Wednesday, December 22, 2010

POP REVIEW: Home for the Holidays (TV 1972)

I've got your present for you. It's a pitchfork!! In your back!!!
The four Morgan sisters reunite, after nine years, as they visit their ailing father.  There is the youngest, Christine (played by a young Sally Fields, fresh off her run as The Flying Nun), an naive innocent college girl, who still depends on her big sisters; Jo (Jill Haworth) the feisty socialite, Fred (Jessica Walter, who was killer in Play Misty for Me, just a year earlier) along with her bottles of vodka, and Alex (Eleanor Parker) the older, mother-hen spinster.
Don't look at him, whatever you do

They've been summoned to their childhood ranch estate by their father (the ever enjoyable Walter Brennan), who is convinced that his new wife (the creepy Julie Harris) is trying to poison him.  Her first husband died under mysterious circumstances, and now the sisters are worried that she is targeting their father's money.  To make matters more difficult, there is a terrible December thunderstorm a-brewing.  Trapped in their secluded childhood home, the sisters keep an eye open for their suspicious stepmother, and open some scabbed over wounds from their own dysfunctional past.
Killer Graphic Tee

Oh... and let's not forget the maniacal killer, dressed in a yellow rain slicker and boots, and red rubber gloves, carrying a pitchfork!

Produced by the dream team of Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg, this TV Movie is already a must see. But then you throw in John Llewellyn Moxey -- the best TV Movie of the Week director ever(!), well, then you just have a hit on your hands.

Oh yeah, Michael Myers.  I got your number.

I can still remember the first time I watched this Yuletide creeper.  It's probably the first slasher flick I ever watched.  Sadly, though, in the pantheon on modern horror, there is no mention of this small screen gem.  Halloween has already been established as the original slasher flick, and has been widely credited for setting the standards and motifs.  Horror buffs will also look back a couple years previous to Black Christmas, and credit that film for establishing the guidelines for all others.  But, no one ever talks about Home for the Holidays.  Clearly, HFTH is well set in the Made for Television vein, with the old fashioned "ladies in distress" theme, and Gothic thriller overtones.  It doesn't compare to the youthful. angsty and lusty predecessors, with their shocks and sex.  But, check out the killer donned in the slasher style garb!

If we all know one thing about slasher flicks, it's that the killer is always masked, his/her identity hidden from the viewer.  HFTH has that motif down pat, and it predates Halloween by a half dozen years (Black Christmas by two years).

Actually, this argument is somewhat of a moot point, seeing that the Italian Giallo pictures had killers running around in rain slickers and gloves long before Spelling and Goldberg decided to make this film

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Best of TV That I Watched in 2010

I don't watch a crud load of TV, meself.  I'm way too picky (and, yes, uppity), and don't just veg on "whatever's on."  I also don't like to get into a bunch of shows that have endless mythology and loads of twists and secrets to uncover throughout 5 seasons.  I guess it's because I come from the old school 70s TV world, where the show's adventure of the week wrapped itself up at the end of the hour.  Sure, they have their ongoing quests -- Land of the Giants crew had to get the hell outa Giant Land; The crew of the Star Trek needed to get home;  Starsky had an insatiable journey to date and fall for every Mob boss' daughter -- but these goals weren't the main focus of every episode... Or, any, if that!!  What was of utmost importance was telling a great tale in that one hour each week.

I do get into some of the serialized shows, if'n they're well written, and the great characters arcs are worth the wait (or weight) of the story arcs. And, especially, if you get a beginning/middle/and end form each episode.  These TV shows with season long story arcs are also a lot more tolerable when their seasons run is 6 to 13 episodes.

There were a number of shows that I didn't get to watch, that I wish I did get to watch -- but, that's what NetFlix is for.  Then, there were shows that I didn't care to watch, no matter who said it was brilliant or wonderful.  But, this list is a list of the shows I did care to watch, and thought were absolutely wondrous.

    • I put these two together, because they have similar themes and equally moving writing. 
    • So so so wrong and politically incorrect.  I'll often laugh, and then look around to make sure I've not been seen.
  • 9.)  JUSTIFIED
    • Timothy Olyphant is part Dirty Harry grit, part John Wayne swagger.
    • An insanely filthy little bugger of a comedy.  Picture the boys from Porkys in a British prep school.
  • 7.)  DR.WHO
    • I have never been a big Dr. Who viewer, but for some reason, I decided to watch this latest incarnation of the series... and I love it!
    • Ray Ramano takes his Ray Barone character and moves him to a dramedy.  Thank God that Andre Braugher is back on TV!!
  • 5.)  MY LIFE AS LIZ
    • I haven't watched anything worth while on MTV since Austin Stories, but followed the buzz to this winner of a show.  Part John Hughes smartness, part My So Called Life angst.
  • 4.)  SKINS (BBC)
    • The show lost a little flare after the original cast moved on, but there is still the solid, unapologetic writing.
    • One of the best sitcoms since Roseanne. I haven't laughed this hard at a sitcom in a long time.
  • 2.)  LOUIE
    • I didn't much care for Louis C.K.s (yes the title spelling "ie" not "is") HBO show, but it did demonstrate Louis' irreverence.  This new FX show is plain killer.  Risky, vulgar, bombastic, thoughtful, and full of genuine pathos.  Oh yeah... and hysterical.
  • 1.)  MAD MEN
    • Hands down, my favorite show on television for the past few years.  It gives wide berth to serialized plot cliches.  The characters are the most unique, unpredictable, and solid of any show going.  The acting, writing, and directing is just brilliant.

As I said before, this list is culled from the shows I watch.  There are programs like Breaking Bad, Dexter, or Boardwalk Empire that are tops on other critic's list that I just have not gotten to see.  And then there are other list toppers that I just don't get, like Lost (yaaaawn),  Pretty Little Liars (seriously -- it made several lists!!), and Friday Night Lights ( I've only watched one episode of this supposed touching family drama, that of which portrayed the rape of a young student with copious and gratuitous close ups of the female victims flesh and curves. Way to demonstrate the pain and humility of rape -- with a li'l old fashioned T&A!!)

And, then some shows just fell short.  Sorry Modern Family.  Sorry Big Bang Theory.  Sorry Amazing Race and Survivor...

As a side note, I'd like to beg the networks (cable included) -- please let Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick create more programs for television.  They are sorely missed.

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