X Men School #atozchallenge

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XWho’s your favourite member of the X Men – or X Person (if you feel that a group of super heroes of both genders should have had an appropriate name change by 2016)?

Is it Wolverine, with his wolf-like retractable claws and less wolf-like self-healing powers, or Cyclops, who wears cool designer ski goggles because red laser beams constantly shoot from his eyes. You might favour Storm and her ability to roll her eyeballs 360° and manipulate the weather, or Rogue, one of the coolest for her knack of absorbing the abilities of others thus rendering her all-powerful (and consequently, in the patchy  X Men 3, just a little bonkers).

To be honest, Marvel’s X Men – created by the amazing Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby in 1963 – now one of their most successful comic book and movie franchises, is a bit of a swizz. Coming up with a collection of superhero mutants with different powers (and admittedly silly names and even sillier costumes), Stan Lee knew that his characters could literally do anything – which means the stories would end up becoming more outlandish and ridiculous as the years went by. Kicking off as a clever commentary on race and equality in the turbulent early 60s, these all powerful characters would end up only being able to fight each other before Lee and his writers had to think of even more astonishing beings that would challenge them. You’ve seen the movies, well the comics are even more mind-boggling.

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Marvel turns it up to 11 in a recent Uncanny X Men series

I do love the X Men (although I’d say the movies peaked at X Men 2) but I always wonder if Dr Xavier’s school for gifted children – where these extraordinary mutants are taught to harness their gifts – should offer courses for those with more mundane, everyday powers. Perhaps you have the amazing ability to open jars that have been closed too tightly. Off to X Men school with you! They would call you The Twist. You might have an uncanny sense of direction. You’d be in there too and your X Men name would be SatNav. Perhaps you just give incredible hugs, the kind that have awesome regenerative powers. You’re enrolling! You will be known simply as The Bear.

These powers are no more useful than teleportation or the ability to manipulate metals with your mind. They might even be more useful. How are these X Men going to find their way to a battle without SatNav – or more importantly, find their way out. Where do they go if their feeling a little low? That’s a job for The Bear.

So what would your X-power be? What gets you into X Men school? Are you particularly good at Sudoku? Do you always arrive on time? Perhaps you have an uncanny memory for pop lyrics of the Nineties. I’ll get you an application form.

My power is that I am incredibly good at finding things: keys, wallets, school ties, household bills – if you’ve mislaid it, I can get it for you. I’m pretty sure I’d walk into X Men school with that humdinger. I bet Wolverine is always losing stuff. They’d call me Findo. Now, I need a costume.

Kraitt out.

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Wolverine’s lost his mobile phone again!
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Wilder #atozchallenge

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WThere they are! Arguably one of the greatest film directors of all time and his muse. From the screwball comedy of Some Like It Hot to the greatest tale of Hollywood in Sunset Boulevard; the ultimate film noir of Double Indemnity to the searing – still contemporary – Ace In The Hole, Billy Wilder delivered classic after classic after classic. Jack Lemmon was the star that fitted Wilder’s brilliantly conceived characters like a Saville Row three-piece and was never better than in my favourite movie of them all, The Apartment.

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Jack plays C C Baxter (“C for Charlie, C for Calvin, but most people call me Bud”), the lovable but conniving corporate climber, running a knocking shop for randy executives from  his bachelor pad in New York. Bud loves troubled elevator girl Fran Kubelick, played with wit and warmth by Shirley MacLaine, and wants to close the doors of his love nest for good so he can feather it with her. Trouble is, life just ain’t that simple…

This is a movie about so many things: ambition in corporate America, urban living, loneliness, friendship and infidelity. It can be truthful, heart-breaking, dramatic, gripping, romantic and as laugh-out-loud funny as you’d expect from the best of Billy Wilder.

Every character is played to perfection: Fred MacMurray’s sleazy Mr. Sheldrake; the effervescent MacLaine and, of course, the legend that is Lemmon giving the most natural but nuanced performance of his life. Even Bud’s neighbours, compassionate Doctor Drefyus and his disapproving wife (“No napkins?! Beatnick!”), are colourful, complex and believable. No wonder the movie won 5 Oscars (when it meant something). Wilder won for the movie and his sublime directing, as well as the pitch-perfect screenplay written with long-time writing partner I A L Diamond (criminally this is the only Oscar they won together, though they were nominated for Some Like It Hot and The Fortune Cookie). Academy Awards were also given for art direction and editing but MacLaine and Lemmon went home empty-handed. It was a tough year. Jack lost out to Burt Lancaster’s Elmer Gantry with Laurence Olivier’s The Entertainer snapping at their heels (Kirk Douglas wasn’t even nominated for Spartacus – then, neither was Stanley Kubrick!). Shirley MacLaine was pipped by Elizabeth Taylor for Butterfield 8, no shame there.

So do yourselves a favour. Stock up the fridge, lock the front door, put on your PJs and turn off the phone. Then, settle in for a Wilder weekend. Perhaps kick of light with Some Like it Hot and Sabrina, maybe take a detour through Irma La Douce, before getting serious with Witness For The Prosecution, Sunset Boulevard and Double Indemnity. You mustn’t forget The Fortune Cookie for some Lemmon/Matthau fun, but you could get obscure with Ace In The Hole and Stalag 17 or even the underrated Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. There are, of course, many more to choose from.

Save the last slot for The Apartment. I’m not even sure if it’s his best picture but it’s my favourite Wilder-wise, and movie-wise in general (and if you watch it, you’ll get the joke in that last sentence). Cynical romantic that I am, I think it’s just heaven.

Here’s one of many brilliant moments, and some of the best movie writing you’ll find.

See you tomorrow for some super powers.

Kraitt out!

 

Felix Unger #atozchallenge

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UJack Lemmon would have to be my favourite actor of all time (and on Wednesday you’ll discover which of his movies is my number one) and The Odd Couple‘s Felix Unger is one of Lemmon’s most memorable roles. It’s Lemmon’s genius that he can make his audience laugh at – and then feel deeply for – a character at the bottom of his own pit of despair and attempting suicide – not to mention Neil Simon’s brilliant writing that gives him the opportunity. This is also a movie where the double act of Lemmon and Walter Matthau as Oscar is utterly perfect. You couldn’t imagine it without either of these Hollywood legends.

There are so many great Lemmon moments in this picture: Felix clearing his sinuses in the middle of a restaurant; Oscar ruining Felix’s linguine; Felix turning a perfectly promising double-date into a miserable sob-fest. I could go on but fortunately the original trailer (below) features these and more best bits (isn’t it the case that Seventies trailers went on forever and basically gave you the whole movie?!). But you really should seek out and watch this film. Neil Simon’s script is so completely spot-on about the modern male and his self-centred crises. It’s also non-stop hilarious. Ultimately, you’ll like these guys; you’ll feel for these guys; and you’ll love watching their odd relationship unfold.

I know there was a very successful, and long-running, TV spin-off of The Odd Couple starring Jack Klugman as Oscar and Tony Randall as Felix. I never saw it so I can’t really comment. I do love Jack Klugman – Quincy may well have been my Q blog post if I didn’t have a good Queen story. There was also a just-about okay sequel made in 1998 when Paramount realised these legends (including Neil Simon) were actually alive and should still be making movies. However, for me, the original is one of those unique films that should remain as it is. It couldn’t be any better.

Before I go, let me take you back and across the sea to Morocco in 1989. Myself and Ed Fowkes (we last saw him in D for David Bowie) were travelling as part of our year off between A Levels and the future. I think we were on the train between Casablanca and Marrakesh, minding our own business and  enjoying our view of this beautiful country as it trundled past the window. I realised after a short while that the muzac being piped through the speaker system was on a loop. The same tune was repeating over and over again, and I knew it from somewhere. But I couldn’t place it. What was it?! I was racking my brains until it came to me. The train muzac on the journey from Casablanca to Marrakesh was the theme to The Odd Couple! Go figure…

Kraitt out.

My Favourite Lisas #atozchallenge

LSoldiering on with this confounded A to Z Challenge, I give you my favourite Lisas.

According to the internet, the name Lisa is a Hebrew name. In Hebrew the meaning of the name Lisa is: or Elizabeth, from Elisheba, meaning either oath of God, or God is satisfaction. Also a diminutive of Bethia (daughter or worshipper of God), and of Bethany, a New Testament village near Jerusalem.

The Urban Dictionary tell us:

The name of a girl who is very pretty and is so lovable that boys fall in love with her instantly.
Chick: OMG! DID YOU SEE LISA YESTERDAY?!
Dude: Yeah, I’m like…in love with that chica.

So here they are. But you must have your own favourites. Do tell…

See you tomorrow for some more music.

Kraitt out!

Incredible! #atozchallenge

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II’m going to put it out there – The Incredibles is my favourite Pixar movie. In fact, it’s one of my three favourite movies of all time.

This is not only the ultimate super hero movie – still kicking every single butt in this age of four quadrant tent poles and their tin men, mutants and caped metro-males throwing each other through ever more elaborate CGI cityscapes – it also out-Bonds 007 with its ultra-cool tone and bonkers gadgetry. Writer/director Brad Bird (one of the most imaginative and consistently entertaining Hollywood directors working today) cocks a snook at all the blockbuster conventions but still gives us a plot that’s as tight as a pair of Aquaman’s Speedos (coming to a cinema near you). At heart, it’s a family movie about a family and it’s as laugh-out-loud funny (every time) as it is deeply moving.

Yes, Toy Story is the possibly the best and most consistent film trilogy of all time and the pure emotion of Inside Out left me a quivering mess of tears for a lost childhood, but The Incredibles is still my pick. It’s 115 minutes of perfection and never fades.

Here are two of my favourite clips. Enjoy!

Kraitt out.

Goodfellas #atozchallenge

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Over the course of these 26 posts, I plan to tell you about my three favourite movies. In no particular order (and as today is the day of G), we begin with Goodfellas – Martin Scorcese’s epic trawl through the life and times of gangster Henry Hill played impeccably by Ray Liotta.

This is a mind-blowing monster of a movie from “As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster!” to “I’m an average nobody – get to live the rest of my life as a schnook!” and then Joe Pesci’s terrifying Tommy DeVito blowing us away into the end credits.

It was 1990, and we went to see Goodfellas the night before my driving test (which I passed – third time!). I’d never seen anything like it: visceral story-telling that won’t let up for a second and that pumping soundtrack pulsating through every scene. The movie is by turns hilariously funny and then deeply dramatic; explosive and uncompromising in its violence, portraying a life that is eye popping in its nouveaux lavishness as it is uncomfortable in its cheap sleaziness. But it doesn’t judge. Just like Wolf Of Wall Street (which could have been Scorcese’s masterpiece if it was half an hour shorter), it lets you make up your own mind about these lovable amoral characters.

I could go on about Scorcese’s ground-breaking direction, his pitch-perfect screenplay written with Nicholas Pileggi, the production design and costumes that take you right back in time, and those amazing performances: Liotta and Oscar-winning Pesci of course but Robert De Niro sparkles, Lorraine Bracco is a scene-stealer and Paul Sorvino is the best boss since Brando. Very few movies send me out buzzing but this one had me walking on air.

I won’t give you the obvious “how am I funny” clip. Here are two great moments. And if you haven’t seen this picture, drop everything. Watch it now! Your life is missing something.

Kraitt out!

My Favourite Erics #atozchallenge

ENot only is it tough to blog every single day (with Sundays off) but it’s also tricky coming up with a new theme for each post to correspond with the letters of the alphabet. So, in honour of the letter E, here is a selection of my very favourite celebrities and historical figures named Eric.

The true meaning of the name Eric is:
Derived from the Old Norse Eirìkr, a compounding of the elements ei (ever, always) and ríkr (ruler): hence, “eternal ruler.” Var: Aric, Erick, Erik, Irricc.

According to one of the definitions in the Urban Dictionary:
The most amazing person in the entire universe. Everything about him is perfect! He’s charming, handsome, intelligent, strong, romantic, funny…everything you want in a guy. It’s impossible not to fall in love with him! Once you lay eyes on him, you will know from that very moment that you will never stop loving him.
“…did you see eric…damn that bitch is fine!”

So here are my favourite Erics, in no particular order (roll over or click the pic for a caption)…

This is, of course, a list of my favourites. You may have your own. Is it Estrada? Or B? Or even Ba(nan)a? Feel free to let me know in the comments section.

Tomorrow, some music.

Kraitt out!