Friday, February 08, 2019

Magnolias and Men Out of Time

It had rained earlier, but by the time I was up and about, the precipitation was gone, and it was just cloudy and damp. Ran two space-themed Danger Mouse episodes while I had breakfast and got organized. DM and Penfold have a "Close Encounter of the Absurd Kind" during the second season when they're captured by aliens while chasing Baron Greenback. The aliens want to experiment on them, but the duo know someone else who might work even better. The first season short "The Martian Misfit" have them chasing after a mechanical alien who is supposedly taking over downtown London...but turns out to be covering something more sinister.

Headed out to run errands around 11:30. My first stop of the day was the Oaklyn Library for this week's volunteering session there. The only other people around besides me were the two morning librarians, who were decorating a shelf with yellow corrugated paper trim. I told them about my frustrating week at work and organized the DVD shelves, but there wasn't much else going on. There weren't even any people on the computers. I was out within a half-hour.

Next stop was Goodwill. I wanted to see if they had any other movies in their DVD collection I could review. Nope, no musicals, but I did make a few finds. The only DVD I dug up was The Tigger Movie. I rented this one about a decade ago from the Haddon Township Library, but their copy is long gone, and I think it's out of print. Found Angry Birds Star Wars for Wii on the other side of the shelf. Unearthed a really nice Lands End periwinkle blue t-shirt with short sleeves from the racks. It turned out to be on sale - a $2.99 shirt came to $1.50.

No luck anywhere else. I didn't see a winter dress or a skirt I liked in Marshalls, Ross, or Goodwill. It was 1:30 when I emerged from Marshalls. By that point, the clouds had been blown away, revealing gorgeous sunshine, blustery winds, and much warmer temperatures in the upper 40's. I was going to eat at Sonic, but it was way too windy for a picnic. I ended up going to Chick Fil'A behind them.

Chick Fil'A was still busy with the last of the lunch crowd, but not so much that the line was really long. I ordered a basic grilled chicken sandwich with very hot and salty waffle fries and their yummy frozen lemonade. Enjoyed my meal at a booth across from a group of women laughing and cooing over the child in the arms of one, and near another large family group laughing over burgers.

The Acme was next on my list. I had a lot of grocery shopping to do this week! Good thing it was as dead as it's been since before the Super Bowl. This time, the cereal on sale was Post Honey Bunches of Oats - went with the almond version. There were good online coupons for cheese, peanut butter, and bags of romaine lettuce. Found ground turkey with a manager's coupon. Restocked apples, bananas, oranges, yogurt, skim milk, cake mix, brown sugar, mandarin oranges, canned black beans, diced tomatoes, and frozen peas and green beans with almonds.

My schedule for next week is a lot better than it was this week. This time, I have Tuesday off along with Friday and Saturday. I'll gladly work early 6-hour days in order to not go almost 10 days without a day off again.

Went straight home after shopping. Continued with Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe while putting everything away, then spent a half-hour writing in the Me Journal. There are still some things that I can't answer. Favorite songs? I have so many! Same thing with favorite movies. I love Star Wars, but I love so many others, too. I guess you might say I love more than I hate. It takes something really, really horrible for me to hate it, and even then, I'll often find something I enjoy.

Worked on writing for a few hours after that. Leia presents the money they stole from the Norman nobleman Hux that morning to Sir Rieekian, but Thrawn knows she's been missing ever since her Uncle Bail was abducted and is suspected to be consorting with outlaws. He reveals his men, including Lord Ozzel of the Sheriff's guards, and orders them to arrest Leia. But Leia's "servants" won't let her be taken by this blue snake-in-the-grass...

Broke for dinner at 6:30. Charlie called me while I was writing and said that most of my Amazon order had arrived. I'll review Carmen Jones on my Musical Dreams Movie Reviews blog next week, but I definitely wanted to check out Buck Rogers right away. Ran the pilot movie, Awakening, while I was eating a spinach pancake (spinach and cheese in eggs) for dinner and "New-fangled" (i.e, cake mix) Peanut Butter Cookies for dessert.

Captain William "Buck" Rogers (Gil Gerard) wakes up in the year 2491 to discover that he was frozen for over a thousand years. The Earth is now a radioactive wasteland. Most of the remaining residents live in the domed city of New Chicago. They're trying to drum up trade with the Draconians because space pirates keep attacking their shipping fleet. Princess Ardala (Pamela Hensley) thinks he's hot, but her second-in-command, Kane (Henry Silva), isn't nearly as amused. They send him back to Earth, where Colonel Wilma Deering (Erin Gray) and the heads of New Chicago think he's a spy. His robot friends Twiki (voice of Mel Blanc) and Dr. Theopolis (voice of Howard F. Flynn) believe in him. Buck has to figure out what happened to his family, then stop Ardala from destroying the New Chicago colony.

Yes, this was cheesy as heck, but it was also a lot of fun. I love all the strong women here. Wilma and Ardala are different versions of the type of lady who take no guff from anyone, including their superiors and their menfolk. Gerard wasn't bad as the fish-out-of-frozen-water astronaut, and I always did like Mel Blanc's hilarious Twiki. (I figured that's what R2-D2 would sound like if he could talk.)

There's no denying, however, that this is both a Star Wars imitation and very much a product of its time. Buck was supposed to have launched in 1987, but the "rock" he encourages Ardala's band to play at one point sounds more like disco, and he makes a lot of references to things from 1979. Ardala is the really interesting villain here. Kane is supposed to be the Vader, but he's bland and dull, especially compared to his sexually charged boss. And what was with the opening credits? The weird, cutesy song and soft-focus photography looks more like a soft-porn movie from 1979 than a sci-fi movie.

I think this movie had its only solo releases on video, but you can find it on both the original full series set on DVD and the current Season One set that I have.

Finished out the evening with the far more down-to-Earth Steel Magnolias. Annelle (Daryl Hannah) comes to Truvy's (Dolly Pardon) hair salon in a small town in Louisiana for a fresh start in life after her husband leaves her. She couldn't have picked a better time to arrive. Shelby (Julia Roberts), the daughter of Truvy's good friend and frequent customer M'lynn (Sally Field) is getting married that day. She's introduced to the wealthy wife of the former mayor Clairee (Olympia Dukakis) and her grouchy and equally rich best friend Ouiser (Shirley MacLaine), also frequent customers. Kind-hearted Shelby wants to start a family, but M'Lynn is worried about it because of her type-1 diabetes. While the birth does go smoothly, her kidneys show sign of failure soon after. M'lynn donates one of her kidneys. This seems to work for a while...until Shelby contracts an infection and ends up in the hospital. Meanwhile, Annelle is having her own problems. Her obsession with prayer and religion is scaring off the boyfriend (Kevin J. O'Connor) she met at Shelby's wedding. M'lynn is devastated when she loses her daughter...but she still has her grandchild. Her friends finally help her understand that life goes on, and those we love are still with us in so many small ways.

This was - and probably still is - one of Mom's favorite movies. She grew up in Virginia around "steel magnolias" like these ladies, and Sally Field was always one of her favorite actresses. We used to watch it a lot in the late 80's and early 90's. As a kid, I laughed at Ouiser and Clairee's one-liners, but hated the mood whiplash in the end. Now that I've lost several people I loved, including my stepfather, I think I understand the message about life going on a lot more.

While Tom Skerrit and Sam Shepard aren't bad as M'Lynn and Truvy's husbands, it's the ladies' show, and they really run with it. All six are wonderful; check out Field's scene at the funeral in the end, where she lashes out in rage in front of the others about losing her daughter. Dukakis and MacLaine steal the movie as the funniest and saltiest rich older women in the South.

I heard there was an all-black remake a few years ago with Queen Latifa as M'Lynn. If it's half as much fun as the original, I might have to look around for that, too. If you're a real life "steel magnolia," grew up around them like my mother and me, or love quieter movies about women going through real-life problems, you'll want to take a trip down to Louisiana to spend time with these six very memorable ladies.

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