has a daughter, but it doesn't last. She's too addicted to performing to be the wife her husband wants, and she's tired of his drinking.

She's now the toast of not only England but also Broadway, courting a rich nobleman (Michael Craig), a banker (Anthony Eisley), and an actor (Robert Reed). Gertie's love of parties and her lavish lifestyle catches up with her, even as she's appearing in one of her biggest hits, Private Lives. She works herself into exhaustion to fund her love of shopping, neglecting her daughter in the process. But she gets one last shot - at love and at capturing the audience - with the unusual Lady In the Dark and its big "Saga of Jenny" circus number and her eventual marriage to a producer (Richard Crenna).

This massive spectacle was a flop on first release in 1969. It may simply not have been the right time for a lavish biography of a star who still had some mild name recognition in England at that point but was barely remembered elsewhere. Elaborate, old-style Hollywood filmmaking and musicals in general were going out of fashion in the late 60's.

I saw a bit of it, mainly the "Has Anybody Seen My Ship?" number, on TCM when I was in college. I wouldn't think of it again until I found that DVD at the Haddon Township Library. I'm glad I found it again. This is an excellent musical, with Andrews in fine form and some wonderful music. Massey made such a perfect Noel Coward, he garnered an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. It's worth seeing alone just for Massey and Andrews in a scene and song cribbed from Private Lives. (It's rare that you see scenes from plays, with one small non-chorus song, recreated in a musical biography.)

If you're a fan of Andrews, Lawrence, or big old-style musicals and have time on your hands, this tale of the ups and downs of stardom is well worth looking out for.

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