Five Favorite TV Shows 2011

I don’t have a television set that is hooked up to anything and don’t use streaming much, so anything that I know about TV shows comes from seasons boxed on DVD.

Ruling out all the canceled and concluded shows and miniseries that I’ve liked, my current favorites:

Top 5

5. Sons of Anarchy

4. Breaking Bad

3. Curb Your Enthusiasm

2. Big Love – I haven’t seen the final season. I’ll be sad to see it go.

1. In Treatment

Five more, some of which could be in my top five

5. Entourage

4. Fringe – Always entertaining but frustrating because the through story is so slow to emerge.

3. Spartacus: Blood and Sand – Poor Spartacus got sick. Hope the show comes back.

2. Community- So far I’ve only seen Season 1.

1. I’m probably forgetting one.

Honorable mention

True Blood – Liked Season 1. Started Season 2 but bailed.

Haven’t seen



Boardwalk Empire


Modern Family, Parks and Recreation, The Killing, The Walking Dead, Nurse Jackie, etc., etc.,…

Haven’t engaged me


30 Rock

The Office

All animation

Bored to Death – Almost. If it had more through story.



“I can’t believe you forgot…”

You know how a podcast will do a “Top 5,” and then the phone call comes in with the guy saying, “Hey, dudes, I can’t believe you forgot “Marley and Me,” or whatever? And you’d like to call in too but you can’t think of a good movie that they forgot in their list? Well, here’s a list that you can use, of movies nobody has seen, so they can’t argue with you, along with the reasons why the movies are important.

1. Range Feud (1931) (Western) – John Smith, NYT: “Keep this kid John Wayne up on his horse with his mouth shut, and someday he’ll be a big star.”

2. Fast and Loose (1930) (Comedy) – Mike Smith, NYT: “This gal Carole Lombard has a real big future, if she’ll only stop flying in those newfangled aeroplanes.”

3. Sing You Sinners (1938) (Musical) – Francois Smith, NYT: “This kid Donald O’Connor obviously has a musical bug up his butt. He had me dancing on the walls.”

4. Swamp Water  (1941) (Noir) –  Muhammad Smith, NYT: “This young man Dana Andrews acts like he’s been drinking the swamp water. Destined for greatness if he can keep it down.”

5. The Singing Princess (1949) (Family) – Ang Poo Smith, NYT: “Forget Stefano Sibaldi, Germana Calderini, Giulio Panicali, Olinto Cristina, Mario Besesti, Giovanna Scotto, Renata Marini, Lauro Gazzolo, Maria Saccenti, Beatrice Preziosa, Carlo Romano, Sakella Rio, Luisa Malagrida, F. Delle Fornaci, and Giulio Fioravanti, all billed in front of her. It’s this kid Julie Andrew’s voice that tells me she is headed for stardom and that puts the look on my face that my wife must never see.”

6. Bloody Mama (1970) (Drama) – John Galt Smith, NYT: “This kid playing Lloyd Barker? Put him in a taxicab or a pair of boxing gloves and I’d pay to see what he’d do next, the little focker.”

Name some movies that most people haven’t seen and should see because YOU love them, not because they’re good for you.

Bright Leaves (2003) – Many know Ross McElwee from Sherman’s March (1986). Bright Leaves is another installment in his autobiographical series of documentaries. Here he returns home to North Carolina, to take a look at the tobacco industry and its connections to his family.

The Band’s Visit (2007) – An Egyptian band spends some time in an Israeli village.

Teacher’s Pet (1958) – Aging, chain-smoking newspaperman Clark Gable takes a journalism class taught by perky Doris Day. When they finally clinch at the end, it’s kind of creepy.

Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death (1989) – Shannon Tweed and Adrienne Barbeau remain modestly clothed at all times, so there. Bill Maher at the pinnacle of his acting career. J. F. Lawton wrote and directed this curiosity just before writing Pretty Woman (1990).

Madeinusa (2006) – Peruvian parable in which God takes a nap from Good Friday to Easter Sunday and the villagers behave badly, as anything goes till God wakes up again.

Mona Lisa (1986) – Cathy Tyson is hard to find on film, but she sure got my attention in this one.

Top 5 Movies Begging to Be Remade

As a screenwriter in Hollywood, I am constantly confronted with producers begging me to rewrite this movie or that. But will they front some money for my efforts, or are they just crying into their apple martinis as we have a few drinks at some local Hollywood watering hole of an evening?

Then, there are the actors who importune me, seeing themselves in this classic role or that, sure that a remake will vault them into the pantheon of greatness.

Finally come the fans I meet, those folks who watch movies every day, blog about movies, tweet about movies. Zombies walk among us. They are alive, but have no life. Many crave remakes.

Note that I’ve never had a movie itself actually beg me for a remake script. When mixing drinks with various drugs, I’ve had movies talk to me. Also trees, animals, and hookers. But no begging. Well, except for some of the less assertive hookers, who will beg instead of demanding to be paid.

Top movies begged for:

5. The Hangover (2009) – I started working on a remake script of this one the moment it hit big. Unfortunately, Jon Lucas and Scott Moore beat me to greenlight, labeling their version a “sequel” and setting it in Thailand. That’s ok. Mine’s just like the first one and theirs, but set in Honolulu. I’ll label it “The Hangover 3.”

4. Toy Story 3 (2010) – Top grosser of 2010. The producer’s obvious favorite for a remake.

3. Dumbo (1941) – This is the top fan pick. Avatar-like 3D. Flying fracking elephants! Dumbo is a Judd Apatow/Seth Rogen teenage elephant with full-frontal raunchy humor. Female teen elephant voiced by Miley Cyrus. Songs. Elephant dung falling from the heavens onto an irate James Cromwell.

2. Swimming to Cambodia (1987) – My friend, the actor Richard (not his name), wants this one. “It’s a one-man show,” I say. “Spalding Grey’s personal experiences. How is a remake going to work?” “Replace some of his experiences with some of mine,” Richard says. “We’re kindred spirits.” Knowing that Spalding Grey committed suicide and that Richard has tried to do so twice, I’m not touching this one without significant $$$ up front.

1. Cujo (1983) – My personal choice for a remake. I’m working on it now. In my version, the original Cujo is replaced by that Beverly Hills talking chihuahua, but with really, really bad rabies. Angelina Jolie plays Donna Trenton. Instead of a damned Pinto, she’s driving an Escalade, which, it turns out, is no match for the crazy chihuahua.

Thanks to Klaus for the topic.

Top 5 Hollywood Rumors This Week (1)

Note: Tupac was last week.

All rumors heard at Harvard and Stone on Hollywood Blvd.

5. Jerry Bruckheimer’s kids won’t let him throw their birthday parties ever again because of the explosions, the fire, and the time that it takes a skin graft to heal.

4. Paris Hilton is no longer a female.

3. Brad and Angelina are still together.

2. The Mayan end-of-the-world 2012 curse applies in particular to all American Idol winners.

1. Elvis committed suicide last year at the age of 75.

Worst Movie Fights

5. The fights required by the plot, in which the hero gets whupped, by a bully or by an expert or with the help of kryptonite: Karate Kid, Kickass, Defendor, Superman, and a zillion others. The fight might be well-done, but ho hum, don’t drag it out and let’s move on.

4. The fight in a particular movie or TV show, I can’t remember which, where the guy sound angry and intimidating but then, when hostilities start, paws at the other guy’s chest, sinks to his knees, paws at the other guy’s knees, and then curls up whimpering. His wife looks on without expression and later, when he gets up, the two of them go on about their business.

3. The zillion fights in which both guys would in reality have broken all their knuckles with their first punches to the other guy’s head. Heads are a lot harder than knuckles.

2. The zillion fights in old kung fu movies, hand-to-hand, face-to-face, that go on and on with some poor foley added. These play like martial-arts training tapes.

1. Googling “worst movie fights” turns up this as the most-often-named worst fight.  And this one.

5 Worst Vegetable Movies

5. Children of the Corn (1984) – Teaches children to hate scarecrows and cornfields. That can’t be right. Also teaches children to hate children.

4. The Secret of the Grain (2007) – Teaches children that if they follow their dreams with respect to cous cous and mullet, [spoiler] they’ll flop and then die.

3. Super Size Me (2004) – Teaches children that they can live on McDonalds burgers for a month. Ok, plus some of the french fry vegetable.

2. La grande bouffe (1973) – Teaches children that it’s ok to try and eat themselves to death while hanging out with hookers. Nowhere does the movie advise children not to try this at home, or that meat will kill them faster than vegetables, particularly those vegetables in the root family.

1. Down Argentine Way (1940) – Carmen Miranda with fruits on her head. Teaches children that fruits are not to be taken seriously. This movie would be in the “Best Vegetable Movie” list if instead she had meat on her head.

On the “Best Vegetable Movie” side:

Mr. Majestyk (1974) – Teaches children that melons are macho.

Top 5 Movies that Include a Dead Horse

No movies that feature dog food are included. Let’s try to class up this post. For the same reason, nothing about those unfortunate, occasional accidents at the stud farm. And no mention of Catherine the Great.

Don’t miss the Top Chef Canada episode on cooking with horse meat.

5. Phar Lap (1983) or Seabiscuit (2003) – I don’t specifically remember the death scenes, but I know that there must be a real tear-jerker in the horse-race genre somewhere. If not in the two mentioned, then in National Velvet (1944) or Black Beauty (1946) or that movie about the kid and the big black horse on an island. Or in Bite the Bullet (1975) or that horse-race-across-the-Sahara entry, the name of which I forget. Sometimes the horse is just plain old plot fodder (and paid in fodder, too). It’s an outrage.

4. Blood Creek (2009) – Fassbender sends the red-eyed zombie horses into the farmhouse kitchen. They’re already dead, so they count for this list, no matter what happens to them next.

3. How many movies have featured the desperate flight to freedom or other such fraught journey, during which the lathered-up and much overworked faithful horse finally drops in its tracks, sometimes to be eulogized in a pithy sentence or two, sometimes to be consumed for dinner? True Grit (2020). Duel at Diablo (1966). Gone with the Wind (1939), of course. There is also the case where the rider must open the horse and crawl inside to keep warm during the prairie blizzard, but I have those over in the “Camping Out” list.

2. Temple Grandin (2010) – It’s mostly the cows and pigs that get it in this one, but I do believe that there is some horse grief as well.

1. The Godfather (1972) – It’s only the head, but I think that’s enough.

Top 5 movies with vegetarian stars

I thought about limiting this to vegans, or even to those who won’t eat anything that casts a shadow, but why not salute all who avoid killing animals except for sport or by driving too fast?

5. The Silence of the Lambs (1991) – Sir Anthony Hopkins probably isn’t a vegetarian but I’m including this movie in the list anyway because it would be ironic if he was or were and because it explains his reference to fava beans.

4. The Graduate (1991) – Hoffman is a vegetarian. I don’t know what he eats in this movie. I’ll steer clear of the obvious joke about Mrs. Robinson.

3. Iron Man (2008) – I just want something here with vegetarian Gwyneth Paltrow in it. The screen Paltrow, you understand, not the real Hollywood Paltrow. If I haven’t written about the real Paltrow yet, I will, that $@^&*, but I won’t use her real name when I do. In Iron Man, she plays Pepper Potts. Which makes me wonder whether Ralph and/or Larissa Pans also abjure meat.

2. Troy (2004) – You would figure Brad Pitt for a vegetarian, what with him having the last name of a fruit seed. He plays Achilles here, whose diet included a lot of olive oil and goat cheese. Plus, the name makes me think of chiles. Plus, it’s the Iliad, right? Isn’t that supposed to be a great poem or book or whatever?

1. Psycho (1960) – Anthony Perkins don’t eat meat. You know how when you’re in the kitchen and you’re chopping vegetables and you accidentally cut your finger and bleed like a stuck pig? Don’t you always think of that when you’re watching the shower scene from this movie? Maybe think about cooking together with Janet Leigh, with her wearing one of those 50s sweaters like she used to?

Top 5 WWJD Movies

 You should ask yourself what Jesus would do every time you watch a movie. Here are my top five movies for raising questions in your mind.

5. Ken Burns Baseball (1994) – What position would Jesus play? He’d have to manage because He’s not going to take orders from anybody else, but He’d also want to play. He wouldn’t pitch because He’d want to play every day. Of course, being The Son Of God, He could pitch every day, but that wouldn’t be fair to the other pitchers, and Jesus is all about being fair. He could catch but I don’t see Him crouching in the dirt in front of the umpire, with a mask covering His face. No, I see Him out in center field, cantering and romping around out there like a young colt, when he’s in a good mood at least.

4. The Wizard of Oz (1939) – If He were the Wizard and Dorothy came to Him asking to go back to Kansas, (1) would He just turn her into a pillar of salt for wanting to leave His kingdom? (2) would He notice that Garland had bound her breasts for the role and if so, what would He think about that? (3) would he give her a pass because Kansas is pretty damned Christian?

3. Marly and Me (2008) – So what about Christ and dogs? Is He pro or con? And what about Marley? How is he going to react, sniffing around The Ankle of our Savior?

2. War of the Worlds (2005) – Does Jesus figure that humans and aliens are all God’s children? Or are the aliens just damned bugs? Does God let the humans and aliens slug it out, like us and the Nazis, making sure we win in the end with us feeling pretty special doing it?

1. The Ten Commandments (1956) – Suppose that Jesus instead of Charlton Heston is playing Moses. He’s thinking Hey, I’m leading the Jews out of Egypt but in a thousand years they’re going to crucify me. Maybe I ought to just leave them there, or better yet, in the middle of the Red Sea. But then He thinks, but I was born a Jew so maybe that’s not so good an idea.