Fun With My Imaginary Friends

When I was little I always wanted to be my favorite TV or movie characters. That’s one of the reasons I loved Halloween and costume parties. Those were my opportunities, rare as they were, to dress up as Princess Leia (Star Wars) or Kelly Garrett (Charlie’s Angels) or Mary Ann Summers (Gilligan’s Island).
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In high school I took Theatre Arts so that I could reprise the roles of my most beloved actresses. Like Judy Garland, I got to play Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz. I played the role of Lizzie, Katherine Hepburn’s role from The Rainmaker. I even had the part that Vicki Lawrence played in a skit once performed on The Carol Burnett Show.

 

 

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As an adult it’s much more difficult to “pretend” you are someone else, unless you’re a professional actor or don’t mind being put under doctor’s observation. My dilemma is this: how can I indulge that little urge without completely embarrassing myself or, more importantly, my family?

My friends and I came up with a fun game of make-believe that we play at restaurants. When the host/hostess asks for a name to call when our table is ready, we leave them the name of one of our favorite characters. It’s great fun. It makes the host smile when they recognize the name, and it’s a hoot to watch the other patrons’ facial expressions.

We’ve used Charles Carmichael and John Casey (Chuck), Jack Shephard (Lost), Holly Golightly (Breakfast at Tiffany’s), and others. At one of our preferred local eating establishments the hosts know us and ask, “Who are you today?”  It makes their job  more fun, too.
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Is this silly? Yes, and ridiculous, but don’t we have enough boring and grown-up stuff that we have to do already? I’m not suggesting taking on an alter ego for anything important, serious, or legally binding. However, for the little moments that would be otherwise boring and mundane, I say enjoy! Rather than saying good-bye to our fictional movie friends when the credits roll, enjoy them just a little longer by taking them with you for times such as these.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading!

Grant Me the Serenity…

Are you a Firefly or Serenity lover? I am!

Yes, I admit I was a little late to the party. I didn’t see the original series on FOX until after it was cancelled. I did see the movie in the theatre, and I was addicted. Once hooked, I spent a Saturday watching every episode—including the ones that never aired on TV.

Firefly is one of those shows that catches your attention right from the beginning. It’s a futuristic space Western and a full-fledged Joss Whedon spectacle in every way. It’s humorous, fraught with sadness and suspense, and violent at times, with a healthy dose of sensitivity for balance.

Every character is loveable and loathsome—real, in other words. Nathan Fillion (now on Castle) is Mal Reynolds, captain of the Serenity. Alan Tudyk (now on Suburgatory) is the pilot, Wash. Gina Torres (now on Suits) plays Zoe, the first mate, as well as Wash’s wife. Adam Baldwin (from Chuck) plays Jayne Cobb, resident mercenary. Jewel Staite (The L,A, Complex) plays adorable Kaylee, the ship’s mechanic.

The rest of the cast is rounded out with Serenity’s passengers: Morena Baccarin (Homeland) as a “companion,” Ron Glass (from Barney Miller) as a priest, Sean Maher (from Make It or Break It) as a doctor, and Summer Glau (most recently on Alphas) as the doctor’s younger sister who seems to be a victim of Manchurian Candidate-type brainwashing.

To say this series was well-done or ahead of its time is understating the facts. Why was it cancelled then? There’s way too much to tell here in my little blog. Suffice it to say that it’s worth watching. To help you out, I’m adding a link to the special Blu-ray deal available today on Amazon. Watch the series and you’ll soon find yourself swearing in Chinese and replacing “cool” with “Shiny!”

And if that’s not enough, I’m including a link to a book about Joss Whedon written by my sweet friend, Candace Havens! Grab a copy of it as well!

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading!

This Versus That

My whole family loves movies, and one of my sons’ favorite games is “Versus.” They compare movie and TV characters all the time, weighing strengths and weaknesses of each role, as well as the actors’ physical attributes. Whenever they make comparisons, they always offer their reasoning behind their decisions. It’s a wonderful exercise in critical thinking.

The game has been around forever, I suppose. When I was a kid, the big debate was Superman versus Mighty Mouse. I guess these days, most people don’t even know who Mighty Mouse is. I tend to come down on the side of Superman, if for no other reason that he’s not just a cartoon, thus he could beat more villains. (There just aren’t as many cartoon villains as there used to be.)

The other question that I grew up with was Ginger versus Mary Ann, from Gilligan’s Island. That one is mostly for guys, but a wise woman can tell a great deal about a man from his answer to that quiz.

Sunday at lunch, we all got into the debates. It began with James Bond versus Jason Bourne. Of course, we had to stipulate which Bond actor would face Bourne, and my boys settled on Daniel Craig. Because they felt it was still too close to call, they had to settle on a neutral location, as well as what they would be wearing and have on their person.

They argued that because Bond is a gadget guy and Bourne can make a weapon out of just about anything, they would have to fight naked. (I suggested swim trunks, but they were pretty sure that Bourne could use them for a weapon anyway.) They also decided that since almost any location could have a tactical advantage for one over the other, the challengers should be skydiving at the time of their combat.

My youngest son then suggested that the debate was moot, because if they were skydiving naked, they would both die when they hit the ground. True, but I have a feeling that somehow or another, Bond might have a back-up plane (piloted by a Bond girl) that he could swoop into after the fight—assuming he survived. Bourne is the loner type, which does have that disadvantage. It was fun to watch their reasoning play out.

Their match-ups continued. They paired Jackie Chan and Liam Neeson. They pitted Fiona Glenanne (Burn Notice) against Ziva David (NCIS). They matched The Avengers’ Black Widow with Alien’s Ellen Ripley. They put real thought into their game. They batted about names of characters like Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean), John Casey (Chuck), Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly), MacGyver, Indiana Jones, and others.

These kinds of games show me that they are paying attention to the shows that they watch. They understand character development. It also shows how wonderfully these actors embody the roles that they play.

If you ever want to start a fun game with your family, “Versus” is terrific for understanding the way your kids think and perceive others. It will give you insight into their likes and preferences. It’s a good conversation starter.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading!

Are You In?

One of my favorite films of all time is the 1940 classic, His Girl Friday, starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. It’s a lightning-fast-paced movie about love and journalists, and what they’ll do for a scoop.

Two quotes that always catch my attention as I watch the movie, both by Grant, have me laughing out loud, though usually I’m the only one in stitches. Grant plays Walter Burns, whose ex-wife Hildy Johnson, is about to leave his paper to marry Bruce Baldwin. Of Baldwin, Walter says, “He looks like that fellow in the movies—Ralph Bellamy.” What’s funny about that? Well, Bruce Baldwin is played by actor Ralph Bellamy.

In another scene, when told that his newspaper career was through, Walter comes back with, “Listen, the last man that said that to me was Archie Leach, just a week before he cut his throat.” All Cary Grant devotees know that his real name was Alexander “Archie” Leach.

TV has been known for its “inside jokes” as well.

On an episode of NCIS, Kate Todd asks Gibbs what Ducky looked like as a younger man. Gibbs answers, straight-faced, “Illya Kuryakin,” in a nod to actor David McCallum’s character in the 1964 series, Man from U.N.C.L.E.

The NBC series Chuck is known for its guest star turns. A couple of seasons ago Brandon Routh joined the cast as Daniel Shaw. Though Shaw appeared every bit as wholesome and perfect as Captain Awesome, Chuck assured his team that Shaw wasn’t some sort of “Superman.” Brandon Routh had indeed played the Man of Steel in the 2006 feature, Superman Returns.

Why do movies and television shows throw us these silly lines that only make sense to those “in the know”?

I believe it serves two purposes. First, all the people who do “get it” instantly become part of the story and action. After all, inside jokes are for people on the inside. It’s a way for the directors, actors and producers to tell the audience, “You’re part of the family. We know you.”

Second, it works like bait. The filmmakers know there are plenty of viewers watching that will catch the joke, and they will most certainly tell their friends. They in turn, will seek out the work or actor in the reference, thus generating more revenue for Hollywood.

Everybody wants to be “in.”

Sometimes the filmmakers are more subtle about their references. Last week my husband and I went to see Brett Ratner’s new film, Tower Heist, starring Eddie Murphy, Ben Stiller, Alan Alda and Matthew Broderick. This film also stars Steve McQueen’s 1963 250 GT Lusso Ferrari, dressed in a lustrous red coat of paint instead of the true chestnut brown. Broderick and the car share a suspenseful scene that tickled at my brain.

I recalled a film from 25 years earlier in which Broderick spends some quality time with a 1961 250 GT California Spyder Ferrari, also bathed in red. The movie was John Hughes’ 1986 classic, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

I laughed constantly through Tower Heist—everybody in the theatre did. I also felt a connection between this new movie and a favorite from my past. I felt included. I felt “in.”

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading!