Friday, February 15, 2013


Last weekend, I was half-heartedly flipping through channels on the TV when I stumbled across an episode of “Roseanne” that featured Glenn Quinn. For those of you who’ve never seen the show, Quinn played Mark Healy, the long-term boyfriend (maybe husband, later, I can’t remember) of Becky, Roseanne’s eldest daughter. He’s perhaps best known for this role, and for his stint as Doyle on the first season of “Angel.”

My High School BFF and I had huge crushes on Quinn. Honestly, what wasn’t there to like? He was handsome, with dark hair and beautiful green eyes, and the Irish accent, holy cow (on “Roseanne” he used a fake American accent but you can hear his natural one on “Angel”). Sadly, Quinn died young, in 2002, of a drug overdose. So to did my BFF Julie, in 2004, in a horseback riding accident.

But I digress. Seeing Quinn in the episode of “Roseanne” reminded me of the terrible show he starred in in the early 90s, “Covington Cross.” Julie and I loved this show, in part (I think) for the man candy but also in part for the fact that it was about medieval times, which, as fantasy/sci fi nerds, we approved of. Perhaps unsurprisingly, “Covington Cross” lasted all of 13 episodes.

I got curious to see if it was as bad as I recalled. A quick search on YouTube showed that some kind soul had actually uploaded a few episodes. I watched about five minutes of the pilot, which included a bitch slap fight between the main female character (played by 80s goddess Ione Sky) and another woman. Because, you know, that’s how people rolled in medieval times. So, yeah, it was as bad as I recalled. You can check it out if you want, but it doesn’t even really reach that “so bad it’s funny” category.

Anyway, all this got me to thinking about nostalgia. With my 20-year HS reunion coming up this year (oy vey), nostalgia has actually been on my mind a lot lately. The funny thing is, I’m a much less nostalgic person than I used to be. I think there are a couple of reasons for this, both of which are intricately intertwined.

For one, there are large chunks of my life that I don’t have many reasons to be very nostalgic about. I had a difficult childhood – not so bad as many, but not so good as most either. When I was younger, I felt like I never had the freedom to be myself – and to be liked for being myself – until I went away to college. Although the college years were good, I later struggled throughout most of my 20s.

In fact, it wasn’t until I hit 30 that, I believe, I truly began to find myself. The more I grew comfortable in my own skin, the happier I became. Despite the fact that a lot of really, really crappy things have happened in the last few years, I’m the happiest now that I’ve ever been. So what’s the point in looking back? Why harken back to times that weren’t nearly as good as the one I have now?

Still, I think it’s impossible not to reflect. And I suppose it’s not particularly advisable to ignore the past. Sometimes it’s important to remember where we’ve come from, how much we’ve struggled to get here, and how far we’ve come. Whenever I’m struggling with something now, I like to remember how I used to let myself be so unhappy all the time. Although I wince at how much time I wasted, it helps to keep me grounded. I can’t go back and change things that happened, but I can control my responses to the now.

I hear people say all the time, “They haven’t made any good music/movies/books since (arbitrary decade that the speaker prefers [usually the one he/she came of age in]).” I think that’s bull. It gets right to the heart of the matter of what makes nostalgia dangerous. While it’s good to remember how we’ve gotten to where we are, if we idolize the past, we tend to forget to pay attention to what’s good in the now.

I’m trying to hold on to this as I work through some emotions this week surrounding my first disappointment in terms of my writing. I’m not perfect, you know. I still allow myself to wallow sometimes. But then I sit down to write, and I look at my words, and I think to myself, “You know what? Now is pretty good. In fact, now is great.”

Now is really great.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Best Picture: "Mrs. Miniver," 1942

Movie Stats:
Released 1942 (USA)
American, in English (there is a tiny bit of non-translated German)
Director – William Wyler
Stars – Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, and Teresa Wright

Plot Summary:
Follows the lives of one British family, the Minivers (Garson & Pidgeon), through the early years of WWII. Teresa Wright plays Carol Beldon, the eldest Miniver son’s love interest.

Bad Stuff:
Lots of good, old-fashioned 1940s ultra-sentimentality. Don’t get me wrong, at least with this movie, I get where they were coming from. It’s essentially an Allied propaganda piece, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. It was intended to showcase the plight of the righteous, stoic, beleaguered British people to an American public who had only just entered the war. But I’m still not so stupid as to believe that everything in England was sunshine and puppies until WWII began. And I don’t really like being pandered to that way.

Man, I cannot wait to get to whatever decade of film it was when they stopped forcing actors to use that weird, faux-posh, sort-of-British accent. You know, the accent I use when I jokingly call the husband “dahling.” It drives me crazy to hear everyone talking like that.

Good Stuff:
It has Clarence! (You might know him as the actor Henry Travers.)

It seemed pretty obvious the whole film that a major character was going to die. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that. I give kudos to the movie for it not being the first, or even the second or third, person that I expected. The death, when it finally came, actually surprised me. So, well-played, movie, well-played.

The Verdict:
I think that the worst thing about this movie is that there’s not much to say about it at all. The story and the acting were both solid. It was interesting in parts; dull in others. I completely get why it was a favorite in its day. On the other hand, I also get why it’s been lost to the annals of time. Until I decided to do this project, I’d never even heard of it. I think it’s one of those movies that can’t transcend its era. I don’t think a lot of people today would connect with it, because, in modern times, our war movies tend to be a lot more realistic & visceral.

Still, I don’t think it was bad and I enjoyed it more than some of the other Oscar winners. I give this movie 3 stars.

Bonus Movie Fun Fact: After filming, Greer Garson married the man who played her eldest son Vin, Richard Ney. She was 12 years his senior. The marriage lasted only a few years & it did not end well.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Best Picture: "How Green Was My Valley," 1941

Movie Stats:
Released 1941 (USA)
American, in English
Director – John Ford
Stars – Walter Pidgeon, Maureen O’Hara, Donald Crisp, Roddy McDowell

Plot Summary:
Some fifty years after the fact, Huw Morgan recalls his childhood in a small Welsh coalmining village in the late 1800s. McDowell stars as the young Huw; Crisp plays his father (he won Best Supporting Actor); O’Hara plays his sister Angharad; and Pidgeon plays the new preacher in town, Mr. Gruffydd.

Bad Stuff:
The sentimentality, especially at the beginning of the film, is really cloying. I rolled my eyes a lot.

It drove me crazy that no one spoke with a Welsh accent (or in Welsh, for that matter). I guess a lot of people have a hard time understanding the Welsh accent, but I happen to love it and the absence of it was noticeable.

I like Maureen O’Hara, but I thought her performance here was terrible. It was like she spent the whole film performing with a head injury. It was distracting.

Good Stuff:
Honestly, I don’t have a lot to say about this movie that’s “good.” I mostly feel “meh” about it.

The one thing I really liked was that the film discussed some issues that are difficult to talk about to this day, issues such as unionization, children born out of wedlock, and the hypocrisy of some churchgoers. For the time this came out, I consider that a bit on the edgy side. Of course, a lot of these issues weren’t really tackled head-on, but I appreciate that the film had the guts to bring them up.

The Verdict:
As I said, a big, fat “meh.” I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t like it either. This is one of those films where, even though a lot happens (several deaths, a life-altering injury, perceived infidelity, etc.), it feels like nothing happened at all. And what was up with all the random singing? In the end, it felt like a waste of two hours. I can’t imagine that I’ll ever think to myself, “Hey, I haven’t watched ‘How Green Was My Valley’ in a while, let’s pop it in.”

For that reason, I give this movie 2.75 stars.