Archive for March, 2012


Dear Alicia,

Blue Ribbon Panel

As the Daily Show often does, I’m adding a new feature – from time to time, when I feel the urge to do son I’m writing a letter to a favorite character, actor, commentor, what have you. I’m starting with The Good Wife‘s Alicia Florrick.

Dear Alicia,

Give up that Highland Park house idea at once.

I cringed when you wrote to the owner basically appealing to her heart to let you have the house at a lower price.  We both know the one thing you’re not is stupid. We also should both know that $1.9 million is ridiculously overpriced for Highland Park and that in this economy your bonus and raise were not that big.

Besides going back is rarely a good idea. Your kids are getting a much more interesting education and life experience in the city than they would on the North Shore. It’s not like moving back would keep them out of trouble. We both know of that social ills abound in Highland Park.

Remember that all your friends back there were snobs. Not all people in HP are, but we haven’t seen one kind old friend in three years. You weren’t good at choosing friends back there.

Also do you need a two hour commute each way from home to the office?

If you’re dead set on HP because your kids are nostalgic for it, take a look at some real estate listings. You can get a good house for half that!

Also, while I enjoyed The Blue Ribbon Panel episode this week, tell your writers that there are no express trains after about 7pm on the Red Line/Purple Line.

Let Jackie do whatever she wants with her money. It’s a free world, but get this emotional tie to the past under control.  It doesn’t suit you.




Iron Lady

I made my way through Iron Lady, the Margaret Thatcher biopic with Meryl Streep. While I agree Streep should be commended for her portrayal of Thatcher, I can’t say I’d want to sit through the film again. It’s an interesting take in some respects, but I had to make myself resume watching as I found the foggy look back at Thatcher’s life through the fog of dementia got old after awhile.

I liked the opening scenes with an old, retired Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher slipping out to get some milk at a mom and pop store, and I stayed with the film in the beginning as it cut back and forth between the time of Thatcher’s later years when memories of her past and hallucinations of her jovial dead husband come up unbidden (yet in more or less chronological order) and the start of her career.  Yet as the movie progressed and the film never headed for deeper water, I got bored.

I learned that Thatcher was a grocer’s daughter and that she had idolized her father who espoused staunch “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” conservatism. She got accepted at Oxford and we don’t see much of her days there. It seems Oxford didn’t get her to change or deepen her thinking one iota. Evidently, university wasn’t an important part of her life. I must remind myself that since the story is seen through the eyes of someone with dementia the narrator isn’t reliable. (Not a technique I’d use for a biopic after seeing this.) Soon the film jumps to Maggie’s catching the eye of Denis Thatcher at a political meeting and they’re soon married. Denis starts out as a progressive man who is attracted to Margaret’s strength, but as the movie continues he’s sort of a cheerleader with few ideas of substance to offer his political wife.

After some speech lessons and media coaching Margaret soon manages to get elected as the first female Prime Minister of the U.K. With overhead shots of a sole light blue suited woman amongst a herd of dark suited men and one white pair of white pumps surrounded by a dozen brown Oxfords, Iron Lady offers us strong images accentuating the gender imbalance Thatcher faced. I do applaud her for making her way into this Old Boy’s Club, yet I felt it was too bad that apparently she didn’t bother to bring in even one other woman.

The scenes when Thatcher had to make hard decisions regarding the Falkland Islands and economic policy present us with a real iron lady, but Thatcher also seems to be a woman with one idea and no friends whatsoever. She does grieve over an aide who died when the IRA planted a car bomb, but there was no dimension to that friendship. There isn’t much dimension to any of the relationships or ideology. From this I suppose Thatcher was as flat and simple as Reagan, her pal.

I appreciate the demands of the film which required that Streep play an ambitious politician who has to fight for her place at the table and a faltering, once  powerful woman, aware that her mind’s playing tricks. In the end that wasn’t enough. I grew tired of the shifting from the present to the past.

I know what dementia’s like and it’s a losing battle, thus not one I’d choose for a main character. I also found myself judging her children and the Brits for not providing adequate care for their aging Prime Minister. Surely, Thatcher wasn’t the first P.M. to decline this way. Why would she be left on her own so much? Why would those who care for her have that amateurish “Oh, she’s losing it” surprise that people who aren’t experts in dementia have (which the patient’s aware of and hates)?

In the end I wish they’d have sacrificed some of the cool images and given us more depth of character.


Act One Deadline: April 15th

The deadline for Act One’s 2012 Summer Screenwriting Program is fast approaching.

There are scholarships available. It’s a challenging program for Christian writers that will take your writing to a higher level.


Slackers need not apply.



Sound Cloud: Dr. Peter Kreeft

Here’s a recording of Dr Peter Kreeft talking to Act One screenwriters on Why What They Do Matters and Why it Matters to God.


exporting raymond

If cross-cultural endeavors interest you or if you’re an Everybody Loves Raymond fan, Exporting Raymond should tickle your funny bone. The documentary Exporting Raymond follows executive producer Phil Rosenthal to Moscow as he consults with the Russian team that plans to bring this down-to-earth American sitcom to an audience that loves over-the-top comedy, like the Russian versions of The Nanny or Married with Children.

Rosenthal’s witty and approachable. I empathized with him as he tried to convince the intense looking costume designer that Debra shouldn’t be dressed in white cashmere when she’s spent the day cleaning This formidable woman wouldn’t hear of it. Style was everything in her book.  When Rosenthal tried to figure out whether his driver really was in the hospital or whether he was lying and just on vacation, I smiled with recognition. Yep, one never knows what the real story is, just roll with it, Phil.

I found it all fascinating from the grim, decrepit studios to the stone faced execs — all very telling. I liked the documentary so much I watched the special features and deleted scenes.


More Irish Music

Damian McGinty singing “Falling Slowing.” This would make a good song for Glee.

U2 and Mary J Blige – “One Love”

Glee singing “One Love”





Danny Boy by Damian McGinty

I’m still having fun pinning and blogging about St. Patrick’s Day.


Some Favorite Irish Actors

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, let me honor my favorite Irish actors and actresses including those of Irish descent.

  1. Gabriel Byrne of In Treatment. I am slowing getting through my DVDs for Season 2 and am loving the intense, intelligent drama
  2. John Mahoney, who’s in season 2 of In Treatment, and is a memberof Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater. I’ve seen him in several plays there including. Mahoney is great on stage, the big screen or the idiot box. A piece of trivia, when I attended an event for the Steppenwolf, Mahoney pulled out the names of raffle winners and as he did this I had this strong feeling that I’d win. I did. So we shook hands when he gave me my prize.
  3. Meg Ryan has always been a favorite. When Harry Met Sally and You’ve Got Mail are among the best romantic comedies ever made.
  4. Aidan Quinn. He was great in Legends of the Fall and many other films. He’s also from Steppenwolf, though I’ve never seen him on stage.
  5. Moira Kelly from The West Wing and she was one of the best things on One Tree Hill, a guilty pleasure of mine. She also starred with Martin Sheen in Entertaining Angels, a biopic of Dorothy Day’s Life.
  6. Sean Connery. He’s got the tough, wise man down. Never saw him as James Bond, though I’m sure he did well. (Nothing wrong with that series just haven’t gotten to it. So little time, so many movies.)
  7. Glee’s Jane Lynch, her sarcasm is just delicious and she’s also great in Best in Show one of my favorite comedy films.
  8. The Glee Project’s Damian McGinty exudes “Erin Go Bragh” not that I’m thrilled with the lazy stereotyped role he’s got on Glee. Still glad this Celtic Thunder perfomer won the reality show competition.
  9. Bonnie Hunt, who I so wish was on television at least weekly. She’s both funny and smart and I hope someone gives her lots of money to make whatever film or show she’d like.
  10. Denis Leary plays up his Irish heritage in his humor and in Rescue Me, a show I found compelling, yet too graphic for my tastes. So I recommend it although I just can’t watch it myself.
  11. Martin Sheen‘s role as Jeb Bartlett has forever earned him a place in my heart. The West Wing was such a great show. Many’s the time I wish he was President.
  12. Diane Keaton‘s career from The Godfather to Annie Hall to Something’s Gotta Give her work always carries and imprint of wit and dignity.

As for Irish American actors, the list goes on and on.


Midnight in Paris

Woody Allen‘s Midnight in Paris charmed me. In Midnight in Paris, Gil (Owen Wilson) yearns for a bye gone era surely life would be better in the 1920s in Paris, if possible. His annoyingly practical  fiancee Inez thinks Gil”s nuts. In her view, there’s nothing better than playing it safe, making money and keeping up with the Joneses.  These two have nothing in common. She seems like she’s never read a book that wasn’t required reading. We know he’ll be rid of her by the time the credits roll.

Gils the Woody Allen character clearly and he falls into a delightful wormhole of sorts. As he strolls around Paris late at night a 1920s taxi picks him up at midnight and takes him to a party where he meets Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald. This leads him to meeting more writers and artists of the Moveable Feast era. Gil’s in heaven.

Continuing these nightly strolls, wears away the thin fabric that keeps his ho hum engagement going. Also, self-described hack Gil gets the gumption to commit to his novel with the encouragement of Gertrude Stein. We see this way before Gil does. There’s nothing we haven’t seen as far as time travel or Woody Allen relationships go, but with the beauty of Paris and Allen’s dialog, we’re happy to go along for the ride. Who wouldn’t like a nice meander around such a romantic city?

N.B. In Allen’s Paris there are no rude waiters or any annoying French people. Just friendly charmers, who seem to like Americans. Tres bonne, n’est pas?


Downton Abbey

I let a friend use my computer to watch Downton Abbey since she couldn’t. Afterwards, I felt I had to re-watch it before PBS stopped showing it. What satisfying drama! I was as absorbed as the first time and there just aren’t many programs or movies that are so good, you can watch them twice in just a few days or weeks.

Again, the costumes and sets were stunning and the acting superb. Part of the brilliance of Downton and many English dramas is the understanding that the less emotion that’s overtly shown in times of crisis, the better the effect. In the telenovela or the bad Southeast Asian soaps everyone’s screaming and crying and raving because someone needs their tonsils out or some such mundane problem. So all the emotion seems to be poured out and then some. As an audience member it seems overwrought and it’s off putting.

Lord Grantham on the stand at Bates' trial

But as wise creatives like director Robert Bresson knew and wrote, when the actors show little emotion, it travels into the audience members psyches. We’ll actually feel more. (I realize this could be a very cultural thing, but it works on Americans.) Though I suppose Anna’s cry when Mr. Bate’s verdict was read worked as it was shocking even though we saw his case getting weaker and weaker as circumstantial evidence mounted.

I’m relieved he’s out of her life and like how naturally that enfolded. I like how Fallows writes those scenes showing the effects of revelations rather than the whole retelling of each secret. Effect, effect, effect is how much of Downton proceeds.

So we can’t help but care when Mary stoically puts up with Carlisle to protect her reputation. Like Matthew, we want better for her than this despicable man who just gets worse and worse as he blackmails her. Yes, he was right to feel he wasn’t her first choice and to feel slighted when she’d turn to Matthew to share a joke or insight, but he was just so vulgar and mean, this upstart who begrudged the servants their Christmas lunch, that you really couldn’t sympathize with him.

Violet blessed the show with her wit as always. Her quote on charades was unforgettable repartee. I liked how these elite people all played charades.

Sir Richard: Do you enjoy these games in which the player must appear ridiculous?

Violet: Sir Richard, life is a game in which the players appear ridiculous.

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March 2012
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