Wednesday, July 26, 2006

road show

Get your gear ready and saddle up Shelfers. It's time to hit the road and cruise on through to this week's media roundup. If you're willing, we're able. Although this is a relatively slow week, we've managed to find some gems that you just might be willing to put in your saddlebags.

Top Shelf Pick of the Week:
Feasting on Asphalt
I have a bit of a confession to make: I love Food Network. I mean sure, I don't always watch these shows and go out and make whatever gourmet, crazy complicated meal they've created. No- I go in for the down to earth stuff. I love Paula Dean like mad. I have recreated some of her recipes (delicious) and one of these days I'm gonna make it to her Lady and Sons Restaurant. Rachael Ray is also a favorite. I especially love the shows that combine pop culture, history and our nation's love of food: I'm talking about Unwrapped! Even the quirky Iron Chef gets some regular rotation. Yep, chances are, during some point in the week I've watched several shows on Food Network. However, for me the king of shows is Alton Brown's Good Eats! AB's show manages to make a cooking show cool, entertaining, educating, and a pop culture icon all at once. He's done so by making sure it isn't a "cooking show". It is definitely a show about good food, how to make it good without any unnecessary fluff, and explains why it is...what it is; what makes it work so to speak. You don't need a science degree to get it either.
Now Food Network has sent AB on the road on his beloved motorcycle with a camera crew to discover food along the road in Feasting on Asphalt. It's food that everyone eats every now and then. No ultra modern five star restaurants here, just the kinds of places where people go to eat and then go home and tell their friends about. Heck, he even checks out camps, backyard barbeques, etc. Feasting on Asphalt is sort of "Good Eats on a summer vacation." Four episodes feature his trip starting from Savannah, Georgia and ending in California. The first episode on this Saturday at 9pm eastern, features South Carolina and Georgia. Good old southern food. Check it out!

Other shows: Don't forget Big Brother 7, (here is an excellent website for recaps, goings-on and pictures: HamsterWatch) and later on the weekend: Reno 911!

Shelf Picks for Turner Classic Movies

July 26th: Party hardy with Elvis in Viva Las Vegas (1964). Then, roll with the punches in Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull (1980)

July 27th: The opulence was legendary for Cleopatra (1963)

July 28th: Charlton Heston rises above the occasion in Ben-Hur (1959). Later watch James Cagney in The Strawberry Blonde (1941) and Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

July 29th: Lee J. Cobb and Henry Fonda square off with 12 Angry Men (1957). Later, Bogie and Ida Lupino make off for the High Sierra (1941). Then Don't miss James Cagney as he goes off to WWI with The Fighting 69th (1940)

July 30th: Bogie returns in Dark Passage (1947). Bette Davis makes the wrong choices in Jezebel (1938). And don't miss Maureen O'Sullivan and Johnny Weissmuller in Tarzan, The Ape Man (1932)

July 31st: It's a Powell-Loy double feature with After The Thin Man (1936) and The Thin Man Goes Home (1945). Stay up for Olivia and Errol in Captain Blood (1935).

JAG: The Complete First Season

Harmon Rabb and company lasted 10 seasons on television. No mean feat in this day and age. The very popular J*A*G also spawned a spin-off, NCIS. This first season actually premiered on NBC, then was cancelled. David Bellasario took it to CBS, where it went on for 9 more successful seasons. One very important change was the addition of the lovely goddess known as Catherine Bell to the cast. If you've missed it - here's a good way to catch up.

Chappelle's Show: The Lost Episodes

In a way it's almost foolhardy to recommend this, as most you who love the show just watched all three episodes that are on this set. However, there are more unused clips, extra footage, and more stuff promised here. Our main contention is that Comedy Central needs to go ahead and give Charlie Murphy and Donnell Rawlins their own show.

The Will Rogers Collection: Volume One
Will Rogers is an American Icon that very few people know much about today. His gentle humor, keen observation, and "aw, shucks" down to earth personality made him one of America's first genuine celebrities. Radio helped to make him a household name, but he also furthered his career in films. The four films in this collection; Doubting Thomas, In Old Kentucky, Life Begins at 40, and Steamboat Round the Bend, are accompanied by Movietone Film Newsreels, commentary, and an excellent A&E episode on Rogers from their Biography series.

Well that's all for this week's roundup folks. Short n' sweet. That's sometimes the way it needs to be. We know that there's quite a bit of bad stuff happening around the world. Our recommendation? Go outside, pitch a couple to the kid, take a walk... enjoy being alive a little bit. There's too much bad stuff out in the world. Do something to bring a little sunshine to yours or someone else's life. Enjoy something fun. In the meantime, when the news and stuff gets ya' down...employ the Shelf motto: "Think for yourself."

As always, your comments are welcome.

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

The army is always the same. The sun and the moon change, but the army knows no seasons.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

anatomy of a classic

I still say we go to Arby's for lunch!
That’s right Shelfers- just when you though it was safe to shop in your local superstore, it comes up slowly, out from under a pile of digital debris- it’s the return of

It Came From the Bargain Bin!

In case you have forgotten from our last episode, here is how we get the lowdown on whether or not this DVD is worthy of the effort:

Price: $1, $5- under $10? Was it really a bargain, or just another DVD slumming’?

Difficulty: Did it take a while to find, or was it right on top? Or was it hit or miss- kinda fifty-fifty depending on how the store has them displayed?

Quality: Does it look like someone copied it from a VHS tape that their Uncle Fred taped off of the Sunday Night Movie, or is it pretty stellar DVD that is just been in rotation for a while? How does the print and sound hold up?

Features: Might be pretty skimpy, or you might be surprised. Is the packaging pretty pathetic? Don’t you hate when they put an ad for other films on the DVD and call it a feature? These questions and more are answered for you. And don’t worry- you’re really buying for the film anyway. Right? Which brings us to…

The Film: This is what you came for- was it worth your $5 bucks? Do you wish you hadn’t really bought this turkey and grabbed a pack of gum instead? Our mini-review will reveal all.

Tilt: This is the je ne sais qou quotient. The pop culture factor, the geek factor, the unknown. Maybe the film is so bad that it’s good. Like MST3K good. Maybe there is a nostalgia attached to it that makes you hang on to it when you should have let go years ago- like that stuffed animal you hide in the closet when your friends come over.
And finally-

Bargain?: Is it or isn’t it? Is it a bargain? The sum total of the evaluation will tell.
So now on with the show:

This installment features- Anatomy of a Murder with James Stewart, George C. Scott, and Lee Remick. I know what you are saying to yourself- “Hmm, self… last episode featured a James Stewart movie. What’s up with that?” Well what can I say- I’ve gotten lucky in digging out another treasure.

Price: Anatomy of a Murder is an older DVD that I found on sale for around the $5 mark at my local big box electronics retail store. The “best buy” that I have had in a while.

Difficulty: Easy- there are some bins, but this was in a featured display that was near the front of the store for the sale. Although some inexpensive DVDs are mixed in with everything else, larger stores will sometimes create a display shelf for sale items. Tip: Check the ads in the local Sunday paper for special sales.

Quality: Excellent. This is a crisp print with superior sound. Especially good for an older Columbia Pictures DVD, but they had a good print to begin with.

Features: A few, but for the time the DVD came out, this was standard operating procedure; trailer, some written short bios of the stars. I think if a special edition (doubtful) were ever produced, several documentaries could be made to tell the story of this groundbreaking film.

The Film: This is a great film, which was based on the book of the same name by Robert Travers. The legal drama stars James Stewart as former district attorney, now small town attorney, Paul "Polly" Biegler who would rather spend his days fishing or playing jazz piano than arguing in court. He still has a competitive edge about him, and doesn’t like to lose, although losing the election for district attorney took some wind out of his sails. Biegler is asked by Laura Manion (Lee Remick) to defend her husband; Fredrick Manion (Ben Gazzara) is a lieutenant serving at a nearby base. Manion is in jail for murdering Barney Quill; a local bartender who Laura says raped her.

Biegler’s friend and former lawyer, Parnell McCarthy, (Arthur O'Connell) encourages Polly to take the case, as does Polly’s secretary, Maida Rutledge (Eve Arden). McCarthy, who now indulges more in the bottle than in the law books, is excited at the chance to help Polly and perhaps redeem himself in the process. Rutledge is excited at the prospect of finally having some money coming into the law practice. When Biegler takes the case, things aren’t exactly ideal. For one thing, Lt. Manion is being somewhat evasive and is too eager to play into an insanity plea. For another, Ms. Manion, although adamant in her accusations, doesn’t seem to mind flirting with Biegler. Polly feels like something is missing and while he stands by Laura’s rape allegations, he knows that something about Lt. Manion and Quill isn’t quite right.

As Biegler readies his case, another curve ball is thrown at him in the form of Claude Dancer (George C. Scott in one of his first screen roles), an assistant attorney general from out of state, who is sent to sit as co-consul. Dancer is tricky, and his presence demonstrates the concern of the “big city” legal bureaucrats over this potentially controversial case. Dancer goes for the jugular, attempting to at first bypass the rape allegation altogether, and then attempts to discredit. Biegler defends Ms. Manion and works to find out what exactly he is missing in order to win the case.

Anatomy of a Murder was first a book by Robert Travers, who based his novel on a real case in Michigan. The script by Wendell Mayes is well written and the cinematography by Sam Leavitt is fantastic. He captures the scenery of Michigan quite well, without every overshadowing the story or losing the big case in a small town feel. Besides the great performance by James Stewart, the real strengths of the film are the directing by Otto Preminger and the original jazz score by the legendary Duke Ellington. Preminger strove for a realistic, almost documentary feel. He achieved that without every losing his standard building and deconstructing of characters. Duke Ellington’s score compliments the film well, providing a bridging element for Biegler, but at the same time gives the film a firm footing in the contemporary day. Well worth it for the score alone.

This film is a great classic, and served as a template for future courtroom dramas. It may seem conventional today, but was groundbreaking for it’s time. It may feel somewhat like Matlock meets Law and Order, but Anatomy is their great granddaddy. I would have liked to have seen a television serial drama with the main characters. The 1959 film was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor for James Stewart, and Best Supporting Actor for Arthur O'Connell Bottom line: this film is a classic that should be on your shelf.

Tilt: Probably the coolest tilt factor for me was watching the film and in the middle seeing Floyd the Barber, Howard McNear, on screen as a medical examiner witness in the courtroom. Freakin’ Floyd! I love Floyd on Andy Griffith, so this was pretty cool. Another tilt factor was seeing James Stewart play the piano with Duke Ellington. Duke’s cameo and his terrific score definitely ratchet up the cool factor. Another bit of interesting casting is Joseph N. Welch as the judge assigned to the case. Preminger, in quest for the realistic feel, want Welch because he was a real judge. Welch is famous for being involved in the televised McCarthy hearings in which he famously asked Sen. McCarthy “Have You No Sense of Decency”

Bargain: No question this was a great bargain. This is a great film; one that deserves to be on the classic film fan’s shelf. If you can find it (online vendors still have it as well), go ahead and pick up a copy, you won’t be disappointed.

Well Shelfers, that’s it for this edition of It Came From the Bargain Bin! Hope our sacrifice and public service in our ongoing quest to dig into the dark realm of the bargain bin was worthwhile.

Please share with us some of your bargain bin discoveries or your thoughts and opinions about Anatomy of a Murder in the comments section. Till next time- adieu.

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

Just answer the questions, Mr. Paquette. The attorneys will provide the wisecracks.

jack warden

Just a brief post noting the passing of great character actor Jack Warden. I always loved seeing Jack on TV and in many films from 12 Angry Men, innumerable television shows, Used Cars, The Presidio and his last film, The Replacements. You can read about Mr. Warden's very full and interesting life and career here and here.
Jack Warden died this past Wednesday of heart and kidney failure. Our condolences to family and friends. Our TVs just seem a little dimmer with the passing of Mr. Warden. He will be missed.
Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

ready for the roundup tough guy?

Psst, the roundup has been posted. Pass it on!
Well, are ya' tough guy? You'd better be, cause we're busting out with the goods this week. Do you have what it takes to stick with us punk? You'd better, cause we're not taking any chumps along for the ride. That's the way we're playing it. We've got a lot of ground to cover, so you'd better hold your own. And don't go falling for no dame. They're no good I tell ya, no good! Next thing you know you'll slip up and we'll all be back in the clink. On second thought, maybe all dames ain't so bad. Things get all crazy in stir, ya know.


Top Shelf Pick of the Week!

Warner Brother's Tough Guys Collection
Otherwise known as Gangsters Vol. II, this great volume is destined to be right up there in our top ten box sets for 2006. We loved the Gangster's Collection, and WB Changed the name of this set in light of the fact that some of the films deal with G-Men and cops as well as gangsters; therefore: The Tough Guys Collection. The films in this set include:
Bullets or Ballots: Edward G. Robinson stars as a tough as nails cop who goes deep undercover in the gangworld to bring down some big heavies. Costarring Humphrey Bogart as the crime boss' top henchman who knows something is fishy with Robinson, and Joan Blondell as the mob girl turned good who helps Robinson.
City for Conquest : James Cagney is boxer who is hit with acid-laced gloves during a fight and tries to exact his revenge on the gangster who set it up, and is shot in the process. Visually impaired and handicapped, Cagney operates a newstand and uses it to finance his brother's musical education. Costars: Ann Sheridan, Anthony Quinn, and Donald Crisp. The film was cut when reissued in 1948, this is the original uncut 1940 version.
Each Dawn I Die: Cagney is a newspaper man wrongly convicted and sent to prison by a corrupt D.A.. While in jail, Cagney befriends a con played by George Raft who eventually helps him to prove his innocence.
G-Men: Cagney is back again as a young lawyer whose friend is killed in gangland attack. Cagney decides to become a government agent, a "G-Man", in order to bring the killers to justice and to destroy the gang. He isn't completely trusted, as his fellow G-Men discover that not only was his education financed by a rackateer who wanted to see Cagney rise above his poor cirumstances, but that old friends and old loves from the old neighborhood are involved in the underworld.
San Quentin: Pat O'Brian stars as a former Military officer who is brought in as a warden to tame the San Quentin prison. His tough tactics and military training help him do just that, but problems start when he falls for a girl (Ann Sheridan) who has a secret. Her secret? Her brother (Humphrey Bogart)is a prisoner in San Quentin. When the brother finds out about his sister, revenge and escape are on his mind.
A Slight Case of Murder: This is the oddball of the bunch. It's a comedy, but its a tough guy comedy, so to speak. Edward G. Robinson stars as a bootlegger trying to go legit after the repeal of Prohibition. Then the problems begin to pile on as his homemade brew doesn't sell, because it's terrible, he finds out that he is still being watched carefully by the cops, and a killer has dumped some corpses in his home.
Extras abound with Warner's Night at the Movies feature. Several cartoons,including Porky's Double Trouble and The Night Watchman, with musical and comedy shorts as well as newsreels and several Bobby Jones Golfing Shorts. There are also several featurettes and full length documentaries on Hollywood and Gangsters, Prohibition, and The Big House. Commentary is provided, of course, by several film historians. One welcome addition is the inclusion of some of the Warner Brother's end of the year blooper reels, called Breakdowns. Also included are several Lux Radio Theater adaptations of the films. This set is highly recommended. If you can buy just one right now, and you already own the John Ford/John Wayne Collection, make this your purchase- you will not be disappointed.

Film Noir Collection Vol. 3
If you already have the first two volumes in this series from Warner Brothers, you know what to expect. While Warner's pretty much mined most of the gold from their vaults for the first two Film Noir collections, there are still some gems here. One particular film of interest, especially for Raymond Chandler fans, is Lady in the Lake. Directed by and starring Robert Montgomery, the film is notable for it's first person camera perspective, telling Philip Marlowe's usually complicated tale of deceit and murder. Other films are: On Dangerous Ground, His Kind of Women, The Racket, and Forbidden Passage. WB also includes a sixth disc which has the feature lenght documentary Film Noir: Bringing Darkness to Light, and five shorts from the Crime Doesn't Pay series. I haven't seen the set yet, so I can't speak to several of the films. I have seen Lady in the Lake, and recommend it, especially to Marlowe fans. The first two collections were excellent, with some films that are wonderful discoveries for those, like myself, who hadn't seen them. We've been told the films are exclusive to the box set only, and will not be sold separately.

The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. and Jack of All Trades :The Complete Series
Fans of Bruce Campbell will very glad to see two of his short-lived television series are hitting DVD this week. If you aren't familiar with these two series, you are in for a treat. The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. sadly only lasted one season, but left a huge fan base in it's wake. The series follows bounty hunter Brisco County Jr. and his highly intelligent horse Comet travel the west catching bad guys and completing secret missions given to him by government agent and tenderfoot, Socrates Poole. Brisco is intially rivaled by, then teamed up with fellow bounty hunter, Lord Bowler as Brisco seeks to bring down arch enemy John Bly. The series is equal parts comedy, western, buddy action series, science fiction, spy...well you get the point. It was hard to label, which is why it was so good. It borrows a little bit from the different genres, and throws in a little Wild, Wild West for good measure.
Jack of All Trades stars Campbell in an equally quirky, but not quite as good series. Campbell stars as American secret agent, Jack Stiles, sent by President Thomas Jefferson to spy and fight against Napoleon's forces in the East Indies. Stiles teams up with the beautiful counterpart British agent, Emilia Rothschild. He also dons the secret identity of The Daring Dragon, a local folk hero, in order to get around and further protect his true identity. It sounds a little quirky, but it works on a very comedy adventure level. Also stars Verne "Mini-me" Troyer in a recurring role as Napoleon.

German Silents

Many of you may have never heard of these films. If you have seen any of the work of German silent film directors like Fritz Lang, then you know these films are dark and very stylized. Metropolis or The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (a Shelf Halloween classic)contain some examples of the early German style from the 1920s and early 30s. These directors and some of the stars made their way to Hollywood in light of the Nazi domination of Germany, and brought some their style and vision to American films. These three films deal somewhat with the Berlin underground and with very grity and dark emotions. The work of these directors, in some way, are precusors to American Film Noir style. German and English subtitles are included, but should not dissuade you from experiencing the style and stories that make these very entertaining films. The Films include Fritz Lang's Dr. Marbuse, The Gambler, Arthur Robinson's Warning Shadows, and Joe May's Asphalt.

The Adventures of Flash Gordon: The Complete Series
Ahh... nostalgia.
If you missed Wolf's recent piece on Saturday Morning cartoons, go ahead and check it out. I'll wait....
Back already? Good. Now, I am a bit older than Wolf, so some of the cartoons that I remember predate his list. This is one of them. I loved 1979's The New Adventures of Flash Gordon. This is just one of the great action adventure animated series by Filmation. Others I really liked were Zorro and Tarzan. Some great classic stories! Nothing wrong with that- but as a kid, I didn't realize these were characters that had been around for years. To me, I was just discovering them. I was surprised when I was a little bit older to discover that old Flash had been around for a while, which led me to read his and some of the other characters adventures. Not many animated series like that around anymore. During the late 70s, Flash was undergoing a period of renewed interest. Let's not discuss the feature film though, shall we? ("Flash! Ahhh- Flash! Ahhh") Anyway, this was a great adventure series that was somewhat patterned after the orginal comic strip. This is definitely a Shelf favorite.

More Great Television:
Amazing Stories: The Complete First Season
Steven Speilberg's great series that owed a nod to The Twilight Zone, with a bit more nostalgia and sentiment thrown in. One of my favorite episodes, The Mission, is included here. Very well written and directed series, that featured many guest stars and directors. Two episodes were directed by Speilberg. If you remember the show, you know this was perhaps it's best season. If you've never seen it, you're in for a treat.

The Incredible Hulk: The Complete First Season

C'mon man! if you were a kid in the late 70s, you watched The Hulk. That was some freaky special effects back then! Ok- not really, it was just make-up, double exposures and sound effect. Still- it was the Hulk! You know the deal, Bruce Banner is hitchhiking to god knows where and along the way he helps people. Oh, and when he gets pissed off, he turns into the Hulk and saves the day. You really wouldn't like him when he's angry. Instead of the General from the comic book and his love interest Betty and his sidekick Rick, the series worked up a different story that worked the outcast angle.


Assorted Stuff:
Big Brother 7 All-stars:
This week Kaysar is HOH. Nak and Diane are on the block. If you watch the show you know exactly what I'm talking about. If not- check it out, it's only week two. Not much catching up required.

Comedy Central Sunday Line-Up:
Chappelle's Show: The Lost Episodes, Mind of Mencia, and Reno 911!
This coming Sunday is the last of the "lost episodes". Don't miss it.

Turner Classic Movies
Shelf Picks for TCM:

July 19th: It's a night of Film Noir with Follow Me Quietly (1949), The House Across The Street (1949), Born To Be Bad (1950), and On Dangerous Ground (1951).

July 20th: Tribute to Elizabeth Taylor tonight with: Beau Brummell (1954), Ivanhoe (1952), and Little Women (1949).

July 21st: Love blooms during Nero's persecutions in Quo Vadis (1951). Later Bogie is head of a gang whose patriotism leads them to flush out Nazi Spies on the homefront in All Through The Night (1942). Stick around for a Hitchcock double bill with The 39 Steps (1935) and Young and Innocent (1937).

July 22nd: A night for essentials! The Maltese Falcon (1941), The Wings Of Eagles (1957), and To Kill A Mockingbird (1962).

July 23rd: Charles Laughton in his legendary performance as The Hunchback Of Notre Dame (1939). Cary Grant raises Joan Fontaine's Suspicion (1941).

July 24th: Don't miss some shadowy suspense with Sherlock Holmes and the Woman in Green (1945) and Orson Welles' The Third Man (1949). Later be sure to catch a Jack Benny double feature: To Be or Not to Be (1942) and George Washington Slept Here (1942).

July 25th: It's a long day, so set the TiVo! Spencer Tracey brings the action and drama with Northwest Passage (1940)and Bad Day At Black Rock (1955). Still two more can't miss classics later: Meet John Doe (1941), To Have And Have Not (1944). Then Bob Hope brings the laughs with My Favorite Brunette (1947) and My Favorite Spy (1951).

Bird Dog over at Maggie's Farm sent us a link to a fan-riffic site for Adam West. Check it out!
Thanks Bird Dog, for the link.
Also we would like to thank the brewmasters, Amid Amidi and Jerry Beck over at Cartoon Brew. They were very kind in linking to one of our previous posts about the current state of animation. We are grateful for the link and the many new visitors it brought. We hope you like what you see and will continue to come back.

Well, Shelfers, the gig is up. Reckon it's time to give ourselves up and return to the real world.
Did we miss anything? See a favorite of yours in the roundup? Disagree with a pick? Sound off in the comments section. As always, your comments are welcome.

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

I distrust a close-mouthed man. He generally picks the wrong time to talk and says the wrong things. Talking's something you can't do judiciously, unless you keep in practice.

Monday, July 17, 2006

the shelf mailbag

I guess you could call this segment: "Reader Mail", but that wouldn't be the complete truth. It is, in part, sparked by an email we received and a comment made many posts ago. We recently received an email from someone who asked us:
"Why do you cover so many unimportant topics like movies, etc. and only sometimes talk about the important things going on in the world."
This emailer, "Jim" we'll call him, also went on another paragraph or so with a diatribe about our politics (which we have never really revealed here, but never shy away from) and other assorted "talking points" that must have come from some conspiracy theorist lefty camp-site. I will spare you the rest (and kind of thinking it might have been part of a mass mailing I deleted it anyway). However, his first question is a legitimate one, and not too long ago one of our posts received a somewhat similar, yet more polite, question. I would like to give a very brief response that may or may not satisfy any of you who might ask the same thing.

When we started The Shelf, we had two distinct ideas in mind:
1. Everyone has a real shelf at home and a mental one. There on your physical shelf, might be stored books, CDs, DVDs, or whatever that is important and recurring in your life. Take a look at your shelves at home. What movies are there? What books do you read and reread? What music do you own that you listen to, again and again. There are probably photos, momentos of trips, and even artifacts from your family, or even just some change and car keys. Either way, it many ways what is on your shelf is very telling about what you choose to say about yourself and what you may not necessarily choose to say about yourself. Our "mental shelves" are the same way. The are the thoughts, pictures, and things that we have on our mind. The things we think about and we let simmer, or put on the backburner for later. They are important as well. It is our contention that popular culture, which is influenced by everyday people, influences current events and history as well as reflects our culture, our history and our philosophies. Those are things on our shelf and they are worth discussing.

2. We didn't want to set out to cover everything and to re-invent the wheel. Therefore- somethings would come at random, as the appeared on our mental shelf, as well as what might hit the physical shelf at home. We would discuss the things of popular culture, politics, history, and philosophy, etc as we desired. Yes, its somewhat eclectic, but human beings are eclectic. No one person is completely focused on one thing; other things enter and leave our lives. This site would be a reflection of that. Therefore, we don't always discuss politics. When we do, we tend to rant a little, but we try to back up as much of it as we can. No piecemeal or fodder here. I am trained as a historian, a researcher, so perhaps I tend to over analyze or overthink things. Ultimately, we give you what we think, why we do, and the very bottom line or the big picture. If someone else, like our friends at Maggie's Farm or Gateway has it covered and has said what we would, no reason to restate it- we just direct you to what we think is important any link you to them. Victor Davis Hanson said it best? Link 'em. Someone over at Cinerati or Greenbrier covers a film or DVD in way we don't need to top? Link 'em. Anyone out there have the good on something we're talking about, or a great site or article that we think you need to see? Link 'em. Get the picture?

So you see, we know full well that the world can be the pits sometimes. We know that there are frightening, life changing, and dire and important things happening around the world. We don't think you always come here for that or for a rehash. If we have a take that we don't think has been verbalized, don't worry- we'll spell it out. In the meantime, you can stick around for a bit for some refuge here at The Shelf. Enjoy our posts, read our ramblings, entertain yourself with our humor, satire, and sillyness. Visit our friends in the The Shelf Community. Inform yourself with Shelf Links. Check out What's On The Shelf, and see if there is something that might interest you. This is a place for all of that and more.

We believe we are fighting a good fight here at home, a part of a culture war in some ways. We've discussed the "cultural elitists" at The Shelf before. For some reason there are people who believe that A. Nothing is good unless me or some other of my ilk say it is good... and B. Nothing that occured before the 1960s is worth a damn. The enlightened life really started then. To the cultural elitists, like Jim if the rest of his email is to be believed, everything that came before is primtive, unenlightened, racist, myopic, or otherwise unworthy. To them we say a collective "Hogwash" and we will continue to feature classics, good stuff, and point out their hypocrisies and their own myopia.

We have plans for other things in the near future. We hope you will enjoy them. We've been encouraged to make this a full fledged site. We're thinking about it- we'd like to hear some feedback from all of you. Let us know what you think? What do you like, what do wish we would do more of and what do you wish we'd stop doing? It won't necessarily change The Shelf, but it will give us an idea of what's working and what isn't. So please stay tuned, and sound off if you wish in the comments sections. We appreciate your visits, your comments, and your time.

Stay tuned tomorrow for mega media roundup!

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

Well, there are some things a man just can't run away from.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

saturday morning fever

While cruising around at work some pretty random thoughts can just pop into my mind. Being the random guy that I am, I always follow them
to the end of the thought chain and end up missing a turn and pondering whether or not it was the pills or the peanut butter and banana sandwiches that did Elvis in on the toilet that fateful day. Just the other day as I was at work recovering from the Independence Day celebration I attended, a couple of these thoughts dropped into my otherwise hollow dome. One of these thoughts was about Saturday mornings. I'm not too terribly old, but I'm old enough to remember waking up on Saturday morning in the early 80's and watching some
good cartoons from about 7 to 12. (If I got up at 6 I could've caught a
little more time with my animated pals but I had to draw the line
somewhere.) Five hours solid of great shows like Charlie Brown and Snoopy, the Hair Bear Bunch, Shirt Tales, and the Wacky Races just to name a few. I even watched that show with Hulk Hogan and all the wrestlers. You know the one. It was hosted by Captain Lou Albano and locally it came on right before Mr. T. I'd sit there and eat my generic Cheerios in awe of the TV commercial kids who looked as if they experienced almost orgasmic sensations each time they shoveled a spoonful of Cookie Crisp into their gullets. Every so often I got to see what new He-Man or G.I. Joe action figure I could bug my mom about for months to come. I remember going back to school on the Monday after and having great discussions with the other kids about all the trucks and gadgets we saw advertised. Saturday morning was an event. It wasn't just the cartoons. It was the commercials. Where did that form of programming go to? I wouldn't even leave the house to brutalize my action figures with the kid down the street until one o'clock and that's saying a lot. These were epic G.I. Joe battles. I still remember the satisfaction I felt when my all-time favorite ,Snake Eyes, activated the home made catapult I had loaded with a rotten mushroom and struck a bull's-eye on my buddy's Destro taking him off of his dirt and bark built fortress. Somehow the programmers and advertisers held me back from the beloved violence of plastic verses expired vegetation for several hours each week.
When I see the Saturday morning programming of today I wonder what kids look forward to all week at school and talk about on Monday in home room. News programs, live action pre-teen dramas and car commercials? In my best Jerry Seinfeld all I can say is: up....with that? Virtually every show and commercial was purposely geared towards kids when I and many others were young. For cryin' out loud, they even advertised for the prizes you found in your box of Cap'n Crunch! This was a 'no adults allowed' style of programming and I loved it. Now it almost seems as if TV execs have given up on the formerly sacred handful of hours. Some may argue that if kids have too many good things to watch, they waste their Saturday morning and get no exercise. Well I say that's grade A poop. Sure I spent my whole morning watching TV, but the rest of the day was spent hard at play recreating the episode of Johnny Quest or Dungeons and Dragons I had just seen. To top it off, that style of programming got me up at 7 AM which is a feat my parents never mastered in my 17 years at home. I counter with the fact that with this garbage our kids have on the current Saturday mornings,
they may as well sleep until 12 and mope around all afternoon saying 'What do you want to do today?....I don't know. What do you want to do?' . It's a cycle of nothingness.
This is very dangerous. Their minds may become listless from lack of animated moral instruction and demographic specific bludgeoning
from toy manufacturers. You know Saturday morning used to be a great time or parents as well. Kids just got up and made cereal before sitting down to take in some Gummy Bears action. All the while parents could stay nestled into their beds at least until 10 with a comfort of mind from the knowledge that Gargemel never gets to eat a Smurf and that Shipwreck or maybe even Lady Jane will tell your kids that knowing is half the battle. These are all things of the past. Why? Why did TV execs throw Saturday to the dogs? Cartoons used to be a great escape but at the same time taught you lessons in morality. There are plenty who say that cartoons shouldn't be teaching our kids. Parents should. I very much agree, but I sure appreciate when the shows they watch reinforce the character my wife and I try to instill into them. They can definitely help. My parents always told me that stealing was wrong, but it didn't hit home until I watched Mr. T's team of gymnasts take
down some thieves and Mr. T himself pointed from the TV and said, "Stealing is wrong!". Is that the best way to learn our socially accepted behavior?
Probably not. Is it wrong to have your parent's wise instructions confirmed by the Fraggles? Probably not. So what's the explanation for major networks not supporting this type of programming? I would completely support a revival of a retro Saturday toon movement. I'd rather my sons watch that than some of the borderline mature anime stuff that's out there now. I think it would encourage our kids to be kids; and decent kids at that. The same thing has happened to comic books. I've never been a hardcore comic book guy, but I've been a fan of the Archie series since I was a kid. I remember going to get a comic book and seeing that there were just as many kid's comics as there were serious super hero books. I went into a comic store recently and was totally in shock. There was one small section where you could find a kid's style comic book but it was dwarfed by a couple walls of comics with blood and gore and scantily clad women in suggestive positions
on all the covers. This was not a place for kids. It's been hijacked!! I love nostalgia and so do plenty others from mine and earlier generations, but these things are not what we knew and loved. I've even noticed that a mainstay for kids, McDonald’s, doesn't really even market to children anymore. It used to be that kids were the driving force behind the popularity of everyone's favorite disturbing clown. Since McDonald's has become one of those businesses that could probably print their own money, they've forgotten the kids. Being an adult, I understand the need for less TV and more activity and less fast-food and more good-food. At the same time I understand the need for our kids to be kids in order for them to become proper adults. In our society's quest to raise the perfect child prototype, we've forgotten to add in a childhood. Does your child really want to play soccer, baseball, and piano with practice every day year round or is it the parent who wants it with their loving child only trying to impress and please their parents? I don't know. I guess we'll find out in the years to come when we see the adults they have become. I'm not one of these guys who live in his parent’s basement and still collect action figures. I'm just concerned for my children and their childhood. This also involves the post written earlier on this site about the suspended state of animation. My father did what he could to show us kids the things he watched as a boy and as a result I love the Three Stooges, Marx Bros., Looney Toons,and other things from his day. These combined with what I watched in my time to develop my sense of humor and even my outlook on life. Why do WB and those like them refuse to allow us to buy their classic cartoons to pass on to our children? I don't want Yu-Gi-O aiding me in my child's development. I want them to watch droopy and see that the little guy has a chance. I want them to watch Woody Wood Pecker and see that no matter how out-gunned you may be you can always out-smart your opponent. These may all be ramblings to you and yes it is random, but in my mind it makes me think of one thing: If we think our world is bad now, what will it be like when it's being run by
adults who never really got to be children?

Feel free to comment if the need strikes you.

Time for Timer!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

one-armed men wouldn't be able to serve tacos...

What's the matter kid? Something got ya down? Don't look so glum, chum! We're here to turn that frown upside down- or at least make you laugh so hard you shoot milk through your nose. It's time for that ancient mysterious ritual performed every week in order to keep the universe aligned. That weekly foray into pop culture goodness known as the Media Roundup. Strap yourself in, it's time to hit the metal to the pedal...

Top Shelf Pick of the Week:
Reno 911!: Season Three

I know what you are thinking: "Mr. Loophole didn't choose a classic film for Top Shelf Pick of the Week?!?!" But before you really start throwing around those question marks and exclamation points like they were going out of style, hear me out. Reno 911! is one of the funniest shows on television. Sure we liked Chappelle. Yes, South Park rules. But there is something about this show that just makes you realize: hey these guys are not PC, they don't care, and they are hilarious. What is up with that? Remember MTV's The State? Some of those guys are here. Think this is just a parody of cop shows like Cops! or Real Stories of the Highway Patrol? You are only partially right. This show skewers pop culture, television , stereotypes, and anything else that comes in its sights. A mix of improv and hilarious characters and fantastic visual humor (some of my favorite bits are when Junior pulls someone over), Reno 911! is perhaps one the more underappreciated shows on Comedy Central and receives very little press or hype. And yet it's season DVD sets sell like gangbusters and the are in the process of making a Reno 911! movie. I don't see any Chappelle Show movies coming out anytime soon (and too bad). One of the things that make the show really work is the cast and the characters. Some great minor characters like Craig, Terry, and the milkshake guy are some of the best in recent television. If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favor and catch Seasons 1 and 2 and then catch up with Lt. Dangle and crew in Season 3.

Fox Studio Classics

The Black Swan, The River's Edge, The Keys of the Kingdom

This week Fox Studios is releasing a trio of classic films, all new to DVD. One film, in particular, is very much anxiously awaited: The Black Swan. Released, perhaps to coincide with The Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest hitting the theaters, The Black Swan is a swashbuckler starring Tyrone Power and Maureen O'Hara. Pirate Henry Morgan is made Provincial Governor of Jamaica and sets out to rid himself and the Caribbean of pirates (and by doing so gets rid of competition). Tyrone Power as Captain Waring leads the others against Morgan and along with the former Governor's daughter, Margaret Denby (O'Hara), who he has kidnapped- he takes the fight to Morgan. The commentary track is of particular interest to fans, as it features film historian Rudy Behlmer and star Maureen O'Hara. The River's Edge stars Ray Milland as desperate villain, Nardo Denning trying to get away from authorities. He comes across the home of Ben Cameron (Anthony Quinn) and Mrs. Cameron (Debra Padget) and forces them to get him and his stolen booty (sorry, still on the pirates) to Mexico. The Keys of the Kingdom features Gregory Peck as a priest sent by his superior (Vincent Price) to China to work as a result of his unorthodox methods. In China, the priest encounters the hardships you would expect, but also a chance to connect with the people and help them against an invading army. All of these movies were based on novels. In fact the novel that The Black Swan was based on was written by the same author, Rafael Sabatini, who wrote the novels The Sea Hawk and Captain Blood- both made in to movies starring Errol Flynn.


Bing Crosby: Good and Rare

The album should win an award for "most obvious title that a music industry moron thought up in less than 5 seconds". If there was a reward for such a thing. Nonetheless, the album lives up to its name. This is collection of songs from Broadway shows, movies, and some from radio show appearances. Not all of them immediately associated with der Bingle. This is an album more for fans of Bing's voice and work, and is not a greatest hits album by any means.

Aretha Franklin: Live at Fillmore West
The Queen Diva of Soul is at her very best in this 2 disc set of her concert at the Fillmore in 1971. Included are some of her best known hits, but also some rare stuff, like a duet with Ray Charles who was there that evening. Fans, as well as casual listeners will be wowed by not only the energy and rawness, but the depth of her voice and music. Definitely a classic.

Television (check local listings for times)

Assorted stuff:

Big Brother 7: All Stars.
The scheming has begun. If you haven't been keeping up with one of our guilty pleasures, well- perhaps you just haven't tried. Danielle and Allison are up on the block, and with several houseguests gunning for first blood, this might be one of the fiercest first evictions ever. Gone are the days of evicting out someone we never get to know, just because no one knows them. Danielle and Allison tried to pull off a scheme and blew up in their faces. These Houseguest know way too much about each other. Time to bring your "A" game.

Titin and I: OK this is perhaps somewhat strange, but I gotta tell you, I've enjoyed some shows on PBS lately. Just don't tell Wolf. Tintin and I is documentary by filmmaker Anders Østergaard on European cartoonist Hergé and his famous creation, boy reporter and adventurer, Tintin. I read Tintin comics growing up and I loved them. Hugely popular in Europe, Canada, and other parts of the world and yet not so much here in the States. That's sad, because Hergé was extremely talented and his comic adventures were great and wonderfully illustrated. You can read more about the documentary at the PBS website.
History Detectives: Alright, I am a bit of a sucker when it comes to shows like this. Trust me, just check it out, entertaining and informative - check it out. A good way to introduce kids to history and dispell the notion that it's boring and not important.

Reno 911!: Man, what else can I say about the show- just go check it out!


Shelf Picks for Turner Classic Movies

July 12th: Dont' miss Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck in Frank Capra's classic Meet John Doe (1941). Later, watch Shakespeare done as Film Noir in Orson Welles: The Tragedy of Othello, The Moor of Venice (1952).
July 13th: It's an Elizabeth Taylor Trifecta: Suddenly, Last Summer (1959), Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (1958), and A Place in the Sun (1951).
July 14th: Idealistic school teacher Glenn Ford faces off againsrabblele rouser Vic Marrow with a little help from Sydney Poitier in Blackboard Jungle (1955).
July 15th: An eclectic day at TCM kicking things off with Film Noir classic Born To Kill (1947). Don't forget to watch those genius brothers Marx in Monkey Business (1931). Robert Mitchum is gearing up for trouble in Thunder Road (1958). Top it all off with Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent (1940).
July 16th: It's a tribute in honor of lovely leading lady June Allyson: The Reformer And The Redhead (1950), Best Foot Forward (1943), Private Screenings: June Allyson (1998), Too Young To Kiss (1951), Little Women (1949), and Good News (1947).
July 17th: Catch some early and not so well known James Cagney and don't miss the documentary: Lady Killer (1933), Here Comes the Navy (1934), and James Cagney: Top of the World (1992).
July 18th: In honor of the release of Warner Brother's Tough Guy DVD Box set you can watch many of the films this night on TCM: Each Dawn I Die (1939), G-Men (1935), San Quentin (1937), and Bullets Or Ballots (1936).

Did we miss anything? Looking forward to something coming out next week? We sure are. Sound off in the comment section.

That's all for this edition of the roundup. Go tell your friends about us- in case they haven't already told you! We love having visitors. Next time come back an stay a while, kick your shoes off. Y'all come back now, ya hear?

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

I'm in five gangs now. I started two. I started the Kitties and the Grape Slushies.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

her best foot forward

We were saddened to hear that Shelf favorite and wonderful lady and actress, June Allyson, passed away Saturday at the age of 88. You can read a bit about her and the news of her passing here and here. Ms. Allyson was a bright face in cinema during the 40s and 50s. Her co-stars, like Jimmy Stewart, Van Johnson, and former husband Dick Powell, often were reteamed with her, as she had a easy going charm and a natural chemistry on screen. Recently, we reviewed one of June's movies, The Glenn Miller Story, a Shelf Favorite, which you can read here. Thanks, June... we will miss you.

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.



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